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    Default How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    This thread is a combination of thinking-out-loud and looking-for-feedback, so feel free to respond with whatever thoughts first come to your mind.

    But anyway, this something that I've been mulling over lately- how much of a character's turn should casting a spell occupy? How do you think it should vary for different types of spells, or for different classes?


    When I started playing D&D it was edition 3.5, and now I'm playing 5E. (I've got nothing against 4.0, I just never had the opportunity.) And so I can't help comparing how they handle timing in combat. In 3.5 you had Standard actions and Full Actions and spells that took a standard-action or one-round (though most groups I played with just treated those like full-round actions), and the having to move or do something else could make a significant difference in 3.5, especially at higher levels where a full-attack-action gave you multiple strikes at an enemy. Basically, denying a player or monster their full-action would have a significant impact on the flow of an encounter. Most direct-damage spells, however, where only a Standard-Action, since primary spellcasters like the Wizard or Sorcerer preferred to be at-range anyway giving up our Move to cast wasn't really a big deal.
    In 5E, by contrast, whether you move or don't move, or whatever other actions you take, all attacks and spells are basically just an "action", and I feel like we've lost something when it comes to tactics and strategy since you'll you have your Move and Bonus regardless, even when you take into account things like Disengage being added as a baseline option. But that's just my 2cp and if most people prefer 5E's setup to 3.5, I want to hear that.

    Plus on top of all that you have non-primary casters, like Bards, Rangers, and Paladins, who may evaluate options for damage or utility different. And, since some spells like summoning, buffing/debuffing, CC, healing, etc, may not compare as easily between primary and non-primary casters as damage, balancing magic can be as much art as science.

    But in the end, I'm looking to get some feedback on what sort of system people prefer, how they think spells should be balanced in terms of time in or out of combat, how it relates to scaling, what sort of tradeoffs should there be for expending extra time to cast (DoT/HoT, AOE, greater/less effect), complexity vs simplicity, etc etc etc. Whatever you feel is most important with this topic, lay it on me.


    Edit: And if there's something really important to you about out-of-combat casting, like ritual magic or utility spells (i.e. Mending) that you think the timing should be adjusted for as well, feel free to chime in on that, too. This thread is intended to be very open-ended.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2021-02-14 at 11:50 PM.
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    I've seen everything from 'multiple rounds to cast' to afraction of a main action, and it really, truly depends on your tone. I like gritty games where the wizard getting off a fireball is a combat changer, and games where demigods throw lightning bolts several times a second.

    What's fairly common outside of D&D is that a skilled magician can cast spells faster. This is generally done by giving either a reduction in the magic point cost or bonus to skill for the caster, almost certainly skill increases if the system uses skill rolls, which can mean that early game mages take multiple rounds to cast but that experienced wizards can launch several spells a round (and yes, I do know of system that allow you to cast spells with equivalents to D&D's Move or Swift actions, it's generally a much higher penalty than the bonus for a two-round cast).

    I find that a good general rule is 'scale your costs and difficulties for a one round cast time'.Which is to say assume that your mage is spending their entire round casting, and then work out the benefits of having an additional action. Which outside of D&D can be massive, but can also be negligible.

    One thing I like about The Dark Eye is that combat spells take 2+ actions to cast, and the game includes multiple action penalties. IT recommends using multiple actions in a round to cast spells quickly if needed. I can't remember how bad the penalties are, my book's upstairs, but I remember them being high enough that starting characters did not want them. It pushed magic out of the area of combat and more into a support role.
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Sorry it took me some time to reply- I've had stuff going on the last few days that kept me away from my computer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    I find that a good general rule is 'scale your costs and difficulties for a one round cast time'.Which is to say assume that your mage is spending their entire round casting, and then work out the benefits of having an additional action. Which outside of D&D can be massive, but can also be negligible.
    I'm glad to hear that, because that's kind of the direction I was leaning in. I already wanted some of the more complex spells, like summoning, to exchange longer-casting times for more in-and-out of combat utility, and if we put most spells on a full-round sort of system it will be harder for casters to screw up the action-economy with things like Haste or Quickened-metamagic.

    If it turns out to be a problem for Rangers, Paladins, Bards, and their ilk, I'm willing to homebrew alternative equivalent spells, or something like that.

    I've seen everything from 'multiple rounds to cast' to a fraction of a main action, and it really, truly depends on your tone. I like gritty games where the wizard getting off a fireball is a combat changer, and games where demigods throw lightning bolts several times a second.
    I mean, I'd really like it if there was some kind of balance in D&D. A game where the Fighter makes a single sword-attack to scratch the enemy is fine so long as the the same effort is required for the Wizard to utilize his piddliest wand. For higher-level characters I'm ok with them going-nova occasionally, I just don't want it to be the go-to tactic for every encounter.

    What's fairly common outside of D&D is that a skilled magician can cast spells faster. This is generally done by giving either a reduction in the magic point cost or bonus to skill for the caster, almost certainly skill increases if the system uses skill rolls, which can mean that early game mages take multiple rounds to cast but that experienced wizards can launch several spells a round (and yes, I do know of system that allow you to cast spells with equivalents to D&D's Move or Swift actions, it's generally a much higher penalty than the bonus for a two-round cast).
    That sounds like what metamagic should be for, though how exactly to balance it with spell-slots or spell-points and uses per day can be very tricky. Maybe what we need is some sort of system where lower-level spells can be inately sped-up, so you can trade-off lesser effects for a shorter casting-time.
    Normally I'm more into spells auto-scaling in effect, but it's one more option to think about I suppose.

    One thing I like about The Dark Eye is that combat spells take 2+ actions to cast, and the game includes multiple action penalties. IT recommends using multiple actions in a round to cast spells quickly if needed. I can't remember how bad the penalties are, my book's upstairs, but I remember them being high enough that starting characters did not want them. It pushed magic out of the area of combat and more into a support role.
    What sort of penalties? Increased use of resources? Higher chance of failure? Damage taken? (i.e. cast from hitpoints, etc)
    I've seen different sorts of systems in stories and whatnot, but some things work better in a game and some work better in a narrative where 1 author controls the whole universe, and one is not always compatible with the other.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2021-02-22 at 07:46 PM. Reason: spelling
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    The answer is "as long as the game designer wants."

    "I get together 100 mages and cast a ritual over 3 days to summon the demon lord."

    "I, the great archwizard gilgothrax, using this expensive crystal and a drop of my blood command the demon lord to appear before me in this circle I drew."

    "Hey, demon lord. Get your butt over here."

    Whatever the game designer thinks should work, works. Simple as that.
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    It depends on the game. For some games I do spells take 1 round to cast. For some games I have certain spells take a bonus action. Sometimes spells cast from items only need a bonus action but a spell needs your whole round. It all depends on the feel you're going for.

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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    First, 6s round is pretty arbitrary. The round is the unit of time where player make decision. You could have 10min rounds where players describe what are the battle tactics they use in the next 10min. Ideally, a round should be short enough for players to be able to react to what happen, and long enough so that the players don't have few rounds in a row where they just say "same as last round since nothing relevant changed".

    And this is the main restriction to spellcasting: you want every spellcaster PC to have at least one meaningful decision during almost every combat round. Exception can exist (stunned characters, deaths), but those should not be "normal gameplay".

    As such "I am taking 4 rounds to cast a spell" is a mechanism that works much better for NPCs than for PCs. You can somewhat get away with multiple-round casting if there is enough tension in the fight (the spellcaster has at each turn the choice between stopping and retreating or continuing to cast), but it's better if it remains exceptional.
    [For example in D&D, spells that you unlocked during your last level up could take twice as long to be cast. Alternatively, scrolls could take twice as long to be cast compared to standard spellcasting.]

    I'm here assuming that when you do multiple-round casting, you cannot do something else of your turn. If you just need to "concentrate for multiple rounds" (or spend bonus actions) but can still play your turn normally outside of that, multiple-round casting is completely fine. Similarly, it's also fine for a summoner/conjurer to have multiple-round casting spells, as while their caster will be busy casting, they still have some meaningful decisions to take with their invocations.

    Lastly, I have to say that full-round casting (you start casting at the end of your turn, and the spell takes effect at the beginning of your next turn) is weirdly absent of the RPGs I've played, while it looks to me like a pretty natural way to handle spellcasting.
    [Depending on how you want the action economy to be, it cost you your action of the first turn or of the second one]

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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    The answer is "as long as the game designer wants."
    ....
    Whatever the game designer thinks should work, works. Simple as that.
    No matter that the creator wants or envisions, you can still have badly designed...well, anything really. From games (FATAL), to buildings (Hyatt Regency Hotel), to public works projects (Tacoma Narrows Bridge), to military tactics (invading Russia in winter).

    My own gaming-experience is pretty limited, so I like to ask people on the forums about anything they've seen that worked well or didn't work at well, or was just un-fun. Sometimes an obsession with balance can make a game slow, clunky, and a slog to play, even if it's technically functional.


    Quote Originally Posted by SandyAndy View Post
    It depends on the game. For some games I do spells take 1 round to cast. For some games I have certain spells take a bonus action. Sometimes spells cast from items only need a bonus action but a spell needs your whole round. It all depends on the feel you're going for.
    Yeah, and I'm not sure I can articulate exactly what sort of feel I want; that's why I threw open the thread to every sort of commentary. I do think I want their to be a distinction between something like a "Standard action" that takes part of your round and a "Full Round Action" that takes all of it. And right now I'm leaning towards most spells taking a full-action but that might change; I've been known to switch back-and-forth several times as I talk things over with people.

    For example, the reason why I'm thinking I want spells to be full-round is so that they match up with a full-round attack from melee-characters, but at low-levels there's no benefit to a full-round attack (in a 3.5-like system anyway) so is there a point when I should have spells switch how long they take? And would that create any weird problems or incentivize players to focus on casting multiple low-level spells per round instead of switching over to their high-level equivalents? Is that actually even a problem? etc etc etc


    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    First, 6s round is pretty arbitrary. The round is the unit of time where player make decision. You could have 10min rounds where players describe what are the battle tactics they use in the next 10min. Ideally, a round should be short enough for players to be able to react to what happen, and long enough so that the players don't have few rounds in a row where they just say "same as last round since nothing relevant changed".

    And this is the main restriction to spellcasting: you want every spellcaster PC to have at least one meaningful decision during almost every combat round. Exception can exist (stunned characters, deaths), but those should not be "normal gameplay".
    Yeah, agreed- I've discussed this before (in regards to Bards, actually) but I'm firmly in the camp that multi-round actions don't fit well into D&D's normal combat flow, at least when used by PCs. At best, I think they are boring for the player in question, especially when it doesn't involve rolling new dice or anything. Anything that takes much longer than 1-round should really be intended as an out-of-combat action, and balanced accordingly IMO.

    As such "I am taking 4 rounds to cast a spell" is a mechanism that works much better for NPCs than for PCs. You can somewhat get away with multiple-round casting if there is enough tension in the fight (the spellcaster has at each turn the choice between stopping and retreating or continuing to cast), but it's better if it remains exceptional.
    [For example in D&D, spells that you unlocked during your last level up could take twice as long to be cast. Alternatively, scrolls could take twice as long to be cast compared to standard spellcasting.]
    Obviously any specific encounter might have it's own rules, but in general I try to keep mechanics mostly the same between PCs and NPCs. I find that when you make the mechanics for each group too different, its starts raising difficult questions that most GMs don't like to try and answer.

    I hadn't really thought about exactly how long activating an item should take; that's the kind of thing that would probably help to fill in any gaps once I hash out how I want spells to me. Whether they are equally powerful to spells and just add options, if they are weaker-but-faster and can be used like normal weapons, if they are slow and only intended as a backup once you run out of spellslots, etc etc etc. Lots of different possibilities.

    I'm here assuming that when you do multiple-round casting, you cannot do something else of your turn. If you just need to "concentrate for multiple rounds" (or spend bonus actions) but can still play your turn normally outside of that, multiple-round casting is completely fine. Similarly, it's also fine for a summoner/conjurer to have multiple-round casting spells, as while their caster will be busy casting, they still have some meaningful decisions to take with their invocations.
    I'm OK with 5th editions rules for concentrating on some spells, where you spend your Action each turn to either move the spell or reuse it's primary function (basically to repeat blasting a creature or move the spell so it targets another creature, etc). I'm less sold on concentrating on things like buffs since you don't get to make new decisions but they also limit the other choices you can take. If a character is playing a summoner rather than a blaster (or whatever direct-effect you prefer) then I'd want them to spend their round controlling their creatures instead. I assume that's the kind of thing you meant, sorry if I'm misunderstanding.

    Lastly, I have to say that full-round casting (you start casting at the end of your turn, and the spell takes effect at the beginning of your next turn) is weirdly absent of the RPGs I've played, while it looks to me like a pretty natural way to handle spellcasting.
    [Depending on how you want the action economy to be, it cost you your action of the first turn or of the second one]
    If I had to guess, I'd say it was intended to help differentiate between a Standard-action spell and a Full-Round action spell. Like I said earlier, primary-casters are often ranged combatants who don't NEED their movement-action, so if you're just standing around being a fireball-turret then your move-action is kinda wasted. Doing it this way still requires tactical decisions on some level. Its not really to my taste because it feels a little out of place when most other characters resolve their turn DURING their turn.

    Borrowing actions from your next turn (or delaying until you accumulate actions) would be a neat mechanic, one I've thought of before, but it should have it's own set of rules I think. It's the kind of thing that's too complicated IMO to just slapdash onto spellcasting without some serious testing or forethought.
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    Sorry it took me some time to reply- I've had stuff going on the last few days that kept me away from my computer.
    I mean, no rush.

    I'm glad to hear that, because that's kind of the direction I was leaning in. I already wanted some of the more complex spells, like summoning, to exchange longer-casting times for more in-and-out of combat utility, and if we put most spells on a full-round sort of system it will be harder for casters to screw up the action-economy with things like Haste or Quickened-metamagic.

    If it turns out to be a problem for Rangers, Paladins, Bards, and their ilk, I'm willing to homebrew alternative equivalent spells, or something like that.
    There's no reason to have 'full casters' and 'part casters' run on the same system, or even have all magic work on the same system. I like the Thirteenth Age system, where classes like Paladins don't get spells but have their magic from other class features (although one gives you a Cleric spell).

    It also might be worth limiting some class's access to combat magic if you end up with a system that mqkes it unsynergistic, or giving class features to redress the balance.

    I mean, I'd really like it if there was some kind of balance in D&D. A game where the Fighter makes a single sword-attack to scratch the enemy is fine so long as the the same effort is required for the Wizard to utilize his piddliest wand. For higher-level characters I'm ok with them going-nova occasionally, I just don't want it to be the go-to tactic for every encounter.
    *insert bad jokes about the D&D fanbase not wanting balance*

    Balance is hard, and the more diverse you go the harder it is. I do like 13th Age for that reason, I think the reduction to 10 levels and determining available damage dice entirely by the weapon's proficiency helps, and you have things like at-will spells keeping roughly on par with weapon attacks.

    That sounds like what metamagic should be for, though how exactly to balance it with spell-slots or spell-points and uses per day can be very tricky. Maybe what we need is some sort of system where lower-level spells can be inately sped-up, so you can trade-off lesser effects for a shorter casting-time.
    Normally I'm more into spells auto-scaling in effect, but it's one more option to think about I suppose.
    Not every system separates metamagic effects from spells, some instead give effects that are available to either individual spells or the entire system. Generally casting many spells per round is because you're so skilled you can soak the penalties for skimping on casting times.

    What sort of penalties? Increased use of resources? Higher change of failure? Damage taken? (i.e. cast from hitpoints, etc)
    I've seen different sorts of systems in stories and whatnot, but some things work better in a game and some work better in a narrative where 1 author controls the whole universe, and one is not always compatible with the other.
    Huh, turns out I was wrong about multiple action penalties, but for spellcasting in TDE: halving the actions it takes to cast a spell gives a -1 penalty to every stat rolled, roughly equivalent to reducing your skill by 3 (because to cast your spell you have to roll a d20 three times and each time get it under a certain stat, you can spend skill points to lower the roll). Can't drop it below an action though.

    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    First, 6s round is pretty arbitrary. The round is the unit of time where player make decision. You could have 10min rounds where players describe what are the battle tactics they use in the next 10min. Ideally, a round should be short enough for players to be able to react to what happen, and long enough so that the players don't have few rounds in a row where they just say "same as last round since nothing relevant changed".
    Yes, but a round as in 'the game structure where every participant (PC or NPC) may act once' is relatively standard, to the point where vatriastions (such as multiple initiative passes, Ticks, or Action Points) are generally noted.
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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: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    How long does combat take in the system and how does the spellcasting work. Players have to stay engaged so you can't have them just be "casting a spell" and doing nothing else for any "action window", whether that's a turn or however your game measures time. The maximum is what 3e does with "1 round" (as opposed to full-round action) spells where the player starts the spell on one turn and gains the benefit immediately at the start of the next -- the impression of casting time, but no dead turns.

    To do longer cast times you have to give the player actions to do during the casting time. That could simply be delayed effects (you cast the spell, the effect doesn't occur for some time but you can keep acting during that time -- perhaps, if you want to get fancy, with a reduced subset of powers) or maybe they have minions to control or maybe you even give them a separate minigame to complete the spell but that separates them from the rest of the game which is bad.

    As far as 5e vs 3.5, yes 5e simplified and lost some articulation as a result.
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    There's no reason to have 'full casters' and 'part casters' run on the same system, or even have all magic work on the same system. I like the Thirteenth Age system, where classes like Paladins don't get spells but have their magic from other class features (although one gives you a Cleric spell).

    It also might be worth limiting some class's access to combat magic if you end up with a system that makes it unsynergistic, or giving class features to redress the balance.
    ....
    Not every system separates metamagic effects from spells, some instead give effects that are available to either individual spells or the entire system. Generally casting many spells per round is because you're so skilled you can soak the penalties for skimping on casting times.
    Yeah, 3.5 had vancian-casting, psionics (basically spell-points), binding, shadow magic, true-speaking, ToB maneuvers, incarnum, warlocks, etc etc etc. For all it's flaws, it was the in the mainstream for long enough that whatever kind of mechanic you preferred, 3.5 probably had a sub-flavor that would cater to you.
    I could potentially see a system where multiple types of class-features worked on a "pool" sort of system, where a resource had a primary intention but could also be used as fuel for other options. Like if you had a certain amount of "Smite" dice, for example, and you could use them for damage, healing, free metamagic, imitating other class's features, etc.
    Alternatively, I'm a big fan of ACFs- maybe you trade off Sneak Attack for limited spellcasting, or something like that.

    *insert bad jokes about the D&D fanbase not wanting balance*

    Balance is hard, and the more diverse you go the harder it is. I do like 13th Age for that reason, I think the reduction to 10 levels and determining available damage dice entirely by the weapon's proficiency helps, and you have things like at-will spells keeping roughly on par with weapon attacks.
    And you can also overdo it on balance- a system be technically balanced but if it's un-fun or not intuitive and people don't want to play it, you've failed to make a successfully entertaining game. On my list of priorities for Homebrew, balance usually comes second- after fun but ahead of realism.

    Huh, turns out I was wrong about multiple action penalties, but for spellcasting in TDE: halving the actions it takes to cast a spell gives a -1 penalty to every stat rolled, roughly equivalent to reducing your skill by 3 (because to cast your spell you have to roll a d20 three times and each time get it under a certain stat, you can spend skill points to lower the roll). Can't drop it below an action though.
    Just in the interest of full disclosure, my homebrewed system requires dice-rolls every time you want to cast a spell, just like for attacks, skill-checks, saves, etc. I'm constantly tweaking exactly what you have to roll against, but I still like it because it gives you another set of numbers to play around with. It's something else you can have class-features buff, situtionally nerf, have gear-based bonuses for, etc etc etc.

    So far I've been thinking that meta-magic would increase both the effective spell-level and the DC to cast a spell, with meta-magic reducers to apply to the former but not the latter, but now I'm wondering if all that is necessary. Maybe I should just scrap meta-magic-reducing mechanics entirely and simply have meta-magic increase the DC, which would be a good way of keeping non-max spell-slots relevant. I'll need to play around with spells-per-level so more, too, I guess.

    Yes, but a round as in 'the game structure where every participant (PC or NPC) may act once' is relatively standard, to the point where vatriastions (such as multiple initiative passes, Ticks, or Action Points) are generally noted.
    I like that- that's a good definition of a "sequence" in action. It's the kind of thing I'd apply to (totally off-topic here, but whatever) skill-challenges or RP as well. Every person should almost be required to participate in some fashion before someone else acts twice.
    Maybe one this thread peters out, I'll finally get around to starting a discussion of how we can improve skill-challenge-type situations.
    Last edited by Deepbluediver; 2021-02-23 at 07:30 PM.
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Place 4 plastic pitchers of water on logs or tables. Make each one about the height of your head. Space them in a square about 10 feet apart. Take a stick and stand in the center. Start a timer and knock them down with the stick as fast as you can. How long did that take? Unless a magic caster can do SOMETHING in that time frame, they are useless. Because those pitchers would be doing the same to a caster's head.

    A combat spell should be something that changes the battlefield at a scale equal to sacrifrices made to generate it. Is it simple to cast, takes as long as a bow, takes no resources? Well that's as strong as a sword swing or arrow shot. Does it require extra concentration and high magic cost? You got an explosive fireball. Does it take several rounds of uninterrupted concentration and the rest of the party needs to keep enemies away? If the party succeeds, it should have a tremendous impact.

    From instant snap casting to long multi-round chants. As long as the rewards justify the risks, you can't go wrong. But, if you make it too long, you risk alienating the casters. You want to avoid "It's your turn Wizard." "Oh, I am casting so I am skipped."
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    Yeah, 3.5 had vancian-casting, psionics (basically spell-points), binding, shadow magic, true-speaking, ToB maneuvers, incarnum, warlocks, etc etc etc. For all it's flaws, it was the in the mainstream for long enough that whatever kind of mechanic you preferred, 3.5 probably had a sub-flavor that would cater to you.
    I could potentially see a system where multiple types of class-features worked on a "pool" sort of system, where a resource had a primary intention but could also be used as fuel for other options. Like if you had a certain amount of "Smite" dice, for example, and you could use them for damage, healing, free metamagic, imitating other class's features, etc.
    Alternatively, I'm a big fan of ACFs- maybe you trade off Sneak Attack for limited spellcasting, or something like that.
    There's a lot of things to do there's, and I'm honestly not going to comment because I'm not interested. I don't particularly like class systems. But the last game I made with multiple forms of magic had then work differently.

    And you can also overdo it on balance- a system be technically balanced but if it's un-fun or not intuitive and people don't want to play it, you've failed to make a successfully entertaining game. On my list of priorities for Homebrew, balance usually comes second- after fun but ahead of realism.
    Consistency is also important, to me it's generally the top because a note consistent system is easier to learn (proper balancing is generally somewhere around fifth, below 'not offensive' and 'emulates b the genre').

    Just in the interest of full disclosure, my homebrewed system requires dice-rolls every time you want to cast a spell, just like for attacks, skill-checks, saves, etc. I'm constantly tweaking exactly what you have to roll against, but I still like it because it gives you another set of numbers to play around with. It's something else you can have class-features buff, situtionally nerf, have gear-based bonuses for, etc etc etc.

    So far I've been thinking that meta-magic would increase both the effective spell-level and the DC to cast a spell, with meta-magic reducers to apply to the former but not the latter, but now I'm wondering if all that is necessary. Maybe I should just scrap meta-magic-reducing mechanics entirely and simply have meta-magic increase the DC, which would be a good way of keeping non-max spell-slots relevant. I'll need to play around with spells-per-level so more, too, I guess.
    And the Fantasy system I'm working on, which might get dropped because I'm not sure if it's overly complex, also has spellcasting rolls (as well as splitting spells into Verses and Ballads, the setting requires Spellcasters to sing in the language the world was written in). I've not got around to adding spell modification rules, they may not even be in the core book and be split off into a companion, but they'll apply skill penalties and cost extra Fatigue Points to use.

    Actually, to go into more detail: spells are learnt and improved with XP on a spell by spell basis. Casting is a standard skill roll and in combat takes one ten second round (although that might be changed), and a successful cast drains your FP. Lose enough FP and you start taking penalties to all actions. Spells can also have prerequisites, you have to be able to generate sparks before you can throw lightning, and Ballads generally require you to know a lot of verses. No major need to change anything across iterations beyond the initial skill rating of the spell due to the use of a roll under system.

    I like that- that's a good definition of a "sequence" in action. It's the kind of thing I'd apply to (totally off-topic here, but whatever) skill-challenges or RP as well. Every person should almost be required to participate in some fashion before someone else acts twice.
    Maybe one this thread peters out, I'll finally get around to starting a discussion of how we can improve skill-challenge-type situations.
    I'm still working with noncombat systems, and it's interesting. Few actually use rounds, one calls for all active participants to roll simultaneously while anything.
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    From instant snap casting to long multi-round chants. As long as the rewards justify the risks, you can't go wrong.
    You can create many different time vs effect tradeoffs that are mathematically equivalent over x time, but many of them don't work for a game. In a turn-based social game, you can't have someone do nothing on their turn -- at least that should only be via action denial by enemies, not part of class gameplay. And swingy outcomes (cast for 3 rounds to do 1 million damage) rarely produce a good experience either.

    If you do want to do long casting you have to design the play around it. For example, a mage class that has minions who protect them while they cast long-cast spells, or a mage that makes choices round to round about what type of magic energy to "pour into" their gestating spell (if you cast a level x spell, you can extend its cast time to add x points to the spell each turn that enhance it with additional riders) so that they're dynamically predicting what will be useful next turn or the turn after next. It boils down to giving the player something to do.

    My feeling about this is you can have the excitement of multiple round cast times without actually denying the player their turn. Let them do the ramp-up casting with a standard, move or swift/minor action rather than their whole turn.

    In D&D paralysis casting works better for enemies since they aren't players waiting for their turn.
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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Quote Originally Posted by Elves View Post
    You can create many different time vs effect tradeoffs that are mathematically equivalent over x time, but many of them don't work for a game. In a turn-based social game, you can't have someone do nothing on their turn -- at least that should only be via action denial by enemies, not part of class gameplay. And swingy outcomes (cast for 3 rounds to do 1 million damage) rarely produce a good experience either.

    If you do want to do long casting you have to design the play around it. For example, a mage class that has minions who protect them while they cast long-cast spells, or a mage that makes choices round to round about what type of magic energy to "pour into" their gestating spell (if you cast a level x spell, you can extend its cast time to add x points to the spell each turn that enhance it with additional riders) so that they're dynamically predicting what will be useful next turn or the turn after next. It boils down to giving the player something to do.

    My feeling about this is you can have the excitement of multiple round cast times without actually denying the player their turn. Let them do the ramp-up casting with a standard, move or swift/minor action rather than their whole turn.

    In D&D paralysis casting works better for enemies since they aren't players waiting for their turn.
    I agree, and it's why I mentioned it. Something like piling up successes via dice rolling each round might be ok.

    Hmmm, now there's an idea. Each round, a magic caster can concentrate mana and release a spell based on how much mana he has concentrated. Concentration has a cap that rises as he levels as does generation rate. Generation requires dice rolling, and can't go below a certsin point. Spells require an amount of mana. This gives the caster an option of quick spells or long charging heavy hitters.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    So, your roleplaying guide is pretty much "Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a confusing corpse"?

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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    This thread is a combination of thinking-out-loud and looking-for-feedback, so feel free to respond with whatever thoughts first come to your mind.

    But anyway, this something that I've been mulling over lately- how much of a character's turn should casting a spell occupy? How do you think it should vary for different types of spells, or for different classes?


    When I started playing D&D it was edition 3.5, and now I'm playing 5E. (I've got nothing against 4.0, I just never had the opportunity.) And so I can't help comparing how they handle timing in combat. In 3.5 you had Standard actions and Full Actions and spells that took a standard-action or one-round (though most groups I played with just treated those like full-round actions), and the having to move or do something else could make a significant difference in 3.5, especially at higher levels where a full-attack-action gave you multiple strikes at an enemy. Basically, denying a player or monster their full-action would have a significant impact on the flow of an encounter. Most direct-damage spells, however, where only a Standard-Action, since primary spellcasters like the Wizard or Sorcerer preferred to be at-range anyway giving up our Move to cast wasn't really a big deal.
    In 5E, by contrast, whether you move or don't move, or whatever other actions you take, all attacks and spells are basically just an "action", and I feel like we've lost something when it comes to tactics and strategy since you'll you have your Move and Bonus regardless, even when you take into account things like Disengage being added as a baseline option. But that's just my 2cp and if most people prefer 5E's setup to 3.5, I want to hear that.

    Plus on top of all that you have non-primary casters, like Bards, Rangers, and Paladins, who may evaluate options for damage or utility different. And, since some spells like summoning, buffing/debuffing, CC, healing, etc, may not compare as easily between primary and non-primary casters as damage, balancing magic can be as much art as science.

    But in the end, I'm looking to get some feedback on what sort of system people prefer, how they think spells should be balanced in terms of time in or out of combat, how it relates to scaling, what sort of tradeoffs should there be for expending extra time to cast (DoT/HoT, AOE, greater/less effect), complexity vs simplicity, etc etc etc. Whatever you feel is most important with this topic, lay it on me.


    Edit: And if there's something really important to you about out-of-combat casting, like ritual magic or utility spells (i.e. Mending) that you think the timing should be adjusted for as well, feel free to chime in on that, too. This thread is intended to be very open-ended.

    in Akashic Records of a Bastard Magic Instructor,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akashi...gic_Instructor

    There's actual episodes dedicated to spell casting speed and theory. I agree with their theory. How long a spell takes depends entirely on three factors:

    1. fixed time
    2. relative to self time
    3. relative to some external factor time

    as long as the casting time is relative to self, the casting time can fluctuate deliberately. Such as a string of vowels enunciated faster, or fast naruto hand gestures.

    when the casting time is based on something else, like a magic hour class, the melting of ice, the melting of a candle, or "when the next wind blows" the magician has to go to extraordinary lengths to manipulate their external environment to make a spell cast faster.

    As to fixed time spell casting, these are spells that literally require X amount of time to pass, or X amount of mana to accumulate etc. 1/day and 1/week spells are similar to this. "chant the following for the duration that the moon is in the sky". "cast from sunrise to sun set", and "expose cloth to the moonlight every night from moon rise of the new moon till moon rise and moon set of the full moon"

    Fixed times are better for rituals and involve waiting, but you see that a lot in live action witchcraft shows - they cast the spell, then there's a delay, and nothing happens, then the magic happens, often after they think it failed, even if they left the room.


    AD&D used to have casting time, ranging from a few fractions of a minute, to a minute+. You could interrupt the spell during any period in which it was cast, but could not interrupt the spell AFTER it was cast. This is the opposite of Concentration - where you interrupt a spell AFTER it's cast, but "casting" is instantaneous in later editions.

    When you think about how some spells have like 1-2 words and others have like paragraph+ rituals, the notion that spells have variable casting time makes more, rather than less sense.

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    Default Re: How Long Should A Spell Take to Cast? (in combat)

    Quote Originally Posted by Deepbluediver View Post
    For example, the reason why I'm thinking I want spells to be full-round is so that they match up with a full-round attack from melee-characters, but at low-levels there's no benefit to a full-round attack (in a 3.5-like system anyway) so is there a point when I should have spells switch how long they take? And would that create any weird problems or incentivize players to focus on casting multiple low-level spells per round instead of switching over to their high-level equivalents? Is that actually even a problem? etc etc etc
    One thing you could do is have higher level spells take more time. That way the power is enough to get the casters to use their higher level slots but not cast a fireball at everything that moves. It also gets them to progress through their spell slots and figure out what is most effective before casting that big spell in case they waste it, because it'll be even longer to recover. It's not perfect, and a lot of encounters would just be solved with low-level magic. But, that's kinda the point if being a wizard, right? To flipantly break the laws of nature to suit your own convenience is the ultimate expression of arcane power! But that might now fit the mood for every game, you like I said, it depends.

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