You Too Can Trip with Cantrips!

Monday, June 24th, 2019

As noted in prior posts, cantrips in my D&D hack are minor magics available to the Magic-user class, allowing them to create magical or supernatural effects with their magical powers, to help make up for the “one-shot wand” nature of their class, and give them more to do.

Unlike in other editions of D&D, cantrips are not spells. They do not need to be memorized, and there is no set list upon which the Magic-user can call. They are simply a supernatural boost to any normal task the wizard cares to attempt, or can simply be used to add a bit of flair to the character. They are considered a Tool. They are also the only Tool that can be utilized for any task or skill attempt that might be made. Because magic.

Mechanically, the wizard declares what task they want to accomplish with their cantrip, and then makes a skill check if necessary. This means a check is made whenever the cantrip produces an effect against an unwilling target, or will have an effect that causes a penalty or problem for a target. The Magic-user receives the cantrip Tool bonus, plus a Proficiency bonus for any relevant Background or Profession (as normal), plus the attribute modifier that would apply to a normal attempt at that task. They don’t need the appropriate Tools (magic is their tool), and having such tools does not provide a bonus.

The difficulty of the roll should be set based on normal rules, though effects that target more distant people or objects should be of higher difficulty.

Magically open a lock? OK. That’s a Dexterity check. +2 for the Tool bonus from cantrip. Criminal background, or Guild locksmith? OK. Another +2 (or more) for the Proficiency bonus. Plus your Dexterity modifier. If you also have an appropriate Tool for the task? Well, that doesn’t stack…that’s not really how it works: the supernatural source of the cantrip provides everything needed. Unlock it from across the room? Bump up the difficulty by one step.

So what’s the difference between a Magic-user magically opening a lock with a cantrip versus them just opening the lock with a set of lock-picks? Nothing mechanically. The Magic-user doesn’t need lockpicks, and she does it with flair. Of course, cantrips are not merely colorful stand-ins for normal skills; they can also do things not normally possible by the mundane:

  • cause the earth in front of a charging enemy to heave up or collapse,
    forcing the opponent to save to avoid tripping and falling prone (a Trip attack but at range)
  • clearly whisper a message to someone far across a crowded square
  • create tiny illusions of dancing people
  • levitate small objects and draw them to the Magic-user
  • attack an enemy with a telekinetically thrown object, with a successful to-hit roll
  • snap an enemy archer’s crossbow string from a distance with a successful Strength check
  • telepathically know the name of a willing stranger, or with a successful
    Wisdom check against an unwilling stranger
  • summon a tiny imp who can remind the the Magic-user of a fact from their library,
    after a successful Intelligence check
  • keep tiny biting insects at bay in a swamp
  • instantly dry the wizard’s robe after a rainstorm

Or anything else the Magic-user can imagine.


A collection of additional, but by no means exhaustive, examples:

  • light a pipe with a tiny flame created by a snap of your fingers
  • create a soft burst of sparkling light in the air
  • make smoke or pale flames dance around your head
  • instantly light or snuff out a nearby candle, torch, or small campfire
  • change the color of or dim a nearby torch, campfire, or other flame
  • limn a blade with a harmless flame that leaps onto any target struck
  • create a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, faint musical notes, or an odor
  • create a gust of wind that blows lights objects around
  • briefly permeate a small area with a light fog
  • remove dampness and excess moisture from a nearby area
  • momentarily create a rainbow
  • make images dance in fire and water
  • cause a weapon to rumble with thunder when it strikes
  • cause the ground nearby to rumble menacingly
  •  

  • create a simple illusory image of a coin or small figurine
  • create a small, non-magical object that shortly disappears
  • temporarily create a handful of marbles or caltrops
  • create a blindfold around a person or creature’s face
  • summon a paintbrush that draws a simple picture or
    writes a few words on a surface, then disappears
  • conjure a Very Ripe Tomato to throw at a bad entertainer;
    it does no damage except to stain the target’s clothes and perhaps their pride
  • make a small object like a playing card briefly invisible or appear to vanish
  •  

  • make a handkerchief levitate and dance around
  • pop the cork out of a bottle
  • open a book to a specified page
  • stir a teaspoon or flip the pages of a book without touching it
  • enchant a quill pen to write down what you are saying
  • draw a light object to your hand from 30’ away
  • open and close nearby doors, chests, or cabinets
  • unlock any normal lock
  • tweak someone’s nose or cheek from a distance, or tap them on the shoulder
  • cause a length of string or cord to knot itself, or untie and untangle a knot
    or small item that has become tangled
  • cut a wire or a rope, such as that on a bow or crossbow
  • wrap a piece of paper around small items
  • sort items into piles
  • animate a broom to clean the nearby floor
  • tune an instrument to a hummed note
  •  

  • cause your voice or a simple sound to issue from somewhere nearby
  • whisper a private message to someone within 120’ (they can reply likewise)
  • briefly impersonate the voice of any speaker you have recently heard
  • briefly focus on hearing a specific conversation in a crowded room
  • make your eyes glow a spooky color
  • make your eyes work like a spyglass, allowing the sight of distant things
  • land on your feet if you fall
  • briefly seem far more charming than you really are
  • remain mysteriously dry in a rainstorm
  • momentarily change or disguise your facial appearance
  •  

  • correctly guess the name of a stranger with whom you are speaking
  • know someone’s general intentions (helpful, hostile, etc)
  • correctly guess what card someone is holding, the word or number they are thinking of,
    or which hand an object is in
  • determine if there are any hidden metallic objects on a person
  • quickly count the number of a specific item in a small area
  •  

  • briefly hypnotize a willing subject to cluck like a chicken
  • make a target wink, nod, scratch, belch, fart, giggle, sneeze,
    or perform some other involuntary action
  • convince a small group to “look over there”
  • cause a target to think bugs are crawling all over them
  • cause a momentary feeling of nausea and dis-ease in a target
  • make someone yawn and momentarily think they are tired and sleepy
  •  

  • sting someone with a small shock
  • curse a target with static cling for the day
  • lengthen and thicken, or shave and cut, someone’s hair
  • briefly animate the body of a small, dead rodent to move or dance
  • summon a small insect, rodent, non-poisonous snake, or spider
  • kill a few small rodents and bugs
  •  

  • restore faded hues or change the colour of or pattern on an item or surface,
    brighten dull fabric, restore pigments
  • remove dust and dirt, and clean stains, from an item or surface
    with a sweep of your hand
  • polish or clean an item of–or coat it with–tarnish, rust, corrosion,
    verdigris, or the like
  • mend or repair small broken objects or torn clothing
  • unravel a seam of any item of clothing such as a purse or shirt
    causing it to fall apart
  • change the fashion style and cut of your robes
  •  

  • change the taste of a meal or a liquid to be spicy, flavorful,
    or foul-tasting, or salt an item of food
  • improve the taste of a soured beer
  • chill or warm a meal or a small surface for an hour
  • bring water to an immediate boil
  • curdle milk and hasten spoilage or wilting
  • freeze a small volume of water
  • freshen a vase of wilting flowers
  • cause a seed to quickly sprout, buds to flower, or fruit to ripen
  •  

  • make the nearby area, or an object, slippery or sticky
  • burn through a thin latch as with acid
  • lightly etch patterns in glass or metal with a finger
  • burn an item made of paper or thin wood away to nothing
    without heat, smoke, or visible flame
  • dig a small, shallow hole in the ground
  • make the edge of an object razor-sharp
  • make stalactites grow a small amount
  •  

  • create a ghostly, skeletal hand that clings to a target
  • create globe of dim light with a 10’ radius
  • conjure a glowing arrow that points northwards
  • mark or place a magical symbol on an object or surface for up to an hour
  • create a “mouth” on a surface or an object that is triggered by a specific condition
    within a couple feet, such as someone else touching your money purse;
    the “mouth” speaks/yells one word and then disappears
  • draw a permanent invisible magical symbol on something; the symbol is visible only to
    those using Detect Magic, and is used to leave warnings, claim ownership,
    or mark the boundaries of a magic-user’s domain
  • temporarily ward a small area to be free of small insects or rodents

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