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Brian Stanfield

Skill-based magic

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Oh no! Not another spell thread!

 

I'm wondering if anyone has had success running a skill-based magic system in Fantasy HERO 6e? 

 

I developed a really complex set of rules using Multipowers and VPPs that were intended to keep powers relatively balanced and capped, etc., to be balanced with non-magicians. But it was not very beginner-friendly. So I want to come up with something very simple and more intuitive. But I want it to have some sort of cap so that players don't get too much advantage from magic. I'm looking at some sort of mix of the Arts Arcane and the Azgandian magic systems in Fantasy HERO 6e. Has anyone done something like this?

 

Here's what I've got so far:

  • I'll use the spells from the HERO System Grimoire, along with their different classifications.
  • players will choose Knowledge Skills corresponding to the different schools of magic they want to specialize in, sort of like a weapon familiarity.
  • players will have a Power Skill corresponding to each spell they want to use within a school of magic for which they have the KS.
  • The magic will obviously have a "requires a roll" limitation, with a -1 per 10 Active Points penalty.
  • players may also use the Inventor (Spell Research) Skill to tweak existing spells, or maybe create new spells. I haven't decided all the details on this yet.

 

So far that's all I've brainstormed. Here's what I'm considering and need feedback, or need suggestions:

  • How do I cap the individual spells in a way that is intuitive?
  • I'm thinking of capping spells based on the number of Character Points used in a Skill: there would be a cap on the Real Cost (rather than the Active Points) so that it cannot exceed the amount of points spent on the skill. So if someone has INT 20, a Fireball Skill at 11 + (Int/5), it would have a Real Cost cap of 3 points, and a roll of 15-.  Then the cap would go up for each +1 for the skill (+2 Character Points). A Fireball Skill of 20- would have a Real Cost cap of 13. The idea is that the Active Points could be high, but still be very highly Limited in order to keep the cost down, so they couldn't become unbalancingly powerful.
  • Over time, characters can use the Spell Research Skill to modify their Spell Skills by removing Limitations, adding Active Points, or adding advantages in order to represent their experience. The Real Cost cap would also have to be purchased up as these modifications are made.
  • At what point should I allow players to create their own spells? I have no idea on this one, although I'm thinking the threshold would involve some combination of the Spell Research Skill and the Spell Skill, sorta like the cap in Real Points described above. How? I'm not sure yet and could use some suggestions. Because the new Spell Skill does not yet exist, it can't be added to the Spell Research Skill to determine the threshold. Once a new spell is invented, a corresponding skill would have to be purchased. So now I'm stumped.
  • I'm also thinking that it would make sense to allow for Multipowers (or maybe VPP) to allow for different strengths of spells. A fireball could be varied in this way so a wizard isn't always blowing up an entire room. I'm not sure how I'd do this as a skill, and it's beginning to get more complicated like my former spell system was. How can I do spell "levels" in an easy way using the Spell Skills?

 

I think that's it for now. All relevant ideas are most welcome.

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Some random thoughts:

 

  • As each Spell’s power will require investing in a separate skill, a spellcaster is likely to have a few spells that grow in power, not a lot of spells.

     

  • A high INT and skill levels don’t help me very much, since they will not enhance the power of my individual spells.

     

  • I have to buy a separate Knowledge skill for every type of magic I want to use, further constraining my spell choices.

 

The Math

 

A +1 to the roll will allow me 2 more real points, and 10 AP in the spell if I want the same chance of successfully casting it.

 

Our hypothetical Wizard buys a Fireball spell.  So what’s that?  Probably an RKA with an AoE at, say, +1/2.  He will have to limit that with Requires a Roll (-1/2).  He’ll likely also apply Gestures (-1/4) and Incantations (-1/4).  Will there be other common limitations to spells in your game (specific, or some general expectation of –x in limitations)?  Let’s assume no for now.

 

So he can have a 6 AP Fireball for the base skill level – that’s almost enough for one whole Damage Class!  Let’s assume he wants his Fireball to be a 1d6+1 KA (matching a Broadsword with no STR add).  That’s 30 AP and 15 RP, so he needs to invest 15 points in the skill, meaning +6 to the roll.  So he now has a 19- roll (13- base from 20 INT), which means he can successfully cast the spell on a 16-.

 

Absent huge limitations, it doesn’t seem like Wizards will fail at casting their spells very often, as they are forced to take a pretty high skill roll.  Maybe our Wizard needs an OAF Staff (or wand, or material component, or whatever) to cast his spell, so that makes total limitations -2.

 

Now his 30 AP Fireball is only 10 RP, and he could drop the skill to +4 and have a 17- (succeeding in its casting on a 14- roll, which seems OK – you don’t want the spells to fizzle as often as they function, after all).

 

Later, he can spend another 4 points to get that skill up to 19-, and bump the Fireball to 45 AP (2d6 KA), which will succeed on a 15- roll.

 

Assuming the expectation is -2 in Limitations, that seems OK.

 

Now, he also wants a Fire Shield to protect him from harm, so perhaps that is 6 PD, 6 ED Resistant Protection (similar to chain mail) which Costs END to Activate (-1/4), along with all those other limitations.  That’s 18 AP, and 6 RP, so he has to invest in +2 to the skill roll, or 15-, success on 13-.  Also feels OK.

 

Spell Research - Tweak

 

So we want Spell Research to tweak the spell. 

 

First off, what does “tweaking a fireball mean?  Can he vary the AoE, perhaps, so that 2d6 RKA, +1/2 AoE could become 2d6+1, +1/4 AoE, or a smaller Fireball that’s AoE 1 hex Accurate (+1/2, so still 2d6), or expand it to 1d6+1 with a +1.25 AoE?

 

Can he remove AoE entirely and make it a FireBolt?

 

Can he change it to a ball of cold, altering the SFX (maybe this requires adding the Variable SFX advantage, so it gets a little weaker, or a little smaller, or both)?

 

Could he make it a Line or Cone of Fire instead of a Sphere?

 

Maybe he can make it AP, or NND heatstroke instead of flames?

 

Could he change, or even remove, limitations (so he could drop that 2d6 Fireball to 1d6+1, and cast it with no Staff, or replace the Gestures and Incantations with Concentration, 0 DCV)?

 

It seems reasonable that the difficulty would vary based on the power of the spell (so total AP) and the extent of the changes (so perhaps every +1/4 change to advantages or limitations).  Maybe that’s -1 per 10 AP, and -1 for each 1/4 change to limitations or advantages – so if he wants to convert the Fireball to a FireBolt that has no OAF and swaps out Gestures & Incantations for Concentration, that’s -4 for 45 AP, -2 for changing +1/2 of advantages, -2 for swapping +1/2 of limitations and -4 for removing the OAF +1 limitation, for a total of -12 – fair enough, as he’s changed almost every element of the spell – only a truly expert wizard should be able to do so.

 

Should this come from Spell Research, or from the KS used to grant access to this spell school?  The latter would give wizards a reason to bump up that KS, and also mean one can be more versatile in some schools than others (also a further reason to specialize).  Maybe the KS or Spell Research is a complementary roll.

 

Spell Research – Create

 

First, we need to figure out the difference between tweak and creation.  Then we need to figure out how we want research to work when creating a brand-new spell.  Presumably, AP penalties apply, but why invent a high AP spell when you can invent it at low AP (with a 3 point skill), then just buy the skill roll up?  Maybe AP penalties don’t apply. 

 

A KS is likely also needed, in the appropriate school (perhaps a complementary skill).

 

Perhaps a penalty based on how far away this is from existing spells in the school (as this is a way to get out of buying multiple schools’ KS)?  A Fire Wizard seeking to create a Fire Bolt spell might have an easier time than one seeking to Teleport between fires.  This would clearly be pretty judgmental.

 

Research likely takes a long time.  Maybe the standard is 10 years (tweak for desired frequency of new spells in the game world), so if you want to reduce the time, you need a really good roll to succeed with the penalties for moving down the time chart.  Perhaps you need an expensive library, lab, components, etc., so loot becomes important.  Can assistants help you research?

 

This seems like the challenging one to nail down – first, you need to assess how common you want new spells to be, as that should guide the research rules.

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2 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Absent huge limitations, it doesn’t seem like Wizards will fail at casting their spells very often, as they are forced to take a pretty high skill roll.  Maybe our Wizard needs an OAF Staff (or wand, or material component, or whatever) to cast his spell, so that makes total limitations -2.

 

That's a good point. I'm thinking that -2 of total limitations is a good idea: it helps keep the cost down, and it also keeps the rolls more reasonable.

 

I was thinking that spell research would be used to change anything about an existing spell. "Tweaking" would mean changing the Advantages/Limitations, increasing the Active Points, etc., to an already known spell skill. I like your idea about the knowledge skill perhaps being the vehicle for this. But I think if I start requiring too many skills to get things done, it'll get too costly. I think maybe the KS will function more like a weapon familiarity than anything. But it will give access to each school of spells, including their libraries, which will allow for spell research. I like the idea of a complimentary skill roll.

 

2 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

First, we need to figure out the difference between tweak and creation.  Then we need to figure out how we want research to work when creating a brand-new spell.  Presumably, AP penalties apply, but why invent a high AP spell when you can invent it at low AP (with a 3 point skill), then just buy the skill roll up?  Maybe AP penalties don’t apply. . . .

 

Perhaps a penalty based on how far away this is from existing spells in the school (as this is a way to get out of buying multiple schools’ KS)?  A Fire Wizard seeking to create a Fire Bolt spell might have an easier time than one seeking to Teleport between fires.  This would clearly be pretty judgmental.

 

Ah nuts! These are really good points. This may not be as simple as I hoped for. But I'd like to go back to the original post and suggest that AP doesn't rise as the skill rises, only the available Real Cost available. So inventing a spell with a low AP will still restrict it until it is again changed. I guess the spell research skill penalty would have to be based off of the consequent AP, not the existing AP. So creating a small fireball (30 AP at -3 on the roll) to make it easier to succeed in the roll is only kicking the can down the road, because to raise it up to a 60 AP fireball will suffer a -6 on the roll. I do lie your suggestions for adding a -1 per each +/- 1/4 change.

 

This brings me back to one of my earlier points, what would be a good threshold for beginning new spell creation. Once they start creating spells, the boundaries between "schools" gets blurry and may disappear altogether if the campaign goes on long enough. 

 

I'm beginning to wonder if I should not charge a cost for spells at all, and only require a skill like the Azgandian magic system does in FH6e. But then the obvious problem is explaining how they get access to spells. This seems especially restricting, so I'm to really too keen on this idea.

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3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

That's a good point. I'm thinking that -2 of total limitations is a good idea: it helps keep the cost down, and it also keeps the rolls more reasonable.

 

It depends on the feel you want for magic.  It took RSR, Gestures, Incantations and an OAF to get that -2 in limitations.  Will all spells have similar limitations in your magic system?  Maybe Extra Time, Concentration and/or Extra END would be used as well.  Perhaps different schools have different standard limitations. 

 

3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

I was thinking that spell research would be used to change anything about an existing spell. "Tweaking" would mean changing the Advantages/Limitations, increasing the Active Points, etc., to an already known spell skill. I like your idea about the knowledge skill perhaps being the vehicle for this. But I think if I start requiring too many skills to get things done, it'll get too costly. I think maybe the KS will function more like a weapon familiarity than anything. But it will give access to each school of spells, including their libraries, which will allow for spell research. I like the idea of a complimentary skill roll.

 

I was thinking that tweaking was something the character could do on the fly, not having to develop (and pay for) an entirely new spell for every tweak.  Buying every variant as a brand-new spell will add cost a lot faster than using a KS to tweak existing spells on the fly and a research skill to create all-new spells. 

 

Spell research sounds like a necessity if the player wants any hope of spending xp efficiently.  In fact, it's sounding a lot like a "magic tax" now.  I have to pay the full real cost of the spell, in the form of its spell skill, plus one or more skills to have access to the spells in the first place, plus spell research to be able to spend xp on spells, whether new or upgrades.  Meanwhile, the warrior spends a couple of points on weapon proficiencies and he's good to go.

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2 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

It depends on the feel you want for magic.  It took RSR, Gestures, Incantations and an OAF to get that -2 in limitations.  Will all spells have similar limitations in your magic system?  Maybe Extra Time, Concentration and/or Extra END would be used as well.  Perhaps different schools have different standard limitations. 

 

I was thinking Extra Time, Concentration, and Extra END would be required. 

 

2 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

I was thinking that tweaking was something the character could do on the fly, not having to develop (and pay for) an entirely new spell for every tweak.  Buying every variant as a brand-new spell will add cost a lot faster than using a KS to tweak existing spells on the fly and a research skill to create all-new spells. 

 

I hadn't thought of that. It's an interesting point. Perhaps I'd allow one-time changes to disadvantages, etc., with penalties on the roll. I don't like the idea of simply changing spells every time they're used. If that were the case I'd just make them all VPPs.

 

What I was considering was perhaps creating a Multipower which contains all the adjusted spells the character has created, so the character still has access to all the versions he's known. I'm not sure on this. If I were to go that route, I may just return to my original magic system which was Multipowers with spell books as the focus, and VPPs for religious magic.

 

2 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Spell research sounds like a necessity if the player wants any hope of spending xp efficiently.  In fact, it's sounding a lot like a "magic tax" now.  I have to pay the full real cost of the spell, in the form of its spell skill, plus one or more skills to have access to the spells in the first place, plus spell research to be able to spend xp on spells, whether new or upgrades.  Meanwhile, the warrior spends a couple of points on weapon proficiencies and he's good to go.

 

It is intended to be a bit "taxing" in order to slow the progress of magic users. The main point is that a character can launch a fireball every phase and take out entire hordes, while the warrior who only spent a couple of points on weapon proficiencies and CSLs has to kill one at a time. The magic soon gets out of hand, which is why I want it to be more restricted, with the opportunity for slow growth. By the time the magic user is a master, the warrior will have a great deal of utility as well. I may be wrong on this, which is partly why I'm putting this out for criticisms and suggestions.

 

As for the skills, I think you may be seeing too many layers. There would be a KS for each school of magic which then gives access to spells within each school as individual magic skills, and then the spell research would probably only be one skill, with the KS for the relevant school of magic as a complementary roll. 

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13 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

 

I hadn't thought of that. It's an interesting point. Perhaps I'd allow one-time changes to disadvantages, etc., with penalties on the roll. I don't like the idea of simply changing spells every time they're used. If that were the case I'd just make them all VPPs.

 

What I was considering was perhaps creating a Multipower which contains all the adjusted spells the character has created, so the character still has access to all the versions he's known. I'm not sure on this. If I were to go that route, I may just return to my original magic system which was Multipowers with spell books as the focus, and VPPs for religious magic.

 

I'm not sure how the "tweak on the fly" system would play out.  If penalties are significant, and especially if you go the "spell multipower" route, I suspect it would be infrequently used, although it could open the avenue for a player to have a wizard exceptionally skilled at changing magic on the fly, who would have less powerful spells, or fewer of them, as the points for the "tweak on the fly" skill have to come from somewhere.

 

The Multipower approach would make it a lot easier for a player to have multiple versions of a spell, since the real point cost (and thus the required skill cost) would rise much slower.  That would put even more significance on "what is a tweak and what is a brand new spell", but could be interesting as a dynamic.  Maybe having skill in multiple schools would open the options up a bit.  For example, someone skilled in FireMagic could not make his fireball a burst of cold as part of a multipower, but perhaps someone who has invested in both FireMagic and FrostMagic could.

 

13 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

It is intended to be a bit "taxing" in order to slow the progress of magic users. The main point is that a character can launch a fireball every phase and take out entire hordes, while the warrior who only spent a couple of points on weapon proficiencies and CSLs has to kill one at a time. The magic soon gets out of hand, which is why I want it to be more restricted, with the opportunity for slow growth. By the time the magic user is a master, the warrior will have a great deal of utility as well. I may be wrong on this, which is partly why I'm putting this out for criticisms and suggestions.

 

As for the skills, I think you may be seeing too many layers. There would be a KS for each school of magic which then gives access to spells within each school as individual magic skills, and then the spell research would probably only be one skill, with the KS for the relevant school of magic as a complementary roll. 

 

The warrior-wizard comparison can be challenging. Let's assume the spell and weapon familiarities have more or less equal costs (although at 4 points for pretty much every weapon, that won't allow for many schools of magic, and if the KS is a real skill, not a familiarity, even less).

 

What stops our Warrior from purchasing, say, a Naked Advantage on bow fire to fill the sky with arrows?  Now he gets an AoE much like the Fireball.  He can put limitations on it as well.  Perhaps it takes Extra Time, Extra END, etc. Maybe he must succeed in a DEX roll, or a STR roll, to rapidly fire so many arrows (RSR).

 

He didn't have to pay for Bow Research to learn how to do that, or to develop an AP or Penetrating naked advantage.

 

A lot depends on how much you'll allow the non-wizards to augment their gear, of course.  But couldn't our Wizard have bought an "Arrow Multiplication" spell rather than a "Fireball"?

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It's not exactly what you're asking for, but I'd suggest having a few different magic systems.

 

The most powerful, and the most expensive, would be just buying a big VPP or Multipower.  At that level, the character has spent way more points than a warrior.  It makes sense that he would be more effective.  In fact, he should be.  Chucking dozens of fireballs is very powerful, but if the guy has spent 80 points or so on magic, then hell yeah he should be able to wade through hordes of orcs.

 

The next level down would be buying an individual spell.  Somebody wants to cast Xen's Lively Lightning, a modified version of your basic Chain Lightning spell.  Let them buy it as normal.  With enough limitations stacked on it, they can make it cheap enough that it's not that much more expensive than buying it as a skill.  Especially if you just make them buy the extra stuff and let them use the underlying "skill based magic" without buying it outright.  So if the Lightning Bolt spell is a 2D6+1 RKA, then Xen's Lively Lightning might be a naked advantage.  Area Effect Cone, nonselective.  That's 26 points (in 5th edition, anyway).  Now limit it with concentration, extra time, requires skill roll, gestures and incantations, focus (spell components), 4 charges (you can't do it very often at first), costs end.  That'll bring the cost down to 5 points.  That way people can tweak things if they want to spend the points, without being too out of line with the basic spells.

 

At your most basic level, just write up some cheap spells and let the players access them with a skill roll.  Since a warrior can swing a sword without paying points for it (needing only a 1 point weapon familiarity), a wizard can probably cast Burning Hands without unbalancing the game, even if he didn't buy the whole thing.  I'd keep these spells somewhat in line with normal damage.  If a fighter is doing 2 1/2D6 HKA with his axe, a 2D6 RKA Explosion that requires a skill roll and extra time is probably not unbalanced at all.  Might even be a little weak, in fact.  Your wizard buys KS: Fireball spell at his base 13- (from 18 Int) for 3 points, then +4 to skill roll for 4 more points.  If it's a 50 active point spell, that gives him a 12- to cast it for 7 points.  If anything, that might be a little weak.  His spells with rapidly get very expensive, the more he buys.  Taking Scholar would be a must, to reduce the point cost.

 

The way I think that would go, you'd have "dabblers" in magic who would take maybe one or two spells.  Bob the swordsman learns how to cast Fire Blade, and just leaves it at that.  He spends his 6 points or something to get a boost to his damage, and he leaves the rest of the magic to the experts.  Once you've bought 3 or 4 skills with spells, a Multipower is going to start to look appealing.

 

Another possibility is something I had a GM fiddle around with once.  We never used it, it was a magic system he wanted to use in a Champions game, but nobody ended up playing a mage.  You bought Contacts with extra-dimensional beings.  Make your Contact roll, they would grant you their magic spell.  You'd get a default spell that the entity cast through you.  So if you wanted to cast the Ruby Lance of Lyacon, you make your 12- Contact with Lyacon roll.  If you're successful, you cast a 9D6 Energy Blast (or whatever it is).  Just don't be surprised if, later on, he wants a favor in return.  Cultists and other low level magic users would often take the Contact route, because it's a cheap and easy way to get access to decent magic.  You've got a long way to go if you want to be Sorcerer Supreme, but it's the mystic equivalent of handing a soldier a machine gun.

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I guess I should set more parameters than I did in the original post:

  • I'm looking for a "low fantasy" feel where magic is rare although not unheard of. I'd like to keep it completely within the purview of wizard schools (or whatever they'll be called). To use magic is to devote oneself to study in schools and libraries.
  • I don't want to have "dabblers" in magic in this particular campaign. So there won't be much crossover. If a sword is enchanted, it will be because a wizard cast a spell on it. I don't anticipate scrolls or anything else like that for non-wizards to use magic. Just good old fashioned elbow grease in the library.
  • There don't need to be huge arrays of spells for a wizard to be considered good. I mean really, how many spells did we ever actually read Gandalf or Dumbledore to cast? They would be powerful, yes, but they weren't on constant display. I'd like wizards to be more like bookworms who have a few good spells to use at the right time rather than Doug Henning  dazzling the crowd with lots of random stuff. (Is that magic reference old enough to date me?)
  • I'm thinking of having magical tomes as OAF limitations to keep costs down.

So, I may need to completely rework how I see the skills working. I'm tempted to go with spell skills and then not charge for the spells themselves, but this seems even more restrictive than I'm looking for since characters would have to go find spells. Lots of good roleplaying opportunities to acquire new spells, but not necessarily for a whole group. 

 

10 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

The Multipower approach would make it a lot easier for a player to have multiple versions of a spell, since the real point cost (and thus the required skill cost) would rise much slower.  That would put even more significance on "what is a tweak and what is a brand new spell", but could be interesting as a dynamic.  Maybe having skill in multiple schools would open the options up a bit.  For example, someone skilled in FireMagic could not make his fireball a burst of cold as part of a multipower, but perhaps someone who has invested in both FireMagic and FrostMagic could.

 

I guess the blurring of the lines between schools of magic is actually not all that important, because it would be, for example, a 2d6+1  RKA whether is is a fireball, lightning bolt, or ice cycle, so "crossing schools" isn't really any more advantageous. You don't need to make a fireball into a burst of cold unless there was some advantage added to the fire and the cold individually (catching things on fire, freezing lakes, etc.). But then they're really two different spells and should be treated as such.

 

I'm starting to lean back towards the original Multipower system I created before. It seemed complex, but looking at all the points coming up here, maybe its no more complicated than what I'm trying to get at with a skill-based system. In that system I had a Multipower defined as a spell book with only so many "slots" available at any one time. So a character could collect spells (spell research skill), and then plan ahead which ones he'd need. The only way to change slots in the Multipower was to take time to study the spell book again. I'd allow an OAF limitation on the Reserve (which is not normally allowed) in order to keep the cost down. In this particular case, I'd think changing existing spells (variable slots) would take a skill roll, but changing slots would only be a time limitation. In a Multipower system for beginners, I don't even have to show all the mathy stuff, just the spells available in the slot with their AP penalties for skill rolls.

  • Does anyone know if you can have a Multipower of other Multipowers, so they can all share the same Reserve? For example, a "magic" Reserve and each slot would be another Multipower representing schools of magic.

 

 

But for now I'd like to stick with the project at hand: Is there any merit in what I've got so far in the skill-base magic, or does it open up more problems than it solves?

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8 hours ago, massey said:

The most powerful, and the most expensive, would be just buying a big VPP or Multipower.  At that level, the character has spent way more points than a warrior.  It makes sense that he would be more effective.  In fact, he should be.  Chucking dozens of fireballs is very powerful, but if the guy has spent 80 points or so on magic, then hell yeah he should be able to wade through hordes of orcs.

 

I agree: 80 points is a lot to spend, and so should be used! In this case, I'd save Multipowers or VPPs for "expert" characters. That of course raises the question: what qualifies as mastery? Is it a set number of Character Points spent in magic? Good enough, but then who could ever afford to build a Multipower later in the campaign?! It would cost too many points just to set the Reserve or Pool. I was thinking of using the optional rule of setting the slots of a Multipower based on the Real Cost rather than the Active Points in order to keep the cost down. But if I go that route, I'd probably just define magic as a Multipower and stick with that instead. 

 

8 hours ago, massey said:

The next level down would be buying an individual spell.  Somebody wants to cast Xen's Lively Lightning, a modified version of your basic Chain Lightning spell.  Let them buy it as normal.  With enough limitations stacked on it, they can make it cheap enough that it's not that much more expensive than buying it as a skill.  Especially if you just make them buy the extra stuff and let them use the underlying "skill based magic" without buying it outright.  So if the Lightning Bolt spell is a 2D6+1 RKA, then Xen's Lively Lightning might be a naked advantage.  Area Effect Cone, nonselective.  That's 26 points (in 5th edition, anyway).  Now limit it with concentration, extra time, requires skill roll, gestures and incantations, focus (spell components), 4 charges (you can't do it very often at first), costs end.  That'll bring the cost down to 5 points.  That way people can tweak things if they want to spend the points, without being too out of line with the basic spells.

 

You have a point here: maybe just one magic skill and then charge for the spells individually. They could be limited enough to bring the cost way down. But then that brings up the problem of how to modify existing spells or create new spells. I'd like to keep a bit of control over how much they change, and what they can create, based around "schools" of magic. But I'm not sure I follow how a 2d6+1 RKA is a naked advantage. I'm a little rusty at building powers, so maybe you could help me out here. . . .

 

9 hours ago, massey said:

At your most basic level, just write up some cheap spells and let the players access them with a skill roll.  Since a warrior can swing a sword without paying points for it (needing only a 1 point weapon familiarity), a wizard can probably cast Burning Hands without unbalancing the game, even if he didn't buy the whole thing.  I'd keep these spells somewhat in line with normal damage.  If a fighter is doing 2 1/2D6 HKA with his axe, a 2D6 RKA Explosion that requires a skill roll and extra time is probably not unbalanced at all.  Might even be a little weak, in fact.  Your wizard buys KS: Fireball spell at his base 13- (from 18 Int) for 3 points, then +4 to skill roll for 4 more points.  If it's a 50 active point spell, that gives him a 12- to cast it for 7 points.  If anything, that might be a little weak.  His spells with rapidly get very expensive, the more he buys.  Taking Scholar would be a must, to reduce the point cost.

 

This is more like what I was thinking, but I'm not sure where you're getting the +4 for 4 points. I'm sure I'm missing something, so please correct me. Each +1 for a skill is 2 points, so that'd be 8 more points for 11 total. But remember, my original idea is not to limit the Active Points, but only use the Real Cost as the cap: so you could have a 4d6 RKA for 60 AP, with advantages like AOE, but if it's limited enough it could bring the real cost down to the 11 point cap. The idea here is that as a player gets more experienced, then he can buy up the skill to increase the cap. Even a few more points in Real Cost can really beef up a spell.

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1 hour ago, Brian Stanfield said:

II'm starting to lean back towards the original Multipower system I created before. It seemed complex, but looking at all the points coming up here, maybe its no more complicated than what I'm trying to get at with a skill-based system. In that system I had a Multipower defined as a spell book with only so many "slots" available at any one time. So a character could collect spells (spell research skill), and then plan ahead which ones he'd need. The only way to change slots in the Multipower was to take time to study the spell book again. I'd allow an OAF limitation on the Reserve (which is not normally allowed) in order to keep the cost down. In this particular case, I'd think changing existing spells (variable slots) would take a skill roll, but changing slots would only be a time limitation. In a Multipower system for beginners, I don't even have to show all the mathy stuff, just the spells available in the slot with their AP penalties for skill rolls.

 

I'm working on a Vancian system that uses a Multipower and Delayed Effect to represent a wizard's spellbook and ability to memorize spells. The DE cap was the size of the Multipower reserve. (A wizard with a 50 point Multipower reserve could memorize up to 50 AP worth of spells.) Spells had a mandatory Extra Time Limitation to represent the time it took to memorize a spell, with more powerful spells taking more time.

 

BTW, you're wrong about the reserve not being able to take that  OAF Limitation. It's explicitly allowed. (6e1 405)

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In my Fantasy HERO Basic  write up I've gone with a system where the mage is a member of a given school (I'm calling them "traditions") and buys a magic skill that represents their understanding of the tradition's magic. i.e.: it's the skill for the Requires a Skill Roll limitation that all spells have.  The magic skill also doubles as a complimentary skill for KS rolls about that tradition. All spells are bought individually. The cost adds up fast; but I'm foreseeing a game in which most characters only learn a few spells with only truly dedicated mages learning more.

 

To make my life easier I've written up the spells in each tradition. This means that I'm only dealing with spells that I'm happy to deal with. I haven't made allowances for VPPs, MultiPowers,  or spell research. This is because I want to keep it simple. It's meant to be basic; to have a low bar of entry for new players. To this end all spells have a very similar design: all require gestures, incantations, and skill rolls. Some spells have other, additional limitations. If I get a chance tomorrow I'll post my system here for your perusal. <Zoidberg voice>  Also for some feedback, maybe...

 

 

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10 hours ago, IndianaJoe3 said:

BTW, you're wrong about the reserve not being able to take that  OAF Limitation. It's explicitly allowed. (6e1 405)

 

Ack! I must have been remembering something else about Multipowers! Thanks for the correction.

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19 hours ago, IndianaJoe3 said:

I'm working on a Vancian system that uses a Multipower and Delayed Effect to represent a wizard's spellbook and ability to memorize spells. The DE cap was the size of the Multipower reserve. (A wizard with a 50 point Multipower reserve could memorize up to 50 AP worth of spells.) Spells had a mandatory Extra Time Limitation to represent the time it took to memorize a spell, with more powerful spells taking more time.

 

By the way, there is an interesting rule alternative on 6e1 403 that allows slots to have no more Real Points per slot than the Reserve, which allows for relatively more powerful spells with more limitations without requiring the high cost of big Reserves. I really like this idea.

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19 hours ago, massey said:

Knowledge Skills are 1 point per +1 to the roll.

 

Ah, gotcha. I wasn't thinking of the KS being the roll for the "requires a roll" limitation, but rather the Power Skill corresponding to each particular spell. But it gets costly really quickly that way, doesn't it? I think maybe I'm outsmarting myself into a corner . . .

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14 hours ago, drunkonduty said:

In my Fantasy HERO Basic  write up I've gone with a system where the mage is a member of a given school (I'm calling them "traditions") and buys a magic skill that represents their understanding of the tradition's magic. i.e.: it's the skill for the Requires a Skill Roll limitation that all spells have.  The magic skill also doubles as a complimentary skill for KS rolls about that tradition. All spells are bought individually. The cost adds up fast; but I'm foreseeing a game in which most characters only learn a few spells with only truly dedicated mages learning more.

 

To make my life easier I've written up the spells in each tradition. This means that I'm only dealing with spells that I'm happy to deal with. I haven't made allowances for VPPs, MultiPowers,  or spell research. This is because I want to keep it simple. It's meant to be basic; to have a low bar of entry for new players. To this end all spells have a very similar design: all require gestures, incantations, and skill rolls. Some spells have other, additional limitations. If I get a chance tomorrow I'll post my system here for your perusal. <Zoidberg voice>  Also for some feedback, maybe...

 

 

 

This looks like what I was originally trying to do, but then I started thinking too much and made it soooooooo much more complicated than I intended.

 

I think when I try to teach Fantasy HERO to a new group of players I should just go with the spells in the HS Grimoire and leave it at that for a beginning. As you say, a low bar of entry is of great value for this experiment. And the Grimoire allows for different variables within each spell to help it match campaign requirements.

 

I'd like to see your system when you get a chance to post it!

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1 hour ago, Brian Stanfield said:

 

By the way, there is an interesting rule alternative on 6e1 403 that allows slots to have no more Real Points per slot than the Reserve, which allows for relatively more powerful spells with more limitations without requiring the high cost of big Reserves. I really like this idea.

 

I'll have to fiddle around with it to see how it would affect my system. It would certainly help fit a reasonable Light spell into there...

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1 hour ago, IndianaJoe3 said:

 

I'll have to fiddle around with it to see how it would affect my system. It would certainly help fit a reasonable Light spell into there...

 

I totally agree. I had worked out a really complicated Multipower magic system before, but to make it cost effective I had to go through all sorts of crazy Limitation gymnastics, and it got pretty burdensome. But if the Reserve limits the Real Points rather than the Active Points in a spell, that's a real game changer.

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Gut feel to the Multipower model is that it sounds more like a VPP than a Multipower.  Their maximum AP and real costs are much more segregated.

 

I think the question I have for the "magic by skill" is that the cost of the skill is unlikely to differ from the cost of the spell itself.  The only reason to buy up the skill roll would be to justify a higher RP cost for the spell.  So the end result seems like it will be just like having KS: Fire Magic, and buying individual spells with RSR:  KS Fire Magic, except that my base skill roll will not vary depending on which spell I am using.

 

How important blurring the lines between schools will be depends on the nature of the schools.  If it's Fire, Cold, Lightning, Acid then probably not a lot of difference.  If it's Evocation, Summoning, Abjuration, Necromancy, Illusion, Enchantment, Divination, Transmutation or Charms, Transmutation, Potions, Dark Arts, Divination, maybe blurring the lines is handier.

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1 hour ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Gut feel to the Multipower model is that it sounds more like a VPP than a Multipower.  Their maximum AP and real costs are much more segregated.

 

Funny you mention that: I used VPP for divine magic in the same system.

 

1 hour ago, Hugh Neilson said:

I think the question I have for the "magic by skill" is that the cost of the skill is unlikely to differ from the cost of the spell itself.  The only reason to buy up the skill roll would be to justify a higher RP cost for the spell.  So the end result seems like it will be just like having KS: Fire Magic, and buying individual spells with RSR:  KS Fire Magic, except that my base skill roll will not vary depending on which spell I am using.

 

This is true. I think the main problem I was considering in going this route is "how do I cap each individual spell?" My original concern was that I wanted to link the points in the skill to the points in the spell as a sort of natural check. So as you say, the cost of the skill is the RP cost of the spell. If you want the spell to be more powerful, you need to be more skilled. If you only require the skill roll without any sort of connection to the power of the spell, then it seems like it could be abused more easily. You could have a low skill with powerful AP spells, and then buy skill levels for a group of spells to offset the high AP penalties on the roll. I was looking for a more organic "growth" in the magic and the characters' abilities. As I say, I may be overthinking this, or at least overcomplicating it.

 

The growth in power then led me to consider the problem "What if I've paid for a weak spell, but want to increase it when I get more experienced?" I thought maybe Spell Research might be one way to do it that has a narrative quality to it (you have to go on a quest to the libraries and do some research to change anything). I guess this is when things are starting to get too expensive because there seems to be a lot of overlap of skills. But to simply allow a player to add a couple of points to a spell's RP by dropping a limitation or raising the AP makes magic too convenient. I'm trying to emphasize the work needed to develop or change spells.

 

Anyway, I think my idea is beginning to collapse under its own weight!

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Here's a copy of my magic system. It's a chapter from a larger document.

 

There are references in the text to parts of the document which I haven't uploaded.

 

I've kept it simple.  There is one skill per tradition. Every spell needs a skill roll at -1/10AP. I've tried to hide the mechanical stuff as much as possible.

 

Mages pay a (pretty large) cost for their spells. To offset some of this I've tried to make a lot of of the spells different from simple damage. Drains and transforms,  Armour Piercing,  or AoE. Also worth noting that I have made armour have less rED than rPD. This means that wizards and such are usually targeting a lower defense.

 

Spells and Magic v21.docx

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11 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

 

This is true. I think the main problem I was considering in going this route is "how do I cap each individual spell?" My original concern was that I wanted to link the points in the skill to the points in the spell as a sort of natural check. So as you say, the cost of the skill is the RP cost of the spell. If you want the spell to be more powerful, you need to be more skilled. If you only require the skill roll without any sort of connection to the power of the spell, then it seems like it could be abused more easily. You could have a low skill with powerful AP spells, and then buy skill levels for a group of spells to offset the high AP penalties on the roll. I was looking for a more organic "growth" in the magic and the characters' abilities. As I say, I may be overthinking this, or at least overcomplicating it.

 

If I can either buy KS: Fire Magic and bump the skill roll for 2 points per +1, I don't think I would buy skill levels to get a +1 bonus to my skill roll for a few spells for 3 points.  Perhaps the restriction gets applied overall - no Fire Magic spell can have a real cost greater than the points in the Fire Magic skill (or some other derivative of the skill restricts the power of the spell).

 

To the "wow it is really hard to modify a spell" issue, what does that leave us with?  If Wizards are bookworms, then they want a lot of downtime so they can use Spell Research. and spend their xp to modify their spells.  If the knowledge they need is secreted in ancient tomes requiring adventuring to retrieve, then what does spell research actually do?  They can't use it to research - seems more like a KS of ancient tomes and their possible locations.  And now we have the non-wizards forced into specific scenarios because their wizard buddy is always dragging them off to seek out musty ancient libraries.

 

Do the Warriors have to undertake quests to unearth ancient manuals that will teach them unknown combat skills so they can spend their xp, or do they get a free pass and only wizards get told "nope, sorry, you have to role play out access to the abilities you want to buy"?

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Lemme try again with a super bare-bones approach.

 

Bob the Wizard starts with the Power Skill, defined as Magic, on a 13-.  He paid 3 points for the skill, and 4 points for a +2 to the roll (let's leave out his base Int stat for just a moment), so 7 points total.  With this, he gets access to a handful of simple spells.  Let's say we have maybe a dozen "basic magic" tricks that he can perform.  5 Str Telekinesis.  1" radius sight and hearing Images with -0 to the perception roll.  Simple, basic spells.  He takes a -1 to his Magic roll for every 10 active points in the spell.  So if he wants to get better at casting these basic spells, he needs to buy up his Magic roll.  There are better spells that he can cast than just zero level cantrips, but of course they're going to have more active points and so will be harder to perform.

 

So now Bob wants to be able to do Fire Magic.  So he buys KS: Fire Magic for 3 points, which gives him an 11- roll with it.  And he spends 3 more points so he's got a 14-.  This now gives him access to basic Fire Magic spells.  There are a dozen or so spells the GM has created, and he can now cast these just like the basic magic he could cast before.  He uses his KS: Fire Magic as the skill roll for any of these spells, which is cheaper than buying up his Power Skill, but it only applies to Fire Magic.

 

Later Bob decides he's going to learn Wind Magic (or Plant Magic, or Divination, or whatever).  He buys another KS for that.  Each time he buys access to a new type of magic, he learns somewhere between five to ten new spells.  Some of them are minor, but some of them are pretty good.  Fire Bolt may be a 2D6 RKA, Armor Piercing.  Not bad at all.  Of course, he needs to have a pretty decent skill level in Fire Magic to use it reliably.  The basic spells you get are considered "general knowledge".  Every fire wizard knows how to cast Fire Bolt.  These spells are all pregenerated by the GM and are balanced against what warriors and other classes can do.  No wizard is going to be overpowered just from the "starter pack" of spells.

 

More powerful spells have to be discovered through adventuring, research, or outright point buy.  Suppose Bob wants to be able to raise an army of the dead.  That spell is not in the KS: Necromancy starter pack.  He might have an Animate Dead spell that can raise 4 skeletons (Summon 50 point skeleton, slavishly devoted, x4 being = 40 active points, or -4 to KS: Necromancy roll).  But Bob wants to be able to raise thousands.  Well, he's going to need better magic than what he's got.  Increasing the Summon so that he can have 1000 skeletons in one go would make it 120 active points.  That's a -12 to his roll.  Now maybe you're okay with letting a guy who buys KS: Necromancy at 25- to start raising armies of the dead.  Or maybe you want him to find the spell through a quest of some kind.  That kind of magical knowledge is probably jealously guarded.  This is an excuse to send Bob and pals to look for the Necronomicon ex mortis.

 

Now maybe Bob doesn't want to do a quest.  Well he might be able to research a spell like that.  He's a wizard, after all.  This can be roleplayed out too.  If he's got the Research skill, have him make some rolls.  Assign a certain difficulty, declare that it takes a certain amount of time and costs a certain amount of money. As an example, maybe it takes you a year of research, and 50 gold pieces a day.  At the end of each month, you need to make a Research roll at -3.  If you fail, the month is wasted.  After 12 successes, make a Magic Skill roll (unmodified) and a Necromancy roll (at -1 per 10 active points, but you can take extra time and use supporting skills and such to give bonuses) to make sure the spell actually works.  If you fail the roll, it's an extra month of research for every point you fail by.  Do that, and now you have your spell.  Just add it to your spell list.

 

But maybe Bob doesn't want to do research either.  He wants his army of the dead spell now.  Well, he's always free to just buy the thing with points, like a normal power.

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1 hour ago, Hugh Neilson said:

To the "wow it is really hard to modify a spell" issue, what does that leave us with?  If Wizards are bookworms, then they want a lot of downtime so they can use Spell Research. and spend their xp to modify their spells.  If the knowledge they need is secreted in ancient tomes requiring adventuring to retrieve, then what does spell research actually do?  They can't use it to research - seems more like a KS of ancient tomes and their possible locations.  And now we have the non-wizards forced into specific scenarios because their wizard buddy is always dragging them off to seek out musty ancient libraries.

 

Actually, this was the point I was trying to make, I just didn't write it well. I don't want to hold the party hostage to one person's interests. As far as spell research, what I am envisioning is that any kind of change to a spell would require study of similar spells, etc., to then make a new association that wasn't there before. This obviously isn't going to be role played. But a fireball may be taught one way in one manual with a small selective area of effect, and a different way in a different manual with a large area delayed blast, each with their own unique Advantages and Limitations. To blend them into a third spell with a selective delayed blast would take a research roll. As you said before, a complementary KS roll would be a good idea. None of this would actually be role played, and would happen off stage between adventures, etc. But think of it as writing a paper in school, where you had to grab several books and compare ideas and then glean your own opinion out of them. 

 

1 hour ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Do the Warriors have to undertake quests to unearth ancient manuals that will teach them unknown combat skills so they can spend their xp, or do they get a free pass and only wizards get told "nope, sorry, you have to role play out access to the abilities you want to buy"?

 

I guess I should reiterate this: I always hated D&D and how players would suddenly "level up" and spontaneously get new spells. Where from? How? Same for any other skill set actually. Why would a fighter suddenly know how to use two weapons, etc., without some sort of instruction, or perhaps some sort of "weaponry research" roll of their own. I'm just thinking out loud right now. As I said before, I'm trying to find a way to keep things balanced, so I think magic should be a little more restrictive, especially if I allow the invention of new spells.

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1 hour ago, massey said:

So now Bob wants to be able to do Fire Magic.  So he buys KS: Fire Magic for 3 points, which gives him an 11- roll with it.  And he spends 3 more points so he's got a 14-.  This now gives him access to basic Fire Magic spells.  There are a dozen or so spells the GM has created, and he can now cast these just like the basic magic he could cast before.  He uses his KS: Fire Magic as the skill roll for any of these spells, which is cheaper than buying up his Power Skill, but it only applies to Fire Magic.

 

Is there any role for the Power Skill: Magic after Bob learns other magical traditions? Or is it used for the basic spells only? This was something I was wrestling with and couldn't decide for my magic system: what role does KS play in things?

 

1 hour ago, massey said:

Later Bob decides he's going to learn Wind Magic (or Plant Magic, or Divination, or whatever).  He buys another KS for that.  Each time he buys access to a new type of magic, he learns somewhere between five to ten new spells.  Some of them are minor, but some of them are pretty good.  Fire Bolt may be a 2D6 RKA, Armor Piercing.  Not bad at all.  Of course, he needs to have a pretty decent skill level in Fire Magic to use it reliably.  The basic spells you get are considered "general knowledge".  Every fire wizard knows how to cast Fire Bolt.  These spells are all pregenerated by the GM and are balanced against what warriors and other classes can do.  No wizard is going to be overpowered just from the "starter pack" of spells.

 

This is where I start to get worried. With 19 points spent Bob now has somewhere around 30 spells. Granted, this may be exactly how you want it to be in your campaign. I was thinking a little more restricted. Sure a warrior can spend equivalent points to know all melee weapons, and buy some skill levels to go with them, but he doesn't actually carry all the weapons with him. He's probably going to have a standard 2 or 3 that he always uses. This potentially puts the wizard at a great advantage. Perhaps your starting cadre of spells are fairly weak, in which case it's not a big deal, but once you allow the Fire Bolt as one of a half-dozen new spells, which will all presumably be of equivalent value, then you're starting to get one really dang powerful sorcerer! Again, this may fit your vision perfectly. And I really like the simplicity as well.

 

For my, I'm thinking of something a little more slow-building in terms of wizardry. The big strong fighters will start the campaign as the more useful players, but eventually the wizards will catch up. By then everyone will have their turf staked out, and hopefully they'd begin to specialize more in their skill sets. Just a hypothesis, but it is what I'm using to create my campaign.

 

Your last two examples are making Bob a complete badass, but the question I have is "how did he learn to do these things?" A quest for a grimoire is an obvious answer, but just spending the points for a spell is a pretty risky proposition because suddenly Bob can save his points from a dungeon crawl and suddenly show up in the next scene with a big, nasty new spell that just appeared. That's a meta game issue, I realize, but that's also partly why I'm trying to come up with something that is more closely defined and initially restrictive.

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