Friday, October 29, 2010

Feedback

I got a couple pieces of feedback recently which is great because it means people actually read this.

Firstly one about the HP cost of making potions and scrolls.  My thoughts on this were that I didn't want first level characters making healing potions every spare minute so I figured a 10x multiplier would mean that they would need 30HP to do it so they would wait till 4-5th level - as Daniel pointed out it also meant that you would need to be absurdly high level to make even 3-4 level potions and scrolls.   I did go ahead and change this to a 5x multiplier in the rules but I had to think about it a bit.  You could leave it at 10x and spread the cost over the number of days - however that would pretty much make it meaningless and therefore a waste of bookkeeping.  You could also make it possible to pool the HP of a number of casters for the HP - which I really liked initially.  I think that the 10x modifier came from something I was reading on ritual spell casting in the first place where the HP was shared.  I can see a cleric meeting with his sect for the purpose of whipping up a batch of healing potions and you could even make adventures out of this idea where the party needs to convince the local church to help them by doing them a solid.  I can also see it becoming a situation where you get a party of 4 mages opening up a scroll shop which I am not so sure about.  In the end I figured simpler was better and went with the 5x mod and hope that the monetary and time overhead can prevent too many potions and scrolls getting made. 

The other feedback I got was somewhat related, it was a question about guidelines for treasure amounts.
I don't have specific info on treasure in the rules but there is some implied information.  The equipment cost charts, the cost of magic item creation and the ratio of gp/xp would determine how much treasure you hand out and let you balance it with how fast you want the party to advance.  I am pretty cheap when it comes to handing out treasure so the values are probably skewed towards that, however I tried to keep things mostly SRD compatible.  Running a game -  I probably use the equivalent of the SRD encounter treasure values for a whole session instead, and I know that I routinely cut back on written module treasure amounts by 50 - 80%.  It's probably because I did start out playing AD&D and using modules and always always got into a situation where the players had wagons full of treasure and nothing left to spend it on.  Now I try to keep the party LEAN.   I like it to take at least a couple sessions to gain a level and I find it is way more fun when they are scraping by than when they are full of cash.  It's really a balancing act to keep the amount of treasure coming in and the amount going out in sync.  In Beacon I really tried to put in a couple big release valves on the player economy besides good and services - the first being spending gold for xp and the second being costs for making disposable magic items like potions and scrolls.  It doesn't really matter what the values are or whether you give out 5sp or 500gp for a goblin band as long as you balance it on the output side as well.

Really though the answer to both these is to do what you want and what will fit in your campaign.  It can be awesome fun to have a party with a wagon of treasure and their own scroll shop.  Those guys are living large!  It can be just as fun to have a group of half-equipped characters picking through the ogre horde for unbroken arrows and a bit of silver to carry on the fight.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beacon Update

The second version of the Beacon PDF is posted.  It includes stuff like a second attack for Hunters, more combat rules, rules for scroll and potion creation, reworked spell lists (to level 5) and a bunch of other stuff.  It should be fully usable now and I plan of using it to play test a bit before making any more major changes.  And don't think it's not tempting to make more major changes.

I left up the first draft for a bit for those of you who like to compare things.

And if you notice any (unintentional) weird crap in there feel free to let me know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Potions and Scrolls

I want to allow the characters to manufacture magical items but not spend all their time in the shop building dungeon busters or wagon loads of healing potions instead of adventuring.  I think that the first guy to cast continual light on a bag of stones and then cover them in clay was a real clever player who deserved a reward, however I think that allowing other players to do this and destroy the livelihood of  torch makers everywhere is stupid.  I think it's good to put a heavy price on crafting scrolls and potions, and also make a HP expenditure large enough to ensure that characters have to be a decent level to make them. 
Potions
Divine Magic can be made into potions.  The potion must be created in a well stocked alchemist laboratory and it takes a day per spell level to prepare the ingredients. It requires an HP expenditure of 10x the spell cost to infuse the potion with the magic.  Potions are applied topically or ingested as appropriate.  Suggested ingredients for potions are rare and expensive monster parts, precious stones or herbs.  Costs should average 1000gp/spell level.
Scrolls
Arcane magic can be made into scrolls.  Scrolls are written copies of spells that can be cast through use of a Read Magic spell.  Generally the type of spell (and other errata) is indicated on the scroll allowing it to be determined prior to casting- but this does not always have to be the case. Reading a scroll from a different school of magic adds a DC modifier of +5 to properly cast the spell.  
Costs for making scrolls should be comparable with the costs of potions (HP 10 x spell cost and 1000gp and 1day per spell level).  Like spells found in spell books, spells on scrolls can be transcribed into spell books given materials and 1 day per spell level.  The transcriber must have a high enough level to cast the spell in order to copy it to their book.
Given these rules a 4th level Restoration potion or Dimension Door scroll would cost the caster 4000gp in materials, take 4 days to work up and require the caster had 91 HP to create.  So they aren't going to be just lying around on the ground.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Divine Magic

The Cleric class is one of the most problematic because it has the potential to be very interesting or very uninteresting depending on how it's executed in the setting.  In a detailed in campaign world there is usually a detailed and balanced pantheon of Gods (or whatnot) for clerics to play off of. In a minimalist campaign there usually isn't a lot of thought put into it and generic gods are pulled out.  In both cases there can a be a problem because in the detailed world all these divine entities would require custom versions of the cleric to carry their various philosophies/powers into the world -  something not much supported in the general rules.  In the minimalist campaign the Cleric is simply is the holy magic guy - an armour wearing magic user who heals and touts the laws of a generic god - something which is supported in the rules but can be a drag. The SRD is least helpful in this, as a lot of cleric spells are duplicates of magic user spells anyway - so the perception of  is reinforced. Sure all this can be overcome by good players and GMs in either instance, but I think that the deck is stacked against it.  Ideally a cleric spell list would be a list of spells rituals that derived from their religion and the more religions in the setting the more spells and rituals you would have to deal with.  That's hard on the GM and hard on the players however and I tip my hat to those that can pull it off well.  I can't offer many solutions to this here.  I did have the idea of making the cleric spells over entirely but I am trying to make Beacon as compatible with d20 references as I can so I settled with working over the SRD spells, trying to find ways to highlight the class.  I did put back in a lot of dualism in the spells which I think follows from the older game - I can't recall if there was an actual cause light woulds in old d&d spell lists but it was implied (or imagined) a bad cleric could reverse the cure spells.

In Beacon, Arcane magic is the magic of Words, Divine magic is the magic of Souls.  The spells come from outside the caster and can be channeled by will alone.  Divine magic spells can be made into potions, they can be imbued into objects - but they cannot be written down.   Following from this a cleric can't add spells to their spell book - they either simply know all the spells as a product of their faith or have had religious training to access them.  I am willing to go either way on this - perhaps a mixture of the two if I was running the campaign.

As for the holy avenger role - in D&D the paladin fills that role, something that always bugged me.  I mean isn't the cleric really supposed to be the paladin?  If he wasn't he wouldn't be allowed to wear plate armour and beat the hell out of things- he'd be in the back with the wizards.  They needed a whole other class just because they won't let the poor bastard use sharp objects?

So a Beacon Cleric can use sharp objects (unless his faith prohibits), and can use armour (unless his faith prohibits) and can cast spells (the ones his faith gives him).  He can be the terrible dude in black mail on the black horse with the fiery sword - or he can be the nearsighted monk with surprising strength of will.  Or the swamp witch who prays to the fen spirits to take away your blindness.  Or something else entirely.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What spells can say about the setting.

I hate to harp on these obvious things but going over the spell lists really brings home how the rules, and especially how spells rely on features of the game setting.  For example here's a pretty simple 4th level Cleric spell from Beacon:
Ethereal Ward:
Range:  Radius 25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels.
Duration: 10 min/level.
Area is impassable to Ethereal creatures and effects (including spells such as invisibility and Mage Sight, but not greater invisibility).  When the spell is cast, ethereal creatures already in the area are ejected and Ethereal based spells stop working.
So what does this say about the setting?  Well it says that the Ethereal plane is pretty damn important for magic users since it appears that the invisibility spell utilizes it in some way (It wraps the target in Etherealness to be specific).  So Arcane mages (or at least the high level ones or the sages) are probably pretty somewhat versed in Ethereal lore or mechanics to have come up with something like this.   You may not want to do anything with planes in you game (inner or outer) but there it is in the rules and your players are going to be exposed to it.  They are going to want to know what other Ethereal based spells and creatures are out there.

I put this spell in Beacon to replace the SRD spell Dimensional Anchor because that spell made a whole different assumption about the setting - namely that there are a butt-tonne of creatures called outsiders zipping around all these exotic planes and you might want to nab one of them before they flit off to the Lawful Indifferent Plane of Left-handed Smoke Elementals.  Having a 409 alternate planes might be great for your Pathfinder campaign but I DO NOT WANT.

Ok this is a bit of a straw-man argument because Dimensional Anchor is a pretty nice spell and does not necessitate having a lot of planes of existence - you could just use it for a Demon bashing campaign (I will probably do this actually, just with a different set of spells).  But the basic idea is I'm trying to remove some of the baggage.  That's the other reason I am reworking the spells instead of just using the SRD.  The main reason is just a rebalance because you have more spells per day in Beacon and a lot of SRD spells get pretty powerful if they are usable on demand and aren't taking up a precious spell slot.  Also there is a hell of a lot of overlap in the SRD and that's just lazy.

SO, you might not agree on my idea of a fantasy setting but if you use the Beacon spell lists there will be no adventures to the Lawful Indifferent Plane of Left-handed Smoke Elementals like you get when you use those nasty SRD spells.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Druids

I'm through working over the Arcane spells and onto the Divine spells now, and so almost ready to post the new draft.   Since Druids aren't a variant of Clerics in Beacon, most of their overlapped healing ability is out the window (for the better I think) but I did leave in some aspects of it - namely dealing with poisons and dealing with fatigue. There's a nice first level spell that ties in with the rules about HP and resting* and would be helpful for a traveling party.
Restful Glade:
Range: 25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels.
Duration: 8 hours.
Description:  Enchants an area, providing a comfortable rest in the wilderness.
For some reason 4th level Druid spells needed a lot of work so here are three of them I had to work up.  This is the replacement for the Druid animal shape change special ability which I think is pretty fair.
Animal Form:
Range: Personal.
Duration: 10min./level.
Description:  Caster is able to assume any natural animal form.  They assume the statistics of the form and can use any natural abilities of the animal (e.g. dig, fly, smell) however they retain their original HP and the ability to speak and cast spells.
This one should add some damage when cast on a floor or someones sword.
Static Charge:
Range:  Touch.
Duration: Instant.
Description:  Adds 1d6/level of lightning damage to an object which is discharged when next touched.
This one replaces Summon Nature's Ally 1-6 in the SRD with one spell.  I'll probably make a more robust summoning spell to replace the top level versions but call it something else.
Summon Nature’s Ally:
Range: 25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels.
Duration: 1 min./level.
Description:  Summons non-intelligent, non-magical animal(s) totaling 6 HD who fight or otherwise act on behalf of the caster for example a 6 HD lion, or three 2 HD wolves or a dozen rats or ravens with ½ HD each.  The creatures immediately vanish when killed or when the spell ends.
So that about sums it up for Arcane magic and Druids, Mages and IlluEnchanters.  Next week: Clerics and Divine Magic and hopefully a new draft of the Beacon PDF.


*Hit Points are restored fully after a solid rest, usually 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep or meditation in comfortable surroundings. Partial recovery can be determined by the Game Master. For example a character trying to rest in a cold dank cave or while hiding in a forest with no fire or shelter may gain back only some HP, while a character lodging in an expensive inn with a soft bed and a hot meal and bath would perhaps only require 6 hours rest.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

some call him... Tim

Beacon has an Illusionist class because the Microlite advanced rules have an Illusionist class (probably because AD&D had (has?) an Illusionist class).  It's also because I have a metal mini of an illusionist just like this one:
Ral Partha's Female Illusionist
It's certainly not because I ever played an Illusionist or had an Illusionist in any of the games I ran.  I believe it's because the name Illusionist sounds pretty wonky.  I mean who wants to be Latona the Illusionist?   No one will take your gold, everyone cracks wise about what you have to do to get a man, all the jokes about if they are real or not.  Also of all the spells in the Illusionist list there are a lot of mind altering spells but not a real majority of actual illusions.  Now I'm not saying that the Illusionist class isn't good - in fact I've spent more work on it than any of the other ones and I want it to work.  But maybe I should rename it.

I tried to make the class names more generic so that instead of the Ranger (retconned these days to mean 'ranged damage dealer' from the original 'elf hugger who likes to walk a lot') you have the Hunter.  A Hunter you can fit into more roles such as Barbarian wanderer, Bowman or City Rat-catcher as I mentioned a while back.  Also the class Rogue is more generic and covers more ground than simply Thief - including players who want to be an Assassin, or a Con-man, or a Horse Courier who likes to swindle people in real-estate.

Mages get a bonus to Knowledge - they are the scholarly types. Druids get a bonus to Survival/Knowledge - they are the natural philosopher types. Illusionists get a bonus to Communication/Subterfuge - they are the tricky mind messing type.  They deal in illusions yes, but that's only part of their repertoire.  They are just as happy to use charms and compulsions to get the job done, maybe even more happy.

If you hadn't already guessed, I had a sudden strong compulsion desire to re-brand the whole Illusionist class to Enchanter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

a couple illusionist spells

Working over the spell lists and I've made a few alterations to what I had in the first draft PDF.  I gave sleep to the illusionist which may be a bit jarring for first time mages but it works better thematically that the illusionists deal with mental forces like sleep and the mages deal with um... forces.  Both mages and illusionists have invisibility for now although I'm still waffling that over so they both keep it unless I find a great mage spell to slide in instead.  Copping a decent illusionist out of the SRD spell lists isn't too hard actually but I have had to modify or squeak in a few spells to chunk it up a bit.

At 4th level I inserted this little number which was a rework of Shadow Conjuration (which looked to be to much of a PITA really):
Animate Shadow:
Range:  25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels.
Duration: Concentration + 1 min./level.
Description:  Turns an existing shadow of any type into a shadow of a creature or creatures with total HD equal to the casters level.  Shadow creatures are mostly insubstantial and do 1d6 damage and have an AC of 15.

I like the imagery there a lot.

At 5th level I had a spell called Insanity and that seemed kind of generic so I made it into:
Visions of Insanity:
Range: Sight.
Duration: 1day/level.
Description: Caster creates images in the target’s mind that are so horrible that they become insane.  Save is DC 5+ 1/caster level.
That one makes me think of the guy dropping his sword and screaming "TAKE IT AWAY!" while the illusionist holds the terrible vision in front of his eyes.  He was never really right after that.  I suppose this would beg for a insanity table of some sort to figure out the effect but I bet there are plenty out there already.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm a grumpy old man

I got this quasi-spammish email from some folks affiliated with DriveThruRPG:
The Anti-Party

Player Characters are not the only ones who enjoy bonding in groups. Antagonists can do it, too,

These teams are the ultimate enemies to defeat, created as part of the custom design process behind the Coliseum Morpheuon patronage project. Paper Minis: Coliseum Morpheuon brings you two allied groups with complex motivations beyond simple good and evil, with challenging team tactics and intriguing interpersonal dynamics. They are here to equalize and oppose the power of your adventuring group. This product is presented in the Seven Sentence Npc format plus a secret for both teams and each individual. A complex statblock and corresponding paper miniature is provided for each member of the two teams.
The two teams consist of:

The Dirges: a group of nightmarish murderers,

    * Gallows Huge Undead (Augmented Plant); CR 15
    * Frau Kindle Female Human Sorcerer 15; CR 14
    * Mother Female Dread Wraith Sovereign Human Cleric 12; CR 14
    * Pike Male Advanced Troll War Master 9; CR 14
    * Winegrow Sop Male Wyrd Bard 9 Whispering Advisor of the Emperor Dragons 5; CR 13

The Gray Feathers: a group of formerly evil beings struggling to hold on to their redemption

    * Drahka-Kuhl Male Fire Infused Minotaur Druid 12; CR 16
    * Erzebeth Nostrayli, “The Crimson Shadow” Female Vampire Elf Rogue 15; CR 16
    * Koranger Kolyarut Inevitable Bard 6; CR 16
    * Loren Desharn Male Glabrezu-Possessed Human Fighter 10/Paladin 5; CR 16
    * “Rainbow” Unique Entity Medium outsider CR 16

Bonus paper mini: Were-Hellhound!
Now I don't mind getting this cause I did sign up to DriveThruRPG to download some real fun stuff for free (also Laser Ponies for like a buck fifty!) so I can't complain of getting a bit o spam from them.  I also like the idea of someone putting together a party of baddies for an adventure.

But a Female Dread Wraith Sovereign Human Cleric? a Male Wyrd Bard 9 Whispering Advisor of the Emperor Dragons? a Fire Infused Minotaur Druid? Good lord I don't even know what the hell that is and I'm sure I don't approve of having these guys hanging around each other!  I certainly don't want to be running a system where this is the baseline.

Grumpy old man.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some Cantrips

I'm busy trying to get all the spells done for the next version of the Beacon PDF. In order to manage this in a reasonable time I'm dropping the Arcane lists down to 9 spells from each level (9 levels 9 spells / level for no particular reason) and only going up to level 5 spells for now (enough to run a decent length campaign off this version of the PDF.) Anyway, as I go through them I'm finding that in order to make the lists more distinct I am having to craft some new spells or variants of existing ones to fit.

Here's an illusionist version of the Prestidigitation cantrip:
Decorate:  
Range: 10 ft.
Duration: 10 minutes/level.
Description: Performs minor visual tricks such as colour changes to things like smoke, clothing, eyes and hair, sparkling effects or other very minor illusions.
Also since the class descriptions are purposefully light there are some extra spells here and there to mimic class effects from other systems.  For example this Druid cantrip which replaces their resistance to faerie magic.
Resist Glamour:
Range: Touch.
Duration: 1 hour/level.
Description:  +1/level to resist charm and sleep effects of woodland creatures.
Or the cleric's first level equivalent of Turning:
*Turn Undead/Cause Fear:
Range: 25 ft. + 5 ft./level.
Duration: 10 minutes/level.
Description: 1 HD /level of undead/living are sent fleeing.

Another one of the reasons for only going to level 5 is to try to get more play-testing in before working on the higher level spells.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Arrows and Attack Bonus

Since combat is a 1 minute round, I'm seriously thinking of giving the Hunter class an extra arrow per round every three levels.  I'm still not sure what I think of the Attack Bonus rule in Microlite or if I want to use it but I suppose it could be used for the same effect (also used for throwing knives say...).
Attack Bonus

If the characters total attack bonus is +6 or more a second attack can be made with a -5 penalty. If the total bonus is +11 or more a third attack can be made at -10. For example, if the total bonus is +12, three attacks can be made at +12/+7/+2.
Following this a Hunter at level 4 would get +6 bonus to ranged weapons (+4 for being level 4 and +2 for class bonus) so would get the extra attack then but at a -5 penalty.  That works out however I wonder if it would be better to just hand out extra attacks as a class ability and forgo the penalties?

Hmmm an update:  Mulling it over more, I thought about a good compromise that lets me keep the fun of the Attack Bonus but gives Hunters a little bump to make them an attractive an option as the Fighter (who get the combat bonus with all types of weapons and a HP bump to boot):  Give Hunters one additional ranged attack from the get-go.  This way a level 1 Hunter would get to whip off two arrows or toss two throwing axes in a round and then at level 4 they could get off a third one at a -5 penalty.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Town of Milham

This is the Town of Milham done in Gimp with layers to separate the different features.

Milham 'the GM's copy'*
Here's Milham using other layer choices and some blending:

Milham 'the handout'

I still sometimes can't believe things like Gimp are free.


*ok ok I didn't print the keyed encounter layer because I might use this and there are spies everywhere you know.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Empowerment and Counterspell

I'm choosing to keep the "Empowering" magic rules from Microlite Advanced because I think it's a great way to get magic characters to burn up more HP and get into fun situations.  The rules are:
  •     Extending makes a spell last twice as long as it normally would. An Extended spell costs an additional 2 HP.
  •     Empowering makes a spell do 50% more damage than it normally would. An Empowered spell costs an additional 4 HP.
  •     Widening makes a spell’s area of effect twice as big as it would normally be. A Widened spell costs an additional 6 HP.
 What's not to like about that really?  I think this is like fast-food marketing techniques, getting players to spend a few extra HP to supersize their character's spells.

In addition there was a clever concept from the Microlite forums about something called Counterspell.

The premise behind counterspell is that generally magic duels are trĂ©s suck. Unless there is some serious preparation beforehand, the first mage to get off a spell is likely to char the other one into dust, silence them, or turn them into a paramecium. That's pretty boring. It's also a bit crummy because you don't often wake up in the morning expecting to get into a dramatic magic duel and so can't really prepare for it beyond the obvious.  To liven up this DUEL concept, magic users are allowed to attempt to counter spells cast by other magic users before they get cast.  The better you are vs the opponent magic user (levels), and the more effort you spend (HP as fatigue here) the better chance you have to counter their spell.  Falling to your knees in exhaustion after countering that evil mage's fireball before it blasts your half conscious companions off the bridge, now that's more exciting isn't it?

Here's how I wrote it up:
Arcane spell casters have the ability to disrupt other arcane casters by attempting to counter their spell.  Casters can attempt to counter any type of arcane spell, however get a -1 penalty when countering spells from other schools. Counter spell is considered a cantrip or level 0 spell but only counts as a minor action.

The moment that a spell is cast, any caster aware of that (and who has a minor action available) may try to counter the spell. In order to succeed the countering caster must pass a DC 20 + (spell caster's level) Save roll. Before rolling they may choose to use their magical energies to improve their chances of success: for each HP invested by doing so, this Save roll gains +1 bonus. This loss of HP is only healed by resting, as per normal magic rules.
Since Beacon spells take a full action to get off, you can only counter spells if you aren't casting them which makes for some hard decisions.  Also this is something just for the Arcane guys - the divine casters don't get to play.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Read Magic

I wanted the three Arcane magic classes to be as distinct as possible with little overlap - this would emphasize the differences in play approach of the classes.  Illusionists just don't deal out the same kind of damage as a mage would for example, their play style should be more subtle.  Druids would be experts at practical applications of magic, especially in the natural world.   Mages would have a wider array of magics and probably be more skilled at dealing with raw magic forces.  Also Arcane magic has to be real distinct from Divine magic - a decision that led me to include a lot of Druid spells into the Arcane lists, and eventually decide that Druids just weren't going to be Divine spell casters.  For the most part I did like the lists used in Microlite (which seem to be a paraphrase of the SRD spell lists), but there was some overlap and sometimes a spell's power would make it useless or overpowered in a point system where you could get away with it in a slots per day system.

The concept I wanted to get across was that Arcane magic was all about complicated and precise thought formulas - the kind of formulas that you would need to have in a book to constantly study and practice.  Arcane magic is about the written word.  Only Arcane magic can be made into scrolls.

Arcane casters, be they a mage, druid or illusionist, need a spell book and must spend time studying it and working with their craft. Now the spellbook itself isn't magic (although it probably would show faintly if you cast detect magic), however it is written in the language of magic and it's not just a book - it's also a quill and special ink and herbs and notes and lists written on the study of magic.  If you lost your spell books and equipment you would barely get by until it was replaced.  Just like you could possibly run a game of say BattleTech without the rule books and minis, it is a lot easier with them, especially a large game.   Especially a large game in the dark in a foreign language.

Microlite has spell casters knowing all spells of the level they can cast.  I like to scale that back quite a bit because I like making spells part of the loot.  Beacon rules state that Arcane casters start out knowing their class cantrips and and three 1st level spells.  The rest they must seek out in the libraries, dark catacombs and wizarding associations of the world.  The great beauty of this kind of thing is that you can totally slide in your own weird 3rd level spell in a old library deep in an ancient crypt.

I don't think I want to write specific rules for gaining new spells or what happens when your spell book is lost because that I think is a setting kind of thing, however personally I think I would be making it pretty hard on characters to cast spells beyond the simple cantrips.  In The Sleeping Dragon by Joel Rosenberg, the spell casters must visit the Library in the great city of Pandathaway to transcribe some spells that were lost when their spell books were destroyed.  It was a very expensive and time consuming process as befits all things relating to the study of Arcane Magic.

note: I read this cool blogpost about Vancian magic not long after I posted this.  Sweet.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Practicing Arcane Magic

In my addled mind I can picture the typical arcane spell caster.  He is not a young man, but he is not ancient either.  He has wrinkles around his eyes since he has had to spend a lot of time in in poor light studying.  His movements and words are precise as he has learned the consequence of an improper gesture or phrase.  He may be keenly perceptive or almost absent minded except where it concerns his area of study, whether it be the forces of reality, the natural world or the arena of the mind.  His power is not granted to him, it comes from his will to understand and his ability to hold onto his mind in this understanding.  He may be a good humored fellow, but he won't joke about magic.  Magic is serious business.

I like to think there's a reason that powerful mages don't often run roughshod over the world - it's because magic is dangerous stuff and if they don't eventually screw it up (consider the primary cause of mass wasting in mountain chains is not erosion...) they usually go crazy.  Giving up on Vancian magic does not mean that you have to neuter the magic of a spell system.  Yes a lot of this relies on the campaign setting, however in the rules I wanted to make sure that there was some reflection of this - so there is always a dice roll for casting a spell.  Along with a dice roll comes a critical hit/fumble table as well.

Also a personal peeve of mine;
Whenever I have someone look at Beacon (or Microlite) one of the first comments is "I don't like that magic uses up your hit points.  I think that will make players not want to cast spells."

I just don't understand this comment because having a fixed number of daily spell slots will also make players not want to use spells (especially once they have used all their daily slots up).  Here's a clip from a email I sent to doubtful friend of mine (who shall remain nameless for now!)
Figure that you are a mage with a STR of 13 and you get a 4 on your <hp> roll so you have 17 Hp which is pretty average.  A first level spell costs 3hp to cast and cantrips like the light spell cost 1 so at level 1 out the gate you can cast light 3 times, magic missile and 2 sleep spells (1+1+1+3+3+3=12) and still have 5hp left over before you pass out.  If you get to 0hp you still have 13 STR before you die.  If there was a real emergency you still can cast one first level and one cantrip and let the heavy carry you back to town and you get all your HP back after a good 8 hour rest.

That's way better than old school d&d where you would have one sleep spell per day*.
A Beacon mage will generally have more spells available to cast than their d&d counterpart, as well as be more useful when not spell casting due to the more flexible skill system.  Some of those spell might not work,  there's a small chance they may work at double or even triple levels of power or they might even backfire and scorch your MIND.

SO you get more spells my apprentice - but they will come at a price!  Mu-hahah<cough>haha


*and probably 2 HP --- in your face!