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
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