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Re: [FateRPG] New elemental magic system -- thoughts?

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  • Jon Lang
    First of all: what s the setting like? One of the central tenets of the Magic Toolkit is that a magic system cannot be divorced from the setting. ... What
    Message 1 of 8 , Feb 17, 2013
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      First of all: what's the setting like?  One of the central tenets of the Magic Toolkit is that a magic system cannot be divorced from the setting.  

      On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 2:18 PM, PK Levine <pkitty@...> wrote:

      Being a mage requires an appropriate aspect (which does not have to be part of
      the high concept) and the special stunt, “_____ Practitioner” (fill in the
      blank with an appropriate descriptor). Once both conditions have been met, the
      mage can buy any or all of the five skills above. You must have an elemental
      skill at Average (+1) or better to use it; there are no Mediocre magical
      skills.

      What does the special stunt do?  If all it does is grant access to elemental magic, what you actually have is an Extra Cost rather than a Stunt.  It appears that the Cost for this Extra is one Refresh and a Skill level, paid separately for each element.  

      For each element, the mage can cast a number of “free” spells per day equal to
      his skill in that spell. For example, if he has Earth at Good (+3), he can
      cast three Earth spells per day without consequence. If he casts a fourth, he
      takes 1 stress. A fifth, he takes 2 stress, and so on. This does include spells
      cast reactively for defense! Represent this with a row of boxes for each
      element; put a tick in each box as you cast spells. Once you run out of boxes,
      each tick causes cumulative stress.

      I'm wondering if there's a way to keep the essence of this without using a "spells per day" mechanic.   Possibly give each elemental Skill a stress track of its own (with a number of stress boxes figured the same way that the stress tracks for Physique and Will are figured), and say that each casting causes one or more stress to that track.  When the track is filled up, the Skill can't be used anymore.  

      SPECIALISTS: If a mage does not take a given elemental skill, he may cast
      twice as many “free” spells for the opposing element. For example, a mage
      without Fire skill can cast twice as many Water spells before drawing stress.
      (He still draws stress at the normal rate afterward.) Also, any mage without
      Ether skill may cast 1 extra “free” spell for every element; apply this before
      the doubling.

      In keeping with the above idea, Elemental Stress Tracks would be doubled in length if you don't take the opposite Element, and you get one free stress box to the remaining Elements if you don't take Ether.  

      I think what we hashed out accomplishes his three criteria.

      For #1, mages require a stunt. (They also need an aspect, but since you can
      just add the word "wizard" to your high concept, that's barely a
      "requirement.")

      What you're discussing here is the distinction between a Permission and a Cost (see the Stunts chapter: page 312 of the revised version).  And again, the "cost" is twofold: Refresh and up to five skill slots.   

      For #2, a true generalist requires five new skills but has *amazing* flexibility, while a specialist can't do as much but gets bonus free spells.

      Also, the specialist doesn't have to burn as much Refresh as the Generalist does.  Really, this in and of itself may be adequate for keeping things "balanced" between generalists and specialists, in which case giving everyone bonus "spell slots" (be they spells per day or stress boxes tied to the skills) is redundant.   

      --
      Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
    • PK Levine
      ... Oh, right, sorry. Should ve talked about it. For those of you familiar with GURPS Banestorm, it s Yrth. The group just felt like Fate would fit the needs
      Message 2 of 8 , Feb 17, 2013
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        On Sunday, February 17, 2013 05:52:46 pm Jon Lang wrote:
        > First of all: what's the setting like? One of the central tenets of the
        > Magic Toolkit is that a magic system cannot be divorced from the setting.

        Oh, right, sorry. Should've talked about it.

        For those of you familiar with GURPS Banestorm, it's Yrth. The group just felt
        like Fate would fit the needs of our players right now better than GURPS.

        For the rest of you, it's sort of a classic fantasy world with several twists,
        but the twists don't really matter for the purpose of magic IMO. So basically
        picture a medieval fantasy world with a ton of humans, plus elves, dwarves,
        orcs, goblins, and other races. Wizards are somewhat rare, but are
        ubiquitously known. Magic is used for both epic stuff and day-to-day stuff --
        it's not uncommon for a large village or small town to have a "hedge mage" who
        works minor spells to help the locals. The armies almost all have powerful
        battle-mages who help the troops on the field -- though usually by providing
        logistics and general "buffs," not by just throwing fireballs at each other
        (though they can).

        There is no "clerical magic" vs. "secular magic" -- many priests cast spells,
        but they're just mages, like any other spellcaster, who happened to go into
        the clergy. A few nations consider magic evil and kill spellcasters, but the
        overall prevailing view is that magic is just a tool like anything else. The
        only sinister thing about wizards is that a *few* of them belong to a
        secretive organization dedicated to making sure no one ever figures out how to
        make gunpowder or electricity, because they happen to know that technology
        might make their monopoly on "cool stuff" obsolete. But that group is only a
        few wizards, and not everyone even knows it exists.

        On Sunday, February 17, 2013 05:49:22 pm Christopher Bartlett wrote:
        > I don’t love artificial limits such as spells per day. I understand you’re
        > trying to find a balance, but an awesome spellcaster, such as somebody
        > with a superb in one element and nothing in its opposite gets to cast ten
        > spells of that element in a day, not really much of a limit.

        Well, even "10 spells per day" can be pretty restrictive IME -- I've played
        wizards in games with similar limits, and it always made me pause before
        casting a spell to make sure I wasn't wasting it.

        That said, I agree that the "spells per day" limit is somewhat artificial and
        "gamist." I'd love to find a better limiting factor, but nothing comes to mind.

        > Also, I don’t see anything limiting the power of spells other than GM fiat,
        > which doesn’t feel awesome to me.

        I didn't really see this part as being a big deal. In general, the more you're
        trying to accomplish, the harder it is, just like with any action in Fate.
        Like, if the bowman wants to use Shooting to do something ridiculous ("I want
        to fire an arrow across the long courtyard to hit the trigger on that crossbow
        so it shoots into the throne room as a distraction!"), the GM has to decide
        whether the opposition is +5 or +7 or whatever, so it's the same with spells.

        > I’d like to see limitations be an organic result of play. Let the mage be
        > limited because, having rolled poorly earlier he is down a consequence of
        > spell failure, or something like that.

        "You suffer when you fail" is one take on it, sure, but that requires the mage
        to fail. What if he never attempts really difficult spells and just continues to
        succeed? Without some sort of check on his ability to cast spells all day
        long, he's potentially able to outshine *everyone*.

        Basically, the concern here is that, between these five skills, you can
        accomplish pretty much any action. So it would be unfair to say that a normal
        person needs to be good at (say) 18 skills to be a master of everything in
        this game, but a mage need only be good at 5 to be just as awesome and
        versatile. The way to avoid this is for there to be some sort of limit -- some
        reason why the thief picks the lock instead of the mage always casting a
        "lockpicking" spell, why the fighter guards the doorway instead of the mage
        always casting a "barrier" spell, and so on. Magic needs a *fundamental*
        drawback.

        (As for the other suggestions, they'd be significant changes, so I'll mention
        them to the GM and see what he thinks.)

        PK
      • Bill Burdick
        The spells per day idea originally came from D&D s attempt to do magic like in Jack Vance s Dying Earth, where when you cast a spell, it disappears from your
        Message 3 of 8 , Feb 17, 2013
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          The "spells per day" idea originally came from D&D's attempt to do magic like in Jack Vance's Dying Earth, where when you cast a spell, it disappears from your mind and a person can only hold so many spells in their mind at a time.  I don't think it's any more "artificial" than a maximum amount of "mana", requiring a certain amount of time to create expendable items, or limiting the number of gadgets you can create per session -- it's all just part of the world and it doesn't have to be particularly gamist.  In fact, you can think of it as intersecting with narrativism, because the limits affect the "magic density" of a story.

          So, PK, please don't be discouraged from spells-per-day.  It has a certain charm and it makes players prepare ahead and think about what's to come, just like Rhialto the Marvellous would in a Jack Vance story.


          Bill Burdick
        • Jon Lang
          ... Ah; that says a lot. Thank you. Note that the Extras chapter briefly alludes to the possibility of using a stress track to represent mana usage,
          Message 4 of 8 , Feb 17, 2013
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            On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 3:17 PM, PK Levine <pkitty@...> wrote:
            On Sunday, February 17, 2013 05:52:46 pm Jon Lang wrote:
            > First of all: what's the setting like? One of the central tenets of the
            > Magic Toolkit is that a magic system cannot be divorced from the setting.

            Oh, right, sorry. Should've talked about it.

            For those of you familiar with GURPS Banestorm, it's Yrth. The group just felt
            like Fate would fit the needs of our players right now better than GURPS.

            Ah; that says a lot.  Thank you.  Note that the Extras chapter briefly alludes to the possibility of using a stress track to represent mana usage, something that's very much in keeping with Yrth-style magic.  
             
            Basically, the concern here is that, between these five skills, you can 
            accomplish pretty much any action. So it would be unfair to say that a normal
            person needs to be good at (say) 18 skills to be a master of everything in
            this game, but a mage need only be good at 5 to be just as awesome and
            versatile. The way to avoid this is for there to be some sort of limit -- some
            reason why the thief picks the lock instead of the mage always casting a
            "lockpicking" spell, why the fighter guards the doorway instead of the mage
            always casting a "barrier" spell, and so on. Magic needs a *fundamental*
            drawback.

            Got it.  Charging Refresh is part of the solution; as is limiting how often it can be used (the aforementioned "mana stress track" idea).  It also opens possibilities of using the narrative structure to restrict the Elemental Skills from being used at all in certain circumstances, such as low-mana areas (IIRC, there's an entire kingdom on Yrth that exists in an area where magic is weak), which could take the form of upping the opposition to all spellcasting while there or increasing the amount of stress that your spellcasting puts on the local mana supply.  

            --
            Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang
          • PK Levine
            ... Also, in case anyone s interested, I converted the racial templates into Fate Core terms -- basically, a text description with plenty of adjectives to
            Message 5 of 8 , Feb 17, 2013
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              On Sunday, February 17, 2013 06:17:09 pm PK Levine wrote:
              > For those of you familiar with GURPS Banestorm, it's Yrth. The group just
              > felt like Fate would fit the needs of our players right now better than
              > GURPS.

              Also, in case anyone's interested, I "converted" the racial templates into
              Fate Core terms -- basically, a text description with plenty of adjectives to
              tag and compel, along with a few mechanics when necessary:

              http://peekitty.livejournal.com/13203.html

              Obviously, our plan is to just work the race into one of your aspects. A few
              races will have prerequisites in the form of minimum skills (e.g., dwarves
              need Crafts at Average (+1) or better, to reflect the big skill bonus they get
              in GURPS) and a very few are unbalanced enough to require a point of Refresh.

              PK
            • PK Levine
              Glad everyone seemed to like this system. If anyone wants to use it, I thought I d share these two PDFs that we made: The Rules:
              Message 6 of 8 , Feb 19, 2013
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                Glad everyone seemed to like this system. If anyone wants to use it, I thought
                I'd share these two PDFs that we made:

                The Rules:
                http://www.mygurps.com/pics/fatemagic.pdf

                The Cheat Sheet and Spell Tracker:
                http://www.mygurps.com/pics/elemental.pdf

                (If you missed my original email and are curious, just see The Rules above.)

                PK
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