Ads

Pages: 1 [2]
  Print  
Author Topic: Musings on Merlyn and the Magician's Curse  (Read 601 times)
Spawn of Ungoliant
Flumph
*


View Profile WWW
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2017, 01:34:29 PM »

sparkletwist

You're right that D&D is not simply a tactical combat game, but those are the mechanics that are there and that work the best. So many class features, feats, and spells interact with that part of the game. It's hard to deny that's where the focus is. On the other hand, the social system in D&D is just broken-- 3e's Diplomacy is crap, and 5e is somehow worse.

Sure, I'll grant that's where the focus is in the rules - but in practice, at the table, people play lots of different types of D&D, and I think it's totally OK to modify the rules to make your own game more to your tastes, and the designers of D&D know and encourage that. If we were publishers at Wizards deciding on splatbooks to put out I might agree with you, but as people making our own stuff I think we should just feel free to hack D&D as inventively as we please if that's what we want to do.

sparkletwist

My point was that the D&D system isn't really built to support this stuff, so giving characters more quantifiable mechanical power and then trying to balance that out with roleplayed quirks is probably going to create problems in D&D.

I might again agree if it was something "official," but I still am not convinced that the sort of curses I'm describing really create these problems - I was trying to suggest qualitative powers, rather than quantifiable ones, and I don't think a curse necessarily needs to make spellcasters more powerful than they normally are in exchange... Hoers said that:

Hoers

What I'm specifically wondering then is how such curses and/or other permanent magical effects might alter a setting if part of the condition for being able to wield magic (outside of ritual magic with candles and chalk and musty tomes and such, perhaps) was that a curse-like trait always came along with it.

So it's not like a 1st level Sorcerer can choose whether to take a curse to gain bonus spell-slots and can thus choose a "weak" curse to gain free abilities, it's that in this universe, all casters are just cursed, it's just part of being a caster. Not because this is a way to balance casters versus non-casters - correct me if I'm wrong, Hoers, but this isn't meant as a deterrent to playing casters, or a means of giving fighters some indirect combat advantage - but because curses like the one on Merlyn in The Once and Future King are a cool idea. My impression is that Hoers is mostly interested in the way curses could make the roleplaying experience more interesting, rather than mechanically hamstringing wizards.

I'm suggesting that curses are most interesting when they can't be expressed as a number, but when they change the way a character must interact with the world or others in some primarily non-quantifiable way, but one which is still not just a cosmetic choice, so maybe "roleplaying quirk" isn't even the right term here. Like maybe they instantly turn to stone when touched by daylight but revive at night, Gargoyles style, and so they have to carefully walk around with a huge umbrella or massive cloak and need to be really careful when traveling during the day, and if they get petrified the other characters have to hide the statue or protect it. In exchange in this universe the character also gets to cast spells. I'm not saying, ah, yes, we should give the bearer of this curse a stony AC bonus or Con bonus or something, or give them extra spells or stronger stone spells or whatever - that's boring and inclined to min-maxing. But it's also not like an inconsequential or superficial weakness, it's a big deal. Calling this a roleplaying quirk seems to sort of undersell it a bit.

Essentially, I'm not sure it's really possible to talk about balance particularly well with non-quantative curses. Like let's say we have three curses:

Curse 1: The character has a curse of poverty. If they touch any object of gold, even with a gloved hand, it turns to mud. Magical objects are immune.

Curse 2: The character cannot physically harm dwarves, no matter how hard they try. In combat with dwarves they could aid allies but not make attack rolls against dwarves.

Curse 3: When the character kills someone, they must bury the body in 24 hours or else be haunted by the ghost of the slain until the remains are disposed-of.

All three of those curses might hypothetically be exploited by the player (which is good) and would certainly make the game more interesting, but since they don't grant numeric bonuses or penalties, I don't see how they can be used to min/max. Which is "worst" or "best" is mostly subjective. They're kind of incomparable - there's no "correct" choice for a certain build. But if all casters are stuck with something like this, that could add a pretty interesting dimension to the game and the world.

EDIT: I should add, perhaps, that of the various editions of D&D, I'll grant that the greatest potential balance problems from something like this would probably arise in 3.X or 4th. But even then I'm not sure it's really so unfeasible if the curses are designed carefully. And really, what's the worst case scenario here? A character whose weird curse has specific, creative uses that make them slightly overpowered? There might be some players who are really, really invested in careful balance between characters in a party, but most that I've played with honestly just don't care that much. Maybe my experience is unusual.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2017, 05:15:54 PM by Steerpike » Logged


Administrator
Gelatinous Cube
*


View Profile
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2017, 05:45:51 PM »

Steerpike

Sure, I'll grant that's where the focus is in the rules - but in practice, at the table, people play lots of different types of D&D, and I think it's totally OK to modify the rules to make your own game more to your tastes, and the designers of D&D know and encourage that. If we were publishers at Wizards deciding on splatbooks to put out I might agree with you, but as people making our own stuff I think we should just feel free to hack D&D as inventively as we please if that's what we want to do.
You're right, but that doesn't mean that every type of hacking is equally easy. Adding stuff to the tactical combat game is well-supported because that is well-supported in D&D. Adding a social mechanic is not well-supported because social mechanics are not well-supported. That doesn't mean we can't do it, or that we shouldn't do it, and since we aren't publishers and don't have business considerations we can even do weird stuff that would never sell... but the fact remains that certain modifications to the system are just going to be difficult because the system isn't really built around supporting anything close to them.

Steerpike

So it's not like a 1st level Sorcerer can choose whether to take a curse to gain bonus spell-slots and can thus choose a "weak" curse to gain free abilities, it's that in this universe, all casters are just cursed, it's just part of being a caster. Not because this is a way to balance casters versus non-casters - correct me if I'm wrong, Hoers, but this isn't meant as a deterrent to playing casters, or a means of giving fighters some indirect combat advantage - but because curses like the one on Merlyn in The Once and Future King are a cool idea. My impression is that Hoers is mostly interested in the way curses could make the roleplaying experience more interesting, rather than mechanically hamstringing wizards.
This was the part I wasn't clear on, but now it makes sense. You aren't really trying to compensate a plus (casters > non-casters) with a minus (casters get a curse) which is very hard to balance, but rather assume casters and non-casters are generally equal balance-wise (or just not care) and add a cool roleplaying hook for being a spellcaster that may or may not be completely negligible.

And that... can maybe work! I mean, these hooks might still create trouble for the character from time to time. I still like fate points as a way of encouraging and compensating a player for playing out situations that are not in the character's best interest, and I still think it's harder to work that into a system when it doesn't support it explicitly like Fate does, but I feel like the tradeoff here can be "narrative freedom for narrative weirdness." What I mean by that is, there's nothing explicitly mechanical at all, here, but, generally speaking, as a magic-user, you're probably going to get more, as I put it before, "permission to do cool stuff." Unless martial characters are explicitly mythical or "anime-ish" then there are probably going to be limits on what they can do closer to that of actual human capability, while a mage can kind always ask the DM to "use magic" to try to do something out of the box. As a sort of trade-off (not a strictly balanced one, but a trade-off nonetheless) for this greater narrative flexibility, you get a weird quirk or other limitation that might create problems for you.

Then it's almost like an informal invokes and compels... and I'd just try to formalize it, then... but that's me being a Fate fangirl.  grin
Logged


Spawn of Ungoliant
Flumph
*


View Profile WWW
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2017, 06:10:38 PM »

Yeah, despite me saying that D&D could totally do this, I definitely don't mean to imply that Fate couldn't - in fact Fate could do it very well, for sure, especially when the curse is more social in nature.
Logged


Digital wizard
Moderator
Yrthak
*


View Profile WWW
« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2017, 08:06:24 PM »

You've both raised some pretty good points about the question I posed. What I was intending originally was both an exploration into how magic might actually be portrayed and utilized in a setting where people have these curses, and how it might affect games from a mechanical perspective. As usual it's pretty clear that these things can't just be heralded as a sound fix to the inherent caster-vs-non balance issues in D&D/Pathfinder because of the tendency for players to want to min/max, but they're also potentially interesting and exciting additions to characters' backstories and adventure paths depending on the type of curse.

I guess what I want to look at now is what it means to be a magic user of some form in a world where you might have to give up something like that, depending on the kind of form your "primary" magic takes - e.g. would you be unable to taste or smell things if you were a necromancer, or if you were sterile if you used healing magic. It also leads to questions about at what point in life you take on such powers, and how you find them in the first place, though. In The Witcher, I believe that both witchers and sorcerers/sorceresses are completely sterile, but having one blanket affliction for all magical types seems a little uninteresting to me.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2017, 08:13:05 PM by Hoers » Logged


Pages: 1 [2]
  Print  
 
Jump to: