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The Glyphstone
2006-03-13, 08:21 PM
I'm working on a homebrew magical casting system for my soon-to-be-conceived of homebrew campaign world, but it's only barebones ideas right now, and could desperate use ideas/input. Here's what I've got so far...please try to read it, and give as much advice as you can.

The basic, key concept is that of a "magic language". This "Elder Tongue" is the language spoken by the gods when they built the universe, and thus everything from creatures down to invididual atoms understands the language on a subconscious level. Certain mortals, from a class that will be tentatively titled "Mage" for now, can learn to speak basically a watered-down form of this ultimate language and convince the universe to change itself, at least temporarily.

For hard mechanics, I want to do away completely with spell levels. Instead, each spell is invididualized by its caster, who composes them from a set of "WORDS". Each WORD is specific, and has a certain power value. A set of "keyWORDS" can be strung together with certain magical talent to create a spell effect.

: A mage creates a spell designed for warding off a pack of marauding wolves hunting local sheep. He starts with the WORD for "singe" and ties it with linking phrases to the WORD that equals "wolf". The end result is a handy, low-power incantation that gives a wolf or similar creature a nasty patch of scorched fur and skin, scaring it off. If he wanted to make it more utilitarian, he might substitute the more powerful word "animal" for the target.

Furthermore, I've settled on, instead of spell slots, having spells cast take a toll on the Mage in the form of non-lethal damage, or even lethal damage for particularly powerful spells. This will require altering of the way nonlethal damage heals...perhaps at the same rate lethal damage heals, as well as enforcing rules for fatigue and rest to avoid a never-ending march.

My last problem is assigning power levels to WORDS, and adjuncating the appropriate amount of nonlethal damage that a Mage could take before being too weak to continue. As of now, I've created 5 categories of WORDs to fit into:
Mundane
Minor
Median
Major
Ancient

Each level has more powerful effects or potency, or can affect something more powerful/resistant, and also inflicts more nonlethal damage.

The Mage from above created a spell that uses the Mundane WORDs "singe" and "wolf". A Mundane WORD has a cost of 1, so the wolf-toaster would deal him 2 nonlethal damage each time he cast it. For an effect, Singe might deal 1d3 damage/level to a target nominated by the caster with verbal directions incorporated in the spell, and perhaps a gesture as well. Wolf would give the spell a focus, directing the fiery energy to a specific target instead of an uncontrolled release - if only "Singe" was spoken, anything in the vicinity might take the damage. For the more versatile version, "Animal" instead of "Wolf" would be a Minor WORD, dealing 2 points of nonlethal and allowing any animal to be targeted. Or, to deal with stronger wolves, the mage could incorporate "Scorch" or "Burn" instead of "Singe", which might do (random numbers here) 1d6 or 1d8 damage/level instead, being Minor and Median WORDs respectively, and causing 2 to 3 nonlethal if used.



If you're still reading this, thanks. You might have noticed that I have several problems:
Properly classifying the potential power of different WORDs to avoid uberpowerful spells for low cost. Naturally, a Mage would have to advance through the class to gain access to more powerful WORDs.
Figuring out a balanced system that allows multiple spells to be cast while not providing for infinite adventuring with only a few hours of downtime in between...everyone should need sleep. (Side note, the Mage as planned has a D6 HD, which does give a suitable HP pool for spellcasting.
Ummm....can't think of anything else ATM, so I'll let it loose for butchery. Oh yeah, and I need to remember to keep it balanced vs. the noncasting melee classes.

Maxymiuk
2006-03-13, 08:55 PM
First few thoughts:

I assume this is for d20. Eeech, this system isn't really built for versatility in spellcasting.

But I do like the idea. So let's see...

Nix the spells deal damage to caster idea. It eliminates mages as potential adventurers. Rather, they'd sit in their towers all their lives, designing spells and protecting themselves with hirelings and enchantments. Instead, maybe create a "Power" pool that inreases with each level by, say d6+Int. And once you run out of those points... that's when you start taking damage. Have the pool replentish itself naturally after a night's rest.

[minor nitpick]Check the definition for Median in the dictionary. If I were your player, I wouldn't let you live it down if this appeared in a game.[/minor nitpick]

From your examples, Mundane words are somewhat underpowered. Remember that a RAW 1st level wizard, while having very few spell slots, can memorize spells that can take out a CR 1 monster in one shot (Magic Missle vs. a goblin) or temporarily knock out multiple creatures (Sleep or Color Spray).

The way I see it, you have to do a LOT of groundwork. Look through the spells in the PhB and determine which effects you'd want your words to be able to reproduce. Then start making lists of words. You'll probably end up with at least a hundred. Trim it down, then start categorizing them in terms of power (a.k.a. how specific they are in terms of effect). Then take two of the biggest powergamers you know and ask them to go through the list and develop various combinations that'll hurt your head with their brokeness. Then start finding ways to eliminate them.

And that's only the beginning.

I'll post more later.

The Glyphstone
2006-03-13, 09:10 PM
First few thoughts:

I assume this is for d20. Eeech, this system isn't really built for versatility in spellcasting.

But I do like the idea. So let's see...

Nix the spells deal damage to caster idea. It eliminates mages as potential adventurers. Rather, they'd sit in their towers all their lives, designing spells and protecting themselves with hirelings and enchantments. Instead, maybe create a "Power" pool that inreases with each level by, say d6+Int. And once you run out of those points... that's when you start taking damage. Have the pool replentish itself naturally after a night's rest.

[minor nitpick]Check the definition for Median in the dictionary. If I were your player, I wouldn't let you live it down if this appeared in a game.[/minor nitpick]

From your examples, Mundane words are somewhat underpowered. Remember that a RAW 1st level wizard, while having very few spell slots, can memorize spells that can take out a CR 1 monster in one shot (Magic Missle vs. a goblin) or temporarily knock out multiple creatures (Sleep or Color Spray).

The way I see it, you have to do a LOT of groundwork. Look through the spells in the PhB and determine which effects you'd want your words to be able to reproduce. Then start making lists of words. You'll probably end up with at least a hundred. Trim it down, then start categorizing them in terms of power (a.k.a. how specific they are in terms of effect). Then take two of the biggest powergamers you know and ask them to go through the list and develop various combinations that'll hurt your head with their brokeness. Then start finding ways to eliminate them.

And that's only the beginning.

I'll post more later.


Yeah, I recognize the problems with versatility and D20, that's why I went here for aid.

I don't know about your feelings on wizards...why would normal D&D wizards risk death/injury on a regular basis? I'm trying to get the "feel" of a mage fueling spells with his own spiritual energy/life force...maybe change the way nonlethal damage works alltogether - say, inducing fatigue/exhaustion after a certain point...

Also, I don't want to go the "Spellpoints/day" - Psionics has already done that. Mixing them together, on the other hand...that's interesting, especially since this world might not end up with psionics.

Median: Huh? I looked it up on Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=Median), and my hardbound book, and both just say "a middle point or line", or something thereabouts. Is there some slang definition I don't know about?

As for the examples, well, they were just examples. The big challenge will be, like you said, composing endless lists of WORDs and cataloging them into power levels. Lacking any powergamers in my neighborhood (actually, my local group would be a really bad testing ground...most don't enjoy school a whole lot), but this site is full of them.

Dhavaer
2006-03-13, 09:25 PM
Median is also a kind of average. I don't know what he was referring to.

How about:
Everytime you use a mundane word, you must make a fort save, DC 10. Every other mundane word used in the spell increases the DC by 1. If you use another word next round, the DC remains the same and is further modified by the words used, i.e.:
Round 1. SingeWolf: DC 11
Round 2: LiftRock: DC 13

A round in which you don't cast decreases the DC by 1, to a minimum of 10.
If you fail the save, you are fatigued.
If you fail a second save, you are exhausted.
Words used while exhausted deal nonlethal damage.

Rei_Jin
2006-03-13, 10:20 PM
What I would Propose for this is similar to what you wanted Glyphstone, but borrows from other elements of D&D.

First, we've got our class. The Mage. Say you give them a d6 hitdice, 2+int mod skills, No armor proficiency, all simple weapons and 1 martial weapon prof.

Ok, then we call what they cast "Incantations", unless we have a better name for them.

We give them 5 different levels, and each level of Incantation allows them to use more words.

Least (2 words)
Lesser (3 words)
Modus (4 words)
Greater (5 words)
Mighty (6 words)

The minimum is set at two words, signifying target and effect.

The next thing we do, is we steal from the idea of True Names. For example, if we used this system as it is, Singe Wolf is the same level as Singe Animal.

So, you make it that everything has a true name. Wolf might be simple, but Dire wolf is harder. Animals is harder, but Monsters is the hardest. Each true name is made up of a number of words. The more words, the more powerful the true name is, and the more powerful effect it can have. So Charm might be only one word, but Dominate might be three.

So, let's continue to use the example of a level 1 mage who wants to Singe Wolf. First, he has to research how to Singe, and find out what that is in the Magical Tongue. Then, he does the same for Wolf. He can then put the two together, and Singe Wolf. But doing so has a cost to him, in the form of how it affects his body. Each level of Incantation has a cost.

Least (3 hp)
Lesser (5 hp)
Modus (7 hp)
Greater (9 hp)
Mighty (11 hp)

If he wishes to use an incantation that he is well researched in (so, level dependant) it costs him hp in Non-lethal damage. If he wishes to go above what he should be able to use, it costs him Lethal damage.

So, lets say that he has learnt how to Singe Wolf, and he also researched the true name for Animal, which takes 2 words by itself. He comes across a bear, and the bear wants to eat him. He can't use Singe wolf, because a bear is not a wolf. But he could use Singe Animal, and lose 5 hp in lethal damage. It would most likely save his life, but it would be very costly.

The only thing that this system would require balancing in is the usage of healing spells.

I would rule that a caster can heal as many HP of Lethal damage as he takes Non-lethal damage(ignoring the cost of casting) at any one time. It requires the learning of the words Cure Ally, and is treated as the maximum level a caster can cast at that time.

Thus, a least would cost him 3 hp of Non-lethal, and then he would have to sacrifice his Non-lethal HP on a 1-for-1 basis for the healing he wishes to do. This makes combat far more deadly, as that healing you need might not be readily available. It would largely restrict healing to stabilising people.

Hope this helps!

Jural
2006-03-13, 10:51 PM
The biggest problem I can see is that of stacking effect. Often a more generic term is actually the best (Singe alone!) so pairing it with another term would make it simultaneously less effective and more expensive- unless rules were put in place.

Basically, since the system is based on words, you are missing a grammar. In a system such as yours, you should consider a baseline grammar, preferably which each component adding more power.

VERY BASIC EXAMPLE:

Your spell casting language could start with the structure: VERB OBJECT

VERB is the action to be performed, OBJECT is the object it is performed upon. All spells would need to include those components, although I suppose if the object was removed, it could always refer to the caster.

Next you would create a number of generic VERBs- fire, ice, positive energy, negative energy, air, electricity, growth, shrink, strength, weakness, summon... etc.

ALTERNATE: a more basic system might include only basic verbs: Harm, Heal, Augment, Supress, Create, etc.... This would make modifiers (not intoduced yet) more important.

And then you would create some generic OBJECTs(for D&D, how about starting with creature type?)- humanoids, giants, animals, magical beasts, abberations, etc. Water, Area, etc could also be established.

Finally you would understand exactly how these terms interact. A good rule of thumb might be 1d6 of VERB effect to OBJECT.

Regarding objects, I personally think you should have specific OBJECTs be more potent, so knowing the generic term for Wolf or Human would make the spell more effective, whereas knowing the specific name of a specific dragon would make the VERB that much more effective against that Object.

At low levels, a PC could start with a limited number of OBJECT's and a limited number of VERB's, and by combining the two he would end up with the end effects.

The final touch are the modifiers. They would handle quantity, size, and power level (how many die of effect are applied.) I will think more about this before posting too much more.

Note, if the VERBs are descriptive: Fire, Ice, Positive Energy, etc, the verbs hold the majority of the power in the system. More basic VERBs (augment, heal, harm) shift some of this power to the modifiers.

Jural
2006-03-13, 10:57 PM
The other idea is more basic (and perhaps more complex to DM.)

Make a number of power words, and depending upon how they are combined the spell has an effect. The words alone do not have exact meanings, they just convey basic ideas of what the spells may be.

Example: Five Words: Fire, Tree, Man, Wolf, Water:

Water+Fire = Obscuring Mist
Tree+Man = Barkskin
Wolf+Man = Wolf form
Water + Man = Water Breathing
Man + Fire + Water = Healing
Fire = burning hands
Water = create water
Tree = Bolster Plant creature.

This would make for difficult DMing, but potentially fun experimentation by players. I would imagine that all the players should be playing casters in this world though, I'd hate to be Steve the Fighter campaigning with 3 wizards who know a smattering of spells and are experimenting with them for the first time in combat!

Ing
2006-03-13, 11:00 PM
instead of HP you might want to make an MP pool avalable. i tried similar stuff with some success
mages how the typical 1d4 hd, but have a 1d8 Md. where hps are decided by dice +con per level md is dice + spell modifier per level. this way high level spells ar ejust limited in how much MP they cost, ....therefore a lower mage could blow their entire MP for a day to cast one spell that a higher level could last almost at will. this also lets you extend the duration to some spells by having them at a point cost per round kinda thing...good luck

Pop Goes the Weasel
2006-03-13, 11:00 PM
I love the idea, but I see a problem. If a caster could make up spells on the fly, what would be the point of ever using "Singe Animal". You need to balance this. I would suggest limiting the words known by the caster, either through a chart or a skill check.

EDIT:
instead of HP you might want to make an MP pool avalable. i tried similar stuff with some success
mages how the typical 1d4 hd, but have a 1d8 Md. where hps are decided by dice +con per level md is dice + spell modifier per level. this way high level spells ar ejust limited in how much MP they cost, ....therefore a lower mage could blow their entire MP for a day to cast one spell that a higher level could last almost at will. this also lets you extend the duration to some spells by having them at a point cost per round kinda thing...good luck
Glyph already stated he didn't want this.

Catch
2006-03-13, 11:04 PM
There's a similar system, actually. Check out the book on Chaos magic. It's a lot like what you described, where you pick the range, shape, targets, damage/effect, and save, and it lists a DC to cast each. It also has a table for determining the nonlethal damage given to the caster. It's a lot like what you've described, in terms of mechanics. You could just tweak the flavor.

Encylopedia Arcane: Chaos Magic is the book. It's by Mongoose publishing.

Pop Goes the Weasel
2006-03-13, 11:05 PM
There's a similar system, actually. Check out the book on Chaos magic. It's a lot like what you described, where you pick the range, shape, targets, damage, and save, and it lists a DC to cast each. It also has a table for determining the nonlethal damage given to the caster. It's a lot like what you've described, in terms of mechanics. You could just tweak the flavor.
linkage?

Rei_Jin
2006-03-13, 11:08 PM
In order to use a word, you need to research the true name for that word. So, it's not Singe, but something in a language we don't speak. It takes time to research, and successful skill checks. The more complex the word you want to learn, the more words it takes up, and therefore the longer it takes to learn it. If Wolf takes 1 week, then maybe Animal takes 2 weeks. Give it a Gold Piece cost as well, for materials required for the research. I would make it a Knowledge(arcana) check to learn the word, and a Spellcraft check to cast the incantation.

Pop Goes the Weasel
2006-03-13, 11:11 PM
In order to use a word, you need to research the true name for that word. So, it's not Singe, but something in a language we don't speak. It takes time to research, and successful skill checks. The more complex the word you want to learn, the more words it takes up, and therefore the longer it takes to learn it. If Wolf takes 1 week, then maybe Animal takes 2 weeks. Give it a Gold Piece cost as well, for materials required for the research. I would make it a Knowledge(arcana) check to learn the word, and a Spellcraft check to cast the incantation.
Make sure you stick it all in the stat block for the word and you're good to go!

Rei_Jin
2006-03-13, 11:23 PM
Then the next problem is going through the list of words that a character could learn, and adjudicating effects, power rating, etc.

Some things might not combine with one another, for example, Heal and Harm.

The next thing to do is to work out what modifiers you can throw onto words. We've already got the action, and the target. Now, what if it was multiple targets? Or if you wanted multiple effects?

You could use a word multiple times, so if you had two wolves, you could say Singe Wolf Wolf, and hit both of them. But you could also learn a modifier. It would take more time and money, but it would be far more useful. So, instead of Singe Wolf Wolf, you could learn the plural, Wolves. In this case, the Casting for the spell would be Singe Wolf Plural, meaning that you could use Plural for other spells as well. The limit on Plural would be the number of words used in the incantation. So, a Singe Wolf Plural as a lesser would affect up to three wolves, but if you used it as a Mighty, it would affect up to 6 wolves. You would also have three more words you could throw onto it, so instead of Singe, maybe you would use Incinerate, which would probably be four words on it's own.

If you work out a list of modifiers, such as plural, ball, cone, chain, line, it wouldn't be too hard.

Then, you specify (as they did with Warlocks) that you can only create an Incantation that has 1 modifier, 1 target, and 1 effect. This means that there is nothing like the Marlboro's breath attack from FFVII, which hit you with about 8 status effects at once.

Behold_the_Void
2006-03-13, 11:25 PM
Doesn't Shadowrun use a basically subdual damage system for using spells? I think it's definitely viable, just up the HP total of the mage class so that they can take more damage.

Catch
2006-03-13, 11:33 PM
Okay, I got a link working.

This (http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/pdf/cmsummary.pdf) is the DC table for Chaos magic. It's pretty similar to what Rei_Jin is outlining, with combining effects. You add to the DC for higher-powered effects, and the nonlethal damage would increase as well.

Rei_Jin
2006-03-13, 11:36 PM
I'm not so sure that it IS similar. What I'm proposing draws heavily from the ideas of True Names, Warlock Invocations, and the Words of Creation/Dark Speech.

If you combine the three ideas, and throw in a little flavor from the Edding's book, The Redemption of Althalus you're getting pretty close to what I suggest.

Catch
2006-03-13, 11:44 PM
Flavor vs Mechnics. I agree with the True Names/Dark Speech/Words of Creation bit. That's a pretty good route to head for in terms of word magic. I was referring to the mechanics of how spells would actually be cast. The idea of combining effects and nonlethal damage rang quite similar to the mechanics of Chaos Magic. Just a thought, though.

Rei_Jin
2006-03-13, 11:56 PM
So, let's go through it again, and try and put it into some semblance of order.

Class: * * * * * * Mage
Hit Dice: * * * *d6
Skills: * * * * * * 2+Intelligence Modifier (or 4x that at level 1)
Skill List: * * * * Drawn from whatever Glyphstone wants
Proficiencies: * No proficiency with armor, proficient with all simple weapons, and one martial weapon of their choice
BAB: * * * * * * *Medium
Saves: * * * * * *As Wizard

Incantations:

A mage is a warrior caster, who spends his life refining his knowledge of the magical tongue, known by most as the Arcanum Mysterium. He begins play at level 1 with 4 words of his choosing, and a bonus word per bonus modifier of the relevant stat (to be chosen by Glyph)

These words fall into one of three categories.

Target: What the Incantation is to affect
Affect: How the target is to be affected
Modifier: Anything that alters the way the previous two categories work

A Mage starts off able to cast Least Incantations. Each Incantation drains the casters body of lifeforce, meaning that he is limited by the incantations he can cast each time he goes to battle. This results in Non-lethal damage equal to the chart below. However, a Mage may use an Incantation higher than is normally possible for him by taking Lethal damage instead of Non-lethal Damage. This is dangerous, and can lead to death if the mage is not cautious.

Least (3 hp)
Lesser (5 hp)
Modus (7 hp)
Greater (9 hp)
Mighty (11 hp)

The number of words that can be used is limited by the level of the Incantation, as shown below.

Least (2 words)
Lesser (3 words)
Modus (4 words)
Greater (5 words)
Mighty (6 words)

As stated, a mage begins play with a limited number of words known. Over time however, he is able to research more words. To research a word takes 1 week per word in the Arcanum Mysterium, and costs 100gp, as well as requiring a Successful Knowledge Arcana Check of DC15. If a mage is attempting to learn a multiple word, he must make the checks for each week, pay the cost each week, and not interrupt his study. If he fails one check, he must start again. The gold expenditure is not wasted, but the time must be spent again.

To cast an Incantation requires a succesful Spellcraft check, equal to 10+ damage dealt by the incantation.

So, a least Incantation requires a Spellcraft check DC13. If this check fails, the mage still takes the Hp drain, but the Incantation fizles.

Using an Incantation is a standard action that provokes Attacks of Opportunity, unless used defensively.

Whilst the words of the Arcanum Mysterium themselves contain power, it takes a trained mage to correctly pronounce them. Thus, a mage must research the words he wishes to use himself, he cannot learn the words off of another mage.

The only exception to this is that a Mage may learn from another, if he is willing to expend half the cost of what it would have taken to learn the words, and the other mage from whom he is learning must also be present and willing to help him. This is normally more costly for a mage, and thus few are willing to do so.

A mage can only cast Incantations appropriate to his class level without experiencing Lethal damage. The level requirements are listed below.

Least (Levels 1-4)
Lesser (Levels 5-8)
Modus (Levels 9-12)
Greater (Levels 13-16)
Mighty (Levels 17-20)

Words that are more powerful normally take longer to say, and are made of more words in the Arcanum Mysterium as well, meaning that more powerful words require more powerful Incantations to use. For example, Singe is a Least Word, Burn is a Lesser word, Char is a Modus word, Incinerate is a Greater word, and Immolate is a Mighty word. A word has a rating according to the Incantation that can be used for it, and the number of words it takes to research, and to cast.

Least (1 word)
Lesser (2 words)
Modus (3 words)
Greater (4 words)
Mighty (5 words)

There is a story, of another level of Incantation, supposedly only available to those greater than level 20. Called Epic, these Incantations are rumored to go far above and beyond any other Incantation, and are said to only be limited to the drain the caster is willing to succomb to.

Ing
2006-03-14, 01:17 AM
I love the idea, but I see a problem. If a caster could make up spells on the fly, what would be the point of ever using "Singe Animal". You need to balance this. I would suggest limiting the words known by the caster, either through a chart or a skill check.

EDIT:
Glyph already stated he didn't want this.


woups, teach me to read the rest of the post next time...meh :-/

StGlebidiah
2006-03-14, 02:11 AM
With this sort of system, I worry you'll end up creating something that is either:

1) an overpowered tank-mage, or
2) something so fragile nobody would want to risk playing it

How do you intend to balance spells that are powerful enough to harm stronger enemies so that the mage doesn't hurt themselves so much they'll either kill themselves in the casting or hurt themselves so much that they cannot take the hits the enemy dishes out?

Jural
2006-03-14, 03:12 AM
Ok, hope the earlier post made sense: Some sort of language with defined verbs linked to defined effects, defined objects specifying the effects of the spell, and modifiers which can effect the power level or add new effects.

Now, on to the more challenging problem:

Character advancement and managing the cost of casting without having a spell allotment.

First: character advancement. Personally, I would allocate spell words like a sorcerer's known spells currently are (although not so few.) The language needs to be tiered as well (so the verb "Die" can be learned much after the verb "injure") An interesting idea would be a tiered system as well, although I might reserve that for the modifiers only.

An interesting aside: Some wild card words should probably be added into the language, or feats which allow one to cast spells without knowing all the words. This would equate to casting a spell with a chance of failure (and critical failure), similar to the current Use Magic Device rules.

Second: You stated you would like hitpoints somehow effect spells per day. I think that could work- for every spell cast the assigned point value of the spell (point value arrived at based upon the spells used) would inflict a like amount of subdual damage upon you.

The only real problem I see with this is healing spells. A healing spell needs to be able to recover for a character more hit points than it deals- otherwise the character is worse off. Yet if the character ends up with more hit points than when he started to cast, he essentially can cast an unlimited number of spells per day! Even with enforced sleep and rest, this alone makes the character too powerful.

I would suggest using subdual damage, but the mage's body can not heal subdual damage as per normal. If his subdual damage and hit point damage ever combine to be greater than his hit point total, he is unconcious. However, if he is later healed, he does not heal the subdual damage.

Every night, the mage is able to meditate and repair his body, allowing full regeneration of subdual damage as he meditates.

Next: Examples

Jural
2006-03-14, 03:53 AM
One more point, to correlate to spell levels Empowering Words should be automatically learned. Empowering words automatically come to a mage every few levels (2 or three) and allow the more powerful effects. EAch empowering word corresponds to Minor, Median, Major, and Ancient (unempowered words are considered Minor.)

Example:

Steve the mage is a mage with the following available words:

Tier 1 (1 point):
Humanoid (Obj); Animal (Obj); Injure (Vb); Fire (Mod); Ray (Mod)

Tier 2 (2 points):
Abberation (Obj); Summon (Vb); Effect: Minor (Emp); Long Range Projectile (Mod)

If he wished to cast a simple spell launching a flaming projectile at a humanoid target a distance away, he would use the words:

Humanoid (1) + Long Range Projectile (2) + Fire (1)

This can be cast as is, and would deal 2d6 points of fire damage to the enemy, and deal 4 points subdual damage to the caster.

The saving throw, as per all unempowered spells would be 11+appropriate modifier

Alternately, this can be empowered (Minor), and would deal 4d6 points of damage, with a saving throw of 12 + appropriate modifier. The Minor empowerment doubles the spell cost, so it deals 8 hit points to the caster.

With this system, a level 20 caster with access to the Ancient (tier 6) level of words could use an ancient object, an ancient Verb, 2 ancient modifiers, and empower the ability to ancient level, for a hitpoint loss of 144 hit points! At level 20 a caster with a decent Con (+3 Mod) and d6 average die (full at level one) would expect 122 hit points, so this level of power would be beyond a mere mortal, which sounds good to me.

Alternately, all subdual damage losses could allow a saving throw (Fortitude) against the spell's save DC for half damage.

endoperez
2006-03-14, 04:58 AM
Ars Magica is based on Verb+Noun combinattions, all in Latin. You make stuff and heal with Creo, change and warp with Muto, etc.

In it, there are only five verbs and fifteen (IIRC) nouns, all being their own skills. That doesn't work with this system, but there are some ideas that you might want to borrow.

Ars Magica mages are somewhat similar to Warlocks of D&D: they can cast their minor spells for as many times as they wish, barring what amounts to critical failure. Casting more powerful spells is more stressful. Usually, if they manage to cast a major spell, they usually become fatiqued.
I'm not sure how, exactly, it was handled, but I quess a success with at least 10 or 15 difference between the DC and the result would not "cost" you anything. Normal success, with difference of 1 or 2, would deal you subdual damage/drain your pool/whatever, but the spell would still succeed.
It should be a lot harder in your system than in Ars Magica, because it was partly balanced by the many skills.


Most spells must be formulated (i.e. researched) before the actual casting. It is possible to come up with spells on the fly, but it's at least twice as hard.

One restriction on magic is the fact that mages aren't liked at all. You might want to give booming voice and vigorous gestures a small bonus, and severy limit casting magic with it being hard to notice.


Range, Duration and Target could very well be words. Every spell would then have Verb, Noun, Range, Duration and Target. Ranges, Durations and Targets shouldn't be that hard to come by, but lacking one spesific Word could have some interesting limitations...

Ranges (from low to high)
Personal
Touch/Eye - choose one. Eye means eye contact, you might want to leave that away.
Reach - very close range, maybe anything the mage could touch after moving 5 ft step? It doesn't need to actually be touched, of course.
Near
Far
Sight - Anything the caster can see, so whatever is the best range you want to allow. Actual sight is not that good a limit, because not all D&D characters are human...
Arcane Connection - established with e.g. some personal item

Durations (from low to high)
Momentary - magic happens, and *poof*. Or, more usually, *boom*. Effects stay, so this is for combat spells.
Concentration/Diameter - same power level. Diameter is 2 minutes in Ars Magica.
Sun - Lasts until the next sunrise/sunset. 8 hours + 1/level would be about this, wouldn't it?
Moon/Ring - A whole month, or until the target leaves the circle drawn at the spell's casting. Also ends if the ring is broken...
Season - ?
Year - ?
Permanent/Instant - First can be dispelled, the second can not. They are the same level. Instant can't have magical effects, and creation/healing couldn't be made instant without very limited material components in Ars Magica.

Targets (from low to high)
Small - one item ("something an average person could comfortably hold or carry in both hands")
Individual - one person or object. A boulder can be affected, a mountain can not.
Group/Room - something like Fireball. Room would go for everyone inside the same, distinct boundaries, and is not that applicable to D&D.
Circle/Structure - Similar to the Ring, above. Everything inside the drawn circle is affected. Might not be applicable at all.
Boundary - too big for D&D (walled city, forest withing its edges, etc).
Sight - Anything the caster can see.


About Ring and Circle:
Both can be drawn to be pretty much as large as wanted. The mage must draw the circle, and even if magic is used for the effect, he must trace out the ring physcially. Extending the casting until the circle is finished requires a Concentration check every round, and if anything breaks the circle before the spell is finished, it automatically botches. That means evil, EVIL critical failure.

sazzer
2006-03-14, 05:30 AM
What about if you don't ever cause the spells to directly do damage to the caster, but instead make it harder to control spells if you've already been casting lots.

Give every word a difficulty, and have the caster make a skill test against the total difficulty for the entire spell in order to cast it. E.g.
Singe = 10
Wolf = 5
SingeWolf = 10 + 5 = 15

On top of this, have a modifier that depends on recent castings. Every round you cast a spell, this modifier goes up by the number of words used, and every round you don't cast a spell it goes down by 1. Thus, if you want to cast SingeWolf three times in a row, you will be doing skill checks of 15, then 17 and then 19.

Finally, have a system where spell fails can have undesired affects. Maybe make it so that if you fail the skill check by at least 10 points then the spell actually affects a random target. So if you cast SingeWolf and roll a 3 on your skill check (Against 15) then it could possibly singe you or one of your party instead of the wolf.

tgva8889
2006-03-14, 06:47 AM
Only skimed a couple posts, hope someone didn't already do this.

You can make the words have level modifiers on them. So, Singe (1) is worse than Singe (2) and Singe (3). Thus, if Singe (1) causes the spell to deal 1d3 damage, then Singe (2) would multiply that by 2, and Singe (3) would muliply by three, so on and so forth. Thus, just like with spells like Burning Hands and Shocking Grasp, among others, lower level "words" do more at higher levels.

This is interesting, though you would have to make certain sets of words, such as a line of "Singe" words, a line of "Cold" words, a line of "Shock" words, etc., and allow players to make up new words as per creating new spells.

I don't like the subdual damage thing, mostly because even with a d6 hit die, under your current set up, a first level mage usually doesn't get more than 2 least incantations. That is considerably less spells-per-day that a Sorcerer at the same level.

Since you're creating a language here, you could edit this language to have words with similar effects have similar spellings and pronunciations. So, the words for "singe", "scorch", "burn", "incinerate", etc. are all similar to each other. The same might be for the words "miracle" and "wish" or something.

The Glyphstone
2006-03-14, 07:54 AM
Well, this certainly exploded... ;D

A lot of what has been said was tracing after where my own thoughts were going, and beyond.

The Verb+Object+Modifier idea is very good, close to what I was trying to come up with.

The Nonlethal/Lethal idea of Rei_Jin...nice, and does help capture the flavor of the source material I'm drawing inspiration from (a tad of Eragon[/]'s magic language, flavored with the Speech of the [i]Young Wizards series, with some general True Name concepts thrown in and vigorously shaken.

As for Ars_Magica...I've heard of it. I've also heard that it's ridiculously broken in favor of magic-users, I don't want to have fighters/barbarians/whatever other classes I design to fall by the wayside.

Sir_Glebidiah really hit the nail on the head - that's the balance I need to find. I picture the meleeist/tank characters protecting the mage from actual physical harm, so he can spend more HP on spells. In the case of opposing mages, they'll just batter each other in a 'mageduel' of sorts till one collapses from magical stress or actual damage.

Rei_Jin's ideas of applying modifiers are excellent again. I did think of "tiered" words, for example, the chain that deals Fire damage:
Singe...um, say, 1d4/level
Scorch...eh, 1d6/level
Burn....1d8/level
Char.....1d10/level
Immolate....1d12/level

And their equivalencies for ice damage/electrical damage, and so on. The specific tier of the VERB would determine its effect, and the OBJECT would give it a target - without an OBJECT, the spell would either fail due to unclear instructions, or backlash at a random target. MODIFIERS, like Empower or Long Range, could alter the form of the spell.

For spell preparation, pure spontaneous casting was an option. However, I did think it might be a more effective limiter to make them prepare their spells ahead of time, or at least, the framework of such - this is borrowed from the Young Wizards mythology, where spells need to be built up beforehand, then can sit unused and memorized until the final variable is inserted (a standard action!) and released. Altering an existing variable - say, changing Freeze to Burn to deal with a randomly encountered troll - would take longer, a full-round action maybe, or changing Wolf to Orc if the need arose. Altering more complex tiers of WORDS would take more time. There wouldn't be a limit on spell frameworks "readied", or maybe something simple like 2x caster level. but preparing it ahead of time would take time. This would reward more general WORDS, since they would need to be swapped out less frequently and thus occupy less "slots".

Also, researching Words is good, but some words could be unresearchable for some reason, lost or hidden long ago and forgotten. This would definitely give mages an incentive to adventure, exploring dark caves and underground dungeons in search of powerful, never-before-seen WORDS. Most Ancient/Mighty words and a new of the Major/Greater words would probably require this...though it wouldn't be common - more like a story award, it'd be a nice surprise for a Mage to find a tattered grimoire containing a long-forgotten phrase for some powerful MODIFIER, like Maximize or Persist, while his fighter buddies are cavorting with their new swords over the dragon carcass.

ImperiousLeader
2006-03-14, 09:08 AM
There's a new WOTC book, Tome of Magic, that introduces three new spellcasting systems, one of which is called "Truename" magic, introduced here (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ex/20060303a&page=8). It uses a skill check system to cast spells.

St._jimmy
2006-03-14, 09:59 AM
GURPS magic has a section on word-casting. Each word is s different spell, one verb one noun and very general. 'heal other' or 'protect self' for example. For D&D I would reccomend adding an element though.

Eternal Darkness, a Gamecube game, had a good system. Each rune is put around a magic circle and the larger the circle the more mana it cost. You would chose an element, action and target and then fill the empty slots with 'power' runes.
For this system I would make each rune you use add one to the level of the spell. simply casting 'Fire' would produce a burning hands effect, 'fire, atttack' would be scorching ray and 'fire, attack, area' would create fireball.

as with any increased versatility, encourage your players to work within the spirit of the game. Even a basic munchkin could easily abuse this.

Sir_Ophiuchus
2006-03-14, 10:30 AM
I like this idea. A lot. It seems quite similar to the concept of True Names in Ursula Le Guiin's Earthsea Quartet.

One thing I'd suggest is, yes, mages should be able to reach beyond themselves in emergencies at the cost of hp, but either make the hp damage scale or make certain levels unusable (maybe a mage can only reach 1/2 levels beyond their ability).

For example, someone suggested having a top-level word do 11hp damage - a 4th-level mage with 16hp (average) could just Immolate once a day and destroy your carefully-prepared low-level BBEG. Ideally, even TRYING to use such a word at such a low level should destroy the unwise caster utterly.

Tobaselly
2006-03-14, 11:13 AM
Have words carry a DR, the more words concatenated into a single spell increases the DR rating of the spell. If the user of the spell FAILS the check the caster takes that amount in non-lethal damage. All spells carry 1 point of non-lethal damage regardless of success.

You don't even need to break the words down in to categories, you can just drop a higher DR on them.

I would also have if the caster uses the "true name" of something that he is casting upon, all spell resistance that the target has is negated.

Parallax
2006-03-14, 12:45 PM
The idea of using 'power words' is a tempting one, with a lot of mechanical problems.

How does one 'acquire' words? If all it takes to cast a spell is to know the words, then not only will your players want the same stuff as the BBEG (as always), but now they can have it, just by keeping their ears open and surviving. The BBEG uses 'kill NPC plot device' in front of the PCs? The mage has just learned 'kill'. Now watch him use it on the BBEG. It's a nightmare waiting to happen.
So, you need a mechanic to acquire words of power. And it has to be simple, solid, and fair.

Arithmetic progression in difficulty is not steep enough. Assume the mage's player will focus all available resources into better casting, you need a mechanic that doesn't go belly up at 8th level. I strongly suggest a hard cap on the power one can use based on class level. Otherwise the whole system is just screaming: "abuse me!"

There must be a cost for casting, each and every time. Otherwise you have just granted a character a spell-like ability at will, regardless of the chance of failure, since they can just retry as long as it takes.

If the cost for casting is damage, be aware that you have just turned the party cleric from 'fighter ambulance' to 'fighter AND mage ambulance'. Do not wonder why nobody wants to play a cleric in your game if it happens.

There should not be a measurable chance of death for failing a casting. If you do not agree, your players will after they have lost half a dozen mages to 'singe kobold's gone awry.

Concurrently, there should not be a measurable chance of success for casting above one's abilities. Otherwise it will be tried. And the exception will become the expectation. And no penalty, not even death, will discourage the practice.

Regarding lost words: If nobody uses a word, it might as well not exist. In that sense, there is no lost word. Either it is in your campaign or it is not. If it is there it will be used. If it is abusable it will be abused. And people's definitions of 'abuse' will diverge.

Regarding Ars Magica: The system is designed on the premise that every PC is a mage. Balance between mages and non-mages was never an issue there, to be fair. And yes, that makes the system non-portable.

endoperez
2006-03-14, 02:15 PM
As for Ars_Magica...I've heard of it. I've also heard that it's ridiculously broken in favor of magic-users, I don't want to have fighters/barbarians/whatever other classes I design to fall by the wayside.


The mage characters are given so much of everything that they can out-do the other characters in fighting. All players are supposed to play a mage, a couple companions, and control dozen-or-so grogs (man-at-arms). Companions/grogs could have personalities, they just won't be as powerful.

The magic system of Ars Magica probably isn't the problem. Any way, it is so different than this suggestion that I only dropped in some general ideas.



Sir_Glebidiah really hit the nail on the head - that's the balance I need to find. I picture the meleeist/tank characters protecting the mage from actual physical harm, so he can spend more HP on spells. In the case of opposing mages, they'll just batter each other in a 'mageduel' of sorts till one collapses from magical stress or actual damage.


Gives protective spells an interesting twist. "I can protect myself from damage, taking damage, or hope my enemies miss, so that I can kill them (dealing damage to myself)."



Rei_Jin's ideas of applying modifiers are excellent again. I did think of "tiered" words, for example, the chain that deals Fire damage:
SNIP

And their equivalencies for ice damage/electrical damage, and so on. The specific tier of the VERB would determine its effect, and the OBJECT would give it a target - without an OBJECT, the spell would either fail due to unclear instructions, or backlash at a random target. MODIFIERS, like Empower or Long Range, could alter the form of the spell.


Modifiers can be very different. I would categorize them into many subcategories. If everything was just lumped together, problems would ensue. What would the Long Range do, for instance? To know that, you'd have to know the range of normal spells? How would you handle the Personal/Touch/... transition on the targeting method, and the number of targets?
Limits on the verbs, so that lesser Cure would have range of touch, lesser Boost Str/Int/Wis... would have range Personal, and more powerful ones would turn into Touch, then into 1 person, then group, without becoming more powerful?
Or Personal, Touch, Near, Far... as their own words like in my suggestion?
Or with Cure/Boost staying the same, and the Object word changing from Me to This to That to Those? Would there be different words for one wolf, couple of wolves, a group of wolves... or would the word have to be repeated? That would force new spell for every encounter with different number of e.g. wolves.

Same about Duration. Does the duration come from the verb, from the noun, or as an adjective?

Could the effects of metamagic feats be achieved?

The Glyphstone
2006-03-15, 07:51 PM
Okay...


How does one 'acquire' words? If all it takes to cast a spell is to know the words, then not only will your players want the same stuff as the BBEG (as always), but now they can have it, just by keeping their ears open and surviving. The BBEG uses 'kill NPC plot device' in front of the PCs? The mage has just learned 'kill'. Now watch him use it on the BBEG. It's a nightmare waiting to happen.
So, you need a mechanic to acquire words of power. And it has to be simple, solid, and fair.

Well, that might be easier to fix. We can just say, for now, that merely hearing a word does not allow one to use it. A Mage would need to study that word, absorb its power, learn it perfectly, before he could invoke its power. Seeing the BBEG cast "kill NPC" wouldn't be enough...if he watched the BBEG kill ten or twelve NPC's per day for a week or two, he might get the hang of it.

Plus, I think I'll give higher-level Mages the ability to mask their spells, verbally and somatically, at higher/highest levels...don;t know how that would affect the whole system, though, so it's on the sideboard.



There must be a cost for casting, each and every time. Otherwise you have just granted a character a spell-like ability at will, regardless of the chance of failure, since they can just retry as long as it takes.

If the cost for casting is damage, be aware that you have just turned the party cleric from 'fighter ambulance' to 'fighter AND mage ambulance'. Do not wonder why nobody wants to play a cleric in your game if it happens.

Indeed. I haven't fully decided what role clerics will play in this world, or even if there will be clerics at all. If I do this, the world does need healing, so it would probably end up as a subset of magic, certain Mages could repair the injuries of themselves and others by spending less energy, but with lower utility in other situations...or just keep clerics - but they'd need reworking anyway, to fit with the new "arcane" system.



There should not be a measurable chance of death for failing a casting. If you do not agree, your players will after they have lost half a dozen mages to 'singe kobold's gone awry.

Concurrently, there should not be a measurable chance of success for casting above one's abilities. Otherwise it will be tried. And the exception will become the expectation. And no penalty, not even death, will discourage the practice.


Agreed. I'm pretty secure on giving Mages a level minimum for each tier of WORDs. Something ATM would look like:
1st level...gains Tier 1 WORDs
3rd level...gains Tier 2 WORDs
6th level...gains Tier 3 WORDs
10th level...gains Tier 4 WORDs
15th level...gains Tier 5 WORDs
Or something like that...with other class-related bonuses in there, as well as something to potentially encourage progression all the way to 20.



Regarding lost words: If nobody uses a word, it might as well not exist. In that sense, there is no lost word. Either it is in your campaign or it is not. If it is there it will be used. If it is abusable it will be abused. And people's definitions of 'abuse' will diverge.

So? Standard D&D has guidelines for players creating new spells and such. This system wouldn't work exactly like that...characters can't make up WORDs for things, everything was defined at the beginning of time. They might be simply buried in a tome of lore in some library's basement, or inscribed on the sarcophagus of a long-dead warrior-priest-king.
And ancient, forgotten WORDs, for powerful things, would make a great plot hook, and a reward for players - the kingdom's under attack by demons? Generic "Blast the Demon" spells are working, but weak...the party goes on a long quest that ends in the rediscovery of the "lost WORD" for "Balor", which the battlemages can now use much more effectively once taught to fight off the invaders.

This system, even when it's finalized, will be more easily broken then glass bottles in a cement mixer...that's why it need refining and designing, to minimize the kinks.

Rei_Jin
2006-03-15, 07:59 PM
The other thing you could do with lost words is use said lost words to mimic the current metamagic feats. So there is a lost word (SUBSTITUTION) and a lost word (ADMIXTURE), etc, etc.

Make people adventure for them. It gives mages a reason to go into that dungeon far away from their safe tower.

Parallax
2006-03-15, 08:59 PM
Agreed. I'm pretty secure on giving Mages a level minimum for each tier of WORDs. Something ATM would look like:
1st level...gains Tier 1 WORDs
3rd level...gains Tier 2 WORDs
6th level...gains Tier 3 WORDs
10th level...gains Tier 4 WORDs
15th level...gains Tier 5 WORDs
Or something like that...with other class-related bonuses in there, as well as something to potentially encourage progression all the way to 20.

I like this. And I wouldn't worry about the last 5 levels if the first 15 went into the class. After all, you have to account for the possibility that someone might want to 'dip' a bit, and they shouldn't be denied an entire tier of words for that. Plus they will get caster levels for the last five levels if nothing else, it should count for something.


So? Standard D&D has guidelines for players creating new spells and such. This system wouldn't work exactly like that...characters can't make up WORDs for things, everything was defined at the beginning of time. They might be simply buried in a tome of lore in some library's basement, or inscribed on the sarcophagus of a long-dead warrior-priest-king.
Fair enough, but with enough time on their hands, any cleric with the ability to contact the upper planes could learn words. So they would not be as lost as one might think. Be wary of divination spells.


the party goes on a long quest that ends in the rediscovery of the "lost WORD" for "Balor", which the battlemages can now use much more effectively once taught to fight off the invaders.
What I was trying to say was that you should be wary of what words you give your players, since there doesn't seem to be a way to un-learn words.
For instance, one they have learned 'Balor', be aware that they will not simply have 'hurt balor' as their option, but also 'sleep balor', 'dance balor', 'levitate balor', 'sing balor (maximized)' and any other freaky combination they can come up with using each and every word they already know, some of which may be unintentionally powerful. 'Summon Balor' comes to mind...


This system, even when it's finalized, will be more easily broken then glass bottles in a cement mixer...that's why it need refining and designing, to minimize the kinks.
Er.. hopefully it won't be. Otherwise it is not finalized. I mean, you run the risk of having a player doing something that works and they feel is completely fair game, but that you find unbalancing. Ideally, any possible exploit that you spot should be removed before the system can be rolled out.

Leperflesh
2006-03-15, 10:12 PM
So, every mage in your game world can be effectively neutralized, with some sort of silence effect?

Okay, obviously not - just don't forget to take this into account. A lot of spells in standard D&D have components which are designed to make their spellcasters vulnerable to various conditions (silenced, or bound, or out of material components). If your spells have only one or two components, this both empowers them (fewer affects that can disable them) and makes them more vulnerable (a single disabling affect prevents them from using any spell, not just a certain portion of their spells).

So far, the discussion seems to have revolved mostly around spells which do damage to targets - really the simplest and most quantifiable type of magic in the book. Much harder to adjudicate are spells which are more complex or do other things - think of spells like dimension door, teleport, cat's grace, scry, create undead, knock, arcane mark, explosive runes, the Bigby's spells, feather fall... the list goes on and on.

Of course you are under no compulsion to even attempt to cover the range of spells that are in D&D - it's perfectly fine to not do that. But keep in mind that this is one of the reasons people play mages - they're (usually) not just combat-blasters. If you do decide you want to emulate a substantial portion of D&D spells, you are going to find yourself with an ever-expanding vocabluary of power-words. You'll either have to severely limit characters, by giving them short-lists of what words they can know (so a character who takes the word for 'fly', which enables levitating, flying, feather falling, etc. type affects) is giving up on something equally versatile and important (say, the word for 'animate', which gives access to everything from unseen servant and golem creations to animating undead). Or, you'll have to allow them a longer list of known words - which may result in incredibly powerful mages, when they consider all of the possible combinations that can be made (each extra word you add multiplies the possibilities in an exponential progression).

Be very careful with making this balance decision. Probably a good assumption to start with is that you will be eliminating easily half or more of the spell affects available in the PHB.

I'm also very concerned about conflating 'mage fatigue' with any kind of hit points (subdual or lethal) - it really will be impossible to include magical healing in such a game without enabling mage brokenness. Perhaps an alternative would be to have spells actually cause temporary constitution damage. Constitution score doesn't go up all that much over the course of 20 levels, though, so figuring out how to 'score' high-level Words might be very difficult. Perhaps you'd instead go with each spell having a % chance of causing x constitution damage - with your 5 levels of spells causing 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 points of CON damage, respectively. Even that is tough, because it means stringing a high-level (5) word together with a couple of lower level ones could still reduce a mage to near-zero CON score, if they miss the % chance - and a lucky mage might make the % chance several times in a row, allowing a really brokennly-powerful series of spells.

Using the CON damage model works in another respect, though, because it does act to reduce effective hit points - albeit, only CON-bonus points, so a high-level mage only really risks death if he is coming close to a 0 con score. It is also very advantageous, in that normal healing-spell affects can't heal hitpoints that are 'unavailable' due to CON damage.

Anyway it's an interesting concept and I'm eager to see where it goes from here.

-Lep

The Glyphstone
2006-03-19, 07:30 AM
The other thing you could do with lost words is use said lost words to mimic the current metamagic feats. So there is a lost word (SUBSTITUTION) and a lost word (ADMIXTURE), etc, etc.

Make people adventure for them. It gives mages a reason to go into that dungeon far away from their safe tower.

Very true, exactly what I had been intending.



I like this. And I wouldn't worry about the last 5 levels if the first 15 went into the class. After all, you have to account for the possibility that someone might want to 'dip' a bit, and they shouldn't be denied an entire tier of words for that. Plus they will get caster levels for the last five levels if nothing else, it should count for something.
True. And if I design a set of “Prestige Classes” of sorts to mix with the Mage, since the normal ones won’t work as they are, that’ll give some leeway.



Fair enough, but with enough time on their hands, any cleric with the ability to contact the upper planes could learn words. So they would not be as lost as one might think. Be wary of divination spells.

What I was trying to say was that you should be wary of what words you give your players, since there doesn't seem to be a way to un-learn words.
For instance, one they have learned 'Balor', be aware that they will not simply have 'hurt balor' as their option, but also 'sleep balor', 'dance balor', 'levitate balor', 'sing balor (maximized)' and any other freaky combination they can come up with using each and every word they already know, some of which may be unintentionally powerful. 'Summon Balor' comes to mind...

“Dance Balor” – Otto’s Irresistable Dance effect, Will to negate.:) As for ‘Summon Balor’...well, if I cap it at one VERB, there’s nothing in there that mentions controlling that summoned Balor that just got yanked away from his tea-time.;)

And “Balor” might have been a poor example to use, due to the barebones of the cosmology I have planned. Suffice to say that any sort of celestial or fiend is seriously bad-a**, almost demi-godlike in strength. They don’t come to the Prime Material (or whatever it’ll be called) that much, and would be most upset if a mortal tried to make them. Even the good-aligned ones wouldn’t appreciate it. Excellent saves, immunity to mental control, knowledge of many WORDs they can combine at will...even the puny ones, the dretch/lemure/lantern archon analogues, will be tough challenges. That doesn't really affect the situation though, we can substitute any powerful monster for "Balor" in the above.

On the topic of divinations like Contact Other Plane, that’ll need to be regimented with the WORDs involved. If they just “speak to outsider”, or some such....it’s truly random, and skewed by the odds of someone on that plane WANTING to talk to a puny, uninteresting mortal. Most likely they’ll get some useless spirit, hungry for conversation but not knowing anything useful. Contacting specific types of creatures requires the knowledge of that creature’s WORD, which might be “lost knowledge” in itself, and simply the WORDs for celestials/fiends will be at minimum Tier 4.




Er.. hopefully it won't be. Otherwise it is not finalized. I mean, you run the risk of having a player doing something that works and they feel is completely fair game, but that you find unbalancing. Ideally, any possible exploit that you spot should be removed before the system can be rolled out.
Fine, I was exaggerating. Of course, the only way the brokenness will be avoided is with the help of other people than myself, utterly hopeless in the realms of powergaming.



So, every mage in your game world can be effectively neutralized, with some sort of silence effect? *

Okay, obviously not - just don't forget to take this into account. A lot of spells in standard D&D have components which are designed to make their spellcasters vulnerable to various conditions (silenced, or bound, or out of material components). If your spells have only one or two components, this both empowers them (fewer affects that can disable them) and makes them more vulnerable (a single disabling affect prevents them from using any spell, not just a certain portion of their spells).
Well, there’s always the path they took in Truespeech from Tome of Magic, where even Silence only has a 20% chance of stopping the universe from hearing you...



So far, the discussion seems to have revolved mostly around spells which do damage to targets - really the simplest and most quantifiable type of magic in the book. Much harder to adjudicate are spells which are more complex or do other things - think of spells like dimension door, teleport, cat's grace, scry, create undead, knock, arcane mark, explosive runes, the Bigby's spells, feather fall... the list goes on and on.

Of course you are under no compulsion to even attempt to cover the range of spells that are in D&D - it's perfectly fine to not do that. But keep in mind that this is one of the reasons people play mages - they're (usually) not just combat-blasters. If you do decide you want to emulate a substantial portion of D&D spells, you are going to find yourself with an ever-expanding vocabluary of power-words. You'll either have to severely limit characters, by giving them short-lists of what words they can know (so a character who takes the word for 'fly', which enables levitating, flying, feather falling, etc. type affects) is giving up on something equally versatile and important (say, the word for 'animate', which gives access to everything from unseen servant and golem creations to animating undead). Or, you'll have to allow them a longer list of known words - which may result in incredibly powerful mages, when they consider all of the possible combinations that can be made (each extra word you add multiplies the possibilities in an exponential progression). *

Be very careful with making this balance decision. Probably a good assumption to start with is that you will be eliminating easily half or more of the spell affects available in the PHB.

True...maybe I should have a level-based cap on how many WORDs they can successfully retain and keep track of. That might also encourage creative uses of other words to make the same effect, though...which is good, but I don’t know how it would be balanced.



I'm also very concerned about conflating 'mage fatigue' with any kind of hit points (subdual or lethal) - it really will be impossible to include magical healing in such a game without enabling mage brokenness. Perhaps an alternative would be to have spells actually cause temporary constitution damage. Constitution score doesn't go up all that much over the course of 20 levels, though, so figuring out how to 'score' high-level Words might be very difficult. Perhaps you'd instead go with each spell having a % chance of causing x constitution damage - with your 5 levels of spells causing 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 points of CON damage, respectively. Even that is tough, because it means stringing a high-level (5) word together with a couple of lower level ones could still reduce a mage to near-zero CON score, if they miss the % chance - and a lucky mage might make the % chance several times in a row, allowing a really brokennly-powerful series of spells.

Using the CON damage model works in another respect, though, because it does act to reduce effective hit points - albeit, only CON-bonus points, so a high-level mage only really risks death if he is coming close to a 0 con score. It is also very advantageous, in that normal healing-spell affects can't heal hitpoints that are 'unavailable' due to CON damage. *

Anyway it's an interesting concept and I'm eager to see where it goes from here.


For mage brokenness, there might be a solution, if I incorporate a mix of HP loss and the “spell points” idea suggested above.

A Mage gets, say, 2x Mage level plus his Intelligence modifier of ‘spellpoints’, which can be spent instead of HP to cast magic. He can draw from either the points or his HP, but the points only recover after sleeping. This might help somewhat, but the problem remains that any instantaneous healing greater than a 1-1 basis will be utterly broken simply by the act of including 2 Mages in one party, who can just keep pumping each other.


EDIT: BUMP? Please, help, I can't do this alone...