Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Sword of Spirit
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Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby Sword of Spirit » Fri Apr 27, 2018 3:26 am

Before tuning out (we've heard the concern before), I'd suggest everyone tune-in to the details of what I'm going to suggest. :) First, I'll share 2 thoughts about spellcasting and versatility, then I'll reference 2 published precedent examples from the Core Rulebook and Day One Adventures, then I'll offer 4 possibilities that could be addressed in some future products (cosm books probably) if the designers empathize with some of these thoughts.

(I understand (and agree) about the balance issues to letting spellcasters pick up a lot of spells. That's important, and I'm going to keep that in mind with everything I talk about.)

Thoughts:

1) The concept of a traditional scholarly wizard requires the ability to learn a wide body of spells. "You know these few spells, and that's all you can cast" is highly problematic for a traditional scholarly wizard type. What reason would there be for exploring arcane worlds, seeking out new spells and new prestidigitations, and boldly casting what no one has cast before...if you, well, can't? You just can't have the scholardly wizard concept without the ability to learn and cast a variety of spells that won't be supported by the normal Perks. However, that doesn't mean the caster has to have a wide variety of action-scene relevant spellcasting abilities. I think that the archetype needs to be supported in the game, and I'm sure the designers would like it supported too as long as it isn't at the expense of game balance.

2) The spells you've learned with a Perk make sense as your signature abilities. They are the spells you have mastered and can cast whenever you need with a good chance of success. Outside of action-scenes, utility spells aren't character power resources, they are party resources. Flight is no better than an aircraft, and similar effects to many spells can be accomplished with gear. If something isn't a direct increase to a character's abilities within an action scene, it shouldn't be given as much weight for balance purposes. In short, spellcasting resources outside of action-scenes should be treated more like equipment than character power.

Precedent Examples:

1) Day One Adventures page 55. A character can make an alteration test to open a magically sealed door. I can't think of any way to interpret this other than to say that it is an explicit example of a character being able to perform minor spellcasting without a specific known spell.

2) Core Rulebook page 131. A character made an apportation test as part of a dramatic skill resolution to cast a powerful spell from a grimoire.

These are two examples where the game officially allows you to cast spells without the spellcasting perk. The first allows minor spellcasting with no particular conditions (other than having a target that it makes sense for), while the second relies on the presence of a grimoire.

Possibilities:

1) Precedent 1 is great. It goes a long way towards letting wizardly types feel magical without any real increase in power. My suggestion is just to publish this idea more overtly, not hidden away in an adventure. For instance, a couple of lines in any cosm book with a reasonable amount of magic could suggest this concept and provide basic guidelines to adjudicate power level (for one, it shouldn't be able to duplicate or approximate any actual spell or similar ability).

2) Precedent 2 is also great. I'd really like to see some simple rules for grimoires that treat the spells therein like equipment, rather than character resources. Casting basic spells from a grimoire could follow the normal spellcasting rules, except that the Axiom Level, Skill Requirement and Casting Difficulty are all increased by some number (4? 6?) and the casting time is increased (by some amount that takes this out of usefulness in a battle). Shock, or other penalties for failure could also be increased. More powerful magic (not based on specific spells) could work more like the dramatic skill resolution example. As long as the number chosen was right, this would keep grimoires in the equipment category--and they'd be expensive equipment at that.

Just presenting those two precedents in actionable rules guidelines that the GMs can use in their games will help wizardly types fit the concept much better than just knowing a handful of spells does, without introducing any appreciable increase to their power and throwing off balance. It's a win-win situation.

We could go even further, at the cost of a Perk.

3) I'd love a Perk that allowed a spellcaster to spontaneously cast spells from their cosm's spell list (ie, spells that they don't "know"). This should work pretty much the same as my suggested embellishment for grimoire rules, except the increase to the numbers would be higher. An appropriate penalty would make it difficult to do this sort of thing, limit it to minor magics, even limit it by cosm. It's just tweaking the numbers for best effect. What this would mean is that wizardly types could do things like cast Detect Magic, Mage Hands, and Alarm, without having to sacrifice knowing Fireball, Invisibility, and Haste in order to do so. This is basically similar to using a Perk to buy a nice set of cyberware. Maybe the first perk could allow spells up to a certain axiom level, and the next perk would raise that axiom level by 2 points, etc. All the penalties of the grimoire method would apply, so casting time would make this a non-combat, non-stress sort of utility.

4) While most of this wouldn't be directly applicable to Psionics or Miracles (neither of which conceptually mimic the wizardly concept, and so don't require this sort of consideration), Psionics could easily take advantage of the first precedent example, and there is no reason there couldn't be rare psionic or sacred objects that allow holders already capable of Psionics or Miracles to invoke additional powers (similar to a grimoire).

Hopefully these thoughts have been useful and balanced. :D

utsukushi
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby utsukushi » Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:04 pm

I think those are some very good thoughts, and I'm glad I didn't tune them out.

In some ways, I think Psionics is better suited to the first example than Magic is. It's easy to think a Telekinetic should be able to do Telekinetic Things just as a baseline, with their Perk-based powers being cool Telekinetic things they're really good at.


We know (because Deanna told us, and we trust her implicitly) that Tharkold and the CyberPapacy books are going to clarify the possibility, and the costs, of buying Cyberware and Occultech as pure Gear, without the Perks to back them up, with the tradeoff being that they haven't been `hacked' properly. Cyber presumably lets GodNet know everything you're doing at all times, which just seems like a bad idea, while Occultech probably gets more of an emphasis on that "powered by pain" angle which actually sounds interesting and playable while still being a serious disadvantage.

But, um, to the topic at hand! I think "Grimoires", and scrolls, could be an excellent way to allow people to buy spells as gear, that are then more limited than what you can do through the Perk. And I've mentioned elsewhere my hope that there will be other items that might allow lower-level spells as gear, since a lot of the lower level spells essentially are gear, just with a magical flavor. Scrolls, traditionally, only let you use the spell once, and we've already talked, somewhere, about single-use Perks being a good idea for big rewards -- finding a rare Lightning Bolt Scroll could be pretty cool, especially if the scroll also acted as a single add in the Skill, letting someone without the Skill still cast it. (Or maybe Scrolls could just be usable Unskilled - and might count as Unskilled if you have the Skill, but not enough of it. Like Lightning if your Conjuration is only at 12, say.)

Casting spells from a Grimoire would mean actually bringing a book out and reading from it -- not an easy thing to do in any dramatic scene. It might take an extra turn, like Aiming, while you look up the spell and start reading it. It would be subject to Called Shots. It is, in fact, the example given under Called Shot: "Or a hero might want to shoot the spellbook out of the hands of an evil sorceror." Why would you want to do that? It wouldn't effect their spellcasting. Why are they even holding a spellbook? It's a cool scene, but there's no basis for it in the rules we have now.

And that gives me a lot of hope that there will be a basis for it in upcoming rules, probably in the Aysle book because putting them in Pan Pacifica would just be weird. But that would have a lot of what I think are positive effects. It really gives magicians a reason to buy all the magical Skills again, instead of just the one they want spells for. It allows for a character who only does magic through books and other aids, which I think would be a cool concept. Alternately, it would mean you could make, say, an Elven Warden, devoting their Perks to that tree, but still give them, say, a couple points in Apportation, so that you can buy that Ring of Free Passage to cast Open Lock. And it's self-limiting, because of course, an Elven Warden is going to want too much Dexterity to have their Spirit high enough to be able to cast Portal or Fly this way.


On a side note - real long-term ritual spellcasting? I think should be a Core Earth thing. Something Aysle hasn't needed because they have real magic, but that Core Earth occultists have been doing for centuries. Axiom 20 brings the "casting time of many rituals down to equal spells", suggesting that the need for rituals starts going away -- so at 24, Aysle hasn't needed them for a long time. But at 9, Core Earth is ideally set for that to have been our primary option for magic for a long time.

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Here Comes The Flood
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby Here Comes The Flood » Fri Apr 27, 2018 3:32 pm

To be honest, I don't quite get the ideas behind the rules for learning spells here.

Having a broad skillset doesn't make you intrinsically more powerful. You're growing sidewards, not upwards.

And it means that many utility spells simply won't ever be chosen, which seems a shame.
“When the night shows, the signals grow on radios
All the strange things, they come and go, as early warnings…”

fougerec
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby fougerec » Fri Apr 27, 2018 4:25 pm

I'm tempted to use something like Cantrips from 13th age. The wizard, upon taking the Spellcaster perk, can perform a certain number of minor magical effects reflectively at will. During a battle it's a number equal to your adds in your highest magical skill. Out of combat it's about the same number every 5-6 minutes.

You can either have a small list of innocuous, non damaging effects or just do it on the fly. Just make sure they do no damage, they don't do anything a "real" spell does etc.

Faerol
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby Faerol » Fri Apr 27, 2018 4:44 pm

Interesting discussion and leads into something I've been working on for sometime... a translation of the oTorg magic system to TE that would complement the TE magic system.

It uses a perk to create a new High Magic ability that requires a grimoire that must be used during casting. I'm currently reworking a selection of spells from the oTorg Aysle and Pixaud books. I've modified(or actually in the process of modifying) the oTorg magic creation system to generate spells that are roughly comparable to TE spells and balanced to account for changes to attributes and max skills.

The High Magic perk requires the Spellcasting perk, and I'm tentatively presenting basic spellcasting as something like learned permanently impressed spells in oTorg parlance, just to explain the difference between the two.

I've brought back arcane knowledges in a limited way and eventually players will have the ability to create spells using the modified oTorg system.

This is really just a summary but covers the basics.

I had intended to just use this in my campaign, which includes a lot of old school oTorg players who loved the magic system. However, if anyone is interested I could post it on the forum. Should be done, or at least playtested(probably won't ever be completely done, oTorg magic is a big job to tackle), in a few weeks.

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Rabbitball
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby Rabbitball » Sat May 05, 2018 11:04 pm

Without going into too much detail (considering there isn't a lot of that at the moment), let me point out as one of the people working on the Aysle Sourcebook that I am sensitive to these concerns and doing what I can to capture the feel of fantasy wizardry without resorting to the cumbersome system of Original Torg.
Dominick Riesland, aka Rabbitball
Co-author, Aysle Sourcebook for Torg Eternity
Creator of the Cosmversal Grimoire
"Those who will not follow are doomed to lead"—Anarchist, Magic: the Gathering

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Spatula
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby Spatula » Sun May 06, 2018 9:10 am

I think having "spellbooks" as reusable scrolls basically solves the issue. The spells you know from the perk are those that you can always cast, given access to the components. Then you have your books at home that allow you to broaden your range, but they're too bulky and/or fragile to carry around with you on adventures. Maybe one could even swap in a new "known" spell from a book (losing a previously known spell in the process) for an adventure or an Act or something like that.

Savioronedge
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby Savioronedge » Thu May 17, 2018 12:36 pm

Rabbitball wrote:Without going into too much detail (considering there isn't a lot of that at the moment), let me point out as one of the people working on the Aysle Sourcebook that I am sensitive to these concerns and doing what I can to capture the feel of fantasy wizardry without resorting to the cumbersome system of Original Torg.


You are likely going to either destroy or exalt the first Eternity character idea I had; the Core Earth witch who has Magic skills without the Spellcaster Perk having always relied on a Grimoire for the Spells. (Of course, the plan was to get the Perk ASAP.)

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Rabbitball
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby Rabbitball » Tue May 29, 2018 11:24 am

Savioronedge wrote:You are likely going to either destroy or exalt the first Eternity character idea I had; the Core Earth witch who has Magic skills without the Spellcaster Perk having always relied on a Grimoire for the Spells. (Of course, the plan was to get the Perk ASAP.)


Your assessment is accurate. ;)
Dominick Riesland, aka Rabbitball
Co-author, Aysle Sourcebook for Torg Eternity
Creator of the Cosmversal Grimoire
"Those who will not follow are doomed to lead"—Anarchist, Magic: the Gathering

Savioronedge
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Re: Thoughts on wizards and spellcasting

Postby Savioronedge » Wed May 30, 2018 1:15 am

So, according to Pixaud, if I start with Time, swing through Magic, and back to Time, I can make A spell that will let me read what you are going to print when Aysle is ready!

Now let's see, I'll need to apply theorums, add some extra weeks to cover the added complexity of using a system from a game applied to the real world, add some more because it's not even the currently active version of the game, and I should have the spell ready in about 22 weeks!


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