A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    I've got an idea about introducing some "research points" as a metagame currency to let the party research new stuff.

    Some context for this: my major villain just revealed herself, and the party -indeed, the whole world - is woefully unprepared to face her.
    she lives inside a large wild magic area, which she can control. Inside it, she's basically unapproachable. Teleportation and other astral travel inside the area doesn't work. Scrying inside the area does not work. Pretty much anything long range inside the area does not work. A party coming in to fight her would just wander around aimlessly, while slowly succumbing to "magic radiation". The villain used the area to breed vast armies of mutated creatures. including enough hellwasp swarms to fill the horizon. she used them to overrun a major city, and it worked because nobody was expecting that. melee classes are basically useless against those - the little damage they can do with alchemical thrown weapons is negligible. The city was defended with machine guns and cannons, effective against the biggest monsters. but useless against swarms. casters can fight with aoe, but they run out fast, and were overwhelmed. This worked so well for the villain because nobody ever had to fight high level swarms, and nobody was prepared.

    Now the party is trying to prepare. they want to research a weapon augmenter crystal to deal regular damage to swarms. they want to research an augmenter crystal to sneak attack elementals, because the villain also uses lots of elementals in her army. they want to research teleportation and divination that works in the wild magic area. they want to research something to shield them from the eyes of the villain while in her terrain. they want to research something to move fast in the wild magic area and to protect them from the magic radiation that fills it and threatens to turn them into mutants. they want to research very many things.

    so I came up with the idea to set up some kind of metagame currency for them to develop all that stuff. rather than a "dm may I" approach I may for example determine that for every month of study they gain 1 research point, and that every stuff they want to make has a certain cost in research.
    I can further add it as a quest reward. "while the city is overrun you went to the university and snatched all research notes? Gain research points" "you found a stash of books in the secret lair of the ancient lich? what could they possibly contain? you gain research points, and this saves me the hassle of trying to figure out what they could possibly contain" "you persuade the wise mentor to ally with you? Having another npc adventure with you would clutter the narrative and the combat, how else can i reward you? oh, right, research points".

    I like that the party is trying to come up with new ideas against this villain. I try to build major bosses as puzzle enemies; if you fight them head on they are stronger, but if you figure out their strenghts and weaknesses and adapt your strategies, you can defeat them. this villain si practically untouchable on her home turf (which will start slowly expanding after she reveals herself), it's only sensible for the party will try to counter that.
    establishng some rules for how much they can research would improve that part of the game.

    What do you think? is there anyone who have tried something similar? do you foresee any pitfall i should be wary of?
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    What do you think? is there anyone who have tried something similar? do you foresee any pitfall i should be wary of?
    The main pitfall of quantification is optimisation.
    If research points are a resource, then spending them to obtain a features that a posteriori are mostly useless is not great. And at the other extreme, nerfing a custom power that was bought with those points but got out of hand will also feel bad.
    => It makes balancing those custom powers even more important than usual.
    => Additionally, it pushes players to seek powers that are either "safe values" or "exploitable" (depending on the kind of GM you are) rather than ones that are in thematic agreement with their character.

    In general, you're switching from an "honour system" (where things are obtained "for free", but peoples are expected to self-regulate, to be reasonable, and to argue for their choice when they're debatable) to a "monetary system" (where peoples feel entitled to everything they can afford), and this fundamentally change how peoples will behave.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    In general, you're switching from an "honour system" (where things are obtained "for free", but peoples are expected to self-regulate, to be reasonable, and to argue for their choice when they're debatable) to a "monetary system" (where peoples feel entitled to everything they can afford), and this fundamentally change how peoples will behave.
    More than that, you need to ask yourself, what does this system give you? Because it's not mutual exclusivity - even on honor system, you either research power A or power B, no points necessary. Unless there is some interesting choice to be made while managing this new resource, you don't need the added complexity.

    What this system would look like... well, you have options. Skyrim's solution is to fuel this research by sacrificing magic items, therefore not getting the magic items or money you'd get for them. The new XCOM use both resources you need to acquire via risky tactics in missions and time - but beware using time as a mechanic, it's extremely hard to balance. RTS games use opportunity cost, while that barracks is upgrading your militia into men-at-arms, it can't produce units.

    Even more importantly - is such a system something that'd appeal to your players?
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Good points. You are probably right, it would not work
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    I built a campaign around a research and invention premise with an idea like this. Basically: you can always try to do something outside of the rules and I'll make an on the fly ruling as to how it works - improvise new spells or item crafts or feats or maneuvers as you like. If you like that ruling, spend a research point and it becomes a rule and we write it down; otherwise it might work differently in the future if you try again.

    It was mostly there to prevent games from descending into pure attempts to mint new abilities constantly. But in the end people forgot to use them and were severely underpowered.

    So much depends on the group and what the players are like.
    Last edited by NichG; 2021-11-15 at 10:48 AM.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Man, this is tough.

    I really like the idea of research, and of a research system. Quertus, my signature academia mage for whom this account is named, is a poster child for research.

    But 3e isn't terribly suited to such concepts. Such "research" is already covered by expending the resources to buy feats. If the GM makes the players wait 3 seconds, that's 3 seconds too long. Just like how I already have the "speak English" skill - I don't need to spend 3 months researching how to ask a question, do I?

    So the PCs should be able to hit the ground running, and build whatever they have the prerequisites to build, immediately.

    In fact, the only thing worth researching there is just how the BBEG managed to control all those monsters. And, possibly, what training would let the PCs control the monsters and Wild Magic, too.

    Which is one of the things I don't like about 3e.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Question: do you keep track of experience points, gold pieces etc.?

    If the answer is "no", the follow-up is "why not?" and then "why doesn't this reason to avoid bean counting apply to this new resource of research points?"

    If the answer is "yes", you do not need research points. Apply experience point, gold piece or other existing resource cost to whatever thing your players want to do. Chances are good there are existing things to use as cost benchmarks.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Man, this is tough.

    I really like the idea of research, and of a research system. Quertus, my signature academia mage for whom this account is named, is a poster child for research.

    But 3e isn't terribly suited to such concepts. Such "research" is already covered by expending the resources to buy feats. If the GM makes the players wait 3 seconds, that's 3 seconds too long. Just like how I already have the "speak English" skill - I don't need to spend 3 months researching how to ask a question, do I?

    So the PCs should be able to hit the ground running, and build whatever they have the prerequisites to build, immediately.
    err... do you mean that, once they take an item creation feat1, they should be able - on the fly - to make items that were explicitly mentioned as not exhisting currently in the world?

    that would be like arguing that someone out of engineering school should be able to build a nuclear fusion power plant straight away, because we know nuclear fusion is technically possible, and the engineer paid for the prerequisites by spending some years studying, he shouldn't be penalized by having to research anything else.

    Do your quertus mage show up with new spells whenever he comes out of the toilet? Or do you at least pretend that he took some time in a lab to research them?

    1 which, by the way, they didn't. if they want to research stuff, i'm not going to limit them by asking them to take on feats; I merely declare that they can come up with a good project and then hire some npc with the actual feat for the actual creation process.

    In fact, the only thing worth researching there is just how the BBEG managed to control all those monsters. And, possibly, what training would let the PCs control the monsters and Wild Magic, too.

    Which is one of the things I don't like about 3e.
    no mistery there, and nothing to research.
    the wild magic can mutate anything, in random ways. some people disappear. some become mindless deformed beasts. some lucky few even develop mild superpowers. this includes some of the player characters.
    the villain was a nymph, she already had some decent racial ability to control creatures. she won the superpower jackpot, as her mutation switched her control from normal animals to mutated creatures, and made her immensely stronger; nymphs already can fulfill a characterization as genius loci (the concept, not the monster), so she basically became the genius loci of the wild magic zone. a random accident, that was itself only possible because it struck the right creature at the right time and wouldn't have worked on a different creature.
    unfortunately, her newfound power also caused her to feel the sufferings of every creature she controlled. every insect eaten from inside by a parasite, every rabbit eaten by a wolf, every wolf going hungry, every creature that was sick or cold or wounded or anything - she felt all that, all the time.
    the pain of it drove her crazy. eventually she decided that life is an evil contraption made to propagate and maximize suffering, and she decided to try and extirpate it completely. destroying a city is the first step to expanding her wild magic zone, until it encompasses the whole world. then she'd control all life, and she'd be able to just order it to die. then she'd die herself, and there would be no more suffering, forever! Yay!

    It's actually the only time i ever gave an npc such powerful abilities. but i wanted her to be able to realistically threaten a high magic, high level, high tech world all on her own; what she has is the bare minimum for it.
    Last edited by King of Nowhere; 2021-11-16 at 11:57 AM.
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

    Ridiculous monsters you won't take seriously even as they disembowel you

    my take on the highly skilled professional: the specialized expert

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    I've got an idea about introducing some "research points" as a metagame currency to let the party research new stuff.

    Some context for this: my major villain just revealed herself, and the party -indeed, the whole world - is woefully unprepared to face her.
    she lives inside a large wild magic area, which she can control. Inside it, she's basically unapproachable. Teleportation and other astral travel inside the area doesn't work. Scrying inside the area does not work. Pretty much anything long range inside the area does not work. A party coming in to fight her would just wander around aimlessly, while slowly succumbing to "magic radiation". The villain used the area to breed vast armies of mutated creatures. including enough hellwasp swarms to fill the horizon. she used them to overrun a major city, and it worked because nobody was expecting that. melee classes are basically useless against those - the little damage they can do with alchemical thrown weapons is negligible. The city was defended with machine guns and cannons, effective against the biggest monsters. but useless against swarms. casters can fight with aoe, but they run out fast, and were overwhelmed. This worked so well for the villain because nobody ever had to fight high level swarms, and nobody was prepared.
    Is your villain based on Naraku?

    As others have said, your first step should be figuring out which of their tactics will work. Nothing will suck more than spending a bunch of their "points" on a course of action only to find that action was ineffective.

    I'd also ask whether there are any stakes associated with this process. What is the villain doing while your party are hitting the books? Do they have time to research everything they might want to? Will adventuring for research points (e.g. uncovering notes or ancient runes/prophecies) be faster than just rolling a bunch of checks in a library? (It's probably more fun, so I'd do that one.)
    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    err... do you mean that, once they take an item creation feat1, they should be able - on the fly - to make items that were explicitly mentioned as not exhisting currently in the world?
    Yup! Having taken the "software engineer" feat, I can, on the fly, with 0 research, write software that explicitly doesn't exist in the current world. Like I did when I wrote code to automate the rolls for my undead army.

    When I don't have the prerequisites ("Recursion"? What's that? *Or* "Flash"? What's that?), then I need to research to learn the prerequisite, not to write the specific code.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    that would be like arguing that someone out of engineering school should be able to build a nuclear fusion power plant straight away, because we know nuclear fusion is technically possible, and the engineer paid for the prerequisites by spending some years studying, he shouldn't be penalized by having to research anything else.

    Do your quertus mage show up with new spells whenever he comes out of the toilet? Or do you at least pretend that he took some time in a lab to research them?
    Now, "spell research" is something different.

    And that makes for a good limiting factor.

    But once the spell is known, if the GM makes the PCs research how to use that spell to make an item for 3 seconds, that's 3 seconds too long. In 3e.

    (EDIT: do note how lax with matching the function of the item existing prerequisites are. Not every new item should require a new spell.)

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post

    1 which, by the way, they didn't. if they want to research stuff, i'm not going to limit them by asking them to take on feats; I merely declare that they can come up with a good project and then hire some npc with the actual feat for the actual creation process.
    So it's the NPC(s) who should be doing the research, not the PCs. The PCs need only present their ideas.

    That said…

    Once upon a time, Armus wanted to get his entire party of abductees home to their respective homeworlds (10 different worlds in all, by the end of the campaign). With 0 second research time, he realized that an item to do so would need several things, and that he would need to collect components representative of these things:
    • power
    • dimensional energy
    • their homeworlds as targets of the dimensional energy


    Within seconds (and without explanation, because Armus (also, didn't want to get their hopes up)), Armus was trading good coins with everyone present, and collecting soil samples from their boots. That was about the best he could do for connection to their worlds; gold was symbolic of travel via paying the ferryman, soil from a world-walker's shoes was certainly symbolic of travel, so they fit the theme as well as representing the destination.

    As he adventured, he kept his eyes open, and continued collecting prospective components (like a shard of a TARDIS, sand from a moving island, etc) until it all came together into a recipe, which he handed off to a(n NPC) Wizard.

    And I think that was a fun, cool minigame. Of collecting components. Of making do with what you've got.

    But it involved exactly 0 seconds of research time.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    no mistery there, and nothing to research.
    the wild magic can mutate anything, in random ways. some people disappear. some become mindless deformed beasts. some lucky few even develop mild superpowers. this includes some of the player characters.
    the villain was a nymph, she already had some decent racial ability to control creatures. she won the superpower jackpot, as her mutation switched her control from normal animals to mutated creatures, and made her immensely stronger; nymphs already can fulfill a characterization as genius loci (the concept, not the monster), so she basically became the genius loci of the wild magic zone. a random accident, that was itself only possible because it struck the right creature at the right time and wouldn't have worked on a different creature.
    unfortunately, her newfound power also caused her to feel the sufferings of every creature she controlled. every insect eaten from inside by a parasite, every rabbit eaten by a wolf, every wolf going hungry, every creature that was sick or cold or wounded or anything - she felt all that, all the time.
    the pain of it drove her crazy. eventually she decided that life is an evil contraption made to propagate and maximize suffering, and she decided to try and extirpate it completely. destroying a city is the first step to expanding her wild magic zone, until it encompasses the whole world. then she'd control all life, and she'd be able to just order it to die. then she'd die herself, and there would be no more suffering, forever! Yay!

    It's actually the only time i ever gave an npc such powerful abilities. but i wanted her to be able to realistically threaten a high magic, high level, high tech world all on her own; what she has is the bare minimum for it.
    Cool. So cool, I'd totally love to hand you one of my old PCs to be her lieutenant. Or to be in the game for the philosophical debates. But neither might match the direction the party takes things.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2021-11-18 at 07:39 AM.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Yup! Having taken the "software engineer" feat, I can, on the fly, with 0 research, write software that explicitly doesn't exist in the current world. Like I did when I wrote code to automate the rolls for my undead army.
    yes, but that's very easy code. If the party wizard asks for a cantrip to light his pipe, i'd roll 1d6*10 minutes and that's how long it would take to develop it. those are more complex examples
    Now, "spell research" is something different.

    And that makes for a good limiting factor.

    But once the spell is known, if the GM makes the PCs research how to use that spell to make an item for 3 seconds, that's 3 seconds too long. In 3e.

    (EDIT: do note how lax with matching the function of the item existing prerequisites are. Not every new item should require a new spell.)
    you are right by RAW, but as you can tell, i take RAW as a guideline when it comes to worldbuilding and out-of-combat stuff.

    you don't create a magic item just by taking the material and casting a spell on it; if that was the case, you wouldn't need 8 hours/day and 1 day/1000 gp. there must be a ritual of some sort, and you must discover it in some way.
    For known items, there are plenty of tomes detailing their construction, that any caster can get easily enough.
    for new items based on well-known spells, figuring a ritual could be fairly easy, but it still would feel wrong to have no research time. Anyway, this is basically fluff: add a bit of time the first time you research the object, it's the kind of things that help immersion while having 0 actual impact on the game.
    for obscure items based on obscure spells - or counterintuitive applications of known spells - it would require some serious effort.

    for example, a weapon crystal to deal normal damage to swarms; imported from pathfinder, it's based on the "repel vermin" spell.
    the spell, of course, repels vermin. i expect there would be quite the request for that: it keeps away those pesky mosquitoes in the summer, it stops roaches from getting into your house... but it doesn't actually kill any vermin. So, applying the spell to make it hurt swarms - including swarms that are not made of vermin - is a counterintuitive use of the spell. And nobody ever made one, because swarms normally aren't a problem. It would just feel wrong to be able to make such an item authomaticallly.

    So it's the NPC(s) who should be doing the research, not the PCs. The PCs need only present their ideas.
    It's one of the most criticized facets of 3.x that you have very limited feats, and you need to spend them to do cool stuff. Again, I prefer to go by fluff here.
    The wizard is supposed to be a brilliant academic, i see no reason to prevent him from doing some academic research. Lacking the feat may signify not being an expert specifically in the field of item creation, but he could perhaps work in a team.
    The cleric is characterized as a book-dumb tinkerer, well, if we can come up with some way one such guy could fiddle around with stuff and provide useful empyrical data, I'll gladly let him help.

    the one downside I can see with it is that it may be unfair to some who actually spent build resources to be able to do this stuff, but as long as actual build resources are still required (and, in this case, outsourced to npcs in exchange for fees or favors) then i see no problem in letting people participate more.
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    I like this idea, as long as it’s something the players are excited to engage with (or at least some of them). Blades in the Dark does it with clocks and downtime actions, and it can sometimes become a bit rote and mechanical but on the whole it’s cool, again as long as the players are into it.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    yes, but that's very easy code.
    Sure. But - and, granted, maybe it's just because I'm a genius, maybe other software developers aren't like me - but I've never had to research *how* to write code. So long as I have the prerequisites, I can write the code. Sometimes, I've written the code without the prerequisites ("gee, thanks, 'Quertus' for fixing this code our team couldn't handle." "Sure, no problem. Oh, by the way, what language was that?" "You've… never written in that language before?" "Nope.")

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    you are right by RAW
    Good. So, you can see that you are replacing "yes" with "after you jump through these hoops".

    That's why, as much as I like the concept, it isn't a good fit for 3e.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    , but as you can tell, i take RAW as a guideline when it comes to worldbuilding and out-of-combat stuff.
    And, from what my senile mind can recall, you've built some cool stuff. And, as I said, I like the concept. But it feels a poor fit for 3e.

    Worse, it's… really odd… for the "engineer" to demand that the "client" do the innovation. Worse, it's horrible for the kingdom to demand that the heroes do the innovating in an "end of the world" scenario.

    Now, if the *players* are just getting to allocate the kingdom's research budget, to represent their characters' political sway, that's fine. But that makes it independent of their skills and actions, outside things like, "rescue / resurrect Einstein: +2 research per turn" or some such.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    It would just feel wrong to be able to make such an item authomaticallly.
    When my character is supposedly smarter than me, and I do that kind of thing all the time in coding, or using classes for different purposes than intended, or such? No, it feels really right to me.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Yup! Having taken the "software engineer" feat, I can, on the fly, with 0 research, write software that explicitly doesn't exist in the current world. Like I did when I wrote code to automate the rolls for my undead army.

    When I don't have the prerequisites ("Recursion"? What's that? *Or* "Flash"? What's that?), then I need to research to learn the prerequisite, not to write the specific code.
    You don't have a faster time writing programs which are similar to what you've done before than you do writing one in a totally new area?

    Because I sure as hell do - some types of program, I could just sit down and start writing immediately. Others, I'd want to study existing examples and knowledge first, and it would take considerably longer if I didn't have access to those.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2021-11-19 at 07:14 PM.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Spells aren't computer programs. They're more like reverse-engineering hostile, intelligent hardware. In production. The universe itself is alive and you're trying to get it to do something it normally doesn't do. And you don't have a compiler, you don't have an assembler, you don't even have an OS. You're doing it by the equivalent of poking a magnet at the disk and praying. And sometimes, those things you poke make your surroundings blow up. Including you. And the whole thing is a black box. No debugging output, no nice error messages--either it works or it doesn't. And you don't even have a fundamental theory to work from--spells and the "weave" (in FR-like settings) are under the control of a capricious, "mortal-like" deity who decides what spells can exist and what can't (even if he/she doesn't decide who can cast them).

    IMO, de novo spell research is something done only by the insane. Taking an effect you know works and figuring out the exact right triggers for it? Possible. But creating something brand new? There's a reason that wizard labs are traditionally on towers (to limit the collateral damage when they invariably explode or worse) or deep underground (similar).
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    IMO, de novo spell research is something done only by the insane. Taking an effect you know works and figuring out the exact right triggers for it? Possible. But creating something brand new? There's a reason that wizard labs are traditionally on towers (to limit the collateral damage when they invariably explode or worse) or deep underground (similar).
    Incidentally, this is how I explain the cost for spell research. You can just alter the formula for a spell (or make up a new one entirely), prepare it, and cast it ... if you're ok with the fact that it probably won't do anything, if it does something it probably won't be what you wanted, and that it might be extremely dangerous. And working at the speed of only a few iterations a day, it will take a long time to perfect anything.

    So, magic powder. Or "thaumically reactive particulate matter" as it's sometimes known. It's a glittery chalk-dust-like substance that's highly sensitive to magical energy, so much so that you can channel a tiny sub-cantrip amount of power into it and it'll display (in miniature) what the spell would do if you really cast it. It still takes a lot of iterations to create something new, but now those iterations can happen faster and without the chance of turning yourself inside out.

    The powder does get consumed each time you test a spell with it though, and it's somewhat expensive stuff, so that's why the significant cost of spell research.
    Last edited by icefractal; 2021-11-19 at 07:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    Incidentally, this is how I explain the cost for spell research. You can just alter the formula for a spell (or make up a new one entirely), prepare it, and cast it ... if you're ok with the fact that it probably won't do anything, if it does something it probably won't be what you wanted, and that it might be extremely dangerous. And working at the speed of only a few iterations a day, it will take a long time to perfect anything.

    So, magic powder. Or "thaumically reactive particulate matter" as it's sometimes known. It's a glittery chalk-dust-like substance that's highly sensitive to magical energy, so much so that you can channel a tiny sub-cantrip amount of power into it and it'll display (in miniature) what the spell would do if you really cast it. It still takes a lot of iterations to create something new, but now those iterations can happen faster and without the chance of turning yourself inside out.

    The powder does get consumed each time you test a spell with it though, and it's somewhat expensive stuff, so that's why the significant cost of spell research.
    Having done some research in my day, I'm very firmly in the "spell and item research is something done by dedicated NPCs in dedicated labs, working with large teams or with severe mental illness, using expensive, fragile, and bulky equipment. Not adventurers, even with lots of downtime" camp.

    Adventurers are, almost definitionally, not academic researchers. Their day job is adventuring, and most of their effort goes into that. A wizard "learning new spells" isn't coming up with them themselves--they're deciphering scraps of notes that they wrote during training, things their mentors wrote for them, or compiling things they've observed along the road. Adventuring wizards are much more likely to find spells (either in writings found during adventure or by experiencing different effects that they're trying to recreate), but they're not de novo researchers.

    In fact, in my own setting, the set of available spells is fixed by the god of magic, and no one can invent one that he hasn't already created and inserted into the celestial database. That's why everyone casts the same fireball (whether light cleric or wizard or warlock or bard or whatever)--it's literally the same spell, the same whitelisted effect. This is a change from prior operating procedure (which was a lot more free-form), specifically made because the last set blew up the world by playing with magics they shouldn't have. A couple times. That's a large part of the explanation why modern people struggle a lot more to create magic items and why the "ancients" had powers we can't explain. Magic was literally different, and in many ways more powerful. At the cost of being way less widespread.
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2021-11-19 at 07:58 PM.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    I guess my preferences would skew the opposite way in that spell, feat, maneuver, etc research should actually be a lot more common and should be a core part of gameplay, as well as a core part of the fiction. But it shouldn't be 'name the effect you want the spell to have and the level you think it should be, and the GM says yea or nay'. I'd want things like seeds of inspiration from observing natural phenomena or creatures, fragments of ideas from different ways that other cultures or civilizations looked at things, experiments revealing or testing principles, combinatorial searches, investigations into the details of how particular weird abilities function, etc to all be somehow meaningful and to determine what sort of new things are feasible to invent. I've yet to make a really solid system for these things, but I think there's room for something a lot more developed than 'just use the stuff from the book' and 'ask for anything you want and try to argue why it should be a given level'.

    Something I tried in my current campaign was that the PCs occasionally got loot in the form of 'this is a seed of inspiration: you can add it to an ability you're inventing to [add the ability to consume less of a resource]/[have full effect on dimensionally phased phenomena]/...' There's also a variety of tools the party has access to allowing them to do things like disassemble and remix the bits of their own soul that encode their abilities in order to do things like fuse feats, spells, etc in an uncontrolled fashion. It hasn't been used heavily, but I do like that sort of thing existing.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    I have no issue with players, OOC, suggesting homebrew. But that's not IC spell research, and is, once created, added to the global bank of known things.
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I have no issue with players, OOC, suggesting homebrew. But that's not IC spell research, and is, once created, added to the global bank of known things.
    At least IMC, this is all in-character stuff, not just suggesting OOC homebrew. But the important thing for me is that the research should somehow actually be looking into something that exists in the fiction or mechanics and which extends it in a new direction. So the research becomes something that a player can think 'in order to invent this thing I want, first I need to do X' without me necessarily having to even tell them what 'X' is, but just having it follow naturally from what the character knows and doesn't know.

    Like, in one campaign they discovered that whenever any individual attack or effect dealt more than 500 damage, the damage got capped and there was some visible artefact. So they could explore that phenomenon and discover that it acted like a sort of thaumo-weak unification energy scale and that exceeding that scale meant that elemental energies would break down into new configurations. So they could then extend that to find a bunch of synthetic elements that didn't exist naturally in the setting, and could use those as the basis for subsequent abilities.

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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Having done some research in my day, I'm very firmly in the "spell and item research is something done by dedicated NPCs in dedicated labs, working with large teams or with severe mental illness, using expensive, fragile, and bulky equipment. Not adventurers, even with lots of downtime" camp.
    I've done research myself, and I mostly agree with you. most spell researchers are not adventurers, and viceversa. but there can be exceptions. adventurers in my world only adventure occasionally, it's not like there's a huge threat every week. So one can easily be an associated professor at the local arcane university who, every once in a while, will also go in the field and use his magic against stuff (though the setting does point out that not all academic wizards are fighting wizards, as fighting requires capacity to make tactical assessment and decisions quickly, physical readyness, and other skills that most bookworm professors don't have).

    The party wizard, indeed, got to work for the university early on, and he's by now a respected professor there. the party druid was a researcher studying the wild magic, before an unknown accident left him memory-wiped and mutated (how we justified him being an antropomorphic bat with the race not exhisting in the campaign world). and the cleric, as i mentioned, is a tinkerer. at some point he had a garden inside the wild magic area, where he grew up pomegrenades (useful as thrown weapons) and dragon-breath chillies (which give you actual dragon breath capacity, provided you don't die of food poisoning first).
    that's 3 pcs out of 5 with a clear background for doing research.
    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Spells aren't computer programs. They're more like reverse-engineering hostile, intelligent hardware. In production.
    In fact, in my own setting, the set of available spells is fixed by the god of magic, and no one can invent one that he hasn't already created and inserted into the celestial database. That's why everyone casts the same fireball (whether light cleric or wizard or warlock or bard or whatever)--it's literally the same spell, the same whitelisted effect. This is a change from prior operating procedure (which was a lot more free-form), specifically made because the last set blew up the world by playing with magics they shouldn't have. A couple times. That's a large part of the explanation why modern people struggle a lot more to create magic items and why the "ancients" had powers we can't explain. Magic was literally different, and in many ways more powerful. At the cost of being way less widespread.
    my setting uses the "spells as pc programs" metaphora instead. i often describe spells as patches that locally alter the laws of physics, and i often describe magical research as writing a pc program or doing academical research.

    spells from spellbooks are the equivalent of mass-manufactored goods. but it's assumed that inventing a spell that does something simple is not complicated, and every wizard could make one. optimizing a spell, however, is hard. a random wizard could research prestidigitation as a 2nd level spell, for example. fitting the package in a 0th level slot required a lot of work. the university's library is full of doctoral thesis detailing new spells, but virtually all of them are too impractical for actual applications.
    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Worse, it's… really odd… for the "engineer" to demand that the "client" do the innovation. Worse, it's horrible for the kingdom to demand that the heroes do the innovating in an "end of the world" scenario.

    Now, if the *players* are just getting to allocate the kingdom's research budget, to represent their characters' political sway, that's fine. But that makes it independent of their skills and actions, outside things like, "rescue / resurrect Einstein: +2 research per turn" or some such.
    i didn't want to explain it in the first post for the sake of simplicity, but actually it is more the kingdom's research budget than just their own. no, they don't have enough political sway yet (they were supposed to be higher level and with more political sway when this happened) but it makes for a better story to let them allocate the nation's resources in this matter.

    Anyway, yes, this whole business with research point came from me preparing a "rescue research notes from the university" scenario during the "rescue stufff from the doomed city" session (which started last week, but took long enough that we'll finish it next week). And I thought, what could I actually award them from grabbing a lot of notebooks with random research data? and I thought, maybe they could get research points.
    And then, I have a future mission where they will open a lost vecna's vault and find lost knowledge. But what kind of lost knowledge could they actually find? again, research points.
    I thought to also include the wizard's research into the mix - the wizard player asked me a few stuff that's normally not in my campaign, and we came to the general conclusion that he'd research them during the course of the game. But maybe the problem was there, dumping the wizard's personal research with the global research.
    Perhaps making a research counter could work as a minigame to represent several powerful groups in the world realizing the dire threat posed by alice-the-crazy-nymph-with-demigod-powers, and join forces to try and find ways to stop her. and it should be kept separate from the wizard player personal research.

    on the plus side, in that case i will still have a few months where it won't be too late to implement it

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    And, from what my senile mind can recall, you've built some cool stuff. And, as I said, I like the concept. But it feels a poor fit for 3e.
    thanks for the compliment. but regarding the fit, as I say, it works because I am willing to make the necessary homebrewing and houseruling to make it work, and because my group trusts me with that.
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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by icefractal View Post
    You don't have a faster time writing programs which are similar to what you've done before than you do writing one in a totally new area?

    Because I sure as hell do - some types of program, I could just sit down and start writing immediately. Others, I'd want to study existing examples and knowledge first, and it would take considerably longer if I didn't have access to those.
    Not… really? Code is easier than English - if I can understand an idea well enough to put it into English, I understand it well enough to write the code.

    And, on the rare occasion where I have to stop to think how to write the code, those nearby will hear me cussing myself out for my stupidity. That's an idiot ball that there's no excuse for me to hold.

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    I guess my preferences would skew the opposite way in that spell, feat, maneuver, etc research should actually be a lot more common and should be a core part of gameplay, as well as a core part of the fiction. But it shouldn't be 'name the effect you want the spell to have and the level you think it should be, and the GM says yea or nay'. I'd want things like seeds of inspiration from observing natural phenomena or creatures, fragments of ideas from different ways that other cultures or civilizations looked at things, experiments revealing or testing principles, combinatorial searches, investigations into the details of how particular weird abilities function, etc to all be somehow meaningful and to determine what sort of new things are feasible to invent. I've yet to make a really solid system for these things, but I think there's room for something a lot more developed than 'just use the stuff from the book' and 'ask for anything you want and try to argue why it should be a given level'.

    Something I tried in my current campaign was that the PCs occasionally got loot in the form of 'this is a seed of inspiration: you can add it to an ability you're inventing to [add the ability to consume less of a resource]/[have full effect on dimensionally phased phenomena]/...' There's also a variety of tools the party has access to allowing them to do things like disassemble and remix the bits of their own soul that encode their abilities in order to do things like fuse feats, spells, etc in an uncontrolled fashion. It hasn't been used heavily, but I do like that sort of thing existing.
    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    At least IMC, this is all in-character stuff, not just suggesting OOC homebrew. But the important thing for me is that the research should somehow actually be looking into something that exists in the fiction or mechanics and which extends it in a new direction. So the research becomes something that a player can think 'in order to invent this thing I want, first I need to do X' without me necessarily having to even tell them what 'X' is, but just having it follow naturally from what the character knows and doesn't know.

    Like, in one campaign they discovered that whenever any individual attack or effect dealt more than 500 damage, the damage got capped and there was some visible artefact. So they could explore that phenomenon and discover that it acted like a sort of thaumo-weak unification energy scale and that exceeding that scale meant that elemental energies would break down into new configurations. So they could then extend that to find a bunch of synthetic elements that didn't exist naturally in the setting, and could use those as the basis for subsequent abilities.
    Hmmm… my characters don't just research everything, they need an IC reason for looking for a spell in the first place. Which is why only Quertus had Quertus' spell list. Is that at all what you mean when you talk about a "seed", or am I completely off base there?

    But, yes, I generally respond to what (I understand of what) you said with great enthusiasm. Expressing the character through exploration of details of the setting, and that having mechanical repercussions in terms of custom spells / maneuvers / etc is right up my alley. And why a certain Academia Mage of mine has "left the spotlight" in so many campaigns when research opportunities arose.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    I've done research myself, and I mostly agree with you. most spell researchers are not adventurers, and viceversa. but there can be exceptions.
    Quertus, my signature academia mage for whom this account is named, appreciates that. And would prefer to not be an adventurer. Especially since he lacks the tactical acumen that, as you point out, a "fighting Wizard" should have (and he knows it).

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    that's 3 pcs out of 5 with a clear background for doing research.
    Never mind the individual backgrounds, just that statistic is amazing!

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    my setting uses the "spells as pc programs" metaphora instead. i often describe spells as patches that locally alter the laws of physics, and i often describe magical research as writing a pc program or doing academical research.
    Cool. Easy for me to grok.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    spells from spellbooks are the equivalent of mass-manufactored goods. but it's assumed that inventing a spell that does something simple is not complicated, and every wizard could make one. optimizing a spell, however, is hard. a random wizard could research prestidigitation as a 2nd level spell, for example. fitting the package in a 0th level slot required a lot of work. the university's library is full of doctoral thesis detailing new spells, but virtually all of them are too impractical for actual applications.
    Interesting take, "inventing" vs "optimizing". I've known programmers who were… very dedicated to only a single side of that. I'm… not sure what I'd do, in such a setting.

    Quote Originally Posted by King of Nowhere View Post
    i didn't want to explain it in the first post for the sake of simplicity, but actually it is more the kingdom's research budget than just their own. no, they don't have enough political sway yet (they were supposed to be higher level and with more political sway when this happened) but it makes for a better story to let them allocate the nation's resources in this matter.

    Anyway, yes, this whole business with research point came from me preparing a "rescue research notes from the university" scenario during the "rescue stufff from the doomed city" session (which started last week, but took long enough that we'll finish it next week). And I thought, what could I actually award them from grabbing a lot of notebooks with random research data? and I thought, maybe they could get research points.
    And then, I have a future mission where they will open a lost vecna's vault and find lost knowledge. But what kind of lost knowledge could they actually find? again, research points.
    I thought to also include the wizard's research into the mix - the wizard player asked me a few stuff that's normally not in my campaign, and we came to the general conclusion that he'd research them during the course of the game. But maybe the problem was there, dumping the wizard's personal research with the global research.
    Perhaps making a research counter could work as a minigame to represent several powerful groups in the world realizing the dire threat posed by alice-the-crazy-nymph-with-demigod-powers, and join forces to try and find ways to stop her. and it should be kept separate from the wizard player personal research.

    on the plus side, in that case i will still have a few months where it won't be too late to implement it


    thanks for the compliment. but regarding the fit, as I say, it works because I am willing to make the necessary homebrewing and houseruling to make it work, and because my group trusts me with that.
    With focus on learning and optimizing spells, at the kingdom level, it sounds workable. Although, unless your game's physics dictate otherwise, spells needn't be optimized to be used to make items…

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Introducing "research points" as a currency to get custom stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Hmmm… my characters don't just research everything, they need an IC reason for looking for a spell in the first place. Which is why only Quertus had Quertus' spell list. Is that at all what you mean when you talk about a "seed", or am I completely off base there?

    But, yes, I generally respond to what (I understand of what) you said with great enthusiasm. Expressing the character through exploration of details of the setting, and that having mechanical repercussions in terms of custom spells / maneuvers / etc is right up my alley. And why a certain Academia Mage of mine has "left the spotlight" in so many campaigns when research opportunities arose.
    So for instance in my current campaign (which is D&D-based roughly, but is about three times as far from D&D 3.5 as Pathfinder 1e) the core party is a Warrior, a Tactician, and a Gadgeteer, and they have a heavily modified living airship thing which they accidentally created by literally crashing their ship into the planar boundary between Dream and Myth while channeling the lost energies of Hell through it. The Warrior has picked up feats and maneuvers from bar brawls and duels she's participated in, and also trained at a sort of skald college (not a class in the system but more of a social role) and ultimately started to figuring out how to integrate music with her combat abilities in order to do things like sustain Boosts from one round to the next. The Tactician has a Gimmick which lets him apply planar traits he's experienced with to a battlefield, and has been going around trying to collect traits of exotic planes in order to expand his trick. The Gadgeteer has a prestige class called Landseed Archeologist which lets him go to places which have been recreated as mythic echoes of things that once existed elsewhere and basically extract 'fragments' from those places which have to do with the particular story or civilization responsible for the original template location, which he can use as the basis for authoring new Gimmicks, Maneuvers, or Spells. The party has also found loot such as the Conceptual Seed of the idea of Sustainability (they helped free a spirit being that embodied stories whose aesops were about civilizations overutilizing resources and collapsing, and this was the reward). If they use the Conceptual Seed, they can modify an ability which would normally use up some fuel or resource instead use less or even none of the resource, or can author completely new abilities which are 'about' reducing resource consumption somehow (like a spell that provides fuel for an engine, or an Eschew Material Components feat). The ship has lab facilities and an Alter of Fusion which they basically ripped out of the ground from an Eldritch incursion and installed on the ship, allowing them to do simple combinatorial experimentation like 'iron + adamantine = ?', or even abstract stuff like 'the Dodge Feat + the soul of this villain we just killed = ?'

    Currently they've abducted the installation responsible for spying on the world and picking out people for the sort-of-gods to fuse mythological powers into in order to prevent their myths from stagnating into a space outside of the story-bubble and have been picking apart the facility for technologies they can use to make their powers not depend as much on external sources. They're about to steal the Feather of Ma'at, an Artifact which can be used to assess truth but also in the hands of someone with proper domain manipulation technology could be used to alter 'what is true', and that will probably end up leading to the creation of this or that method or technique so that they can smooth over a few problematic paradoxes which were created when stealing the installation.

    So, research-driven gameplay!

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