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FInal Fantasy 8-style magic and junctioning in Hero system


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Possibly the least popular entry in the long running series (though opinions, as ever, vary) in no small part due to the very different approach it took to magic and improving your character, it's nonetheless one of the games I find the most interesting for precisely those reasons. To briefly explain it, spells in FF8 are collected from points in the environment that naturally collect magic energy, from enemies during battle through the "Draw" action (they can also be cast as the same action rather than kept,) or by refining unneeded equipment, and stockpiled for each character. That much isn't anything too difficult, it basically just amounts to having them as Charges, and with the ability to stack up 100 of each spell, the only way that's even worth anything as a Limitation is that you can only initially gain or after using them recover Charges by finding an appropriate source or buying the items/spending the time to refine them. Casting only uses the stockpiled spell, as the game doesn't even have a traditional magic points system.


Where it gets crazy is the Junction system - leaving out the whole side issue of summons (Called Guardian Forces in this game, but pretty much the FF standard Espers in lore and practical implementation) and how they enable the mechanic in-character -  your stockpiled Charges of a particular spell can be attached to a stat to boost its value, with some spells more effective on some stats. Cast some of the linked spells, and the benefit goes down proportionately, so it's best to keep your most commonly useful spells not linked to a stat, or not one you need for your core abilities at least.


Yes, this is absolutely game-breaking when fully utilized or only on one side, and its effect on game balance is the root of most complaints against it. Trying to get it approved for use in a game, or even to run a game with such a mechanic in use whether as a one-off or commonly, is probably folly even without considering the bookkeeping requirements for a pen and paper game rather than a CRPG. Even so, Hero can supposedly build anything, and this aspect is what's niggling at me this morning, specifically how to represent it. along with a variable stock of up to a couple dozen spells to begin with.


My first thought is a Framework (I keep waffling on which, as a Multipower would need all the spells [32 in FF8 itself] premade and paid for even with no Charges for them, while a VPP can only use the ones currently active [and depending on interpretation might not even keep the Charges for ones not currently active] while a dedicated collector might have large stocks of every spell after a while) with variably Linked additions to Stats with the effect proportionate to the number of Charges and which spell they're linked to. This seems to be both a bit clunky and only loosely approaching the desired effect, but so far I don't have a better idea. What do you folks think?


There is also the question of how to handle the Draw mechanic to gain Charges, from monsters and equipment at least, since access to environmental Draw points is pretty much entirely in the realm of RP and plot. Equipment used for the purpose is gone but it doesn't seem to bother an enemy at all or diminish their own abilities, and the spells that can be gotten are generally only loosely connected to their habitat or themes. Aside from just assigning them by fiat, I don't see any real system to apply to them, but how do you model the Draw ability to begin with? Is just giving the spells the Limitation that Charges must be Drawn in combat by using an Action on a Power check enough to cover it? And then the whole issue of getting them by consuming bought equipment... Doing that as the SFX of a Limitation rather than a power to generate Charges in its own right still just feels weird, though I suppose it makes sense within the system. Some method of creating Charges, at least with one or more for the desired spell already stocked, using Endurance might work better overall than directly translating the equipment-Refining aspect, and could still tie into Triple Triad cards made from transforming weakened monsters without the intermediate step of using them to make equipment for the purpose.


(That's a whole other thing, but adequately represented with the Transform power so it's probably not worth more than the note.)


Some relevant FF Wiki links:

the Junction system

the Draw command

the Refine command

the Card command

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Oh, FF VIII. My favorite entry in the series until XV!


Seriously. I loved VIII. I get a lot of hate for it, but eh, what are you gonna do? I liked the brooding hero, gun blades are amazing, and the heroine didn’t get popped too early. Character design was solid and what have you. ANYWAY.


Spells first. These are actually END batteries, not charges. “Thia, but...” No buts. It’s an END battery, defined and limited as “the most source energy of a given element I can tote at a given time,” with the default max being 100. Then you cast spells with END, all spells cost END, must draw from elemental battery (-0, as a unique campaign limitation). END is cheap, and I can boot up VIII (it’s on my iPad) and confirm that, I’m going on memory here.


Your second question is the one that’s interesting to me, because I did it for Persona. And to do it I probably broke a... crap load of rules, but it boiled down to making each Persona a “vehicle” that behaved like a power armor. Once a Persona is equipped, it has set abilities, it can never have more than 8 abilities, those abilities are from a defined list, etc. etc. When equipped it passes specific skills to the user, both combat and non-combat. The point is, I was able to do it for... 220? Permutations (I didn’t write them all out, I didn’t need to, but I have the framework to do so) and all of their spell variations.


FF, like Persona, uses a graded damage scale, but it’s not interesting, so I wound up writing two spells for every spell level, one more traditional, and one more that was more “Heroic.” It was the most fun I ever had doing a build and frankly it worked far better than I expected.


I don’t know if any of that gives you inspiration or helps in any way, but that’s how I managed it. I gave up thinking of them as “mechanics” and reasoned from effect; what is this, and what is it really doing? It’s a power armor for the soul, it grants stat buffs, skill boosts and a limited set of powers. Okay, I’ve got this. 

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Several points of note before I dig into this with blind uncertainty. Firstly, I have never played FF VIII. As such, I will have to be re-explaining what I think you are aiming for, before trying to answer that. Secondly, as Thia Halmades made note of, it feels like a fair bit of this would be under Campaign rules rather than anything else. But with that out of the way, let's try this.

So firstly! From what I am gathering, the magic system you are wanting to build is as follows:

  • Magic Energy is gained via Specific Locations, or using "Draw" on a Foe
  • Magic Energy can be converted to Spells that can then be used
  • These "Held" Spells contribute to stats while not being used.



Now, if this is what you are meaning, the following might be of use. If not? Well, consider the rest of this response a curious mental exercise. 


Option 1: 


The first and the third part are the easiest with how I am considering it, believe it or not. It's that middle conversion that makes my brain hurt. So let's start with the first part.


Gaining Magic Energy via Specific Locations is pretty well bog-standard magical fair. Only able to recover charges/endurance at Leylines, or in points of Fung Shuai, or so on. Personally I would write it up as a Endurance Battery for reasons to be explained later. But whether it is done via Charges or an Endurance Battery, slap on the Limitation (Can only recharge at Magical Sources and from "Draw") which I'd put likely at a -1/4, potentially higher on how Draw is built. 

Draw is weird. It seems up above that you have to target a foe for it, but it doesn't cause any negative effect on them when done so. If that is the case, Draw is Healing. Healing END for the Endurance Battery, requiring an attack roll on a foe. That's just Healing with Requires a Roll. If it does infact impact the foe, it's a Drain END with a Linked Healing. Boom, easy, done.


The third part is easy in concept, but really bothersome in practice. What you are describing sounds like Characteristics bought with a Reverse Proportionality to the whatever Spell they end up linked to. The easy way to handle that would be a Power Framework for Multipower where both the Spell and Characteristics are Variable. But, that isn't what you are looking for, as you are wanting the... Umpfh of the Spells adding to Characteristics, and drawn away when cast. Or at least that's what I think is described. But the fact that you can buy Characteristics with a Limitation (Only in Reverse Proportion to the use of the Spells) is "easy" or at least as easy as this gets. I'd call it -1/2 if I had to guess. Haven't done extensive math.



Then the hard part of Magical Energy into Spells.

I'm gonna pull a number out of the air. I'm gonna say 5. You can have 5 charges of each spell held at a time. In theory, you can have any number, but I'm using 5 because I like the number. But yes. Each Spell is built with Charges. These charges are not recharged with time, but with the Magical Energy Endurance Battery. This is the reason I recommended Endurance battery rather than Charges earlier. Each Charge costs... some amount from the Endurance Battery. Balance to be wiggled depending on spell, active point cost, how hard it is to recharge the Endurance Battery, ect. 

This in total would have an END Battery that you charge with Draw, let you convert that Energy into Spell Charges, and have Characteristics boosted from having those Charges, but not using them. 

Option  2: 
I was about eighty percent of the way through writing up the first option when I realized I was being dumb. Very dumb. Here's a much easier way to do it.

Part 1 is the same. You still build "Draw" to either effect the foe or not, and have a Magical Energy Endurance Battery. Heck, I realized if you wanted to not add additional things to it, have "Draw" built into the Magical Energy Endurance Battery. Have the Recovery have the Limitation (Requires an Attack Roll against a Foe) and boom. All in one, baby.

Part 2 and 3 get amalgamated into your Spells. Your Spells? They now just take Endurance from the Magical Energy Endurance Battery. No charges. And each of the Spells now has a handy dandy Side Effect. Drain Characteristic, Extended Recovery time. Likely that will use the Average Effect Rule, so each cast drains the same amount. Either in the same Side Effect, or in a separate Limitation, have it that you can't cast XYZ Spell without X amount of Characteristic. Then? Well, you still technically have two options.

The first option is the easiest. Just buy more Characteristics to represent what you will be at when "Magically Charged." Pick a point on the "Magically Charged" characteristics where it would no longer be Magically Charged. Decide how many castings of the spell you have before it is drained out. Adjust the Side Effect to Drain accordingly.


The second option, or as I like to think of it, if you feel like making math cry, work to change the Drain Side Effect above to target the Linked Characteristic that is bought with the Spell. IE: Buy a VPP for X amounts of Points for Characteristics, allocable as you so choose. The Spell is then bought as a Linked Power to the VPP, that the Side Effect Drain then targets the Characteristics bought from the VPP. 


The first option ends up with a Magical Energy Endurance Battery that you can charge by "Drawing" from a foe, and you Cast from your Stats. It's like Vatican Magic but punishing.


The second option ends up with a Magical Energy Endurance Battery that you can charge by "Drawing" from a foe, and you Cast from a pool of boosted stats. But, you can choose which stats the Spells are "Boosting."

Potential Complications


If you decide to use the Second Options' Second Option (The repeat is intentional) your GM may have reason to give you a stink eye. Likely, you are purchasing your spells either through a VPP or more likely, a Multipower. That would have a Multipower drawing from a Endurance Reserve, linked to a VPP. It's ripe for potential abuse. Don't.

If this is like I think it is? You either need to do a lot of house-ruling to determine how much a Charge Costs, and build several peculiar Limited Power Limitations. Or, build it like you are Casting from your Stats.

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@Sveta8, it's not generic magic energy, you get one specific spell from a draw point, and I think only one specific spell from an enemy type at a certain level range - like, right outside the starting base there's a draw point for Heal spells. You can get a few of them off of it and then it's depleted until you've walked a certain number of steps, for example. It's not a general "magic energy" that you can then use for any spell - that wouldn't be unusual at all, since the normal system in FF games is that your HP/SP recovers at a save point and it translates pretty directly to the Hero standard "cast from END" or an END reserve.

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Hmm. I was not aware that each magical spot or foe could only funnel to a specific type of spell/foe.

Specific magical spots to restore spells I would probably have as Campaign ruled Locations. Base them off of Aid with an increased return Delay, so they last for like, an hour before returning. Running the Spells off of the Casting from Stats version, that's easy to do.

But, if each foe can only give "Energy" to a specific Spell, in this case that translates towards increasing the amount of "Energy" in each Stat that is being boosted by not using that Spell. So... You could run it as an Aid. However, it seems that with the exception of Magical Spots, the uses of that Spell don't go away. You have them till you use them up. That seems more along the lines of a Persistent Buff and thus Boost, or maybe Heal if you are below normal. Hrm.

Alright, so in that case, I'd drop the Endurance Battery altogether. I'd wind up with... these.

Spell El Generico Formula: Side Effect: Drains 1d6 (3) or 2d6 (6) of [INSERT CHARACTERISTIC HERE], No Normal Recovery, Average Roll. (-3/4 or -1), Limited Power: Cannot be cast with [INSERT CHARACTERISTIC HERE] below X amount (-0 or -1/4)

Multipower: Drawing: Variable Effect: Any One Characteristic (+1/2), Requires an attack Roll on An Appropriate Target(-1/2), Limited Power: Only works on Appropriate Characteristic (-1/4 to -1/2)

  • Recovering Draw : 2d6 Healing
  • Improving Draw : 2d6 Aid. Delayed Return rate: 1 Hour (+1 1/2)



You'd have to buy your Characteristics to whatever Maximum you may wish when boosted. Your Spells will drain that Characteristic down to your "Normal" level, and at that point, be unable to cast the spell anymore. You can recover your Characteristics by "Drawing" on a foe, if that foe is of the appropriate "Type" to recover that Spell's Associated Characteristic. If there is a Energy Source, you should be able to Aid your Appropriate Characteristic for the Spell, and have it last a while. 

Is that something close to what you are intending?

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It would work for spells currently boosting stats, but you don't have to connect them to one to store or to use them. It's a very flavorful and unique system, but a pain in the butt to try to convert to anything else. Charges or a separate END reserve for each spell is really the only way I can see to accurately manage that, which would probably mean an entire page or two just for that in practice, but I knew going it it would be impractical. I [i]have[/i] played the game, even if it's been about a decade since my PSX got stolen, and managing it is bad enough when the computer automagically tracks the numbers.

I still think buying the characteristics to the maximum boost and then limiting them by how many Charges/how much END/whatever is plugged in to power those extra stats is probably the way to go there, with the value of that limitation depending heavily on campaign circumstances, as how many and how high quality a supply of spells the character will typically have available for the purpose will directly determine how much of that maximum is available overall.

For how much effect one of a particular spell has on a currently linked stat, probably some ratio of the AP value for one use of the spell versus the AP value for one point in the stat? That kind of evaluation is the main benefit of the Hero system, after all. Checking the wiki and a FAQ I find that in FF8 itself the MC ranges from ~6 in all stats at Lv7 to ~45 at lv100, while the strongest spell adds between .25 and 1 point per each (stacking to 100 copies of the spell) depending on which stat, with STR at 1/ea giving somewhere between a fifteen-fold to double-and-a-bit increase in FF8's linear stats. With Hero doubling on fives and tens and base stats at 10, 30 STR would be four doublings or a sixteen fold increase, and also 30cp.

30cp worth of increase (from the base value, not the character's actual stats as bought, so most of the stats would cap at 30, DEX at 20, SPD at 5, etc.) per stat sounds not-horrible as a first approximation with the caveat that you're not ever going to be able to have all of that on everything, or even most things, not much of any of them at the beginning, and certainly not without a lot of collecting and refining. (Which would be its own problem with practical implementation, as grinding for consumable resources is dull enough in a video game but utter poison on the tabletop.) That's still going to be pretty spendy, no matter how much you judge the Limitation of needing to plug uncast spells into it to actually get any of those stats as being worth.

(Also, I must have been unclear - the spells gained from an environmental point stay until you cast them, the same as any others, it's just that the draw point only holds a few - three to maybe in theory fifteen? I vaguely remember seeing that listed as the upper bound, though I don't think I ever got more than half that from any draw point in the game - and takes a while before you can get more of what it provides.)

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