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Panpiper

Why NOT use a multipower for magic?

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I've been away from actively thinking about Hero System for a couple of years, entertaining the idea of GMing something fantasy. Of course I have to consider how to do magic in my world, and I find myself looking at a gazillion oddball ways proposed by many, including in published material, and I am left wondering. Just why are multipowers not the perfect and obvious way to do magic? They seem absolutely perfect to me. Am I missing something?

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They are so cost effective that my players said it felt wrong to be able to pick up 60-70 AP abilities for 3-4 CP.

 

We re-modeled spells in our second campaign to have a cost multiplier of 0.4 and a standard Magic Spell limitation of -1.5.  This let them get weaker spells for cheap and stronger spells for 5-7 CP depending on limitations which felt more appropriate.

 

Which makes some level of sense.  The warrior has to drop 10 points to rapid fire a bow or multi-attack with his axe effectively, but the mage can pick up a RKA 2.5d6 Fireball and Lightning Bolt for 3pts each...

 

But, you're not wrong.  It is a simple way to stack on new spells in a cost effective manner.  When we were using Multipowers we did two for the casters.  One for instant (mostly offensive) spells and a secondary one for lasting effects (flight, shields, etc.).

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Too cost effective, that makes sense. Of course one could just rule that slots cannot be ultra slots, and that should address the expense rather nicely I would think. It would also make it worth the while for a player to add extra limitations to slots when appropriate, further differentiating various spells.

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Historically, it wasn't a part of the original Fantasy Hero and didn't fit the conception of magic given in 4th edition. However, if you dig around in FH you'll find some conversion notes that mention Multipower works really well for converting GURPS magic users. Multipowers generally aren't used in FH because the spells tend to require you to actively maintain them, you have to divide your powers between different effects, there isn't a big cost break for lots of Limitations, and you generally have to magic the magic thematically tight. If your fantasy campaign has a more "psychic" magic style, multipower works really well. It doesn't work all that well for D&D style wizards because they tend to mix it up between long duration "trap", portal, and protection spells, offensive spells, and some concentration effects like telekinesis.

One thing it does really well is for very versatile spells. Mystic Masters has some examples, like a Multipower of light spells that create various attacks and environmental effects. D&D spells that could this treatment include dispel evil, symbol, and imprisonment.

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The big advantage a spell caster has over a warrior is versatility.  Sure warriors get there weapons for free, but they all basically do the same thing.  It does not matter what type of weapon the warrior uses the defense is all the same.  DCV, resistant defense, and PD will work vs any normal weapon.  With spells I can create something that ignores all of those things.  As a spell caster I can create different spells to deal with any situation.  By using a multipower it becomes even easier.  Now instead of a few spells that can take care of a variety of problems I have dozens that can take care of any problem.

 

Consider that in most fantasy hero games a spell caster is going to have more limitation on their spells than a super hero would.  That makes the spells a lot cheaper.  Using a multipower makes that even more cost effective.  Take a 60pt multipower and add OAF, Requires a skill roll, incantations, and gestures that puts the cost of the pool to 20pts.  That puts the cost of s spell to 2pts, 4 if it is variable slot.  Slap on a few limitations on the spell itself and the cost drops to 1-2 points.  So for about 40pts I can have 20 60pt spells.  

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I've opted to not use them for two reasons.

 

Simplicity. I hope to get a bunch of new to HERO people to play in my fantasy game. Thus I've limited mechanical shenanigans as much as I felt I could.

 

Low Fantasy feel. Multipowers allow for more flexibility and power. In the next game I'd like to run (as opposed to the next game I'll probably run 😞 ) I'm after a low fantasy, low magic feel.

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I came up with a crazy complex magic system once just for the hell of it. It had schools of magic based on the HERO System Grimoire to make it easier for players to group their spells, and each school had its own Multipower. They were heavily modified with all the usual stuff (gestures, incantations, etc.). But in order to make it harder to always have just the right tool whenever they wanted, they had to have science skills based on each school they learned, and had to make skill rolls any time they wanted to change their slots. I even had END battery and long term END rules. The requirements go on,  but you get the idea. 

 

If you want to really limit how efficient spellcasters become, you can make it more complicated to acquire new spells. Maybe they have to actually have a new scroll in hand to change the slots of the Multipower to include a new spell. Maybe they have to be taught. Maybe they have to go to a spell college's library and do research. Require skill rolls for the particular school of magic when changes are made. Maybe they can modify or generate new spells on their own, but then they'd need to have a Science Skill to completely create something new. And so on.

 

The idea is that a fighter has points spent on skills that he'll always have access to, and can utilize them almost any time. He'll spend point on them, but maybe they're an equivalent number of points. The wizard will spend at least as many points, discounted by the Multipowers, but they'll also have to spend points on other school skills to make the spells more useful, and they are by no means certain. Also, if they want to become more proficient, it'll become more expensive as they add new schools, or science skills, etc. I don't know how the points balance out in the long term, but it's at least a way to try to limit the power of a wizard at the beginning. I feel that they should be more powerful than others as they become more experienced, but to become that experienced they'll have to do more and more complex and uncertain tasks to advance. A fighter can just keep hacking away and add CSLs and stuff to just get better and better. A wizard has to slow down and plan ahead. There are all sorts of meta-mechanical ways to set the rules in the game to get the desired effect. As they say, set the dials to your preference.

 

Just another 2¢.

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On 5/13/2020 at 8:59 AM, Panpiper said:

I've been away from actively thinking about Hero System for a couple of years, entertaining the idea of GMing something fantasy. Of course I have to consider how to do magic in my world, and I find myself looking at a gazillion oddball ways proposed by many, including in published material, and I am left wondering. Just why are multipowers not the perfect and obvious way to do magic? They seem absolutely perfect to me. Am I missing something?

 

Multipowers are a point-efficient way to have a lot of powers, if you don't mind only being able to use one at a time. If this doesn't suit your magic system, don't use them. 

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Ok, I understand the issue with Multipowers now. How does this sound for a 175 point high fantasy game?

 

Magic is bought straight up as powers, no frameworks, with as many limitations as are appropriate and thematic. Any character who spends more than 50 points in powers gains the right to apply an additional 'Custom Modifier' called 'Initiate' that is worth a -1/2 limitation on any and all their powers. This represents their effort devoted to their craft. Taking 75 points in powers changes that to 'Adept' and is worth a -1 limitation to any powers. Taking a full 100 points in powers changes that to 'Wizard' and is worth a whopping -2 limitation. Players may at their discretion use different words to describe this. It is the limitation granted by the devotion to magic that counts, not the label.

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4 hours ago, IndianaJoe3 said:

 

Multipowers are a point-efficient way to have a lot of powers, if you don't mind only being able to use one at a time. If this doesn't suit your magic system, don't use them. 

If one goes with flexible slots, that's not a problem. But OTOH, then one has to calculate Active Point totals every time one re-arranges the MP.

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1 hour ago, L. Marcus said:

I designed an MP-based magic system for my own Fantasy campaign -- here it is. I was aiming at the lower end of High Fantasy, and I think I got it playable.

 

That is interesting Marcus. Did you allow people to buy up that ego based magic skill roll, and if so by how much? If it were up to me as a player, I would by it to the point where no magic would require me to roll less than 14, and likely buy it higher than that with XP.

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The system never made it into actual play, I'm sorry to say. No Hero players around here. But the whole thing would hitch upon the GM keeping an eye on the PCs development, and stick to the benchmarks for Skills as presented in bot 5th and 6th ed. -- you know, a Skill Roll of 14- is a master and 17- is considered a world beater. 

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1 minute ago, L. Marcus said:

The system never made it into actual play, I'm sorry to say. No Hero players around here. But the whole thing would hitch upon the GM keeping an eye on the PCs development, and stick to the benchmarks for Skills as presented in bot 5th and 6th ed. -- you know, a Skill Roll of 14- is a master and 17- is considered a world beater. 

 

I am really not clear on how people use that Requires a Skill Roll limitation. You have it defined as having a -1 penalty for every 20 active points, with the total power usable being effectively 60 active points for someone with a 14 or less skill roll. The problem I have in understanding is, does that not mean that the -1 penalty for every 20 active points penalty reduces them to an 11 or less roll every time they try to cast magic, such that the "master" fails pretty much half the time they try to cast something?  If they buy three extra 'levels' with the skill to get that skill roll so they only fail a quarter of the time on a 14 or less, is that now a "world beater" who still fails at magic regularly?

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4 minutes ago, L. Marcus said:

Yep, so I'd veto those Skill Levels.

 

So your master mage really would fail with every second casting attempt? That doesn't feel like much of a master to me.

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If the 14- mage would use the power at full throttle, they'd suffer a -3 penalty, sure. But that could be a bit of overkill. That'd let the mage use a 4d6 Killing Attack, averaging 14 BODY Damage -- on an average roll, an average unarmored character would fare poorly. Remember, the slots in the MP are flexible, so the mage can use, for example, a 2d6 RKA at the same time as a 10 rPD/10 rED defense -- and those would take only a -1 penalty to activate.

 

And also, I'd let them take extra time for a bonus to the roll. A +2 for a whole turn to activate that 4d6 RKA, for a total of -1 ... Sounds fair to me, I'd say.

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Easier to play an elven archer with the strength for the heaviest bow along with martial maneuvers and various skill levels. Zero chance of their 'fire arrow' power failing, lots more damage than the mage, and very probably a significantly better OCV. Outshine such a wizard every time. Or a heavy plate, axe and shield dwarven warrior with a similar focus buying their strength past maxima, picking Dwarven Axemanship martial maneuvers and levels, hitting for 3d6+1 killing damage and equally hard to hurt. Way outshine such a mage every time, and I can build that dwarf with 'half' points!

 

This is the problem with most magic systems I've seen people use and suggest, the mages generally suck compared to everyone else. Overcompensating for high level D&D mages perhaps, or trying to simulate how low level D&D mages suck maybe.

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But where the mages shine, is utility. In the example spells in the thread I linked, I have an earthquake spell that'd immobilize armies and make castles come apart at the seams. For just 45 APs. Flight Spells, Teleportation, Entangles, Drains and Aids, and so on -- that's why you want a mage in your party. No Elven archer Dwarven axman could ever match that aspect.

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One idea of mine is: 

  • Spells are in schools, colleges, whatever you want to call them.  
  • Each school would be required to be a separate Multipower.
  • No one is ever required to buy a Multipower.
  • Any spell that is Constant, Persistent, or requires END to maintain automatically drops if the points are moved out of the slot.  Any Triggers end if the points are moved out of the slot.  Some spells that are Instant with continuing effects may end if the points are moved out of the slot, depending on the SFX.  Any spell bought Usable On Others ends if the points are moved out of the slot.  
  • Starting wizards have to buy all of their spells at RSR: -1 per 5 Active Points. 
  • Additional Skills are required before you can start improving this.  Like KS: Magical Theory 11- and a KS at 11- relating to a particular school of magic, before you can start buying the spells in that school to -1 per 10 Active Points.  You have to buy the Limitation down to at least -1 per 10 on all of your spells in a school before you can start learning new ones of that school at the -1 per 10 level.  
  • You'd have to have KS: Magical Theory and the KS for the school at maybe 14- before you can start buying those spells down to -1 per 20 Active. 
  • Characters can have an affinity for a school of magic.  This is some number of Skill Levels that can apply to all of the spells in the school.  These can be used on a KS roll related to the school; they can apply to the character's Magic Skill Roll with spells in that school; they can apply to the character's O(M)CV when attacking with spells of that school or D(M)CV when defending against spells in that school.  The character can also use them with any mundane Skills used for a task relating to the subject matter of the school.  (For instance, characters with an affinity with Fire can use their Skill Levels when attempting to start a fire with mundane tools, even if they're in a situation where their magic is useless.)  

 

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7 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

One idea of mine is: 

  • Spells are in schools, colleges, whatever you want to call them.  
  • Each school would be required to be a separate Multipower.
  • No one is ever required to buy a Multipower.
  • Any spell that is Constant, Persistent, or requires END to maintain automatically drops if the points are moved out of the slot.  Any Triggers end if the points are moved out of the slot.  Some spells that are Instant with continuing effects may end if the points are moved out of the slot, depending on the SFX.  Any spell bought Usable On Others ends if the points are moved out of the slot.  
  • Starting wizards have to buy all of their spells at RSR: -1 per 5 Active Points. 
  • Additional Skills are required before you can start improving this.  Like KS: Magical Theory 11- and a KS at 11- relating to a particular school of magic, before you can start buying the spells in that school to -1 per 10 Active Points.  You have to buy the Limitation down to at least -1 per 10 on all of your spells in a school before you can start learning new ones of that school at the -1 per 10 level.  
  • You'd have to have KS: Magical Theory and the KS for the school at maybe 14- before you can start buying those spells down to -1 per 20 Active. 
  • Characters can have an affinity for a school of magic.  This is some number of Skill Levels that can apply to all of the spells in the school.  These can be used on a KS roll related to the school; they can apply to the character's Magic Skill Roll with spells in that school; they can apply to the character's O(M)CV when attacking with spells of that school or D(M)CV when defending against spells in that school.  The character can also use them with any mundane Skills used for a task relating to the subject matter of the school.  (For instance, characters with an affinity with Fire can use their Skill Levels when attempting to start a fire with mundane tools, even if they're in a situation where their magic is useless.)  

 

Seems eminently workable. How granular do you see these colleges? Just one for elemental magic, or one per element, or what?

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4 minutes ago, L. Marcus said:

Seems eminently workable. How granular do you see these colleges? Just one for elemental magic, or one per element, or what?

 

Probably one per element, with others as per the Grimoire.  

 

This isn't really anything I've used or put design energy into, but it is made up of parts I've had cooking mentally on various back burners for a long time.  So I don't have spells or anything designed for it yet. 

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31 minutes ago, L. Marcus said:

But where the mages shine, is utility. In the example spells in the thread I linked, I have an earthquake spell that'd immobilize armies and make castles come apart at the seams. For just 45 APs. Flight Spells, Teleportation, Entangles, Drains and Aids, and so on -- that's why you want a mage in your party. No Elven archer Dwarven axman could ever match that aspect.

 

That's true enough I guess. I've just never seen the allure of playing the utility character I suppose. I want a Gandalf in my party. 

 

29 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

One idea of mine is: ...

 

Ghads! A reply from a veritable god of Hero! I am in awe! Yours is a name I have known for decades Chris!

 

Another issue I have with most people's magic systems is that they are simply, overly complex.  I would kill (well, not literally) to play in a game run by Chris Goodwin, but there is again zero chance I would play a mage. Way too many criteria to meet and match to gain any sort of real power at all. Another jack of trades that can only shine when everyone else is lackluster.

 

A huge number of players, at least the players I have known, have a hard enough time knowing what to do in D&D let alone the complexity of Hero. I would prefer to find/create an elegant, simple to implement and understand approach that newbies to the Hero system can comprehend with relative ease. I fully expect most of my players to have never seen Hero before. Most will ask me to build their characters for them based on their conceptions and it has to be simple to not just understand enough that they can easily spend XP, but also understand tactically.

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I don't think Gandalf is the leading example of the type of character you seem to aim for, but I do see your point. The issue here, to me, is party balance and fair play among the players. If the arch-mage wizards are so powerful and awesome, why would anyone want to play anything else? And if only one of the players would be allowed to have such a character, couldn't this lead to resentment?

 

The answer would be to throw the heroic style of play out the window and go full-on fantasy superhero, maybe á la The Atlantean Age. All equipment and all spells and everything would be bought with points, so martial and arcane heroes would begin on equal footing; no Hit Locations or Bleeding or Impairment rules ... The AA did really go full tilt on the High Fantasy, too much so for my taste, but it is definitely a solution to the balance issues.

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