View Full Version : Spell Mechanics

03-08-2011, 09:34 PM
I was just rereading some of the spell mechanics of Pathfinder (aka D&D 3.75) and was just think how just ineloquent the spell theory and mechanics are in D&D. Spell slots, 8 hours of study, cost to write new spells in your spell book, etc. I work with software technology at work and I see the same thing there in a patch work of cobbled concepts and work arounds the compiled from different people over the years to form some ill performing ERP system. :ranger:

I have played other systems, like Palladium (has its own problems), when use a point base system in that you absorb or able to pass through a certain amount of magical energy measured in points. Each spell takes certain amount of points and higher level ones take more then lower level ones. You can get extra points (energy) from areas, devices, sacrifices, etc. Nothing special about a spell book, it could be read from a computer screen if need be and onces learned, its known.

Not really meant as some criticism of D&D, still my favorite game warts and all and wizards are my favorite class. Cleaning up the magic system is just too radical a change for D&D even after 4+ version changes. :violin:

03-09-2011, 09:31 AM
I agree. I have never liked the Vancian system (that used by classic D&D). I prefer the "manipulate magical energy, which takes concentration and thus is a strain on mind and body" system. I have been looking for a balanced effect-based magic system (similar to Ars Magica) for years.

03-16-2011, 07:56 PM
my favorite magic systems are the flexible ones, (mostly Mage:The Awakening) the more flexible the better in my opinion.

03-16-2011, 08:12 PM
Mage's magic system is a little TOO flexible - it goes from "You can light a candle" to "You can decide whether to block out the sun" in 5 easy steps, and the only rule is "can I describe it?" and if the GM will allow it. It's only a couple of steps from Amber.

03-16-2011, 09:30 PM
I have to agree, flexible can be nice... but there must be limits. I may be evil, but the lawful inside me screams out against many systems.

03-16-2011, 10:58 PM
the basics of what some mistakenly refer to as magic in real life are faith, devotion, an understanding of the properties of ones' surroundings plus the content thereof, and intervention from an outside source. fairly nebulous compared to most organized systems of magic in games.

the one quandary i run across is the disparity of power and skill. a skillful user can produce overwhelmingly powerful effects without actually using a lot of raw power. most game systems try to have a leveling effect so that all players are on about par, especially in magic systems. others are so loose that it's pretty much up to how clever those involved are, and who's gonna let them get away with it. but you try to put numerology to skillful and creative use, and you start getting all sorts of skewed effects. for example, the ability to heal or harm a small wound. no biggie right? but what about if that wound is caused in the heart or brain? potentially instant death. well, that has to be a much higher level of power right? no, not really. just knowing how to use a little bit to maximum effect. higher skill not power.

now there are some systems which address such issues. gurps in my personal play experience is one.

it a bit of a difficult balance. i think a few minor tweaks to dnd can make it much more fun to play.

08-27-2011, 06:48 PM
I have never liked the vancian magic system either. Not so much a dislike for the system itself, but that it just doesn't match up to the way magic is portrayed in most movies, books, etc. Other than the Vance books that the system is based on, but it doesn't match up to any other setting. I have converted to a mana/spell point system incorporated with a skill based system. Casting spells is a skill, just like lockpicking or any other skill. The level of the spell determines the DC. So basically you can attempt to cast pretty much any level of spell (except in those cases where the DC is so high above the skill level that it is Impossible). The higher spell levels are just more difficult so more likely to fail. Of course the higher level spells also cost more mana points. So you can choose to shoot a couple of high level spells or a lot of low level spells, rather than # 1st level spells and # 5th level spells.

I also encourage player creativity with the idea that magic is not an exact science and they can try various ideas. Such as 'I'm going to substitute a crows feather for a doves feather as the material component, hoping that it will make it a dark magic spell' 'Makes sense to me, I decide that it works', or other ideas for altering spells, like maybe channeling a spell through a liches bone to add more necromantic power to it.

I also like the gurps system. I don't care for All the prerequisites though. Like needing to first know heat spell, and then a line of various fire spells, before finally being able to cast fireball. If magic did exist, it probably would work something like that, but for a game, it can be too limiting. I do use a few prerequisites for some of the higher level more complex spells, such as before being able to learn dimension door, they must know how to cast at least one other travel spell. It fits in the line of thinking that you must learn to walk before you learn to run. Before knowing how to build a super computer you would need to know how microchips work. A scientist must understand physics before being able to understand quantum physics.

08-28-2011, 10:20 AM
i recall one set of books that i read, wherein spellcasting was performed exclusively by singing. there was this odd twist that anything that affects something alive or once-alive was considered "dark" and had a severe impact on the body and health of the caster. a big enough spell would outright kill the caster, hence a tradition of singing a big death-song right before death and pulling of some big spell that the caster had always wanted to pull off. spells also drew directly from the casters body, so they had to eat ginormous amounts of food to keep going. casting in groups of performers (band or orchestra) spread out the negative effects somewhat among all the casters, allowing for more powerful effects to be accomplished. non-living material was fair game, however. so rock, air, fire, water, and similar was a frequent material manipulated.

anyhow. the gimmick was that someone's death-song imported a human from earth into their world. by the time she was finished, she had figured out how to induce nuclear fusion via song-magic, from a basic understanding of atomic theory. she wasn't more skillful... she wasn't more powerful per se... she just had a grasp of how things worked better than the local inhabitants, and that knowledge translated into massively powerful affects.

i would like to see a system where cobbled together spells take more power to pull off, whereas memorized effects take up less. since making dc's can be easily optimized, that is less of a restriction, so perhaps having to make a certain dc to cast, plus taking up extra slot(s) in order to cast something you have not learned. lower dc and number of slots in order to cast something practiced or well-known. spells known would shift to being what you have well practiced.

08-30-2011, 12:29 PM
8 hours of study,

I believe its 1 hour of study, 8 hours of rest because you dont have to memorize non-combat spells ahead of time as long as you leave the slot open. You may want to look at ultimate magic for pathfinder, I have not read it yet but I hear it has a Mageish magic system in it. Monte's Cooks World of Darkness also had an interesting magic system for d20 players. Personally I like the way Mage, Shadowrun, Ars Magica, and Desolation handle magic. GURPS isnt terrible either but its just a point based system with per-requisits.