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Cluedrew
2016-02-09, 10:01 PM
OK, so I am (slowly) creating my own role-playing game and I have a question for the Playground.

How do you keep something uncommon in a setting when the characters have a great deal of control over how often it appears? The situation is actually quite similar to the wizard in D&D. In the old settings of D&D the assumption was "wizards where rarer than kings", but then every party had at least one and if about 20% or what have you of adventures are wizards than how rare can wizards be.

So how can I have my "wizards" be available to the players, but still (at least feel) rare in the overall setting? They can't just be a bad option because... well I would like every option I present to be fun. I don't want to lock them behind a wall, such as minimum stats or some requirement like that. My best idea so far is to instead lock them behind a valley, so they don't pay out right away, but then I have to make them even out to avoid the "quadratic wizards problem". Also that is of itself, just a softer sort of wall.

I should mention currently I am using a point by system, so anyone could pick up the trait. I should also point out that the archetype I want to keep uncommon is the Sage, which is actually more similar to the sorcerer than the wizard as they have this rare spark or insight within them that gives them there power. You can be born with it, but you can also get it later from training/mediation or a mystic encounter.

Any ideas (even bad ones, although not quite as much) would be appreciated. Also if there are any others details you think would be useful, ask and I will try to fill them in.

JNAProductions
2016-02-09, 10:16 PM
Make it come with a flaw-"Rare"-that makes NPCs, or at least most NPCs, react strongly to it. It doesn't have to be bad, but it should be noticeable-falling on their knees in worship, making a mob of torches and pitchforks, falling on bended knees asking for them to cure illnesses, etc.

Make it so that players feel like it's unique-they don't even have to want to hide it. Maybe they like the attention.

Sam113097
2016-02-10, 12:37 AM
If wizards are extremely rare, you need a way to explain why every half-decent adventuring party has one. Wizards could be heavily persecuted, so keeping your magical abilities a secret would be very important, and the best way to do so could be to live a nomadic lifestyle. Another reason for adventuring wizards is field research. Perhaps wizards tend to join a group of adventurers in order to discover magical secrets, or to hone their spell-casting abilities in combat.

Comet
2016-02-10, 12:45 AM
If sages are rare and every adventuring group has at least one... doesn't that just mean that adventuring groups are rare?

Darth Ultron
2016-02-10, 01:13 AM
In general, the player characters don't really count for things in the setting. So even if wizards or sages or elves are rare, that only goes to the setting, but not the PC group.

So the kingdom only has two wizards(the good adviser to the king and the bag guy), but the wizard in the PC group, does not count towards that number.

Rules wise you can make something rare by adding a requirement or drawback. You can make it ''fun'', if you want. For example, give the wizard a nova like ability that permanently drains a point of constitution. So the average wizard can do it a dozen times or so...but then they are gone.

I really like ''fun'' draw backs like ''anything you summon has a 50% chance of breaking free of your control''. And the average player just goes all insane when told things like that and they won't pick that class/use that ability...if they don't just run screaming from the game.

For example, in D&D, I have a simple house rule for clerics: your deity watches and judges every spell you cast and might on a whim alter the magic. The vast majority of players hate that house rule, as so that makes clerics rare.

JoeJ
2016-02-10, 02:20 AM
If they're not a bad option, why are they rare?

Arbane
2016-02-10, 03:24 AM
I really like ''fun'' draw backs like ''anything you summon has a 50% chance of breaking free of your control''. And the average player just goes all insane when told things like that and they won't pick that class/use that ability...if they don't just run screaming from the game.

For example, in D&D, I have a simple house rule for clerics: your deity watches and judges every spell you cast and might on a whim alter the magic. The vast majority of players hate that house rule, as so that makes clerics rare.

Something something ORCUS something.

lacco36
2016-02-10, 03:28 AM
If sages are rare and every adventuring group has at least one... doesn't that just mean that adventuring groups are rare?

Basically, I would say yes. Average person doesn't want to enter slime-covered, goblin-infested, disease-ridden dark hole inside an old crumbly fortress... why? Ask yourself - would you?

Take lvl 1 commoner - a cat can kill him. Why would he risk goblins...? :smallgrin:

And someone once said, it takes 20 men with feet on the ground to take care of 1 men with head in clouds... :smallsmile:.

Knaight
2016-02-10, 04:21 AM
If they're not a bad option, why are they rare?

In this case, it sounds like it's an option that nobody even has unless they're born with it, has a mystic encounter, or gets a lot of very specialized training; that's plenty to keep it rare in setting even if every player chooses a PC in that group. Even without that though, it's not like there aren't real professions locked behind a huge amount of specialized education and training that are good options, and yet remain rare. Dial the setting back a few centuries, give the whole concept of social mobility a few hard kicks, and it's rarer still.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-02-10, 04:46 AM
If they're not a bad option, why are they rare?

In fiction it's usually because it's some sort of gift, or at the very least the result of years of hard training, often by a mentor from the same rare class.

I think what Darth Ultron said is key. The only thing better than a powerful hero is a rare and powerful hero. The chosen one, last of the wizards of Grey Hill, blessed by the king of Dragons, baptized in the deadly fires of the volcano that only erupts ones every thousand years for a single day.

Any player can create such a character, because they're fun. Sometimes you just want to be a member of a small secret order. But just because every player can become a wizard, that doesn't mean that any person living in the game world can become a wizard. Good apprenticeships are hard to find. Especially since power tends to corrupt, and every wizard, even the bad ones, are extremely careful in trying not to train someone who might turn against them. They, the only other person who can bend the laws of reality at will, would be the only person who could stop whatever mad plan their trainee would have gotten. So if the darkness does get a grip on their student, they will be the very first person to die, and they were kind of planning to live forever.

Sages are rare because the DM said so. Now, you can all roll up a sage if you like, but aside from you guys and your master Splinter there is only one sage you currently know of, with rumors about a handful more roaming the earth or living in the spooky forest.

And if the sage player keeps dying and coming up with more sages, well, that's what suspension of disbelief is for...

lacco36
2016-02-10, 04:51 AM
In fiction it's usually because it's some sort of gift, or at the very least the result of years of hard training, often by a mentor from the same rare class.

I think what Darth Ultron said is key. The only thing better than a powerful hero is a rare and powerful hero. The chosen one, last of the wizards of Grey Hill, blessed by the king of Dragons, baptized in the deadly fires of the volcano that only erupts one every thousand years for a single day.

Any player can create such a character, because they're fun. Sometimes you just want to be a member of a small secret order. But just because every player can become a wizard, that doesn't mean that any person living in the game world can become a wizard. Good apprenticeships are hard to find. Especially size power tends to corrupt, and every wizard, even the bad ones, are extremely careful in trying not to train someone who might turn against them. They, the only other person who can bend the laws of reality at will, would be the only person who could stop whatever mad plan their trainee would have gotten. So if the darkness does get a grip on their student, they will be the very first person to die, and they were kind of planning to live forever.

Sages are rare because the DM said so. Now, you can all roll up a sage if you like, but aside from you guys and your master Splinter there is only one sage you currently know of, with rumors about a handful more roaming the earth or living in the spooky forest.

And if the sage player keeps dying and coming up with more sages, well, that's what suspension of disbelief is for...

I can only agree.

Another thing the DM can do is present players with rumors of mages/wizards/mystics/magical healers...only for the party to find that these are charlatans and cheap-trick illusionists.

And of course - if a wizard uses a cantrip, the people around should be amazed, even if for your wizard it is only minor spell... and - as stated above in the thread - should ask for more/be afraid. There could be amulets (some working, some not), magic scrolls preserved by families as their biggest treasure... and I would expect that a +1 eversharp sword would be something each warrior dreams about...

lperkins2
2016-02-10, 05:51 AM
It depends on what you mean by rare...

1% of the population -> a small town (200 people) will have 2 magic users.
0.1% of the population -> 5 small towns will have 1 magic user between them.

In my last campaign (5e), I basically set it up so 10% of the population could become passable wizards with lots of time to study, 1% of the populace would be able to become passable wizards easily, and 0.1% would be able to be great wizards with training. Since this means that the party is unlikely to encounter enemy spellcasters, it makes any magic the party can do much more useful, despite the static handicap to spellcasters. Then I had the Church gather anyone they possibly could who could use magic, at a young age for training. This meant that lots of people knew someone who was gifted, and had been taken for training, but rarely saw a properly trained spellcaster.

The party didn't have a wizard, though they had 2 characters that were in the 1%. It also made it so that when the party encountered an enemy spellcaster (1 time), it was a huge deal that caused a minor amount of panic at the table, especially since the enemy was an evoker.

Mechanically, I added 1 hidden stat for each spell school, then applied an 'effective-caster-level modifier' ranging from -20 to +2 to each spell school (weighted to give the probabilities listed above). Spellcasters with the proper divination spells could determine a character's magical aptitude, for about half the PCs starting gold. Also, certain setting-specific rituals required the sacrifice (willing or otherwise) of magical blood (or souls), so untrained, young mages were often hunted by necromancers (hence needing protection and training). To cast a spell, your caster level + your ecl for that school had to be high enough to cast the spell. Cleric domain slots were left alone, druids, clerics, and paladins lost their spellcasting, but gained other bonuses. Druids could still use ritual spells, warlocks were probably the most powerful, but suffered seriously socially for entering into a pact with an outsider.

veti
2016-02-10, 06:42 AM
All those shops that you'd expect to sell wizard spells and scrolls? Those don't exist. No market for them. Chances are, in your entire adventuring career, you'll never find a scroll of any wizard spell. (Who would have written it?) The only way to get a new spell is (a) research it yourself, or (b) seek out one of the vanishingly few "known" wizards, who are hard enough just to get to see, never mind address on petitioning terms, and beg them to teach it to you - and DM only knows what they'll demand in return.

Wizard spells are not generally known. The player never gets to see the list of "spells available" at each level, because nobody's ever compiled and published that information. Again, research, or listen to wildly-inaccurate rumour and fairytale about what other wizards may have done.

Cluedrew
2016-02-10, 08:06 AM
Make it come with a flaw-"Rare"-that makes NPCs, or at least most NPCs, react strongly to it.I like this one because it A) means I don't have to draft many additional rules and B) focuses on the feel part of the problem very nicely. Actually it may not even be a flaw, it might be a bonus that you get respect. (It is a positively viewed group.)


If sages are rare and every adventuring group has at least one... doesn't that just mean that adventuring groups are rare?This was my default answer, the thing is even if the adventuring groups are rare there pools of recruits may not be (depending on the lethality of the game). I'm probably going to use this answer in conjunction with whatever else I get because it is a good starting point.


I really like ''fun'' draw backs like ''anything you summon has a 50% chance of breaking free of your control''. And the average player just goes all insane when told things like that and they won't pick that class/use that ability...if they don't just run screaming from the game.This sounds like a double edged sword in more way than one. My limit here is that even with all the drawbacks I give them they must still be balanced against the other archetypes so all there drawbacks have to be balanced out. There are some drawbacks but they are mostly connected with overusing the special abilities a sage has.


It depends on what you mean by rare...Good question... well I'm not entirely sure about population density but maybe more like 1 in 10000. If you needed one and knew where to find one you would probably still have to travel for a few days to find one.

Thank you everyone for your replies.

Amaranthine
2016-02-10, 10:06 AM
Sean K Reynolds has an article on his site (http://www.seankreynolds.com/rpgfiles/misc/theoryaboutpeasants.html).

It gives a progression for NPC homebodies. Essentially, it takes 21 years for a character living a normal (non-adventurous) life to reach 7th level. After another 20 years the character reaches 9th level, where non-adventurous XP drops to zero.
If you use this for your world, this means that most humans are less than 6th level (of NPC-style classes). This will naturally make powerful magic quite rare, though low powered magic could be much more common (though not actually "common").

Of course a logical extension of this method means that almost every mature elf (or other long lived race) you run into will be at least 9th level, giving the result that the average elf actually is "better" than the average human.



In response to the above statement about the dangers of cats, he also has another article related to that (http://www.seankreynolds.com/rpgfiles/misc/philathansrule.html).
"Cat's aren't domesticated, they're just not big enough to kill you." - Phil Athans, former WotC book editor

Thinker
2016-02-10, 10:55 AM
You're using a point-buy system, which means that the ability to cast spells costs some amount of character points. Let's assume that everyone starts with 100 points. Simply having the ability to cast spells could cost 20 points. That's a pretty significant investment, making it so that those who cast spells will likely only be good at casting spells. You don't want to neuter your sages compared to the rest of the party so you can come up with other background-type traits that represent training and skills.

Fighty people don't wake up and know how to fight. It takes hard work and practice to train to a point where they are skilled with a blade. That's another 20-point investment. This unlocks various combat maneuvers that less-trained warriors won't have. The ranger who can forage for food, always discern true north, is never lost, and can set up a safe camp every night? That's another 20-point investment. So long as you can come up with some abilities that are unlocked by that investment, you can justify the cost.

This doesn't totally answer "why are sages rare?" since everyone could in-theory take the 20-point investment, but if most NPCs are only in the 50-point range, they don't have enough points to study the magic. You can also attach the special status with NPCs to anyone who has one of these background traits.

Knaight
2016-02-10, 01:16 PM
I think what Darth Ultron said is key. The only thing better than a powerful hero is a rare and powerful hero. The chosen one, last of the wizards of Grey Hill, blessed by the king of Dragons, baptized in the deadly fires of the volcano that only erupts ones every thousand years for a single day.

Any player can create such a character, because they're fun. Sometimes you just want to be a member of a small secret order. But just because every player can become a wizard, that doesn't mean that any person living in the game world can become a wizard.

While I'd agree with the PC-Setting differences being typical, I will say that the rare and powerful hero is one of many fantasy archetypes, many of which will see use. It exists alongside the normal person who rises to heroism, and that will attract players, some of whom are disinterested in the rare and powerful hero archetype. It exists alongside the redeemed villain, which can conflict with some types of rarity to some degree.

Segev
2016-02-10, 04:08 PM
If you want to keep it rare even within the party, and to give reason why Sages don't congregate, for example, perhaps something about that "spark" that makes them Sages reacts...poorly...in the presence of others who share it. This could be anything from giving each other migraine headaches to having it actively diminish the effectiveness of whatever power they do have.

As an example of that last one using D&D mechanics to illustrate, imagine if each sorcerer within short range (25 ft. + 5 ft/2 sorcerer levels you have) of you caused you to suffer a negative level. Call it "Sageblight."

If you have two sorcerers in the same party, they will generally be a level lower than everybody else. If you have a third show up, he will suffer 2 negative levels from them, and they'll each suffer a second.

Worse, 1st level sorcerers are in incredible danger from meeting other sorcerers; if they come into their radius...they die, their lives snuffed out by the proximity. And as you become more powerful, the radius within which other sorcerers hurts you grows.

This would SUCK, but could be kept manageable, and if sorcerers were powerful enough compared to other options that didn't suffer this drawback (perhaps they're, say, the only spellcasters in the game?), people would still play it...but you'd be hard-pressed to get more than one in the same party.

Amaranthine
2016-02-10, 04:39 PM
OK, so I am (slowly) creating my own role-playing game and I have a question for the Playground.

How do you keep something uncommon in a setting when the characters have a great deal of control over how often it appears? The situation is actually quite similar to the wizard in D&D. In the old settings of D&D the assumption was "wizards where rarer than kings", but then every party had at least one and if about 20% or what have you of adventures are wizards than how rare can wizards be.

So how can I have my "wizards" be available to the players, but still (at least feel) rare in the overall setting? They can't just be a bad option because... well I would like every option I present to be fun. I don't want to lock them behind a wall, such as minimum stats or some requirement like that. My best idea so far is to instead lock them behind a valley, so they don't pay out right away, but then I have to make them even out to avoid the "quadratic wizards problem". Also that is of itself, just a softer sort of wall.Part of this question may arise from the "shared world" of official campaign settings. The official novels show many minor and major spellcasters and "adventuring parties" are a thing. The PCs set in these worlds are not really special and, depending on which setting, may actually be tiny fish in a very large pond stocked with dragon turtles.

In your own system, simply make clear that the PCs are special. If the PCs don't stop the Swamp Witch from terrorizing the local town, their isn't anyone else (unless of course its a TPK and the players roll up a new set of characters to make another go at it). Even if 20% of all adventuring parties are wizards, adventuring parties themselves are unheard of; a unique encounter. There isn't a Ye Olde Adventurers' Guild Hall where you can quaff a tankard of ale with the party from down the valley and compare notes on exactly the best way to commit genocide against goblin tribes.
If one of the players is a wizard, he is an exception that proves the rule of "you're probably never going to see a wizard". To emphasize the rarity of wizards, simply put in a bit about every wizard character needing an origin for his learning. Whether he found an old tome under a rock, or was blessed by a fairy he saved from a cat, or was given a stone of power by the talking fish he threw back doesn't matter. Perhaps give a minor perk depending on the background, but the point is to reinforce just how unique the character's ability with magic is. Don't include a list of, or a method to create, possible wizard backgrounds unless it contains (or can create) at least several hundred fairly unique results. Even with such a method, encourage making one up instead of just picking one, or to take an entry and fully flesh it out rather than just making a note of it.

In my opinion, you don't need to use the actual mechanics of the game to enforce rarity.

JoeJ
2016-02-10, 06:43 PM
Since you're doing a point system, you can easily limit how many points can be spent on magic. Set the limit fairly low during character creation, but allow players to buy more with points earned as experience.

If I wanted to do something like this in a game with classes, I'd just tell the players during session 0 how many spellcasters they're allowed to have in the party. They can work out among themselves who plays what.

Morty
2016-02-10, 07:33 PM
At the risk of asking the obvious question, who says every adventuring party needs to have a wizard?

Mark Hall
2016-02-10, 07:50 PM
What it comes down to is NPC control. If you want something to be rare, simply make it so few NPCs they ever meet are one, and, as others mentioned, have it be so others react strongly to meeting one.

Wizards are rare? Then your PC wizard is usually the only one around. He, personally, maybe knows 3... his mentor, a fellow apprentice, and one other guy who visited his mentor once. There's not a wizard in every town... maybe one in every city. Each town MIGHT have somebody capable of a few cantrips, but unable or unwilling to go further.

More than likely, any spells they have come from the long-dead, or were invented by themselves. When other people find out he's a wizard, they want to SEE such a being, because they'll never have another chance. Some will be fearful. Some will want him to show them real magic. But he's an oddity that people treat like an oddity at first.

Cluedrew
2016-02-10, 08:56 PM
You're using a point-buy system, which means that the ability to cast spells costs some amount of character points. Let's assume that everyone starts with 100 points. Simply having the ability to cast spells could cost 20 points. [...] That's another 20-point investment. This unlocks various combat maneuvers that less-trained warriors won't have. The ranger who can forage for food, always discern true north, is never lost, and can set up a safe camp every night? That's another 20-point investment. So long as you can come up with some abilities that are unlocked by that investment, you can justify the cost.Archetypes unlocks, I kind of like the idea, especially if it is applied to a bunch of different categories as you have laid out here. But like the idea of keeping people from wondering into the rare archetypes.


Call it "Sageblight."The idea doesn't really mesh with the general feel of sages. But that name is so awesome I kind of want to use it anyways.


At the risk of asking the obvious question, who says every adventuring party needs to have a wizard?They don't, and they don't all need a sage. I'm just trying to prevent it (sages coming out common) from being a problem in the first place. I have no release schedule so I can wander around and think about these problems if I want.


Wizards are rare? Then your PC wizard is usually the only one around. He, personally, maybe knows 3... his mentor, a fellow apprentice, and one other guy who visited his mentor once.I think this little point actually helps fill out some of the role-playing support. Rarity among NPCs and reactions to the PCs have been mentioned already, but throwing it PC backgrounds (which isn't a rule, but I can have guidelines) is another idea.

Thanks again everyone for your input.

VoxRationis
2016-02-10, 09:55 PM
If the characters are famous or are embarking on a quest of great magical importance, it is to be expected that wizards, being intelligent and having motivations besides "stand in one place until POV characters blunder into me," will be drawn to them in disproportion to their general rarity.

An analogy may be made to US senators: There are 100 senators at the federal level at any one time, in a general population of several hundred thousand and representing a combined geographical area of the better part of a continent. It is extremely rare and noteworthy for an ordinary person to run into a US senator, especially outside of a rally or election event. Yet if one happens to be a senator, one can count on quite commonly talking, making deals with, or squaring off against others. In much the same way, it is to be expected that the business of one wizard affects, and is monitored by, other wizards.

Segev
2016-02-10, 10:18 PM
Glad you like the term; I didn't really expect that to fit what you had in mind here, but was just coming up with an example as to what would discourage more than one being a PC.

Arbane
2016-02-10, 10:27 PM
At the risk of asking the obvious question, who says every adventuring party needs to have a wizard?

In D&D? EVERYONE. There's just too many problems that are flat-out unsolvable without magic.

If problems can be just as easily solved by snivelling peasan non-spellcasters, not as many people.