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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Modular Spell / Psychic system - too fiddly?

    I'm looking to make a psychic power / spell system for a game sytems I've been working on for a while, and I really want it to be modular - i.e. you make your effects up out of bits, rather than choosing from a fixed list of spells - but I'm worried it will be too fiddly to use.

    I'm going to post here the frame work for the modular system, hoping that you lovely pewople will let me know if it's too clunky, confusing or whatever.

    Spoiler: System notes
    Show
    The system it will fit in is a d20-based system. I'm not really looking for advice on these aspects of the system (so they're here in the spoiler), but it may have a baring on your understanding of the Power system.

    • Task checks for characters will be Ability mod + Skill mod + Other mod + 1d20.
    • I'm reducing all adjustments in my game to "Minor" (+/-2), "Major" (+/-4), or "Extreme" (+/-8).
    • "Vitality" is an intangible life-force that not only powers spychic effects, but acts sort like HP in D&D. Starting characters will have average of about 8 Vitality (VP), gaining about 4 per level. Only characters with heroic class levels will have any Vitality.
    • There are 6 character levels.

      It is of course based on the Pathfinder "Words of Power" system, but far more open, and not intended for use in parallel with other spell / psychic systems. It'll be the only system in my game.


    Introduction

    We use some special terms for Psychic powers, so here's an introduction to the ideas. Each will be expanded on in its own section below.

    Psychic powers are grouped into Disciplines. Your Psychic character will start knowing only one Discipline, and learn other with experience.

    Each Discipline has Tiers of rising power. Beyond the Base Tier, there are 3 Tiers. The Base Tier and Tier 1 are available as soon as you learn the Discipline. Higher Tiers are opened up as you gain Psychic levels.

    When you use a psychic power, we call it Manifesting. It usually costs you some Vitality to Manifest powers. You will be able to Manifest some psychic powers for free - that is, without any Vitality cost - as you gain levels.

    You can Boost a power that you Manifest beyond the effect of the Tier - we call this the Manifest Level. If you don't Boost the power, then the Manifest Level is the same as the Tier (treating the Base Tier as Manifest Level 0). This is how we work out how much Vitality it costs you to Manifest the power. As you gain levels, the lower Manifest Levels will be free to Manifest.

    Ranges

    The target's distance from the psychic determines how easily the effect may be avoided. Ranges are Close (no adjustment), Medium (Minor adjustment), Long (Major adjustment) and Extreme (Extreme adjustment). You can always apply an effect to yourself if you want.

    The adjustment is applied as a penalty to your attack roll against the target, and a bonus to the target's saving throw (if any).

    It is also applied as a penalty to your Concentration check to maintain an effect at range when you are distracted. In this case the current range to the target of the effect is taken into account (not that range when you initially manifested the effect).

    Ranges are listed as “Close / Medium / Long - Extreme”, where anything up to the first number is the Close range, between Close and the next number is Medium range, between Medium and the next is long range, and between Long and the last number is the Extreme range. You cannot manifest effects beyond the extreme range.

    • Thrown
      • Effects thrown by hand. Certain abilities may increase this range, just as for thrown weapons.
      • Range: 20 / 40 / 80-120 ft


    • Personal
      • Effects that require mental contact or sight of the target's face are classed as “personal” effects. Beyond these ranges it is too hard to discern the features of the target to use such effects.
      • Range: 20 / 40 / 80-120 ft

    • Sight
      • Effects that require the mere sight of the target have a longer range.
      • Range: 300 / 600 / 1200-2400 ft

    • Indirect
      • Effects targeting areas have the longest ranges.
      • Range: 900 / 1800 / 3600-7200 ft (or 300 / 600 / 1200-2400 yards)




    Effects

    Effects are arranged in Disciplines, Tiers and Manifest Levels.

    The effect's Discipline shows what sort of effect it is - what it works on and the kind of things you can do with it, like manipulating fire, or reading minds.

    The effect's Tier is a measure of its basic power, before you boost it. You start out only being able to work with the Base Tier and Tier 1 effects of a Group, but your experience as a Psychic unlocks higher Tiers as you progress.

    The Manifest Level of an effect is the power of the effect after all the boosting you apply to it. The Manifest Level dictates how much Vitality you must expend on the effect.

    Here we'll explain each of these terms further as well as Boosting effects.

    Disciplines

    Effects are grouped according to how they operate - Cognition is the sensing and influence of hidden and distant things, Corporeal deals with the physical body, Kinesis deals with the control of energies, and Mental is the detection and influence of other's minds.

    You start out knowing only one Discipline of effects. As you gain Psychic class levels, you learn new Disciplines and may use their effects too. You will never know all four Disciplines, however.


    Tiers

    Each group includes effects of different applications. The power of effects increases as you gain experience. Each effect has a Basic power, and three higher Tiers of increasing power. We refer to the Base effect, and the Tier 1, 2 and 3 effects. The maximum Tier of effect that you can manifest is governed by your level.

    Psychic class level Disciplines known Discipline tier maximum Free manifest level
    1 1st 1st: 1 0th
    2 - 1st: 2 1
    3 2nd 1st: 3; 2nd: 1 1
    4 - 1st: 3; 2nd: 2 2
    5 3rd 1st: 3; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 1 2
    6 - 1st: 3; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 2 3

    Disciplines known: The number of Disciplines you understand and have access to. You cannot use effects from other Disciplines until you have learned them.

    Discipline Tier maximum: The highest Tier effect that you can manifest. You can Boost the Tier to a higher Manifest Level, but you cannot use the higher Tier effects until you have gained more experience.

    Free Manifest Level
    : Effects above this Manifest Level cost 1VP per Manifest Level. However, note that Boosting the number of effect dice always includes a Vitality cost - see Manifest Level.


    Manifest Level

    Effects may be Boosted to make them more useful. The Base effect is the weakest of all, and may only be manifested for yourself - a flame appears in your hand, or you gain an empathic insight, or whatever. Boosting an effect allows you instead to target an area or a person, or to increase the power of the effect.

    When you Boost an effect, you increases the Manifest Level. The Manifest Level of an effect is either the same as the Tier (if you haven't Boosted it at all), or the Boosted level - for example, a Tier 1 effect boosted to affect a 10ft Cone area becomes a Manifest Level 2 effect.

    Boosts may include one or more of the following:

    • Direct Targeting - this increases the range of the effect, and allows you to target one or more creatures or objects
    • Area Effect - the effect manifests in an area chosen by you (a burst, cone, line or wall - see below), and all creatures in the area are effected by it. The area may be at range, or emanate from you.
    • Increased Effect - the number of dice rolled to determine the effect is increased. It costs 1VP per additional die.



    Your maximum Manifest Level is only limited by your current Psychic ability score, and your ability to pay the Vitality cost. You may manifest effects up to your Psychic ability score -10: so if your Psychic ability is Intelligence, and your Intelligence score is 16, you may use effects up to Manifest Level 6 - or if your Intelligence is 20, you may produce effects up to Manifest Level 10 (assuming you have 10VP to spare).

    Example power: Manifest flame

    Manifest flame

    You can manifest a flame in your hand. The flame does not harm you. The flame may be used to make a melee touch attack, or thrown. At higher levels, the flame may be manipulated into area effects, or may be manifested directly on a target or targets.
    • Base (Tier 0):
    • Touch or thrown The flame deals 1d6 (+ psychic ability adjustment) damage on a successful melee or ranged touch attack.
    • Tier 1:
    • Touch or thrown The flame deals 1d8 (+ psychic ability adjustment) damage on a successful melee or ranged touch attack.
    • Tier 2:
    • Touch or thrown The flame deals 1d10 (+ psychic ability adjustment) damage on a successful melee or ranged touch attack.
    • Tier 3
    • Touch or thrown The flame deals 1d12 (+ psychic ability adjustment) damage on a successful melee or ranged touch attack.



    Boosting effects:

    Effects may be boosted beyond their Tier. Each boost raises the Manifest Level by 1. The following boosts may be applied:
    • Increased damage: The number of flame dice may increased at a cost of 1VP per additional dice beyond those listed for each Tier, at a rate of 1 additional dice per level. The die type may not be increased further.
    • Area effect: The flame may be manifested in an area - a burst, cone, line or wall.
      • Burst: a sphere of 10ft radius, centred at a point within Sight range.
      • Cone: a cone 10ft long and 10ft wide at its end, emanating from you.
      • Line: a line 20ft long, emanating from you. A line is always 5ft wide, regardless of length.
      • Wall: a plane up to 20ft on each side. A wall is always 1ft thick, regardless of size.
      • Increased areas: The area of effects may be increased 20ft per level for line and wall, and 10ft per level for cone and burst.
    • Direct target: The flame may be directly manifested on one target within Sight range.
      • Increased targets: The number of direct targets may be boosted, doubling the number of targets for each additional Manifest Level. You may boost an effect in this manner an number of times no greater than double your Psychic level - that is, twice at 1st level, 6 times at 3rd level, and so on.
    Last edited by Altair_the_Vexed; 2017-09-13 at 02:38 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Modular Spell / Psychic system - too fiddly?

    You should play test it yourself and find out if it works with your GMing style.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Modular Spell / Psychic system - too fiddly?

    Quote Originally Posted by FreddyNoNose View Post
    You should play test it yourself and find out if it works with your GMing style.
    Of course, I'm doing that in parallel with asking this of a wider group. My group of players and GMs are all highly technical types, who love a bit of modular mucking about - it makes us feel smug and clever when we put together things for ourselves.

    That's exactly why I want other people's opinions.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: Modular Spell / Psychic system - too fiddly?

    Quote Originally Posted by Altair_the_Vexed View Post
    Of course, I'm doing that in parallel with asking this of a wider group. My group of players and GMs are all highly technical types, who love a bit of modular mucking about - it makes us feel smug and clever when we put together things for ourselves.

    That's exactly why I want other people's opinions.
    I don't know your or your gming style. What one GM can make work another can not.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    HalflingRogueGuy

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    Default Re: Modular Spell / Psychic system - too fiddly?

    Me, I find complex game systems a bit hard to learn.
    Or maybe its more that I can't be bothered learning a new one unless I'm really sold on it delivering great things.

    Quote Originally Posted by FreddyNoNose View Post
    I don't know your or your gming style. What one GM can make work another can not.
    Is that because the system in the OP will only be successful with certain groups and GMs?

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Modular Spell / Psychic system - too fiddly?

    Right then, this is a bit hard to review for balance without any, well, spells/powers to work with from the different disciplines.
    I'll do what I can.

    I rather like the system of ranges, and might borrow part of it for my own.
    Casting from HP (or VP, as the case might be) is always difficult to balance generally, due to the ability to go nova.

    Boosting Effects looks very much like metamagic, with some degree of free shaping. Unfortunately, the boosts listed fall into two categories-
    -Increased damage
    -Hit more people
    There isn't a lot of room for creativity there. Manifest Flame seems overly generic as an example- I'm not clear on the benefits of having it at a higher level vs. just Boosting it?

    I actually actively dislike the degree of freedom of shaping the targetting to this degree, for reasons I'm not 100% clear on- it seems that most of the options for area modification are redundant, and PC's will just always pick the "best one" in the situation- nobody will ever pick Lightning Bolt over Fireball, essentially, unless they expect creatures with fire resistance ahead. This is mostly a gut feeling, though- take it or leave it.

    Edit: One other thing that can happen (and does IRL when the wizard knows various spells) is PCs taking several minutes trying different positions to see if they can hit their enemies but not their allies. The exponentially larger number of areas here might slow down play.
    Last edited by aimlessPolymath; 2017-09-13 at 07:09 PM.
    My one piece of homebrew: The Shaman. A Druid replacement with more powerlevel control.
    The bargain bin- malfunctioning, missing, and broken magic items.
    Spirit Barbarian: The Barbarian, with heavy elements from the Shaman. Complete up to level 17.
    The Priest: A cleric reword which ran out of steam. Still a fun prestige class suitable for E6.
    The Coward: Not every hero can fight.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Modular Spell / Psychic system - too fiddly?

    Quote Originally Posted by aimlessPolymath View Post
    Right then, this is a bit hard to review for balance without any, well, spells/powers to work with from the different disciplines.
    I'll do what I can.
    Thank you for trying to do that, but it isn't actually what I'm asking for. I really just want to know if the system seems excessively complex.

    (You can't really tell me about balance when I've not posted any other parts of the game system here.)

    Quote Originally Posted by aimlessPolymath View Post
    One other thing that can happen (and does IRL when the wizard knows various spells) is PCs taking several minutes trying different positions to see if they can hit their enemies but not their allies. The exponentially larger number of areas here might slow down play.
    So, more choice = slower play? Okay, got it - thanks.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Modular Spell / Psychic system - too fiddly?

    My point about it slowing down play was more of a side note than the real problem. I think my real reaction mas more looking at the list of options and thinking "when will I ever cast a spell as a line?". Choosing between area effects is basically the least interesting thing I could think of when it comes to augmenting powers, and feels like a poor place to put this much complexity. It's akin to having two different boosts for damage- one which lets you reroll the die when you roll a 1 or a 2 (on a d6), and another which gives a straight +1 bonus per die. There might be situations where one of them is better than the other, but both do such similar things that there's not a lot of point putting that complexity into the system.

    Similarly, there are rarely cases where there are tradeoffs between area targetting- usually, you can either hit your enemies without hitting allies, or not, and your choice of area effect won't matter. In the rare cases where it does (or looks like it does), play will slow down, but whether the benefit of having those interesting decisions is worth the cost in game time and system complexity is up to you.


    The actual system for casting is very straightforwards, maybe too much so- both Boosts available really boil down to "more/bigger of the same", forcing a lot of creative pressure on the spell list. I'm rarely going to make decisions other than "boost damage as much is as mathematically useful" and "hit all the enemies and no allies, if I can (in what could take up to a minute to work out)".
    My one piece of homebrew: The Shaman. A Druid replacement with more powerlevel control.
    The bargain bin- malfunctioning, missing, and broken magic items.
    Spirit Barbarian: The Barbarian, with heavy elements from the Shaman. Complete up to level 17.
    The Priest: A cleric reword which ran out of steam. Still a fun prestige class suitable for E6.
    The Coward: Not every hero can fight.

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