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Job Hazards of Magic

 
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virgil
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 9:22 pm    Post subject: Job Hazards of Magic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Many a DM dreams of representing magic as dark and dangerous, but we all know the more common pitfalls for such a goal.

What if you have the dangers of magic be longer in scope than a fumble chart? Logging is the most dangerous job in the States, and it's still only a 1 in a thousand chance of any single logger dying in a year. It's often enough that no reasonable person would disagree with the accusation of magic being dangerous, especially since such events are going to be more severe than a falling tree. It's also rare enough that you aren't thinking your PC is some kind of special snowflake for having their 50th anniversary without any workplace accidents. Hell, arcane mortality rate could be 1% per year and you still have half of your risk-loving wizards reaching retirement age.

If you absolutely must, you could include a rule where the PC rolls a 1d1000 during character creation. A natural 1 gives the DM a free "magic accident" plot hook coupon to use at some time during the first year of the game in response to a cast spell.
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Being involved in a dangerous job and seeing how people get hurt by it is cool - but actually being the one that gets hurt isn't. This is heroic fantasy. By rights, when you get hit by a Frost Giant Jarl's axe, you should be split in twain - but that's not cool. OVERCOMING impossible odds is where the fun comes from.

So ultimately, no matter how small a chance you set for 'rocks fall, you die', EVERY TIME IT ACTUALLY HAPPENS your player is going to be rightfully upset.

Playing Russian Roulette with a 100-bullet revolver isn't more 'fun' than playing with a six-bullet revolver.
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virgil
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Plot hook /= bullet to the head or rocks fall

ADDENDUM: Besides, if you're going through the "if you must" clause, then include a random table of acceptable plot hooks for the wild surge adventure. It'll functionally never be used, but it will give clear guidelines of what kind of stuff you throw at PCs.
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Last edited by virgil on Tue Feb 06, 2018 10:59 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Stahlseele
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If you use magic, then your gm always has the possibility to fuck with that. Maybe you are owner of some rare reagent?
Maybe you stumbled upon a metaplane certain beings do not like being tampered with?
Maybe you summoned something bigger than your head?
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Prak
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 12:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I actually went through this exact idea for the setting I'm working on now, especially since it's a setting inspired by Horror.

Basically, the thing I came up with is the Corruption rules from Pathfinder, but made more usable and less deprotagonizing. So, spellcasters are automatically corrupted, the form depends on the class (clerics get a corruption determined by their god, arcane casters select from a few, etc).

When a spellcaster casts a spell, they have to make a Will save (10+spell level, so easily made), and if they fail, their corruption level increases. If their corruption level hits 5, Bad Things Happen, but not "your character is no longer playable, hand it over and go make another" level bad.

Every odd level, their Manifestation Level goes up by one (starting at 1 at first), and they get a Manifestation, selected from a list. Each Manifestation has a Gift and a Stain, where there's a mechanical benefit, and a detriment that may be rp, may be mechanical.

So, like, lets say your a wizard who gets their magic from deals with devils. So you have the Hellbound corruption. At first level, your Manifestation Level is 1, and you have to select a Manifestation from Devil's Horns, Devil's Mark, Fiendish Tutelage, Murky Futures, or Tenuous Soul. And lets say you select Devil's Horns because you can't be arsed to read the others right now. The Gift is you have a pair of horns that grant a Gore attack dealing 1d4 if your medium. The Stain is that you have a pair of horns, and they can't be magically concealed (but you can cover them with mundane means). Oh, and you're forced to be a loophole abusing dick when someone makes a contract with you.

You cast a first level spell, so you roll Will11. If you roll really fucking low and fail, your Corruption Level goes up to 1, and your alignment shifts one step closer to LE. Now, sure, eventually, you'll fail some saves, but as a level 1 wizard, even without a Wis mod bonus, you have a 60% chance of succeeding your save to resist your corruption level from increasing.

When you hit 3rd level, your Manifestation level increases to 2, and you select a new Manifestation. Now your Corruption save might be as high as 12, but you have at least a +3 to your will save, so you still have a 60% chance.


I also included rules for healing magic being kind of risky, using the Taint rules from UA/HoH as a basis, but less crippling.
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RobbyPants
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

deaddmwalking wrote:

Playing Russian Roulette with a 100-bullet revolver isn't more 'fun' than playing with a six-bullet revolver.

I love this quote.

Regardless of the percentage of mishaps decided upon, it would be annoying to roll d1000xx/whatever every time you cast a spell.

One idea I like is that magic in "normal" amounts is pretty easy to control and has no chance of mishaps. Where the danger comes from is if you overchannel (or whatever) to achieve greater effects. This gets you two things mechanically/narratively:

1) A chance to overcome long odds, but with an increased risk.

2) Explanations on why that one dick who flew too close to the sun made a giant explosion, and now we're all stuck killing the demons that came through the rift (or whatever).
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brized
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Call of Cthulhu incurs a max Sanity (SAN) loss as a side-effect of learning spells: learning more about the dark mysteries increases your Cthulhu Mythos skill, and that decreases your max possible SAN. If you have 10 Cthulhu Mythos, your SAN can never go above 90. Also, casting spells at all incurs a SAN cost. CoC is d100 roll under, and attacks against SAN also test SAN. You have to test it when seeing monsters or horrible scenes. You lose little or no SAN on success, and much more on failure. The more SAN you lose, the faster you lose it. Once you hit 0 SAN, you turn into a cultist. It's a nasty positive feedback loop.

CoC is a dark game though, so while in the general case it's mechanically too punishing, it fits with the narrative. PCs can be faced with situations where a spell is their only chance at success or mere survival. There's still lots of room for improvement in how much SAN each spell costs vs. its utility, and ways to keep that SAN feedback loop from getting out of control. I houseruled Cthulhu Mythos to act as damage reduction against all SAN loss. There are things that still cause d100 SAN loss on a failed SAN check, so choosing to avoid as much Cthulhu Mythos as possible is a valid choice for high SAN characters, and even a high Cthulhu Mythos character can still snap by looking at something horrible enough. It changes the tone of the game towards being more heroic, but still dark.

The Wheel of Time d20 RPG has mechanics for handling the in-setting corruption of male spellcasters...Not sure if those mechanics were any good, but one can learn something from them either way.

That said, I'm with Robbypantsu here. A good balance of risk vs. reward is a fundamental aspect of games that makes them fun, and hooking magic into that lets you achieve mechanical and narrative goals simultaneously. If magic carries the option of higher performance for more risk, then combats need to be balanced such that players may feel the temptation for taking that risk at some point. How often that is depends on the inherent optimism or pessimism of the setting, how damaging and permanent the consequences can be, and what kinds of things your gaming group finds fun. The things I'd look out for are:
    1. Does it uphold player agency?
    2. Does it invoke risk vs. reward such that there's not an obvious best choice across all situations?
    3. Do the mechanics fit the setting/narrative?
    4. Does it minimize dice rolls, computation, bookkeeping, etc. to the minimum necessary to achieve all other goals?

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deaddmwalking wrote:
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virgil
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
If you use magic, then your gm always has the possibility to fuck with that.
Maybe you stumbled upon a metaplane certain beings do not like being tampered with?
Maybe you summoned something bigger than your head?
Maybe you said a god's name in a less than respectful tone?
RobbyPants wrote:
Regardless of the percentage of mishaps decided upon, it would be annoying to roll d1000xx/whatever every time you cast a spell.
Which is why I never suggested that. I suggested it being rare enough that it wouldn't happen to PCs, but nobody would think them to be special because there wasn't a mishap over the course of a campaign. And even the annual check to represent cumulative risk (rolled by the PC) makes it obvious when the DM is altering the deal.

How is your version of overchannel different from Russian Roulette but with candy in the empty chambers?
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RobbyPants
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

virgil wrote:

RobbyPants wrote:
Regardless of the percentage of mishaps decided upon, it would be annoying to roll d1000xx/whatever every time you cast a spell.
Which is why I never suggested that. I suggested it being rare enough that it wouldn't happen to PCs, but nobody would think them to be special because there wasn't a mishap over the course of a campaign. And even the annual check to represent cumulative risk (rolled by the PC) makes it obvious when the DM is altering the deal.

True. You did suggest it as a one-time deal, where the DM gets to use the (super rare) result once in the campaign.

That wasn't meant to strawman.


virgil wrote:

How is your version of overchannel different from Russian Roulette but with candy in the empty chambers?

Choice. You don't have to overchannel, ever. You can go the whole campaign without anyone ever having that revolver in their hand, let alone hitting a live round. The only people who should be holding that gun are whatever NPCs you want, and any PCs who wanna play dangerous.

You get to have your cake of using magic for as long as you feel like with no chance of wacky mishaps (never using overchannel) while eating it by still having the narrative possibility of some overly eager cultist losing control of the demon he just summoned or immolating himself with his 100-yard Fireball.


Last edited by RobbyPants on Wed Feb 07, 2018 6:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Hicks
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Wierdly, I feel that bearpocalypse world would give the best "magic for a price" effect, if it only every twised your success when you used magic. You roll for your fireball, but the twist is now the magic summons 1d4 angry bears. Oh noes! Such a cost!

And it's nonfunctionally grim-derp. Just like every "magic with a cost" system.
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erik
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2018 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ive said it before but DCC has one of the best magic with a cost systems Iíve seen. Spells have rare chance of causing annoying but non fatal changes sometimes permanent. If you want to hurt yourself to do an Uber spell then you have autonomy in that decision. It is not hard but so many systems just fail on these simple benchmarks.

DCC spell casting has other problems. Like that you roll a dozen times when casting and each spell has its own table but that isnít *completely* related.
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