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Magic Systems: To Divide or Not?

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On 10/29/2019 at 3:20 PM, sentry0 said:

I'm designing a magic system (fairly standard suff; no frameworks, foci, gestures, incantations, etc) and spells are coming in around 12 real cost on average, all in.  Some magic systems (like The Turakian Age) will take that real cost and divide it by some number, let's say 3.

 

I honestly cannot decide if I want to do this or not, I'm of two minds on the subject.  Part of me says not to do it because magic is potent and someone who can shoot fireballs at will shouldn't get a point break for it.  On the opposite side, I feel like spells may be a bit too expensive and spellcasters will end up feeling shallow compared to the source material as a result.

 

Let me come at this from a different angle: have you considered adapting the Resource Pools from APG1? 

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1 hour ago, IndianaJoe3 said:

 

Let me come at this from a different angle: have you considered adapting the Resource Pools from APG1? 

 

I am familiar with resource pools in passing only; what are you thinking?

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27 minutes ago, sentry0 said:

 

I am familiar with resource pools in passing only; what are you thinking?

 

 

I'm kind of thinking aloud here, the more I think about it the less it seems like Resource Pools (although that's where I started) :) The, "loadout" rules would depend heavily on how magic works in your campaign.

 

The caster would start with a certain amount of "free" spells, roughly equal to the real cost of a fighter's equipment. These spells would all be GM-created (much like equipment would be). If the player wants custom spells, or more spells, then he has to pay for them normally.

 

The introductory spell list would cover the basics, but not be overly powerful. There should be enough to give the player a reasonable selection, but limited enough to give him incentive to spend more points on something special.

 

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I do not use any "divide by X" system for the cost of magic spells.  You pay full price.  I do allow frameworks, in the following ways:  A multipower is for an individual spell that has multiple applications, like an Earth-Shaping spell which can be used to set up a physical Barrier, or can be used to Entangle a foe.  You can't just put your Invisibility, Detect Magic, Mind Control, Heal Wounds, Mystic Blast, and Animal Friendship spells into one Multipower just because you're a wizard and you want to save points.  VPPs are available to put all your spells in if you want, but there has to be some restrictions on switching the slots around - like to have to spend a few hours studying your spellbook.  You can't just change to any spell you want on the fly.  And usually all the spells have to be pre-defined.  Usually, you can't just make up some new spell you've never cast before.  And these things are usually only used by more powerful wizards.  A lower-powered wizard might have a half-dozen spells, each with only one possible application.  With some experience, they may turn one or more of them into a multipower to be able to do more than one thing with a given spell.  Or they may add whole new spells, but put them in a VPP so they can only access a half-dozen of them at any given time.

 

In general, I really dislike the deendee model of wizard as walking artillery platforms.  If you want to kill something, go ahead and use a sword or a bow.  Magic is for things you can't do with weapons.  And yes, mage-type characters have full access to the use of weapons and armor, like any other character.  And fighter-types can purchase spells if they want.  I use what I sometimes call a "low-wide" magic system.  Magic is pretty common, and everyone could potentially buy magic spells or abilities (though not everyone does, of course).  But magic is not particularly flashy, but usually more utilitarian.  "Fireball"-type spells are pretty rare, and almost always come with serious restrictions on their use - especially if they're significantly more powerful than the weapons you can buy for money.  Powerful spells - even directly damaging combat spells - are possible, but since you're paying full price for them, it may leave you with not enough points for other things you might want for a character with a good chance at surviving.

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Sorry to drag this back into the light, but has anyone ever considered the opposite approach to balancing magic and mundane items: make weapons and armor cost Character Points just like magic? So characters would be more like low level supers who pay points for their gadgets, etc. 1d6 RKA Enchanted Dart spell? Cool, pay points and have unlimited access. 1d6 RKA mundane arrows? Cool, pay points and have an unlimited (at least practically speaking) supply. Armor spell? Pay points. Purchased armor? Pay points. 
 

Sure, there is the issue of losing items or foci, etc. But as is convention in HERO, if you pay points, it can’t be permanently lost. Inconveniently lost? Sure, but that’s a good percentage of how the literature works anyway. They should all be replaceable by quest, purchase, or some other narrative contrivance.

 

What if your barbarian gets tired of his hardened hide armor? Let him ditch it and give him his points back. Maybe he can increase his DCV and go without armor altogether. Or perhaps use the points for something else. Boots of Defense? Sure, why not. But pay for them. 
 

I suppose that mundane equipment that can be consumed or otherwise extinguished should only cost cash. It seems like common sense what should cost cash and what should cost points. Really, a bag of torches are mundane and shouldn’t cost points. A Wand of Light should. And anything which directly affects combat, or affects critical situations requiring rolls, should cost points. 
 

Does this risk looking more like supers in funny clothes? Maybe. But it can be regulated narratively. As long as the GM has a reasonable idea of what should cost points and why, I think anyone can buy into the idea pretty easily. 

 

So what’s the difference between wizards and warriors? Maybe not so much. Is this bad? It depends on what you’re looking for in a fantasy game. I like blurred lines between “classes” anyway. That the whole reason I dumped D&D when Fantasy HERO originally came out. But practical differences can emerge: a warrior may pay points for weapons and armor, while a wizard pays for equivalent spells. But while the warrior will only pay for a couple of weapons, she would also buy a lot of other Characteristics and Skills to distinguish herself as a fighter. The wizard will spend an equivalent number of points on other spells (or spell skills, depending on your magic system). Or you can meet somewhere in the middle with a buffed out battle wizard with great armor and a few spells.

 

Regardless, it’s less important to distinguish between who pays for what and who doesn’t. “Classes” become irrelevant, and points are a-ent on all the things that distinguish players from each other. Nobody would really complain, I’m willing to bet, if they have to spent cash on a lantern as opposed to points on an enchanted Staff of Moonlight. The staff, or the sword, or the bow, or the chain mail, define a character. The mundane items don’t. 
 

I’m just spitballing here, but maybe it would work?

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3 minutes ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Sorry to drag this back into the light, but has anyone ever considered the opposite approach to balancing magic and mundane items: make weapons and armor cost Character Points just like magic? So characters would be more like low level supers who pay points for their gadgets, etc. 1d6 RKA Enchanted Dart spell? Cool, pay points and have unlimited access. 1d6 RKA mundane arrows? Cool, pay points and have an unlimited (at least practically speaking) supply. Armor spell? Pay points. Purchased armor? Pay points. 
 

Sure, there is the issue of losing items or foci, etc. But as is convention in HERO, if you pay points, it can’t be permanently lost. Inconveniently lost? Sure, but that’s a good percentage of how the literature works anyway. They should all be replaceable by quest, purchase, or some other narrative contrivance.

 

What if your barbarian gets tired of his hardened hide armor? Let him ditch it and give him his points back. Maybe he can increase his DCV and go without armor altogether. Or perhaps use the points for something else. Boots of Defense? Sure, why not. But pay for them. 
 

I suppose that mundane equipment that can be consumed or otherwise extinguished should only cost cash. It seems like common sense what should cost cash and what should cost points. Really, a bag of torches are mundane and shouldn’t cost points. A Wand of Light should. And anything which directly affects combat, or affects critical situations requiring rolls, should cost points. 
 

Does this risk looking more like supers in funny clothes? Maybe. But it can be regulated narratively. As long as the GM has a reasonable idea of what should cost points and why, I think anyone can buy into the idea pretty easily. 

 

So what’s the difference between wizards and warriors? Maybe not so much. Is this bad? It depends on what you’re looking for in a fantasy game. I like blurred lines between “classes” anyway. That the whole reason I dumped D&D when Fantasy HERO originally came out. But practical differences can emerge: a warrior may pay points for weapons and armor, while a wizard pays for equivalent spells. But while the warrior will only pay for a couple of weapons, she would also buy a lot of other Characteristics and Skills to distinguish herself as a fighter. The wizard will spend an equivalent number of points on other spells (or spell skills, depending on your magic system). Or you can meet somewhere in the middle with a buffed out battle wizard with great armor and a few spells.

 

Regardless, it’s less important to distinguish between who pays for what and who doesn’t. “Classes” become irrelevant, and points are a-ent on all the things that distinguish players from each other. Nobody would really complain, I’m willing to bet, if they have to spent cash on a lantern as opposed to points on an enchanted Staff of Moonlight. The staff, or the sword, or the bow, or the chain mail, define a character. The mundane items don’t. 
 

I’m just spitballing here, but maybe it would work?

That's basically my approach, except I lean heavily on Focus of Opportunity and add "Obvious Opportunity Focus" as a -3/4 Limitation for when a character can use anything in a general category but they're all obviously for that purpose and easier to rid an area of. 

You want to be good with one particular sword?  Buy HKA OAF and a WF in that sword. 

With any sword?  HKA  OOF and a WF in Swords.  Your HKA now works with any melee weapon.  Buy more WFs and the HKA's good for those too! 

With any reasonably dangerous object?  HKA  OIF and appropriate WFs.  Murder a man with his own tankard! 

Unarmed?  HKA, no Focus limitation.  Always dangerous! 

 

I also strongly encourage the creation of compound powers.  A fighter who has a magic sword might have HKA 1d6+1, HKA +1d6 OOF, and HKA +1d6-1 OAF.  So he deals 1d6+1 unarmed or with an improvised weapon, 2d6+1 with any proper melee weapon, or 3d6 with his magic sword. 

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Shoot, I hadn’t thought that far ahead. 
 

It seems like a weapon of opportunity (the tankard, for example), would be more like a mundane, “unpurchased” item since it’s only used once, although I see what you’re doing and see its merit. 
 

I guess I’d leave WFs as they are and charge points for individual weapons that one would expect to always have on hand. Maybe even avoid WFs for large groups of weapons to make one’s personal weapon more “distinctive.” But I’m not totally sold on that. WF and points for any sword makes sense. . . .

 

Ok, before I go down that rabbit hole, I rather like what you’ve done. But should there be a difference between one’s own weapons and weapons of opportunity? I mean, do I need two different KAs if I carry a sword and a mace? If I only use one at a time, should I be charged twice? What if I lose both weapons? Should I be able to pick up anything else and use it even if it’s only a found object (assuming I have the WFs for them)? I’m probably overthinking it.

 

The one thing I’m potentially disagreeing with, however, would be random found objects like your tankard example. If I have a WF for all melee weapons and an HKA OOF (?), but don’t want to maim a person and grab the tankard instead (while still holding my sword), is it the “same” HKA, or is it a penalized “unfamiliar” weapon, which would be a different attack altogether. Or would it?
 

It’s interesting to think about, at least. Thanks for the food for thought. 

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This thread is actually what got me thinking about this, so it's delightfully circular to be seeing somebody else heading down new avenues of thought.  Anyways! 

 

I think I fumbled my explanation of what I use OOF for.  It's a mid-step between OAF and OIF of opportunity. 

An OAF is a particular item.  An HKA OAF might be this sword, Excalibur. 

An OOF is "Any item of this general type", but the utility is obvious to anyone.  An HKA OOF might be the ability to use any melee weapon.  Your sword, Bob's mace, that orc's axe, the glowing spear stuck in that tree, etc.  Things that a foe trying to deny you access to weapons would think to remove.  If you don't bring your own or take a foe's, you likely won't have one.  Swords don't grow on (most) trees! 

An OIF (of opportunity) is "Any item of this (even more) general type", but the utility isn't always obvious.  An HKA OIF might be the ability to use mundane objects as weapons.  Your scabbard, Bob's holy symbol, that orc's tankard, a branch from that tree, etc.  Things that an enemy trying to deny you access to weapons might not think to remove.  You're assumed to be able to find something, but it takes actions to "draw" and you can be disarmed. 

A not-a-focus is something inherent to you, like punching really good.  It can't be disarmed, you'll always have access to it. 

 

1 hour ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Ok, before I go down that rabbit hole, I rather like what you’ve done. But should there be a difference between one’s own weapons and weapons of opportunity? I mean, do I need two different KAs if I carry a sword and a mace? If I only use one at a time, should I be charged twice? What if I lose both weapons? Should I be able to pick up anything else and use it even if it’s only a found object (assuming I have the WFs for them)? I’m probably overthinking it.

The way I handle this is that an OOF or OIF power (HKA in this case) requires an appropriate object be present.  If you buy a sword and a mace (for coin), then of course appropriate objects are present.  You brought your own!  If your sword and mace get taken away, you can't use your own.  But if your enemy brings their sword and you take it, you're in business again! 

 

1 hour ago, Brian Stanfield said:

The one thing I’m potentially disagreeing with, however, would be random found objects like your tankard example. If I have a WF for all melee weapons and an HKA OOF (?), but don’t want to maim a person and grab the tankard instead (while still holding my sword), is it the “same” HKA, or is it a penalized “unfamiliar” weapon, which would be a different attack altogether. Or would it?

Under my model, a tankard wouldn't qualify under OOF since it's not normally a weapon.  It'd be classed under OIF.  But that's a digression!  If the player had an appropriate power to use, they'd be able to use that (with Club Weapon and/or Pulling a Punch if desired).  If they didn't, I'd have the player roll whatever their unarmed attack was.  (And wouldn't penalize them for grabbing the tankard even if they had no WF: Tankards.)

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28 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

GB(!) is your OOF valued as -3/4? I do like your idea.

Exactly. 

I felt there needed to be a logical middle-ground between OAF's "This thing in particular" and OIF(oO)'s "Eh, a thing".  And as it so happened, there was also a convenient numeric middle-ground! 

I first thought of it when I was doing up a pair of characters with geokinesis (well, a character and his future-self).  The first had "Shoot sharp rock" with OIF: Sharp Rock.  The second had "Shoot sharpened rock" with OIF: Rock since he'd learned how to sharpen rocks as he threw them.  But the latter was clearly less limited, so I amended the former to be OIF: Rock and Only with Sharp Rocks (-1/4).  Then I realized that I'd really just changed how tightly the Focus was defined. 

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GB(!) It reminds me of a suggestion in Dark Champions that if you have 2 daggers. Take OAF -3/4 because could be disarmed of one but still have the other dagger. (Of course if the special ability required both daggers then you can’t use it.)

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I like this idea in general. I also realize that it's a nightmare to try to teach to my new players! It makes perfect sense, and I've told them that basically everything they use is built with the Powers in HERO, but I'm pretty sure this stuff would make their heads pop! This is definitely a more advanced, albeit much cleaner, way to look at things.

 

This bring back the idea of what @IndianaJoe3 said earlier about a Resource Pool. If all the equipment is built with Powers, and all the spells are built with Powers, wouldn't going into the local adventurers mart be the equivalent of filling out one's Resource Pool? Spells, weapons, magic ropes, or whatever, would all use points from the pool, and then off we go! Come back next week and retool. I always like the idea of a Resource Pools, at least, and experiment with them in different ways. But again this is maybe a more advanced idea that is not beginner-friendly, and I definitely have to cater to beginners at this point as it seems my group wants to play, but doesn't want to learn the rules. Like, any rules. But that's my burden to bear, unless of course we could start a thread that would solve all my problems . . . 

 

But that thread (how to teach/attract/market/repackage HERO for beginners, etc.) keeps coming back to life and making everyone miserable!

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It's interesting that we have resisted paying points for normal equipment so strenuously, while d20 has morphed into the Wealth by Level model, making gear another resource paid for with a separate pool.  In d20, you get to buy characteristics, skills, feats, class levels and gear (and I'm probably missing some).  In Hero, you buy the same things, but you don't have to buy some from each pool - you are free to mix & match.  Making gear cost points would work fine.

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On 2/7/2020 at 3:09 PM, Brian Stanfield said:

I like this idea in general. I also realize that it's a nightmare to try to teach to my new players! It makes perfect sense, and I've told them that basically everything they use is built with the Powers in HERO, but I'm pretty sure this stuff would make their heads pop! This is definitely a more advanced, albeit much cleaner, way to look at things

 

Well, it all comes down to how much of the mechanical system you expose.  Wrap the character cost together and explain their Sword skill.

 

Master Swordsman: you do 3D6 damage with the sword designed specifically for you.  You can pick up any weapon and add 1D6 damage to that normally listed. You can use any improvised object to deal 1D6+1 damage.

 

That would be easy for anyone to understand.  You just happen to know how it balances with other abilities and can knowledgeably tweak.  Players do not usually need and almost never want to look inside the black box.  But it is what HERO provides that other systems do not.

 

BTW, this particular conversation made me want to run a game where damage was a function of skill rather than weapon.  For instance, Bob from the local tavern will usually do 1D6 damage regardless of the weapon he uses.  Girondin of the Blade, will do 2D6 and 3D6-1 if he is using an edged weapon.

 

An interesting twist to the usual and allows players to pick weapons with an eye to style rather than combat advantage.

 

Doc

 

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