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Ars Magica inspired spellcasting

 
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Zadmar
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Joined: 10 Nov 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:21 am    Post subject: Ars Magica inspired spellcasting Reply with quote

I previously posted (here and here) some ideas I was playing with for incorporating the Techniques and Forms from Ars Magica, using the NE/SPC powers.

However I've recently bought the Hellfrost player's guide, and I think its PP-less system would provide a better basis for what I've got in mind. This is what I've come up with:

Arcane Background (Freeform Magic)
Arcane Skill: The 10 Forms (Smarts)
Starting Forms: 3
Starting Powers: 3

Only a Wild Card may take this edge. Select three of the five Techniques at d4 (or one at d4 and one at d6), you use the Technique die instead of your Wild Die when casting a spell. You may increase one Technique (or buy a new one) by spending an advance, but this can only be done once per rank, and no Technique may exceed d6 (at Novice and Seasoned), d8 (at Veteran and Heroic) or d10 (at Legendary).

Forms are Smarts skills, and may be increased like any other skills, although no more than Smarts/2 of your starting skill points may be spent on Forms. Spells are learned as normal, but you don't assign them trappings, these are instead determined on-the-fly depending on the Technique and Form used. For example if you know the Bolt spell you can use it to cast a firedart (Creo+Ignem), acid arrow (Creo+Aquam), lightning bolt (Creo+Auram), to telekinetically hurl a rock at someone (Rego+Terram), to direct a swarm of bees (Rego+Animal), and so on.

To cast a spell, you must have at least a d4 in both the Technique and Form. Roll both dice and take the highest. If a spell involves multiple Techniques and/or Forms, use the lowest of each.

You can maintain a number of spells equal to half your Smarts. If you get a raise on the spellcasting roll, and this would grant an extra benefit, it counts as two maintained spells. You may also cast the same maintainable spell twice in order to gain the benefit of a raise.

Backlash: When a mage rolls a 1 on his Form die (regardless of his Technique Die), he is automatically Shaken. This can cause a wound. On a critical failure, the character suffers a level of Fatigue, which is recovered after an hour of rest.


So to summarise, the main differences compared to the Hellfrost spellcasters are as follows:

Advantages:
Backlash is less dangerous.
Spell trappings are no longer fixed.
Wild Die is stronger at higher ranks.

Disadvantages:
Uses 10 times as many skills.
Reduced benefit for raises (mainly to compensate for the weaker backlash).
Wild Die is weaker at lower ranks.

In the one-shot game I ran to test the concept, I decided to make everyone a Novice mage, and gave them free access to all of the spells. However they suffered a -1 casting penalty per rank for spells of higher rank than themselves (so a Novice had to roll against TN 5 to cast invisibility, TN 6 for fly, etc). I also gave them 6 free points in Forms (but didn't allow them to spend any starting skill points in Forms). This obviously made the characters considerably more powerful, but I think it would be fine as long as everyone played a mage.

However with the restricted access to spells I think they'd be reasonably well balanced against Hellfrost-style spellcasters. Thoughts and feedback welcome.
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Takeda
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2011 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I understand your intent: to make Magic more organic but it seems really complicated.

The way I did AB in my game I let them change their trappings on the fly but it takes a round and requires a Casting/Faith roll. If they make it with a raise it doesn't take a round.

If it's a spell/power they don't know they can attempt it but it inflicts a level of fatigue if they succeed, no fatigue with a raise and a failure counts as a botch that inflicts 2 fatigue and leaves the caster Shaken.
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Dean: "Ya' know she could be faking."
Sam: "Yeah, what do you wanna do, poke her with a stick?"
[Dean nods]
Sam: "Dude, you're not gonna poke her with a stick?"
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2011 10:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Takeda wrote:
I understand your intent: to make Magic more organic but it seems really complicated.

It seemed pretty straightforward during playtesting. The player would describe what they wanted to do, I assigned a Technique and Form based on their description, then picked the best-fit spell and adjusted its trappings accordingly.

Takeda wrote:
The way I did AB in my game I let them change their trappings on the fly but it takes a round and requires a Casting/Faith roll. If they make it with a raise it doesn't take a round.

But how do you decide which trappings they have available? One of the things I like about this approach is that the same spell can be cast in a wide variety of different ways, with each mage going about it differently. If you don't have Ignem then you simply can't cast a firebolt, even though you might be able to cast a lightning bolt or acid arrow.

I really liked the Super Sorcery in NE, but when there were two Super Sorcerer players, they both ended up with identical spellcasting powers, and it detracted from their uniqueness. If the whole party were spellcasters then that would exacerbate the problem even further.
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Takeda
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2011 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well in my opinion SW is all about just letting it fly. Most RPG tell you you can't do XYZ unless you've got ABC. In SW if you want to run up to the pirate and take a swing at him, vault over the railing and grab some swinging rigging and then take a kick at another pirate from behind on the return you can with a -4 MAP to all your actions (assuming 3 actions in total).

So if want to break the powers into convocations and limit their skill in each so they can't do everything right off the hop so be it but having to buy so many skills to be effective will really weaken them compared to any non-AB character ... and then if you try to compensate it will become a never-ending task. Just my humble opinion.

Just a question but were the people in the playtest familiar with the Ars Magica system? Were they familiar with Savage Worlds prior to the playtest? If either answer was a yes it may be a flawed test. Trying to explain it to a new SW player who also has no Ars Magica experience would in my opinion be extremely daunting to the player. The rules as they are for spell casters are pretty straight forward.

I'll leave you with this thought: try another playtest where one person is the Wizard and everyone is Seasoned. Try to find someone who doesn't usually play spell casters to play the wizard. If it still well-received by the wizard and the party as a whole then you've got what works.

Now I'm not playing Devil's Advocate here so don't think I'm just trying to be contrary. But because you have the source material you can give it this final playtest and let us hear how it went. I hope you all have a blast! Smile
_________________
Dean: "Ya' know she could be faking."
Sam: "Yeah, what do you wanna do, poke her with a stick?"
[Dean nods]
Sam: "Dude, you're not gonna poke her with a stick?"
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 4:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Takeda wrote:
Well in my opinion SW is all about just letting it fly. Most RPG tell you you can't do XYZ unless you've got ABC. In SW if you want to run up to the pirate and take a swing at him, vault over the railing and grab some swinging rigging and then take a kick at another pirate from behind on the return you can with a -4 MAP to all your actions (assuming 3 actions in total).

I strongly agree - but that sort of improvisation is something I'd like to see extended to magic in my games as well.

Takeda wrote:
So if want to break the powers into convocations and limit their skill in each so they can't do everything right off the hop so be it but having to buy so many skills to be effective will really weaken them compared to any non-AB character ... and then if you try to compensate it will become a never-ending task. Just my humble opinion.

The mage doesn't have to be able to do everything in order to be effective. Even in the test game I ran, with 0 exp Novice characters, the two players were able to think up magical solutions to most situations - but they were forced to think up different solutions, and it gave each character their own distinct spellcasting flavour.

But perhaps requiring players to buy spells as well makes it too expensive. What if the mage gained one free spell each time they spent exp on a Technique or Form advance? That way they'd pick up spells at the same rate as other ABs, but instead of having a single spellcasting skill they'd have varying proficiency in different types of spellcasting.

Personally I prefer giving everyone access to all the spells, but I think that's too strong compared to other ABs, and only really works if everyone is a mage.

Takeda wrote:
Just a question but were the people in the playtest familiar with the Ars Magica system? Were they familiar with Savage Worlds prior to the playtest? If either answer was a yes it may be a flawed test. Trying to explain it to a new SW player who also has no Ars Magica experience would in my opinion be extremely daunting to the player. The rules as they are for spell casters are pretty straight forward.


Neither player had any prior experience of Ars Magica, and I've only played it once myself (over 15 years ago), but I printed out descriptions and examples of the Techniques and Forms and it was pretty easy to understand.

I've run Necessary Evil, and we also played a few sessions in the Warhammer 40K setting (using the SW sci-fi toolkit), but we've never used the normal SW spellcasting rules. However we've played a lot of different game systems, so we're used to adapting to new rules - and even with this change, the spellcasting is much simpler than many other games we've played.

Takeda wrote:
I'll leave you with this thought: try another playtest where one person is the Wizard and everyone is Seasoned. Try to find someone who doesn't usually play spell casters to play the wizard. If it still well-received by the wizard and the party as a whole then you've got what works.

I ran the play-test because only two of the players could make it last weekend, and I didn't want to finish the last Necessary Evil plot point with only half the party present. But the two players who turned up were the brick and the blaster - the other two players are the ones who usually play spellcasters. I've got a friend visiting in a couple of weeks though, so I'll see how he fairs.

As a quick disclaimer, I'm not saying this is a "better" way of doing things, or that other people should use this approach, because obviously tastes vary. But from other threads it's clear that some people are interested in a more freeform magic system, and I've found this works well for me (at least at Novice rank).
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Takeda
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 9:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds cool! I agree that because of the limitations buying a new form or technigue should come with a new power. But spending xp to raise one shouldn't unless you only get one die-step per advance regardless of their linked attribute. Just my opinion. Or you could add that they can raise skill a bit and get a new power; or potentially raise two skills by one step each or one twice per usual skill acquisition.
_________________
Dean: "Ya' know she could be faking."
Sam: "Yeah, what do you wanna do, poke her with a stick?"
[Dean nods]
Sam: "Dude, you're not gonna poke her with a stick?"
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Takeda
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another idea that popped into my head is that they have access to all spells but they must have skill in the Form and Technique in order to cast it. There are 10 forms and 5 techniques so it will be prohibitively expensive for anyone to be masters of them all. This dynamic alone would be enough to balance things ... I think.

Magic is fickle though so you must use the technique die in place of the wild die when using magic. Allow casters to raise/purchase their techniques like any skill except one step per advance. Limit their maximum die type by rank as you originally proposed.

I think you stated this originally but I wasn't 'sure' this was the context. For spells that have more than one form you must have all the requisite forms and the lowest of them is rolled to decide success/failure.

A spellcaster can spend a fatigue to give themselves a +2 to a Form roll.

Just brain-storming again. The more I look at this the more I like it!

I'd be interested how you would break up the powers by Technique & Form though. Do you have anything written up I could take a look at? I'm seriously thinking of trying this out with my group. Smile
_________________
Dean: "Ya' know she could be faking."
Sam: "Yeah, what do you wanna do, poke her with a stick?"
[Dean nods]
Sam: "Dude, you're not gonna poke her with a stick?"
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2011 3:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Takeda wrote:
I think you stated this originally but I wasn't 'sure' this was the context. For spells that have more than one form you must have all the requisite forms and the lowest of them is rolled to decide success/failure.

Yes, exactly - you take the lowest Technique die and the lowest Form die, and you must have at least d4 in each.

Takeda wrote:
I'd be interested how you would break up the powers by Technique & Form though. Do you have anything written up I could take a look at?

Well I didn't really break them up. The players would just describe what they wanted to do, and I'd pick the spell that fit best. Here are some examples that came up during play:

Player wished to shatter the bones of someone chasing her: Roll Perdo+Corpus, and use the rules for the Bolt spell (although something that ignores armour would have been better).

Player wished to transform someone's blood into acid: Roll Muto+Corpus/Aquam (lowest), and use the rules for the Bolt spell (once again I'd have preferred a spell that ignores armour).

Player wished to create a magical barrier across a corridor: Roll Creo+Vim, and use the rules for the Barrier spell.

Player wished to grab a few handfuls of stone from the floor and shape it like clay into a thin barrier across a door: Roll Muto+Terram, and use the rules for the Barrier spell.

Player wished to magically change his appearance: Roll Muto+Imaginem, and use the rules for the Disguise spell.

Player wished to transform the blade of an obnoxious halfling's dagger from steel into human flesh (!): Roll Muto+Terram/Corpus (lowest), and use the rules for the Bladebreaker spell.

Player wished to conjure an undead warrior: Roll Creo+Corpus, and use the rules for the Summon Ally spell.

Player wished to summon a magical spirit to protect them from attackers: Roll Creo+Vim, and use the rules for the Deflection spell.

Player wished to enlarge their muscles: Roll Muto+Corpus, and use the rules for the Boost Trait spell.

Player wished to speed up their metabolism while fleeing from soldiers: Roll Muto+Corpus, and use the rules for the Speed spell.

Player wished to transmute a patch of earth in front of a group of cavalry into deep mud: Roll Muto+Terram, and use the rules for the Entangle spell.
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Takeda
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmmm? Well without splitting it up into Convocations/Schools it could be possible to rationalize practically any form/technique to simulate pretty much every spell. Levitate could be a gust of wind, plant that grew out of the ground, shaft of stone, carpet of flying insects, etc. If you split it up the Wizard must have the requisite form and/or technique, without it ... seems too powerful without more limitations.

In my humble opinion.

But I'll wait to see what your final draft is. Smile
_________________
Dean: "Ya' know she could be faking."
Sam: "Yeah, what do you wanna do, poke her with a stick?"
[Dean nods]
Sam: "Dude, you're not gonna poke her with a stick?"
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Takeda wrote:
Hmmm? Well without splitting it up into Convocations/Schools it could be possible to rationalize practically any form/technique to simulate pretty much every spell.

It depends on the spell - the really generic ones like Bolt and Barrier could be covered by a fairly wide variety of Form/Technique combinations (although the actual effects would vary quite a bit based on their assigned trappings), but most of the spells would be restricted to a few very specific combinations. Disguise could be done through Muto+Corpus or Muto+Imaginem, but that's about it. Growth/Shrink would require Muto+Corpus (or Muto+Animal for animals), Detect Arcana would require Intellego+Vim, Invisibility would require Perdo+Imaginem, Healing would require Creo+Corpus, Puppet would require Rego+Corpus or Rego+Mentem, etc.

Some spells, such as Telekinesis, would actually require multiple Forms if you wanted it to work on more than one type of thing - eg lifting a person would require Rego+Corpus, but lifting an animal would be Rego+Animal, while lifting a rock would be Rego+Terram.

If you feel something is a bit of a stretch, you can either reject it ("no, you can't use Creo+Herbam to conjure a flying broomstick") or assign it a penalty, perhaps -2 to the roll. If your players demand concrete rules then it's probably a bad idea to use a freeform magic system anyway, but you could probably go through the spells writing down example trappings for permitted Technique+Form combinations as a general guideline.
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Zadmar
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are some examples of what I would consider viable combinations.


Analyze Foe
Intellego+Animal: Works on non-sentient opponents only.
Intellego+Corpus: Sentients only. Reveals a physical weakness on a raise.
Intellego+Mentem: Sentients only. Reveals a mental weakness on a raise.

Armor
Creo+Animal: Creates leather armour.
Creo+Aquam: Coats you in water, only protects against heat/fire attacks.
Creo+Herbam: Creates wooden armour.
Creo+Mentem: Creates psychic armour, only protects against mental attacks.
Creo+Terram: Creates metal armour.
Creo+Vim: Creates ethereal armour.

Banish
Perdo+Auram: Banishes air elementals.
Perdo+Aquam: Banishes water elementals.
Perdo+Ignem: Banishes fire elementals.
Perdo+Mentem: Banishes ghosts.
Perdo+Terram: Banishes earth elementals.
Perdo+Vim: Banishes demons.

Barrier
Creo+Animal: Creates a barrier of wasps.
Creo+Auram: Creates a barrier of air or lightning.
Creo+Corpus: Creates a barrier of human bones.
Creo+Herbam: Creates a barrier of thorns.
Creo+Ignem: Creates a barrier of fire, light or heat.
Creo+Terram: Creates a barrier of stone.
Creo+Vim: Creates a barrier of magical force.
Perdo+Ignem: Creates a barrier of cold or darkness.

Beast Friend
Rego+Animal: Control animals.

Blast
Creo+Animal: Conjure a swarp of insects.
Creo+Auram: Use the electricity trapping.
Creo+Aquam: Use the acid trapping.
Creo+Herbam: Animated thorns burst from the ground.
Creo+Ignem: Use the fire/heat or light trapping.
Creo+Imaginem: Use the light, darkness or sound trapping.
Creo+Mentem: Psychic blast.
Creo+Terram: Shower of rocks.
Perdo+Corpus: Use the necromantic trapping.
Perdo+Ignem: Use the cold/ice or darkness trapping.

Bless/Curse
Perdo+Animal: Works as a curse on non-sentient creatures only.
Perdo+Corpus: Works as a physical-trait curse on sentient creatures only.
Perdo+Mentem: Works as a mental-trait curse on sentient creatures only.
Muto+Animal: Bless/curse on non-sentient creatures only.
Muto+Corpus: Physical-trait bless/curse on sentient creatures only.
Muto+Mentem: Mental-trait bless/curse on sentient creatures only.

Boost/Lower Trait: Use the same Technique/Form combinations as Bless/Curse.

Burrow
Rego+Corpus/Terram (lowest)

Burst: Use the same Technique/Form combinations as Blast.

Concentrate
Rego+Mentem

Confusion
Creo+Imaginem: Creates confusing illusions or noises.
Creo+Ignem: Creates a bright flash of light.
Rego+Animal: Hypnotises non-sentient creatures only.
Rego+Mentem: Hypnotises sentient creatures only.

Damage Field: Use the same Technique/Form combinations as Barrier.

Darksight
Intellego+Ignem: Infrared vision.
Intellego+Imaginem: Sonic sight.
Muto+Corpus: Modify your eyes to improve your night vision.

Deflection
Creo+Animal: Surrounds you with a distracting swarm of flies.
Creo+Auram: Surrounds you with a swirling shield of air.
Creo+Ignem: Surrounds you with a blinding aura of light.
Creo+Vim: Creates an phantom servant that intercepts attacks.
Intellego+Mentem: You sense attacks a moment before they are launched at you.
Rego+Imaginem: Blurs your appearance, making you harder to hit.

Disguise
Muto+Corpus: Physically change your appearance.
Muto+Imaginem: Change your appearance with an illusion.

Detect/Conceal Arcana
Intellego+Vim: Sense magical auras.
Perdo+Vim: Conceal magical auras.

Dispel
Perdo+Vim: Dispel magic.

Divination
Intellego+Mentem: Discover knowledge.

Draining Touch
Perdo+Animal: Works on non-sentient creatures only.
Perdo+Corpus: Works on sentient creatures only.

Elemental Manipulation
Rego+Auram: Air tricks.
Rego+Aquam: Water tricks.
Rego+Ignem: Fire tricks.
Rego+Terram: Earth tricks.

Entangle
Creo+Animal: Shoot spider webs at people.
Creo+Auram: Pin the target to the ground with a powerful blast of wind.
Creo+Corpus: Conjure a bone cage.
Creo+Herbam: Summon entangling vines.
Creo+Terram: Conjure "cement shoes" on the target.
Rego+Animal: Tie the target's leather shoelaces together.
Rego+Aquam: Trap an underwater target with powerful water currents.
Rego+Corpus: Telekinetically pin the target to the ground.

Environmental Protection
Creo+Auram: Create an air bubble around your body.
Muto+Corpus: Give yourself gills and webbed feet.
Rego+Ignem: Protect yourself against extreme temperatures.

Farsight
Intellego+Corpus: Sense the exact position of your (sentient) target.
Muto+Corpus: Enhance your eyesight.
Rego+Auram: Guiding winds.

Fear
Rego+Animal: Cause fear in animals.
Rego+Mentem: Cause fear in sentient creatures.

Fly
Rego+Auram: Gusty winds.
Rego+Corpus: Telekinetically levitate your body.
Rego+Herbam: Telekinetically levitate your broomstick.

Greater Healing (and Healing)
Creo+Animal: Heal non-sentient creatures.
Creo+Corpus: Heal sentient creatures.

Growth/Shrink
Muto+Animal: Grow/shrink non-sentient creatures.
Muto+Corpus: Grow/shrink sentient creatures.

Havoc
Creo+Auram: Create a whirlwind.
Creo+Aquam: Create a whirlpool.
Creo+Mentem: Summon poltergeists.
Rego+Corpus: Telekinetically throw everyone around.
Rego+Terram: Cause the ground to shake.

Intangibility
Muto+Corpus/Auram (lowest): Gaseous form.
Muto+Corpus/Ignem (lowest): Shadow form.
Muto+Corpus/Mentem (lowest): Astral form.

Invisibility
Perdo+Imaginem

Jet: Use the same Technique/Form combinations as Blast.

Light
Creo+Ignem

Obscure
Creo+Auram: Creates an area of fog.
Perdo+Ignem: Creates an area of darkness.
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Takeda
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2011 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds interesting! Smile
_________________
Dean: "Ya' know she could be faking."
Sam: "Yeah, what do you wanna do, poke her with a stick?"
[Dean nods]
Sam: "Dude, you're not gonna poke her with a stick?"
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