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Spellseed System

 
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Aycarus
Journeyman


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 110

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 11:47 pm    Post subject: Spellseed System Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I've been looking into remaking the spell system in 3.5e for the past while - in particular I was aiming to make it more consistent. In doing so, I came up with something that most closely mimicks the psionic system, with a few other tweaks so that it has the flavor I'm looking for.

Anyway, I'd really appreciate some feedback on what I've got so far. The writeup is available as a PDF form here:

http://www.eternalspires.net/~aycarus/Spellseed%20System.pdf

I've also made up a reference sheet to keep track of skill points invested, which is available here:

http://www.eternalspires.net/~aycarus/Spellseed%20Reference%20Sheet.pdf

Thanks in advance.

~ Aycarus
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FrankTrollman
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Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 27240

PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2004 6:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Spellseed System Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Wow, that's a lot of work and an impressive design all around. Unfortunately, it doesn't work.

If you are going to go skill-based, go skill-based. If you are going to go level-based, go level-based. Do not fvck around with partial skill/level hybrids, because that doesn't work.

Right now you have opened up the possibility that a Wizard might take all his spell-seed points and put them cross-classed into Positive and Negative Energy and crap - and end up just exactly like a Cleric except having only half-leveled spell effects. You've got a system in which a 17th level character might seriously have "Mass Inflict Light Wounds" as their biggest attack spell.

If you have levels at all, you have to tie the power of peoples' actions to those levels or they don't make any sense. You've very carefully designed a system in which the multicaster problem of D&D 3.X is back with a vengeance that has never been imagined. While you could in fact multiclass Bard and Wizard and end up with a mixture of high-level Bard and Wizard effects - you've also designed a system in which a Wizard could just try to learn Bard spells straight away and be completely worthless. Even more damning, you've made a system in which a Wizard could distribute their skill points in a half-assed way such that by level 12 they couldn't do anything well.

In short - while you can design a multiclassed spellcaster that's good. You can also design one that's completely shit. Worse, there is no guaranty that a high-level single classed character can do anything well.

The power of a PC in your system is capped on the high end - you can't buy up higher level spells than your class level - but it's not capped on the low end. There is no limit to how much a character can suck under these rules. And that means that there is no limit to discrepency between two spellcasters - and therefore no limit to how unbalanced the game can be.

---

Oh, and Druids are gefuct. The ability to add major seeds to your class list at level 6 is completely pointless, because you haven't invested skill points into those areas of research at a good exchange rate for 6 levels. Yeah, now you have Fire available, but it's actually not available, because Fire is already 9 points behind where it would have to be to make you give a damn.

-Frank
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Aycarus
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Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 110

PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2004 11:33 pm    Post subject: Re: Spellseed System Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
If you are going to go skill-based, go skill-based. If you are going to go level-based, go level-based. Do not fvck around with partial skill/level hybrids, because that doesn't work.


I don't think I remember ever seeing a full skill-based system based on d20. I tried writing a full skill-based system awhile back and found it would be too difficult to convert existing content to that kind of model. Do you know of one that's been suggested?

FrankTrollman wrote:
Right now you have opened up the possibility that a Wizard might take all his spell-seed points and put them cross-classed into Positive and Negative Energy and crap - and end up just exactly like a Cleric except having only half-leveled spell effects... Even more damning, you've made a system in which a Wizard could distribute their skill points in a half-assed way such that by level 12 they couldn't do anything well.


Well, the system isn't designed to defend against poor character design. Technicially under standard d20 rules you could argue with your DM to be able to play the commoner NPC class. I don't think the system has many safeguards with regards to how poorly you can design a character - it's a matter of having the foresight to realize that a wizard should invest his skill points following an arcane path rather than a divine path. Similarly, it's a matter of foresight that ensures that under the standard D&D rules you don't make a straight wizard build that's supposed to be a front-line fighter (by wearing heavy armor all the time and wasting feats on combat-related choices).

This makes me think of a sidenote actually - with all the talk of the cheesiest characters that could be created under D&D3.5 rules, I'd actually be curious to see the weakest 20th level build possible (by whatever characteristic).

FrankTrollman wrote:
Oh, and Druids are gefuct. The ability to add major seeds to your class list at level 6 is completely pointless, because you haven't invested skill points into those areas of research at a good exchange rate for 6 levels. Yeah, now you have Fire available, but it's actually not available, because Fire is already 9 points behind where it would have to be to make you give a damn.


Good point... Although, I'd have thought that having access to a variety of elemental types might be beneficial even if you're increasingly weak in each of the four types. If you are going up against a critter with a complete immunity to fire, you'll be happy you have ranks enough to have a few acid spells (even if they're weak).
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FrankTrollman
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Joined: 07 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 27, 2004 7:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Spellseed System Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
Well, the system isn't designed to defend against poor character design.


Then what is it good for? Seriously.

The advantage of a level-based system is that you can guaranty that people will have a minimum and maximum level of diversity and power, and that characters will advance in a roughly comparable fashion over time. The disadvantage, of course, is that things are extremely pixilated, the power jumps are potentialy quite extreme, and there are by definition some pieces of severe shoe-horning going on.

If you make a level-based system in which the minimum or maximum in diversity or power is not there - then the difference in diversity and power (which is the only measure of game balance there is), is not capped. You have made a level-based system with no advantages at all.
---

Practically speaking, your spell-seeds system suffers from the fact that low level spells are still sucky at high levels. Caster levels still act as a "you must be this tall to enter" when facing SR. People who don't play the game exactly right don't matter in the grand scheme of things.

And the way to play things exactly right is to max out your spell seeds so that you have a pile of spells that will be useful at your level. The way to play the game wrong is to take even a single level of a non-spellcasting class ever in your life. The way to play the game wrong is to invest in cross-class spell seeds or diversify your spell seeds beyond what you can maintain at maximum level. People who play the game wrong will find themselves making less difference at high levels than the henchmen of the henchmen of the other PCs.

Your system introduces the following "pseudo-choices":

* Playing a Wizard/Rogue
* Taking spells that are not on your list
* Splitting your Research up between a bunch of schools of magic.

These choices look like they are legitimate, but they are not. While taking 2 Rogue levels and losing 2 caster levels might not seem so bad, by the time you are a 40th level Wizard/Rogue you'll be short 10 levels of SR penetration and your spells won't even scratch enemies of your level. In an infinitely advancing system, any proportional hit to power is always a bad deal.

And the same with taking cross-class spells. Or diversifying spell seed expenditures. Sure it might look OK to be one level behind at the beginning, but by level 10, that's five levels behind. Your henchman's henchman is only four levels behind.

D&D math, and your math, is based upon an inherently exponential power curve. 2 levels of effect is supposed to be euqual to double the power. If you fall behind the curve by 2 levels, you're half as powerful. If you fall behind the curve by one level every other level, or every four levels even - you're going to become increasingly relatively behind. First you're half as good, then you're a quarter as good, then you're an eighth as good....

You can't fit the model of "put a bonus anywhere you want" into the model of "you get better every level". It doesn't work. That's why the magic items are broken. That's why the Fighter is extremly sucky. That combined model does not function.

---

On going Skill Based:

If you wanted to go skill-based, and drop all pretenses of levels entirely, that would be worakble. If you wanted to continue to use the d20 as a starting point, that would also be workable.

Here's a skeleton I've been working on:

The rule of Four: You can't have any of your active skills be more than four points higher than any of your other active skills. You can't have any of your stats be more than four higher than any of your other stats. When you gain a stat point or a skill point, you can raise any of your stats or skills by one, but you still can't raise any of your stats or skills to more than four more than any other. So if you have a Strength of 8 and a Charisma of 4, and you got 2 stat points, you could put one into each or two into Charisma. If your Strength and Charisma were both 6 and you got 2 stat points you could put them in any way you wanted. Knowledge skills are not subject to this limitation.

There is an entire chunk of backstory that explains how this works in-game, so in the final result it's probably not going to seem all that contrived. Primarily it's in there to keep the game from disolving into one-shot kills or endless slap-fights as skill-based systems are wont to do.

Actions and DCs: In order to perform an action, there is a DC. You roll a d20, add your appropriate skill, add your appropriate stat, and add any appropriate circumstantial modifiers. If you meet the DC, you succeed. For every two points you beat the DC by, you succeed more.

Levels of success make opposed rolls inherently much easier to deal with. Allowing the stats to explicitly float makes a lot of the headaches go away. It's one of the few really good ideas to come out of Vampire.

Abilities and Skills: Every ability will have a research requirement, and a skill requirement. So learning how to use a Guisarme would require a certain amount of time practicing with a Guisarme and a certain minimum melee skill. Higher skills would cut research times down, but would not remove the research prerequisite (you would still need a Guisarme or the Liber Igni or whatever to get the ability you wanted, it would just take less time).

This form of ability rationing allows people to achieve level-appropriate powers over time. It also allows the DM to give spot-bonuses to PCs by throwing in available research into more powerful abilities for characters who are lagging.

Damage and Death: When Bob attacks Jane with a chainsaw (or fireblast, or whatever), he rolls to-hit. The stat used to hit is also the stat used to dodge. Every effect level on the to-hit roll adds to the damage DC. If Jane is struck, she attempts to resist damage, and the stat used to damage is also the stat to resist. So it's Dex vs. Dex and then Strength vs. Strength. Or Int vs. Int and then Charisma vs. Charisma. Every effect level you generate is a point of damage, and every character can take 10 points of damage before going down (and another 10 before being mostly dead, and another 10 before being alldead).

This is an important balance point, because it means that a "balanced" character - that is one who splits stats and skills evenly - is tough on the defense and light on the offense. A character who is min/maxxed - that is one who puts everything allowed into swording or magicing or whatever - is tough on the offense and light on the defense. But the degree to which this is true is numerically identical in all ways.

Which active skills there needs to be is up in the air. It's hard for me to decide because it's not important to game balance in any way.

-Frank
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