PDA

View Full Version : "A Wizard Did It" for noncasters



Libertad
2012-12-26, 07:31 PM
The idea that "non-magic people can't replicate magic things" is what got us Caster Supremacy in 3rd Edition, and is present at high levels in earlier Editions as well (but not to the same extent). The D&D idea that noncasters can't replicate or interact with magic stuff, or that doing so breaks suspension of disbelief, needs to be shelved in order to encourage viable non-magical classes at high levels.

In D&D, magic is part of the world. It permeates the planes and interacts with people on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. A person without magic to a spellcaster is like someone without sight: limited, and does tasks the spellcaster performs routinely with great difficulty (or not all). Through training, a blind person can make up for the loss of sight, but it would take lots of work and even then he can't discern details which require vision. Animals with poor eyesight use echolocation and can maneuver around their environment, but they still can't see. It is expected in fantasy fiction for magic to be more powerful and "beyond" the "Muggles."

"A Wizard Did It" is a very common excuse in fantasy games, used to justify all manner of stuff which we won't do with non-magic stuff. I propose a second thing to go alongside this: "She's Just That Good."

I've talked about on another site about letting D&D characters replicate magical effects through skill and talent. I once said that a smart character might be able to replicate divination spells through planning, investigation, and deductive reasoning.

Here's an example, from the shoot-em-up Anime Black Lagoon. (http://youtu.be/VSUZvfIfRfg?t=4m18s)

Eda's (the nun with sunglasses) plan is pretty much guesswork and theory based upon the motivations of the runaway girl and the criminals, reinforced through some careful planning beforehand. She has no guarantee that the thugs will approach the girl and chase after her in such a way, but it happens according to plan. In a way, her recollection of events is similar to the Augury and Scry spells, and can be replicated this way in D&D.

"But wait, Libertad, couldn't PCs normally do this through player skill, by manually planning out such steps?"

Yes, but it should be a special ability with game mechanics. Lots of times we play PCs who are smarter, wiser, and more well-spoken than we are. Additionally, making players think up of plans the normal way makes it reliant upon DM Fiat. Giving a Sherlock Holmes PC Divination-like abilities both reinforces the character concept, and gives the player a useful option when he can't think up a plan the old-fashioned way.

For more "physical" effects, there's Samurai Jack in the episode "Jump Good," where he trains among a civilization of sapient primates to jump so high that he might as well be flying. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uwbqr2UjeSg)

The Barbarian claps his hands together to make a cone-shaped sonic attack because he's just that strong.

Samurai Jack can jump really high because he's just that skilled at jumping.

Eda the Nun can make assumptions about the actions of people who are not immediately present because she's just that good at deductive reasoning.

"But this sounds like magic!" Right. That's exactly the point. Mimicking spell-like abilities is all fine and dandy, and we need this kind of stuff in D&D to encourage people to play noncasters, especially at high levels.

How did they breed an Owlbear? A Wizard Did It.

How does Sherlock Holmes know that the ground beneath him concealed a secret tunnel? He's Just That Good.

Wyntonian
2012-12-26, 08:10 PM
I like this in concept, but I feel like there could be a lot of annoying overlap. Classes should feel distinct from each other, and it would be easy to give your Samurai Jack-esque character Fly at-will and call it "real good jumping", but it wouldn't feel like your character is "just that good", it would feel like you're a wizard with one spell.

Of course there are others ways to do the same thing, which is what I'm advocating for.

JoshuaZ
2012-12-26, 08:42 PM
To some extent, maneuvers/ToB do this for some combat purposes. I don't know of any mechanical proposal to do this sort of thing for situations like the nun example. It might be possible to refluff some of the factotum abilities as relevant . The capstone of this version of the Oracle may (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=236534) do something similar. The general idea is certainly interesting.

ngilop
2012-12-26, 09:05 PM
You can look in our own world mythology and historical tales.
Heracles sundered a mountain to get teh the underworld.

Beowulf ripped grendels arm off and beta him to death with it and soloed a big arse dragon

Archbuship turpin killed 400 saracens by himself before shattering his lance

not to mention all the crazyness that Rolad did..

and then there is what El Cid did.

tome past level 7 what a D&D mundane can do is beyond what us real humans can do in the real world.

at id say at 12th level or so that is when the abilities should start bordering on the supernatural. like how I gave Fighter's in my Quick and Dirty fix ( well originally i was quick and dirty but it sense has grown a bit more)

Heroic Surge {Ex:} At 19th level a Fighter can surge forth, as a swift action, in a burst of grace, speed and power a numer of times per day equal to his consitution modifier. This surge acts like the spell Time Stop, except nothing is immune to your attacks.

thats the kinda badarsery id expect form a 19th level fighter.

Slipperychicken
2012-12-27, 06:19 AM
A Scientist Did It.

God Did It.

Nature Spirits Did It.

Consensus Reality Did It. (Like Warhammer's "Ork Resource": WAAAGH!)

Dr Who Did It. (The guy's just a reflavored/reskinned wizard. He even has a magic wand.)

JellyPooga
2012-12-27, 12:10 PM
I like this in concept, but I feel like there could be a lot of annoying overlap. Classes should feel distinct from each other

This is my take on the OP, too. Being a high level non-magical character should indeed make people turn around and say "she's just that good", but I don't think this should be modelled by replicating spell effects, especially if it's going to use a "uses per day" mechanic. Being that good isn't something that you fire-and-forget, it's something inherently badass and should be repeatable at will. There is an argument that fatigue or what-have-you might be a limiting factor, but there's very little in the way of fatigue as a mechanic...after all, assuming he's never hit (thus doesn't run out of HP), there's nothing (RAW) stopping a Fighter from swinging his sword all day. Why should his more impressive badassery at higher levels be any different?

KitTheOdd
2012-12-27, 07:40 PM
I like the idea. It is similar to one of things I love about the Factotum - he can do ANYTHING, why? "Because I'm Just That Smart."

Dimers
2012-12-27, 08:32 PM
A lot of existing bard abilities fit this idea. She's just that good at inspiring/charming/shrieking/knowing. The _________ Lorecall spells from Complete Adventurer and Spell Compendium fit, too. High-level noncasters could gain the benefits of Lorecall spells constantly to represent their skillful awesomeness.

Milo v3
2012-12-28, 02:25 AM
With my fighter fix on these forums I gave them the ability to non-magically enchant any weapon they hold. Basically, a Wizard Did It for the Fighter.

Waker
2012-12-30, 03:03 PM
This is my take on the OP, too. Being a high level non-magical character should indeed make people turn around and say "she's just that good", but I don't think this should be modelled by replicating spell effects, especially if it's going to use a "uses per day" mechanic. Being that good isn't something that you fire-and-forget, it's something inherently badass and should be repeatable at will. There is an argument that fatigue or what-have-you might be a limiting factor, but there's very little in the way of fatigue as a mechanic...
You could have the ability refresh at the start of an encounter, similar to Inspiration Points like a Factotum. Say that you can use Monumental Strength 3/encounter or whatever. That way you can reuse the powers a number of times throughout the day, but you can't spam it non-stop in a fight.

Flickerdart
2012-12-30, 04:43 PM
Part of what makes badasses badass is that when the going gets tough, they can break their limits for a one-time burst of power (though sometimes, they get strong enough to reach that power level consistently later, and get a new limited-use power). I can see that as a justification for limited-use abilities.

The issue, as I see it, is this - heroes tend to be "just that good" at only one or two things. Holmes is "that good" at investigations, Beowulf is "that good" at fighting monsters. But Holmes can only fight within human limits, and Beowulf isn't exactly a match for Holmes' intellect. Meanwhile, a caster that picks up a damage spell and a divination spell can now do both things.

Meeting halfway is a good idea - after all, traditional heroes tend to be clever as well as expert warriors, and Holmes was at the top of his game in martial arts. One really distinctive power that isn't useful all the time, and an array of lesser abilities that have a breadth rather than depth of application, is probably a good approach to this sort of thing.

Alejandro
2012-12-30, 04:55 PM
Part of what makes badasses badass is that when the going gets tough, they can break their limits for a one-time burst of power (though sometimes, they get strong enough to reach that power level consistently later, and get a new limited-use power). I can see that as a justification for limited-use abilities.

The issue, as I see it, is this - heroes tend to be "just that good" at only one or two things. Holmes is "that good" at investigations, Beowulf is "that good" at fighting monsters. But Holmes can only fight within human limits, and Beowulf isn't exactly a match for Holmes' intellect. Meanwhile, a caster that picks up a damage spell and a divination spell can now do both things.

Meeting halfway is a good idea - after all, traditional heroes tend to be clever as well as expert warriors, and Holmes was at the top of his game in martial arts. One really distinctive power that isn't useful all the time, and an array of lesser abilities that have a breadth rather than depth of application, is probably a good approach to this sort of thing.

Movie Holmes does. Literary Holmes' favorite weapon, when he fights at all, is a hunting crop, or having Watson threaten to shoot someone. :)

Waker
2012-12-30, 05:02 PM
Movie Holmes does. Literary Holmes' favorite weapon, when he fights at all, is a hunting crop, or having Watson threaten to shoot someone. :)
Holmes is a gifted boxer and practitioner of baritsu, Watson says he's a master of single stick (cane) and in "Adventure of the Speckled Band" he straightens a bent fire poker. The biggest thing that the movie got wrong is that Holmes disdains combat unless he is forced to, preferring to let Watson do the heavy lifting.

Flickerdart
2012-12-30, 09:17 PM
Movie Holmes does. Literary Holmes' favorite weapon, when he fights at all, is a hunting crop, or having Watson threaten to shoot someone. :)
Wrong. Holmes was skilled (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes#Weapons_and_martial_arts) with cane, sword, riding crop, fisticuffs, baritsu, and has used pistols on more than one occasion.

Libertad
2013-01-06, 04:31 PM
I created several examples of "Just That Good" abilities on rpg.net. I'll reprint them here. (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?670302-Noncaster-quot-Wizard-Did-It-quot-Thread-Split-Off-quot-She-s-Just-That-Good-quot)

I Know You're Hiding: A warrior must be keenly aware of hidden threats, be they assassins on the rooftops or wraiths in the Ethereal Plane. The warrior (such as a Barbarian or Fighter) gains the means of perceiving opponents with complete cover (such as behind a wall or invisible)as though they lacked these qualities within a certain radius (say 30 to 60 feet). This ability is most appropriate for Barbarians, Fighters, and Rangers.

No. Jump Good: The grasshopper and the tick can clear distances many times their own body length. The Thri-Kreen can perfect this ability as well. By studying these beings, or through simple trial and error, you have learned to replicate their abilities with such perfection that you may as well be flying. You gain a Fly speed (30-60 feet) for one round, and must be on solid ground to use this ability. If you end your turn in mid-air, you begin falling. Also, you've learned to minimize impact from deadly heights, and become immune to falling damage. This is most appropriate for Rogues/Thieves, Rangers, Monks, and athletically-inclined classes.

Knowing What I Know About Him, He'll Do This: Roll an appropriate check (usually an Intelligence or investigation-related skill) when contemplating an individual's course of action. You gain the Scrying ability against this person, and can describe the events happening to your companions as you "theorize" possibilities. Or you can keep it to yourself.

Snap Out of It!: You give several words of scorn and criticism to somebody under mental control. Roll an appropriate check (usually social and Charisma-related). If successful, the mental effect ends and the subject regains his autonomy. Once you get past a certain level of skill, you can use this against multiple targets, even entire legions of mind-slaves. This is most appropriate for Fighters, Knights, Paladins, and "leader of men" style archetypes.

Deflect Spells: Spells such as rays, balls of fire, and magic missiles are but projectiles which can be directed off course via physical exertion. Roll an appropriate check (a combat-related one). If successful, the spell rebounds off of your weapon in a direction of your choosing. At a certain level of skill, you can interpose yourself in the line of fire of nearby targets and redirect spells aimed at them, effectively acting as a "shield" for allies. This is most appropriate for defense-focused and duelist archetypes.

Master of Lies: Some people lie so often and effortlessly can they can fool even divination spells. They do this through a mental defense mechanism of self-deception where they convince themselves that what is false is true. In addition to traditional forms of resistance (saving throws and magic items), you can beat divination spells with a successful check (deception-related) and give out false information. The spellcaster will believe that the spell was successful, and you can choose what information appears ("Fafnir is staying at home, far away from the castle's vault"). You can even do this when dead, such as Speak With Dead spells cast upon your corpse (fooling people from beyond the grave!). This is most appropriate for Rogues/Thieves.

The Animal Whisperer: You've spent so much time learning the ways of the wild that you can understand the speech of beasts. You are under a continuous Speak With Animals (or the Edition's equivalent) spell. Past a certain level of expertise, you can now speak with plants, insects and vermin, and even the stones! This ability is most appropriate for Barbarians and Rangers.

Gap In the Armor: With a successful check (perception-based), the character notices a weak spot in an opponent's armor or thick hide, and can ignore armor-related bonuses for the next attacks made this round. At higher levels of expertise he can point the weak spot out to his allies, and they can gain this benefit as well.

Scale the Colossus: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKwicRloCxo) As part of his movement, the character can move up in "mid-air" squares adjacent to the opponent, provided he has either a free limb capable of manipulation or is able to use his legs.

Simple Minds Are So Predictable: One knowledgeable in the workings of animals, golems, and other simple-minded creatures is capable of manipulating them by playing off of their programs and instincts. The character can use interaction skills on low Intelligence and mindless creatures.

I've Got Just the Right Thing: You've got a backpack, tool belt, or other all-purpose utility gear filled to brim with knickknacks and gears. A certain amount of times per day, you can pull out a small, handheld object worth 50 gp or less. Or a potion with a Caster Level equal to your Character Level minus 2. At higher levels of expertise the GP value increases, and other limited-use magic items are added to the list of possible items.

JoshuaZ
2013-01-06, 05:29 PM
These are very interesting. I'm worried about "]Knowing What I Know About Him, He'll Do This" when it involves important NPCs, or the possibility of PCs using it against each other. But these seem interesting enough that I might use them for my next campaign. I'm not sure what levels they should go at (level 1 seems too low for some of these).

Edge of Dreams
2013-01-07, 02:57 AM
If you actually compare what is possible in a lot of games like D&D with just mundane skill checks and feats, He's Just That Good already exists, to a large extent.

For an (admittedly contrived) example from D&D 3.5, take a level 5 Fighter who has 18 Strength, puts max skill ranks into the Jump skill, has a masterwork tool of Jumping (some nice running shoes, perhaps?), and takes Skill Focus (Jump). He has a total Jump bonus of +17. If he takes 10, he can make a long jump of 27 feet consistently. If he decides to roll, he can make a long jump of 30 feet or more roughly 40% of the time, maxing out at 37 feet on a lucky natural 20.

The modern world record for long jump? About 29 and a half feet. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_jump#Records)

EDIT TO ADD: In my opinion, the only reason these super-human feats of lifting, jumping, sword-swinging, and so on don't seem that impressive in games like D&D is because at the same level 5 where the Fighter can break the world long-jump record, the Wizard can already cast Fly.

endoperez
2013-01-07, 03:34 AM
If you actually compare what is possible in a lot of games like D&D with just mundane skill checks and feats, He's Just That Good already exists, to a large extent.

For an (admittedly contrived) example from D&D 3.5, take a level 5 Fighter who has 18 Strength, puts max skill ranks into the Jump skill, has a masterwork tool of Jumping (some nice running shoes, perhaps?), and takes Skill Focus (Jump). He has a total Jump bonus of +17. If he takes 10, he can make a long jump of 27 feet consistently. If he decides to roll, he can make a long jump of 30 feet or more roughly 40% of the time, maxing out at 37 feet on a lucky natural 20.

The modern world record for long jump? About 29 and a half feet. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_jump#Records)

EDIT TO ADD: In my opinion, the only reason these super-human feats of lifting, jumping, sword-swinging, and so on don't seem that impressive in games like D&D is because at the same level 5 where the Fighter can break the world long-jump record, the Wizard can already cast Fly.

The problem is that the spellcaster can not only Fly, but he's been able to cast Jump (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/jump.htm) from level 1. And at level 5, Jump gives a +20 bonus to the skill.

A druid can, any given day, decide to challenge the specialist in jumping, and he'll have a decent chance of beating him. At levels when the spell improves (1, 5, 9) the chance is actually pretty good. This is assuming the Druid didn't invest heavily into Strength or the skill, of course.

Grundy
2013-01-07, 07:57 AM
I like these ideas- especially since they don't directly replicate spells in DnD. They will need to come on line quickly- 3-5th level, and then scale like crazy to be effective at higher levels.
Also each character will have to have at least a handful of these powers by mid levels to avoid being a one trick pony. Spellcasters will still be way more powerful, unless you nerf their versatility. But it goes a long ways towards finding a balance between casters and martial classes (I can't call any class mundane after 4th level).

Longstrider
2013-01-07, 08:52 PM
Interestingly, these already exist in the Epic Level Handbook, which gives out ridiculous DCs for things that are impossible (examples: swimming up a waterfall, balancing on a cloud, reading thoughts with Sense Motive).

Maybe a problem with a game, in that to be as cool as a 1st level wizard your fighter needs to be 25th level...

Eulalios
2014-02-13, 11:35 AM
I created several examples of "Just That Good" abilities on rpg.net. I'll reprint them here. (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?670302-Noncaster-quot-Wizard-Did-It-quot-Thread-Split-Off-quot-She-s-Just-That-Good-quot)

'ma gonna steal this, OSR style.

TheCountAlucard
2014-02-13, 04:21 PM
Exalted's all over this - your arÍte is so great, your heroic soul makes your use of the skill magical. So a guy who's as strong in his athletics skill as the sorcerer guy can't summon a kraken made of magma, but when he puts enough effort behind it, he can jump clear over the horizon.

Or the medic in the team can purge the plague from someone's system with a series of rapid strikes to his or her chakras. Or the talker on the team can convince an entire society to lay aside their old ways.

Cikomyr
2014-02-13, 06:55 PM
I think a big problem for noncasters is that casters can just steal their spotlights.

Spells like Knock, Invisibility & others are just a straight insult to the thieves, while Tenser's Transformation is the same thing for melee-based. Not to forget Bull's Strenght steal the Barbarian's point.

You could restrict spells that replicate a class's ability to make the spellcasters less of spotlight stealer. Which means you will always need heroes and thieves.

squiggit
2014-02-13, 07:46 PM
I think a big problem for noncasters is that casters can just steal their spotlights.

This is probably the biggest issue. All the amazing stuff an epic level monk or fighter or thief can do your wizard's been doing since level 10. Maybe lower. With the right memorized spells he's your best thief, your group's face and more dangerous in close quarters than your fighter. At the same time. And the worst part is that doing that would be considered a fairly crappy build.

A Scientist Did It.

God Did It.

Nature Spirits Did It.

Consensus Reality Did It. (Like Warhammer's "Ork Resource": WAAAGH!)

Dr Who Did It. (The guy's just a reflavored/reskinned wizard. He even has a magic wand.)

All of these are basically wizards though.

Erik Vale
2014-02-13, 08:21 PM
Necro thread, someone please call a mod.
I don't know how.

Lord Raziere
2014-02-13, 08:26 PM
"Just That Good" eh?

I recommend Solar Exalted for inspiration. as well as anything Exalted takes as inspiration, such as Conan the Cimmerian.

also, think of action movie heroes and all the stupid stuff they pull off. that cowboy action hero can shoot anything with perfect accuracy because..."They're Just That Good".

and Batman, even without his tech, is a guy who knows all languages, is trained in multiple martial arts, has intelligence beyond compare, perfectly capable of being persuasive when he needs to be, and can escape from any bonds without needing his utility belt. I actually find it ironic that DnD optimizers refer to the optimal wizard build as "The Batman Wizard" when Batman himself would hate the appellation, as he doesn't trust or use magic, and would likely say its more of a "Green Lantern Wizard", especially when you get into Wish shenanigans, and then go play a Rogue. He is really is Just That Good, even when he has no tech to call upon. I would also recommend anime and wuxia, but I'm afraid the thread would devolve into yet another "me no want martial arts in my fantasy!" thread.

Eldest
2014-02-13, 08:35 PM
Necro thread, someone please call a mod.
I don't know how.

The small triangle with the ! in it in the bottom left corner of every post.