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Black Rose

Help Me With This Magic System Fiddly Bit

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In this magic system , spells can be "broken down" into three general categories -- Low Level, Middle Level, and High Level. The parameters vary based on the power level of the caster themselves; what counts as a Low Level spell for a Master may well be a High Level spell for an Apprentice.

 

Basic Idea Breakdown:

All spells require an OAF Personal Focus -- fairly straightforward concept, could be a staff, or wand, or big ol' Eye Of Agamotto-looking pendant.

 

Spells that are Middle Level and higher require what I call a Specific Focus, which are needed to cast that specific spell, or possibly a small group of spells (the Multipowers in Superheroic Thaumaturgy would be a good example of just how many spells and how tightly connected they should be). A Specific Focus has a chance to burn out after being used (just like Burnout in Requires A Roll) but this is pretty rare. Otherwise it acts as an enchanted item that the caster keeps refueling to make work.

 

High Level spells all require Expendable Foci -- this is more "thousands of dollars in reagents and rare materials", "flawless gem",  or "human sacrifice" than "bat guano" or "amber rod and piece of animal fur".

 

I'm trying to figure out how best to represent the Middle Level Specific Focus concept. Anyone have a good idea?

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I don't know if it's a _good_ idea, but it's an idea.

 

Unfortunately, it's a lot of up-front work for the GM. :(

 

I'm thinking "cookbook" magic: every spell has a recipe of "ingredients" that are the specific items required for that spell.  Problem is you will have to create that recipe.

 

Going in a slightly different direction with that same root idea is something not unlike certain primitive medicine men used:

 

Everything (well, for us, we won't do _everything_, but let's say everything related to making magic in your world) had innate magical qualities.  Feathers from one particular bird granted celerity; feathers from another granted fierce fighting prowess.  A strip of skin from a particular animal wrapped 'round the wrist heightened your pain threshold, etc, etc. Only the shaman knew how to unlock or utilize these abilities, and often there was a great deal of ceremony involved.  But before I digress---

 

 

Working with that, prepare a short list (say, for starters, a dozen.  Don't worry: if this works for you, you'll have a list of fifty before you know it) of items in your world that have magic properties.  Give each item say..   I don't know.... four magic properties.  These do _not_ have to be the only "magic properties" in your magic system.  In fact, I would encourage you to have more than four; perhaps a dozen or even more, but no one item should have more than a small subset of those traits.   Assign each of those properties a strength rating.  Not too extreme, of course.  Let's use one to four again.   One of the properties could be (if you're interested) "doubles the effectiveness of X," where X is either a particular magic property, or to keep it nice and esoteric, a particular ingredient.  You might even have a few items here and there that have only one or two traits, but at spectacularly high levels (the eye teeth of a blood enemy, or running water dipped from under an eclipse or something).

 

Assume that, as-is, only four (I seem to be stuck here) ingredients can be used to create a magic spell / magic effect.

 

Now build some spells.  How about everyone's favorite example: Fireball.   Let's say that you decide Fireball requires two properties: Fire and Wind (no; I'm not suggesting elemental effects; that was just a real easy example.  I'll try harder next time ;) ).

 

So your magician has to build a focus / poultice / medicine bag / burnt offering-- whatever-- that is predominantly composed of Fire and Wind attributes.  How much and how many?  (No point in me deciding what kind or how rare, because that's the GM's department, and will depend on just how available you want magic to be ;) ).

 

Suppose, as an example, that each "attribute score" represents the number of AP that ingredient can contribute to a spell.  If you happen to have four items-- say two with Wind attributes of 4 and two with Fire attributes of 4, you can build a 16 AP fireball.

 

Not spectacular....

 

But let's say you have four items, and three of them have Fire 4, one of them has Wind 4, and two of them have Fire 3?  22 AP.  Better.  Nowhere near great, but better.

 

Now let's say that one of them has "doubles the effect of Wind?  Now you're at 26 AP.  Suppose another had the trait "doubles the effect of Salamander mucous, which you happen to be using as two of the Fire 4 ingredients....   Now you're at 34 AP.

 

You can, of course, rate an item as high as you want.  You can require certain AP levels of individual traits.  You can require only one trait, or you can require six.  This is just a bare-bones, seat-of-the-pants answer.  You could raise the number of ingredients allowed per sack of magic, or you could even have items that allow the addition of up to X number of additional items, or even X number of additional items with a particular trait....

 

 

Look; I could go on with this all day, because shamanistic magic plays to a personal strength: it's one of the magic concepts I enjoy most, and have used quite a bit in low fantasy settings, and even a couple of western campaigns where I wanted get a bit eerie with the old west.  You think the crazy old medicine man is joke?  Probably because you've never seen him in his bear form.....

 

 

 

Now as I said: it's not necessarily a good idea, for your purposes (though it's kind of fun seeing your magic-reliant party members track inventory, consult books, select ingredients and discard others, etc), but it is an idea.  There may be _something_ there you can use.

 

 

 

 

Duke

 

 

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What if the Burnout chance was variable based on the Acrive Points in the spell?  For example (you would alter this based on the power level of your game):

AP = Active Points. 

 

01-20 AP = No Burnout Chance

21-25 AP = 8- Burnout Chance

26-30 AP = 9- Burnout Chance

31-35 AP = 10- Burnout Chance

36-40 AP = 11- Burnout Chance

41-45 AP = 12- Burnout Chance

46-50 AP = 13- Burnout Chance

51-55 AP = 14- Burnout Chance

55-60 AP = 15- Burnout Chance

61+  AP = Always Burns Out

 

just an Idea. 

 

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Looks like I was unclear again. This is a recurring flaw of mine; comes of overthinking how I'm going to write the post up.

 

I'll use a defensive effect as an example:

Low Level = 15-20 AP; you could have 25% rDR, Resistant Protection 6 PD/4 ED, or DN (-3 DCs).

Middle Level = 30-40 AP; looking at 50% rDR (or 25% rPD & 25% r ED), or Resistant Protection 8 PD/8 ED Protects Carried Items, or DN (-6 DCs). The Specific Focus would fit the "theme" of protection; it might be a shield-shaped brooch, or a charm bracelet, or a dreamcatcher made of rather more durable materials than usual.

High Level = 60+ AP; so 75% rDR, or Resistant Protection 20 PD/20 ED, or DN (-6 DCs Physical, -6 DCs Energy). Still has the Specific Focus, but now you have to use... I dunno, a scale from a mountain drake every time you cast the spell.

 

What I'm asking here is, if you already have a required "I'm a wizard!" Focus, and another Focus that might (pretty rarely) Burn Out after using it at some point -- like Burnout from RAR, or Conserved Charges (APG 143); basically a low-percentage chance that the caster will have to find/make his do-hickey again to be able to access that ability again -- how would you represent that?

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My immediate thought was that the focus should be an END reserve.  The REC would only occur when the wizard does "something" and it gains END.  Middle level powers can only burn END from the END battery.  Every time the REC is used it will have a chance to burn out.  If it does, the wizard will need to do "something else" to make it work again.  You could have different END reserves for different spell groups, it is bureaucratic but it almost feels right for magic to be bureaucratic...

 

Doc

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Doc has an excellent suggestion. 

 

 

Something that occurred to me a bit ago is simply pricing your "can be burnt out" focus along the lines of a breakable focus.  I would think in the long run the drawbacks would be similar enough to at least start from that point, and tweak it a bit until you get the flavor you feel is right. 

 

Duke 

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17 hours ago, Black Rose said:

A Specific Focus has a chance to burn out after being used (just like Burnout in Requires A Roll) but this is pretty rare.

 

How often are you thinking.  I am thinking rare enough to be a colour +0 limitation than worth points.

 

If you say that it burns out on 18 then it occurs once in every 216 times.  That feels less rare than you want.  You can (because it is gaining no points) stipulate any kind of situation.  So you might say that one time you roll an 18.  The wizard feels some feedback through his focus, a sign that the core has destabilised.  If he continues to use it, it might break irrevocably (when you roll another 18 - for a 1 in 47,000 chance).  There might be circumstances that would increase the roll, trying to counterspell something too powerful causes you to take +2 on your next roll etc.  Thus the player might take some risks, knowing that he might deprive himself of that resource.

 

Doc

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18 hours ago, Black Rose said:

A Specific Focus has a chance to burn out after being used (just like Burnout in Requires A Roll) but this is pretty rare.

Is there an Skill Roll attached with Spellcasting?

While Hero does not have a System for Critical Failures, it would be easy to invent one. and the Focus burning out would be a fitting result for a Critical Failure.

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Hello Black Rose :)

 

It seems to me that what you have here is failure to communicate.  No, hang on, that's a GnR lyric.  What you have here is a pricing and supply problem.

 

Anyone can afford, or make a personal focus for low level spells.  That is just bought as a focus, probably an OAF or OIF.

 

High level spells require an expendable focus, so they get an additional cost break: -1/4 to -1, depending on how difficult the focus is to replace.  Personally that does not seem like a sufficient cost break for something you only get to use once and then have to replace at great cost, so I'd probably use a single charge with restricted recovery because that is a better cost break - still not enough IMO, but better.

 

The real problem is Middle level spells because there is no obvious additional limitation within 'Focus' that you can add to reflect the difficulty in obtaining the focus and the increased trouble of replacing it if you lose it.

 

So, perhaps some lateral thinking.  Middle and High level spell focuses are going to be coveted and people are probably going to try and take them off you if they know you have them.  So you could add a Limited Power limitation along the lines of 'Targeted by thieves' - 1/4 to give a bit of an extra cost break and justify the increased risk of losing the focus and so the power.  You could apply the same limitation to the High level spell focus.

 

Alternatively having High and Middle level spell focuses might justify a Hunted character Complication.  Not quite the same thing as a cost break, but at least you are getting something for your trouble...

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2 hours ago, Sean Waters said:

The real problem is Middle level spells because there is no obvious additional limitation within 'Focus' that you can add to reflect the difficulty in obtaining the focus and the increased trouble of replacing it if you lose it.

If you want Granularity in Foci, there are the Expanded Focus Rules from APG 2 115.

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13 minutes ago, Christopher said:

If you want Granularity in Foci, there are the Expanded Focus Rules from APG 2 115.

 

They really are quite granular, but still don't address a cost break (as far as I can see) for a focus that is difficult and/or costly to replace, so you would still be left with a focus that gave you the same cost break as the common Low Spell Level focus, even though you could probably replace that focus at little or no cost in a few minutes out of combat, whereas if you lost a Middle Spell Level focus you would be without the power for much longer.

 

Still, I have not looked at that for quite a while and will now have to play abut with it, so thank you.  Who needs sleep anyway?

 

I stayed up last night to see the Super Blood Wolf Moon but it was cloudy.

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6 minutes ago, Sean Waters said:

They really are quite granular, but still don't address a cost break (as far as I can see) for a focus that is difficult and/or costly to replace, so you would still be left with a focus that gave you the same cost break as the common Low Spell Level focus, even though you could probably replace that focus at little or no cost in a few minutes out of combat, whereas if you lost a Middle Spell Level focus you would be without the power for much longer.

With those rules there can be tradeoffs besides Pointcost of the power.

If you save points by adding "Single use" (or was it Expandable?), those points could be invested into concealment, durability or the like.

 

I only remembered those rules recently in a discussion over "Concealment and small arms". And it is quite easy to make concealment a major factor of the value of a Item. After all if you can not hide it, you can not smuggle that power anywhere.

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On 1/20/2019 at 5:36 PM, Black Rose said:

In this magic system , spells can be "broken down" into three general categories -- Low Level, Middle Level, and High Level. The parameters vary based on the power level of the caster themselves; what counts as a Low Level spell for a Master may well be a High Level spell for an Apprentice.

 

Basic Idea Breakdown:

All spells require an OAF Personal Focus -- fairly straightforward concept, could be a staff, or wand, or big ol' Eye Of Agamotto-looking pendant.

 

I have a magic system from back in the day that is similar to this...Stoburu. Might be worth checking out.

 

Quote

Spells that are Middle Level and higher require what I call a Specific Focus, which are needed to cast that specific spell, or possibly a small group of spells (the Multipowers in Superheroic Thaumaturgy would be a good example of just how many spells and how tightly connected they should be). A Specific Focus has a chance to burn out after being used (just like Burnout in Requires A Roll) but this is pretty rare. Otherwise it acts as an enchanted item that the caster keeps refueling to make work.

 

So, if I understand this, you have an item that serves as a focus for a specific spell. The rules cover this.

 

However, there is a chance that using the spell can cause the focus to be expended, in which case a replacement item will need to be acquired. 

 

You want this to behave like Requires A Roll with Burnout.

 

So there's a couple of ways of looking at this...

 

Simple way: define a custom variant of Foci with this behavior and assign an appropriate lim value to it. 

 

Working with the system as it is way: take the Foci lim, take Requires A Roll with Burnout lim, take Side Effect on failed roll (Foci is destroyed) lim.

 

Quote

High Level spells all require Expendable Foci using big $$$ as a control factor

 

I'd be wary of doing it in this way, unless you are prepared to directly couple economics to power level. A character with cp discounted abilities that are gated primarily by monetary considerations forces you the GM to be particularly wary over the course of the campaign of influxes of capital, even more so than usual.

 

Quote

I'm trying to figure out how best to represent the Middle Level Specific Focus concept. Anyone have a good idea?

 

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I am not going to offer a specific way to handle this, other than saying it is probably a +0 or -1/4 limitation. But the way I would work into the value is to more carefully define what you mean when you say "a chance to burn out but pretty rare". Is this a equal probability no matter what? Or is it more likely if the caster uses it 2 or more times in a day? Or if all three moons are in the sky? Or if they are lower on mana? Are there other factors that can reduce the chance of burnout (take an extra phase to cast, use rarer ingredients, expend 2x end, voluntarily take a side effect, location, ceremonial dress, fasting, etc.). As you work through the various ins and outs you will get a feel for how to model it and cost it, in my experience. 

 

- E

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