View Full Version : Hyper-Vancian Magic

2007-08-24, 05:25 AM
This came out of Rich Burlew's comments about "Low Magic, High Fantasy" settings, which resemble Tolkien in that it's rare for people to cast spells, but the results can be awesome when they do. I was thinking about how to model this in game mechanics, and I came up with this: no-one can cast any spell more than once in their lifetime, even with scrolls and wands and suchlike. Cast fireball once, and you're permanently banned from ever casting it again. This would make casting spells less frequent, require a little lateral thinking, and severely weaken wizards and sorcerors. I'd balance it a little by opening up the spell selection - choose any number of spells of your appropriate level, just don't repeat them. In a setting like this I'd make magic items extremely rare, hence weakening the higher-level non-casting classes too. I'd also make low-level casters somewhat tougher so they don't all get killed by housecats while dithering over which spells to use up. Any thoughts?

2007-08-24, 06:15 AM
I'd also make low-level casters somewhat tougher so they don't all get killed by housecats while dithering over which spells to use up. Any thoughts?

That's already a reasonable worry. I like the idea, but how do you define magic? Arcane? Divine? Monk's Ki abilities?

2007-08-24, 06:26 AM
That does accomplish the rarity of spellcasting, but it doesn't make it any more impressive. If anything, it reduces the power of spellcasters to the point that they are easily beaten by other classes (especially rogues.) It makes it so the wizard in his tower could be beaten by a simple war of attrition--if he casts enough spells, he's useless.

The way I usually model low magic, high fantasy is usually the Traditional Way: casters are barred to PCs, there's very few magic items, but you might run into a high-level sorcerer or wizard--and without the use of magic items, they are very frightening, indeed. Unfortunately, this still suffers from problems of scale. That is, a low-level sorcerer used as the villain for an adventuring party in a low-magic setting isn't likely to invoke the reaction you'd hope for (they're more likely to say 'great, a wizard' rather than 'someone with magic--we're screwed!').

The way to make magic rare is to make magic-users rare. In Tolkien's fantasy, the people who can cast spells are unquestionably powerful. It's really difficult to imagine a low-level Sauron, or a low-level Gandalf, or even a low-level Luthien. Low-magic, high fantasy worlds are usually defined by people who are simply born to greatness.

So essentially, the way to make a low-magic, high-fantasy game as you described is to make spellcasters rare, but increase their power. My suggestion is to make the save DCs a lot higher, so there is a severely diminished likelihood of any low-level characters being able to stand up even to a second-level bard's charm person effect. Consider giving casters access to more and/or higher-level spells at lower levels, because ray of frost doesn't scale well with a DC 20 charm person, especially if you're in a low-magic campaign (so probably not so many magical beasts and monsters).

2007-08-24, 06:30 AM
I pray you mean Saruman, not Sauron, Dark Lord. Because there is a huge difference. Maybe not in that example, but still...

2007-08-24, 06:51 AM
This is quite punishing on to spellcasters... extremely.
To balance out how much you are hurting them for - how about these additions:
Cast as a sorcerer, every spell is known. (of course, each spell still can only be cast once).
Save DCs increased by at least 5. Possibly more. You have one chance to use a given spell - it better work.
At each level they can 'replenish' 1 spell. Maybe more.
Cantrips (0 level spells) - they can cast twice as many per day, and do not fall under this rule.
At 5th level and every 2 levels thereafter, the spellcaster can choose 1 favored spell that is at least 2 levels below their max spell level. They can use this spell as many times as they want during their lifetime (though are still limited to spells per day).

-- Mind, balance to spellcasters shouldn't come in the form of making them not playable...

2007-08-24, 07:37 AM
make a generic 'spell caster' base class with few (and by 'few' i mean, 'almost none') spells to him, but he can cast it at will or a great number of times per day, and also he can cast as a sorcerer. Make him a secondary skill monkey and with a poor attack/damage potencial, then create a 'wizard' or 'sorcerer' PrC that have high prerequisites and with absurd powers. Wait, I will make a exemple.


As the Spellcaster (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/classes/genericClasses.htm#spellcaster), with the folowing diferences:

Spells per day
0: +50% the normal; 1st: the normal for the class; 2-6: 1/3 (rounded down, min 1) the normal for the class level; 7-9: 3 spell slot to be shared with those 3 spell levels.

Spells know
0: normal; 1-6th: (Int bonus+level)/2 spells know, that must be shared with all those spell levels and your highest spell level must have less spells know than the previous level; 7-9th: can't learn, must research those spells.

6+Int mod. All knowledge skills are class skills, any craft, bluff, diplomacy, profession, search, appraise, concentration, dechiper script, sense motive, speak language, use magic device, spell craft.

Bonus Feat
Can't take any metamagic feat.

Draw from the sorcerer/wizard spell list, but with the folowing diferences:
0: Prestidigitation last for Level x4 min.
1st: Endure Elements, Mage Armor duration effects are *sustentable; Mount instead of summoning, it calls one willingly horse or apropriate mount in level x 200m radius to serve you as a mount for 2 hour x level, if there are no animals that qualify for the job then the spell fails, and the animal will come with watever equipment it already have; Unseen Servant will give you (if aplicable) the bonus for aid another only one time, regardless the number of the unseen servant you have at disposal, but you still can make then perform tasks normaly as the spell description; Comprehend Languages doesn't exist; Detect Secret Doors becomes Location Insight, giving you a +10 bonus to your search check, will affect only 60 ft max radius from the point you originaly cast the spell, last while you are using the search skill and when and you acknowledge it's over (being sucefull or not) the spell effect is over.

I could give more, but the time is running. Also, when you got the PrC, just give him a lot of power, but less control than a standart wizard have to his spells.

*Sustentable: The spell last for whatever time the spell caster desire, but while the spell are active, the max number of spell per day are dropped by one for each sustentable spell active. You can have many sustentable spell actived, but that drops your (already) limited spell use a lot more limited.

2007-08-24, 07:52 AM
Take a leaf from the "Birthright" setting and make a nerfed 'magician' class.

Basically gets Divination and Illusion schools as standard and limited access to all other schools. I'd suggest 1-3 other schools (depending on how generous you feel). This allows you to make specialised signiture casters like those in myth and fairy tale (the fireball hurler, the enchantress, the necromancer) without having Batmen everywhere.

Another option: make the full casters use the bard spell progression, but keep their own spell lists. Magic that tops out at 6th level is still powerful, but a lot less overpowering at high levels.

Third option: spells/day? That's now spells/week. Quick, dirty and simple (like me :smallbiggrin: )

All the above are major nerfs for the full casters, but they alll fit a low magic game.

2007-08-24, 02:41 PM
OK, it does need some toning down. Let's say there are two types of spells. The first consist of divinations, buffs and various protective spells - nothing flashy. Our magic user can cast these without preparation and as frequently as a sorceror can. Everything else has severe restrictions. Maybe they can only be cast once in a particular caster level, so you need to level up before repeating a spell. As for types of magic, in this kind of setting a single "magic user" class seems more appropriate than the division between cleric, sorceror, and wizard. And paladins, rangers, and bards shouldn't get any spells at all.

2007-08-24, 06:12 PM
the biomage posted on the forum solves over using magic