Waypoint Style Teleportation (3.5e Variant Rule)

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Author: Tarkisflux (talk)
Co-Authors: Wildmage
Date Created: 08-01-2012
Status: Complete
Editing: Clarity edits only please
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Alternate Teleportation Rules


Teleportation is a wondrous ability that allows instantaneous and relatively safe transit between two known locations. Unfortunately, its form in Dungeons and Dragons supports narrative elements that we don't much care for. Teleport makes for an amazing last moment escape spell and can rob you of a complete victory over your foes, or them a complete victory over you, with little cost or drama. In combination with scrying, it can become an ambush spell. The ability to travel to any place you've seen means that you can scry a location or enemy, prepare for them, teleport there and deal with them while they're surprised, and then teleport back. And while there are certainly countermeasures for this sort of tactic, they are often unreasonable to apply for every enemy the characters may have or for all of the characters and their friends to have these defenses against their enemies. Aside from that, the ability to find a location remotely and travel there instantly eliminates exploration aspects from stories. In a number of stories and games the journey to a place is half of the entertainment, and it is lost if you can just cast around it.

In many games these issues don't arise, and that's fine. But we feel that there's room for improvement with teleportation style effects, improvements that allow us to retain the narrative elements we like while removing some of the potentially problematic elements. These rules are intended to be those improvements.

General Rules[edit]

A large portion of the issues with teleport arise not from the transit itself, but from the ability to select your destination from literally anywhere. So the core changes here will be to remove the ability of teleportion spells to travel to any location, and instead limit the destinations. We do this by creating a new descriptor for teleportation spells and updating the rules for all spells of this type.

To address the narrative issues with teleport retreats we update some spells and replace others, eliminating the Teleport line of spells entirely in favor of the new Warp line of spells. The new spells require additional time to use and can be followed relatively easily, so they are much more difficult to use for ambushes or last minute escapes. We also add a few new offensive, defensive, and simply narrative utility effects that work with these new rules. Lastly, we provide conversion information for existing characters and monsters, so that those who could previously teleport all over the battlefield don't lose too much ability.

[Teleportation] Descriptor[edit]

Any spell that causes you to instantly travel across some distance within a world or plane is a [Teleportation] spell. These spells generally do not achieve this by using planar shortcuts, and are unaffected by having any particular plane cut off from a space. A [Teleportation] effect can only transport a target to a specific location within long range or a location that has been "anchored". An anchored location may be one with an anchor sigil (in the case of arcane teleportation), it may be a location with a sufficiently similar object as the location you are starting at (in the case of druidic teleportation via plants), or it may simply be a location suffused with divine magic and faith (in the case of divine teleportation via word of recall).

With this addition, we can eliminate the Teleportation Subschool, as it no longer serves a purpose. All spells that were previously in this subschool lose this classification. Most gain the [Teleportation] Descriptor and the above restrictions. Maze and plane shift are exceptions, as they do not stay within planar boundaries, and do not gain this descriptor.

Anchor Sigils[edit]

Anchor sigils are arcane markings at a fixed location that allow for direct and error free travel to their location. They are unique symbols that are determined by their creator, their location, and the ambient magical conditions at the time of their creation. They can be located anywhere a creature could have remained long enough to complete the process, be it on land, in mid-air, under water, and so on. They are visible to anyone with the ability to detect magic.

Most anchor sigils are copied into a notebook to be referenced during casting, as the sigil must be properly visualized to transport a target to it.

Learning New Anchor Sigils[edit]

Because they serve to funnel new arrivals into a specific area, many cities and towns have public and well known anchor sigils. These are generally printed or posted in a public place; some may even be drawn on the ground in the location that they anchor. Map vendors even sell maps with corresponding anchor sigils depicted near the cities they serve.

Private anchor sigils also exist of course, but knowledge of them is harder to come by. These sigils can easily be given to trusted companions or family members as a way to travel home more quickly. Pieces from personal libraries may contain recorded anchor symbols that were relevant to the owner. And of course detect magic will also reveal an anchor sigil in an area, even while scrying, so any spellcaster with access to an area can just look around to find existing anchor sigils.

Creating Anchor Sigils[edit]

Creating an anchor sigil is a simple ritual; knowledge of an arcane [Teleportation] spell is not required to create these sigils, but knowledge of such a spell automatically confers knowledge of the ritual. The process requires a gemstone of semiprecious or greater value to serve as a focus that is not expended. Making an anchor sigil requires four successful DC 20 knowledge (arcana) checks to set the sigil. The first check is made 15 minutes after beginning the ritual, with another check every 15 minutes until you have reached four successes. Anchor sigils are unique, as much a product of location as creator, and some special or magically unique areas may require more difficult checks, a greater number of successful checks, allow a set number of failures before the process must be restarted, or be entirely unanchorable. Many areas deep underground are in this last category.

Anchor sigils may also be strengthened, becoming more difficult and time consuming to remove. Each layer of strengthening requires two additional successful checks, each at a DC equal to the previous DC to create or strengthen the sigil +2. Anchor sigils can be strengthened in this fashion up to 10 additional times. The strength of an anchor sigil is obvious to anyone viewing it with detect magic. Strengthening is generally performed on public anchors to make them resistant to pranksters removing them, since a sigil strengthened 10 times requires almost two hours to remove. It is less common on private sigils.

If an anchor sigil is ever removed, it can be remade on the same location using the standard creation above. Remade sigils are generally similar but not identical to the old sigil, and thus cannot be reached without knowledge of the updated sigil. Someone attempting to recreate the old sigil can do so, but must have a copy of the original sigil available for reference. This adds a +5 penalty to the DC for the initial re-creation of the anchor sigil, but this DC penalty does not apply to later strengthening attempts.

Destroying Anchor Sigils[edit]

Once made, anchor sigils are not especially difficult to remove. Permanently destroying an anchor sigil requires a number of knowledge (arcana) checks equal to the level of strengthening plus one.

Each check to weaken an anchor sigil requires 15 minutes and a gemstone of semiprecious or greater value to serve as a focus that is not destroyed in the attempt. The DC for these checks begins at 15, plus 2 for each level of strengthening that the anchor sigil has received. If you succeed at the check, one layer of strengthening is removed and the DC is reduced by 2 points. When the DC has been reduced to 15, a successful check destroys the anchor sigil. You receive a +3 bonus to these checks if you created the anchor sigil yourself.

Anchor Sigils and Divinations[edit]
Stopping Here
If all that you're worried about with teleportation is the ability to go anywhere at any time, these changes should address your concerns. We're going to go a bit farther with spell replacements and updates, but you could certainly stop here if you didn't want to add new options and change the narratives in the game.

Somewhat oddly, anchor sigils can be located via divination spells and abilities as if they were creatures under the right conditions. While all sigils will respond to detect magic, they do not respond to any other divination spells unless the diviner already knows the sigil. Knowledge of the sigil grants the diviner first hand knowledge of it for purposes of the spell. If the diviner created the sigil, they are instead considered to be very familiar with the subject.

Thus anyone in possession of a sigil's representation can attempt to determine its location via locate creature and view what is occurring at the sigil with scrying or similar abilities. Anchor sigils resist these divination attempts, however, and have a will save bonus equal to 5, +1 per level of strengthening.


Replaced Spells[edit]

The following spells are replacements for their teleport counterparts. In many cases, the new spell level will be lower than the old spell level. This is intentional, as the new spells include more drawbacks than they previously did.

Spell Name Spell Level Description Replaces
Warp Sorcerer/Wizard 4,
Travel 5
A teleportation spell with a limited list of possible destinations (that can be added to) and an effect delay. Intended to replace teleport. Teleport,
Teleport Object
Greater Warp Sorcerer/Wizard 6,
Travel 7
A teleportation spell with a limited list of possible destinations (that can be added to), an effect delay, and unlimited range. Intended to replace greater teleport. Greater Teleport,
Teleport Object
Warp Circle Rune 9,
Sorcerer/Wizard 9
A duration based teleportation spell with a limited list of possible destinations (that can be added to), an effect delay, and unlimited range that can also be used as a trap. Intended to replace teleport circle. Teleportation Circle

Updated Spells[edit]

As indicated above, a number of spells have gained the [Teleportation] descriptor as part of this revision. Most of these spells can be used as written, and require no other changes. A few spells, however, need a bit more adjustment or clarification but not a complete rewrite. These spells and their changes are listed below. Also included here are the spell level entries for each updated spell, as the levels have been lowered in some cases.

Spell Name Spell Level Updates
Dimensional Anchor Cleric 4, Sorcerer/Wizard 4 The target of this spell is unable to perform or be the target of any sort of extradimensional travel or [Teleportation] effects for the duration. This spell also cuts them off from all pocket dimensions, so they may not enter a rope trick or use a bag of holding.
Dimensional Lock Cleric 8, Sorcerer/Wizard 8 Targets within the area of this spell are unable to perform or be the target of any sort of extradimensional travel or [Teleportation] effects. All other extradimensional effects, such as rope trick or a bag of holding, are non-functional within the area of this spell as well.
Hallow/Unhallow Cleric 5, Druid 5 This spell gains an additional preparation option. It may be cast in such a way that it is an anchored location for word of recall. This divine anchor is considered a 4th level spell effect, and acts as the spell tied to the hallow/unhallow effect. A creature may only have one of these style hallow/unhallow spells in effect at any time. If another one is created, the original loses its anchor even though the hallow/unhallow effect continues normally.
Refuge Cleric 6, Sorcerer/Wizard 8, Community 7, Liberation 7 This spell gains the [Teleportation] descriptor. When cast as a domain spell, the spell does not require an expensive material component. The destination of the spell is set when it is cast. Divine casters are limited to suitably sacred destinations, as if they had cast word of recall. Arcane casters may select any anchor point they know as the destination when they prepare the spell. If the intended location becomes unanchored, the spell will fail when triggered.
Transport via Plants Druid 6 This spell gains the [Teleportation] descriptor. Any location with a plant of the same type and as the one that you entered, that is also large enough for you to fit within it, is considered an anchored location for the spell.
Tree Stride Druid 5, Ranger 4 This spell gains the [Teleportation] descriptor. Any location with a plant of the same type and as the one that you entered, that is also large enough for you to fit within it, is considered an anchored location for the spell.
Word of Recall Cleric 4, Druid 6 This spell gains the [Teleportation] descriptor. You do not need to designate a sanctuary when you prepare the spell. Instead, when you cast word of recall you may target a divinely anchored location (as indicated in the hallowed and unhallowed changes above) that you are aware of. You need not have created the anchor yourself, but it must belong to a compatible faith. As a result of this limitation, clerics may not use the anchored locations of their deity's enemies, and clerics and druids generally can not use the hallowed areas of each other.

New Spells[edit]

Lastly, we present a few new spells to take advantage of these rules and add some interesting options into the mix.

Spell Name Spell Level Description
Analyze Teleportation Sorcerer/Wizard 5 Learn details of where your foes teleported to, without going there yourself.
Create Anchor Sigil Sorcerer/Wizard 4 Create or strengthen an anchor sigil more quickly than if you used the normal ritual
Improved Dimension Door Bard 5, Sorcerer/Wizard 5 Teleports you a short distance, and allows you to act immediately afterwards.
Pursue Warp Sorcerer/Wizard 4 A spell that makes it extremely difficult to escape foes by warping, and potentially dangerous as well.
Fourth level teleportation spells?
Yes, fourth level teleportation spells. The arcane spell has the greatest versatility, but has a 3+ round delay even after casting is complete and only takes you to specific prepared locations. It's a teleportation spell that you can't use to take you exactly where you need to go without DM fiat or significant planning. It's a teleportation spell that you can't use to immediately skip out of a fight when things turn bad, and it's possible people might get stuck behind. And on top of all that, it's a teleport spell that offers a substantial chance to break or cancel. It's less a combat utility spell, and more a "hey, let's go to that town over there" plot utility spell.

The divine spells are less limited in terms of casting, but have an even more restricted set of destinations. Players have very little influence over the available destinations with these spells, so lowering their level is a reasonable trade off. With their immediate effect, they work as a nice alternative to the more flexible, but slower to use, arcane versions. They are superior means of transit when you need to escape immediately, or when you need to go to one of the few destinations they can bring you.

The inclusion of pursue warp also means that even a successful retreat via one of these teleport spells might only be a scene shift, as your enemies can follow you more easily than previously. Placing these sorts of restricted transportation spells a level after you get tactical flight is completely reasonable, and potentially balanced to an even lower level than listed here. If you do decide you want to lower the levels a bit more, understand that you are reducing the level at which you can still expect "now fight your way out" to be a meaningful plot element.

Other Conversions[edit]

Finally, any creature or item that had the ability to use any of the replaced teleport spells innately loses those abilities. They instead gain access to the equivalent warp or word of recall, as appropriate, with the same usage restrictions. In either case, creatures should be able to use these to travel to any appropriate anchored location, whether the anchor is arcane or divine. We want to encourage demons and devils to seek refuge in similarly aligned temples after all.

As these replacements lack much of the previous combat ability they previously to possessed, creatures or items also gain the ability to use improved dimension door with the same usage restrictions as they previously had for teleport or greater teleport. These abilities are in addition to the teleport replacement described above.

Rule Impact[edit]

Aside from the obvious spell changes, there are a few less obvious changes that come with these rules.

Teleport Ambushes[edit]

It's important to understand that these changes do not eliminate the ability of a character to perform a warp ambush. It is more difficult now since they can only perform the ambush at certain locations, but there is nothing stopping someone from anchoring a location in advance and using it as an ambush point. The added warp delay at lower levels also means that the ambush may not occur exactly when intended, but keeping your targets in a particular area for up to a minute is rarely a problem. And even if your targets discover the anchor, it would take them longer to remove it than for the ambusher to warp in.

In short, the large change of these rules is to make a warp ambush require a bit more work and planning, not eliminate them. This additional cost simply reduces their likelihood. They are complicated enough to complete that you don't need to justify to your players or yourself why the party wasn't warp ambushed long before they learned who the villain behind the scenes was. It might still happen, and that's fine. It's now a tactic that requires forethought, preparation, work, and a bit of luck, like most other good adventuring plans.

Teleport Retreats[edit]

Again, these are also still in the game. For arcane casters, they are no longer the simple "cast to flee" spells that they used to be. The lengthened cast time and the delay before transport leave anyone attempting to flee with them in a position of delaying for a few rounds. Divine casters, however, still have access to instant teleportation spells with which to flee, though they have a much smaller range of destinations to choose from.

The addition of pursue teleport makes any attempted retreat a less certain thing, as your foes could simply follow you. So while you can flee to escape overwhelming odds or to find a more beneficial location for the fight, the certainty that you are safe simply because you used a teleportation effect to flee is no longer present.

Back to Main Page3.5e HomebrewVariant Rules

AuthorTarkisflux + and Wildmage +
Identifier3.5e Variant Rule +
Rated BySpanambula +, MisterSinister +, Leziad +, Foxwarrior +, Sulacu + and Vinnyvedivici +
RatingRated 4 / 4 +
SummaryA complete teleportation replacement that supports different narratives, and lacks some potentially abuseable elements. +
TitleWaypoint Style Teleportation +