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Spellseed with a Vengeance

 
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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 6:42 pm    Post subject: Spellseed with a Vengeance Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Alright, so I ignored Frank's pessimism with the impossibility of a system of this design and went ahead with making a few fairly large changes to the dynamics of the system. Although to appease a lower bound on a character's power, I did add a mechanism under Variant: Maintaining the Balance. I've also included a method for making spellseeds mimick WoW's mana regeneration system under Variant: Fast Renewal. Finally, there's a method to force spellcasters under this system to force spells at a detriment to their health under Variant: Forcing the Spell.

The defunct druidic "problem" Frank mentioned is still there, but I've reduced the difference between gaining successive elements. Arguable, you'll still be able to maintain your quaternary element (reasonably) within 7 ranks of your primary element, so you'll be about 3 spell levels behind. I know 3rd level spells have their merits when you can cast 6th level spells, simply due to the cost difference - ie. why use a dump truck, when a brick will kill him just fine?

Please check it out and give me your thoughts on the new system.

http://www.eternalspires.net/~aycarus/Spellseed%20System.pdf
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 9:17 pm    Post subject: Re: Spellseed with a Vengeance Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OK, seriously now, what the hell is this supposed to accomplish?

I'm serious. Dead fvcking serious. Before I even critique this thing, what is it supposed to do? It's a hybrid skill/level system, and has almost all of the problems of both methodologies, but without knowing what you want it to do I can't give you a serious critique. Noone can.

So before I get in to tearing this to pieces, something I am more than capable of doing, I want you to tell us what you actually want it to do. That way we can actually contribute helpfully instead of just demonstrating some of the inherent contradictions and telling you to go cry about it.

-Frank
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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Spellseed with a Vengeance Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
OK, seriously now, what the hell is this supposed to accomplish?


Alright... in terms of what I hope to accomplish, here are the principles I'm hoping to cover with this system:

1. The method of spellcasting should be justified based on the learning cycle of a leveling system. Under D&D, learning is achieved through the use of skill points and feats. Similarly, I would like a magic system which reflects a procurement of knowledge rather than abilities tied to a particular class.

2. The practice of spellcasting should be treated as knowledge it can be learned by all classes even without investing a level in wizard. Spellcasters are only classified as such because they have dedicated more of their time to learning of spellcasting rather than other skills.

A system with spell slots tends away from treating magic as a knowledge-based artifact and instead treats it as a class ability. Thus the spellseed system tends to behave like the psionic power point system, but with characters able to continually improve existing knowledge of spells even if they would not normally have access to those spells.

3. The system should disallow the problem of high level characters being unable to access high level spells. For example, a feat to gain a single level one spell is useless because a level one spell is useless at high levels. The spellseed system corrects this by granting character major access to a spellseed once they take the feat to allow it - but they will still need to invest skill points to bring the feat up to their current level.

(ps. in relation to this, I think the fighting classes could use from a skill point boost to make their non-combat utility that much better... the fighter, in particular, should gain *at least* 4 skill points per level)

4. Spells should be regained at a relatively constant rate, independent of the length of as abstract a time element as a "day" - which can be interpreted as "period of rest" or as 24 hours.

5. The system should be simple, logical and balanced. Mind you, this is a criteria posed for any rulesset I'd manufacture.

---

In addition, rewriting a magic system should accomplish the following goals:

1. Spells should not allow a wizard to mimic class abilities possessed by non-wizards of roughly equivalent level. This makes other classes useless relative to a wizard of equal level.

2. Low-level spellcasters should be able to start with more spells than they're initially rewarded with in the D&D system.

3. The transition to epic level spellcasting should be clean.

4.

---

In short, I decided on a skill-based spell system because skills represent magic as a knowledge based system. I decided on a magic point-based system because it seemed to be simple, logical, and further complemented the idea of the magic system as a knowledge-based system well. Upon combining these ideas, this is what I came up with.

---

I made a few updates, btw... so make sure you're looking at build 4 before ripping it apart like a credit card offer.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 11:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Spellseed with a Vengeance Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

OK, now we are getting somewhere.

Aycarus wrote:

1. The method of spellcasting should be justified based on the learning cycle of a leveling system.


Oops, this is step one of where you are going off into crazy town. A level-based system makes no guarantees about learning, it is supposed to make claims about power. You learn stuff all the time, without gaining levels or even XP. You learn where the bathroom is, you learn the name of the town magistrate, you learn how to get the coffee can open without spilling coffee grounds all over the place. And you don't need levels to represent that.

The levels are there to quantify power. And that's all they are intended to quantify. That's why commoners don't gain levels for standing around, and the PCs get XP for screen time. If you try to make the power levels take the place of all forms of learning, the game is going to have to get really pixellated or extremely retarded. Yeah! I just gained a level in "knows how to eat a sandwhich without getting fingers dirty"...


Aycarus wrote:
2. The practice of spellcasting should be treated as knowledge it can be learned by all classes even without investing a level in wizard.


OK, if this is your goal, how about we get rid of all the spellcasting classes? I'm not kidding, either. We have three classes:

Warrior
Rogue
Scribe

And then everyone gets a certain amount of spell knowledge as well. Each class can have selectable abilities that will allow you to be a wilderness or urban version and such. And people can pick and choose whatever spellcasting schtick they want. If we balance the spellcasting out properly by level, it'll work great.

The problem with this plan by the route you are going is that "treating things as knowledge" has no meaning in the D&D rules already presented. The rules don't keep track of knowledge, only of power. So if you try to treat something as knowledge within the previously existing ruleset, you end up just flailing around accomplishing nothing.

Aycarus wrote:
A system with spell slots tends away from treating magic as a knowledge-based artifact and instead treats it as a class ability.


Exactly. D&D doesn't even have knowledge-based artifacts as a codified ruleset. It only has class abilities, racial abilties, and story effects. If you "know the combination to the red door", you can as a story effect open that door without making a disable device check to bypass the lock. Otherwise, you need some numerical (Disable Device) or non-numerical (Knock) ability that says that you can open it. But that's all there is in D&D proper.

Your attempts to make spells into "not a class feature" are not actually doing that, they are just making things "more complex" - which isn't the same thing at all.

Aycarus wrote:
3. The system should disallow the problem of high level characters being unable to access high level spells.


OK, well... it doesn't do that. If you wanted it to do that, you would be wanting to hand out various "slots" that were tied to level and were applied directly to spells of an appropriate power level - kind of like we have now (although using another setup to sidestep the problem of the Fighter/Wizard sucking with both hands). Alternately, you could tie spell power directly to character level and then have any rubric for actually learning new spells that you wanted. If knowing "acid splash" at character level 13 means that you can shoot off 3 orbs each of 7d6 no-save acid damage, then people aren't going to grown about people handed spells as if they were still useful. They'd actually be still useful, which is a whole different thing altogether.

Aycarus wrote:
The spellseed system corrects this by granting character major access to a spellseed once they take the feat to allow it - but they will still need to invest skill points to bring the feat up to their current level.


You're fooling yourself if you think this is anything like a correction. It means that two characters who are exactly the same in every way except that one spent a feat on getting in-class magic at 3rd level and PBS at 9th level, and another spent their feats in the opposite order, are going to be exactly the same except one has 3 extra points of spell seeds for no reason. This setup has taken the relatively minor concern that moving skill points around can make characters uneven and multiplied it a hundred fold because now it applies to spellcasting, the most important and powerful class feature in the entire game by a huge lot.

Furthermore, you've still not made people actually get spellcasting that is in line with their character level necessarily. Even the "maintaining the balance" optional rule doesn't really do that effectively. Druids, for instance, are entirely built around the idea that they are going to be dropping points down a dark hole all the time.

Aycarus wrote:
4. Spells should be regained at a relatively constant rate, independent of the length of as abstract a time element as a "day" - which can be interpreted as "period of rest" or as 24 hours.


What?

OK, balancing spells is really hard. It's so damned hard, that we devoted an entire thread just to talking about the various methods of doing it. That thread is here. But at no time does deabstractifying the recharge time on charge casting get around its fundamental problems.

The fact is that charge casting blows, and nothing you can do is going to stop that from being the case. Whatever it is that resets your charge casting, the game-balance-importantance of that is actually the ratio of the resetting your charge casting and the resetting of your opposition. The second one is a campaign concern and beyond the scope of game design.

If you want to build a decent spellcasting system, you should either not worry about it, or attempt to balance things by any other means. Check out the big list, it has a lot of ideas on it.

Aycarus wrote:

5. The system should be simple, logical and balanced. Mind you, this is a criteria posed for any rulesset I'd manufacture.


That's a good criteria. Unfortunately, your current system is really complicated, and has inherent logical and balance problems. But I'm glad that's a criteria, because it means that there's probably a way to find common ground.

Aycarus wrote:
1. Spells should not allow a wizard to mimic class abilities possessed by non-wizards of roughly equivalent level. This makes other classes useless relative to a wizard of equal level.


I agree with you. But let's look at it in a different light... what if there weren't any wizards? That seems to be the direction you are headed, so why not go whole hog? Why even have spellcasting classes? You could just have everyone have a certain amount of magic power and not have separate classes that serve only to be "better" than the other ones by virtue of the fact that they get more "magic", and magic is better.

Alternately, what if there was an actual list of what magic could and couldn't do, like in Shadowrun. Then people would have a certain amount of Column A powers and a certain amount of Column B powers, and their distinction would actually matter because neither could cross the line between them.

But you're not going to achieve this hallowed goal just by trying to spot weld it. That's literally incapable of working.

Aycarus wrote:
2. Low-level spellcasters should be able to start with more spells than they're initially rewarded with in the D&D system.


OK, that's actually the opposite of the direction you are going here. In normal D&D, Clerics start with all the first level spells, that's way more than they could dream of having under your system. So I suspect that this isn't a big deal for you.

Aycarus wrote:
3. The transition to epic level spellcasting should be clean.


Then you are going to want to ditch levels. Levels are something that are inherently not clean. They are quite pixelated, and each one is supposed to be 41% bigger than the one before it. So the level transitions are by definition getting bigger and bigger as you go up in level. As long as you are in an exponential level-based system, this goal cannot be achieved.

Aycarus wrote:
because skills represent...


No they don't. Skills represent a numerical class ability that is allowed to fall behind or "catch up" to your character level. That's all they represent game mechanically, which is the important part when you are writing game mechanics.

Aycarus wrote:
I decided on a magic point-based system because it seemed to...


Magic points are just another version of charge casting. They aren't actually any different.

-Frank
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Aycarus
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 12:50 am    Post subject: Re: Spellseed with a Vengeance Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:

Aycarus wrote:

1. The method of spellcasting should be justified based on the learning cycle of a leveling system.


Oops, this is step one of where you are going off into crazy town. A level-based system makes no guarantees about learning, it is supposed to make claims about power. You learn stuff all the time, without gaining levels or even XP. You learn where the bathroom is, you learn the name of the town magistrate, you learn how to get the coffee can open without spilling coffee grounds all over the place. And you don't need levels to represent that.


Arguably, I think we can place the idea of "knowledge" into three categories:

1) Direct adventuring knowledge. This stuff roughly equates with power, in the sense that an increase of this represents a respective gain in a character's power. This is reflected in one sense by the skill/feat system in D&D - gaining a skill point or feat represents a gain of knowledge and should adjust your character's power level accordingly. This is the type of knowledge I'm describing with regards to this system. It is almost synonymous with power, except power also takes into account invariants, such as ability scores (which has a power level judicated by the DM).

2) Professional knowledge. This is equivilant to learning how to be a better blacksmith, waitress, ham sandwich, etc. This generally does not play into adventures since applications of this knowledge require Brobdignagian amounts of time.

3) Story knowledge. This includes learning how to better lick off your fingers, where the bathroom is, who ate the king's sheep, etc. There is no numerical measure of this knowledge, as it is expected that players will keep track of this themselves and roleplay it appropriately.

Quote:
Aycarus wrote:

5. The system should be simple, logical and balanced. Mind you, this is a criteria posed for any rulesset I'd manufacture.


That's a good criteria. Unfortunately, your current system is really complicated, and has inherent logical and balance problems. But I'm glad that's a criteria, because it means that there's probably a way to find common ground.


Oh right... Add "fun" to there too - but that should be obvious.

Quote:
Aycarus wrote:
2. Low-level spellcasters should be able to start with more spells than they're initially rewarded with in the D&D system.


OK, that's actually the opposite of the direction you are going here. In normal D&D, Clerics start with all the first level spells, that's way more than they could dream of having under your system. So I suspect that this isn't a big deal for you.


Sorry, I meant "castings" not "spells". A character can have fewer spells at first level and still have use in combat beyond the first round.

Quote:
Aycarus wrote:
3. The transition to epic level spellcasting should be clean.


Then you are going to want to ditch levels. Levels are something that are inherently not clean. They are quite pixelated, and each one is supposed to be 41% bigger than the one before it. So the level transitions are by definition getting bigger and bigger as you go up in level. As long as you are in an exponential level-based system, this goal cannot be achieved.


One of the goals is to maintain most of the D&D architecture, even if it's inherently not clean. Plus point based systems are almost impossible to design such that they maintain both balance and flexibility. Things usually stop being fun when players lose flexibility.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 8:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Spellseed with a Vengeance Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Aycarus wrote:
Arguably, I think we can place the idea of "knowledge" into three categories:


Good thing you put "arguably" in front of that, because I flat disagree with your assessment entirely.

Aycarus wrote:
This is reflected in one sense by the skill/feat system in D&D - gaining a skill point or feat represents a gain of knowledge and should adjust your character's power level accordingly.


This is where you have it backwards. Feats and Skills don't represent knowledge that is reflected in power - they represent power which often has knowledge as a special effect for why you have it. Feats are the most obvious here, in that they can represent growing extra eyestalks or having been granted a favor from a powerful being, or even just knowing some guys. But skills work like this too, sometimes a skill point is used to represent the fact that animals like you better, rather than representing anything that you actually know.

---

The skill point represents a numerical power which is assigned by virtue of a player's whim to a maximum based on character level and a minimum of zero. As such, skills are put in for class features which are either so astoundingly important that they are not to be allowed to fall numerically behind character level for multiclassed characters (like "Disable Device); or so incredibly unimportant that it just doesn't matter if they keep up with character level (like "Profession: Sailor" or "Jump").

That's it. Skills exist because there is part of the game where the designers don't give a rat's ass if things are balanced or not - and that's peoples' ability to make a ham sandwhich. Also as a kludge to make sure that multiclassed Rogues can bypass level-appropriate traps without death.

So, given that hose are the actual game mechanics of skill points, why would you want to apply them to the most powerful and important class feature in the entire game?

-Frank
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