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Buying Spells


theinfn8
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I've been mulling over an idea of late and thought it might be interesting for others to cogitate on as well ( or give their experiences if they have tried it).

 

For martial based characters, it is often enough to just pay currency and receive a power that can be used as long as they can refrain from losing it. The use cost is a minimal outlay in a weapon familiarity. They receive a bonus to damage simply for being "strong".

 

What would a magic system look like that followed a similar vein? Purchasing spells with currency is not a completely foreign idea in RPGs, to be sure. But how would *you* make it work in Hero?

 

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First, magic and societies are as deeply intertwined as societies and religion.

 

In this case, we know that money exists, and magic can be commodified.

 

Can magic be used by anyone who can stump up the cash, or are there other prerequisites?

 

How much money are we talking about? Are there other restrictions on buying it other than having enough money?

 

What is actually being bought? By analogy to buying weapons etc, something physical is being bought, which can be lost/stolen. Is that the case?

 

Also, what does/can magic do?


This conceptual stuff needs to be worked out before getting into game mechanics.

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40 minutes ago, Christopher R Taylor said:

My magic system is based around levels of power based on active cost, which you buy as a talent.  Buying Apprentice in this kind of magic lets you use and learn spells up to 19 active points, for instance. You buy the spells themselves with money or learn them yourself.

 

This is one of the routes that I considered as a possible setup. In your experience have players found it equitable?  Do/can they buy CSLs for spells that are combat related? Is there an advantage/limitation that allows strength of will/intellect/what-have-you to stack additional damage?

 

Thanks for a fast reply.

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The big difference between buy a sword and buying a spell is the sword is pretty much the same as every other sword.  There may be some minor benefit to purchasing a high quality sword, but sword is still going to do the same thing any other sword will do.   Spells on the other hand can do things that no one else can do.  I am not limited to just doing a set amount of physical killing damage. The big difference between buy a sword and buying a spell is the sword is pretty much the same as every other sword.  There may be some minor benefit to purchasing a high quality sword, but sword is still going to do the same thing any other sword will do.   

 

Spells on the other hand can do things that no one else can do.  I am not limited to just doing a set amount of physical killing damage.  I can control your mind; I can prevent you from moving or any number of things that most people cannot.  These types of abilities should be paid for with character points not cash. The sheer flexibility of magic makes it a lot more useful than a sword.

 

The exception to this is magic items. They can allow martial characters some of the flexibility of a caster, but casters can get magic items too, so there is not disparity because of magic items.  The best way to allow casters to purchase magic is by making magic items available.  If a wand of magic missiles cost about the same amount as a good long bow the caster is at no disadvantage.  
 

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50 minutes ago, assault said:

First, magic and societies are as deeply intertwined as societies and religion.

 

In this case, we know that money exists, and magic can be commodified.

 

Can magic be used by anyone who can stump up the cash, or are there other prerequisites?

 

How much money are we talking about? Are there other restrictions on buying it other than having enough money?

 

What is actually being bought? By analogy to buying weapons etc, something physical is being bought, which can be lost/stolen. Is that the case?

 

Also, what does/can magic do?


This conceptual stuff needs to be worked out before getting into game mechanics.

 

Good questions. To clarify, I am not asking for a fully fleshed out magic system, though anyone can feel free to submit examples. I'm interested in sparking a discussion of what the concept might look like actualized for any given individual. A discussion of the meta involved, even. Possible advantages or disadvantages.

 

Thank you for your thoughts.

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30 minutes ago, LoneWolf said:

The exception to this is magic items. They can allow martial characters some of the flexibility of a caster, but casters can get magic items too, so there is not disparity because of magic items.  The best way to allow casters to purchase magic is by making magic items available.  If a wand of magic missiles cost about the same amount as a good long bow the caster is at no disadvantage. 

 

"Magic Items Only" is one of the possible solutions to this question.

It leaves open the question of who makes them, and who they are being bought from, both of which can be answered easily enough.

A bigger issue is the blurring between "casters" and "warriors". It's not a problem in itself, but it can look like "all characters are the same". That can be fixed too, but there needs to be some setting information to do that.

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27 minutes ago, LoneWolf said:

The big difference between buy a sword and buying a spell is the sword is pretty much the same as every other sword.  There may be some minor benefit to purchasing a high quality sword, but sword is still going to do the same thing any other sword will do.   Spells on the other hand can do things that no one else can do.  I am not limited to just doing a set amount of physical killing damage. The big difference between buy a sword and buying a spell is the sword is pretty much the same as every other sword.  There may be some minor benefit to purchasing a high quality sword, but sword is still going to do the same thing any other sword will do.   

 

Spells on the other hand can do things that no one else can do.  I am not limited to just doing a set amount of physical killing damage.  I can control your mind; I can prevent you from moving or any number of things that most people cannot.  These types of abilities should be paid for with character points not cash. The sheer flexibility of magic makes it a lot more useful than a sword.

 

The exception to this is magic items. They can allow martial characters some of the flexibility of a caster, but casters can get magic items too, so there is not disparity because of magic items.  The best way to allow casters to purchase magic is by making magic items available.  If a wand of magic missiles cost about the same amount as a good long bow the caster is at no disadvantage.  
 

 

Interesting. I get the fact that magic can do vastly more than simply buying a sword allows. But isn't that a possible benefit of buying spells? You control the market. That climbing kit that provides a Clinging power could be available as a spell of Spider Climb.

 

You mentioned magic items. I was running that around in my head as well. Would a physical item requirement be necessary to balance it out a little? Or could we get into a "magical disarm" kind of situation? Magical martial art forms?

 

You bring up some good points, thank you.

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9 hours ago, assault said:

 

"Magic Items Only" is one of the possible solutions to this question.

It leaves open the question of who makes them, and who they are being bought from, both of which can be answered easily enough.

A bigger issue is the blurring between "casters" and "warriors". It's not a problem in itself, but it can look like "all characters are the same". That can be fixed too, but there needs to be some setting information to do that.

 

A magic item only route would be interesting. In the anime Fairy Tail, the main characters visit a dimension/world in which magic has been dying out and is performed via the use of magic items with "stored" magical energy.

 

I don't recall if it goes into how they are made, but it definitely makes them seem uncommon, if not rare.

 

Of course, if you've seen the anime, it absolutely blurs the line between the standard idea of a caster and a warrior.

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I am not really seeing the problem between casters and martial characters.  If anything the caster has a slight edge because of being able to come up with nonstandard attacks.  But even that is not as great as it seems because of talents.  Talents can even the playing field for martial characters, especially if the wild one like some of the ones in the Hero System Martial Arts book.

 

Besides unless the GM creates a magic system that forbids it there is nothing preventing the martial character from buying magic.  Unlike some other game systems there is no restriction on what a character can be, other than what the GM imposes or they can afford.  
 

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1 minute ago, LoneWolf said:

I am not really seeing the problem between casters and martial characters.  If anything the caster has a slight edge because of being able to come up with nonstandard attacks.  But even that is not as great as it seems because of talents.  Talents can even the playing field for martial characters, especially if the wild one like some of the ones in the Hero System Martial Arts book.

 

Besides unless the GM creates a magic system that forbids it there is nothing preventing the martial character from buying magic.  Unlike some other game systems there is no restriction on what a character can be, other than what the GM imposes or they can afford.  
 

 

While true, making spells something you buy, and purchase Spell Familiarity and skill levels with, just like other gear, also means that any character can buy magic.  Maybe it costs more wealth. Perhaps the penalties for a lack of Spell Familiarity are greater, or it is more expensive to be familiar with a broad array of spells than the what, 4 point, cost to be familiar with pretty much all weapons. But every character must pony up the same amount of limited resources (CP, money or both) to have the same abilities, and the same skill with them.

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2 hours ago, LoneWolf said:

I am not really seeing the problem between casters and martial characters.  If anything the caster has a slight edge because of being able to come up with nonstandard attacks.  But even that is not as great as it seems because of talents.  Talents can even the playing field for martial characters, especially if the wild one like some of the ones in the Hero System Martial Arts book.

 

Besides unless the GM creates a magic system that forbids it there is nothing preventing the martial character from buying magic.  Unlike some other game systems there is no restriction on what a character can be, other than what the GM imposes or they can afford.  
 

 

Not everyone will see a need for this level of... standardization(?) between martial and magic based characters. And that is absolutely ok. Ultimately, it is the GM that decides what anyone can and cannot do in the specific game they are playing. So no, the player is not free to make anything they want.

 

That being the case, why not try and standardize across the two meta ideas of martial and magic? I'm interested in exploring this idea and seeing what other people think, what it might look like. You bring up important points and your thoughts are appreciated.

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2 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

 

While true, making spells something you buy, and purchase Spell Familiarity and skill levels with, just like other gear, also means that any character can buy magic.  Maybe it costs more wealth. Perhaps the penalties for a lack of Spell Familiarity are greater, or it is more expensive to be familiar with a broad array of spells than the what, 4 point, cost to be familiar with pretty much all weapons. But every character must pony up the same amount of limited resources (CP, money or both) to have the same abilities, and the same skill with them.

 

This is kind of where my thought process started from. The question, what if "spells" were more like equipment in a heroic level game? Yes, a lot of the idea comes down to having the two approaches to play being similar in cost and effectiveness. In a world like that, why wouldn't a thief tap into some shadow magic to make his job easier? Sure, he could spend a bunch of time mastering more mundane methods of stealth and consequently gains the benefit of never risking it being dispelled, but is that always the better choice?

 

I like where everyone is going. Because, yes, a purchase structure for spells would change the society it appears in. What might that look like? Yes, martial fighters could choose to pick a spell or two up. Would other fighters be mad? Would there be guilds/orders built on one "true path of the sword"? Or would confining everything to items change things? How might it all be built out?

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On 8/18/2021 at 6:03 PM, theinfn8 said:

I've been mulling over an idea of late and thought it might be interesting for others to cogitate on as well ( or give their experiences if they have tried it).

 

For martial based characters, it is often enough to just pay currency and receive a power that can be used as long as they can refrain from losing it. The use cost is a minimal outlay in a weapon familiarity. They receive a bonus to damage simply for being "strong".

 

What would a magic system look like that followed a similar vein? Purchasing spells with currency is not a completely foreign idea in RPGs, to be sure. But how would *you* make it work in Hero?

 

Well it would look like potions I’d imagine.

 

@theinfn8, who is designing the spells? Is it a GM controlled list? Are the players able to design their own?

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On 8/18/2021 at 9:38 PM, theinfn8 said:

Good questions. To clarify, I am not asking for a fully fleshed out magic system, though anyone can feel free to submit examples.

 

 

 

What would it look like?

 

Well, depends.

 

If you're buying like pre-charged scrolls or X uses of a spell, then it's going to look kind of like D&D with magic items that grant magical abilities to anyone for a finite number of uses.

 

If you're buying the teaching of a single magic spell (or even a group of them, really) then magic is going to be extremely common, do-able by anyone in exchange for some coin.  There will likely be some philosophical changes that separate your world from others because-- well, magic replaces technology, really, if you have spells that cover it, and if learning that spell is a forever thing: once you know it, you can use it whenever you want assuming you have all required "magic fuel," etc.

 

"The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump" comes immediately to mind, actually.

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On 8/19/2021 at 9:19 AM, theinfn8 said:

 

This is kind of where my thought process started from. The question, what if "spells" were more like equipment in a heroic level game? Yes, a lot of the idea comes down to having the two approaches to play being similar in cost and effectiveness. In a world like that, why wouldn't a thief tap into some shadow magic to make his job easier? Sure, he could spend a bunch of time mastering more mundane methods of stealth and consequently gains the benefit of never risking it being dispelled, but is that always the better choice?

 

 

This is a bit different then your original concept of "Spells" being purchased like/instead of Equipment, and used similarly. Originally it was buying a sword vs buying a spells that does damage. That is a very specific one for one change/concept. 

 

But, mastering the Stealth skill vs casting a "stealth spell" is very different. There is no Stealth item/object a character can buy (normally in a fantasy game) that gives them stealth. It is not an item or object like a sword is. So buying a stealth spell is not the same a buying an item like a sword or a ladder or food. 

 

It is one thing to buy an attack spell to replace a sword or bow, or buy a food spell to replace buying rations, but if you can also buy spells to replace all the skills in the game it is going to be very different. First, what will characters spend their xp on? Just stats and skill levels I guess. Very soon everyone is going to have 21's in every stat. And as for the setting, you would see a lot less schools, universities, books, etc... Why learn anything when there is a semi-permanent spell you can just buy and keep for ever pretty much (unless you go out adventuring where it might be dispelled). 

 

 

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Any character including casters can use cash to purchase attacks.  By default any character in Fantasy Hero can also purchase spells with character points.   Any character can also purchase magic items.  So unless the GM is imposing restrictions on the game there is not imbalance to correct.  

 

Look at it this way I have a martial character using a sword.  He buys his STR up to 15 and pays for weapon familiarity  blades, for a total cost of 6 points.  The character then purchases a broad sword and can do 1 1/2 d6 damage.  For 7 points I can buy a spell doing 1d6 HKA (1 1/2 d6 with STR 10).  So in reality the martial character only saved 1 point.  The huge cost saving the martial character is getting is mostly an illusion. Because spells do not have to have the same limitation weapons do they tend to be a lot more efficient.  Since most weapons have a STR minimum and higher dice weapons have a high STR Minimum it is actually harder for a purely martial character to reach the same dice of damage as the caster.

 

Since martial characters can also purchase talents this can even things up a bit.  But without talents a purely martial character is actually at a disadvantage to a caster.  While casters can also purchase talents they tend to be less needed and often end up being less effective than spells so most casters go that route.   
 

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On 8/21/2021 at 8:01 PM, Ninja-Bear said:

Well it would look like potions I’d imagine.

 

@theinfn8, who is designing the spells? Is it a GM controlled list? Are the players able to design their own?

 

Potions would definitely work.

 

I would probably do it as a GM controlled list, but that's me. That being said, I have wonderful players that I can trust to stick to the spirit of the game and not try and cheese it.

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On 8/21/2021 at 8:35 PM, Duke Bushido said:

There will likely be some philosophical changes that separate your world from others because-- well, magic replaces technology, really, if you have spells that cover it, and if learning that spell is a forever thing: once you know it, you can use it whenever you want assuming you have all required "magic fuel," etc.

 

"The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump" comes immediately to mind, actually.

 

"Magic fuel" gave me this image of people selling mana batteries that you use to power the spells that you bought and learned. Not incredibly good with spells? Buy this "wand of light" with a special slot for a mana battery. A whole industry would be built around it. At some point anyway. That world might not be to quite that point yet.

 

Had never heard of "The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump", but it looks interesting. Will have to add that to my list.

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6 hours ago, LoneWolf said:

Any character including casters can use cash to purchase attacks.  By default any character in Fantasy Hero can also purchase spells with character points.   Any character can also purchase magic items.  So unless the GM is imposing restrictions on the game there is not imbalance to correct.  

 

Look at it this way I have a martial character using a sword.  He buys his STR up to 15 and pays for weapon familiarity  blades, for a total cost of 6 points.  The character then purchases a broad sword and can do 1 1/2 d6 damage.  For 7 points I can buy a spell doing 1d6 HKA (1 1/2 d6 with STR 10).  So in reality the martial character only saved 1 point.  The huge cost saving the martial character is getting is mostly an illusion. Because spells do not have to have the same limitation weapons do they tend to be a lot more efficient.  Since most weapons have a STR minimum and higher dice weapons have a high STR Minimum it is actually harder for a purely martial character to reach the same dice of damage as the caster.

 

Since martial characters can also purchase talents this can even things up a bit.  But without talents a purely martial character is actually at a disadvantage to a caster.  While casters can also purchase talents they tend to be less needed and often end up being less effective than spells so most casters go that route.   
 

 

You make some valid points. I am not trying to argue that there is a *need* to balance the two. I am saying, what if we did this? Whatcould it look like? The wizard would buy "Fire Combat Spell Familiarity", then go buy a 1d6 "Flame Blade" spell (1 1/2d6 with INT 10) with cash. There is no point differential, because they paid for the same thing as the martial guy.

 

Maybe spells would need a "Real Spell" limitation. If you don't spend time every day maintaining your spell memory it starts to degrade. What about an INT minimum for spells? Seems like a logical progression if we treat spells/magic in a similar manner as gear.

 

But really, otherwise, what are the limitations that weapons have that spells do not (or could not in this case) possess? How often does the limitation for Real Weapon actually come up in game? Could a wizard duel look like people doing Spell Disarm, Spell Dodge, or a Spell Haymaker?

 

I know, I am getting a little on the extreme side, but the question is still valid. Why not? Is there really any reason other than genre conventions?

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1 hour ago, theinfn8 said:

 

"Magic fuel" gave me this image of people selling mana batteries that you use to power the spells that you bought and learned. Not incredibly good with spells? Buy this "wand of light" with a special slot for a mana battery. A whole industry would be built around it. At some point anyway. That world might not be to quite that point yet.

 

"Magic Fuel" (Magic Juice, Magic Sauce, etc) is my personal shorthand.  While there are more different magic systems  for HERO than there are Fantasy HERO GMs, they all have one thing in common: at some point, there is some END-equivalent that powers magic or allows users access to magic.  (Seriously: I don't think I have ever seen a magic system that features nothing but 0-END spells).  I can't bring myself to call it "mana" because in my own lexicon, mana was essentially bread that fell from Heaven to feed the Jews during their 40 years in the desert.  I can't take "bread-powered magic" seriously; I just can't.   :lol:

 

 

 

 

1 hour ago, theinfn8 said:

Had never heard of "The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump", but it looks interesting. Will have to add that to my list.

 

 

If you enjoy a lighthearted look at fantasy, and can at least appreciate puns, you won't regret it.  ;)

 

 

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Methinks there is a difference between mana and manna ;)

 

Technically a D&D based system is all 0 END spells. But I get what you're saying. Requiring an external source of "magical power " could also be an interesting way to charge for magic though. "Oh, you have the attack core spell? If you buy this elemental fire power stone, it will really light your world up..."

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One of two things will likely happen with a system like this.  The first and most likely is that casters would become completely dominate and there would be absolutely no reason to play a martial character.  Why bother with familiarity with blades when I can purchase familiarity with light blade and get an AVLD does body attack for the same price?   The number of spells the caster has access to would increase to the point there would be little they could not do.  Out of combat skills will become worthless.  Why invest in stealth when familiarity with invisibility is cheaper and better.  This will be the outcome if players are still allowed to write up their own spells.

 

The second outcome will be that all characters are essentially the same.  The wizard will be doing the exact same damage as the other characters and would have little if any odd attacks.  Any odd attacks they have are likely to be ineffective and rarely going to be worth the effort.  This is likely to be the outcome if the GM is the one writing up spells.  I for one would have absolutely no interest in playing in such a campaign.  This sounds too much like 5ths edition D&D. 

 

Worse yet you may end up with a combination of the two where casters dominate and all characters end up pretty much the same.  Fantasy Hero is unique in that it allows a lot of diverse characters things like this tend to limit that and bring it down to the level of other lesser games.  
 

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