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  1. - Top - End - #181
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    I think I have already said everything on the costs of magic itself earlier in the thread. For me it all really depends on what you are going for.

    On Mishaps: Oddly enough I have often found out that "mishaps" if used well can actually speed things up because they fold both an attempt and the response into a single check. So you don't have an attack roll, you have a combat roll that determines the outcome of the exchange for both sides.

    On Utility: I never quite gathered why utility magic was such a big deal. Not that all casters should be battle-mages exclusively so there is plenty of magic that could be used out of combat, but there are many other skills for that. (In fact in D&D and other combat focused systems that treat fighting as a special case that is all skills.) The skill system level fix would be separating out action resolution from... efforts that take up whole scenes if you went over them in detail but you can also just cut to the end. Montage resolution systems?

    So for magic it would be a spell vs. a ritual. For survival it would be checking if something's poison vs finding a safe campsite. In a social context are you trying to persuade someone over the next few minutes or change a group's opinion over several days. Anyways this is veering further from the main topic, its just an observation that that split is actually pretty broad.

  2. - Top - End - #182
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    One cost that's easy to implement in games with point-based chargen is versatility (in fact, it should already be built into any reasonably balanced point system). That is, every point you spend on magic is a point you didn't spend on ability scores, skills, advantages, or gear.
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    I've tallied up all the points for this thread, and consulted with the debate judges, and the verdict is clear: JoeJ wins the thread.

  3. - Top - End - #183
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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    I've been lurking in this thread for a while, and I think there's an important point that's been alluded to but which ought to be called out explicitly: every ability should have a cost of appropriate magnitude for the power which that ability grants the character. Magical power is just another form of power, which differs in flavor and mechanics, but which has the same ultimate effect on the game: characters who poses it can do more. The fact that something is impossible in the real world or is called "magic" in the lore of a game does not alter the way that this principle applies.

    The difference between magic and nonmagic is one of degree, not of kind. We've talked about magic having an opportunity cost - how someone with levels of wizard didn't take levels of fighter. The reverse also holds. That fighter didn't take levels of wizard, or a vast array of other classes, thus forgoing all of the other abilities that they could have acquired. We've talked about magic being risky - but all adventuring is risky. Getting close enough to someone to hit them with a sword means getting close enough that they could hit you with a sword.

    The real crux of the problem that we face here IMO is that magic is too strong, so that the appropriate magnitude of cost is more than we can expect a character to pay. There's only so much opportunity cost that a character can bear, as there's only so much XP, levels, points, gold, etc. that they have. There's only so much risk that a character can bear before the game becomes prohibitively unfun for both themselves and everyone around them.

    There's only a few ways around this problem:

    • Make magic weaker. That's not a very fun solution, but it is an option, so I mention it for completeness.
    • Increase the cost of magic by requiring co-operation from other party members. Spells that enable a wizard to do something by themselves are rare and limited; most spells allow a wizard to enhance or expand the abilities of other characters.
    • Increase the cost of magic in other ways. Perhaps taking full advantage of a spell requires a skill check - say for example, any wizard can cast fly but flying with good maneuverabiluty requires ranks in climb or swim.

    I'd prefer to see a mixture of the last two points. One cautionary note here is that we don't want to have a caster drain resources from other characters in order to "pay" for casting their own spells. Being overshadowed by a caster is bad enough when they aren't draining your blood too! Instead, the contributing character should have agency in how the spell is used so that they can feel good about its use. They should feel like they did something and the caster helped rather than the other way around. (At least, most of the time. A mage draining a fighter's blood isn't usually a good game mechanic, but sometimes it's really really thematically appropriate.)

    For example, let's suppose that knock has an expensive material component but allows for a check using the "open lock" skill; the lock opens regardless of the result but the material component is not consumed if it succeeds. A rogue could open a lock by themselves, but this is time-consuming and might fail. A wizard could cast knock by themselves, but they'd be almost guaranteed to burn an expensive material component every time. The best way to open a lock would be to have a wizard cast imbue with spell ability at the start of the adventuring day to enable a rogue to cast knock once they reach it. Now, the lock can be opened quickly, with no chance of failure and with only a low chance of consuming a material component. Most importantly of all, both players can feel good about having their character contribute to making this possible.

  4. - Top - End - #184
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    I've been lurking in this thread for a while, and I think there's an important point that's been alluded to but which ought to be called out explicitly: every ability should have a cost of appropriate magnitude for the power which that ability grants the character. Magical power is just another form of power, which differs in flavor and mechanics, but which has the same ultimate effect on the game: characters who poses it can do more. The fact that something is impossible in the real world or is called "magic" in the lore of a game does not alter the way that this principle applies.

    The difference between magic and nonmagic is one of degree, not of kind. We've talked about magic having an opportunity cost - how someone with levels of wizard didn't take levels of fighter. The reverse also holds. That fighter didn't take levels of wizard, or a vast array of other classes, thus forgoing all of the other abilities that they could have acquired. We've talked about magic being risky - but all adventuring is risky. Getting close enough to someone to hit them with a sword means getting close enough that they could hit you with a sword.

    The real crux of the problem that we face here IMO is that magic is too strong, so that the appropriate magnitude of cost is more than we can expect a character to pay. There's only so much opportunity cost that a character can bear, as there's only so much XP, levels, points, gold, etc. that they have. There's only so much risk that a character can bear before the game becomes prohibitively unfun for both themselves and everyone around them.

    There's only a few ways around this problem:

    • Make magic weaker. That's not a very fun solution, but it is an option, so I mention it for completeness.
    • Increase the cost of magic by requiring co-operation from other party members. Spells that enable a wizard to do something by themselves are rare and limited; most spells allow a wizard to enhance or expand the abilities of other characters.
    • Increase the cost of magic in other ways. Perhaps taking full advantage of a spell requires a skill check - say for example, any wizard can cast fly but flying with good maneuverabiluty requires ranks in climb or swim.

    I'd prefer to see a mixture of the last two points. One cautionary note here is that we don't want to have a caster drain resources from other characters in order to "pay" for casting their own spells. Being overshadowed by a caster is bad enough when they aren't draining your blood too! Instead, the contributing character should have agency in how the spell is used so that they can feel good about its use. They should feel like they did something and the caster helped rather than the other way around. (At least, most of the time. A mage draining a fighter's blood isn't usually a good game mechanic, but sometimes it's really really thematically appropriate.)

    For example, let's suppose that knock has an expensive material component but allows for a check using the "open lock" skill; the lock opens regardless of the result but the material component is not consumed if it succeeds. A rogue could open a lock by themselves, but this is time-consuming and might fail. A wizard could cast knock by themselves, but they'd be almost guaranteed to burn an expensive material component every time. The best way to open a lock would be to have a wizard cast imbue with spell ability at the start of the adventuring day to enable a rogue to cast knock once they reach it. Now, the lock can be opened quickly, with no chance of failure and with only a low chance of consuming a material component. Most importantly of all, both players can feel good about having their character contribute to making this possible.
    1) "you failed your roll, and lost me my expensive focus" is not conducive to getting along.

    2) giving the OP Fighter a limited number of swings per day, *and* making them use those swings to ensure that the DPS Evocation Wizard (who, in this example, can use their abilities at will) successfully hits their target? Are you *sure* that that will make the Fighter feel good?

    3) you missed the option of improving the non-contributing party members up to par.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2021-02-28 at 09:43 AM.

  5. - Top - End - #185
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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    1) "you failed your roll, and lost me my expensive focus" is not conducive to getting along.
    Why are we assuming that it's the wizard's expensive component that gets lost, rather than the rogue paying for it, or a shared "necessary expenditures" budget?

    There's a number of ways that players could make this combination work, and since it's an advantageous combination, they have a motivation to try to find a way to make it work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    2) giving the OP Fighter a limited number of swings per day . . .
    Your analogy here is a bit unclear. I take it that the "OP fighter" is an analogy for a spellcaster and the "DPS evocation wizard" is an analogy for the martial classes, right?

    I agree that there's a balance to be struck here. While (as I pointed out) you don't want the caster to steal the limelight at the expense of other characters, you also (as I think you're trying to argue here) don't want the caster to be entirely subservient to the martial characters.

    I do agree that casters should have some ability to shine on their own. What I am suggesting is that the big show-stopping spells, the ones that give casters a reputation for being OP and make people dream up exorbitant "costs of magic" to balance them, should be tweaked in a way that shares both the cost and the limelight.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    3) you missed the option of improving the non-contributing party members up to par.
    You're right, that's also an option - although arguably that's just another way of weakening magic's relative strength by increasing the power level of the rest of the game. It'd also require abandoning any pretense of verisimilitude, although that's a sacrifice that many would be willing to make.

  6. - Top - End - #186
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Personally i prefer making magic schools into skills. To get rid of universal casters in favor of more specialized, themed ones because you can't pay for all schools or not for all schools maxed out. And that would also allow other people dabbling in a bit of magic without inventing whole new classes everytime.

    Of course even better would be getting rid of classes altogether and make everything point buy. And to rework the spells to be more balanced and the schools to make more sense. But then there is a reason i don't actually play any D&D.

  7. - Top - End - #187
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    You're right, that's also an option - although arguably that's just another way of weakening magic's relative strength by increasing the power level of the rest of the game. It'd also require abandoning any pretense of verisimilitude, although that's a sacrifice that many would be willing to make.
    Sometimes, I feel that one of the problem with magic is that peoples tries to keep the same "solution" from low level to high level.

    In 5e, between peoples that play from level 1 to level 6, those that play from 4 to 10, those that consider that the game truly start around level 8 or 12, etc, I think there is room for the approach to magic to evolve through the different Tiers.

    Tier 1 can probably keep its pretence of verisimilitude, while high tiers could probably accept that every class should be raised to the powerlevel of "(almost) constrain-free spellcasting", with Tier 2 as a transition Tier from vision to another.

  8. - Top - End - #188
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    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Personally i prefer making magic schools into skills. To get rid of universal casters in favor of more specialized, themed ones because you can't pay for all schools or not for all schools maxed out. And that would also allow other people dabbling in a bit of magic without inventing whole new classes everytime.

    Of course even better would be getting rid of classes altogether and make everything point buy. And to rework the spells to be more balanced and the schools to make more sense. But then there is a reason i don't actually play any D&D.
    If you're going to do that much work, you should also include enough abilities/skills/spells/hardware to enable games in any genre, not just fantasy. It would be sort of a generic, universal role-playing system. Or something.
    Quote Originally Posted by MaxWilson View Post
    I've tallied up all the points for this thread, and consulted with the debate judges, and the verdict is clear: JoeJ wins the thread.

  9. - Top - End - #189
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeJ View Post
    If you're going to do that much work, you should also include enough abilities/skills/spells/hardware to enable games in any genre, not just fantasy. It would be sort of a generic, universal role-playing system. Or something.
    If I were looking for a customizable system for something where i don't have a good fit, i might have a deeper look at GURPS, yes. But as it stands, there are dozens of other skill-based magic systems, out there so that i haven't needed to use it for fantasy so far.

  10. - Top - End - #190
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Personally i prefer making magic schools into skills. To get rid of universal casters in favor of more specialized, themed ones because you can't pay for all schools or not for all schools maxed out. And that would also allow other people dabbling in a bit of magic without inventing whole new classes everytime.

    Of course even better would be getting rid of classes altogether and make everything point buy. And to rework the spells to be more balanced and the schools to make more sense. But then there is a reason i don't actually play any D&D.
    So the ideal for you is.... not D&D, got it. Might I recommend The Dark Eye? It's a German game that takes the same basic starting point as D&D but has now developed into an in-depth point buy system.

    Like, your main problem really does seem to be 'I want to play something else', and even if you don't want a true universal system like GURPS there are many games that'll fit the bill,from The Fantasy Trip to RuneQuest to maybe even Exalted.


    But D&D really could do with enforcing more specialisation for magic users.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

  11. - Top - End - #191
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Personally i prefer making magic schools into skills. To get rid of universal casters in favor of more specialized, themed ones because you can't pay for all schools or not for all schools maxed out. And that would also allow other people dabbling in a bit of magic without inventing whole new classes everytime.

    Of course even better would be getting rid of classes altogether and make everything point buy. And to rework the spells to be more balanced and the schools to make more sense. But then there is a reason i don't actually play any D&D.
    As I can see from your nick.
    TDE (DSA) has IMHO a fairly good balance between magic and mundane (and is point buy)

    It is also REALLY crunchy - at least the last editions I played.
    Every spell and every magic traditions base for ritual magic is an extra skill and every skill/spell needs 3 rolls + math is hard for a lot of people
    And then there are all the special abilities and features that change how you improve and use those skills/spells
    Last edited by Kapow; 2021-02-28 at 01:13 PM.

  12. - Top - End - #192
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    So the ideal for you is.... not D&D, got it. Might I recommend The Dark Eye? It's a German game that takes the same basic starting point as D&D but has now developed into an in-depth point buy system.

    Like, your main problem really does seem to be 'I want to play something else', and even if you don't want a true universal system like GURPS there are many games that'll fit the bill,from The Fantasy Trip to RuneQuest to maybe even Exalted.


    But D&D really could do with enforcing more specialisation for magic users.
    Kind of ninja'd
    Satinav being the entity/deity/demon of time in DSA I suspect Satinavian knows the game ;)

  13. - Top - End - #193
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Yes, thank you both.

    DSA/TDE is not actually my favorite game (that honor goes to Splittermond), but the one i started with and have played the most over the decades.

    I was just a bit frustrated that the thread always circles back to D&D and always tries to reinvent the wheel. The only reason why we still endlessly discuss caster/martial disparity in D&D is not for lack of solutions. It is because a lot of players don't want a change and any compromise can only be table based.

  14. - Top - End - #194
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Kapow View Post
    Kind of ninja'd
    Satinav being the entity/deity/demon of time in DSA I suspect Satinavian knows the game ;)
    Yeah, I just don't get to play it so the details slip to the back of my mind. Maybe I should move to Germany. Definitely one of the best games to draw descent from D&D, even if in practice I'm much more likely to run Advanced Fighting Fantasy (which is as close an answer to D&D as the UK will ever get).

    I do like how AFF balances magic though. Wizardry requires you to spend XP to learn new spells, Sorcery RAW starts you off with every spell but sucks hp instead of mp, priestly magic is just four abilities per god that are mostly oncea day (which I think I got wrong earlier in the thread), and everybody suffers from lower SKILL and LUCK from having to bump MAGIC.

    Everybody just gets one skill for all their magic (mostly), but other drawbacks mean that;s not a massive issue.

    Then there's Herb Lore, which isn't magic but does have more unique rules than other Special Skills. Also like magic it lets you pull out a lot of weird effects. But it's primarily time-limited, you've got to gather (or buy) your herbs, preserve them, and for some even spend time preparing and combining them. Which means it's main cost is opportunity, preparing herbs for adventuring takes up your downtime.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

  15. - Top - End - #195
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Yeah, I just don't get to play it so the details slip to the back of my mind. Maybe I should move to Germany. Definitely one of the best games to draw descent from D&D, even if in practice I'm much more likely to run Advanced Fighting Fantasy (which is as close an answer to D&D as the UK will ever get).

    I do like how AFF balances magic though. Wizardry requires you to spend XP to learn new spells, Sorcery RAW starts you off with every spell but sucks hp instead of mp, priestly magic is just four abilities per god that are mostly oncea day (which I think I got wrong earlier in the thread), and everybody suffers from lower SKILL and LUCK from having to bump MAGIC.

    Everybody just gets one skill for all their magic (mostly), but other drawbacks mean that;s not a massive issue.

    Then there's Herb Lore, which isn't magic but does have more unique rules than other Special Skills. Also like magic it lets you pull out a lot of weird effects. But it's primarily time-limited, you've got to gather (or buy) your herbs, preserve them, and for some even spend time preparing and combining them. Which means it's main cost is opportunity, preparing herbs for adventuring takes up your downtime.
    And what do magic users (especially priests) do the rest of the time during the session? Yay. You cast your one spell. Now you get to sit there and be the Load, because it took all your build resources to get even enough magic to do anything that you don't have enough for mundane stuff? How is that fun for anyone, let alone the priest? That paints magic as being an utter trap.

    Honestly, I'd much rather have magic be something that anyone can (in principle do) but is only a tiny part of any character (or is entirely ritual and not tied to a character at all) than have a character mostly defined by their magic...who can't actually do magic. Or anything else. You hand me a "magic user" character and I expect to be, well, using magic for most things. Not doing my best to avoid it at all costs.
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  16. - Top - End - #196
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    And what do magic users (especially priests) do the rest of the time during the session? Yay. You cast your one spell. Now you get to sit there and be the Load, because it took all your build resources to get even enough magic to do anything that you don't have enough for mundane stuff? How is that fun for anyone, let alone the priest? That paints magic as being an utter trap.
    Use mundane skills? You're exchanging raw proficiency in your mundane skills, but they're not useless. It's not a choice between 'use magic' and 'do nothing'. You're not going to be as good as somebody who invested in SKILL, but they have no ability to break the laws of physics.

    Especially for priests, who have less raw need for MAGIC.

    Yes, investing in magic means that your mundane skills are less effective. No, it does not create an arbitrary case of 'useless without magic'. Plus that's leaving out the variety of ways to have reliable magic with low investment (focus on Minor Magic, or take primarily noncombat magic and just cast a bit longer) so that you can have on-par mundane skills.

    Honestly, I'd much rather have magic be something that anyone can (in principle do) but is only a tiny part of any character (or is entirely ritual and not tied to a character at all) than have a character mostly defined by their magic...who can't actually do magic. Or anything else. You hand me a "magic user" character and I expect to be, well, using magic for most things. Not doing my best to avoid it at all costs.
    Oh wow, two options that don't fit 90% of games. Where did this idea that magic users only do magic come from? (Oh right, D&D.) Now sure, your preference is a valid style for magic, but so is one where complete mundanes get more mundane skill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    And what do magic users (especially priests) do the rest of the time during the session? Yay. You cast your one spell. Now you get to sit there and be the Load, because it took all your build resources to get even enough magic to do anything that you don't have enough for mundane stuff? How is that fun for anyone, let alone the priest? That paints magic as being an utter trap.

    Honestly, I'd much rather have magic be something that anyone can (in principle do) but is only a tiny part of any character (or is entirely ritual and not tied to a character at all) than have a character mostly defined by their magic...who can't actually do magic. Or anything else. You hand me a "magic user" character and I expect to be, well, using magic for most things. Not doing my best to avoid it at all costs.
    See, this is where it gets weird to me. Its like you have this expectation that if your character sheet says "magic user" then your character can't do anything but magic. Your priest only has two spells? What's the game? Ad&d? You're also a better warrior than everyone except the actual fighter. Any game point buy or skill based? Use your other abilities. Something WH or 40K descended? Why aren't you carrying grenades and/or a big honking sword? D&d 4e or 5e? The infinite "Crossbow: the Refluffing" cantrips are the band-aid over reducing all encounters to hit point attrition. No game I know of makes magic users useless after one or two spells, not even old d&d when a low level caster only had one or two spells.

    Its just alien to me that a character having the ability to use magic would be useless if their magic wasn't directly applicable to everything all the time. Its like a warrior character being able to do nothing outside of combat because swinging a sword at a social encounter doesn't work. Some sort of assumption that a character has a special role in the game and they aren't allowed to do anything but that role. Where did this "the character is a pathetic loser if i can't cast spells every round for everything" thing come from?
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    Why are we assuming that it's the wizard's expensive component that gets lost, rather than the rogue paying for it, or a shared "necessary expenditures" budget?
    Am excellent question! How to answer…

    Are you familiar with "Let's Make a Deal" math?

    Imagine that there's 1,000,000 different classes, and you'll be in a party of 4, chosen at random from that pool.

    You have built 2 characters (you'll only play one at a time): a Wizard, and a Rogue.

    Which of them do you equip with this expensive Knock focus?

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    There's a number of ways that players could make this combination work, and since it's an advantageous combination, they have a motivation to try to find a way to make it work.
    Sure, but… if the Rogue is already hurt over losing *their* role, we've moved past reason and into hurt feelings already.

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    Your analogy here is a bit unclear. I take it that the "OP fighter" is an analogy for a spellcaster and the "DPS evocation wizard" is an analogy for the martial classes, right?
    In effect, yes. (I don't think of it as an "analogy", but let's pretend)

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    I agree that there's a balance to be struck here. While (as I pointed out) you don't want the caster to steal the limelight at the expense of other characters, you also (as I think you're trying to argue here) don't want the caster to be entirely subservient to the martial characters.

    I do agree that casters should have some ability to shine on their own. What I am suggesting is that the big show-stopping spells, the ones that give casters a reputation for being OP and make people dream up exorbitant "costs of magic" to balance them, should be tweaked in a way that shares both the cost and the limelight.
    Solo, Shine, Contribute, and Twiddle Thumbs. That's the levels I break spotlight into.

    Traditionally, the epic challenge of the locked door is one that someone (usually the Rogue, occasionally the Wizard) will Solo.

    Afaict, the Rogue just has sour grapes that, as systems give Wizards more staying power, and GMs shy away from the 50 encounter megadungeon adventuring day, the Wizard is better positioned to handle certain roles that were traditionally better handled by the Rogue.

    Rather than evaluating, honestly, "what is my role in this setup", the Rogue is whining that their role is not what they *want* it to be.

    Now, I'd love to be a famous quadstalt (book) writer / movie writer / director / actor. But that's just not a reasonable expectation for someone with my… stats. So I became a software developer instead.

    If the honest answer to, "what role can a muggle have" is "none" or "caster fanboy", then there's a problem (unless the system was billed accordingly).

    However, that is *not* the case for the traditional complaint source on this forum (ie, 3e D&D).

    But your idea to move it from a "solo" activity to a *somewhat* shine+ participate scenario is interesting. Unfortunately, it has the side effects of a) further enforcing to almost mandating a cookie cutter party; b) greatly reducing the ability of the party to function "a man down". "A" is bad; I'm not sure about "B".

    But let's see how your ideas work when the shoe is on the other foot: in 3e, you can't really take a low-level Wizard, and make them the party's primary DPS. Suppose the Wizard player is grouchy about that. How would you recommend changing other classes such that they shared the love with the poor, underpowered Evoker?

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    You're right, that's also an option - although arguably that's just another way of weakening magic's relative strength by increasing the power level of the rest of the game. It'd also require abandoning any pretense of verisimilitude, although that's a sacrifice that many would be willing to make.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    See, this is where it gets weird to me. Its like you have this expectation that if your character sheet says "magic user" then your character can't do anything but magic. Your priest only has two spells? What's the game? Ad&d? You're also a better warrior than everyone except the actual fighter. Any game point buy or skill based? Use your other abilities. Something WH or 40K descended? Why aren't you carrying grenades and/or a big honking sword? D&d 4e or 5e? The infinite "Crossbow: the Refluffing" cantrips are the band-aid over reducing all encounters to hit point attrition. No game I know of makes magic users useless after one or two spells, not even old d&d when a low level caster only had one or two spells.

    Its just alien to me that a character having the ability to use magic would be useless if their magic wasn't directly applicable to everything all the time. Its like a warrior character being able to do nothing outside of combat because swinging a sword at a social encounter doesn't work. Some sort of assumption that a character has a special role in the game and they aren't allowed to do anything but that role. Where did this "the character is a pathetic loser if i can't cast spells every round for everything" thing come from?
    Some people want a very specific fantasy where magic can do everything but the wizard player has to be batman to use it well, preparing and planning everything in advance. its an attitude that comes from 3.5 wizard optimization where the idea is that if the wizard is out of spells, they've basically lost.

    personally I just see it as a reason not to have classes and figure out a way make parties of well-rounded characters who might have focuses but can do things outside them- if you want to be prepared for everything, why not prepare for not having magic? though better made classes that actually give you all the skills that the character would logically have are a good second place.
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Its just alien to me that a character having the ability to use magic would be useless if their magic wasn't directly applicable to everything all the time. Its like a warrior character being able to do nothing outside of combat because swinging a sword at a social encounter doesn't work. Some sort of assumption that a character has a special role in the game and they aren't allowed to do anything but that role. Where did this "the character is a pathetic loser if i can't cast spells every round for everything" thing come from?
    Combat tends to be both rules and time intensive in games, so being combat capable is relevant. And for a lot of people in a lot of genres, being able to use magic as your main combat move does help cement your vision of your character.

    Still, being able to zap with eldritch blast all day every day is not necessarily more or less powerful than shooting an arrow or swinging a sword. To the extent that magic is more impactful than basic physical actions, I fully agree that you shouldn't be reshaping the battlefield as your default move each round.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    Combat tends to be both rules and time intensive in games, so being combat capable is relevant. And for a lot of people in a lot of genres, being able to use magic as your main combat move does help cement your vision of your character.

    Still, being able to zap with eldritch blast all day every day is not necessarily more or less powerful than shooting an arrow or swinging a sword. To the extent that magic is more impactful than basic physical actions, I fully agree that you shouldn't be reshaping the battlefield as your default move each round.
    Indeed they shouldn't -- but I get the impression that some players really want that.

    As for caster using weapons, part of the problem there is D&D's history of making the Magic-user/Wizard/Mage fairly inept with weapons -- even if that's been mitigated to some degree (with cantrips and with less pathetic weapon use), decades of it has left the impression that the class might as well be out of the fight once they're out of spells.
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Indeed they shouldn't -- but I get the impression that some players really want that.

    As for caster using weapons, part of the problem there is D&D's history of making the Magic-user/Wizard/Mage fairly inept with weapons -- even if that's been mitigated to some degree (with cantrips and with less pathetic weapon use), decades of it has left the impression that the class might as well be out of the fight once they're out of spells.
    That latter part follows from the ability to specialize and the concomitant need to specialize. At least in earlier editions, non-specialists just weren't all that useful. And magic users rarely got any ability to specialize in weapon use, and were super fragile to boot, meaning that they were not only useless without spells, they were an active load on the party's resources (keeping them alive). For 3e specifically, they could ape that with spells, and rarely ran out (at least as played, not as designed). 4e, well, you never really ran out. 5e has cantrips, which still absolutely suck vs weapons (~50% of steady-state no-resource damage from a baseline martial) unless you're a warlock, who is more of a magic archer.

    Now in a game where such specialization doesn't really matter, a magic user being 25% (numbers pulled from thin air) less effective than a "fighter" with weapons isn't as bad. And I can support such a thing--I'm not a fan of "everyone must specialize" niche-type games. I want a party of people who are 5-6/10 in most areas, but 7-8/10 in a couple. Where everyone can contribute most of the time, as long as they want to. And the scenarios are set up to encourage and even expect cooperation from multiple people (rather than being a one-man-show with a rotating spotlight, where the rest mostly just stand around and wait for the specialist to handle things).

    But IMO, the more costly you make magic, the more powerful you have to make it for it to be worth the effort. And that imposes huge balancing risks, just like balancing around one-hit-kill (or one-shot situation-solver) abilities is difficult. Because it reduces the game to a simple test:

    If the scenario is set up to challenge a full strength/full resources magic user, then anything else is going to be massive pain. If it's doable without that, then a full-strength caster will obliterate it.

    Much like having a wide disparity in capability within a party is more difficult to balance (for the DM), having a huge swing in effectiveness for a single character is much more of a pain than it's worth (IMO).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    SIts just alien to me that a character having the ability to use magic would be useless if their magic wasn't directly applicable to everything all the time. Its like a warrior character being able to do nothing outside of combat because swinging a sword at a social encounter doesn't work.
    Just wanted to point out that this is a lot of the problem people have had with Fighters since 3e. Even back then they could be absolute monsters in combat, but they rarely get significant tools for outside of combat.It's gotten better, now Fighters can be somewhat competent at one or two kinds of outside of combat task, but it's still not fixed the inherent issue of 'magic is a much bigger space than sword swinging'.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anymage View Post
    Combat tends to be both rules and time intensive in games, so being combat capable is relevant. And for a lot of people in a lot of genres, being able to use magic as your main combat move does help cement your vision of your character.

    Still, being able to zap with eldritch blast all day every day is not necessarily more or less powerful than shooting an arrow or swinging a sword. To the extent that magic is more impactful than basic physical actions, I fully agree that you shouldn't be reshaping the battlefield as your default move each round.
    Honestly, it's rarely the 'throw all day long' spells I see people having problems with, it's the once a day 'I win' buttons that gets the worst of it. And, as for several additions dedicated blasters have been bad ways to build most magic users, generally the relatively low level non-combat 'I win button' spells that are the worst. At-will spells are generally considered fine if they're just a little bit weaker than a Fighter making a full attack, or don't give boosts so massive that they circumvent problems.

    Which is, I believe, the main space where people want skill check magic, not in combat. They want magic to open newer, easier methods for completing the obstacle, but not to just bypass it with a single slot. It's why the two primary descendants of 4e, 5e and 13th Age, both kept rituals even if they changed them (5e made them more reliable, 13th Age made them more freeform). Even the relatively minor 5e cost of an extra ten minutes makes them potentially costly, there are many ways to structure an encounter where ten minutes might not an acceptable cost.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Honestly, it's rarely the 'throw all day long' spells I see people having problems with, it's the once a day 'I win' buttons that gets the worst of it. And, as for several additions dedicated blasters have been bad ways to build most magic users, generally the relatively low level non-combat 'I win button' spells that are the worst. At-will spells are generally considered fine if they're just a little bit weaker than a Fighter making a full attack, or don't give boosts so massive that they circumvent problems.
    I'm wondering if all this is pretty much just a bunch of issues with 3e to 5e D&Dism.

    I mean, even the "magic = win" thing works as long as there's significantly less magic than stuff you need to win and your win-magic isn't applicable to absolutely everything. AD&D did that, it worked. Now that might not be the game some people want to play, but AD&D magic "balance" did work within the intended AD&D framework & game style.

    Warhammer, the 40k offshoots, Hero system, M&M, Call of Cthulhu, etc., etc., pretty much every game's magic system "works" for that game. Again, it might not be a specific game system that a particular person wants to play, but their magic systems work for those games. Probably because the various games are more focused than "generic fantasy" and have a magic system built for the game system. I think you can argue that even AD&D wasn't intended as "generic fantasy" and that it's magic was originally designed for it's original intended play style.

    So maybe people's issue with modern D&D magic is that it's got a half-modded magic system from an older game that was played in a different style.
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    See, this is where it gets weird to me. Its like you have this expectation that if your character sheet says "magic user" then your character can't do anything but magic. Your priest only has two spells? What's the game? Ad&d? You're also a better warrior than everyone except the actual fighter. Any game point buy or skill based? Use your other abilities. Something WH or 40K descended? Why aren't you carrying grenades and/or a big honking sword? D&d 4e or 5e? The infinite "Crossbow: the Refluffing" cantrips are the band-aid over reducing all encounters to hit point attrition. No game I know of makes magic users useless after one or two spells, not even old d&d when a low level caster only had one or two spells.

    Its just alien to me that a character having the ability to use magic would be useless if their magic wasn't directly applicable to everything all the time. Its like a warrior character being able to do nothing outside of combat because swinging a sword at a social encounter doesn't work. Some sort of assumption that a character has a special role in the game and they aren't allowed to do anything but that role. Where did this "the character is a pathetic loser if i can't cast spells every round for everything" thing come from?
    Because I'd want to play a spellcaster, not fire crossbows or throw grenades. 5E Cantrips are absolutely refluffing of crossbows, and that's the whole point. It is more aesthetically pleasing to say "I cast Fire Bolt" than it is "I fire my crossbow". "I cast Fireball" is more immersive than "I throw a grenade". It's part of what makes me feel like I'm playing a spellcaster. So yes, not being able to do magic because the rules make me wish I hadn't if I did is a major problem. It's fine to be able to do some non-magical things, but if I'm playing a spellcaster I expect magic to be the majority of what I do, and there's nothing wrong with that. When I'm willing not to be so magical that's where being a "gish" comes in. Sometimes I'm fine with the majority of what I do not be magical but use magic to enhance what I do. Then there are times I don't want magic at all. When I do want magic I don't want the rules to metaphorically slap me upside the head with punishments for doing so, like lose turns, lose actions, lose sanity, lose experience points so I can't advance as fast as others, lose health to become closer to death, etc. I'm aware published game settings use those methods. That doesn't make them a good idea, and I don't play those games.
    Last edited by Pex; 2021-03-01 at 08:43 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    You have built 2 characters (you'll only play one at a time): a Wizard, and a Rogue. Which of them do you equip with this expensive Knock focus?
    If I can only play one character at a time, then it makes sense to give the focus to the wizard. It's not very much use to the wizard (it'll break the first time they use it), but it's absolutely useless to the rogue (as they can't cast spells at all).

    This is a bad analogy, though. The whole point of this example is that the right spell design could make it an optimal strategy for the rogue and wizard to work together, and having them be separate characters that can't be on the field at the same time precludes that. In a real game, the rogue and wizard would be played by different players, and they could be in play simultaneously and work together.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Solo, Shine, Contribute, and Twiddle Thumbs. That's the levels I break spotlight into.
    That's a very helpful scale, because it illustrates a point about different types of balance.

    In a balanced game, all characters will have the same average position on that scale. There's different ways that this can be achieved: a very "swingy" form of balance will see characters taking turns to solo challenges while everyone else twiddles their thumbs, while a "flat" form of balance will see everyone contributing to every encounter. Something somewhere in between would have characters taking turn to shine.

    The classes from 3.X are balanced in different ways. Wizards are swingy; a wizard with the right spell can do anything while a wizard without spells is almost useless. Rogues are also a bit swingy, in that traditionally rogues solo certain skill challenges (what sort depends on the rogue, but it's often locks and traps and social) but contribute to combat.

    Classes that are built around a swingy balance are more vulnerable to power creep and to optimization, because players only need to look for ways to increase the frequency of "solo" moments (through selecting the right spells) and by avoiding the situations where "twiddle thumbs" moments occur (say, by leaving when low on spells to return the next day, as high-level wizards can do). They are also more dependent on a DM who delivers the right balance of the right type of challenge where each character gets a chance to solo/shine.

    Many of the "cost of magic" ideas that get thrown around as a way to compensate for the fact that casters are overpowered would have the effect of making casters even more swingy, which is ultimately going to make the root cause of this balancing issue worse rather than better.

    This brings us to an important point about player expectations:
    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Sure, but… if the Rogue is already hurt over losing *their* role, we've moved past reason and into hurt feelings already.
    The fact that out hypothetical rogue is getting upset here belies a key assumption about what it means to have a role: they expect to be soloing this challenge, and if they merely shine instead then they perceive that as loosing the role. That's not an assumption that a player of a less "swingy" class would be likely to make in the first place. Fighters almost never get to solo anything, for example. They're often the primary damage-dealer at low levels, but they're never the only damage-dealer. They're often the best tank, but they shouldn't the only character who can tank at all.

    I see the assumption that a character needs to solo something in order to have a role is an insidious one. That leads to swingy balance, which leads to vulnerability to optimization and power creep and reliance on DM discretion. A flatter type of balance is much easier to maintain.

    That's not to say that characters soloing challenges is necessarily bad - it's only bad if it's an expected part of how the game is balanced. Characters soloing challenges should be the exciting exception IMO, not the norm.

    I think that we're mostly on the same page here:
    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Rather than evaluating, honestly, "what is my role in this setup", the Rogue is whining that their role is not what they *want* it to be.
    To say the same thing in more words: Rather than evaluating, honestly, "what is my role in this setup", the rogue is whining that their role is a contributing or shining one, rather than the solo play that they've been conditioned to expect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    But your idea to move it from a "solo" activity to a *somewhat* shine+ participate scenario is interesting. Unfortunately, it has the side effects of a) further enforcing to almost mandating a cookie cutter party; b) greatly reducing the ability of the party to function "a man down". "A" is bad; I'm not sure about "B".
    Actually, I think that this sort of system would allow for more flexibility in party composition. Remember that the wizard doesn't need the rogue to provide the skill check; cooperation saves them resources. Likewise, the rogue can still pick locks without the wizard; just not reliably or quickly. If cooportaion is the optimal strategy for reasons relating to resource conservation and expanded range of capability, but not mandatory in order to have any chance of success at all, then a party which is missing a character would be at a disadvantage but not completely disabled.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    But let's see how your ideas work when the shoe is on the other foot: in 3e, you can't really take a low-level Wizard, and make them the party's primary DPS. Suppose the Wizard player is grouchy about that. How would you recommend changing other classes such that they shared the love with the poor, underpowered Evoker?
    Well, the fundamental source of the issue is that evokers have swingy balance. I wouldn't fix the other classes, because they aren't what's broken.

    Imagining the shoe on the other foot doesn't help when the shoe really and truly is on one specific foot.
    Last edited by Herbert_W; 2021-03-01 at 08:01 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Because I'd want to play a spellcaster, not fire crossbows or throw grenades.
    And some of us think that magic is less magical if it's being used all the time, and prefer having our wizards rely on mundane skills. It's a taste thing.

    But I have had wizard characters I've played go months without a spell being cast. It all depends on the game and the character how viable that is/
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    I quite like the idea in Barbarians of Lemuria, in which there are four different levels of spells with increasing costs of Arcane Power. Power points that were spend on the first two levels return every day, but points spend on the higher level spells only return after a month, and the highest level spells make you lose a point permanently. If you only have something like 15 Arcane Power, that hurts a lot and likely leaves you powerless for the rest of the month. But it still might be worthwhile on rare occasions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Because I'd want to play a spellcaster, not fire crossbows or throw grenades. 5E Cantrips are absolutely refluffing of crossbows, and that's the whole point. It is more aesthetically pleasing to say "I cast Fire Bolt" than it is "I fire my crossbow". "I cast Fireball" is more immersive than "I throw a grenade". It's part of what makes me feel like I'm playing a spellcaster.
    I think I see now. You define a caster/magic user character as one who uses magic as much as possible, where the mechanical game effects are less important than the special effects surrounding the mechanic. Yes? As long as your character is using the "cast a spell" action the actual result isn't important, but if you aren't using "cast a spell" almost all the time then the character isn't a (or doesn't feel like) a magic user.

    But doesn't that require magic to be a "do everything" type of ability? Functionally supplanting nearly all other character abilities? If you want a character's attack magic to be as common and often used as a sword or pistol, or defense magic used as often as armor and shields, or charming magic used as often as social skills... Doesn't that tend to force a system into making magic just descriptive fluff on the regular abilities that all the characters use?

    To me that doesn't even qualify as a magic system. It's like a supers game where one ability is a 10d6 purple magic energy zap and another is a 10d6 green quark energy blast, the difference is purely cosmetic. I would think that if your game's magic system was basically a replacement system for the majority of the character's normal abilities (attack, defend, move, discover, interact) then it would tend to have the same costs, limits, and mechanical effects as those other abilities. I'm not sure there are many games that do that beyond supers, light narrative, and D&D 4e.
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    I think I see now. You define a caster/magic user character as one who uses magic as much as possible, where the mechanical game effects are less important than the special effects surrounding the mechanic. Yes? As long as your character is using the "cast a spell" action the actual result isn't important, but if you aren't using "cast a spell" almost all the time then the character isn't a (or doesn't feel like) a magic user.

    But doesn't that require magic to be a "do everything" type of ability? Functionally supplanting nearly all other character abilities? If you want a character's attack magic to be as common and often used as a sword or pistol, or defense magic used as often as armor and shields, or charming magic used as often as social skills... Doesn't that tend to force a system into making magic just descriptive fluff on the regular abilities that all the characters use?

    To me that doesn't even qualify as a magic system. It's like a supers game where one ability is a 10d6 purple magic energy zap and another is a 10d6 green quark energy blast, the difference is purely cosmetic. I would think that if your game's magic system was basically a replacement system for the majority of the character's normal abilities (attack, defend, move, discover, interact) then it would tend to have the same costs, limits, and mechanical effects as those other abilities. I'm not sure there are many games that do that beyond supers, light narrative, and D&D 4e.
    There's a long tail effect here--some abilities get used all the time and others less so. Those "hot path" abilities should be themed, IMO, even if the mechanics aren't that much different. And which ones these are depends on the game.

    In a combat focused game, simply making your basic combat action options involve casting spells (even if those are functionally very similar to more mundane actions) is enough, without handling all the cases. Note that you don't need to replace armor with magic--it's fine if a wizard is unarmored and mostly isn't in direct melee. And you don't need to replace all the everything with magic, just the things you do a lot of.

    So in a social-focused game with rare non-social combat, having a wizard whose only magic was throwing fireballs would be the same as not having a wizard at all--taking that "skill" is a trap since it rarely, if ever comes up. On the other hand, having a wizard who enchants as one of his basic "social combat" techniques, even if that has similar outcomes to the schmoozer's "butter them up" move (or whatever) allows you to play a wizard even if not everything they do is magic.
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