Wild Magic & Random Effects: Fun or Disruptive?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


So here's my situation. I've got a player interested in the wild magic optional rules from Unchained. I can see the potential for wacky antics, but I also see the potential for a bit of "oops I'm dead" if the spell targets the caster. Is this a case of "let the player make that decision," or should a responsible GM police the tone of the game? (It's going to be the Strange Aeons campaign, and wacky antics seems out of place in terms of mood. Maddeningly, I can also picture "chaos magic" feeling appropriate given the mythos flavor.)

So help me think this thing through. What makes for a better game and a better experience? Any arguments for or against turning random effects into a major part of a campaign?

Comic for illustrative purposes.


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It's an unhelpful answer, but basically know your group. I've a friend who more or less despises the rng be with ye wild magic/miscast tables and the like while I cut my teeth on Warhammer Fantasy RP/Dark Heresy which have far more punishing tables than PF and I wouldn't have it any other way (At least in those games).

Being perfectly honest, PF's Wild Magic is pretty tame and is supremely unlikely to dramatically affect anyone other than the caster or hostiles meaning there doesn't need to be a table wide buy in if some guy wants to take a wild magic archtype or the like. Universal wild magic on whatever condition you probably should ask about and something that only happens in certain zones I'd just treat as any other hazard.


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What are the triggers for wild magic effects in your game? Is running the risk of such an effect the player's choice, or does a caster run a risk every time he casts a spell?

The answers to those questions could settle whether they are worth using or not.


As a player, I enjoy this game for the fun inherent in a story where outcomes are based on a degree of random chance. Introducing an extra layer of risk is, for my way of thinking, a good option so long as it doesn't completely derail the game.

For example, our group regularly plays with the Critical Fumble Deck, using the harshest interpretation of the rules (a natural 1 is an automatic fumble). This has resulted in some game-defining moments, such as when the monk fumbled his attack roll and lost the ability to use unarmed strike for four rounds, or whenever the kineticist rolls a fumble, and the table collectively groans and leans back, dreading the results (the spell fumbles are particularly nasty).

This very much depends on the group dynamic at your table. For us, it's always the same group of guys and gals sitting around a table each Friday night, drinking and snacking as we crack jokes and pursue wild fantasy adventures. A bit of random chance isn't going to ruffle anyone's feathers since we're not treating it as a competitive sport. For other tables, it might very well end in tantrums, torn up character sheets and eternal oaths of hatred.


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To bring language from another game, namely Shadowrun, it depends whether your table runs black trenchcoat or pink mohawk.

Black trenchcoat is careful planning of the run in details, with contingencies for uncertain aspects. Pink mohawk is having plan B being twice as much gunpowder as plan A^^


My group loves random things. Back in the days of 2e and fan-created splatbooks, I downloaded two lists of 10,000 random occurrences. My players regularly request it over the standard Rod of Wonder's effects. My favorite on one chart is number 10,000-star nearest players explodes.

Sovereign Court

I’m running a game where all spells have wild magic happen on a 1 on a d20. For a 5% chance it hasn’t come up all that often and when it has its been actually pretty funny and in line with what what’s happening (ie cleric said he was going to cast freedom of movement, got a wild magic and cast grease instead).

I also played a 5e game using the wild magic sorcerer and used wild magic each time for great fun.


I haven't run/played Strange Aeons but as I understand it the AP is fairly dark horror with nods to Lovecraftian storytelling and mythos. Does the standard PF Wild Magic table of effects add or detract from that? I ask because keeping a horror mood at a tabletop RPG is hard enough without jarring disruptions like a magic missile spell turning into flowers or a Stinking Cloud spell becoming one long episode of wizard-with-flatulence.

As for the randomness of Wild Magic, it isn't all THAT random. From what I remember the GM sets a guideline or 2 on how a wild surge happens, be it when a spell gets counterspelled or if the player wants to use a metamagic feat on a spell without paying for it.

Finally, a personal note on random tables: I love them as a GM, but hate them as a player. Some folks are like this. As a GM I get to toss out a little chaos, throw a monkeywrench in the gears and see my players' reactions. As a player though I like to KNOW that when I use this wand, rod or spell, THIS is what it does.


Are you the GM for the game? You roll on the table and if you dont like its tone you can choose one that is more appropriate.

I actually use the old 2e wild magic tables, generally they aren't as wacky as others.

It can also be a matter of flavor text. A nominally funny effect can be made very body horror if you put it into the proper context.

Also a bit of fun can be a good break before a shock of horror in a game.


DungeonmasterCal wrote:
My group loves random things. Back in the days of 2e and fan-created splatbooks, I downloaded two lists of 10,000 random occurrences. My players regularly request it over the standard Rod of Wonder's effects. My favorite on one chart is number 10,000-star nearest players explodes.

I want these tables.

Shadow Lodge

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When I ran wild magic, I chose to have it happen In addition to the spell effects. That way the PCs' spells at least have the desired effect.


KujakuDM wrote:
DungeonmasterCal wrote:
My group loves random things. Back in the days of 2e and fan-created splatbooks, I downloaded two lists of 10,000 random occurrences. My players regularly request it over the standard Rod of Wonder's effects. My favorite on one chart is number 10,000-star nearest players explodes.
I want these tables.

This may be one of them:

https://centralia.aquest.com/downloads/NLRMEv2.pdf


KujakuDM wrote:
DungeonmasterCal wrote:
My group loves random things. Back in the days of 2e and fan-created splatbooks, I downloaded two lists of 10,000 random occurrences. My players regularly request it over the standard Rod of Wonder's effects. My favorite on one chart is number 10,000-star nearest players explodes.
I want these tables.

PM me.


Serum wrote:
When I ran wild magic, I chose to have it happen In addition to the spell effects. That way the PCs' spells at least have the desired effect.

I like that.


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:

I haven't run/played Strange Aeons but as I understand it the AP is fairly dark horror with nods to Lovecraftian storytelling and mythos. Does the standard PF Wild Magic table of effects add or detract from that? I ask because keeping a horror mood at a tabletop RPG is hard enough without jarring disruptions like a magic missile spell turning into flowers or a Stinking Cloud spell becoming one long episode of wizard-with-flatulence.

I think you may have just decided me. Cheers!


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Ohh, I dunno. Lovecraftian horror games can end up quite silly. (Warning: Language)


@blahpers, thank you for having me discover this, I haven't laughed this hard in a long time^^


Always happy to share tabletop gaming's . . . unique . . . culture. : D

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