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    Halfling in the Playground
     
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    Default Psionics, Arcana, and the Divine

    As a preamble, allow me to state that I am NOT an experienced player or DM, so I am gearing up in full prophylactic and attempting to harness "The Wisdom of the Masses." That said, I'm not a neophyte either, and a kindly friend has given me access to the inventory of his hobby shop for quite some time, so I've done an irresponsible amount of sourcebook browsing. Everything in this thread is to be restricted to 3.5, and I don't want to deviate too far from core. Complete Whatever, Expanded Psionics, Dungeonscape, and I guess the Tome of Battle, though I hate the mechanics of it. Other entries will be considered on their merits, and balanced by ease of implementation and tastiness of both crunch and fluff. On to the crux.

    So, I'm going to be a Dungeon Master, and I'm not going halfway on it. Most of the heavy labour of world-crafting is done. Races and cultures are in place, and are largely locked in. For future reference, almost all encounters will be humanoid, and monsters will tend to be rare, unique, and dangerous. This is not a thread about making a new campaign world, though. This thread is about the 409 kilogram gorilla in the corner of every forum-lurking first-time seriously-gonna-do-it-this-time DM's room: What to do about magic?

    I know have heard horror stories of what full casters can do to an unprepared Dungeon Master, and I don't want that to happen to me. I also don't want to be a tool about it. This game is built on trust between the DM and players, after all, so I need to play by nice, consistent rules. What I need is to hear the experiences of people who have altered these rules, and seen the results. To that end, I will outline my ideas, expand on them, and then pose a suite of questions.

    Know thee now that there should be distinction between different sources of power. Know also, that Psionics will be the dominant form of magic in this world, Sorcerors will not exist, Wizardry will be rare, and strongly frowned upon. Warlocks exist. Divine magic is still a grey area. (I just don't know enough about it, which is why I ask you, gentle readers.)

    Many Paths, One Goal?

    Spell transparency bothers me. A lot. Why is Divine Magic treated exactly the same as Arcane Magic, which in turn is exactly the same as Psionics? Oh sure, the method of spell selection and casting is a tiny bit different, but shouldn't the profound difference in origin between Divine intervention, supreme mental concentration, and the outright violation of nature that forms the backbone of Arcane magic get a little more play than "Move along please?"

    As an hors-d'oeuvre, I intend to implement a system I'm calling Magical Translucency, as opposed to Magical Transparency. In short, Psionic, Arcane and Divine magic don't play too well together, but can be forced to. The actual degree of separation is up in the air, but I'm thinking probably generic Spell Resistance should be replaced by Arcane Resistance, which will be only 50% effective against non-arcane sources, and a corresponding resistance should be added for the other sources.

    Immediate effects designed with one specific source in mind shouldn't be fully effective against other sources, e.g. Dispel Magic should be less effective against Divinely sourced spells, and vice versa. Note that this should only apply when the specific source is mentioned or implied in the name of the effect. In the previous example, an arcane caster's Dispel Magic would have a lesser effect on a Divine caster's Wind Walk spell, but Invisibility Purge is no less effective against a Psion's Invisibility. Whenever a source-dependent effect is used against an effect from a different source, treat the target is though it were cast at double the normal caster level.

    Now, for your part:
    1. How different should these be? Do these numbers for Resistance and cross-source effects seem reasonable, or am I totally out of line?
    2. Is it even reasonable to separate powers in this way?
    3. Will there be unnecessary and onerous micromanagement?
    4. Will unforeseen consequences result in an outrageous power spiral somewhere, up or down?
    5. Is it overly specific or overly generalized?


    Mind Over Matter

    Most of the casting in this game will be in the form of Psionics. They have a nice, organic feel to them, and seem to be both more flexible at lower levels and less overkill at high. All this without the odious mechanics of Vancian magic. This may be a bit rose-coloured, mind you, as I'm quite taken with Psionics in general. If anybody has a good deal of experience using these characters, both as player and DM, please tell me of those experiences. I want to know just what kinds of things I'll be dealing with.

    Psychic Warriors and Soul Knives are more of a concern for me. I'm not worried about them destroying game balance, as that seems to be done mostly by full casters. What I want to know is where they fit. I've heard tell that Soul Knives are pretty anemic. Is this true? If so, what can be done to make life better for them? And for that matter, are Psychic Warriors just pylons?

    So, to boil it down to a few sound bites:
    1. Are Psionic classes well-balanced as-is?
    2. Will they work within the Magic Translucency system?
    3. Can Soul Knives and Psychic Warriors swing with the big boys?
    4. Are players even interested in Psionics? Nobody seems to talk about them on the boards, after all.

    Burn the Witch!

    Sorcerors are out. One of the core tenets of my views on magic is that the Arcane is UN-NATURAL. No sane creature has an intuitive understanding of the ways and means of monkey-humping reality, and that's what Sorcerors seem to be all about, so... This is, admittedly, mostly a fluff-killing, but I don't think anybody is really going to miss them with Psionics and Warlocks in.

    Wizards are going to be the evil geniuses, reclusive madmen, sinister cultists and generalized black sheep of the spellcasting world. They're not all evil, per se, but the kinds of things that Wizards deal with on a daily basis tends to drive them more or less Bursar, if you'll forgive the Pratchett-ism. Player Wizards will have to keep it on the downlow. I don't mind them doing all their weird stuffed-crocodile hoodoo, but the peasantry sure do. Again, mostly fluff here, and nothing that's never been done before. I'm considering some sort of Sanity mechanism culled from Call of Cthulhu, just to make their lives more interesting.

    Warlocks will be there. They'll be rare, but I have an awesome idea for a Warlock/Dread Witch NPC in the level 5-8 range that I just HAVE to use for a horror arc. Just HAVE to. So, how will these guys change game balance, given the separation of powers? I'm thinking that they should have their power source be Arcane, but maybe Divine or even Psionic. Mostly a matter of fluff, I guess, but with invocations it could become pertinent. I'm not too worried about these guys, really. They blow stuff up good, but that's about it.

    So, the Arcane casters are mostly just needing fluff, which I don't feel I need too much help with. A few questions for you, though:
    1. Should there be a sanity mechanism for Arcanes?
    2. Will this mechanism actually change gameplay, or will it be just more bookkeeping?
    3. Do Warlocks have any unforeseen impacts, or are they as straightforwardly blasty as they look?

    The Voices in my Head! the Sky!

    Divine casters, I really just don't know about. I've never played one, and I've never played with one that wasn't basically a healbot with a stick. They don't even really interest me much as a player, a DM, or a world-fluffer. (Hurr hurr hurr...) This is where I need your help. On a gut level, I think they should be Charisma casters. It just seems right, but I don't know how it would effect things. I've also heard of the Cleric-or-Druidzilla, and want to know how big a threat it really is. What about the availability of prompt healing? Can an adventuring party really get away without an HP Battery?

    Druids... Druids. What about the Druids? Again, I just don't know about these guys. I've heard some positively outlandish things about them. Is Wild Shape really that monstrously overpowered? So many questions, and nobody I know has answers, so I pose them to you.

    1. Will making Clerics into Charisma casters tip balance one way or the other?
    2. Should healing magic be easily available, or should it be hard to get?
    3. How much Divine wrath can one Cleric bring down, and is it too much for general dispersal?
    4. Is Wild Shape so broken it must be removed?
    5. Can a Wild Shape Druid be in an unoptimized party and not eclipse other characters?
    6. Would a Druid limited to either Wild Shape or full casting be overly specialized?
    7. Has anybody even read through all of this?
    OH MY GOD! I've burst my brain!

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Draken's Avatar

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    Default Re: Psionics, Arcana, and the Divine

    Paths -goal questions:

    1 Half of the specialized resistance working against other mystic stuff might as well mean it does not exist. Unless it is a seriously high resistance.

    2. Perfectly reasonable.

    3. I doubt. But you (the DM) will have to alter most monster entries to be either arcane, divine or psionic resistant. Your luck is that most monsters that are resistant to psionics have already been labeled.

    4. Hardly.

    5. Not sure what you mean.

    Psionic Question answers:

    1. Better balanced than arcane casters in the opinion of many.

    2. Just like they would work without the transparence system. Which is not that bad I think.

    3. Psychic Warriors: Yes. Soulknives: No. The defining class feature of the soulknife is a weapon, and generally considered a bad weapon at that.

    4. People are interested, people talk about them, people homebrew for them.

    Arcane casting questions:

    1. If you feel like. For ease of use your fluff could just make Arcane casters Always Evil (worst case) or Never Good (best case).

    2. You removed a class, changed the fluff of another class and wondered about a mechanic that still needs to be made. No bookkeeping change.

    3. They are as blasty as they look. Permanent fly, permanent see invisibility. Not much else to consider.

    Divine Questions:

    1. Charisma based clerics will have the advantage of more Turn/rebuke attempts each day. Which means more divine feat fueling.

    2. Healing magic is widely considered weak. The best ones are the Vigor line (more reliable than the cure wounds line) and Heal. The rest is debatable.

    3. Offensive Divine spellcating? Well, it is less flashy than arcane for sure. Mostly debuffs. Cleric damaging spells have a tendency to be weak at first, then some jewels show up.

    4. It is not as bad as people will make you believe. The real issue is when a druid who rolled two Threes (aka: 4d6 best three, all ones) and put then in Strenght and Dexterity uses wildshape. Because then these two threes suddenly become two other values that are probably higher than three. Oh and a few forms that are too strong for their hit dice. Namely: If an animal gives too many extraordinaire special attacks (like a dinosaur with pounce, poison, rend and a couple of others I believe), it is not a good idea to show to your druid.

    5. Sure. But if said druid is experient he will have to reign in on his character. Or if he is not experient, he might stumble on something that is just plain godly, and then it might be needed to ask him to avoid it.

    6. Wildshape only becomes avaible at level 5. So that wildshape druid would spend 4 levels being pointless, and then 1 level being useful for exactly 1 fight.
    Consider the Wildshape Ranger Variant in this case. Or the Master of Many Forms prestige class. It gives a lot of wildshaping without any spellcasting.

    7. I read most of it, but hardly all of it. This thread looks like it belong sin the gaming section, instead of the homebrew section, however.
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Baron Corm's Avatar

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    Default Re: Psionics, Arcana, and the Divine

    Yes, this belongs in Gaming.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
    1. How different should these be? Do these numbers for Resistance and cross-source effects seem reasonable, or am I totally out of line?
    2. Is it even reasonable to separate powers in this way?
    3. Will there be unnecessary and onerous micromanagement?
    4. Will unforeseen consequences result in an outrageous power spiral somewhere, up or down?
    5. Is it overly specific or overly generalized?
    I don't see how or why you would use spellcasters and psions in the same campaign. What's the difference between a spellcaster with mind-affecting spells, and a psion, other than mechanics? So I'm in favor of giving everything that had SR psionics resistance, in a psionics campaign, and flavoring them slightly differently.

    As far as arcane and divine are concerned, they really aren't different enough to warrant translucency. They even share some common spells on their spell lists. The difference is the source of their power, not the way they cast (though divine spells tend to be simpler and worse).

    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
    1. Are Psionic classes well-balanced as-is?
    2. Will they work within the Magic Translucency system?
    3. Can Soul Knives and Psychic Warriors swing with the big boys?
    4. Are players even interested in Psionics? Nobody seems to talk about them on the boards, after all.
    Soul knives have, as their main class feature, something that every other martial character will simply buy. Psychic strike only applies to one attack so it's not that useful. Psychic warriors are very good (google builds).

    I believe people are less interested in psionics because they don't have the same fantasy flavor that magic does. A psion looks pretty out of place put next to a cleric, fighter, bard, druid, etc., compared to a wizard. They have better (and very balanced) mechanics, in a lot of people's opinions, but a lot of people would just rather be casting magic missile than energy missile, or whatever psions get.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
    1. Should there be a sanity mechanism for Arcanes?
    2. Will this mechanism actually change gameplay, or will it be just more bookkeeping?
    3. Do Warlocks have any unforeseen impacts, or are they as straightforwardly blasty as they look?
    If you want no one to play an arcane caster, just take them out. Call of Cthulhu is a game where you're expected to die or go crazy at any time... I'm not sure of many players that would play a class with a sanity mechanism in 3.5.

    Warlocks do about half the damage of a wizard at any given level, so I wouldn't call them blasty. They get invisibility and flight (as well as their blast) at will, along with some other fun tricks, though. They're basically more like an archer class.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
    1. Will making Clerics into Charisma casters tip balance one way or the other?
    2. Should healing magic be easily available, or should it be hard to get?
    3. How much Divine wrath can one Cleric bring down, and is it too much for general dispersal?
    4. Is Wild Shape so broken it must be removed?
    5. Can a Wild Shape Druid be in an unoptimized party and not eclipse other characters?
    6. Would a Druid limited to either Wild Shape or full casting be overly specialized?
    7. Has anybody even read through all of this?
    1. Making clerics Charisma casters will weaken their Will saves, and that's about it.

    Edit: Was thinking about only the way I play... if you do allow Turn Undead to be used for something other than turning undead, then that will increase a cleric's power significantly.

    2. Up to you. As a player it can be frustrating not having healing magic easily available. If your players enjoy challenge, a lack of healing magic can give them that.

    3. Cleric spells are way inferior to wizard spells, because clerics get 3/4 BAB and d8 HD. They're mostly buffs and heals. They have a few spells that completely destroy undead or opposite alignment creatures, though. Druids also have some similarly nature-niched spells.

    4. Wild shape is as broken as the shapes you allow. Compare a wildshaped druid to the meleer in your party. If the druid is much better just from this one ability, without any effort, it's broken.

    5. Depends on the party.

    6. Not really. But if you disallow Natural Spell, they can't do both at the same time anyway.

    7. Your walls of text are actually not that painful to read for some reason.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Psionics, Arcana, and the Divine

    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Corm View Post
    4. Wild shape is as broken as the shapes you allow. Compare a wildshaped druid to the meleer in your party. If the druid is much better just from this one ability, without any effort, it's broken your melee player is broken.
    The types available to standard Wildshape are *not* that overpowering. They just benefit from being pre-built to be alright at combat because they have abilities that default meleers don't (seriously, shapechanging abilities are the only way the Core books offer for players to get Pounce or a good enough grapple score to really compete with big monsters. Wildshaping Druids are only broken in as much as Fighters, Barbarians et al were decreed to be Not Worthy of having those abilities.)

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Psionics, Arcana, and the Divine

    Originally Posted by Shifty
    1-Are Psionic classes well-balanced as-is?
    2-Will they work within the Magic Translucency system?
    3-Can Soul Knives and Psychic Warriors swing with the big boys?
    4-Are players even interested in Psionics? Nobody seems to talk about them on the boards, after all.
    1-Psionics are well balanced at lower levels. However they have the ability to be much, much more powerful than casters. The point system is one that allows players to beef there "spells" in this case powers and at the same time also just let them ride at the base damage. At higher levels- 10+ I consider Psions way more broken then Wizards.
    2-I don't see why you need a Translucency system at all except you seem to love Psions and hate casters. And note there is nothing wrong with that as long as your players feel the same way. I would just drop Arcane casters entirely and just SR as PR... and say Divine spells have a seperate Resistance if you feel you need it.
    3- Psychic Warriors are an amazing class with some great powers and decent feat progression and attack bonus to balance! Soul Knives on the other hand are not as well thought out. I would boost their ability to make a weapon and perhaps expand on their Psychic Strike ability to work more often.
    4- There are plenty of people out there and here who like and play with Psionics but I think there are just more who play with traditional magic. I think this is probably because as Baron Corm stated:
    I believe people are less interested in psionics because they don't have the same fantasy flavor that magic does. A psion looks pretty out of place put next to a cleric, fighter, bard, druid, etc., compared to a wizard
    .

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Psionics, Arcana, and the Divine

    If you really have a hobby store full of books at your disposal, consider the Favored Soul (Complete Divine) instead of the Cleric and the Shape Shift Variant Druid (PhBII) instead of the typical wildshape druid. Each is a slight power step down from their progenitors and more balanced. Also more what you're looking for, I think.
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