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View Full Version : Levelling magic down in a DnD world



Weltall_BR
2012-11-20, 04:50 PM
I am in the process of designing a world in which I would like arcane magic to be hard to master and practice. Most people are simply not up to the task of understanding the complex arcane principles and rules. The common folk are suspicious of magic as something which they cannot understand and is wielded by rather strange individuals. Magic-users have a very valuable skill and are generally not willing to give it away for nothing or use it trivially.

I would like to reflect this more arduous nature of magic in in-game terms. As someone pointed out in these forums, if magic is powerful and as easy to learn as pottery or tinsmith there is no reason why everyone would not have at least a couple of levels of magic-users.

My ideas so far have been the following:

Requiring a minimum ability score to become a magic-user;
Increasing the XP requirements to level up as a magic-user;
Allowing only specialist magic-users (as magic is harder to master, being a generalist is not an option); and
Enforcing very strictly rules about casting time and components (maybe increasing casting time?), spell books and researching spells.

Of course the magic-using classes shall become much less attractive, but that is the whole point.

I still have to think about divine spell casters. Requiring a minimum ability score and increasing the XP requirements are viable options, although not that attractive, and the other ideas are much harder to implement. Maybe using the spheres system from ADnD 2nd Ed, but that is a lot of trouble. In any case, with divine spell casters there is a lesser need to rely on game mechanics, as one can always say that the gods only bestow their gifts over their most zealous followers and require any divine caster to act accordingly or be subject to losing his/her powers.

Please, share your opinions freely.

ShneekeyTheLost
2012-11-20, 05:02 PM
A more effective way might be:

* Limit the ways a caster can DC stack (for example, when you can get DC's so high that no one can make the save except on a natural 20, then Save or Lose effect spells are just win buttons)

* Limit the ways a caster can recover spells. Things like Rope Trick and MMM make magic able to go 'nova' because they can just recover them safely and without interruption and go on about their business.

* Limit the ways a caster can replace other archetypes. For example, with a summoner, you don't need a party tank, because you have disposable tanks at your beck and call. Polymorph likewise obviates needing a tank when you can turn into a melee-monster that can still cast spells. Knock obviates needing a rogue for opening locks.

* Limit the ways a caster can break the action economy. Imbue Familiar with SLA, Celerity, Contingency... they allow a caster to take more actions in a turn, and thus be able to do more per turn than any other class.

You see, here's the problems with your suggestions:

* Every caster already has an insanely high casting stat. That's one of the primary ways to stack your DC. This does nothing.

* You would need to completely revamp the CL and XP system in 3.5, otherwise they just 'ride the xp wave'.

* The most powerful mages are already specialist mages, particularly Conjurers and Transmuters, because the individual colleges are so very powerful themselves. You can do almost anything you'd want to do with Conjuration, Transmutation, and Illusion. To make this work, you'd need to re-shuffle most of the spells into different schools, or find some other method of limiting spell selection fairly.

* Casting times and material components are a joke, with plenty of ways to bypass or work around them. You'd need to eliminate them. Unfortunately, you'd also VASTLY increase the bookwork necessary to play a caster if you have to keep track of every piece of bat guano and beeswax you have in your inventory.

Dust Bunny
2012-11-20, 05:12 PM
Two words: combat penalties.

In any situation where magic is required, where mages have to stand still, audibly chant, and/or perform complex gestures, they're having to do at the expense of their situational awareness and ability to dodge. This means they have to have a meat-shield whose sole job is protecting them, or they're likely to suddenly sprout arrows in inconvenient places.

Other ideas: enforcing the GP cost and training time for leveling; heavy punitive taxes or licensing on mages, social disapproval (which could express itself with the occasional angry mob around the mage's brownstone), or XP cost for cast spells.

Jeraa
2012-11-21, 11:50 AM
As it is, magic is too ingrained in the system to change it much. You would be better off dropping D&D entirely, and just using a different rules set. I prefer the Conan d20 rules, and you can always houserule things back in to make it more "D&D" (like adding in non-human races to Conan d20, and some battle magic).



My ideas so far have been the following:

Requiring a minimum ability score to become a magic-user;

Already exists (kind of). You must have at least 10 + spell level in the appropriate ability score to cast a spell. Clerics need 15 wisdom to cast 5th level spells, wizards need 19 intelligence to cast 9th level spells.


Increasing the XP requirements to level up as a magic-user;

Bad idea. Everything is tied to a characters level. Spellcasting needs to be turned down, not hit points, skills, feats, wealth by level, and everything else.

Plus, it messes up multiclassing. How much experience is needed for a wizard to become a Wizard x/Fighter 1? Because if spellcasters use different XP tables, then it would have to be different then the XP he needs to become a Wizard X+1.

Seharvepernfan
2012-11-21, 05:16 PM
Check out the link in my sig. It made magic far less powerful but still a valid option. It's also a much more intuitive and symmetrical system. Waaaay less paperwork.

Veklim
2012-11-21, 06:21 PM
I find it amusing that the things you speak of doing to 'nerf' arcanists basically boil down to using AD&D rules...there's an irony there I'm sure!

Weltall_BR
2012-11-22, 04:50 AM
I find it amusing that the things you speak of doing to 'nerf' arcanists basically boil down to using AD&D rules...there's an irony there I'm sure!

In part, it is no coincidence...


You must have at least 10 + spell level in the appropriate ability score to cast a spell. Clerics need 15 wisdom to cast 5th level spells, wizards need 19 intelligence to cast 9th level spells.

Requiring a minimum ability score for a class makes multiclassing harder. And would have an effect in the overall picture of the setting; the PCs can have a high intelligence, but it would rule out most of the average folk. So it has effect both in game and in flavour.


You would be better off dropping D&D entirely, and just using a different rules set.

Yeah, I'm seriously considering either Labyrinth Lord of ADnD 1st Ed.


* You would need to completely revamp the CL and XP system in 3.5, otherwise they just 'ride the xp wave'.

True, this doesn't work in 3/3.5.


Check out the link in my sig. It made magic far less powerful but still a valid option. It's also a much more intuitive and symmetrical system. Waaaay less paperwork.

Took a quick look at it. I think spell points are a good idea, but they don't necessarily level magic down. I would have to look at it thoroughly to get a better idea of your system.

Xuc Xac
2012-11-22, 06:02 AM
Requiring a minimum ability score to become a magic-user;
Allowing only specialist magic-users (as magic is harder to master, being a generalist is not an option); and



I think it would be interesting to combine these two. For example, a wizard needs (10 +Spell Level) in INT to understand and cast a spell and another attribute based on the school of the spell. A generalist wizard would suffer from MAD like a monk, so most wizards would naturally gravitate to one or two schools.

You could justify any attribute for any school. It just depends on the fluff you make up for your world and how you want to balance the schools. You could say Abjurers need high WIS to be alert for danger and plan their defenses or high DEX for an intuitive understanding of dodging and avoiding danger or CON to use the principle of contagion to transfer their physical toughness to their magical barriers, etc.

Seharvepernfan
2012-11-22, 07:29 PM
Took a quick look at it. I think spell points are a good idea, but they don't necessarily level magic down. I would have to look at it thoroughly to get a better idea of your system.

Make sure you look at the whole "magically focused" thing, and each classes' "spellcasting" section. Also, each spell has been reworked, most of them scale with level. Many have been combined - but each spellcaster only gets so many known spells.

Friv
2012-11-22, 07:36 PM
I believe it has been suggested in places that the fastest and simplest way to downgrade the primary casters (wizards, clerics, druids and sorcerers in core) is to slow down magic progression across the board by making it take three levels to gain a new spell level instead of two.

So you get Level 1 spells at Level 1, but Level 2 spells at Level 4, Level 3 spells at Level 7, Level 4 spells at Level 10, Level 5 spells at Level 13, Level 6 spells at Level 16, Level 7 spells at Level 19, and Level 8-9 spells never.

You also have to make a slight change to the rate at which spells are gained, since now you have dead levels every three levels that you probably want a slight gain to be in. You want it set up so that spells per day don't change much, only spell levels.

(Obviously, you would need to decide if similar revisions would need to happen to bards, paladins, and rangers.)

the_david
2012-11-24, 04:20 AM
E6 would be a possibility.
The Giant discovered that D20 modern can be a good fix.
You might want to try the Legend System by Rule of Cool, it's free.

And I'm out of ideas, unless you want to go for some non d20 system.

Thinker
2012-11-24, 10:19 AM
Here's a fix if you want magic to be rare, difficult to acquire, and suboptimal.


Remove all base spell casting classes.
Add prestige classes that are inaccessible until level 5. Requirements:

Spellcraft 5 ranks.
Charisma 15 and either Intelligence or Wisdom 15, depending on PrC.
Ability to speak Draconic.

Remove all spells that are 6th spell level or higher.
Scale PrC spellcasting classes to use spell level 1 - 5.
Make each spell casting PrC only use a single domain or school of magic.
Restrict spell list to core only.
Remove polymorph line of spells (including alter self). Remove any spells that only affect self.
Save or X spells changed so that they require a full round action to complete casting and if they are attacked, damaged, lose sight on target, or distracted in any way the spell fizzles.
Make all divination spells require an entire day to cast and only allow them to see up to hours/level into the future and 100 feet/level in an area.
Only allow wands and scrolls to be used with UMD, whether the caster knows the spell or not (do not give casters UMD as a class skill).
Allow DR to apply to spells.
Make divine casting restricted by spell failure chance.

Veklim
2012-11-24, 01:16 PM
Or just stipulate all casters must chew off a body part whenever they cast! :smallwink:

Seriously though, that's maybe a little much the other way...certainly nerfs casting though. Trouble is, the Ranger becomes one of the best casters in the game that way, which is both highly odd and highly amusing!

Thinker
2012-11-24, 01:51 PM
Or just stipulate all casters must chew off a body part whenever they cast! :smallwink:

Seriously though, that's maybe a little much the other way...certainly nerfs casting though. Trouble is, the Ranger becomes one of the best casters in the game that way, which is both highly odd and highly amusing!

These suggestions do not exclude paladins, rangers, bards, beguilers, duskblades, or any other class that is a base class and casts spells :smallwink:

RossN
2012-11-24, 03:51 PM
How about limiting the number of schools a wizard has access too based on level? Say a 1st level wizard can only choose spells from three schools (say Illusion, Necromancy and Conjuration to pick three at random) and adds another school every four levels.

This means most wizards will have magic, but not the endless variety vanilla wizards have access to. You might want to choose to restrict a particular school with very powerful spells to reach a minimum level.

Thomar_of_Uointer
2012-11-24, 06:50 PM
How about limiting the number of schools a wizard has access too based on level? Say a 1st level wizard can only choose spells from three schools (say Illusion, Necromancy and Conjuration to pick three at random) and adds another school every four levels.

This means most wizards will have magic, but not the endless variety vanilla wizards have access to. You might want to choose to restrict a particular school with very powerful spells to reach a minimum level.

Pathfinder makes casters use two spell slots to cast prohibited spells (rather than banning them entirely). One option could be to make specialist wizards treat ALL of their non-favored schools that way. Something similar could be done with divine casters and domains. This massively balances prepared casters.

Zale
2012-11-29, 03:04 PM
Normally, I wouldn't suggest skill checks, but recently someone suggested something interesting in a thread.

Instead of skill-check-or-fail, perhaps it could be skill-check-or-suck.

Each school has an skill named after itself, which is only used for these skill checks (And perhaps to add a bonus to spellcraft when working with the school).

When a mage casts a spell, they have to pass a the skill check for the spell's associated school, or it is weakened.

Perhaps reduced CL, DC, Duration, Effect: This would require modification of many spells.