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PSL's versus higher skill rolls


eepjr24
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I am working on a setting and am encountering various scenarios that I'd like some outside opinions on as I go. Here is the latest one. One of the magic "schools" in this setting requires a skill roll on all spells at the -1 per 5 AP level. This is to represent that these spells require more study and practice to cast successfully. Because the spells can have AP's in the 50-60 range for some, I am trying to decide on the best way to show the study and practice. Right now I am leaning toward using PSL's, not because of the pricing, but because they allow granularity for the spell. So say the caster has these 3 spells:

 

Summon X: 54 AP, -11 Roll

3d6 Flash, Armor Piercing: 19 AP, -4 Roll

Resistant Protection: 21 AP, -4 Roll

 

If I simply allow the casters to raise their skill to the point where the summon will probably to work, the Flash and Resistant Protection become trivial. I would rather use PSL's. So if we have a skill Maxima of 14- and the caster pays double to get to 15-, the Flash and RP become a little better than 1 in 2 propositions. The Summon is a 1 in 200 shot. If I set the PSL at 1 character point per +2 roll, the caster could spend 5 points to offset the majority of the penalty for the Summon. To bring eliminate the penalty on the other 2 would be 4 more points. For the same 4 points they could buy +1 to the base casting skill. 

 

Does this seem too harsh?  Too lenient? I like the flavor, just trying to work out the balance for the math. Outside of the simple math, these spells will have some effects that are restricted or not found in other schools. 

 

- E

 

 

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Hey E;

 

You said “one of your schools.” For me, out of the box, if I’m going to use activation rolls/skill rolls (which I have) I make them system wide. When I built Persona, I required skill rolls for all casting under pressure. That out of the way, -1/5AP is extremely granular. I look at the whole system I’m building, so my scaling was for I - VII, and I believe it ran 30 - 150 or so, and I used -1/20 AP, because I wanted each level of magic to be specifically tiered and cost that extra level to cast. If you’re starting at 1/5, that’s exceptionally challenging to hit, especially if you’re going for a pure pass/fail.

 

If you’re going for something that tight, you could also consider a graded success system, meaning, the spell always works, but it may lose efficacy if your roll is sub-par. Also, and this is one of the innate challenges of using this rule, in most cases you’re also making a to-hit roll and an effect roll, which can get frustrating, so that’s something to be aware of, because it opens up two avenues of failure, instead of just one (the attack roll). 

 

With all of that said:

 

* What is the scale of your spell system? What is the maximum AP of a spell? Once you know that, you’ll be able to work out the roll required

* I am fine with PSLs, however it needs to be consistent, so if that’s the primary representation, I’d say roll with it

* Be aware of the total cost to a player to be a high end caster or do a caster build

 

It is late and I am a little tired, I’ll review this in the morning and provide additional insight if it occurs.

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9 hours ago, Thia Halmades said:

Hey E;

 

You said “one of your schools.” For me, out of the box, if I’m going to use activation rolls/skill rolls (which I have) I make them system wide. When I built Persona, I required skill rolls for all casting under pressure. That out of the way, -1/5AP is extremely granular. I look at the whole system I’m building, so my scaling was for I - VII, and I believe it ran 30 - 150 or so, and I used -1/20 AP, because I wanted each level of magic to be specifically tiered and cost that extra level to cast. If you’re starting at 1/5, that’s exceptionally challenging to hit, especially if you’re going for a pure pass/fail.

I realize the complexity will be higher by having different requirements for different schools, but I view this as more of a "class" distinction. You seem familiar with D&D, so this would be the difference between how artificers, clerics, druids, sorcerers, warlocks, wizards, etc. cast. That said, there are no levels per se, a caster could have a 12 RP spell that is 50 AP to start the game. It's unlikely, but not restricted. I do like the idea of non-pass fail, I currently have some spells with scaling based on skill roll, I may move to a more lenient scaling as you suggest for some failing rolls. That would help offset the other difficulties of this school.

 

To answer your other questions:

 

Quote

* What is the scale of your spell system? What is the maximum AP of a spell? Once you know that, you’ll be able to work out the roll required

Scale is whatever you can afford, restricted by other criteria like that all spell END comes from a reserve, spells can be challenging to locate after creation, new spells are non trivial to create.

 

Quote

* Be aware of the total cost to a player to be a high end caster or do a caster build

I am building sample characters of each school as I would require for a player, with a background, outside skills, etc. Building a high end caster will occur only through experience in this setting, start will be heroic and I am making sure to make enough spells in each school to make the school playable. The caster could also have multiple schools, although there will be some restrictions on compatibility, similar to multi-classing. That said, experience will not be stingy, so adding spells through adventure and skill are possible. It will make it less likely that a player is both a versatile caster and highly skilled in other types of fighting.

 

Did you have any thoughts on the 1 point for 2 on a specific spell penalty? Does that seem balanced versus the purchase of over maxima skill points? 

 

 

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10 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

@eepjr24, don’t forgot that the longer time you take should be allowed a +1 to roll. For example most spells are 1/2 phase so by taking a full phase you should glue granted a +1. 

Yes, I was noodling how to make that work out. The Skills book says that taking a Full Phase does not give you a +1 for half phase actions, you have to go to a Turn. But I may house rule the full phase as a +1 as well. For large ritualistic type spells, this could take care of some of the penalties for sure. For combat type spells, a full turn is 2 or 3 phases of being attacked, which would render them fairly moot.

 

The book(s) [6E1, pg 59, 6E Skills, pg 35] is not very specific on what the skill user can be doing otherwise during the time, if the time must be contiguous, and how long before the roll the preparations could be taken. So for instance, if a Shaman spends all day making summon spell preparations for an attack that he knows will be coming the next day.... does he get the time bonuses for a day? Half value? None at all? I am still working it out, but I want to have a couple different ways to offset the penalties. I poked around elsewhere (APG I and APG II, FH, etc.) and did not see anything else in reference to this.

 

- E

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22 hours ago, eepjr24 said:

I am working on a setting and am encountering various scenarios that I'd like some outside opinions on as I go. Here is the latest one. One of the magic "schools" in this setting requires a skill roll on all spells at the -1 per 5 AP level. This is to represent that these spells require more study and practice to cast successfully. Because the spells can have AP's in the 50-60 range for some, I am trying to decide on the best way to show the study and practice. Right now I am leaning toward using PSL's, not because of the pricing, but because they allow granularity for the spell. So say the caster has these 3 spells:

 

Summon X: 54 AP, -11 Roll

3d6 Flash, Armor Piercing: 19 AP, -4 Roll

Resistant Protection: 21 AP, -4 Roll

 

If I simply allow the casters to raise their skill to the point where the summon will probably to work, the Flash and Resistant Protection become trivial. I would rather use PSL's. So if we have a skill Maxima of 14- and the caster pays double to get to 15-, the Flash and RP become a little better than 1 in 2 propositions. The Summon is a 1 in 200 shot. If I set the PSL at 1 character point per +2 roll, the caster could spend 5 points to offset the majority of the penalty for the Summon. To bring eliminate the penalty on the other 2 would be 4 more points. For the same 4 points they could buy +1 to the base casting skill. 

 

Does this seem too harsh?  Too lenient? I like the flavor, just trying to work out the balance for the math. Outside of the simple math, these spells will have some effects that are restricted or not found in other schools. 

 

- E

 

 

 

 

It seems reasonable and well-thought out to me, but then again, I like stuff that's built straight-forward like your presentation is.

 

 

The problem is I'm not too sure what your end game is.  If it's simply ensuring that your magic casters don't get too powerful too quickly, then you might think about a variant of something I did some years ago.  Essentially, the build was akin to yours: a penalty per X AP in the spell _that the caster used_.  The spells had high AP out of the box, and the penalty was pretty steep if I remember correctly.  (which I did to prevent someone lobbing a 12d6 killing attack while most of the party was still using off-the-shelf weapons).

 

Let me back up:

 

When you made a spell your own, you got an AP pool for that spell.   When you used the spell, you declared how many AP you were going to use, which in turn determined your penalty.  However, you could "on the fly" change the spell a bit -- advantages and limitations could be applied on the fly. Limitations were often chosen to reduce the penalty; Advantages (like AoE on a fireball spell) of course increased the AP and the penalty.  I found this wonderful for creating a widely-varying use of magic, but I digress...

 

The thing was I didn't have a "cast magic" skill.

 

I had "cast Fireball."  "Cast Wind Walk."  "Cast Illusion."  "Cast Teleport."   You get the idea.  originally done because I didn't charge the full AP value of the spell, but still wanted to control the progression (and early effectiveness) of magic for the value of non-magic wielders.  (Let's face it: without rigid controls on the costs of increasing magical prowess, a fantasy game quickly becomes Supers versus Competent Normals in a hurry-- which is one of the reasons I never did a "magic using caste" for my fantasy games.  Anyone willing to spend points on it could learn magic)

 

At any rate, it worked extremely well, and allowed characters to "specialize" in certain spells even when casters had essentially the same spells.

 

 

Sorry; digressing again-- back on track:

 

if one of your goals is to control the rate of power creep or to simply simulate the difficulties of learning to use magic, consider something along the lines of a separate skill per spell or type of spell.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Duke Bushido said:

<snip>

 

At any rate, it worked extremely well, and allowed characters to "specialize" in certain spells even when casters had essentially the same spells.

 

Sorry; digressing again-- back on track:

 

if one of your goals is to control the rate of power creep or to simply simulate the difficulties of learning to use magic, consider something along the lines of a separate skill per spell or type of spell.

I already have some mechanisms in place to control power creep (RSR and other school specific limitations, END Reserves, Limited Spell creation, etc.). What I am trying to provide is variety without having a "class" system and allowing more organic character growth. I want magic to be common and powerful, but not to the point that it replaces other types of fighting. If someone wants to mix the two, that should be valid as well, without being overpowering (it's difficult in 175 points to do in this setting). I also want the spells to be flavorful for the school and not just the same spells reskinned for an element or domain.

 

- E

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10 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

@eepjr24another point which I didn’t realize til I helped my brother is that you can unless specified not to, lower your power in the spell which lowers the spell penalty. Ie if the spell is bought at 10 D6 blast, I can choose to cast it at 6d6.

Yep, that is a consideration for some of the attack spells where the dice can easily be adjusted and defense or movement which generally scale pretty easily. Not as much of an option on utility powers like summon or change environment. And it can get hairy on low CP powers with high AP because of large amounts of advantages.

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On 9/30/2020 at 10:01 AM, eepjr24 said:

Scale is whatever you can afford, restricted by other criteria like that all spell END comes from a reserve, spells can be challenging to locate after creation, new spells are non trivial to create.

 

This, to me, is an issue, but it explains a lot. So if I’m following your logic:

 

They can build any spell, so long as they can pay for it; i.e., OIF, Gestures, Incantations, RSR, etc. You then wanted a safeguard against player madness by locking in their spell casting ability. Assuming casting is stat based, we’ll say on CHA for the moment, they have a 20 Charisma, and a skill of 14-, a 30 point spell (and trust me when I say 30 points is nothing in a complex magic system) is a -6 penalty out of the box. I would choose to play a fighter at that point. You’ve also made the spell cheaper by putting that RSR to 1/5 (which is... -1?) where I would generally start with 1/10 as the book suggests, or go out to 1/20, particularly if you want magic to be plentiful. 

 

Next. You said you wanted there to be an incentive to play other classes; most initial thought follows the track of “push these things down to keep them balanced.” HERO doesn’t require you to do that. Just set your maxima and then let players do their builds. When I did Kamarathin, and the zodiac magic system, it was built on the assumption that literally everyone could learn magic, just not everyone knew they could. That didn’t detract from fighters, paladins, etc. Being good at magic in HERO comes at a cost — generally a steep one, considering I’m still unclear which framework, if any, you’re using. If you bake in some fighter tricks, like whirlwind attack, cleave, power strike, etc., you’ll have plenty to keep the field level.

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1 hour ago, Thia Halmades said:

 

This, to me, is an issue, but it explains a lot. So if I’m following your logic:

 

They can build any spell, so long as they can pay for it; i.e., OIF, Gestures, Incantations, RSR, etc. You then wanted a safeguard against player madness by locking in their spell casting ability. Assuming casting is stat based, we’ll say on CHA for the moment, they have a 20 Charisma, and a skill of 14-, a 30 point spell (and trust me when I say 30 points is nothing in a complex magic system) is a -6 penalty out of the box. I would choose to play a fighter at that point. You’ve also made the spell cheaper by putting that RSR to 1/5 (which is... -1?) where I would generally start with 1/10 as the book suggests, or go out to 1/20, particularly if you want magic to be plentiful. 

It's interesting that I read your logic and I see me from about 20 years ago. 😃 They cannot build spells wily nily. There is a set list that is known at the beginning of the campaign that they can select from. If they encounter others in their adventures via spell notes, someone teaching them or (most difficult) crafting a spell themselves, those are possible places for acquiring another spell, all of which will have GM design or input. On the flip side of that, I am going to use Roll20, so the rolls should all happen at once with no abnormal calculations involved by the player. To hit, RSR and effect dice will all be rolled at once. So that removes one of the barriers some people have to casting classes in my group, anyway.

 

1 hour ago, Thia Halmades said:

Next. You said you wanted there to be an incentive to play other classes; most initial thought follows the track of “push these things down to keep them balanced.” HERO doesn’t require you to do that. Just set your maxima and then let players do their builds. When I did Kamarathin, and the zodiac magic system, it was built on the assumption that literally everyone could learn magic, just not everyone knew they could. That didn’t detract from fighters, paladins, etc. Being good at magic in HERO comes at a cost — generally a steep one, considering I’m still unclear which framework, if any, you’re using. If you bake in some fighter tricks, like whirlwind attack, cleave, power strike, etc., you’ll have plenty to keep the field level.

Hero doesn't require anything, but it allows you to build whatever you like. I'm glad you have a method that works for you, I tend to develop new magic systems for each setting I build and so sticking to the same old thing after a while is a bit tedious. Being any type of hero in this setting has a buy in. They will be very much the oddity, as they are not currently in the military and not really fully immersed in civilian life either. They face danger voluntarily, which most citizens avoid.

 

As to your assertion that balance will be achieved through points alone... I am glad if that has been your experience. My experience is that those who go to the trouble of designing their own spells and abilities from scratch are much better at point efficiency and leveraging power interdependencies that yield much more effective combat results than those who prefer not to do that. By having pre-built many of these options I am working to remove some of those imbalances without having to go through a bunch of custom spells and abilities or nitpick about which things can go together that they have specially designed. 

 

I am not using any frameworks currently for either spells or fighting abilities. If things turn out to be too costly (which I am modeling by building demo characters) then it is an easy fix to simply allow unified powers or multipowers or tweak the limitation values (I use a spreadsheet so updating lots of them at once for a school is easy). If all you want to do is be a fighter and have nifty sword or whip or ghurka tricks, that is fine, you can do that. If you want to do things that cannot be done with a sword, like fly or walk through stone walls, magic gives you an outlet for that. 

 

Did you have any comments on the actual question in the thread? =P 

 

- E

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Those WERE my comments to the question, because it’s all theoretical, that’s why I posted the rest of what I did, because I’m still trying to get a handle on what you really want to do beyond “does this work?”

 

And to clarify, my experience is not that equal points is equal balance; my experience is that in a well designed system, where I have accounted for most contingencies and mentally built out my core classes, THEN, points tend to be balanced. You’re absolutely right, and I’ve said this before; 200 points in my hands is wildly different than 200 points in a new player’s hands.

 

What’s the question you wanted a direct answer to? The 1 point cost reduction for 2 CP? A qualified “yes.” The qualification being that I don’t know how many skills they need to take, is it by spell, or by school?

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2 minutes ago, Thia Halmades said:

What’s the question you wanted a direct answer to? The 1 point cost reduction for 2 CP? A qualified “yes.” The qualification being that I don’t know how many skills they need to take, is it by spell, or by school?

Currently by spell. So a caster can be good at one really difficult spell but still barely be able to cast an "easier" spell.

 

- E

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I would put caps down, though, now that I’m thinking on it, which I mentioned in one of @Gandalf970’s threads, and I mention him here as I think he’ll find the discussion interesting. So for me, using some real world examples;

 

All Persona skill are: Gestures, Incant, Cost END, Only Known Powers (-0), Only Equipped Persona (-0), RSR (specifically a stat roll for EGO, which is -1 for 20 AP), but in reviewing my notes and my builds not all of those are consistent, and I would likely go back and make a few changes, such as:

 

* -1/Power Rank (I - VII), and equate that in terms of cost to 1/20

* Ironically, this means that my system works similarly to yours, and a player could buff up their ability to throw, say “Fire” or “Support” skills (I would be largely fine with it)

* My CAP on that, though, would be Stat/5, or, Stat/3, depending on my mood and what I think worked in context with common and dramatic sense. 

 

I mention that because I didn’t see you list any specific limit, and I wasn’t certain where you wanted the final average difficulty to fall (I am usually looking to cap people out at 14-, after difficulty modifiers, any higher and it can get into automatic territory).,

 

Tired, making a 4 or 5 course meal, rambling. But hopefully that’s giving you some context around my thoughts.

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23 minutes ago, Thia Halmades said:

* My CAP on that, though, would be Stat/5, or, Stat/3, depending on my mood and what I think worked in context with common and dramatic sense. 

I am working with the idea of Skill Maxima, but not sure yet if I will set it at 13- or 14-. On the PSL's I like the idea of stat limitations on it... hrm. I'll have to think about that, it may not be necessary and I don't want to add more math just because. I might have to play a few games and see how it goes. I would likely not have a problem with a player buying a lot of PSL's for one big spell so they could be the "best" at that one and then just limit the others to something reasonable.

 

- E

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1 hour ago, Ninja-Bear said:

@eepjr24of you have skill maximas AND skill penalty at -1 per 5 ACT, Personally I wouldn’t bother being a spell user.

 

This is what I said originally, and I stand by it, so I agree with the esteemed @Ninja-Bear. That said, I will always give you the best answer I can whether we agree on the approach or not.

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5 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

@eepjr24of you have skill maximas AND skill penalty at -1 per 5 ACT, Personally I wouldn’t bother being a spell user.

It's only one school out of 12, so you can not have any RSR at all for other schools if you prefer that. So far, one requires an RSR at -1/10 AP, one has RSR at -1/5 AP and 3 have no RSR. With no RSR you have the option of limited range plus gestures and sometimes extra time. Or you can choose another with OAF and Increased END cost. Last option at the moment is expendable foci, gestures and incantations. 

 

I may have at least one with no restrictions on casting, but the RP cost will be high if they don't limit it much.

 

- E

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it’s an interesting approach, using the mechanics of each school as their differentiation. Not how I would do it, because that seems overly complicated to me. When I think of school I don’t think of mechanics, I think in terms of special effects, i.e, abjuration, evocation. Where when I think in terms of class, I’m more inclined to change up the mechanics.

 

Of course, we could be saying the same thing in different ways.

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28 minutes ago, Thia Halmades said:

it’s an interesting approach, using the mechanics of each school as their differentiation. Not how I would do it, because that seems overly complicated to me. When I think of school I don’t think of mechanics, I think in terms of special effects, i.e, abjuration, evocation. Where when I think in terms of class, I’m more inclined to change up the mechanics.

 

Of course, we could be saying the same thing in different ways.

The schools serve the same basic purpose as classes for casters, different methodologies of casting. They also represent different aspects of their sphere, for instance one is Elemental with a traditional Air, Earth, Fire, Water division. So a kind of hybrid of the class and SFX.

 

I thought of another way to offset the penalties for the one sphere if needed. I can have charged or otherwise limited skill boosts through foci, potions or the like. I like the idea of being able to give out small magical rewards in any case, so enemy casters might have doses left if they don't use them, etc. Plenty to think about, I have a while before play starts.

 

- E

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