PDA

View Full Version : Stupid Idea #6 - Momentum Casting



FreakyCheeseMan
2013-05-18, 02:13 PM
I'm in the process of building a game system from the ground up; I'm putting all of my more unusual ideas up here for review, criticism, mockery and pelting with rotten vegetables.

Actually, just this once, I don't think that today's idea is stupid at all (largely because it wasn't mine.) But, it's too late to ditch the format, so, Today's Stupid Idea is... Momentum Casting.

Proposed Rules
I confess, my ideas on this one are a lot more vague than usual, and I'm really hoping for suggestions (particularly from people who've played with this kind of system before.) However, the basic idea is this:

Caster's can't work their most powerful magics at a whim; they have to build up to them first, over the course of several turns. So, on the first round of combat, a caster could only work his weaker, more basic magics; as the battle continued and he burned more spells, though, he'd start to warm up (gain momentum), and by the 3rd-5th round of combat, he'd be up to some of his most powerful spells. When combat ends, he may have to "Cool down" slowly as well, burning additional spells of decreasing level.

I've yet to decide exactly how I'll represent this; one idea is to have Momentum be represented by a total amount of mana a character could burn in a given turn, with some rules about how it increases. I may also classify spells into levels (9 is too many; I'm thinking 5) and have a simple mechanic for getting into and out of more intense "Casting States."

Obviously, one thing that needs to be done is prevent casters from spending all of their time in a heightened casting state - as I'm not going to use Vancian Casting, I can't simply rely on them not wanting to burn up all of their spells, and I don't like the idea of Daily Resources for mages. I might have some sort of continuing nonlethal/endurance damage from staying in a casting state too long (or at all.)

I may even decide that this is the limiting factor on how many spells/what level of spells mages can cast - abandon the idea of Spells Per Day or Mana Costs altogether, and just say "You can only cast spells of a certain level once you're warmed up for it, but being warmed up has other costs, and you can't stay warmed up forever.

Justification - Gameplay
Obviously, the big advantage of this is that limits casters ending fights instantly with their most powerful spells, while still allowing those powerful, interesting effects to exist.

I also think that this adds a lot of interesting variety to the strengths and weaknesses mages can have; some might be able to warm up quicker than others, while others might take a longer time to reach that level, but have the endurance to keep it up for much longer; still other mages might focus all of their energies into getting the maximum effect from their low-level spells, without ever really warming up at all.

I like the dynamic this (hopefully) creates for fighter vs. mage or mage vs. mage fights. In the early rounds of a fighter-on-mage battle, the fighter will be trying to end it quickly before the mage gets his best tools out - the mage, meanwhile, will just be trying to survive, and do a little damage if he can. If the mage survives for a few rounds, the balance of power shifts; now the mage is chucking around his best stuff, and the fighter is scrambling to stay alive. The mage still isn't safe, though, because now all the fighter has to do is run out the clock - if the mage doesn't win quickly, he'll either have to cool down or get hit by whatever bad stuff happens if he doesn't (running out of spells entirely, passing out, actual damage, whatever.)

For mage vs. mage, there may be some of the same things going on, only on both sides; both mages may try to warm up as fast as possible to wipe the other out with high-level spells, or one of them may warm up slower, and rely on surviving the other's onslaught then beating them once they've burned out.

It has fun implications for the party, as well; fights can be more varied (as short fights won't last long enough for mages to warm up at all, while longer ones may see the mages dealing with the effects of exhaustion or even trying to draw together resources for a second heat.) Horrific ambushes can happen if the enemy mages manage to wind up in secret or teleport in at full born, leaving the entire party scrambling to survive as high-level spells are thrown at them in the first round of combat.

Most of all, though, I think this is the best mechanism I've heard yet for limiting mages; all of the other options seem to either not work, make mages unplayable, or just make mages un-fun. (Long casting times, for instance, seem downright punitive - "You want to play a wizard? Get ready to spend most of your turns doing nothing."

So, what do people think? And suggestions for making this work? Any pitfalls I should watch out for?

Eldan
2013-05-18, 02:19 PM
Please, please, please, please don't call it Mana? Mana is an interesting mythological concept, I can't stand it when people use it as a generic term for magical energy.

I like the general idea. With one caveat, though: you have to be careful so that low-level spells aren't pointless in your system in a higher-level fight. If you have something like saves, enemies have to have a chance to fail against low-level spells. Low-level buffs can't be easily overridden by higher-level ones and damage can't be trivial. And so on. Or at least give them clever uses for the intelligent mage.

Without that, the game would become rather boring for the mage, I'd imagine. A case of hte player saying "I cast a spell, oh, I did nothing" every five to ten minutes for half an hour before they can contribute. And nothing kills tension faster than boredom and having to watch others have fun.

FreakyCheeseMan
2013-05-18, 02:33 PM
Hmm... I generally call it "Mana" just out of nostalgia, cause that's what the earliest RPGs I played called it. I can come up with something else, though.

*Nods* Yeah, I'll need to work to make sure low-level stuff stays relevant. I'm actually considering arranging spells on two axes - there's the Spell Level in terms of what character level is needed to learn it, and Spell... I'll call it "Tier" in terms of how major its effects are, etc (and you'd have to warm up to use a High-Tier spell). So, there might be a very good, very cheap basic attack spell that's high level or low tier, or something expensive with more far-reaching (but still limited) effects, that's low level and high tier. "Entangle" might be a good example of a low-level, high-tier spell, while any of the Orb spells could be mid-level, low-tier.

eftexar
2013-05-18, 02:38 PM
That gives me an idea. What if you have a mana limit that varies each round? Here's what I'm thinking:

For limiting spellcasting you could literally do a 'casting state,' where you have to enter a meditative state. Maintaining it requires a move action, for full caster's at least, each round and is subject to concentration. One round after this state has ended mana depletes at a rate of twice that it was gained per round.
Each round the spellcaster could build up lets say 1 mana per round (and up to 3 at higher levels). Our five levels of spells might cost 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. If he is interrupted before his next turn comes he takes mental ability damage to his casting score equal to the amount of mana he would gain.
And, if you wanted to make magic more dangerous, the spellcaster could take un-mitigable non-lethal damage equal to the mana gained each round. Hmm... I might have to run with it myself.

[edit]: It sort of builds up, like you were thinking, and can be explained 'realistically'. This also adds some depth of strategy with the fact that casting your mid level spells makes it harder to cast higher level spells sooner. The math needs work, but the above was really just proof of concept.

Draz74
2013-05-18, 03:08 PM
*Nods* Yeah, I'll need to work to make sure low-level stuff stays relevant.

Good. One of the main problems that usually comes up with magic systems that are limited by "inflict (nonlethal) damage to yourself when you cast" is that they usually make Gishes terrible.

But if there are enough gish-friendly spells (with enough variety) that are still low-level in your system ... then I think this has the potential to be an interesting new magic system.

AttilaTheGeek
2013-05-18, 11:19 PM
This idea is so cool. Like, actually amazing. You'd need to do so much playtesting to make it balanced, but I would very gladly participate in it.

It reminds me of when I used to PvP as an Arcane mage in World of Warcraft, during the end of Cataclysm: each time I cast my main spell (which took about a second and a half), it would be 20% stronger than the previous time, up to a maximum of 250% strength after five casts. At the beginning of each fight, my damage would be piddly, but if I could get to warm up and pop cooldowns I could tear people to shreds. It was balanced out by the fact that if I went eight or ten seconds without casting that particular spell I'd lose the bonuses and have to start over. I loved it.

I don't understand the "two-axis spell rating" system, though. If spell tier represents "major its effects are" and spell level represents how powerful it is, don't they fulfill the same purpose? You mentioned Entangle, which should just be higher level anyway.

As for numeric rules, I think you want something like this plot (http://www4a.wolframalpha.com/Calculate/MSP/MSP59981g56101909aehged00001ec2g3c0fi798ifb?MSPSto reType=image/gif&s=52&w=300.&h=192.&cdf=RangeControl), where the x-axis represents time and the y-axis represents maximum spell level.


It sort of builds up, like you were thinking, and can be explained 'realistically'. This also adds some depth of strategy with the fact that casting your mid level spells makes it harder to cast higher level spells sooner. The math needs work, but the above was really just proof of concept.

I really like this effect from a gameplay point of view. How about this: At the beginning of each turn, the caster gains a number of "spell points" (or whatever) equal to half their casting ability score modifier plus two times the number of rounds they've been in combat. The five levels of spells cost 1, 3, 6, 10, and 15 points respectively (the triangular numbers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangular_number)).

For example, a 20th-level caster with a score of 32 in their casting stat has a modifier of +11, so they get 5 points per round plus two per round before. On round one they get 5 points, they open with a second-level spell (which costs 3) and leave 2 for next round. On round two, they get 7 points for a total of 9 and decide to spend 6 of them on a third-level spell, leaving 3. On the third round, they get 9 points for a total of 12, and cast a fourth-level spell for 10, leaving 2. Round four, they get 11 points and cast a fourth-level spell. They can't cast a fifth-level spell on round four because they've been casting the highest level spell they can each round, but they'll get 13 more points on round 5 and be able to then.

Alternatively, they could have been more sparing with their spells in the beginning of the fight to jump to higher-level spells at the end. For example, they gain 5 points the first round and spend 1 on a first-level spell, leaving 4 for when they gain 7 more on the second round and can spend 10 on a fourth-level spell. That leaves 1 for round four, when they gain 9 more and spend 10 on another fourth-level spell, and they get 11 more on round five, which leaves 1 when they cast another fourth-level spell.

It could use some playtesting, but what do you think?

eftexar
2013-05-18, 11:58 PM
Yeah, I suppose I can throw up a thread in a couple of minutes and we could try to iron it out. We'll have to throw up a link to this thread though. I don't want to steal his thunder.
I want to use the spells already in place, because my last attempt at rewriting all of the spells sort of fizzled out from lack of feedback. If we find something that we don't like with spells we can mass patch them with some errata.

FreakyCheeseMan
2013-05-19, 03:46 PM
Good. One of the main problems that usually comes up with magic systems that are limited by "inflict (nonlethal) damage to yourself when you cast" is that they usually make Gishes terrible.

But if there are enough gish-friendly spells (with enough variety) that are still low-level in your system ... then I think this has the potential to be an interesting new magic system.

Making this work with Gishes will be... tricky. The good news is, the system I have in mind doesn't have "Nonlethal Damage" in the way that 3.5 does (at least not yet) - there are Wounds, and there's endurance, and they're totally different things. The bad news is, Endurance is what martial characters use for manoeuvres and the like, so, to make a Gish work, you'd either have to keep your magic use at a low burn, really restrict your options in combat, or really pump your constitution/endurance.


I don't understand the "two-axis spell rating" system, though. If spell tier represents "major its effects are" and spell level represents how powerful it is, don't they fulfill the same purpose? You mentioned Entangle, which should just be higher level anyway.


The distinction is a little bit tricky... but, I can see a lot of spells where I think "I'm okay with a low-level mage casting this, but not on their first round" or "I can see a high-level character opening the fight with this, but it's still too much for a low-level character to use at all."

Right now, I'm thinking more and more about it turns of casting state spread across various tiers - the higher tiers would not only be difficult to maintain, but they might have other benefits as well. (For instance, it might be really, really easy to detect a mage at full burn, even a long ways off; a completely mundane character, meanwhile, might be almost impossible to find with magic.) Add to that something along the lines of Mana Burn from the Magic card game... hmm.

Sgt. Cookie
2013-05-19, 04:09 PM
Perhaps if you renamed them to "Complexity" and "Power" that might mame the distinction easier to understand.

Complexity refers to how difficult a spell is to learn, thus it's relative power level. For example, a Complexity 2 spell is weaker than a Complexity 4 spell of the same power.

Power refers to a spell's, well, power. A higher Power spell requires more warming up than a lower Power spell. For example, two spells, one Power 1 and the other Power 5 that are both Complexity 3, the P1 spell can be used sooner than the P5 spell.

Belial_the_Leveler
2013-05-19, 04:25 PM
Questions:

1) Why do the wizards get more powerful as time goes on in a fight? Wouldn't it make sense that they get tired wielding magic and their output actually falls?

2) If magic works like this, what's to stop a wizard from using a low-power escape or turtling spell (like the 4th lvl D-Door) to get away, power up safely and then come back and blast things to bit?

3) What works with out-of combat spells if "momentum" is the resource wizards use instead of spell slots? Could, for example, a 20th level necromancer continually spam Summon Undead I (a 1st lvl spell) out of combat to both hold his momentum up and have a small army of undead with him? What about an illusionist holding Invisibility, Mirror Image and Nondetection up so he remains invisible and undetectable to most enemies until he's ready to blast?

Eldan
2013-05-19, 04:52 PM
Or a slightly more all-day question: if a wizard wants to ,say, cast fly to get across a chasm, does he have to shoot a few trees with magic missile first?

I suggest an option to meditate to build up momentum without casting. It feels strange otherwise.

FreakyCheeseMan
2013-05-19, 05:01 PM
Questions:
1) Why do the wizards get more powerful as time goes on in a fight? Wouldn't it make sense that they get tired wielding magic and their output actually falls?

The wonderful thing about magic is that it doesn't *really* exist, so we can make it work however we like. However, the fluff I have goes something like this:

Caster's aren't actually using their own power, for the most part; they're influencing a magical field that already surrounds them, and using it to exert their will; the very small amount of power they actually do use is simply to direct the magical field to do as they need. (Think of it as the power required to send a command to turn on an oven, rather than the power of the oven itself.)

The more connected a mage is to the magical field, the stronger the effects he can exert; however, connection to this field is difficult to establish and exhausting. So, it takes some time for a mage to build his connection the local field; thankfully, casting spells helps to build this connection. Being fully connected, however, is like having a T1 line plugged directly into your brain - it gets overwhelming fast, so most mages aren't able to keep it up for long.


2) If magic works like this, what's to stop a wizard from using a low-power escape or turtling spell (like the 4th lvl D-Door) to get away, power up safely and then come back and blast things to bit?

Remember that this system is not using 3.5's spell list; there's no reason specific spells like Dimension Door need to be included at all, nor for them to be included at a certain level - I could very easily see myself making any teleportation or dimension door effects only work from full burn anyway, so they wouldn't be useful for this sort of thing. Past that, general "Keep myself alive until I hit full burn" strategies might be something that a lot of mages choose to do - but, there are risks inherent in that as well (such as leaving your allies in the lurch, giving your enemies time to prepare without interference, etc.)



3) What works with out-of combat spells if "momentum" is the resource wizards use instead of spell slots? Could, for example, a 20th level necromancer continually spam Summon Undead I (a 1st lvl spell) out of combat to both hold his momentum up and have a small army of undead with him? What about an illusionist holding Invisibility, Mirror Image and Nondetection up so he remains invisible and undetectable to most enemies until he's ready to blast?

Handful of responses here.

First, again, this is not meant to be "Companion rules" to 3.5; there's no reason any of those specific spells you listed would exist at all, or at those levels.

In terms of mages constantly keeping themselves at a low burn, there's a couple of easy fixes for that. The first, more boring one is to say that any turn in which you cast a spell you're automatically at a low burn, and take (slight) endurance damage - so, a mage who tried it would just pass out. The second, more fun option is to accept that mages can keep a (very) low burn up at all times - so, mages will have one or two buffs they can keep going at all times, but they'd be very low-level things (detect magic, for instance, or some energy resistance) - in that case, the idea is that mages would just be expected to have some defensive spells up at all times, and I'd bump the "Burn Level" of all other spells up by one, so it took the same amount of time for them to warm up to their best spells.

In terms of mages just constantly spamming low-level spells - I actually have a different mechanism for maintaining spells with a duration than the standard, so this won't be a problem. Basically, mages get a certain number of Thought Actions per turn, they can spend on spells (some spells cost more than others.) Maintaining a spell reserves one or more thought actions, though - so, it both puts a limit on the number of spells you can maintain at once, and means that if you're keeping a lot of spells up, you can't do as much casting every round. So, for the examples you gave, the Necromancer might be able to keep a few minions up and shambling at all times (but not a horde of them), and the illusionist might be able to keep himself magically hidden at all times, but they couldn't both keep all of their buffs/summons going at once.


Or a slightly more all-day question: if a wizard wants to ,say, cast fly to get across a chasm, does he have to shoot a few trees with magic missile first?

I suggest an option to meditate to build up momentum without casting. It feels strange otherwise.

Yeah, you answered your own question there. :smalltongue: Mages can meditate/cast "Empty" spells to warm up.

Just to Browse
2013-05-19, 11:15 PM
Your worst problem in this example is the Bag of Rats/Decanter of Kittens. You shouldn't incentivize players to occasionally roll attacks against walls or meditate every time they run out of momentum in order to make sure they're at peak capacity. There needs to be some sort of failsafe.

In addition, this will require varied fight-times, which is generally unlikely unless you give the non-momentum characters some sort of pace-changing mechanic (like the conditionality of sneak attacks, or giving the dragoon x4 auto-crits only when he has special positioning). Otherwise every EL=CR fight will end with some variant of "...and then mage cast fireball".

Also, Belial has a point in that most turtling spells immediately get the [Awesome] tag, which means mobility and defenses in your game need to take a huge nerf. That's not something that makes a game untenable, it's just something to notice.

Also, it totally doesn't have to be for mages only. Some casters could use it, some might not. Assassins and Rogues seem like a great non-magic archetype to add momentum too, and I think a 4e-ish clone tried this as well (4th Age? 5th Age? Something like that).

FreakyCheeseMan
2013-05-20, 01:13 AM
Your worst problem in this example is the Bag of Rats/Decanter of Kittens. You shouldn't incentivize players to occasionally roll attacks against walls or meditate every time they run out of momentum in order to make sure they're at peak capacity. There needs to be some sort of failsafe.

Well, the whole idea is that there are costs for being in the casting states - right now my idea is that it causes exhaustion, but it could be any number of things (including just "You have to keep casting and you have limited spells/magic energy per day.") Either way, players who try to do that would fail - either by passing out, or exhausting all their resources early on.


In addition, this will require varied fight-times, which is generally unlikely unless you give the non-momentum characters some sort of pace-changing mechanic (like the conditionality of sneak attacks, or giving the dragoon x4 auto-crits only when he has special positioning). Otherwise every EL=CR fight will end with some variant of "...and then mage cast fireball".

I'm not 100% what you mean by this - yeah, that'll happen if I make the spells *too* powerful, but it'd be no worse than it is without the momentum system - the only difference being that, without momentum, every fight would *end* that way.


Also, Belial has a point in that most turtling spells immediately get the [Awesome] tag, which means mobility and defenses in your game need to take a huge nerf. That's not something that makes a game untenable, it's just something to notice.
Well, like I said, I intend to make most mobility - at least, large-scale "get out of the fight entirely" mobility spells require a hard burn to cast in the first place. As for general defenses, I don't really have a problem with that - "Defend myself until I can unleash my best spells" is a perfectly viable strategy, especially as it does have its own costs (you're not doing anything else for those turns, you never know if your enemy doesn't have a way to counter some specific defence, etc.)



Also, it totally doesn't have to be for mages only. Some casters could use it, some might not. Assassins and Rogues seem like a great non-magic archetype to add momentum too, and I think a 4e-ish clone tried this as well (4th Age? 5th Age? Something like that).

*Nods* I've yet to decide exactly how the class system will work in this game, but yeah - I may very well have some mages that deal with it differently than others, or other classes that use something similar.

Just to Browse
2013-05-20, 01:33 AM
Well, the whole idea is that there are costs for being in the casting states - right now my idea is that it causes exhaustion, but it could be any number of things (including just "You have to keep casting and you have limited spells/magic energy per day.") Either way, players who try to do that would fail - either by passing out, or exhausting all their resources early on.Ah, if there's a second limitation, then I can see it being OK. Just gotta watch out for over-taxing casters and abuse through at-will mechanics.


I'm not 100% what you mean by this - yeah, that'll happen if I make the spells *too* powerful, but it'd be no worse than it is without the momentum system - the only difference being that, without momentum, every fight would *end* that way.What I mean is that if you don't make fights vary in duration, the end of the encounter will almost always be dictated by how difficult that encounter is, and since the encounters are generally going to be similar in difficulty, most encounters will end the same way.

For example, if battles should last four rounds and mages can warm up by the third, the battle will go:
1. Stab things
2. Stab things
3. Stab things
4. Mage is supercharged--he ends the fight

The only way to stop fights from always ending with "Mage ends the fight" is if the battles vary in length--some of them are counter-mage fights, so they go on 6 rounds while some are perfect for melee so they go 1-2 rounds and the mage doesn't get the chance to build up. It kind of sounds like a tautology (if you don't make combats different in length, they'll all be the same) but what I'm trying to emphasize is that adding a momentum mechanic means you're under a higher incentive to make combats variable, or else they end up like the Five Moves of Doom.


Well, like I said, I intend to make most mobility - at least, large-scale "get out of the fight entirely" mobility spells require a hard burn to cast in the first place. As for general defenses, I don't really have a problem with that - "Defend myself until I can unleash my best spells" is a perfectly viable strategy, especially as it does have its own costs (you're not doing anything else for those turns, you never know if your enemy doesn't have a way to counter some specific defence, etc.)Yeah, it's totally possible to write up a good game with this in mind, I just wanted to emphasize that as well, because it means extra work. And extra work is haaaaaard.

Belial_the_Leveler
2013-05-20, 05:56 AM
Actually, I just thought up a fairly simple (i.e. not needing to rework every single spell) to implement "focus" system that lacks many of the problems I mentioned and doesn't require too many changes. Tell me what you think;


Casting Focus
Casting spells requires an amount of focus and concentration proportional to the power of the spell and for that reason spellcasters are inherently more vulnerable in combat (in addition to their limited physical training).

Effects of Focus
For each Focus Rank a full spellcaster has, they get a cumulative -1 to AC and reflex saves, -3 to initiative, -2 to perception and stealth checks, -1 to any combat maneuver checks and their base land speed is reduced by 5 ft, other forms of movement reduced proportionately. Casting sufficiently powerful spells is usually too involved for a wizard to move around, defend himself effectively and notice hidden things.
Classes that get less than 9th level spells are not as dedicated to their spellcasting as full casters and get lesser penalties; delay all penalties by the level of spell slots they miss out. I.e. a Bard that only gets up to 6th level spells (3 less than wizard) would get no penalties for the first 3 Focus Ranks.
Maintaining beneficial spells on creatures requires maintaining at least the level of Focus you had when you cast them.
A spellcaster can maintain high levels of focus indefinitely - but due to the various penalties this might not be worth it, especially if the spellcaster needs to adventure beyond their safe ritual chambers.

Raising and lowering Focus
All casters start out at focus 0. Once per round as a free action, they can concentrate to raise their Focus Rank by 1 plus 1 per 8 spellcasting levels beyond the first.
Failing a concentration check to cast a spell (but not maintain one) forcibly lowers the focus by 1. Also, they can safely (and willingly) lower focus by 1 Rank per round. Being forced or choosing to lower their focus by more than 1 per round causes fatigue for a number of minutes equal to the focus lowered. Repeated focus-fatigue in a battle stacks to exhaustion and stacks in duration. Added fatigue once they're already exhausted cumulatively increases the fatigue penalty to str/dex by 1 and stacks in duration.

Complexity, Backlash and Fallout
To cast a spell, a spellcaster must have a Focus rank equal to its complexity. That is usually equal to the spell's level, but sufficiently complex and less direct spells can have extra complexity. A spellcaster can try to cast a spell without the required amount of focus. In that case they take either backlash from the magical energies on their own bodies -typically a harmful effect of a level equal to the complexity deficit- or magical fallout from lack of control happens on the environment - typical a harmful effect of a level equal to twice the complexity deficit, capped at the spell's level. The exact nature of the backlash or fallout is up to the GM but it should be non-trivial and actually matter; if a wizard is immune to fire then backlash might be inflicted as crushing force for example.
Example: A wizard in current Focus Rank 6 is attempting to cast Meteor Swarm (complexity 9). He chooses to take the deficit as backlash and a fireball (backlash 3) fills his own square, damaging him as the Meteor Swarm is completed.
Example 2: A Sorceress in current Focus Rank 6 attempts to cast Time Stop (complexity 13). Because she doesn't want to be hit by a backlash deficit equivalent to a 7th level spell, she chooses Fallout. She gets her Time Stop normally but the uncontrolled temporal energy she unleashed disrupts the fabric of the world, coalescing as a Gate that calls forth a powerful demon of the Abyss that attacks everyone present.

Yakk
2013-05-20, 11:48 AM
I would actually not make casting low and mid level spells slow down the casting of the high level spells.

Instead, what I might do is something like this:
On round 1, you can cast 1st level spells
On round 2, you can cast 2nd level spells
...
On round 9, you can cast 9th level spells.

Ie, instead of it being a point based system, it is a flow based system. You have to build up the momentum to get a 2nd level spell off by casting a 1st level spell the previous round.

Throw in some modest cost to casting a spell -- even a small chance you get exhausted by casting it -- and when surprised you'll have to ramp up from nothing, and when ambushing you can sometimes start the ramp up before the foe does.

ironwizard
2013-05-20, 01:48 PM
I really like this idea. I've always had a problem with spell slot based casting, and I think this is a nice way to do away with it. I like the idea of building up spell points for rounds you spend charging up. Though I think it's important to have a mechanic to prevent mages always staying in powered up mode or powering up to maximum before a fight and then roflstomping everything on round 1. Perhaps something along the lines of...

Define 3 Casting States:
Full Power - Maximum Spell Points stored
Half Power - 1/2 Max Spell Points stored
Empty - No Spell points Stored

Max Spell Points = CON score (Perhaps relevant casting stat instead?)

A Mage may generate up to 1/2 his caster level (round up) in spell points per round. For each successive round he spends "charging up," at 1 to the number of points generated (cumulative, i.e. +1 on round 2, +2 on round 3, etc...). A Mage may never have more spell points accumulated than his CON score. Holding such power is dangerous however, if a mage doesn't cast a spell, he takes damage from the magical backlash equal to the amount of Spell Points he has accumulated. A Will save (DC = 5 + SP accumulated) may be attempted to negate the damage. (At the DM's option, a mage may be allowed to hold the charge with no penalty for a number of rounds equal to the mage's CON modifier.) If the mage is in a Full Power Casting State however, the Save DC increases by 5, and still deals half damage on a successful save. Neither form of damage may be reduced in any way, (such as from DR, the Mettle class feature, Magic Items, etc.)

The mage can then cast small spells almost at will (the definition of "small" scaling with his caster level), while larger ones require charge up time and resource management (in the form of spell points). Furthermore, you cannot "hold the charge" indefinitely, due to the risk of nigh-unavoidable damage.

Further restrictions can be added in the form of limiting the number of rounds a mage can spend in a given casting state per day, at one time, etc, or by adding backlash damage for ungenerated points. (I.e, suppose a mage with a Max SP pool of 18 has 15 points generated. In this round, he will generate 7 new points, but only has room for 3 new ones. The excess 4 could be converted into damage, ability drain, an increase in save DC for damage, etc..)

TuggyNE
2013-05-20, 05:26 PM
Actually, I just thought up a fairly simple (i.e. not needing to rework every single spell) to implement "focus" system that lacks many of the problems I mentioned and doesn't require too many changes.[]

Could use some more examples, but I think it might work, as long as the spell complexities are set properly.


I would actually not make casting low and mid level spells slow down the casting of the high level spells.

Instead, what I might do is something like this:
On round 1, you can cast 1st level spells
On round 2, you can cast 2nd level spells
...
On round 9, you can cast 9th level spells.

That's basically what the OP suggested, except that taking a full nine rounds to be able to cast a ninth level spell is absurd: hardly any combats will last that long if it's anything like most D&D games.

AttilaTheGeek
2013-05-20, 07:59 PM
Eftexar and I are working on a version of mechanics like this for 3.5/Pathfinder, and what we have so far is this:

1) Each round, you gain a number of spell points equal to the number of rounds it's been since the combat began plus the lesser of your level or your spellcasting stat modifier. For example, if you're second level and you have a +4 casting mod, the +4 is irrelevant and you gain 2 spell points on the first round, 3 on round two, 4 on round three, and so on.
2) Casting a spell of level X costs 1/2*(X^2+X) spell points (the triangular numbers (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangular_number)). The table of spell levels and costs looks like this:
{table=head]Spell level|cost
1|1
2|3
3|6
4|10
5|15
6|21[/table]
Spells only go up to 6th level.
3) Every time you spend X spell points, where X is the greater of your casting stat modifier or your level, you take a -1 penalty to Wisdom. Every round while you are no longer in a spellcasting state, 1 point of Wisdom penalty is removed.

Belial_the_Leveler
2013-05-21, 02:25 AM
This doesn't work. Suppose a 20th level caster with +10 ability modifier. In order to cast those 6th level spells, you'd need to wait for round 10 of the fight.


Do you expect fights to last 10 or more rounds?

eftexar
2013-05-21, 02:43 AM
Where are you getting that math from? Assuming a modifier of just 6 the progression looks like this:

Round 1 : +6
Round 2 : +7 = 13
Round 3 : +8 = 21
Round 4 : +9 = 30

Even assuming you cast a second level spell, at every round before, you still have enough points to cast a sixth level spell by round 4.

You should probably critique our stuff on our thread though. I think AttilaTheGeek was just posting it here to give FreakyCheeseMan some food for thought. And I don't want to pull too much attention away from what he is doing.

AttilaTheGeek
2013-05-21, 06:46 AM
You should probably critique our stuff on our thread though. I think AttilaTheGeek was just posting it here to give FreakyCheeseMan some food for thought. And I don't want to pull too much attention away from what he is doing.

Mm, yeah. I should have made it clear that spell points carry over from round to round, so if you spend more in one round then you have fewer to spend in future rounds. That way, if you spend all your spell points each round, yes, you'll ramp up very slowly, but in that 20th-level, +10 modifier scenario you described, you can get 10 points round one, cast a cantrip, get 11 points on round two, and cast a 6th-level spell right off the bat.

Like Eftexar said, if you want to comment on what we have, please do so in our thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=284237). I was just posting to give ideas, not to steal the thread.

Yakk
2013-05-21, 08:31 AM
That's basically what the OP suggested, except that taking a full nine rounds to be able to cast a ninth level spell is absurd: hardly any combats will last that long if it's anything like most D&D games./shrug, casters would still dominate the game, even if casting 9th level spells requires 8 rounds of prep. :)

Just to Browse
2013-05-21, 05:50 PM
/shrug, casters would still dominate the game, even if casting 9th level spells requires 8 rounds of prep. :)

Actually not at all. If the best spells casters can throw down in round 1 are things like color spray and buffs like magic weapon, even melee will trash them. The saves from round 1 will be 8 under their optimal level (DC 11 + Stat versus DC 19 + Stat), which means people are going to make them easily and then stab the caster.

Tis a bad idea.

TuggyNE
2013-05-21, 06:01 PM
/shrug, casters would still dominate the game, even if casting 9th level spells requires 8 rounds of prep. :)

To the extent that that's true, that's not a good thing. What's more, if you're making things substantially harder for players of casters, but without actually fixing the problems they can cause by mistake why would you even bother at that point?

AttilaTheGeek
2013-05-23, 05:32 AM
I had a great idea in the other thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=284237), where we're trying to adopt this idea to 3.5. I know it says "coauthored by AttilaTheGeek", but please, feel free to jump in the discussion over there if you have ideas.

This idea doesn't really apply too well to 3.5, because it's more focused on different burn strengths and how they change over time. FreakyCheese, it might work better in your system if you have longer combats.

Basically, the idea is that each round, a spellcaster gains an amount of "spell points" equal to the average they've spent in the last four rounds. The penalties a caster suffers from being in a focused spellcasting state on any given round are proportional to the number of spell points they've gained that round. There are two at-will swift actions: Accelerate, which gives spell points (and then you take penalties for gaining spell points), and Decelerate, which makes you lose points and penalties.

This lets you simulate a "low, sustained burn", where the caster is casting low-level spells consistently and reliably, or a "high burn", where they're throwing out powerful spells every round and taking extremely heavy penalties. You can switch between them by accelerating and decelerating, and you have to always work your way up the ranks. It also means that all the penalties disappear four rounds after you stop casting, allowing you to exit a burn and then start another one soon after without rollover penalties. Finally, the number "four" is mutable. It can be three, or five, or six, depending on the pace of your system. I just chose four because I thought three didn't seem like enough to give a smooth curve of going up the levels.

Just to Browse
2013-05-23, 06:17 AM
Those should just be additive, because division in the middle of combat is a pain.

Nightraiderx
2013-05-23, 08:33 AM
Actually, I just thought up a fairly simple (i.e. not needing to rework every single spell) to implement "focus" system that lacks many of the problems I mentioned and doesn't require too many changes. Tell me what you think;


Casting Focus
Casting spells requires an amount of focus and concentration proportional to the power of the spell and for that reason spellcasters are inherently more vulnerable in combat (in addition to their limited physical training).

Effects of Focus
For each Focus Rank a full spellcaster has, they get a cumulative -1 to AC and reflex saves, -3 to initiative, -2 to perception and stealth checks, -1 to any combat maneuver checks and their base land speed is reduced by 5 ft, other forms of movement reduced proportionately. Casting sufficiently powerful spells is usually too involved for a wizard to move around, defend himself effectively and notice hidden things.
Classes that get less than 9th level spells are not as dedicated to their spellcasting as full casters and get lesser penalties; delay all penalties by the level of spell slots they miss out. I.e. a Bard that only gets up to 6th level spells (3 less than wizard) would get no penalties for the first 3 Focus Ranks.
Maintaining beneficial spells on creatures requires maintaining at least the level of Focus you had when you cast them.
A spellcaster can maintain high levels of focus indefinitely - but due to the various penalties this might not be worth it, especially if the spellcaster needs to adventure beyond their safe ritual chambers.

Raising and lowering Focus
All casters start out at focus 0. Once per round as a free action, they can concentrate to raise their Focus Rank by 1 plus 1 per 8 spellcasting levels beyond the first.
Failing a concentration check to cast a spell (but not maintain one) forcibly lowers the focus by 1. Also, they can safely (and willingly) lower focus by 1 Rank per round. Being forced or choosing to lower their focus by more than 1 per round causes fatigue for a number of minutes equal to the focus lowered. Repeated focus-fatigue in a battle stacks to exhaustion and stacks in duration. Added fatigue once they're already exhausted cumulatively increases the fatigue penalty to str/dex by 1 and stacks in duration.

Complexity, Backlash and Fallout
To cast a spell, a spellcaster must have a Focus rank equal to its complexity. That is usually equal to the spell's level, but sufficiently complex and less direct spells can have extra complexity. A spellcaster can try to cast a spell without the required amount of focus. In that case they take either backlash from the magical energies on their own bodies -typically a harmful effect of a level equal to the complexity deficit- or magical fallout from lack of control happens on the environment - typical a harmful effect of a level equal to twice the complexity deficit, capped at the spell's level. The exact nature of the backlash or fallout is up to the GM but it should be non-trivial and actually matter; if a wizard is immune to fire then backlash might be inflicted as crushing force for example.
Example: A wizard in current Focus Rank 6 is attempting to cast Meteor Swarm (complexity 9). He chooses to take the deficit as backlash and a fireball (backlash 3) fills his own square, damaging him as the Meteor Swarm is completed.
Example 2: A Sorceress in current Focus Rank 6 attempts to cast Time Stop (complexity 13). Because she doesn't want to be hit by a backlash deficit equivalent to a 7th level spell, she chooses Fallout. She gets her Time Stop normally but the uncontrolled temporal energy she unleashed disrupts the fabric of the world, coalescing as a Gate that calls forth a powerful demon of the Abyss that attacks everyone present.


While I find this amusing, I find that it's a bit too crippling to casters because to cast a lvl 9 spell is this:
-9 AC and reflex that's fine.
-27 initiative modifier (feels like that's waaaay too much a penalty)
-18 perception and stealth (feeling the same way here)
-45 ft base land speed (does this mean that they cannot move past a certain point?)

I feel if you make it linear past the initial point (-1 cumulative for each point above 1 focus point it'll end up like this for 9th level spell casting)
-9 AC and reflex (unchanged)
-11 initiative (it'll kick you down but not to the point where you cast completely last)
-12 perception and stealth (still substantial but not as severe)
-45 ft base land speed (I'd put a mininum of a 5 ft step action possibly)

And another thing you can do is balance power and complexity to a certain "spell level equivalent"
So a spell with Power 1 is a 1st level spell, and a spell with Complexity 1 is a first level spell, But a spell with both Power 1 and Complexity 1 is a second level spell.

Defining Power vs. Complexity
Power: dealing direct damage (evocation), warping things around them and also healing (transmutation), summoning,mobility(conjuration) and protecting yourself (abjuration)

Complexity: Tricking your opponents (illusion), Manipulating a targets mental ability (Enhancement), Debillitating effects (Necromancy), Finding, Locating or Learning about a subject (Divination)

Just to Browse
2013-05-23, 08:46 AM
Another thing here: You really shouldn't scale penalties to the level of the spell, because a 9th-level spell is level appropriate to a wizard 17 as a 1st-level spell is appropriate to a wizard 1. It feels unfair that casters take worse penalties for being level-appropriate as they gain levels.

Nightraiderx
2013-05-23, 10:02 AM
Another thing here: You really shouldn't scale penalties to the level of the spell, because a 9th-level spell is level appropriate to a wizard 17 as a 1st-level spell is appropriate to a wizard 1. It feels unfair that casters take worse penalties for being level-appropriate as they gain levels.

Well instead of it being based on the level, how about a culminative penalty for trying to hold focus for extended rounds to get bigger spells faster? You can also gain more points where you have more focus points. There also should be checks to disrupt a mage's focus, and in turn he looses focus points (as well as penalties at a decreasing rate per turn). So a mage can either. 1: Hold his focus, cast the spell, loose his focus on purpose, take penalties for a round, reduces focus penalties and points. 2: Continue his focus cast the spell, hold onto focus gain MORE focus points in the next round but have increased penalties. So a mage can either choose to keep casting lower level spells to stay on the defensive, or go full out focus and hit with increasingly deadly spells per round. You can also have not only bonus points per 8 spell caster levels, but bonus focus points based on your ability modifier (similar to how a high score grants bonus spells/power points). and how long you hold it for (2x number of rounds you hold it for after the round when you start taking penalties)

A way to balance the way saves work, you can give a diminishing circumstance return depending on how many focus points are left in your pool. For example, Mr. Wizard at lvl 20 gains his focus and gets 3 focus points, he can either 1. Cast a 2nd level complexity enchantment with the save at 10+ spell level + his modifier + left over focus/level spell cast (rounded down). OR he can cast a 1st level spell while saving two points of his focus. The benefit is that the 1st level save (10+1+mod+2/1)=13 is slightly stronger than his second level save (10+2+mod+0/2)=12. But the effects of the 1st level spell aren't as dire as the 2nd level spell. A spell making you dazed is less severe than a spell making you sickened. So he can 1. use spells that have higher saves but weaker effects saving up for a deadly attack 2. use higher spells that have lower saves but stronger effects. So a 20th level wizard takes 5 rounds of focus (3+5+7+9+11) each round he uses a 1st level spell (2+4+6+8+10) 30 points vs him using a first level spell and then using 2nd level spells. (2+2+4+6+8) 22 Points. So in the 5th round the first wizard can:
1: Cast a 1st level spell with a really strong DC (10+1+ability modifier +29)
DC 40+ability mod
Assuring his success of getting that minor debuff on you.
2: Cast a 9th level spell with a slightly higher than normal DC (10+9+abilitiy modifier+ 11/9)
DC 20+ ability mod
Decreasing DC mod per level:
1st (10+1+ability modifier+29) 40+ 2nd (10+2+ ability modifier+ 27/2)=25+
3rd (10+3+ability modifier+25/3) 21+ 4th (10+4+ability modifier+23/4)=19+
5th (10+5+ability modifier+21/5) 19+ 6th (10+6+ability modifier+19/6) 19+
7th (10+7+ability modifier+17/7) 19+ 8th (10+8+ability modifier+15/8) 19+
9th (10+9+ability modifier + 13/9) 20+

the second wizard can:
1: Cast a first level spell with a less higher DC (10+1+ability mod+ 21) 32+ ability mod
2: Cast a 9th level spell with a normal DC of 10+9+ability mod
1st (10+1+ability mod+21) 32+ 2nd (10+2+ability mod + 19/2) 18+
3rd (10+3+ability mod+17/3) 18+ 4th (10+4+ability mod+ 15/4) 17+
5th (10+5+ability mod+ 13/5) 17+ 6th (10+6+ability mod + 11/6) 17+
7th (10+7+ability mod +9/7) 18+ 8th as normal 9th as normal

At first it may seem unfair that the wizard has a DC 40 + on you but remember the severity of the spell is basically level one, a fighter of the same level may fail it, but at that point the wizard has taken massive penalties. (-5 AC, Ref, -6 init among other things). He's still going to be easy to hit and damage massively. He hasn't been doing spells that have been as severe, but has been adding increasing DC (as power flows in it is easier to influence manipulate smaller forces) The extreme case the DC drops quickly a -15 DC loss just from 1st level to second level) Steadies itself (19 for 4th through 8th) but still rewards the caster with a slight benefit from the 9th level spell (DC 20+) The Second level wizard hits his max at 7th level, but returns to normal saves for 8th and 9th level spells.

Draz74
2013-05-23, 10:57 AM
Another thing here: You really shouldn't scale penalties to the level of the spell, because a 9th-level spell is level appropriate to a wizard 17 as a 1st-level spell is appropriate to a wizard 1. It feels unfair that casters take worse penalties for being level-appropriate as they gain levels.

Well, it depends what the penalty is to. If it's to a statistic that scales strongly with level (e.g. HP, skill checks, possibly saves/AC/attack rolls), then it should scale with spell level, in order to remain a significant downside. On the other hand, if the penalty is to stats that don't scale (e.g. ability scores, initiative), then the penalty should be constant throughout spell levels.