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Author Topic: Three Worlds Campaign Setting: Alternate Spellcasting Mechanics  (Read 1130 times)
The Captain of Crunch
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« on: March 20, 2006, 06:03:30 PM »

Note: This is both a mechanical and a flavor based discussion. I know I haven't yet posted my campaign setting here, so feel free to ask as many questions as you feel are necessary for you to be able to provide me with any assistance. I'll do my best to explain the differences. Please read my thread on the Meta board about adding the Agility and Perception ability scores, as that will help you better understand some elements of my spellcasting system.

First and foremost, I have been redesigning the PHB spells to fit the XPH point cost/augmentation mechanic. Currently in my games I am utilizing 5 primary spellcasters with 5 secondary spellcasters. The primary casters are: Cleric, Druid, Psion, Sorcerer, Wizard. The secondary casters are: Bard, Channeler*, Monk*, Ranger, Templar* (Channeler is a Sorcerer/Berserker hybrid, a warrior who wields an energy type as a weapon and slowly becomes an elemental; Monk is a mix of the current Monk and the current Psychic Warrior; Templar is a Paladin-type who chooses their deity and domains).

While I am comfortable with my current explainations for the classes, the large number of them simply will not work for my setting and it's new magic system. Magic is the manipulation of elemental energy; this energy is a part of the world and a part of all living creatures. Each element has different spheres of influene, as I'll show now:

Air
*Spells affecting Agility, Speed, and Movement (flight and teleportation as well)
*Spells affecting Perception (sensory enhancing and extending divinations)
*Spells utilizing air, wind, and electricity
*Spells utilizing illusions

Earth
*Spells affecting Constitution and Resistance to physical damage
*Spells affecting Wisdom and resistance to spiritual damage
*Spells utilizing earth, metals, minerals, acid, and plants
*Spells enhancing or altering metals, gems, and wood (such as magic weapon).

Fire
*Spells affecting and utilizing pure Strength (telekinesis included)
*Spells affecting and utilizing Charisma (charms and compulsions included)
*Spells utilizing fire, heat, and light.
*Spells dealing with pure, raw destruction (such as using negative energy to destroy, or damaging specific alignments with divine damage)

Water
*Spells affecting Dexterity, and spells related to adaptability (creature transformations included)
*Spells affecting Inteligence (information gathering and question/answer divinations included)
*Spells utilizing water, cold, poison, and ice.
*Spells which heal, repair damage to living creatures, and restore life (undead creation will probably fall into here)

Void
*Spells dealing with hidden potential and luck
*Spells which can replicate any effect (such as the shadow conjuration/evocation effects)

As I stated earlier, everything other than the purest element is made up of a mixture of these elements. Spellcasters utilize this energy, but it may come from the world, it's spirits, or their own body.

My current classes are explained like this:
Cleric/Templar: Their magical energy is gifted to them by the deity they serve.
Druid/Ranger: Their magical energy is drawn from the animistic spirits which reside in the natural world.
Psion/Monk: Their magical energy is made within their own body.
Sorcerer/Channeler: Their magical energy is involuntarily drawn from the world.
Wizard/Bard: Their magical energy is forcefully taken from the natural world.

Again, I don't want to have so many classes: the way I have separated the elements makes it so I can separate passive and agressive spellcasters through elemental specialization. But the way I've always described my world has always utilized a distinction between arcane and divine magic. Thus, there are two possible ways I could present the spellcasters for my setting (and the reasons I'm not entirely set on each choice):

Presentation One: One caster, the Sorcerer
In this presentation, there is only one spellcaster class, called the Sorcerer. This Sorcerer draws their magical energy from the animistic spirits which inhabbit all of the world; they may be pious and respectful of the spirits whose power they borrow, or they may be ambivalent or even hostile, feeling that the power is rightfully theirs to wield because they are strong enough to take it. All Sorcerers will choose an elemental affinity; they then loose access to spells of the opposite element (Air <-> Earth; Fire <-> Water), and spells of the other two elements increase in spell level by one and mana cost by 2. This ensures differentiation, so a party may include a Fire Sorcerer for agressive uses and a Water Sorcerer for passive uses.

Secondary spellcasters (normally the bard, paladin, and ranger) become difficult to deal with in this situation. Should there be four, each one focused with a different element? Should I retain the Ranger/Templar that I greatly enjoy, describing one as the defender of the natural world and one as the defender of the civilized world? Where would bards fit in? Where would my monks fit in (and I do require monks in my setting as I see them, partial psionic-like spellcasters because I have one in a novel that takes place in my setting)?

I dislike this presentation because I've always described my world as having priestly casters and non-priestly casters.

Presentation 2: Two casters, the Priest and the Sorcerer
In this presentation, there are two casting classes. The Priest draws their energy from the spirits of the world, and chooses one particular spirit, a powerful deity, to focus their devotion towards. This choice of a deity grants them domains, which cements a certain amount of magical focus upon them. The Sorcerer has a mutation in their body; one of their chakras has grown too large, consuming it's opposite, and it now involuntarily draws magical energy into their bodies from the world around them. This forces them to utilize one element over the others, and bars them from using the opposite.

In this system, I can retain 4 of my current casters easily: Rangers are rogue/priests who focus their devotion upon the natural world (revearing nature spirits mostly), while Templar are warrior/priests who focus their devotion upon the civilized world (revearing ancestor spirits mostly); Channelers are warrior/sorcerers who dwell upon the chaotic nature of their power, while Monks are rogue/sorcerers who control their inner power with peace and inner balance. I still like bards, but they can exist as their current JoaT model.

While I love this idea greatly, it is difficult to impliment: I need a symetrical way of separating the spells that Priests and Sorcerers can access. What I mean by symetrical is that each element currently has 4 "spheres" of influence, and each sphere is loosely related to one of the spheres of the three other elements. As you can see, one sphere of each element is tied to each of the physical and mental ability scores in my system, one sphere of each element is tied to the actual physical element, and one sphere is tied to the element through more philosophical ties.

Thus, if priests are to be the only full caster with healing spells, then illusion, destruction, and item enhancing/alteration falls to the priest; this is odd as illusion was always the sphere of arcanists, and item enhancing/alteration fell to both. If charms are to be purely arcane, then sensory spells, magical/spiritual protection, and knowledge gathering spells are also primarily arcane. I'm all for killing a few sacred cows in the name of progress (the hindis would make hu-fu out of me), but I'm not sure if it would work out for the best.

On second thought, here is a proposal for how to separate the elements. Tell me if you think this can work:

Priests
Air
*Perception related spells, though the arcanist will get some of the more basic ones.
*Illusions
*The more natural spells utilizing air and elecricity (for instance the ones the druid currently has, not unnatural things like lightning bolt).

Earth
*Wisdom related spells and spiritual protections, though the arcanist will get some of the more basic ones.
*Item enhancements/alterations
*The more natural spells utilizing earth and plants.

Fire
*Charisma related spells and charms, though the arcanist will get some of the more basic ones.
*Pure destruction spells, utilizing negative energy and divine damage.
*The more natural spells utilizing fire and light.

Water
*Intelligence related spells and divinations, though the arcanist wll get some of the more basic ones.
*Healing and cleansing spells.
*The more natural spells utilizing water and cold.

Sorcerers[/u]
Air
*Agility, speed, teleportation, and flight related spells.
*Spells utilizing less natural air, electricity, and wind (rather than asking the air to move, they release moving air from their body; rather than calling down lightning from the sky, they create it from their hands).
*Basic perception related spells

Earth
*Constitution and physical protection related spells.
*Spells utilizing less natural earth, metal, and acid.
*Basic wisdom related spells.

Fire
*Strength and force related spells.
*Spells utilizing less natural fire, heat, and light.
*Basic charisma related spells.

Water
*Dexterity and transformation related spells.
*Spells utilizing less natural water, cold, and ice.
*Basic intelligence related spells.

This means that Priests are a little more scholorly and focus on the mind and the spirit more, while Sorcerers focus on the body and blatantly evocative effects more. Channelers will focus on their element and energy alone, Monks will focus on the body and mind related spells alone, Rangers will focus on natural uses of the elements, and Templar will focus upon mostly the mental related spells. Bards, lastly, will focus primarily upon the mental spells and the "theoretical" spheres (healing, destruction, illusion, item enhancement).

I think I may have thought things through for myself, so now I really need support and/or criticism of the second presentation. Thanks for your time.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2006, 12:07:35 AM by nastynate » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2006, 01:50:16 AM »

Wow, no replies. I think I'll expand the focus of this thread then, maybe that will draw some posts.

One thing that I hear many people complain about, both on these boards and elsewhere in the D&D community, is the inherently flawed nature of the "vancian" spellcasting system. The only other CRPG I've played, L5R, also utilizes slots, but their spellcaster doesn't have to prepare those slots ahead of time and actually has an unlimited knowledge of spells (as long as they have the scroll for the spell, they can spend a slot to cast it; they can buy the ability to cast the spell without the scroll though).

With the creation of my spellcasting system, I hope to kill two birds with one stone. The first and most important bird on my hit-list is creating a system of classes and spell categorization that works for my setting; it isn't just needless crunch for the purpose of making new crunch (thanks Nate). The second, though arguably just as important, reason is that I dislike the slot mechanic; it just doesn't make sense from a game play or a descriptive perspective. I know I could put effort into describing it for my setting, but I'd rather not.

My system is based off the point mechanic presented in the XPH; I've even gone through the trouble of editing the PHB spells to utilize an augmentation mechanic. This is helping me to slowly make the magic of my setting a little more generic, though still making it possible for a caster to utilize or create a unique spell. For one reason or another, I prefer more generic mechanics.

One change I'm implementing in my spells is slowly removing some of the more generic energy based evocations (burning hands, fireball, lightning bolt) and replacing them with Energy (shape) spells, the way the Psion gets them in the XPH. Instead of knowing lightning bolt, a spellcaster may know "Energy Bolt", and can cast it as either acid, cold, electricity, or fire. This will be limited by the spellcaster's elemental focus, though, and may be limited by their chakra ranks if I decide to go that rout.

I will still keep more unique elemental effects; each level will have to have a number of purely elemental based spells, especially energy based spells that could not logically be reproduced with any other element (such as a "spontaneous combustion" spell, most likely a 2nd level Fire spell which causes a foe's clothes/fur/hair to ignite and burn until they spend an action to attempt to put it out). Currently I'm organizing the spells and looking for holes; I'll be posting the spell lists here eventually in the hopes of getting assistance with creating new spells or removing extraneous spells (no need for 4 first level speed enhancing spells, for instance).

If I do go the two caster rout, this is how the core mechanics will be dealt with:
Both: Spells will cost a number of MP determined by the following equation: (spell levelx2)-1 (this is the same cost as the XPH powers). Most spells have augmentations, which are like built in metamagic effects, allowing the caster to spend extra MP on the spell. A caster can only spend their caster level in MP on a single spell; this is calculated after augmentations and metamagic effects have been added in. Metamagic costs a 2 additional MP for every spell level it previously increased it by, and Heighten Spell is no longer required (all spells can be augmented to increase the DC if they have one).
A caster will use the mental ability score related to the spell they are casting to determine the highest level spell of that element they can know and to determine their spell save DCs. Bonus MP will be determined by the mental ability score associated with their primary element; both Priests and Sorcerers will choose a primary element (Priest's choice of their primary element may or may not be based on their domain choices, because they may or may not end up retaining domains in the end).
Priest: The priest is a preparatory spellcaster. When they pray for their spells, they choose different spells to fill their spell-slots; the amount of spell-slots they have for each level is determined entirely by their class level. Once prepared, the priest may cast spontaneously from their prepared spells. At any point in the day, by spending an hour praying, a priest can change out a prepared spell for another spell.
I may or may not retain the current theme of letting priests access all of the spells of the levels they an access. I may treat them more like wizards, having to keep a book of prayers or spend feats on Spell Mastery to memorize prayers.
Sorcerer: The sorcerer is a spontaneous spellcaster. As they gain levels, they learn new spells; though they do have the opportunity to "forget" spells at certain levels. Like a Psion, they may choose to learn any spell up to the highest level spell they can access. Because the sorcerer is technically at a loss to the priest's preparatory spellcasting, sorcerers will have their own unique advantages to balance them out (they have much more MP as well).

Note: I may have just figured out a way to keep the 4 class set up (cleric, druid, psion, sorcerer). Since each element has 4 themes, and I have an easy way to describe four different spellcasters (and I do want to retain 4 different half-casters), I could just as easily have four casters, each with two themes, and insure that each theme isn't repeated more than once. Here's how it could look:

Cleric: The servitor of a single deity.
-Mental (Air-Perception; Earth-Spiritual Protection; Fire-Charm; Water-Knowledge)
-Thematic (Air-Illusion; Earth-Item Enhancement/Alteration; Fire-Destruction; Water-Healing)

Druid: Devotee of the animistic world.
-Elemental
-Thematic

Psion: Wielder of the Body's magic.
-Physical (Air-Speed; Earth-Physical Protection; Fire-Force; Water-Transformation)
-Mental

Sorcerer: Funnel of Inborn magical energy.
-Physical
-Elemental

Help please!
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2006, 11:02:33 PM »

I know the thread's been read ... no feedback at all?
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2006, 11:12:06 PM »

Well I don't feel particularly inclined to dissect this system mechanically, because it is something I'd really have to play out to get a good feel for it. I can say however that thematically and flavorfully this is great. I really like how youe aligned the spells into elemental themes and corresponding abilities. It makes for a very nice flow.

It's just too hard to get an idea of the balance of your magic system, because of the way the spells are both distributed among the elements by theme, and because you've also got a new casting system. I think only through game play will any real flaws become apparent, and I'm not in the position to make those kind of judgements.

A+ on flavor

? on mechanics

-Nasty-
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2006, 11:47:47 PM »

Well, the main question is am I going to use 2 classes (Priest and Sorcerer) or 4 (Cleric, Druid, Psion, Sorcerer). That's what I need the most help with.
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2006, 11:53:37 PM »

I think a new experimental magic system is best suited with just two classes, to try to work the bugs out (if there even are any). If it works you can then add more without too much worry.

-Nasty-
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