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Thread: Vancian magic

  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: Vancian magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    The original explanation for this isn't "I'm too tired," but rather, "I don't have that spell sitting in my head, ready to be cast."
    I've always had problem with this justification in-universe (on top of the mechanical problems from before), but thinking more about it I would have far less problem with it if that was materialised in some form.
    Like every morning you paint yourself a set of magical tatoo, or create a set of magical gems, that only you can use and get consumed.

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Murikumo View Post
    Even in universe it's silly to think that a 20th level wizard would be like,

    "Sorry, guys. I don't have enough power to cast grease. I only have enough power to cast glitterdust, wrack, black tentacles, baleful polymorph, circle of death, plane shift, Maze, and fist of crushing goddamn spite. But not enough juice to eek out another casting of grease."
    How about, "sorry, I can't throw any more smoke grenades, because I'm all out. I still have incendiary grenades, fragmentation grenades, shotgun shells, land mines, 50-cal rounds, rockets, a thermal detonator, and my lightsaber, but I'm all out of smoke grenades."?

    The problem with that metaphor, then, is that the character couldn't have chosen to drop the rockets to carry more smoke grenades - which I think a *good* implementation of Vancian style magic would allow.

    I'm personally a fan of the combination of "limited memorization space" and "mana pool for actually casting the memorized spells". So less "how many smoke grenades am I carrying?" and more "how much raw matter for the replicator?" and "which patterns does it have loaded?".

    And the "intellect" casters can still come off as intelligent by a) picking their patterns well, and b) using them efficiently, choosing between high and low cost patterns based on the actual needs of the situation.

    Quertus, my signature academia mage for whom this account is named, uses his spells as a last resort, allowing muggle power / skills to carry the day whenever possible, so that he always has spells / mana left for when they actually *need* his assistance. Granted, over 10 levels, the total need for his help by the Uber-competent muggles¹ he adventured with could have been handled by a bag of flour. (OK, so as not to undersell his contribution, it would have taken *several* bags of flour )

    ¹ there were other casters in that party, too; it doesn't really change Quertus' required contribution either way.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Vancian magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    How about, "sorry, I can't throw any more smoke grenades, because I'm all out. I still have incendiary grenades, fragmentation grenades, shotgun shells, land mines, 50-cal rounds, rockets, a thermal detonator, and my lightsaber, but I'm all out of smoke grenades."?

    The problem with that metaphor, then, is that the character couldn't have chosen to drop the rockets to carry more smoke grenades - which I think a *good* implementation of Vancian style magic would allow.
    In D&D you technically can (prepare lower-level spell in the higher-level slot) but obviously very inefficiently. Which is also not entirely unrealistic (you'd be hard-pressed to carry 40 rounds in stripper clips in a pocket intended to carry 2 20-round magazines for LMG) but degree of inefficiency is definitely more on the gamist side "you have three slot for weapons, any weapon from a small silenced pistol to bazooka takes one slot"

    Oh, and "explosives" metaphor also helps with predominance of standard spells. Just because you have iron, TNT, copper, fulminates etc. and any machines you would want doesn't mean you can make a new type of shell in the evening, you need to research and test it.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saint-Just View Post
    You know, a lot of the early FPS used "armor" as an additional health bar...
    I'm not really sure where you were going with this, honestly. No offense, but it seemed like a random tangent unless you were making a point about how they are both old and abandon-able mechanics.


    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    The original explanation for this isn't "I'm too tired," but rather, "I don't have that spell sitting in my head, ready to be cast."
    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    How about, "sorry, I can't throw any more smoke grenades, because I'm all out. I still have incendiary grenades, fragmentation grenades, shotgun shells, land mines, 50-cal rounds, rockets, a thermal detonator, and my lightsaber, but I'm all out of smoke grenades."?

    The problem with that metaphor, then, is that the character couldn't have chosen to drop the rockets to carry more smoke grenades - which I think a *good* implementation of Vancian style magic would allow.

    How would i memorize the spell "grease" at the beginning of the day, but i can only cast it once? Why do i have to memorize it multiple times to cast it multiple times? But I still have infinitely more powerful and taxing spells i can cast, but i cant cast grease by sacrificing another spell, despite having memorized the spell for the day.

    These spells are not consumable shells, like they literally are in Outlaw Star. Comparing them to grenades seems arbitrary, but if i had enough explosives to make a huge bomb, why couldn't i divide them into smaller bombs?

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    Default Re: Vancian magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Murikumo View Post

    These spells are not consumable shells, like they literally are in Outlaw Star. Comparing them to grenades seems arbitrary, but if i had enough explosives to make a huge bomb, why couldn't i divide them into smaller bombs?
    Except for the fact that they literally are. You can make so many spell bullets when you prepare spells each morning, and due to their nature, you can’t stockpile them (well, not without crafting scrolls or wands, etc).

    But you are literally loading up spells every morning that are expended exactly like bullets or grenades.
    I consider myself an author first, a GM second and a player third.

    The three skill-sets are only tangentially related.

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    I always liked the "string" idea.
    You are in fact casting 99% of the spell when your preping/studying. Then leaving yourself that 1% string to set them off. So you want 3 copies of a spell today, 3 strings.
    Since magic is " safe" failing to cast or use the string is harmless, but doesnt let you cast something else as you already cast 99% of it.
    Last edited by KaussH; 2020-12-23 at 02:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    I've always had problem with this justification in-universe (on top of the mechanical problems from before), but thinking more about it I would have far less problem with it if that was materialised in some form.
    Like every morning you paint yourself a set of magical tatoo, or create a set of magical gems, that only you can use and get consumed.
    Quote Originally Posted by KaussH View Post
    I always liked the "string" idea.
    You are in fact casting 99% of the spell when your preping/studying. Then leaving yourself that 1% string to set them off. So you want 3 copies of a spell today, 3 strings.
    Since magic is " safe" failing to cast or use the string is harmless, but doesnt let you cast something else as you already cast 99% of it.
    My own preferred way to fluff it is similar to this. Instead of doing 99% of the casting, though, what you're doing in my fictional formulation is engaging with the animistic spirits that make up the world's forces of nature and...well, everything. That burning hands spell is a service the wizard is owed by the beings that create fire from heat, due to having performed particular acts and services for them that are spelled out in the contracts he has meticulous knowledge of from studying his spellbook.

    A wizard preparing his spells each morning is engaged in some very strange behaviors, and may in fact be doing a lot of obvious magic as he uses some contracted services to prepare and pay off others. Moving implements around, negotiating particular deals, tracing the ritual sigils... all of these are of value to the supernatural entities out there, and because he does them in accordance with long-agreed terms, he is then owed particular responses when he invokes them with precise words and gestures (and maybe a final payment, symbolic or valuable, of a material component).

    He can do the rites to prepare multiple iterations of burning hands, but if he can't take the prepared levitate and convert it to a burning hands.

    As to why he has specified numbers of spells of each spell level, part of that is just abstraction; it's the most efficient layout he can get, or at least the best representation of it. Part of it, though, is that higher-level wizards are better at manipulating the rules of the various contracts so that they can set up more debts they're owed without accidentally screwing up others that they want to set up. These are delicate balances of multiple contracts, and a lot of cross-influence happens as doing one deed might obviate another debt, or you might accidentally use one debt to set up another because of how the powers flow together. Thus, higher-level casters can prepare more spells, as can smarter ones.

    I can elaborate on variations for non-wizard casters, if you like, but I've done so in other threads, and I don't want to clog this one up. My goal here is just to provide a framework that makes sense with 3e's pseudo-vancian casting.

  8. - Top - End - #38
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    I love Vancian casting. That's right LOVE it.

    It is a bunch of nerds with magical computer punch cards. Anyone remember when computer programs were written on 100s to 1000s of those cards, all aligned in a specific order. It would take DAYS to order the cards for complex programs. Well, magic is aligning dozens of magical catalysts in the right order at the start of the day. As the program (MAGIC) is run it uses up those cards to create the effect in the physical world.

    You then have the clueless fighter ask "How do you not have enough power to do X?" As a wizard you want to scream "It has nothing to do with power! I have set up 2000 dominoes in the resulting pattern of Y, to do X i would first have to carefully disassemble Y, then begin the hour long process to setting up the dominions in the X pattern. BUT I cannot do it haphazzardly. I have to do it in the right order by shape, size, color, and temperature! If even one of them is out of order or off by an 1/10 of an inch it will not work. Oh and by the way, I have to do this entirely in my mind and keep the order memorized all FREAKING day. I am using an ordered deck of playing cards or dominoes in a pattern, or a magically knit spell sweater. The more complex the spell the bigger and more colorful the sweater is."

    Yes, I changed metaphors midway through that description to make it hit home harder. Wizards are nerds doing super complex preparation for their punchcard program. I am a computer programmer and I can totally relate to this. Wizards are all about prep and planning.


    For clerics, they can always fall back to to basic energy channeling. But you have to ask for the magic cookie from your deity to get the magic cookie. You don't get the entire cookie jar. Frankly I want clerics to have casting from domains or schools per day instead of single spells like it is now. Clerics of healing deities have 4 conj(healing) domain spells, 4 more conj spells, 3 transumation, 2 diinatiosn, 0 necro spells, etc. While clerics of undead loving deities would have 3 conj, 6 necro, 3 div, 2 abj, etc. Each deity would suddenly have wildly different clerics. But alas.


    Sorcs/Bards - I have power to do X, Y or Z 10 times a day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    I'm personally a fan of the combination of "limited memorization space" and "mana pool for actually casting the memorized spells". So less "how many smoke grenades am I carrying?" and more "how much raw matter for the replicator?" and "which patterns does it have loaded?".
    One thing about 5e is that it lets you basically do this, even if you keep spell slots instead of using the optional spell point system. My personal head canon is that spell slots are just fuel. They're bundles of energy sitting in your soul. A wizard's spell slots are no different than a cleric's slots (at the same level)[1]. And they're useful for things other than just spells (cf paladin Divine Smite and other features that use spell slots but aren't casting spells). But they are quantized, discrete things, like electron transitions in atoms. So you can't spend two low-level slots at once--only one is hooked up at any given instant. Casting a spell is a matter of hooking a pattern to a slot, discharging the slot's energy through the pattern. You can up-cast a spell, spending a bigger slot than necessary. Sometimes that produces bigger effects, but sometimes not. Depends on the pattern.

    The spells themselves are the patterns. Patterns that when fed energy, produce resonant effects in the ambient matter-energy field that influence the world. And each pattern takes up a certain metaphysical space in your soul, so you're limited by your soul capacity in total patterns, modified by how you gain your patterns. And it's how you gain the patterns that differs between classes, which also explains the learned/prepared divide. And the patterns are part of the universe itself, black box structures that are hard to modify. So while you can change the input parameters, you can't hack the fundamentals (making a fireball smaller, for instance). The pattern does what the pattern does, and that's basically it.

    Bards learn/discover/are inspired by songs. They may not know why they work or how they work, but they're great improvisers (can learn spells outside their normal range).

    Clerics download their spells from their god.

    Druids make deals with small nature spirits, who inhabit them[2] and act as the living spell pattern.

    Sorcerers have the spells etched into their genetic code.

    Warlocks cheat and buy their spells in exchange for services. They also cheat the normal process and their patron rips their slots open, which has advantages and disadvantages.

    Wizards take the theoretical route.

    All in all, the movements, words, and material components are just external API calls. But most of the pattern is internal--you can ape the movements, words, etc all you want but unless you have the pattern/circuit connecting your spell slots through your soul, ain't nothing gonna happen. And using the pattern doesn't burn it out, either.

    [1] as provided for by the multiclassing rules, which only call out warlock slots as special. Everyone else gets non-class-tied spell slots.
    [2] which also goes some distance in explaining why druids and metal armor don't get along--the spirits, for whatever reason (the rest of the explanation) don't like being encased in worked metal. Using metal is fine for tools and weapons, but not having it all around you. Maybe it makes them claustrophobic?
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2020-12-23 at 03:21 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Murikumo View Post
    How would i memorize the spell "grease" at the beginning of the day, but i can only cast it once? Why do i have to memorize it multiple times to cast it multiple times? But I still have infinitely more powerful and taxing spells i can cast, but i cant cast grease by sacrificing another spell, despite having memorized the spell for the day.

    These spells are not consumable shells, like they literally are in Outlaw Star. Comparing them to grenades seems arbitrary, but if i had enough explosives to make a huge bomb, why couldn't i divide them into smaller bombs?
    Again, both in D&D and the original Vance novels spells are about building a mental edifice, leaving it 99% finished and then putting a last piece when it's needed and then it all starts to... take effect. When it happens an elaborate mental edifice/construction/formula disappears from your mind. You can imagine whatever explanations for that, but it's how that works(and while precise formulations like "antimemetic" are very modern, the general idea of words that you hear but cannot repeat (and no, not because you are cursed/geassed) and others permutations of that theme is incredibly old). It's not about gestures and words that anyone can mimic by close study, and not about effort.

    While "explosive shells" are indeed only a metaphor, it still helps here. You don't have "explosives to make a huge bomb", you already made a huge bomb (remember - packaged effects, not juice). And if you have a huge bomb you'd need casings, detonators, possibly stabilizers (what kind of bomb we are talking about?) to make smaller bombs. It may be possible but it's definitely not a standard task for an Ordnance Technician.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saint-Just View Post
    It may be possible but it's definitely not a standard task for an Ordnance Technician.
    And whatever else might be true, it's absolutely not something you can whip up in a few seconds/on the fly. Not if you really like being alive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    I've always had problem with this justification in-universe (on top of the mechanical problems from before), but thinking more about it I would have far less problem with it if that was materialised in some form.
    Like every morning you paint yourself a set of magical tatoo, or create a set of magical gems, that only you can use and get consumed.
    I mean, wizards do that, but they do it mentally. They have repeating thought patterns that store the spell and take up their attention. I've called them Mantras when I made homebrew versions of Vancian casting.
    "Après la vie - le mort, après le mort, la vie de noveau.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Greywolf View Post
    Broadly speaking, you have three styles of magic systems in use these days.
    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    I think that might be one reason that Vancian casting sticks around -- the alternatives often aren't clearly better, and if they are better, they are often relatively hard to pull off in a TTRPG.
    So it turns out that bookkeeping is the bane of fancy limitation schemes, when you're competing with (a) no usage tracking (b) tracking a single counter (c) tracking discrete items that you can cross off/toss. Vancian just barely manages to be playable because you can track it with counters. Keeping track of e.g. multiple resources that get used up at different rates is, well, pretty much an entire board game unto itself.

    For example, cooldown/recharge system are pretty widespread in computer games: you have a limited set of discrete powers, but instead of having the hard limit on many times you can use them, they're limited by how often you can use them. The principles are pretty sound; 3.5e UA even had one written up. But it just works really poorly as a tabletop game, because as it turns out, there's too much bookkeeping and it makes a mess to keep track of all the (random!) recharge intervals manually instead of having a computer figure it out automatically.

    I happened to like a variant on D&Dish spellcasting that goes roughly like this:
    • spell slots come back minutes/spell level after the effects end
    • when you cast a spell, you can't cast out of slots of that level or any lower level for rounds/spell level+X

    But you know, even though it's written up as a recharge system, after adjusting the durations to streamline it at the table, it plays kind of like this:
    • spell slots come back after an encounter or the effects end, whichever is later
    • you cast one spell from your highest few levels in ascending order for an encounter

    (I still think it's a neat starting point, after some epicycles for setting-breaking utility; it just winds up being encounter powers with epicycles.)

    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    I've always had problem with this justification in-universe (on top of the mechanical problems from before), but thinking more about it I would have far less problem with it if that was materialised in some form.
    Like every morning you paint yourself a set of magical tatoo, or create a set of magical gems, that only you can use and get consumed.
    Yeah, the right physical metaphor does wonders for making things that don't exist in the real world seem less unnatural. Brains are weird.

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    I am kind of amused by "Vancian casting isn't realistic" as a negative about it. Maybe it's just me, but no magic is realistic? I don't see how mana is more realistic than "I have prepared specific prayers, given to me by my god, but once I recite them they are gone until I can ask for them again when my god is at the height of their power (when clerics usually pray for spells)" or "through carefully study, my mind is able to memorize a complex magical formula that I can 'complete' with a word and gesture to see it take effect, but once I've done it I need to prepare it again through a long process after my mind has rested".

    I've always found plenty of ways to why it works the way it does - and I haven't even read Vance's Dying Earth - because to me it just seemed perfectly plausible that magic has its own weird ways of working and strange limitations, that don't nescessarily make sense to us muggles. Spell slots, mana/spell points... Ars Magica has technically endless casting with no limitation of slots or points, but in stressful situations magic can be risky (you can botch the roll and then Bad Things can happen). I find that makes as much sense as any of the other magic types and is just as "realistic" as anything else, because at the end of the day it all boils down to "it's magic and that's how it works".


    Quote Originally Posted by gijoemike View Post
    I love Vancian casting. That's right LOVE it.

    It is a bunch of nerds with magical computer punch cards. Anyone remember when computer programs were written on 100s to 1000s of those cards, all aligned in a specific order. It would take DAYS to order the cards for complex programs. Well, magic is aligning dozens of magical catalysts in the right order at the start of the day. As the program (MAGIC) is run it uses up those cards to create the effect in the physical world.

    You then have the clueless fighter ask "How do you not have enough power to do X?" As a wizard you want to scream "It has nothing to do with power! I have set up 2000 dominoes in the resulting pattern of Y, to do X i would first have to carefully disassemble Y, then begin the hour long process to setting up the dominions in the X pattern. BUT I cannot do it haphazzardly. I have to do it in the right order by shape, size, color, and temperature! If even one of them is out of order or off by an 1/10 of an inch it will not work. Oh and by the way, I have to do this entirely in my mind and keep the order memorized all FREAKING day. I am using an ordered deck of playing cards or dominoes in a pattern, or a magically knit spell sweater. The more complex the spell the bigger and more colorful the sweater is."

    Yes, I changed metaphors midway through that description to make it hit home harder. Wizards are nerds doing super complex preparation for their punchcard program. I am a computer programmer and I can totally relate to this. Wizards are all about prep and planning.


    For clerics, they can always fall back to to basic energy channeling. But you have to ask for the magic cookie from your deity to get the magic cookie. You don't get the entire cookie jar. Frankly I want clerics to have casting from domains or schools per day instead of single spells like it is now. Clerics of healing deities have 4 conj(healing) domain spells, 4 more conj spells, 3 transumation, 2 diinatiosn, 0 necro spells, etc. While clerics of undead loving deities would have 3 conj, 6 necro, 3 div, 2 abj, etc. Each deity would suddenly have wildly different clerics. But alas.


    Sorcs/Bards - I have power to do X, Y or Z 10 times a day.
    Gosh, I love this description of wizard spells being like old punch-cards. I'm very much not tech-minded or anything, but this is a very brilliant way to visualize it. :D

    It works very well with how the Laundry Files RPG introduced "spell macros" for player characters. Magic is basically computational math but takes time. But by preparing a "macro" of a spell, all you need to do to "cast it" is to complete the code (imagine like pressing = after a very long calculation).

    This idea of how Vancian casting works fits very well with how wizards (the most archtypical vancian casters in D&D) use their intellect for magic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Murikumo View Post
    How would i memorize the spell "grease" at the beginning of the day, but i can only cast it once? Why do i have to memorize it multiple times to cast it multiple times? But I still have infinitely more powerful and taxing spells i can cast, but i cant cast grease by sacrificing another spell, despite having memorized the spell for the day.

    These spells are not consumable shells, like they literally are in Outlaw Star. Comparing them to grenades seems arbitrary, but if i had enough explosives to make a huge bomb, why couldn't i divide them into smaller bombs?
    Quote Originally Posted by AceOfFools View Post
    Except for the fact that they literally are. You can make so many spell bullets when you prepare spells each morning, and due to their nature, you can’t stockpile them (well, not without crafting scrolls or wands, etc).

    But you are literally loading up spells every morning that are expended exactly like bullets or grenades.
    D&D hailing from war games, spells fairly literally *are* grenades, metaphorically speaking.

    I think that the problem is the word "memorize". I agree, if I'm just "memorizing" patterns, I should be able to keep using them (thus my preference for just that via the various mana systems in D&D).

    In older editions, *preparing* a spell took… iirc, 10-15 minutes *per spell level*!!! That made the "preparing the grenade" (or "*mostly* casting the spell") nature of D&D spells much more obvious.

    Quote Originally Posted by gijoemike View Post
    Frankly I want clerics to have casting from domains or schools per day instead of single spells like it is now. Clerics of healing deities have 4 conj(healing) domain spells, 4 more conj spells, 3 transumation, 2 diinatiosn, 0 necro spells, etc. While clerics of undead loving deities would have 3 conj, 6 necro, 3 div, 2 abj, etc. Each deity would suddenly have wildly different clerics. But alas.
    The problem here is, those spell schools map *very poorly* to divine spheres of influence.

    For example, didn't healing used to be Necromancy? Isn't Resurrection still Necromancy? If healing is conjuration, shouldn't undead-centric deities' clerics be *really good* at conjuration (as undead don't heal naturally)? Wouldn't Fertility *also* involve Necromancy?

    You would *probably* need to custom builds the schools, spheres, *and* gods all at once to make it make cohesive sense.

    Best you've got in D&D is 2e divine spheres (better than the 8 schools Wizards use), coupled with 2e Faiths and Avatars (which gave not only specific schools but specific individual spells and unique powers to various specialty priests).

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
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    One thing about 5e is that it lets you basically do this, even if you keep spell slots instead of using the optional spell point system. My personal head canon is that spell slots are just fuel. They're bundles of energy sitting in your soul. A wizard's spell slots are no different than a cleric's slots (at the same level)[1]. And they're useful for things other than just spells (cf paladin Divine Smite and other features that use spell slots but aren't casting spells). But they are quantized, discrete things, like electron transitions in atoms. So you can't spend two low-level slots at once--only one is hooked up at any given instant. Casting a spell is a matter of hooking a pattern to a slot, discharging the slot's energy through the pattern. You can up-cast a spell, spending a bigger slot than necessary. Sometimes that produces bigger effects, but sometimes not. Depends on the pattern.

    The spells themselves are the patterns. Patterns that when fed energy, produce resonant effects in the ambient matter-energy field that influence the world. And each pattern takes up a certain metaphysical space in your soul, so you're limited by your soul capacity in total patterns, modified by how you gain your patterns. And it's how you gain the patterns that differs between classes, which also explains the learned/prepared divide. And the patterns are part of the universe itself, black box structures that are hard to modify. So while you can change the input parameters, you can't hack the fundamentals (making a fireball smaller, for instance). The pattern does what the pattern does, and that's basically it.

    Bards learn/discover/are inspired by songs. They may not know why they work or how they work, but they're great improvisers (can learn spells outside their normal range).

    Clerics download their spells from their god.

    Druids make deals with small nature spirits, who inhabit them[2] and act as the living spell pattern.

    Sorcerers have the spells etched into their genetic code.

    Warlocks cheat and buy their spells in exchange for services. They also cheat the normal process and their patron rips their slots open, which has advantages and disadvantages.

    Wizards take the theoretical route.

    All in all, the movements, words, and material components are just external API calls. But most of the pattern is internal--you can ape the movements, words, etc all you want but unless you have the pattern/circuit connecting your spell slots through your soul, ain't nothing gonna happen. And using the pattern doesn't burn it out, either.

    [1] as provided for by the multiclassing rules, which only call out warlock slots as special. Everyone else gets non-class-tied spell slots.
    [2] which also goes some distance in explaining why druids and metal armor don't get along--the spirits, for whatever reason (the rest of the explanation) don't like being encased in worked metal. Using metal is fine for tools and weapons, but not having it all around you. Maybe it makes them claustrophobic?
    Problem is, the more you draw attention to it, the more it begs the question, "why?". Why are people's souls divided into these particular discreet quanta? Why does this particular division persist across completely different schools of magical ability?

    It hints at something absolutely fundamental to the building blocks of reality… and then leaves you disappointed (with having no answer, or, if you fabricate one, it's not fundamentally tied into the world-building of every aspect of the world, like it should be.

    I think that you're better off *not* drawing attention to this particular "feature".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Faily View Post
    I am kind of amused by "Vancian casting isn't realistic" as a negative about it. Maybe it's just me, but no magic is realistic? I don't see how mana is more realistic than "I have prepared specific prayers, given to me by my god, but once I recite them they are gone until I can ask for them again when my god is at the height of their power (when clerics usually pray for spells)" or "through carefully study, my mind is able to memorize a complex magical formula that I can 'complete' with a word and gesture to see it take effect, but once I've done it I need to prepare it again through a long process after my mind has rested".
    It's not that it's not realistic, it;'s that it's not true to how magic is portrayed in fantasy and horror literature (excluding works by Jack Vance). Harry Potter didn't have to pre-prepare spells or have a set number of castings, and neither did Jon-Tom Merriweather, Gandalf, Sabrina the Teenaged Witch, or Chuckie Lee Ray.

    In the Evil Dead you don't even need a real caster. A recording or broadcast of the incantation will do.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    It's not that it's not realistic, it;'s that it's not true to how magic is portrayed in fantasy and horror literature (excluding works by Jack Vance). Harry Potter didn't have to pre-prepare spells or have a set number of castings, and neither did Jon-Tom Merriweather, Gandalf, Sabrina the Teenaged Witch, or Chuckie Lee Ray.

    In the Evil Dead you don't even need a real caster. A recording or broadcast of the incantation will do.
    But the magic, in those sources as well, usually has a rule about how it works. Harry Potter needs to use a wand and say a magical phrase, Gandalf used his magic pretty sparingly, Sabrina had plenty of moments where the magic went wrong or backfired in some way because of the rules of magic (like when she had subjected her boyfriend-character to too much magic over the years, he had now become immune to it and was now aware of her being a witch. I admit it's years since I watched the show but that episode stuck out to me).

    Video games also enforced the idea that magic could also draw upon a "force" that you possess... giving us Mana and Spell Points variants.

    Magic has often in litterature, folk tales, mythology, and modern media (video games and movies/shows) had *some* type of restriction, limitation, or strange rules that "just is".

    Why does the genie (and similar figures) only give 3 wishes to each person? Because that's the limitation and rule.
    The Neverending Story had a "must give something to get something"-limitation for Bastian when he was in Fantasia, as each time he used the magical abilities he lost a memory. (I've also seen a similar explanation used for Vancian type of casting in D&D, that casting magic erases a memory and with formulaic spells it's a safeguard that you don't lose real memories but lose only the memory of that spell in your mind, hence why you can't cast it again)
    Magic in Earthsea requires you to know the true name (speak in the language of creation) of something or someone. And even then it has its limitations in what it can do and where it works, as well as several times mentioning that the wizards would be "preserving their strengths" (so no endless amount of casting magic power).
    Last edited by Faily; 2020-12-24 at 12:42 AM.
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    Default Re: Vancian magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Problem is, the more you draw attention to it, the more it begs the question, "why?". Why are people's souls divided into these particular discreet quanta? Why does this particular division persist across completely different schools of magical ability?

    It hints at something absolutely fundamental to the building blocks of reality… and then leaves you disappointed (with having no answer, or, if you fabricate one, it's not fundamentally tied into the world-building of every aspect of the world, like it should be.

    I think that you're better off *not* drawing attention to this particular "feature".
    It is part of everything, at a fundamental level. At least in my own setting. But I didn't want to do the full dissertation in a comment.

    In fact, the supporting structure around this idea was one of the most productive moments I've had. It was an aha moment that answered literally dozens of other "but why..." questions and keeps proving its value to this day.
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    I like Vancian magic, but then I like the Dying Earth.

    Dungeons & Dragons is no more actually meant to represent every fantasy work than any other role-playing game, and the specific references are as much part of the identity of Dungeons & Dragons as beholders and mind flayers are; trying to remove those is basically creating something that is not Dungeons & Dragons.
    Last edited by Scots Dragon; 2020-12-24 at 01:36 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A game setting does need to be designed to be fun and functional to game in.

    But there's more to good worldbuilding than piling the "parts to game in" on a big pile.

    Farmland isn't there to be adventured in, primarily, but one assumes it's still there and part of the landscape -- just because adventurers don't go there often doesn't mean it doesn't or shouldn't or needn't exist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Faily View Post
    I am kind of amused by "Vancian casting isn't realistic" as a negative about it. Maybe it's just me, but no magic is realistic? I don't see how mana is more realistic than "I have prepared specific prayers, given to me by my god, but once I recite them they are gone until I can ask for them again when my god is at the height of their power (when clerics usually pray for spells)" or "through carefully study, my mind is able to memorize a complex magical formula that I can 'complete' with a word and gesture to see it take effect, but once I've done it I need to prepare it again through a long process after my mind has rested".
    I think for me at least, it's that no other skill works like that. A martial artist doesn't run out of a particular kick, a mathematician doesn't run out of multiplication, an author doesn't run out of words. Yes, magic is inherently unrealistic but it can still be portrayed more or less realistically. But of course what qualifies as that is completely subjective.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    I think for me at least, it's that no other skill works like that. A martial artist doesn't run out of a particular kick, a mathematician doesn't run out of multiplication, an author doesn't run out of words. Yes, magic is inherently unrealistic but it can still be portrayed more or less realistically. But of course what qualifies as that is completely subjective.
    An archer can run out of their arrows. Hawkeye or Green Arrow in particular can run out of whatever specially prepared trick arrows they use.

    There are many ways you can justify the Vancian method.

    Maybe those spells are all lengthy rituals that you've managed to condense all the pre-prepared power of into a single activation phrase and gesture, but you can only prepare the magical energy for so many spells and each spell has to be prepared in advance specifically.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A game setting does need to be designed to be fun and functional to game in.

    But there's more to good worldbuilding than piling the "parts to game in" on a big pile.

    Farmland isn't there to be adventured in, primarily, but one assumes it's still there and part of the landscape -- just because adventurers don't go there often doesn't mean it doesn't or shouldn't or needn't exist.

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    Oh gods, yeah, as someone who played 3.5 from ages 10 to 18, I hate Vancian Magic with every fiber of my being. Forget it being '"Unrealistic", although the fact that it utterly fails to emulate any genre of Fantasy that isn't written by Vance isn't great.
    I dislike it primarily because of how profoundly boring it is. There's no real risk involved, no chance of failure, and rarely is the player required to think creatively (An individual player can be creative of course, but that's less a point for the system and more a point for the player themselves). Did the player prepare the spell they need? If yes, then the challenge is solved. If no, then it is not. It's entirely binary, with no room for anything interesting in between.

    It's one of the reasons why I prefer 13th age, which while still flawed, feels much better at emulating general Fantasy than D&D. This is mainly because they divorced in combat magic (At-will, Recharge, 1/day) and out of combat magic (Skills that can be enhanced by spending rare ingredients, magical items, hit dice, or if you're desperate, burning out your combat spells for the rest of the day). There are still utility spells that the wizard class can prepare in place of combat spells, presumably because the developers knew certain players would break out into hives if that wasn't an option, but the utility spells are generally underwhelming and can be imitated by skills easily.

    And frankly, I find that way of doing things way more interesting a dynamic than the "If yes, then x" style of spellcasting. It feels artificial, like a computer program, which several people have said is the main draw for them, so I'm not going to go and pretend that it's objectively bad.
    Last edited by comk59; 2020-12-24 at 10:57 AM.
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    Dungeons & Dragons isn't meant to emulate all of fantasy.

    If you wanted something that emulated other fantasy, play a different fantasy game.

    I personally recommend Fantasy AGE (esp. Blue Rose) or Talislanta as a starting point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A game setting does need to be designed to be fun and functional to game in.

    But there's more to good worldbuilding than piling the "parts to game in" on a big pile.

    Farmland isn't there to be adventured in, primarily, but one assumes it's still there and part of the landscape -- just because adventurers don't go there often doesn't mean it doesn't or shouldn't or needn't exist.

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    I finally just gave up and decided spell slots are actual neurological structures in the brain. Magic tumors.
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    I have a nostalgic fondness for Vancian casting. It has an undeniable unique flavor to it. It makes every spell feel like it's a big deal. I can, perhaps, see it working well in an RPG game. D&D has just never been that game for as long as I've known it. And Vancian casting has a directly detrimental effect on it. I'm not sure what style of game actual Vancian casting, with few powerful spell in a sorcerer's mind at any given time, would fit well.
    Last edited by Morty; 2020-12-24 at 01:15 PM.
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    The best non-Vancian explanation for Vancian magic is contractual magic. When you prepare a spell, you are negotiating (Magic-Users) or being granted (Clerics) services by supernatural beings.

    Practically, at the table, I've never had issues with Vancian magic. It works fine as a game element.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwordCoastTaxi View Post
    I dropped it for a variation of Pathfinder's Spell Points system. It gives casters more utility but also keeps casting from becoming overwhelming.
    First off, spell points are fine by me, so long as it doesn't mean that the fellow wizard or sorcerer at the table can't just spam Fireball or Lightning Bolt. The way 5e more or less handles the "mana pool" concept by putting it in spell slots actually works surprisingly well within the context of a TTRPG.

    Second off, a variation, you say? If you don't mind, elaborate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Batcathat View Post
    I think for me at least, it's that no other skill works like that. A martial artist doesn't run out of a particular kick, a mathematician doesn't run out of multiplication, an author doesn't run out of words. Yes, magic is inherently unrealistic but it can still be portrayed more or less realistically. But of course what qualifies as that is completely subjective.
    It's interesting because in D&D monk (the core martial artist, however poorly implemented) can run out of kicks, bard can run out of inspiring words, and if I look really hard I bet there is some sort of architect, or artillerist, or loremaster which have the ability explained as "they calculate something something really precisely" and which they can use only N times per day.

    It's obviously very gamist but D&D is very gamist.

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    A lot of these interpretations fail when it comes to wizard spells. Arcane magic has the property of not being divine magic and not being psionics. Therefore it cannot be powered by contracts with spirits because that wpuld be divine magic, and it also cannot be powered by some mystical pattern of thought and memory because then it would be psionics.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    D&D hailing from war games, spells fairly literally *are* grenades, metaphorically speaking.

    I think that the problem is the word "memorize". I agree, if I'm just "memorizing" patterns, I should be able to keep using them (thus my preference for just that via the various mana systems in D&D).

    In older editions, *preparing* a spell took… iirc, 10-15 minutes *per spell level*!!! That made the "preparing the grenade" (or "*mostly* casting the spell") nature of D&D spells much more obvious.
    You are correct, which is why is why the term "memorize" has not been used for preparing spells in 20 years, maybe longer, if ever (not worth pulling my AD&D books out to check). It is a coloquial term used by players, not a game term. If you think "prepare" instead of "memorize" then many of the problems are lessened. The closest think 3.x had to memorizing spells was Spell Mastery, which allowed you to prepare some spells without a spellbook.
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