Friday, November 27, 2009

Reading T&T 7.5 - Magic p.126-132

We have almost reached the end of the rulebook by now, but there are a lot quirks in the pages ahead. Let's dive in the deep end!

To start off with, we are treated to some description of how magic shapes everything on Trollworld. Here we get a few snippets of information about that ellusive place, and the fact that dwarves can smell metals makes me yearn for more information on this wondrous place. At the same time my brain is filling in the blanks all by itself, because the ideas are so evocative.

Spells, we learn, are categorized in four schools. I'm not sure I know why, but that's how it is. Then it starts for real. Now on page 127 and forward we get the rules for actually casting spells, and some examples and metaphysics of magic mixed in. It's made clear that spells are a psychic phenomena, and that spellbooks thus don't exists. I found that, and the then natural lack of scrolls, to be a stumbling block for me when trying to find treasure to reward magic using characters in my campaign. Think about how you want to handle that in your campaign.

Notable is that when the rules say that your stats will limit your ability to cast spells, it never say anything about your level, except for an example on p.127-128 where Khenn the Wizard casts a spell of a higher level than himself. In 5th ed this is limited by the fact that the Wizard's Guild wont teach those,
and that they cost more energy to cast if you get hold of them anyway. I think I like the new freedom better.

You cast spells by making a SR and you pay for them with the new stat, WIZ. Welcome to the classic weakling wizards! I can't resist thinking of Ars Magica, where all our Magi had maxed out their Stamina. Yes, a physical stat. I think it makes sense to have magic powered by a separate stat.

In the section called Casting Cost we see some slightly confusing things. In the first paragraph we see a mention of tools to assist casting, like a wand. Later in the next column on the same page there's an example of a Wizard casting a TTYF and it's mentioned that he don't have a staff. So, you say, what difference does that make? The thing is that using these tools and how the reduce the cost of a spell isn't explained until yet another three paragraphs, the middle of page 129! Also, in the second paragraph of this section there's a page reference to page 36. This is regarding how the level of the caster also makes it cheaper to cast a spell. Looking at page 36 we see that is indeed where the definition of a level is, but the benefit of levels is on page 39! Just to make it even a bit more confusing nowhere on page 39 is it mentioned that one benefit of gaining a level is that it's cheaper to cast spells! This is very confusing, and should have been edited. It feels sloppy and a bit disorganized. Since I started this project Ken have told me that everything is basically printed in the order he wrote it. It shows, sadly. The most odd thing of all, though, is that the actual rules for the different kind of spell casting foci are in another booklet! At least there are a very clear mention of this in the middle of page 129, pointing out that you have to read Special Edition Monsters & Magic Book.

One important thing is mentioned here, though, that Rogues can't power up spells. Considering all other limitations on their spell casting is mentioned in the Type description on page 12, I'd love to have seen that added there as well.

The rest of the magic rules consists of the most talked about and least liked part of 7th ed, according to my experience. Some metaphysical reasoning is given, and then it's proclaimed that there's a "barrier" you have to overcome to affect a stronger magical force, Kremm, than your own. The end result is that you, and your target both loose WIZ, but you can't get your spell to affect anyone stronger than yourself. This brings out a boatload of problems.

Sure, you can have a team of Wizards casting spells to drain their target while one of their pals is withholding his WIZ (otherwise you will all just decrease in step and never bring down your target below you) until it can be brought to bear. But, frankly. Can you imagine a party of multiple Wizards doing that, when they can just boost a Warrior with something like a Vorpal or Whammy so much easier?

Also, imagine a Target with WIZ 100 and two player Wizards with WIZ 88 at level 7 and another with WIZ 30 at level 2. The latter are going to cast a spell on the Target. They will both loose some WIZ, right? Now the Level 7 Wizard cast the same spell. But, since he is higher level he will use less magic energy and thus affect the Target less! If he uses a focus it's even worse. It feels distinctly wrong that somebody with more magical power will make the enemy hurt less. Can you ignore the level benefit or "exert yourself" in order to hurt the enemy more? Nah, this just is not working.

I like the idea of Spell Resistance, but this is not a good way to do it. It will involve more dice rolling, and thus more chance, but I think some SR based on the difference in power makes more sense. The idea is good, but I don't like it this way. I'd hesitate to add in more dice rolling since it will both slow down play and make Wizards potentially weaker. Considering you didn't have to roll a INT SR to cast a spell in 5th (now you do) I would hazard the guess that for someone coming from 5th ed it would look even less good. Maybe ditch the INT SR and just have a SR when casting on someone with higher WIZ? Don't feel that good either.

Personally I never liked the "auto pilot" system where you just said "I cast a spell", while a Warrior had to roll to hit. Magic should be fickle and chancy. At least as much as the martial skills are. Taking a tenth of the overpowering WIZ as CON hits instead? Heck, I have no idea how to make it work! Can you tell I'm grasping for ideas? I like the INT SR to cast, but the Resistance rules will go next time I play T&T.

Most of the rules in the Magic section are just as easy going and wonderful as tools as the rest of the system, but the new additions above need to mature a bit. The system if fun, and it works. I do like that you gain AP for making a SR to cast, spending WIZ to cast, and for defeating a monster with that same spell! Wizards can be powerhouses for Adventure Points.

Next week: I'll talk about some of the specific spells, and that extra booklet mentioned above, Special Edition Monsters & Magic Book

10 comments:

  1. The more that I play, I like the straight up lesser Wiz cannot cast on greater Wiz. SR's would make just yet another SR. As I've seen it play out, the system works overall.

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  2. Yeah, I don't like the idea of more rolls. I hope I will come up with something better.

    When we played it "worked" in so far that player Wizards sometimes just ran into a wall. I felt it limited their options, and that it kind of punished them, since they suddenly were "useless". I still doubt that the scenario where many wizards work in concert will ever play out. But, who knows.

    Instinctly I dislike Kremm Resistance.

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  3. I like Kremm Resistance (KR). KR forces wizards to be more creative. I really got tired of TTYF being the spell of first, second, and last choice.

    With that said, T&T7 did a diservice to the spellbook by "clarifying" the spells. The new descriptions purposely limit how to use many spells. For instance, I used to use Will-o-wisp quite effectively to intimidate foes or send them chasing the wrong light source.

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  4. I'll talk more about the spells next week. There are indeed some innovations I'm less fond of there.

    I guess that I should say that I actually like the idea of Kremm Resistance, but the way it works doesn't charm me.

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  5. Kremm Resistance interested me, but I hate the way it works in practice.

    It did inspire me a bit when I was making my own RPG and its magic/psi system.

    I turned Psi into not only spell power points but spell DEFENSE points.

    So a damage spell hurts your Psi Points first, then overflow damage goes to your HP. (Rougly default spell cost +/- boosting level saps Psi Points for those special effect powers ala D&D's Hold Person. A 20 WIZ cost spell being cast by a higher level mage with a staff is STILL gonna be worth 20 WIZ against Mr 100 WIZ man! Seems like this could cause some really cool cinematic spell combat with the right descriptive group.)

    A version of it might make for a nice mostly on target solution in T&T.

    And strategic. That 100 WIZ mage getting hit by a say. 3d6 damage spell IS taking 3d6 damage. He can't BLOCK it.

    But..

    He can choose to let the 3d6 be taken from his WIZ instead of his CON. It will keep him alive but at the cost of magical power.

    Good and tactical for the lower mages too. Its as if they are fighting off the higher powered mage by forcing him to use his own Kremm to stop their magical attacks as opposed to using it to hurt them!

    Its also nice for your non spellcasters as WIZ matters to them too.

    Would you rather be frozen in place, or lose WIZ?

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  6. I'm not sure I understand what you say about Hold Person, but the main thrust of the idea I like.

    Maybe this is something worth pondering somewhat. Thanks!

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  7. I think with the Effect type spells I was saying this sort of idea:

    If the spell doesn't normally get a save you would take away WIZ and not have to put up with the effect. (Say maybe spell level +d6?)

    For ones that DO permit a SR the spellcaster could choose to either take the SR or take away from his WIZ first.

    At least I think that is what is going through my brain. Maybe.

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  8. On reading the rules for the first time and reading this analysis, my first thought for a fix is the same as part of Captain Rufus suggests: have the WIZ damage be equal to the full WIZ cost of the spell before reductions.

    It keeps the base of the system in place, but it makes reductions a fully good thing instead of a mixed good/bad thing.

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  9. Grimoires, as is stated in the new rulebook, are “usually” a description of the spell and its effect for the non-magical reader. However, some grimoires and scrolls do allow a spell-caster to cast a spell. See Castle Ward by Michael Stackpole, for example (the above-ground entrance level of Dungeon of the Bear): “The second floor (of Banitaar’s Tower) is Banitaar’s library. It contains two spell books which can teach seven spells to any magic-user”.
    The 7th edition does not change that. Look at it this way: the scroll/grimoire can be seen as a bespelled item (i.e. one that has one spell cast upon it one time) with a built-in Teacher spell. Opening such a book triggers the Teacher spell and you get to learn one or more spells this way.
    Other tricks can be used to reward magic using characters: think about the magic coins in Deathtrap Equalizer or about the black poppies in Sword for Hire. Such items can be exchanged for spells.

    As for the sloppiness of the Magic Section, I agree. I made the necessary adaptations when making the French version of the rulebook. The Monsters & Magic Book is integrated in the relevant parts of the rulebook and the references have been edited. I too thought that it was necessary to repeat in the Casting Cost section that Rogues can’t power up spells and I indicated this in the French version. I also used section numbers for ease of reference.

    Now there’s this difficulty with the Kremm Resistance rule: “a team of lower-level Wizards might take down a higher-level Wizard by casting enough spells to deplete the superior Wizard’s kremm to the point where he couldn’t resist anymore”.
    The solution is not so difficult. I’ll take your example. The Target has WIZ 100 and the group has two player Wizards with WIZ 88 at level 7 and another with WIZ 30 at level 2. Let just that last one throw a level 3 TTYF at the target (costs 18 WIZ points + 1 WIZ point because it’s a 3rd-level spell and the Wizard is only 2nd level). That Wizard is going to have to make a L3-SR on his INT to make the magic work. If he succeeds, the TTYF won’t take effect but will draw 19 WIZ points from the target, who now has WIZ 81. During the next combat round, the first Wizard (WIZ 88) will be able to cast successfully a spell at the Target (current WIZ 81). I know what you will object. How are the two Wizards going to survive the first round? The most powerful Wizard (WIZ 88) will just have to cast a Hidey Hole (normally costs 10 WIZ points, but will in fact only cost 5 WIZ points since that Wizard is level 7 and the spell is level 2). At the beginning of the second combat round, he will still have WIZ 83 (88-5) while the Target’s current WIZ will be 81…
    Second solution: the two Wizards join forces and have an overall WIZ of 118! Such a possibility is not explicitly stated in the 7th edition, but is mentioned (I think) in the 5th edition, in section 2.21.2: “If the GM gives consent, two magic-users (and no more) may work together and pool their strength [now kremm] to cast a spell beyond their individual power. However, both must already know the spell.”

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