Every once in a while, someone at rpg.net will post to the long-defunct thread "101 Days of RC D&D". This was a pretty beloved thread - which is why it is frequently revived - and one that was responsible for more than one person's return to old-school gaming. I know that I had been making moves in that direction, but participating in that thread really catalyzed a lot of my thoughts on the subject.
Anyway, I was thinking about something I had posted to that conversation regarding elven magic. I was suggesting some ways to make elves - actually, I think that should be "Elves" - a bit distinct from human wizards - OK, "Magic-Users" - without really mussing with the rules too much. My two ideas boiled down to making Elves nature magicians and giving them Druid spells OR making them creatures of glamour and giving them Illusionist spells. Of those two, I was much more intrigued by the second, since the tree-hugger elf has long uninterested me, while scary-fairy-tale things still compel my attention.
I never got around to making that elven illusionist list of spells, but the idea has continued to interest me. I might have done so for my Onderland Campaign, except nobody has played an elf so it wasn't needed. But I was also held back by a nagging unhappiness with illusionist spells. And the problem was basically this: when you come down to it, aren't all illusion spells just different applications of the same spell? Unlike the MU spells, which involve all sorts of effects - from conjuring balls of flame to Jedi mind tricks to summoning demons - illusionist spells could be pretty much summarized as...well, creating illusions.
Some time later, I began to become intrigued by the second edition era Birthright setting. Birthright had all sorts of things wrong with it, in my opinion, but it did some things right, and one of those was evoking a medieval sense of Faerie. And the best book in the line on that topic was Blood Spawn, which was a totally inappropriate name, since it was about creatures of Faerie (called "the Shadow World" in Birthright) rather than creatures of the Blood (which was a whole...eh, let's not get into it). Anyway, Faerie is presented as place of constantly shifting appearance and every intelligent being in Faerie has an ability called "Seeming" which allows them to manipulate that reality. At low levels, this is essentially illusion, but at higher levels the line between appearance and reality is lost and one can effectively order around the world to one's desire.
This, to me, is exactly what faerie glamour is supposed to be. In my mind, the basic implementation in YAG would be that Elves in the mundane world have inherent powers of illusion - making straw seem to be gold, grass seem to be a feast, and goblins seem to be human babies. As they grow more powerful, these glamours attain more reality. And in faerie places, they are effectively total reorderings of reality.
But then I look at the various iterations of illusion spells and see that Audible Glamour is different from Phantasmal Force is different from Massmorph and so on. And I think that maybe this really doesn't model what I'm thinking. So here's an idea I have been playing with:
FrequencyIn the mundane world, an Elf may cast one glamour per day per level, although his ability is unlimited in frequency when in Faerie (if using the standard spell-casting system. I need to come up with alternate rules for Spellcraft & Swordplay and other games that use a casting roll).
AffectAt 1st level, the Elf can create an illusion that affects one sense. This need not be the same sense each time; he could make an illusory light at one point (a will-o-the-wisp) and then make wholesome milk smell curdled the next. The Elf can affect one additional sense for every three additional levels (4th, 7th, etc.)
At 13th level, the Elf can affect all five senses, at which point he is effectively reshaping reality.
Glamours do not disappear if touched or disbelieved. Someone who touches an illusory snake and feels nothing there is free to draw his own conclusions, but the snake does not go poof.
DurationAt 1st level, the Elf's glamour last for five minutes. The duration doubles at each additional level, so that they last for almost half-hour at 5th level (80 minutes). At 13th level, glamours are of indefinite duration and last until the Elf dies or the glamour is dispelled.
DamageAlthough the Elf can seem to injure someone with his glamours at quite low levels, these seeming can not do any actual damage. Anyone subjected to an illusory attack makes the appropriate Save (depending on what system you are using). If the Save succeeds, the subject believes himself to have avoided the whatever it was; if the Save fails, the subject takes damage as normal depending upon the attack (a sword, a fireball, etc.), but all of this illusory damage is recovered as soon as the glamour is dissolved and the subject has a chance to recover.
However, as the Elf advances in power, his glamour achieve more and more reality. At 4th level, 20% of all damage done by a glamour (minimum of 1 point) acts like regular damage for purposes of recovery (however that works in your game of choice). This increases by an additional 20% for every three additional levels (meaning 100% at 16th level if any Elf should be so fortunate as to rise to that height).
Obviously, this needs more work. As much as I like the more laissez-faire treatment of spells in older D&D, illusions just seem to call for a bit more guidance. For example, there may be a need to describe area of effect (I don't think a 1st level Elf should be able to make an illusory mountain). I probably need some method of adjudicating the distraction effects of illusions. But still, the idea appeals to me more than the standard illusion spells. Has anyone ever done anything similar?