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The Glyphstone
2005-09-18, 05:38 PM
I'm trying to create a homebrew world, and I'm starting with a reworking of the magic system. The planned result is inspired by the Speech from the Young Wizards series of books, flavored with a bit of the ancient language from Eragon, and all repeatedly run through the high-speed blender of my own ideas. I've got a very loose framework of ideas, but I'm not really sure how to craft them into a cohesive ruleset that's balanced. The central concept is that of a powerful, universal language, which I'm calling the Elder Tongue to avoid any potential IP-related legal snafus. The world was created by the gods, who spoke it into being with the Elder Tongue. Mortal wizards learn to harness a lesser, watered down version of the Tongue, which allows them to warp or reshape the world to their desires, at least temporarily. Here's what I have so far, mostly in raw notes form:

The Mage Class: The Wizard and Sorcerer class are removed, to be replaced by a generic Mage class (name yet to be decided). It'll be a different class depending on whether you focus on Charisma-based spells or Intelligence-based ones (akin to the YW books, where they can "convince" something to happen, as opposed to forcing it with sheer power).

Casting: The important aspect here is that casting a spell drains you of personal energy, power, or even life-force. I had a few ideas proposed last time I brought this up, mainly either making them cause non-lethal damage, or importing the Vitality Point system from Star Wars d20. I'm not familiar with the SW ruleset, so I'm not really sure how Vitality works. In any case, I'll probably end up going with the non-lethal damage, altering subdual rules so that it doesn't wipe out a mage with one or two spells.

Writing Spells: One of the biggest changes I want to make, and the one that could most throw off balance for cheesy players, is the spell list. In form to the YW ideals, prospective casters will be required to craft their own spells and write them into their spellbook. This would be done by stringing together Words, phrases and syllables of the Elder Tongue (Am I Using Enough Capital Letters Yet?:)), which a caster must seek out and learn, from various sources. These could be reading the books of other mages, or learned from various creatures of magic. Once a mage knows enough words, he/she can string them together to make a spell.

[hr]EXAMPLE: As a easy comparison, let's use one variant of the Mason's Word from YW (the one from book one, solid air). For those who haven't read, the characters flee between two skyscrapers by talking to the air between them in the Elder TongueSpeech, "convincing" it to turn into a solid bridge long enough for them to run across. In this system, the same effect might be created with a spell that links the words for "Air" and "Freeze", to hold the air solid for a short time. Now, this sort of spell might be a higher-level spell because of its versatility, *functioning passively as a sort of Air Walk spell, or a creative player could use it to form a “wall” of solid air around an enemy, somewhat of a Otiliuke’s Resilient Sphere. Both are 4th level spells, so my theoretical Solid Air incantation would need to be the equivalent of a 2nd or 3rd level spell.
[hr]
Other effects might be possible, depending on the words used. The easiest way to judge the “level” of a spell is to do what I did above, find its closest equivalent in the standard list of spells and adjudicating from there. But then, while I’m capable of doing this, I don’t know if other DM’s would be up to the task of regulating every spell as it was crafted (since that’s what’ll happen, every spell aside from some of the most basic ones that all casters would know – like the abovementioned Solid Air spell – would need to be handmade, and a clever player would undoubtedly find some loophole. I’d like to create a list of the general strengths of different spell levels, so a DM would know where to fit a proposed spell, based on the “levels” of the component words.

As for actually using the spells, it’d be a two-step process. First the spell would need to be created, the time required depending on the words used. Perhaps something along the lines of the following chart:
1st: 1 Full-round action
2nd: 1 Minute
3rd: 1 Hour
4th: 6 Hours
5th-6th: 1 Day
7th-8th: 1 Week
9th: 2 Weeks
And this would be cumulative per word, so a spell that, say, used “Air” and “Warm”, both 1st-level Words, to heat the air around someone in a cold environment, could be improvised in a few rounds as a 1st-level spell and cast immediately (standard action). Something more powerful, say, an effect similar to Baleful Polymorph that turned the target into a toad, might use the words “Toad” – 4th level at random, “Change” – another 4th level Word, and “Eternity” – a 6th level Word (to make it permanent – powerful magic), for an end-result of a 6th-level spell that would take 36 hours of work to write, and, maybe, 3 full-round actions to cast. I’d have to create a new set of “metamagic” feats, that could increase duration, reduce casting time, etc. *

Spell Damage: I’m not sure how to execute this, since it’ll depend on whether or not I use a Vitality variant. But if I do straight non-lethal damage, it’ll likely end up as a D(X) per spell level non-lethal damage roll, with additional damage if it causes damage or has a longer base duration.

Other Classes: The Bard will lose his arcane casting ability, but will instead gain many new songs and powers to replace it - I'm playing with a concept of bardic "paths", certain styles of bard-ness that develop different musical effects. I'm utterly at a loss as to how divine casters will be affected by this, since the primary role of the cleric, the mobile band-aid dispenser, can be performed by the right mage spell. Same thing goes for druids/rangers and paladins. Fighters will probably be unchanged - the ratio of magic items is lower, but that balances with the more fragile nature of mages in general.

Frojoe21
2005-09-18, 05:45 PM
COC had an interesting magic system, that costed Sanity points every time you wanted to cast one. Since you have a fixed amount of sanity, you didn't want to cast too much or you might occur penalites.

Furanku_S
2005-09-18, 06:14 PM
So basically, saying certain words causes things to be changed or reshaped? That seems to be the exact same method that Ursula K. LeGuin used in her Earthsea series (True Names and all that business).

Jentin
2005-09-18, 09:51 PM
If you want to find something for the paladin and ranger classes, there are nonmagical variants of both in CW.

With the Druid, limiting (or getting rid of) it's spell casting power and upping its shape change ability and other class features should be able to work. Maybe make it underpowered, but totally revamping th druid class atm isn't something I was planning on doing.

With the clerics, perhaps make it so they also learned the watered down "Elder Tongue", but even then, they didn't learn all that much. That way, you can also have a system for them where, instead of channeling negative or positive energy, they only say the words their God approves of. So the clerics of Good Gods are only allowed to say words that would equate a Cure Spell but aren't allowed to say words that would equate an Inflict Spell, and vice versa.

Lysander
2005-09-18, 11:49 PM
It's a cool idea but seems like it could be abused very easily. Here's an idea: make it possible for your words to be misinterpreted if your grammar isn't very good. To turn someone into a toad you'd want to be able to say "Michael turns into a toad" because while "Toad change" might change him into a toad it could also just make him look more like a toad without any effect other than cosmetic, cover everybody in slime, make his clothes green, or target a random rock. If you had a point cost per word, and make chance of spell failure higher the more points you had this could discourage really mighty effects from low level characters.

I'd say that when calculating points for a spell have some point values simply get added on, while others should multiply. Let's say the word "air" is +1 while "warm" has a point value of x2. Making the air slightly warmer would thus cost two points. Let's say you wanted to warm a lake though. Lake might have a point value of +7, so warming it all would be 14 points. As a rule of thumb I'd say add nouns and have verbs and adjectives multiply and the more impressive the word the more expensive. Lake would cost more than pond or puddle. Likewise "warm" should cost less than "burn" or "immolate". Each spellcaster could get a fixed number of points per day, and if you really wanted to be mean and make people use their powers wisely you could make each word point equate to one hit point lost in the casting of the spell. That would make saying "create fire elemental army beholden to me" something that lower level casters could simply not do without killing themselves.

Also I'd say to make syntax have importance. It'd be kinda neat if saying "warm air" did something different than "air warm."

The Glyphstone
2005-09-19, 06:11 AM
I know this could very easily be abused, that's why I'm trying to build it here where all of you excellent geniuses can aid me.

Focusing on the druid's shapechange powers is a good idea, not sure why I didn't think of that (since my bard will drop his casting for more music focus). The ranger will be a non-magical variant, probably built off the UA version. I think I'll emphasize "holy warrior" with the paladin, utilizing certain Words to aid him in battle and do paladin-y things. The cleric, I might just drop alltogether, with the divine origin of the Elder Tongue and all that. But with the fragility of mages in the final result, a balanced party would still have two casters, one of which might serve in the role a cleric would.

A "points range" is a good idea, easier than assigning a spell level to every word in the English language (and some non-English words :)). The total "point cost" would determine its effective level, showing how powerful you'd need to be to cast it and how much damage you would take. however, I do not want to give each character a "points per day" cap, add the word "power" to the front and you have a very customizable psionics variant.

My current idea, which I scribbled out on a piece of paper last night: A spell, when cast, deals 1d4 nonlethal damage per spell level to its caster, with the following modifiers: +1 per level if it deals damage/+2 if damage die is d6/+3 if it deals D8(apply highest); +1 if it lasts longer than 1 round/+2 if it lasts longer than 1 round per caster level/+3 if it lasts longer than 1 hour per caster level/+4 if longer than 1 day/level, and a whopping and painful +5 per spell level if it's permanent. Thus, a mid-level caster might be able to achieve a permanent shapechanging spell, but they'd be out of it for quite a while afterwards.

This seemed unnaturally harsh at early levels when I crunched numbers, so I also came up with Meditation. As a full-round action, a caster can Meditate, removing 1d3 non-lethal damage per caster level. This also led to ideas on a feat tree tied to meditating, one that restored extra damage, a few that reduced the time required (fullround-standard-move).

Lazarous
2005-09-19, 08:20 AM
Some unorganized thoughts:

It seems like you're taking the most flexible part of the system (spell creation via a small set of basic verbs and nouns) and intentionally crippling it with spell creation times. Why not let spells be created at need?

Using subdual damage could work quite well, and here's a suggestion for a mitigating factor that lets mages cast spells more often per day - if you increase the casting time (i.e. from 1 standard action to a full round action) without increasing the other factors of the spell, you decrease the subdual cost by 1 (or 2 or whatever value you think would be best).

Further, having a straight higher level spells = more vitality might not be the best mechanic for this system. If you're simply increasing something like damage done for a fireball or adding some effect like no saving throw, yes it makes sense to increase subdual cost, but if you're simply adding new types of abilities (you can only use the charm word at 3rd level and up) the cost shouldn't necessarily be higher.

I'll look back on this in more detail when i have some time.

Lysander
2005-09-19, 10:57 AM
Here's a funny idea that just hit me: what if you didn't place any limits on the number of spells cast, either by assigning points per day or by draining health or energy with each casting.

What if the point value instead represented the failure percentage? Thus a sentence worth 32 points would fail 32% of the time. Failing a spell means they misspoke the words of power. The result is that
1) The spell doesn't work.
2) The caster becomes mute for the next 24 hours, and cannot cast any spells or even communicate normally. This effect cannot be dispelled or cured in any way.

As mages progress in power they get modifiers to reduce their sentence values. A mage with modifier -3 wouldn't feel confident using a spell with a 25% failure chance but maybe a powerful one with a -15 modifier would. No spell could be reduced below 1% and some more powerful ones might have a minimum percentage failure that they can be lowered to.

This would result in a world where your players can use tons of magic, send off twenty fireballs in short span of time if they need to. However it would also encourage them to only use magic when entirely necessary because even the slightest cantrip has a 1/100 chance of ending all their spellcasting for the next 24 hours.

Obviously your players might want to put skill points in sign language.

Lysander
2005-09-19, 11:32 AM
Here's an idea on how priests could work in conjuction with the % system I wrote above.

Priests invoke divine power. As such they don't have a chance of failure. However every time they cast a spell there's a chance their god will demand they pray and engage in rituals at some later time. Each priest spell would have a specific ritual for it, with times and in some cases materials. A priest doesn't need to perform the rituals until they reach their maximum debt, how many hours of rituals they can owe perform they need to perform them. A lower level priest might get 1 hour while a more powerful one could get 10, or 24, etc.

I know this might be confusing so let me illustrate how it might work.

Cynux the Priest casts a cure spell. This particular spell has a 25% chance of making his god demand a prayer that lasts 30 minutes. Cynux has a maximum of 5 hours of prayer debt. Once he owes five hours he must perform at least one ritual to be able to cast more spells. A god will not perform a ritual if the priest does not have sufficient unoccupied time to perform the ritual for that spell, should the god demand it.

Rituals would vary widely. Some might demand only 15 minute prayer that could even be whispered while the priest engages in other business. Most would simply require a focused prayer for a half hour or hour. Others could involve complex three hour ceremonies requiring an altar, a sacrificial bull, and the assistance of several virginal maidens to shower petals around a maypole.

I see this type of priest as a very interesting type of caster. They'd be constantly muttering prayers under their breath to work off the lesser spells they owe, and every so often they'd want to take a break to knock off the big ones. They have plenty of prep work but all after the fact.

Virago
2005-09-19, 11:50 AM
There's also the option that you not limit how many Words each player knows at the start/at one time/ever/whatever, but how many of them are actually usable (what're they going to do with the Word that means "internal combustion engine"?). To use a left-field example, the spells in the console game (oh nooo! hear me out, I promise) Eternal Darkness were created by matching found runes together, such as "self + project" or similar, usually in groups of three; to get more powerful versions of the same spell you had to both have a handy magic circle doodad and the Pargon (read: Duracell) rune, adding in appropriate Pargons to boost the spell's effect. The player couldn't use found runes until they unlocked them with...uhm...some other thingy, it's been a while, but you could use spells you technically hadn't found instructions for yet by creative mix and matching. I actually had a great deal of fun imagining results for rune combinations that technically didn't work.

You might opt for certain Words to really screw up the player trying to use them unless they're of a certain level/have a skill or stat above a given rank/take a feat. This particular concept--which is pretty neat, I must say--might work particularly well with spell points, sanity points, and/or fatigue (or all three!).

In other words, control what Words they have, but let it be up to them how to combine them (although whether or not the spell actually works is the DM's call). Perhaps a Knowledge (Elder Tongue) check can reveal known combinations to the studious? Learning new Words is probably an adventure in and of itself, too...

The Glyphstone
2005-09-19, 11:56 AM
Some unorganized thoughts:

It seems like you're taking the most flexible part of the system (spell creation via a small set of basic verbs and nouns) and intentionally crippling it with spell creation times. *Why not let spells be created at need?

Partly source material inspiration, partly game balance. Short spells, simple ones, can be crafted at need and used, only longer ones need writing time. That part isn't a whole lot different than the rules for creating spells with the standard magic system, though that's limited only by Dm's fiat while this has "building blocks" to use first.



Using subdual damage could work quite well, and here's a suggestion for a mitigating factor that lets mages cast spells more often per day - if you increase the casting time (i.e. from 1 standard action to a full round action) without increasing the other factors of the spell, you decrease the subdual cost by 1 (or 2 or whatever value you think would be best).
That'd work. I was considering a feat similar to a metamagic feat that would have such an effect, or they could use the Charisma-based approach I mentioned above, taking extra time to "convince" something to happen rather than force it - draining less power.



Further, having a straight higher level spells = more vitality might not be the best mechanic for this system. *If you're simply increasing something like damage done for a fireball or adding some effect like no saving throw, yes it makes sense to increase subdual cost, but if you're simply adding new types of abilities (you can only use the *charm word at 3rd level and up) the cost shouldn't necessarily be higher.

Good point. Like I said, it needs a lot of work.


Lysander: Interesting, but not really the approach I'm going for. The fatiguing effects of spells are the important part.

Virago: I'll re-read your comments when I get home, but a skim shows very interesting thoughts.

tsuuga
2005-09-19, 12:05 PM
I love this concept, I've been a fan of the Young Wizards series for a long time now. *But what happened to true names? *IMO, requiring the caster to somewhat describe the target would shift the focus away from direct effect spells to creative manipulation of the environment. *I don't mean to suggest that you need to know the life story of every mook you come across to cast on them, but make it dependent on the level of the spell. *For instance, a low level spell might only require the target's genus, i.e. Sleep + Minute + Human-over-there; where a higher level spell (Erase + memory + eternity) might require you to not only know what you want to erase, but to be able to describe the target's personality. *Alternatively, you could require certain knowledge of the target for each verb. *Change might require a physical description, Warm might require you know the current temperature, etc. *

By the way, you might want to mess with Change. *While Change + Toad + Eternity might be a balanced spell, Change + Fish + 10 minutes probably wouldn't be ;)

Edit: Hit enter too early >:(

Knifie_Sp00nie
2005-09-19, 12:14 PM
You could look at how Ars Magica does magic. The 4th edition is a free download: http://www.atlas-games.com/arsmagica/index.php

I'd also look at Shadowrun and their system of drain for magic. It works similarly to the idea of dealing subdual damage for casting spells and was level-based.

SkullspliTTer
2005-09-19, 12:25 PM
With regards to your energy being drained in spellcasting, I support your idea for the vitality/wounds system from d20 Star Wars. I actually ran a DnD game based off this system where spells cost the caster their level in vitality points (6th level spell costs 6 pts to cast), and if a target rolled a one on their save, the damage went to wounds as opposed to vitality. I even had a feat to let you cast out of your wounds if you ran out of vitality, essentially destroying your body in the process. These were the changes I made for magic...other stuff had to be altered for melee rules. Anyways, I didn't know if this was the flavor you were going for or not, if so I can provide more info. Good luck.

Lazarous
2005-09-19, 12:48 PM
Hmm, virago's comments with your own original post lead to some interesting ideas.

So - would it fit the source material if spells were word combinations of specific length and content? I.e. a 1st level spell has a noun and a verb, a second level has a noun, verb and adjective, etc.

Spells can then be costed out on a per-level basis, though it seems more appropriate to use a per-word basis as you might have words that are just fundamentally more useful (or generic, like say Direct instead of throw).

Edit:Thinking about it some more, it seems like this would lend itself to an alternative method of giving spells levels - assign more generic words to higher levels. Take the example of direct rather than throw: throw is a subset of direct, so you could place throw as a 1st level word, while direct would be a 3rd level word. Provide examples of the power level certain words should be rated as, and you can basically just use a dictionary as a spellbook (with appropriate dm adjudication of the word's levels, of course).

You'd probably end up with a lot fewer spell levels than in dnd, with vast gulfs in power between them, but it would also make a bit more sense internally than arbitrary levels based on 'power' of spells.

A possibility for more flexible spellcasting : Instead of researching combinations of words, you research different base words. For example, you know 'create fire', but you want to be able to direct that fire, so you start researching 'throw'. Then, you can create fire in the first round, and direct it in the second.

Another alternative - have researched or formalized spells be easier to cast (costwise probably), have a higher dc or some other tangible benefit, but have them follow the same rules as spells created at need.

OOT-crazy
2005-09-19, 02:08 PM
Reminds me of Gurps magic - you create then throw or create then shape etc etc... - very messy system though in my opinion

ChubsMcGee
2005-09-19, 05:15 PM
On the GURPS magic thing, I put together a class, a rune mage a couple of months ago. It is along the lines of what you are looking for. You can give it a look if you want, Here

It does handle some of the things, like limiting the spells cast. And also gives some concreteness to what the spells will do in combat. That way you don't get people saying that their create fire spell should be dealing 10d6 even though I am only level 5. Though I am interested in an alternative magic system. I dont much care for the more ritual type magic but the more free flowing. THe kind that is featured in nearly all fantasy lit.

The Glyphstone
2005-09-19, 08:12 PM
ARG!!! Stupid browser backspaced when I was trying to type, after about 5 minutes of responding to everyone!!!

Repeat, boiled down:

Virago - good suggestions, I particularly like the idea of a Knowledge skill to give the players Word combinations - it'll be useful if I test it on my RL game group, english isn't really their favorite subject.

Tsuuga - I did forget about True Names, but that seems a difficult thing to implement. I suppose the easiest route would be to boost the save DC if you have personal info about the target (naturally, this won't be much use in random encounters), and some more powerful spells would require such a link to function effectively (a la scrying spells). Thinking ahead, this would definitely have the effect of making bards rocket from butt of jokes and support character to one of the key party members, even ignoring his beefed up music - unless I alter Bardic Lore, which I will have to if a True Name effect is implemented.

Oh, and on the Change example, Baleful Polymorph does cover that, by giving the targets bonuses to saving throws.

Knife_Sp00nie - *I'll read through Ars Magica, maybe it'll come in handy. I'm not buying a Shadowrun book jsut so I can steal their magic system, though. ;D

Anitochus - Maybe. It's looking like I'll end up using non-lethal damage, though - less to teach my players, and I don't know how Vitaility works exactly anyways due to a lack of SW sourcebooks (only a general gist from reading the boards).

Lazaraous: Dunno. Assigning levels to spells could be similar to how the Warlock uses Blast Shape and Eldritch Essence invocations, with the final level of the spell dependent on the highest-level effect used (for this system, also affected by the other Words involved and the end result). More generic words would definitely be prudent.

Now, in general, some more brainstorming from school today. This would be somewhat radical, but also eliminate the problem of making a 2nd or 3rd level spell that gets crazy-powerful at high levels - eliminate variables that depend on caster level. This is risky, I don't know if it's a good idea?


EDIT: Oh, and the Rune Mage is fairly neat, similar in flavor to my planned end result.

tsuuga
2005-09-19, 09:56 PM
Tsuuga - I did forget about True Names, but that seems a difficult thing to implement. I suppose the easiest route would be to boost the save DC if you have personal info about the target (naturally, this won't be much use in random encounters), and some more powerful spells would require such a link to function effectively (a la scrying spells). Thinking ahead, this would definitely have the effect of making bards rocket from butt of jokes and support character to one of the key party members, even ignoring his beefed up music - unless I alter Bardic Lore, which I will have to if a True Name effect is implemented.

Oh, and on the Change example, Baleful Polymorph does cover that, by giving the targets bonuses to saving throws.


Yeah, I guess adding a modifier for true names is a better way to handle it *:P

I had forgotten about that part of the spell description, but my point was supposed to be that by decreasing the duration, it appears that you would be able to use the spell as though it was 4th level. *And in the case of turning something into a 1 HD animal, it has the potential to end fights really quickly. *Maybe Change should only change the physical shape of something, keeping its ability scores intact. *A Baleful Polymorph effect could also require the word Weaken or some such.

Edit: Having each spell level do static damage is a great idea, there's no need to worry about lower level spells being useful when you're not using a spell slot system

Edit Again: Lazarous below this post reminded me that you didn't post if you were going to require certain levels to cast spells, or just limit them by the caster's health. If you're going by standard D&D level requirements, I would suggest that you implement either small dice increases (i.e. level 3 spells deal 5-6 dice, level 4s deal 7-8 ) or give caster classes some kind of treat on levels where their spells don't improve.

Lazarous
2005-09-19, 10:02 PM
Now, in general, some more brainstorming from school today. This would be somewhat radical, but also eliminate the problem of making a 2nd or 3rd level spell that gets crazy-powerful at high levels - eliminate variables that depend on caster level. This is risky, I don't know if it's a good idea?


This is sort of what i was aiming at with my description of the level of a spell denoting how many words (and what type) could be used in it. Your basic Throw Fire spell could have something like Augmented added to the front when it hit level 2, which would provide an increase in its area of effect and damage, or something like Extended Throw Fire which would last for a longer duration, etc. Every one of the spell stats is taken care of by the words making it up, rather than inherent with its level.

I'm viewing this sort of system from a GM adjudication premise - that is, you would have examples of words that are of a given power level, and then let the GM and players basically use a dictionary to figure out the components of spells. You could do it more hard coded in that there are only a few magical words, and they have clearly denoted effects, but that will probably take a lot more time.

The proposal i have right now basically goes as follows:

Each spell level denotes how many words, and of what type must be used in the spell's creation (for example, level 1 spells require noun and verb, level 2 require noun, verb and either adjective or another noun)

The numerical statistics of the spell are the sum of the effects provided by the words that make it up. Said another way, there are no inherent statistics for spells based on their level. You can mitigate the cost of a spell, which is normally just the sum of the individual word costs, but adding casting time. This would likely be the most common way to cast higher level spells as the subdual cost for a 9th level spell seems as if it would be prohibitive.

There are words that have max limits on the level spell they can be added to. For example, the word overpowering assigns some very potent abilities to the spell its attached to, but cannot be added to a spell above 3rd level.

(still very unsure about this) Spell level casting limits are reached quite rapidly - a 9th level character could cast 9th level spells if they chose. However, since the subdual cost would be so high, these types of spells would likely take very long to cast (on the order of hours or days).

Researching new Words is the primary means of a wizard increasing in power, and constitutes the bulk of their downtime. Words that cost more subdual to use have a greater research time, but this is mitigated by character level(for example, overpowering has a high casting cost, and would thus require 30 years for a level 1 mage to research - a level 10 mage could research the same word in 5 months). Researching 'rote' spells that use specific combinations of words allows for some benefit such as decreased casting time, decreased subdual cost, etc.

Is this something like what you're shooting for? If not, could you give specifics?

Lysander
2005-09-19, 10:54 PM
To determine the damaging of spells I'd say make a list of words you want to have used and set a specific amount of damage. For instance the word "DESTROY" might deal 6d6 no matter what. Then you could modify it with "Fire Destroy", "Cold Destroy", "Poison Destroy", "Vibrate Destroy", etc.

Sir_Banjo
2005-09-19, 11:40 PM
Check out Unearthed Arcana. I love this book, it's a little treasure trove of information.

There's about three or four different magic systems in there. My dm's using a modified one right now (the version that tires you out).

Virago
2005-09-19, 11:46 PM
If you feel particularly cruel, whenever they level (or whenever it's appropriate) just assign them words--especially if they're in Fakelanguagian--and don't give them any definitions. It's trial and error and explode messily time! Handy route if you want to encourage studious campaign habits, too.

McDeath
2005-09-19, 11:56 PM
Wouldn't this system mean that a magical dictionary would potentially be the most powerful item in the world? Anyway, just wondering if you wanted to have degrees of failure. Such as, the spell fizzles, the spell fizzles and tires you out (subdual damage, or losing vitality points), the spell goes wrong (some unintended effect), the spell goes horribly wrong (unintended effects, drains your life force).

Just my two cents.

Lysander
2005-09-20, 01:40 PM
About the true names system:

It's a bit much to make them know the name of every enemy they encounter but perhaps they should need to know the general name of the creature they're attacking to target it. A mage who knew the words "Burn" and "Man" could incinerate a male human foe but if they didn't know the word "Dog" their magic would be useless against a terrier.

About targeting: Make gesturing necessary to specify the target of the spell. If a male mage says "Burn Man" and doesn't point at his foe the spell will randomly target a man in the area, possibly the mage. Pointing can also leave room for mistargeting. It'd be nearly impossible to pick a single person out of a crowd, or if your friend was fighting someone at close range you'd have an equal chance of hitting either of them.
To fix this you'd need to know more words. Sure you could possibly get by with "Burn Man" but if your enemy was wearing a hat and nobody else around was, "Burn Man In Hat" would strike true. If more than one person has a hat? "Burn Man in Feathered Hat" A powerful spellcaster would have plenty of words just to act as descriptors.

The Glyphstone
2005-09-22, 06:08 AM
Okay, more insane ramblings.

having dispensed with the standard 9-level system (you have no IDEA how freeing that is, took me too long to realize it), I have a new system. All Words are divided into five ranks, showing how close/accurate they are in power and syntax, whatever, to what the gods actually spoke. The five ranks are:
New (weakest)
Young
Old
Ancient
Epic (most powerful)
There are also Timeless words. Timeless words are the "binding" words, the ones that change a string of random words into a sentence. Stuff like "the", "that", "in", etc. Basically, if it's not a noun/verb/adjective/adverb, it's Timeless and thus available at all levels. You cannot include more Timeless Words than you have Words of other ranks.

Each rank of Words becomes pronounceable at certain levels. My current scale, subject to change, is:
Timeless @ Lvl 1
New @ Lvl 1
Young @ Lvl 3
Old @ Lvl 6
Ancient @ Lvl 10
Epic @ Lvl 15
Note that "Epic" does not carry the same tones as it does in standard D&D, at least not now.

Each rank has a numerical level, from 1-5. Timeless words count as 1/2 rank. To calculate a spell's power level for backlash damage and caster level checks, total the highest-rank Word plus half the combined value of all other Words involved, rounding down. A spell deals 1d4 subdual damage to its caster per final spell level, subject to modifiers.

* Example: A spell is intended to be a general attack spell. "Burn that man" would be a 2nd level spell, since "Burn" is a New Word, "Man" is also a New Word, and "That" is Timeless (1 +1/4 +1/2)=1.75 < 2. This would require a physical gesture (somatic component) to properly aim the spell. "Burn" is a Level 1 Manipulative(Fire) Word that can deal up to 3 dice of damage offensively, so the resulting spell does 3d4 Fire damage to one target, and the caster suffers 2d4 subdual damage.
* Example 2: Now let's make it a dedicated mage-killer. Keep "Burn" and "Man", but remove "That" and add in "The", "in", another "the" and the Young word "Robes". Now, our spell formula is (2 +1/2 +1/2 +1/4 +1/4 +1/4 +1/4) = 4th level spell, inflicting 3d4 Fire damage to a mentally specified target wearing robes or such clothing, and 4d4 subdual damage to the caster. It is higher level than the above, but would not require a somatic component, with the longer incantation "Burn the man in the robes".

Now, my real problem with the above fomulas is them being too harsh in the subdual department. I intend to give Mages a better HD (probably d6), but still a 1st level mage would only make it through 1 or 2 spells before collapsing, far less useful than a normal wizard. The rules I thought out for Meditation are now utterly unbalanced, allowing a mage to recover his entire energy pool in between battles. Perhaps reduce the die to d3 subdual per level?

SkullspliTTer
2005-09-22, 11:55 AM
It looks to me like you have five "levels" of spells, level one being "new" and level five being "epic". My suggestion would be to keep the mages at d4 hit points and set the subdual damage at a fixed rate of 1 point of damage per "level" of spell. So, an epic spell would do 5 subdual damage and a new spell would do 1 subdual damage. If you up the mage hit die to d6 I would double the subdual damage. I ran a game a lot like this once and I used the spell level (I kept the nine levels of spells) as a fixed value to take from the life force of the caster.

Virago
2005-09-22, 11:56 AM
Dropping the subdual damage a bit couldn't hurt, though there's lots of different options here. Maybe prepare a few feats to help reduce it, or have the caster level and spell level affect each other somehow (i.e. casting 2nd-level spells at level 8 or so makes one less likely to explode than at level 5), or even allow things like Will saves for reduced damage. Sure, brains and charm are good for actually figuring this stuff out, but it takes personal experience and willpower to resist the universe trying to backhand you for that thing you just had to go and do.

Lazarous
2005-09-22, 11:59 AM
Example: A spell is intended to be a general attack spell. "Burn that man" would be a 2nd level spell, since "Burn" is a New Word, "Man" is also a New Word, and "That" is Timeless (1 +1/4 +1/2)=1.75 < 2. This would require a physical gesture (somatic component) to properly aim the spell. "Burn" is a Level 1 Manipulative(Fire) Word that can deal up to 3 dice of damage offensively, so the resulting spell does 3d4 Fire damage to one target, and the caster suffers 2d4 subdual damage.
Example 2: Now let's make it a dedicated mage-killer. Keep "Burn" and "Man", but remove "That" and add in "The", "in", another "the" and the Young word "Robes". Now, our spell formula is (2 +1/2 +1/2 +1/4 +1/4 +1/4 +1/4) = 4th level spell, inflicting 3d4 Fire damage to a mentally specified target wearing robes or such clothing, and 4d4 subdual damage to the caster. It is higher level than the above, but would not require a somatic component, with the longer incantation "Burn the man in the robes".

Now, my real problem with the above fomulas is them being too harsh in the subdual department. I intend to give Mages a better HD (probably d6), but still a 1st level mage would only make it through 1 or 2 spells before collapsing, far less useful than a normal wizard. The rules I thought out for Meditation are now utterly unbalanced, allowing a mage to recover his entire energy pool in between battles. Perhaps reduce the die to d3 subdual per level?



That is a pretty elegant system. My main question when i was reading the examples was 'how do you determine the components required for a spell?' and when you stated what you felt the biggest problem of your system was, a lightbulb hit.

Assume that all spells start out, unless otherwise notes, as essentially componentless actions except for verbal. Now, add in mitigating factors for components. In your 'burn the man in the robes' example, its a 4th level spell word wise, and since it has no extra components, it would cost the full 4d4. In your first example, since the spell does have a component - somatic hand waving - you downscale the dice cost for the spell by 1(for example), it now only costs 1d4 to cast.

Perhaps limit the amount of components that can be added to a spell on character level vs spell level? Like, a 4th level character can add 1 component to a spell per level the spell is below their caster level. Example - 4th level mage casting 'burn that man' could add 2 components (4-2) such as somatic and focus and cast 'burn that man' some minimum level of cost (1d3 perhaps? 2d4->1d4->1d3, 2 downscales in dice)

A point about power levels of spells: with the current way you have of calculating spell level, character level is ignored. This leads to strange effects like extremely specific spells being beyond 20th level in power (if using epic words) while more general spells are fairly weak (fireballs for example). I'd suggest adding a few words like greater or improved, expanded - basically just words that can up the numerical values of other spells. The converse can't really hold, since adding words is always increasing spell level.

Another point about meditation : letting casters regain their full power between fights might not be necessarily bad, if they can't do much per fight. It will have fairly profound world effects, but combat balance wise it can work out fine (and in fact most mmorpg's follow that philosophy).

Lysander
2005-09-22, 03:22 PM
How are you determining what level words fall into? For instance what makes "burn" and "man" new and "robes" young?

Seerow
2005-09-22, 03:24 PM
As far as the subdual damage goes, I see two ways of going about it.

1) Make it the way you originally intended to, 1d4/level and have a feat that allows you to regenerate the subdual damage after a short respite/meditation.

This actually seems the easiest and most logical thing to do. Subdual damage tends to be quickly healed anyway, so why not have an ability to get rid of it quickly?

2) The other way is to up the subdual damage, and give various things to knock it down. Make it say 1d6/level will save=DC of the Spell to halve damage (Minimum one).

Then have feats/gradually gained class abilities(so multiclassing for prestige classes has more of a penalty) that reduce damage. Say one high level feat/ability makes you take half damage and save to reduce damage to 1. (This would probably be around level 20 when your spells total value would become something along the lines of 20-30 point value so the DC would be insane to pass[I dont know many casters who can pull off a DC 40 save], and you would kill yourself without such things)

Lower level abilities may be things like subtract your intelligence modifier from damage, add a round of concentration prior to actually speaking the spell to take damage as if the spell were half the level, and other such things.


Personally, Id go with the first one, but the second could add a lot of flavor.

Also, the high level ability suggested assumes going with the traditional Spell Level+10=DC. If that is the case however, you may wish to make the enemies only half to make half that save to pass, or the casters will be seriously overpowered.

Also, do you intend to make a full dictionary for the words that can be used? Or just make general guidelines for what would be considered what level?

Like I see "Transform" or "Polymorph" as an Ancient word at least, but so far you havent given any guidelines on these sort of things.

The Glyphstone
2005-09-22, 05:28 PM
Well, to start with, it'll probably be something adding 1/2 the spell level to the save DC instead of the full level. There will be various ways to manipulate the DC for various reasons, such as lowering it to take less damage from spells, or voluntarily suffering lethal damage from spells to increase the DC.

On the "levels" of various Words - Once I've finalized how magic will actually work, I'll create both general guidelines on the recommended power of Words of X rank and some example Words. So, say, "Change" might be a Young Word, depending, that might tie into an Alter Self-like spell if combined with "Appearance". "Body" might be an Old Word, combine it with Change and the needed Timeless words to replicate Polymorph - a Baleful Polymorph might require the inclusion of "Mind", another Old Word.

Seerow: I like the second option better, I'm going to need a lot of flavor to make this setting and system stand out. Since the main benefit of the Wizard/Sorcerer classes is gaining access to additional spell slots, I'll need various abilities/perks to replace that. An ability that allows them to recover subdual faster, a feat chain that allows them to "meditate" for recovered subdual, all kinds of options there. I particularly like the idea of using Will saves to reduce backlash.

And someone else proposed using mitigating factors, like D&D Epic spells do, which would help reduce the damage. Certain things, say, adding a somatic component, could subtract damage.

For damage-dealing spells, I had a solution for that - but it's kind of klunky. Let's say "Singe" is the basic New Word for manipulating fire, with an arbitrary damage cap of 3 dice (replacing Burn). "Scorch" is its Young equivalent, with a cap of 6 dice. "Brun", Roast", and "Immolate" are the Old, Ancient, and Epic Words in the chain, dealing even more dice worth of damage.

The Glyphstone
2005-09-25, 06:34 AM
Nobody has any more help to offer?

Anyways, some of the general guidelines for the power of Words:

New Words: The lowest level, consisting of either basic elements, particular items, names of specific species (humanoids, monstrous humanoids, animals, vermin, magical beasts, and undead only), and the lowest damage-manipulating words. In general, a spell composed mostly of New Words will be weak and relatively cheap.

Young Words: Slightly more powerful than New, would be such things as a certain creature type or subtype in general (same restrictions as above), or a specific type of abberation/outsider/elemental/dragon, more powerful manipulative words, and more common nouns. Young Words begin such effects as extended spell duration (with Minute), and the alteration of other spells (Big, Small to expand area, for example).

Old Words: Even better Manipulative words, and more general nouns/adjectives/verbs. With Old Words, one can start dealing more significant damage to enemies, with more general words available and enough power to affect the mightiest creatures. Old Words are also needed for such things as Polymorph spells (utilizing Body and/or Mind).

Ancient Words: Ancient Words are very powerful, only one step below Epic. At Ancient and beyond, the correct level of Words is pretty much up to the DM, being so hard to judge. The most general targetting nouns, like a general (Creature) would be Ancient. Also, Kill or Death should be Ancient, necessary for instant death spells.

Epic Words: Epic words are almost identical to the words the gods themselves spoke, and carry that much power. The only defined Epic Words are ones that would be needed in 8th or 9th level spells, as well as anything that deals with ressurection (Life), and any spell that intends to have a Permanent duration requires the use of Eternity.

Some sample Words, though the list might be unbalanced and is in no way complete (that requires a bit of DM work, depending on how they view the power level of certain effects).

New Examples: Man, Goblin, Fire, Cold, Electric, Singe, Shock, Breastplate, Smell, Sound.
Young Examples: Armor, Scorch, Humanoid, Black Dragon, Astral Deva, Alter, Appearance, Big, Small, Wood, Minute.
Old Examples: Change, Burn, Dragon, Abberation, Clothing, Metal, Stone, Freeze, Body, Mind, Hour.
Ancient Examples: Warp, Roast, Day, Death.
Epic Examples: Life, Eternity.

Seerow
2005-09-26, 07:32 PM
The more I see the more I like the idea, because it encourages creativity...


I can just see a player, going by that sample list "Scorch Breastplate" I wonder how much damage it would deal to roast someone inside of their own armor....

Yeah, it's a very DM oriented thing, which is why Im very lacking in extra ideas to help you with it beyond what Ive already given.

So, a few questions that may provide further insight:

1) If you have two words that deal damage, would they stack? (ie: Freezing Burst or some such thing, would it deal damage as both of those, or just the highest damage but take the Cold Element?)

2) Does specific grammar count? (ie if you have you use Freezing instead of Freeze, would it change anything as far as casting level goes?)

3) Do Wizards(Manipulators?) know all words from a given level they have access to(ie a 10th level mage knows all words Old and below), or do they have a 'dictionary' of words that they know, and they learn more through study?

4) Are all metamagic type spells going to be considered Young?


Also, just something I thought of to consider as far as the backlash damage goes. Rather than giving a mage a higher hitdie, if you're going with the system I suggested previously, make the damage delt depend on both the total spell level, and the type of words used. Going by the highest word used for each.

For example, a spell of all New words deals only 1d2 per level, while an Epic spell would deal say 1d10.

New=1d2
Young=1d4
Old=1d6
Ancient=1d8
Epic=1d10

That way new spell casters dont have to worry about rolling an unlucky 4 and knocking themselves out right away, but you don't have to mess with the hit die, while later casters might be more inclined to use more inventive combinations of lower level words rather than resorting to "Kill man" or "Take his life", because while a lower level complex spell may have about the same spell value, they'll take less damage from it.

The Glyphstone
2005-09-26, 07:56 PM
1 - Only one Manipulation spell can be applied to a single element, so only one Manipulation(Fire) or Manipulation(Electricity), but you could use both with their respective elements to create a Shocking Fireball - nasty damage, but will really take it out of the caster.

2 - Probably not, it's still the same root word, just a different tense.

3 - I'll probably use the generic moniker Mage for the class. The Words will be divided into a few general "types": Manipulative Words (of any rank) change or alter what already exists, Conjurative Words bring things into being, and maybe a third type for "other" effects. So for the 'cook'em in his armor' spell, you'd need Scorch + That,His,some Timeless Word to designate a target + Breastplate, and I personally would rule it as an instant Heat Metal-type spell at Searing damage, so 2d4 fire damage as a 2nd level spell of all New words - by your system, *2d2 subdual to the caster.

4 - Huh? What exactly are you referring to when you say Metamagic-type spells? With the Word-based system, there won't be any metamagic feats.

On Backlash: That's a very interesting idea - though most words will have a combination of Words from different levels, so it'd be based off the highest-rank Word used for that spell. I really do like it, though.

Seerow
2005-09-26, 09:21 PM
God dammit, I had a response typed up, and clicked post JUST as the forums went down, lost it all.


Lets try this again.

1) Mmm shocking fireball. Sounds fun. No arguments here, as the backlash damage balances that IMO

2) Fair enough.

3) So only 3 groups of word, based on their effect type, and the mage knows all of them? My main thing here is how the mage magically comes to know an entire level of the language upon reaching X level. I think they should get maybe 90% of common words, but some more obscure words they aren't taught/don't discover through their studies, unless they specifically look for it.

However, unless you know ahead of time which things you dont want your players to know right away, this could lead to problems. (Say you go case by case, the player tries to use a word you wanted banned, and he didnt know this ahead of time), but writing up a list of these words could be time consuming, and you may forget one or two of them.

It also makes me question what the point of doing this would be aside pure flavor, so you could skip it entirely if you wanted (Or use it to impose balance by saying several useful words are obscure, but if they're useful... why are they hard to find?)

4) Sorry, metamagic is just the word that comes to mind for such things. What I was referring to is what you were describing under "Young" words, the time extention, expanded, etc. Those sorts of things are what I qualify as metamagic, except now you have them as words instead of feats. Sorry for the confusion.


On Backlash: That's a very interesting idea - though most words will have a combination of Words from different levels, so it'd be based off the highest-rank Word used for that spell. I really do like it, though.


Going by the highest word used

Yeah I already had it covered. But I guess I could have been clearer, so yeah, that's what I had intended. (Note though, higher level spells will be dealing something along the lines of 20d10 with this system, but then, by the time you have the levels to cast this, you have a bunch of damage reduction abilities, so it all evens out)

The Glyphstone
2005-09-27, 05:38 AM
3)Oops, I must have missed that. I completely intend for the mage's "vocabular" to be very limited at first - seeking out new Words to learn should be just as much an adventure as the fighter getting a shiny magic sword, or finding scrolls in a dragon's treasure heap.

Muzzleflash
2005-09-27, 05:49 AM
I'd suggest adding a few words like greater or improved, expanded - basically just words that can up the numerical values of other spells. *The converse can't really hold, since adding words is always increasing spell level.



At the risk of not knowing what I'm talking about, there could be a few 'relaxing' or 'meditative' words for each of the five levels, which would a) lower the effect of the spoken sentence and b) lower the subdual damage to the mage.

I like this system. It reminds me of decks of cards and runes etched into thin air.

The Glyphstone
2006-07-28, 06:32 AM
Hmmmmm.....it's been almost six months since I made this thread - but it's on the first page. Threadnomancy, or not? ???

Anyone have suggestions - I might go back and keep working on this...