This means that, in general, players can always beat every encounter as long as they roll well. That may seem and sound like an unbalanced game system, but in reality it allows a Game Master to build up tension throughout their games without ever truly putting the Players into harm's way. If I told you tomorrow you were going in for surgery and that you had a 5% chance to die, you would be pretty worried even though really you most likely will be fine. That's the general idea of the Death Roll system. Odds are your Character will die sooner or later and just like life a lot of luck is involved. Players will always fear when they have to Death Roll, but in general Players will never die in campaigns. Fundamentally that is what you try to do with health based systems as Gamemasters anyway. You just want your Players to feel the danger and stress of Death, but not suffer from it all that much.
All that this system really changes is making it so Death is always a threat, but not something you worry about. You can't plan around your Death, it's just going to happen when a couple rolls don't go your way. You could die in the middle of a Dragon Fight after the 4th or 5th time he knocks you down, or you could die in your very first encounter because of a few bad rolls. In most games, Health is a resource and the lower you get, the more you have to protect it as it hitting zero means death. In URealms now, Health (or Stamina rather) is simply a chance at death if it hits zero and so how much you need to protect it devalues a lot. This is a big deal because it means you have the fear of death, but it doesn't always have to change the way you play. If everyone in your party is about to reach 0 Stamina, you have a way to battle THROUGH that pain with your own willpower as a player. If you are willing to take a chance and roll a die, you can keep fighting my dragon.
So what does this have to do with Deadly Spells? Well URealms has been known even from S1 for it's love of casting "random spells" and in S3 with all the different ways to use random Spells, I knew I also needed to start making some very dangerous spells to help with the balance. In S2 I balanced the Random Spell decks using the fact that there were so many worthless low damage Companion Spells to draw, but that's not fun nor exciting. S3 also makes Companions more powerful and so drawing a Companion Spell is no longer the negative it once was and so because we need some more "oops" Spells. That of course brings us to the set of Deadly Spells above us that when you cast via randomly... could be bad news for you...
1) Brown Spice
Our first deadly spell is called Brown Spice, a Sea Chef Spell. Now Sea Chefs have a special ability that allows them to cast spells through their allies (via magical food they would have eaten) and Brown Spice is a Roleplay Spell that one would use if they wanted to Poison a team member. However when casted as a non Sea Chef, you of course just end up making yourself sick... Stunning you for the rest of the round. And pooping your pants. There are in fact 2 different "Poop your Pants" Spells in S3 and I'm not really sure why.
2) Treasure Sap
The next deadly spell on our list is Treasure Sap, a Booty Raider Spell. Treasure Sap is a cheap Spell that allows you to melt some useless Treasure card into an full heal, and useless treasures are something Booty Raiders are never in short supply of. However for anyone else, the casting of this Spell can be pretty painful. Either you give up a Treasure card or you have to Death Roll for your Characters life as the spell drains your own lifeforce! This is the type of Character Death where dying because of your own greed is a pretty damn funny way to go in the middle of a fight!
Next up we have Darkfire, a Cabalist Spell. Darkfire is Pyroblast on steroids. It deals 99 Damage in a Line which means you could easily hit multiple Targets with a Spell powerful enough to Defeat most players (Players often have around 50 to 90 Stamina unless they are invest heavily into playing as a Tank), but it has a very high cost of forcing you to Defeat yourself and Death Roll. Casting this Spell as a random Spell can be dangerous for more then just you, perhaps you were casting a Spell on an Ally or maybe they are standing in between you and your intended Target and get hit by the Line effect. The casting of this Darkfire randomly could result in multiple Death Rolls very quickly.
4) Corpse Explosion
Speaking of multiple Death Rolls... Our next Spell is called Corpse Explosion, a Fleshweaver Spell. Fleshweavers have an Ability that lets them build blood golem Companions using some of the same random Decks we are talking about now! They can build new Companions before and after combat which means they don't value that Companions life all that much. Because of this, Fleshweavers often need a way to get rid of their.. well less useful golems and that's where Corpse Explosion comes in! Corpse Explosion is a Pyroblast style explosion dealing massive damage around the Companion you kill that causes more Corpse Explosions for Targets it kills! This means using it on weak or wounded Targets, is a great way to finish them off in massive bloody explosion. However casting it without a Companion is well... extremely Dangerous. Not only do you have to Death Roll to see if you can prevent yourself from casting of the spell, but your own death could end up causing the death of other allies as the explosion chains!
5) Blood Oath Contract
Another Roleplay Spell with some dangerous penalties is Blood Oath Contract, a Buccaneer Spell. Blood Oath Contract is a complete and utter roleplay Spell for those roleplaying a fierce captain and want a loyal crew. However the casting of this Spell is very complicated and should you begin the ritual of the Blood Oath Contract and have no one to bind it too... it could cost you your life. This means you might have to beg an Ally to sign a TERRIBLE contract binding them into service with you or else that Ally will have to be okay with you potentially dieing...
6) Shred Flesh
Finally we have a Companion Ability (oh yes there are more then just these 6 dangerous spells!) called Shred Flesh, a Ytt Spell. Ytts are gross shapeshifters that can change into almost any other living creature, only in order to change back they must shred their flesh and skin and transform back into the monstrous creatures they are. Why on earth would anyone even bother learning this Spell that is so naturally dangerous? Maybe if they were looking for a quick and painless way of ending their life, even if it is a bit gruesome.
Now as I mentioned above with the Death Roll system, the casting of any of these spells probly won't kill you since after all it's just going to be a 1/20 chance right? But because they have a chance and because it's out of your control, makes it so these random moments can become extremely tense and exciting for the entire table. When your Magician casts a Darkfire down the hall of a dungeon clipping a group of Allies or when you use a magical item that harnesses random deadly Death Magic and blows up your pet Turtle with Corpse Explosion, it's going to be a memorable experience. And ideally in a well designed roleplay game, you want these type of fun random experiences to happen naturally all over the game and these Deadly Spells help play a small role in having more memorable games.
The great thing about a game like this is that if you and your group wanna change the rules around you can. If you wanna remove all these Spells from your RNG decks or make them more common, that's up to you and your party. My goal is to make a really solid core set right now for my fun webshow and if others want to play the type of game we play in the show, awesome!
Anyway thanks for reading!