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  1. - Top - End - #211
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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.
    No, magic doesn't have to do everything. Maybe a magic system "has a spell for that" where everything has a magical equivalent, but the individual character can't do everything. That's a fine restriction - limited knowledge/ability. Some D&D 2E restrictions were good ones. Spellcasters had limited number of spells. Wizard could only learn a certain number based on intelligence. Additionally, if you specialize in a school two schools were forbidden and could never learn or cast those spells. Clerics could only know particular spells based on spheres. If you used the Priest's Handbook you were even more limited in exchange for a few powers. In 5E Sorcerers have a limited number of spells known. I agree with many who say the number is too low, that being a matter of taste, but the concept is fine and I have no objection that a limit exists. I can agree a magic system doesn't need 8 different spells that do X dice of damage of different damage types, but that's devil in the details. That an X dice of damage spell exists is not a problem.

    Not wanting to be punished for casting a spell is not the same thing as not wanting any restrictions on magic at all. Limited knowledge is a proper restriction. Devil in the details is not too restricted, i.e. no may only know 3 spells forever and ever. Limited amount of ability to cast (mana, spell slots, etc.) is fine. Devil in the details it's not too limited, i.e. no may only ever cast one spell per game day. Being able to cast these spells mean never ever being able to cast those spells is fine. There are also the standards: Need to roll to hit your opponent or the opponent gets to roll a die to ignore the spell or have a lesser effect. Needing to roll a die in order to cast the spell at all, a skill/ability/magic check is fine if and only if upon success the spell will always work without an additional chance it will fail (roll to hit, opponent gets a save). That's fairness since a warrior only has to roll to hit his opponent. He doesn't have to roll first to see if he gets to roll to hit. If a warrior did that's a poor game system with too many dice rolls.
    Last edited by Pex; 2021-03-02 at 04:38 PM.
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  2. - Top - End - #212
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    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./
    You're right, it's a taste thing. DnD caters to people who have a specific expectation of what it means to be a magic user; in 3.X and prior, a caster has game-changing abilities whose use they carefully ration because they're basically a wet towel once their spells run dry. In 4e, casters use magic for everything and have the same resource management mechanics as any other class. In 5e, casters can use magic for everything and have game-changing abilities that the carefully ration because they're a bit less effective than martial classes when their non-cantrip spells run dry.

    Every edition of DnD has a specific conception of what it means to be a caster built in to it. If that doesn't fit a player's concept for their character, then that player doesn't have many other options. I do wish that DnD had more flexibility in this regard, and had different spellcasting classes that properly represented different concepts instead of depicting the same basic concept in different ways. The 5e warlock was a step in the right direction on this front, but is hampered by the fact that the warlock's mechanics are tied rules-wise to a warlock's need for a patron.

    I find it useful to divide magic into four kinds depending on whether the magic exists for flavor or as a game-changer, and on whether it's for use in or out of combat.

    • In-combat flavor serves an an alternative option to mundane attack or defense. A 5e firebolt is basically equivalent to an arrow in the grand scheme of things, and a 4e disintegrate does the same thing as the ranger power of the same level two-in-one shot. (Yes, they do slightly different amounts and different types of damage, but they still do the same kind of thing even if not exactly equally well.) These abilities mage a mage feel like a mage for players who want to play a "magic first all the time" sort of character while having little or no effect on the power level of said character. These shouldn't have any more of a resource cost than the mundane abilities that they replace - because players won't use them if they do, and players who want these abilities will want to use them a lot.
    • Out-of-combat flavor allows for mundane utility outside of combat. Maybe one character can cast mending while another has a knack for mundane repairs; both characters feel different but have the same overall level of capability. Once again, these shouldn't have more of a cost then the mundane skills that they replicate.
    • In-combat game-changers change the way that a character fights. Being able to cast a wall spell both encourages a player to think tactically about when and where to drop it, and encourages them to avoid melee so that they have a chance to cast. These abilities should have a cost. Usually, that's limited uses per day (i.e. using a spell slot) and an opportunity cost (getting that spell slot required taking a level in a class, and therefore not in another class).
    • Out-of-combat game-changers grant players more control over the course of the game. Resurrection is an example of a spell that's cast out of combat and can have a profound effect on the game. This sort of magic should have a cost. Limited uses aren't as meaningful if an ability can be used during downtime, so expensive components, opportunity costs to learn the ability, and risk are all viable as costs.


    A player might want to play a spell caster that has any combination of one or more of these abilities - and they might want to not have one of these types of magic while having another.

    This could make spellcasting classes different in interesting ways. For example, magic might always come with a great cost for a warlock - not so great that it isn't worth it, but great enough that no warlock would ever use magic frivolously. This warlock would only use game-changing powers and would rely on mundane skills for everything else. Meanwhile, a hedge mage might see nothing wrong with using prestidigitation to brush their teeth every morning.

    We're wandering off-topic here. Bringing it back to the cost of magic: the main point that I think we should take away from this is that, whatever cost we attach to impactful magic spells, we don't want to attach that to all magic. Flavorful non-game-changing magic is a thing that players want and that would be severely hampered if all magic came at a great price.

  3. - Top - End - #213
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    To Herbert_W: I like that framing and am kind of kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner. (I like more general focused systems.) So in terms of game balance and fitting into the overall game I definitely agree with you. To the point I don't have much to add. But I have one counter point I would like to bring up.

    On one level there is a counter argument though in that magic has some differences from other skills; all the thematic weight the idea carries. Not that mental skills and physical skills have the same connotations but magic just... I kind of like magic that feels otherworldly (not exclusively but I'm going somewhere with this) and that does kind of mean it should stand apart from the other skills in some way. What that way is completely up to the designer but unless you are going for "mundane magic" it should probably stand apart a bit. Still you can do that while still using the same structure as the other skills if you need to.
    Also my thread preview right now consists exactly of the 30 posts since the restart. I think that is cool.
    On Amount of Magic: It is an aside but I have a few things to say quickly A) Magic fades with overuse. B) I have very few characters who are defined by a single skill so I don't mind using more than one.
    Last edited by Cluedrew; 2021-03-02 at 08:50 PM. Reason: I meant to hit "Preview Post"

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    I genuinely do not understand the argument that if you use too much magic, it stops feeling like magic. Like, is anyone going to tell me with a straight face that they think that Game of Thrones is a more magical TV show than Avatar: The Last Airbender? Because that's the argument being made here, and I don't see how it holds water.

  5. - Top - End - #215
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    To NigelWalmsley: Well I said "overuse" and how much use is overuse depends on a lot of factors. For example Bending is woven into society, they are massive traditions passed down without being hidden or restricted. It also has this real physical component that makes it seem pretty natural to use consistently and continuously. On the other hand magic that is supposed to be closely guarded secrets from a previous age, learned through years of service, quests or careful trades could due with a little less ubiquity.

    I realise that this sort of boils down to "sometimes it just feels like it is too much" but in the end it is a matter of feel.

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    You're right, it's a taste thing. DnD caters to people who have a specific expectation of what it means to be a magic user;
    I should note that, while I agree with your post, I'm also fully willing to admit that I don't like D&D. The sheer prevalence of magic in later editions is one part (Eberron being an exception because I can think of the magic as alternative technology), another part is a growing love of more gritty, lower powered, and weird fantasy.

    My favourite game is Unknown Armies, where magick almost always has a cost and mostly is relatively unreliable. But even with all the hassle playing an Adept causes it's still useful, because spells run on a different kind of logic to normal reality. Plus, you know, it's ripe for weird stuff even if I suck at running it as a horror game.

    D&D wouldn't need flexibility if it was easier to play other games, but I'd rather not have that discussion again.

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    I genuinely do not understand the argument that if you use too much magic, it stops feeling like magic. Like, is anyone going to tell me with a straight face that they think that Game of Thrones is a more magical TV show than Avatar: The Last Airbender? Because that's the argument being made here, and I don't see how it holds water.
    I've not read enough A Song of Ice and Fire to get to any magic, so maybe? It certainly feels less magical than The Lord of the Rings.

    Well, kind of. Bending doesn't feel magical, it feels like a set of exotic martial arts. The stuff to do with the spirit world does, at least in part because it appears less and has more of an aura of mystery.
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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 NigelWalmsley View Post
    I genuinely do not understand the argument that if you use too much magic, it stops feeling like magic. Like, is anyone going to tell me with a straight face that they think that Game of Thrones is a more magical TV show than Avatar: The Last Airbender? Because that's the argument being made here, and I don't see how it holds water.
    There's two different senses of the word "magic" being used here: something feeling special and mysterious and otherworldly, or the basic fact of something being called magic in the lore of the game.

    To rephrase the argument in a less confusing way, spellcasting feels less special when it's overused.

    Getting on that subject, there's a number of different forms of "overuse" and I'm concerned that we may be unintentionally equivocating between them. There's been a several four-point lists in this thread so far, so let's make another covering different ways that magic (i.e. spells) overuse can kill the magic (i.e. specialness).

    • Knowledge: How many people in the setting know that magic exists? How many have a basic grasp of what it requires and what it can do?
    • Accessibility: How many people could get magic if they wanted it? How many people have the opportunity to learn magic, and how many could hire a spellcaster?
    • Commonness: How many people can use magic?
    • Frequency: Of those people who have magic, how often do they use it?

    This might be a matter of taste, but I care much more about the first three points on this list than the last one. If most people's reaction to seeing a spell cast is "Oh wow, that's a nice spell" rather than "Wait what? How? Did that actually happen?" then that kills the magic. If I can go to the nearest city, find the wizard's guild, and hire someone to cast any (legal) spell - and I know in advance how much it's likely to cost - then that kills the magic. If every major temple has at least one priest with real magical powers, then that kills the magic.

    If I'm an adventurer of uncommon ability, accompanied by other adventurers of uncommon ability, and one of my buddies uses magic all day every day - that doesn't kill the magic. If anything, a character having access to minor inconsequential/flavorful magic in a setting where magic is usually powerful and costly makes that character feel more special (and it makes them feel special without increasing their power, which from a game-design perspective, is free gravy).

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    To Herbert_W: I like that framing and am kind of kicking myself for not thinking of it sooner. (I like more general focused systems.) . . . But I have one counter point I would like to bring up.

    On one level there is a counter argument though in that magic has some differences from other skills; all the thematic weight the idea carries. Not that mental skills and physical skills have the same connotations but magic just... I kind of like magic that feels otherworldly (not exclusively but I'm going somewhere with this) and that does kind of mean it should stand apart from the other skills in some way. What that way is completely up to the designer but unless you are going for "mundane magic" it should probably stand apart a bit. Still you can do that while still using the same structure as the other skills if you need to.
    I also like magic that feels weird and otherworldly - but that last sentence basically unwinds the whole counterargument. If magic replicates a mundane skill, and you can make it feel otherworldly and weird while still costing as much as the mundane skill that it replaces, then "magic should be weird" isn't an argument against making the costs the same.

    There's a lot that hinges on that "if." I think it's completely possible to make magic weird through a combination of fluff and odd requirements that don't have a significant effect on the power level of the character. It does require creativity though, which might explain why DnD fails to pull this off.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    My favourite game is Unknown Armies . . . it's ripe for weird stuff even if I suck at running it as a horror game.
    I've heard good things about UA. I've never played it, but I've read through some rules online, and from what I can tell there's a lot of good ideas in that game. It seems like it'd be a bit hard to balance though.

    One of the advantages of DnD (and I suspect the main advantage and reason why it's so popular) is that it's easy to set up and run a basically decent game. The minimum cost of entry in terms of system mastery and effort to DM a game that's fun to play is very low. Your basic plot hook is "There's gold in them thar hills. Wanna loot it?" Your basic challenge for the PCs is the monsters that they run into while looting, with a balanced and well-fleshed out tactical combat simulator. Your basic balance is having all of the PCs be close to the same level.

    I'll admit that I probably ought to do some more research before I make a definitive statement, but UA seems to lack that sort of solid gameplay core. That doesn't make it not a good game, but it does make it less good for the target audience of DnD.

    If a game took the weirdness of UA's magic and made it work with a DnD-style gameplay core, then that'd be a great system.

    (This is a bit of a tangent, but fighting against entropomancer goblins would be fun. Horrifying, but fun.)
    Last edited by Herbert_W; 2021-03-03 at 07:46 AM.

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    I also like magic that feels weird and otherworldly - but that last sentence basically unwinds the whole counterargument.
    Yes that is because leaning into expectations and subverting them have very different rules. Both are valid but not valid to do both (or at least its harder). Either way it is something one should keep in mind but there are so many things you can do with it from there trying to make hard and fast rules is pretty much doomed to failure.

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Herbert_W View Post
    Getting on that subject, there's a number of different forms of "overuse" and I'm concerned that we may be unintentionally equivocating between them. There's been a several four-point lists in this thread so far, so let's make another covering different ways that magic (i.e. spells) overuse can kill the magic (i.e. specialness).

    • Knowledge: How many people in the setting know that magic exists? How many have a basic grasp of what it requires and what it can do?
    • Accessibility: How many people could get magic if they wanted it? How many people have the opportunity to learn magic, and how many could hire a spellcaster?
    • Commonness: How many people can use magic?
    • Frequency: Of those people who have magic, how often do they use it?

    This might be a matter of taste, but I care much more about the first three points on this list than the last one. If most people's reaction to seeing a spell cast is "Oh wow, that's a nice spell" rather than "Wait what? How? Did that actually happen?" then that kills the magic. If I can go to the nearest city, find the wizard's guild, and hire someone to cast any (legal) spell - and I know in advance how much it's likely to cost - then that kills the magic. If every major temple has at least one priest with real magical powers, then that kills the magic.
    To me magic not being a big deal kind of kills it for me. Although that can also be done by just making wizards so rare an adventuring party doesn't have one.

    I've heard good things about UA. I've never played it, but I've read through some rules online, and from what I can tell there's a lot of good ideas in that game. It seems like it'd be a bit hard to balance though.
    Eh, it's balanced in different ways. Mundanes are relatively much more powerful than in D&D, due to a mixture of features such as no automatic insanity, not having to dedicate skill/identity points to magick, and not having their behaviour restricted via taboo. The last one can be a big one, I can't remember the exact wording of the mechanomancer taboo but I remember my first group decided they could down a (extremely outdated) dumb mobile phone and receive calls, but weren't allowed to call people themselves.

    One of the advantages of DnD (and I suspect the main advantage and reason why it's so popular) is that it's easy to set up and run a basically decent game. The minimum cost of entry in terms of system mastery and effort to DM a game that's fun to play is very low. Your basic plot hook is "There's gold in them thar hills. Wanna loot it?" Your basic challenge for the PCs is the monsters that they run into while looting, with a balanced and well-fleshed out tactical combat simulator. Your basic balance is having all of the PCs be close to the same level.

    I'll admit that I probably ought to do some more research before I make a definitive statement, but UA seems to lack that sort of solid gameplay core. That doesn't make it not a good game, but it does make it less good for the target audience of DnD.
    Well, 3e adds more structure, in that the assumed default is 'the group wants something so badly they resorted to the occult to get it'. It does, however, still have the issue of requiring an (ideally) player-decided goal. But yeah, I'll admit that an often ignored aspect is that D&D is essentially designed for pick-up games, where people turn up and then decide the character they're playing. This has actually only got more pronounced since 3e, with point-buy and arcane casters whose spells-known are based entirely on their level.

    If a game took the weirdness of UA's magic and made it work with a DnD-style gameplay core, then that'd be a great system.

    (This is a bit of a tangent, but fighting against entropomancer goblins would be fun. Horrifying, but fun.)
    Sure, but to get the same level of weirdness you'd have to essentially burn all the settings to the ground, and see 4e Forgotten Realms. Or well, limit all the weirdness to NPCs, which is very much YMMV.

    Though Entropomancers are some of the best chaos mages that I've seen in a game. But it would be difficult to create many UA-style weird magick schools that would work for D&D, and one of the great things about UA is that magick schools can rise and fall fast as well as stick around for a long time. Authentic Thaumaturgy didn't rule the magick game for a century, mechanomancy might have meaningfully changed, Videomancy lost the majority of it's power in the 2010s, and while Cinemancy (movie cliche magick) is probably pushing a century itself at this point it's very concept means it has to change over time.

    As a side note I love Cinemancers, partially because they combine a relatively easy time farming Significant Charges and a powerful school with a rather inconvinient Taboo.You have to do your best to fulfil every single movie cliche you see, so prey to the Invisible Clergy that you don't suffer a 'meet cute'. While other schools are great, such as the fact that gun mages can't shoot anybody, I just love the idea of a Cinemancer acting like a James Bond villain just to harvest four Sigs a day, and losing all his Charges if he doesn't have a complex but escapable deathtrap to put the PCs in.
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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.

  10. - Top - End - #220
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Yeah, the weirder, more esoteric and interesting the magic system, the chances that its setting specific and can't really work anywhere else reach 1.

    Unless you go full superhero and allow people to create their own magic system from scratch and bring their own weirdness, but GMs are a burden-filled lot who look at such weirdness and variance and generally not want to deal too many unknown factors. it means more work for them, so....not likely.
    Last edited by Lord Raziere; 2021-03-03 at 09:13 AM.
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    Yeah, the weirder, more esoteric and interesting the magic system, the chances that its setting specific and can't really work anywhere else reach 1.

    Unless you go full superhero and allow people to create their own magic system from scratch and bring their own weirdness, but GMs are a burden-filled lot who look at such weirdness and variance and generally not want to deal too many unknown factors. it means more work for them, so....not likely.
    Mechanics can be juggled out to produce just about anything desired when you have the elusive gem of math and statistics that seems to be lacking on many mainstream design teams. Itís the flavor stuff thatís the stumbling block. Yeah I could write mechanics for it, but thatís frankly not the game weíre sitting down to play so you wonít have a cuteness attribute anal circumference stat.
    By the metric of being wholly dependent on the GM for noncombat interaction Fighter is an NPC class.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Mechanics can be juggled out to produce just about anything desired when you have the elusive gem of math and statistics that seems to be lacking on many mainstream design teams. Itís the flavor stuff thatís the stumbling block. Yeah I could write mechanics for it, but thatís frankly not the game weíre sitting down to play so you wonít have a cuteness attribute anal circumference stat.
    There are so many games I've picked up for the setting, atmosphere, etc... only to be utterly let down by the mechanics... either they were actually going for characters to fail at least 2/3 of the time on most tasks, or they just can't do math.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    There are so many games I've picked up for the setting, atmosphere, etc... only to be utterly let down by the mechanics... either they were actually going for characters to fail at least 2/3 of the time on most tasks, or they just can't do math.
    Now you have me curious. Iíve been reading a smattering of systems lately to get a better picture of various approaches and itís often isolated failures that are more informative than the rest of the framework. Got any suggested reading?
    By the metric of being wholly dependent on the GM for noncombat interaction Fighter is an NPC class.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Now you have me curious. Iíve been reading a smattering of systems lately to get a better picture of various approaches and itís often isolated failures that are more informative than the rest of the framework. Got any suggested reading?
    A couple good examples.

    Fria Ligan's system for Tales From the Loop and Things From the Flood -- even average tasks will be failed almost 2/3 of the time, unless a lot of "character build" has been invested in a specific thing that applies to what's being rolled to attempt. I love the setting and atmosphere, but I could never play using their system.

    Cubicle 7's Yggdrasill -- most rolls get a characteristic and a skill, but some only get the characteristic... and the target number scale is the same, meaning characters just fail those rolls more, for no particular reason other than a quirk in the mechanics.

    I can't begin to think of how I'd make 12 different character-specific kinds of magic work in either of those systems.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2021-03-03 at 11:22 AM.
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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    A couple good examples.

    Fria Ligan's system for Tales From the Loop and Things From the Flood -- even average tasks will be failed almost 2/3 of the time, unless a lot of "character build" has been invested in a specific thing that applies to what's being rolled to attempt. I love the setting and atmosphere, but I could never play using their system.
    Sometimes that's due to unstated assumptions, such as Dark Heresy's assumptions that you'll generally have a positive bonus from taking extra time or the like. I've started to think that it's important for systems writers to state their assumptions.

    Cubicle 7's Yggdrasill -- most rolls get a characteristic and a skill, but some only get the characteristic... and the target number scale is the same, meaning characters just fail those rolls more, for no particular reason other than a quirk in the mechanics.

    I can't begin to think of how I'd make 12 different character-specific kinds of magic work in either of those systems.
    Le 7Ťme Cercle. Cubicle 7 just did the translation from the original French.

    Actually, Le 7Ťme Cercle's games have really well done historical backgrounds, but pretty poor mechanics. You've mentioned the issue with TNs not taking Attribute only rolls into account, I'd like to mention that the critical failure rules are written so that raising your Attribute above 2 increases your chance of a fumble. Qin: the Warring States doesn't have this specific issue, but it does still have the issue of not shifting target numbers to account for Attribute-only rolls.
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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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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Sometimes that's due to unstated assumptions, such as Dark Heresy's assumptions that you'll generally have a positive bonus from taking extra time or the like. I've started to think that it's important for systems writers to state their assumptions.
    Agreed, I think developers become steeped in their own assumptions and often don't stop to think that a person picking up the book wasn't there for the hours and hours of discussion, and didn't sit through the playtesting sessions.

    It would do a lot of good for more RPGs to be more explicit about those assumptions. Some tables consider taking extra time or having a bonus the exception, so a system that considers it commonplace needs to SAY SO.

    I think the assumption in TFTL and TFTF is that few rolls are made per scene and that characters should be failing the first try so that they're pushed to take on "narrative complications" to attempt the roll again with a bonus... so... yeah. There's a lot of implicit but very little explicit to make it clear, but I think they're going for "roll a few times per scene to see who takes narrative control of that scene".


    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Le 7Ťme Cercle. Cubicle 7 just did the translation from the original French.
    What must be the Le 7Ťme Cercle logo on the back of my copy is so dark that I can just make out the 7 and maybe a C clearly -- so I thought it was just a French and an English logo for Cubicle 7.


    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Actually, Le 7Ťme Cercle's games have really well done historical backgrounds, but pretty poor mechanics. You've mentioned the issue with TNs not taking Attribute only rolls into account, I'd like to mention that the critical failure rules are written so that raising your Attribute above 2 increases your chance of a fumble. Qin: the Warring States doesn't have this specific issue, but it does still have the issue of not shifting target numbers to account for Attribute-only rolls.
    Qin's system, with taking the difference between two dice, is a bit of an oddball (IIRC).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Agreed, I think developers become steeped in their own assumptions and often don't stop to think that a person picking up the book wasn't there for the hours and hours of discussion, and didn't sit through the playtesting sessions.

    It would do a lot of good for more RPGs to be more explicit about those assumptions. Some tables consider taking extra time or having a bonus the exception, so a system that considers it commonplace needs to SAY SO.

    I think the assumption in TFTL and TFTF is that few rolls are made per scene and that characters should be failing the first try so that they're pushed to take on "narrative complications" to attempt the roll again with a bonus... so... yeah. There's a lot of implicit but very little explicit to make it clear, but I think they're going for "roll a few times per scene to see who takes narrative control of that scene".
    Yeah, with the game I'm writing with intent to publish (freely on the interwebs) I've begun smoke testing the rules even though the full alpha document isn't finished (although if I was bothering to track versions we'd be at 0.1.4 at the moment due to some core rules revisions). Which reminds me, I need to actually add in an explanation of difficulties (and done).

    Actually the GM chapter is mainly going to be about assumptions the system makes, including how many resources checks are rolled a session and the fact that it's intended for the GM to roll openly. It's just very hard to write it without coming across as prescriptive.

    What must be the Le 7Ťme Cercle logo on the back of my copy is so dark that I can just make out the 7 and maybe a C clearly -- so I thought it was just a French and an English logo for Cubicle 7.
    Yeah, it is a bit confusing. Honestly if Cubicle 7 still had the licence I might not brought it up, but the clarity helps people find the game(in pdf at least, I cannot work out if print copies are being produced in English).


    Qin's system, with taking the difference between two dice, is a bit of an oddball (IIRC).
    It's weird and creates a weird curve of results, but it works and does exactly what you expect. The system in Yggdrassil and Keltia is just as weird, Statd10b2+Skill, but skills are much more important it's '2+ 1s means a critical failure' rule leads to a bit of weirdness*.

    * But I immediately saw that and decided that 'all ones is a critical failure' worked better for me.
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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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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    , or they just can't do math.
    When for the price of a decent meal (or less) you can usually get a stats student to do a math check on your system or a comp.sci student to model it. I get that RPG writers aren't often math heavy but the issue has been common enough that they should know to get a math check.

    Went back to the op:
    In DnD you basically get your spells for free, when leveling up (the whole spell list in some cases) and casting won't fail, except for spell resistance.
    You don't have to invest time or resources to learn spells and pretty small amounts to cast them.
    There is nearly no downside to being a caster.

    In other games I played, <snipped stuff> Additionally, spell failure can have devastating side effects.

    To me, that means, that even if magic is really powerful, mundane characters keep being a solid choice, because by avoiding those costs, you can invest your resources in other ways and (kind of) keep up.

    I think, by handling magic in this way, you can keep (high) magic as an option, but avoid things like the tippyverse.
    The mentioned mystery of magic is also easier to achieve.
    So yeah. Different people have different preferences, risk tolerance, preferred power levels, balance concerns, etc., etc.

    D&D has, during the march of editions, gone with increasing ease & reliability of magic while mostly keeping non-magic trying to rolli high on a d20. It's an opinion and preference if that's good or bad. Other systems chose differently, for good or ill depending on various details. But nonD&D style limits on magic work in those games, some of which are on 3+ decades of publication.

    Random question from me: Anyone know of nonD&D systems that do Tippyverse/wight-pocalypse type stuff on accident? I mean where those sorts of possible outcomes are really and truely unintentional and break/obsolete swaths of base character options? This is curiosity on my part, not casting aspersions. The closest I can think of is supers games with static RL style tech when super tech exists, but that's that whole genera and exists in the source material that the games emulate. And even that's more a fridge logic hiccup rather than the D&D style giving 1/10000 of the world population the ability to make perpetual motion devices or infinite food cabinets (yes, od&d, ad&d, & 4e generally avoided it too, already know that).
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    In GURPS you can accidentally summon a demon for casting a spell. It's a small chance but is possible. Multiply by the number of spellcasters in a game world, Demon Apocalypse. The game only recommends to reroll the demon result for casting a healing spell.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    When for the price of a decent meal (or less) you can usually get a stats student to do a math check on your system or a comp.sci student to model it. I get that RPG writers aren't often math heavy but the issue has been common enough that they should know to get a math check.
    How much would it cost to have an economics student do a check on how much meals cost in the game?


    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Went back to the op:


    So yeah. Different people have different preferences, risk tolerance, preferred power levels, balance concerns, etc., etc.

    D&D has, during the march of editions, gone with increasing ease & reliability of magic while mostly keeping non-magic trying to rolli high on a d20. It's an opinion and preference if that's good or bad. Other systems chose differently, for good or ill depending on various details. But nonD&D style limits on magic work in those games, some of which are on 3+ decades of publication.

    Random question from me: Anyone know of nonD&D systems that do Tippyverse/wight-pocalypse type stuff on accident? I mean where those sorts of possible outcomes are really and truely unintentional and break/obsolete swaths of base character options? This is curiosity on my part, not casting aspersions. The closest I can think of is supers games with static RL style tech when super tech exists, but that's that whole genera and exists in the source material that the games emulate. And even that's more a fridge logic hiccup rather than the D&D style giving 1/10000 of the world population the ability to make perpetual motion devices or infinite food cabinets (yes, od&d, ad&d, & 4e generally avoided it too, already know that).
    I can't think of any other games where that's an inherent problem, off the top of my head.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Random question from me: Anyone know of nonD&D systems that do Tippyverse/wight-pocalypse type stuff on accident? I mean where those sorts of possible outcomes are really and truely unintentional and break/obsolete swaths of base character options? This is curiosity on my part, not casting aspersions. The closest I can think of is supers games with static RL style tech when super tech exists, but that's that whole genera and exists in the source material that the games emulate. And even that's more a fridge logic hiccup rather than the D&D style giving 1/10000 of the world population the ability to make perpetual motion devices or infinite food cabinets (yes, od&d, ad&d, & 4e generally avoided it too, already know that).
    It's pretty rare since usually it requires a system to have a certain level of rich interactions between its elements before its easy to miss such things. The one example that springs to mind is the Unofficial Elder Scrolls RPG 2e, which has: 1. Separate spell shapes and spell effects, 2. One of the spell shapes very efficiently scales its radius with the casting cost you set for the spell if you set its other parameters to their minimum value and find a cheap effect thats ruinous when writ large (the thing is balanced for a cost that looks like X*Y*Z where X is a radius, Y is a duration, and Z is the cost of the effect and it looks like it was designed with the idea of leaving damage zones on the field, but if you push the duration to 1 round then suddenly its cheaper than the actual AoE template) , 3. An enchanting system that lets you in theory dump ~30 times the magicka capacity of a reasonable character into a single casting of something. Rather than a wightpocalypse, you can basically make a enchanted item bomb that will cause a one mile area to Frenzy and attack each-other, or things along those lines.

    For example, a dedicated caster character near the end of a campaign might have 100 magicka. A Black Soulgem has 1500 magicka. If you do a Storm effect with 1 round duration, you get 2.5 meters of radius per +1 to the multiplier of the spell cost (or you could do a 15 degree cone for 7.5 meters per +1 to multiplier as another silly example). Lets say we pick Frenzy as the effect - the cost from Frenzy is 6 * X * Y where X is a modifier to the DC to resist and Y is a duration in minutes (rounds are 5 seconds). So set X and Y to 1 (note, I don't think it says that 1 is actually the minimum allowed, and if you set X to zero for Frenzy it still actually has a non-zero difficulty to resist, but I'd say that leaves the space of things that would be permitted at a table in practice). So for 1500 magicka, you get a 1-round blast that applies a low-DC Frenzy to a 1.25km diameter area or a ~1.9km long cone.

    If instead you use Fear (cost 8*X), it slightly reduces the area, but the results of failed Fear checks in UESRPG can be weirdly severe. There's a d100 + 10*degree of failure roll on a chart where the most severe outcomes are things like permanent stat loss or going catatonic (granted, you're not going to induce 7 degrees of failure if you set the difficulty modifier variable to 1). The reason you might want to use Fear is that, rather than actually caring about the duration of the source of the Fear effect, the results on the table have effects which last 'until the end of the Encounter'. So if you wanted to siege a city, you could drop multiple Fear bombs with low duration and stack up debuffs.

    Edit: This is actually MUCH worse in the 3e version of the rules, because they changed it so that the cost of the Form and Effect add rather than multiply. In 3e, Storm adds 5+Z cost to have a 1+3Z meter area of effect, and if you use Horror (Fear is split into Panic and Horror) then it adds only +7*modifier to the cost so at that point you might as well do a high level version since its just an additive effect. So lets say you pay 100 magicka for effect and base cost of Storm, leaving 1400 magicka to pump radius, giving you an 8km diameter hard-to-resist Horror-bomb at the cost of a single Grand Soulgem or Black Soulgem (and its rechargeable from an ammo stock of similar soulgems, with a 1 minute reload time). A failed Horror check has a flat 5% chance of permanent stat loss and a 1% chance of death via heart attack.

    I'd guess that this kind of thing is all over the place in collectible card games though, given each card introducing new rules that might have unforeseen interactions.
    Last edited by NichG; 2021-03-03 at 03:10 PM.

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Bloodzilla in Shadowrun was the same kind of accidental game-breaker.

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by NigelWalmsley View Post
    Bloodzilla in Shadowrun was the same kind of accidental game-breaker.
    Which edition?
    By the metric of being wholly dependent on the GM for noncombat interaction Fighter is an NPC class.

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    Default Re: The cost of magic

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Which edition?
    IIRC, 4e, but they fixed it in errata at some point. If I'm remembering correctly, the basic issue was that Blood spirits could raise their attributes by killing things in a way that raised their attribute caps, allowing them to raise their attributes even further until they could OHKO anything in the setting trivially.

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    Oh, yeah. The Morrowind superjump. Jump+100, speed+100, duration 1 second. Cast while running, jump immediately, get ready to cast levitate when you saw the ground coming at you.

    You could combo a soulgem filler spell in those games too because summons appeared ahead of you and the zaps had a travel time. I think the ghosts were a fav, decent size souls and lowish health. A, what, 2 second summon was enough?

    Oh, and the drain health spell/dagger enchant. Because the health coming back 1 second later didn't matter if they were dead.

    Ah, the dangers of player designed magic in crpgs. Sounds like the pnp version was just as fun.

    Edit: ok, the crpg ones didn't really break much. They were dangerous to use and would just avoid travel time or ohko mooks really well. Filling bunches of medium soulgems wasn't broken unless you went heavy into enchanting skill and made your own piles of magic rings or such.
    Last edited by Telok; 2021-03-03 at 03:39 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Mechanics can be juggled out to produce just about anything desired when you have the elusive gem of math and statistics that seems to be lacking on many mainstream design teams. Itís the flavor stuff thatís the stumbling block. Yeah I could write mechanics for it, but thatís frankly not the game weíre sitting down to play so you wonít have a cuteness attribute anal circumference stat.
    The flavor stuff is what I'm referring to.

    a magic system based in modern technological devices isn't going much use in a medieval setting. while a hypothetical magic system that can do a lot of things but has major weakness against metal of any kind gets weaker the more advanced your setting gets. A Sidereal Exalted is probably going to be very confused waking up in Faerun and anyone facing them is going to be very confused at their capabilities if they work at all, especially the wizards who know magic best.

    and there is stuff like Cosmere magic systems a lot of them are very interesting, well thought out and capable of great things when exploited this or that way, but there is no way your importing them to anywhere else. they often have entire worlds and social systems set up around them to know their full capabilities and access the resources needed to use them.

    there is always some metaphysical thingamajiggicks that comes up that needs solving in such matters. always.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I can't think of any other games where that's an inherent problem, off the top of my head.
    Was that even a thing in D&D before third edition? I know 2nd edition had big books of additional spells, but I don't recall that being considered an issue in 1st and it really is not in BECMI.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Oh, yeah. The Morrowind superjump. Jump+100, speed+100, duration 1 second. Cast while running, jump immediately, get ready to cast levitate when you saw the ground coming at you.

    You could combo a soulgem filler spell in those games too because summons appeared ahead of you and the zaps had a travel time. I think the ghosts were a fav, decent size souls and lowish health. A, what, 2 second summon was enough?

    Oh, and the drain health spell/dagger enchant. Because the health coming back 1 second later didn't matter if they were dead.

    Ah, the dangers of player designed magic in crpgs. Sounds like the pnp version was just as fun.

    Edit: ok, the crpg ones didn't really break much. They were dangerous to use and would just avoid travel time or ohko mooks really well. Filling bunches of medium soulgems wasn't broken unless you went heavy into enchanting skill and made your own piles of magic rings or such.
    In the CRPG (or at least Morrowind), it was Alchemy that was totally broken because of the Intelligence feedback loop :)

    The tabletop system is kinda janky in some ways. In particular, failure rates for actions are very high at low level play and that kind of hits you double as a spellcaster since there's also quite punishing spell backfires if you're using custom spells (like, lose your character 10% of the time on a failure on a SL 2 spell). However, if you use the enchanting system you can basically 'pre-roll' your casting checks - e.g. if you fail an Enchanting roll you don't necessarily lose the materials and so you could go and try again, or at worst you burned through a petty soulgem or whatever. But then you have a magical item that can cast the spell for you, can store more magicka than you can as a character, can be recharged from another soulgem with a 1 minute long ritual, and is single-skill-dependent rather than depending on specific magic school skills... The main downside (in 3e) is that you can't make use of the magicka savings from Spell Restraint (but if you're casting out of soulgems you have much more magicka available than the system expects anyhow...) and that you can't get bonus damage from Overloading a spell (which does make blasting a little less attractive since you'll be losing out on ~ a +4 to +8 damage, when a SL 3 spell for example deals 1d10; but keep in mind you're also getting rid of something like a 30% failure chance in exchange...)

    The really broken thing at character-scale play (rather than trying to figure out how to nuke cities and such) is the Ward spell, which you can pop off as a counter-action to any attack against yourself or another party member and basically gives DR high enough to negate most sources of damage in the system, and the way the action economy works gives you basically two actions a round (so you could use one to blast and reserve one to ward) plus a way to buy a third action using a limited pool. So reserving an action to Ward is a massive difference in early-game tankiness. Daedric armor for example grants effectively 8 DR, and a SL 1 Ward spell reduces incoming damage by 6 for the cost of 4 magicka.
    Last edited by NichG; 2021-03-03 at 06:30 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    In the CRPG (or at least Morrowind), it was Alchemy that was totally broken because of the Intelligence feedback loop :)

    The tabletop system is kinda janky in some ways. In particular, failure rates for actions are very high at low level play and that kind of hits you double as a spellcaster since there's also quite punishing spell backfires if you're using custom spells (like, lose your character 10% of the time on a failure on a SL 2 spell). However, if you use the enchanting system you can basically 'pre-roll' your casting checks - e.g. if
    Heh, in the crpg spells from magic rings didn't have a casting animation. You could empty rings with spells as fast as you could click the mouse and access inventory. Yeah, the alchemy stacking broke self buffing, mastering enchantment could break all the limits on casting. High enough and you could make magic items with custom spells on the fly.

    Ok, so the Elder Scrolls pnp game did an easy abuse magic system. Don't give players unrestricted access to a special effects/magic system. Nobody ever catches all the exploits. Supers games have known that for a long time. Sounds like someone else didn't.
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    Well, took me long enough to read through the thread that the interest in it managed to wane. I fought through the superhero VS guy at the gym, 4th Edition, and even random game system sidetracks, only to arrive at the finish line too late. Hopefully it doesn't fade too quickly, the topic is incredibly interesting.

    I noticed that there is a lot of focus (and push-back) on the subject of even introducing a cost to magic. Many people mention that the costs are either prohibitively high (unreasonable fumble charts mostly), purely narrative and thus easily ignored (losing life expectancy or signing away your soul), or just unfun (long casting times or severe magic nerfs). And, to be honest, I definitely agree. Most of these feel like they're intended to slap a band aid on the problem of caster supremacy (Of course, talking about D&D) and punish the player for daring to play a caster.

    I've been thinking, though. I DO believe that magic should have a cost. Unless it's a setting where magic is commonplace (Harry Potter, Eberron, Avatar), as a mystical, unknowable force, there should be some price for using it.

    I've got a couple of ideas that I've been using in my own (heavily WIP) system:
    1. Magic is dangerous,but only until mastered. In this idea , learning new spells is the dangerous segment, not actively using them later. For example, every time the caster needs to learn a new spell, they seclude themselves, and go through a risky process of trial and error. This is mostly flavorful in the end, but it can provide some interesting moments for the player, as they struggle to master a particularly complex spell.

    2. Magic is toxic/not suitable for mortals. In this system, channeling magic is not too complicated, but it carries the drawback of making a character weak. Every time they learn a new level of magic, they roll on a table to see how it weakens them. For example, they lose 5 ft of movement speed, drop one die size when rolling for hp, lose a point of strength and constitution, etc. In this system, the mages grow in power, but lose themselves and their health along the way. Of course, the drawbacks are easy to compensate with spells, but that is a win-win, as the player gets to use more spells, and get to experience the transition into a more magical being, as they rely less and less on their physicality.

    3. Magic is severely draining. Here, the mages should definitely not be pure spellcasters. Whenever a player casts a spell, they accumulate a point of exhaustion (or a similar effect in other systems). This limits the impact of powerful magic in individual encounters, and encourages players to be more selective in their casting. Of course, this does not mesh in any way with the Vancian casting system,so that would have to go as well. My idea here is that players would be something like "field mages", adventurers who use magic alongside other skills, such as climbing, investigation, and social skills. And, if it seems too harsh, characters could get several (2, 3) spells for free each encounter before being forced to suffer the penalty.

    Of course, all of these systems are heavily system- and setting-reliant. As a matter of fact, with the exception of 1 and 3, I don't really think I would combine them with each other. However, all of them provide an interesting way for the players to interact with the magic in the game, and give off a feeling of an otherworldly force.

    Any thoughts?

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