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D&D 3E
changing magic 
7th-Apr-2006 11:00 pm
chocobo
I'm planning to start working out my new campaign world soon, and I want people's opinions about magic. I've decided I don't like spellcasters as they are now--they don't feel interesting or special, not to mention can easily become gamebreaking. So I want to change the flavor and mechanics of things.

First, I'm thinking I'm going to do away with divine magic and replace it with the Pact magic system from Tome of Magic. I like the flavor more, and the mechanic seems like something I'd rather have (gaining a couple special abilities instead of just a list of spells). I think I'm going to flavor vestiges as either demons or angels, using it as a basis for a religious dichotomy. But the abilities will be similar (or the same) to the Tome of Magic stuff, plus some that can replace abilities of the cleric and druid, such as turn undead and wildshape. This will also severely cut back on magical healing, which is what I want (I'm going to use the wound/vitality system, which works best in a campaign with little magical healing). I'm also planning to get rid of Paladins outright (no more worrying about interpreting their ethics--that and many people seem to think they're a boring or weak class anyway), and convert Rangers to the non-spellcasting varient from Complete Warrior. Any opinions on these changes? Has anyone tried out Pact magic yet?

But the real question is: what am I going to do about arcane magic? I think I might prefer to leave the system more or less intact, with perhaps just a few house rules to change the flavor. But there are a couple of things I want, and I'm not quite sure how to get them:

* I want to get rid of (or severly limit/discourage) the artillery mage. I don't like the fireball-lobbing wizard who is more powerful in combat than the fighter and is a better ranged combatant than a ranged specialist fighter or ranger. I'd rather mages be more utilitarian than blasters.
* I want to be able to have certain spells be rare or special. For example, perhaps something like Teleport (while a 5th level spell) is only known by a secret society of mages, so that it takes effort on the part of the mage to learn it. I don't like the automatic gaining of more and more powerful spells--the fighter has to go through a dungeon to get his +1 sword, why doesn't the mage have to do anything to learn fireball? This would also allow me as the DM to control access to spells somewhat--players can't get game-altering spells like Teleport without effort.
* I'm thinking I would like some kind of danger inherant in using magic. Nothing extreme, but just so there's a risk of something going wrong, even if it's in line with a critical miss. Mages shouldn't be able to sit and cast spells all day long without any consequences. This isn't supposed to be a discouragement as much as a way to make things a little more interesting. Like maybe a roll-to-cast method with a small (natural 1) chance of backfire. This is also be balanced by having a critical-hit type of effect, where there is an equal chance of things working really well.

Any ideas for how to have an arcane magic system that works like this? Either alternate systems, or house rules (or both). Any problems that these effects would cause that I'm missing? Thanks for your input
Comments 
8th-Apr-2006 05:09 am (UTC)
Frankly, the more I learn about the rules, the more I like magic the way it is. If I want mages to be more special, then I just add some flavor that makes them more special. I don't think that the mage is not as good as the ranged attacker or the close-combat fighter, because he should have a lot less HP. One well-aimed arrow should do it. I would use a crit-fail system when rolling arcane spell failure - 5% or less, crit fail, spell never makes it outside the armor or something like that. If they're not using any armor that'd allow a chance of spell failure, they're taking enough of a hit on AC that they've probably paid for it.

Sorry if that doesn't help at all, you asked for opinions and that's mine. :\ I like the idea of having a spellcaster that gets spells per day as racial abilities, though. No spell components, no dropping spells for other spells, etc. I wonder if there's a class like this already.
8th-Apr-2006 05:25 am (UTC)
psionics?
8th-Apr-2006 05:37 am (UTC)
Eh, that's a whole totally different thing. I meant like a Feistian tattoo mage or something.
8th-Apr-2006 12:41 pm (UTC)
Frankly I agree. Remember the mage, can also pick up that magic wand or ring of prot in a dungeon. It's hard to get to 10th level and get teleport anyway. Kind of exclusive already.
8th-Apr-2006 01:10 pm (UTC)
How do you add flavor to make them more special? Just make them more descriptive?

I think the low HP actually has a lot less of an influence than it may seem. For one, the very point of a ranged combatant (warrior or mage) is to stay out of combat--they shouldn't be getting hit at all. That and it seems easier for a mage to have a high CON to make up for the low hit die (they only need one stat to be effective--INT or CHA--, while the ranger warrior is probably going to need STR and DEX). And even if the mage has half the HP of a fighter, they're do more than half the damage (consider a 6th level archer, 3d8 (average 16.5) dmg a round to a single target vs the 6d6 (average 21 dmg) fireball to everyone within a 20' radius.

I do respect your opinion, I'm just trying to match a system to how the game I've played have seemed to develop. In many ways I do like the standard system, if only because people (including the DM) know it and so know the implications. I just want to change the aspects of a game that I don't like.
8th-Apr-2006 06:49 am (UTC)
I recommend you investigate the modified magic system found in Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved. Understand I am not a universal Monte fan; I believe he would benefit from an editor. But this particular rule subset has been extensively playtested and modified enough that it is very exciting.

First, spells are generally weaker than in 3.x. There is no magic missile. There is no haste. Invisibility is 3rd level, not 2nd. There are still plenty of damaging spells, but I think this may address your #1 pretty well.

Second, spells are divided into three groups: simple, complex, and exotic. To learn an exotic spell, a spellcaster must either invent the spell himself or spend a feat. Thus exotic spells, which are defined as "spells a little more powerful than usual, signature spells, or spells that are just plain wierd" are rare. This addresses your #2.

Additional characteristics of this magic system include:

Every spell has a "one level lower" and "one level higher" version, so that when you prepare a spell you actually prepare three similar spells. This grants more flexibility and reduces the "every fireball spell is exactly the same" problem that makes magic -- well -- not very magical.

Spellcasters can "weave" together three lower level spells to cast one higher level one. (three 1st to cast one 2nd, for example.) Again, more flexibility and allows for creative and desperate tactics.

Spellcasters do not prepare spells in the same way. Instead, they gain access to all spells on their list of the proper level, but each day choose which of these to "bone up on" for the day. It's like a sorcerer who can change his known spells every morning. Most spellcasters get only simple spells. Magisters (the equivalent of the wizard) gain simple and complex. Healing spells are simple which means, yes, wizards can heal people. In Arcana Evolved, as in your setting, there are no clerics, though there are classes which resemble druids and also some witches.

Anyhow, I think you might really find it worth your time. You don't need to import any more into your setting than the magic system and perhaps a class or two. There are some rule options you might like. The increased flexibility of spellcasting makes up for the weaker spell list. There is no risk factor in casting a single spell -- I have to say that I'm not a big fan of that sort of thing, but it's easy enough to add if you want to.

Cheers,
JT
8th-Apr-2006 01:01 pm (UTC)
I think I looked at it once and thought it was interesting. I'll definately take a second gander. Thanks.
8th-Apr-2006 11:43 am (UTC)
> I want to be able to have certain spells be rare or special. For example, perhaps something like Teleport (while a 5th level spell) is only known by a secret society of mages, so that it takes effort on the part of the mage to learn it. I don't like the automatic gaining of more and more powerful spells--the fighter has to go through a dungeon to get his +1 sword, why doesn't the mage have to do anything to learn fireball? This would also allow me as the DM to control access to spells somewhat--players can't get game-altering spells like Teleport without effort.

The obvious answer is simply to say "Only this small secret society knows the secert of Teleport, and you can only learn it from them or research it yourself."

I use a sub-list of spells that I let players pick from freely (referred to as the Corpus Arcanum because it sounds suitably pretentious),and anything that isn't on that list requires a specific reason that I have some degree of control over - whether it's in a villain's spellbook, or they're being mentored by a specific NPC...

This takes a bit of work to write out the Corpus, but I find it works well enough.
8th-Apr-2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
I thought about that, but doesn't that come close to pretty much just banning certain spells from your game? I mean, that is kind of what I want to do, but I'm trying to not seem TOO much like I'm just limiting things on a whim.

How big is your sub-list? Does it do anything to restrict mages so that all wizards basically cast the same spells? And then how does this list of "standard" spells fit with the players definition of "standard" spells, which would probably include stuff like Teleport?
9th-Apr-2006 01:01 am (UTC)
I really like the idea of Teleport being a very rare spell--my players last game really abused it (though it's partially my fault--I let them do it). I fixed the problem for the future of that world (where I'm trying to run a number of games) by requiring a "firedrop" gem, aka the Tears of the Phoenix, to cast the spell. A gem will run somewhere in the neighborhood of 50K gp, due to its rarity. This will make teleporting rare enough for my tastes (and also help explain some historical developments and allow some low-tech societies even in a high-magic world).

(As an example--I wanted a society like Robert Jordan's Tinkers (but not quite), with their caravans and their trading. Trade caravans are rendered obsolete in a world with a decent number of wizards and sorcerers.)
9th-Apr-2006 01:04 am (UTC)
RE: artillery mage

solution: Higher level damage spells = temp con drain. I think of it similar to how Raistlin always seemed on the brink of death after casting certain spells.

work it out like this

con drain = spell level
con drain lasts 1/2 the spell level in rounds

example: level 4 direct damage spell drains 4 points of temporary con. It lasts for 2 rounds. during that time the casters HP is reduced accordingly. The more powerful the spell, the larger the risk to the mage in casting it.

RE: limiting spells.

Spell knowledge is like learning chemistry. just because you've learned something new dosent mean the reality of it never existed. Magical forces have always existed in your world. Magic is just a way of harnessing them. If you want to control certain spells and make them inaccessable to players at the time, just increase the difficulty need to realize the spells. Cant learn teleport if the concepts of teleportation arent even understood by anyone but archmages. to put in real day terms....a physics student may dream of punching a hole in space to speed up space travle, but only a doctorate professor knows the realities needed to achieve such a thing (even though its still impossible for the time being)


RE: inherent danger to magic

Perhaps instead of magical energies being something you draw from another plane of existance, think of magical energies existing as something that exists within the physical world around the players. drawing from these streams of energy can be potentially dangerous, expecially when casting things like fireballs or lightening bolts. give players the chance to ignight these streams or pockets of magic when casting energy spells like that. Damage should be determined by the level of the spell and affect the area.

example: player wants to cast a fireball at a band of approaching hobgoblins, yet he knows the mystic energies in this area are extremly unstable. He risks an 8% chance of ignighting the magic ether in the area (spell level x2 = % igniting) and inflicting 4d4 damage (1d4 + 1d4 per spell level)to both himself and the hobgoblins.

this works for energy spells and damage spells..but what about things like invisibility or cantrips? the art of magic is similar to your mom's oven mitt. You use it to keep yourself from getting burned. use the same equation for damage spells but reduce the damage by half

this is just something off the top of my head. perhaps it'll give you a few ideas of your own
10th-Apr-2006 09:00 pm (UTC) - givem more and theyll hurt themselves
Anonymous
I do like the idea of adding some special abilities, and yes you should limit the spells they have access too (usually done through town and mage parlor limitation and availability... ah the days in 2e when we lusted to get to the big city, and of course got there without going to a dungeon to get money lol or went to the dungeons but ran to the big city without a mage and/or to resurrect 'em). I enjoyed questing for that spellbook on level 4... as for underpowering the mage i think you could go a different route... if you get a chance id suggest something we tried that worked well, based from the pages of 3rd and now 4th ed. Shadowrun... give them a drain... we went with the lowest save for a wizard Fortitude... i guineaed up to the first mage trial run. We gave it a DC Fort save of caster level + spell level x2... so that 10th lv mage with teleport made a 10+10 dc fort save... that 3rd lv mage with a fort save of +3 casts that 2nd level spell and putts two more levels into it making it a 4th lv spell rolls dc save 3+8... if they failed the spell would not backfire, it would fizzle... if failed the mage rolls dc Will save of "same" 3+8 to keep the spell instead of lose it. The closest thing to "drain" we came up with after realizing that we had to many passed out mages was to either knock back prone 5 feet (does not provoke attack of opportunity due to such sudden speed) or our favorite cause it ment it forced a mage to be more versitile with spells was to not knock prone on failure but to suspend useage of said failed spell for a # of rounds = to what ever you missed the save by (the best part is a mage whom needs a high con stat, the worst is the mage becomes the potty mouth of the group ha... its only a suggestion its not for everyone and didn't always work they way we wanted it to... half the time we dont use these rules. Have you looked at the spell point system (which is probably the opposite direction your trying to go) or the magic system in the Magic of Incarnum book
10th-Apr-2006 09:02 pm (UTC) - givem more and theyll hurt themselves
I do like the idea of adding some special abilities, and yes you should limit the spells they have access too (usually done through town and mage parlor limitation and availability... ah the days in 2e when we lusted to get to the big city, and of course got there without going to a dungeon to get money lol or went to the dungeons but ran to the big city without a mage and/or to resurrect 'em). I enjoyed questing for that spellbook on level 4... as for underpowering the mage i think you could go a different route... if you get a chance id suggest something we tried that worked well, based from the pages of 3rd and now 4th ed. Shadowrun... give them a drain... we went with the lowest save for a wizard Fortitude... i guineaed up to the first mage trial run. We gave it a DC Fort save of caster level + spell level x2... so that 10th lv mage with teleport made a 10+10 dc fort save... that 3rd lv mage with a fort save of +3 casts that 2nd level spell and putts two more levels into it making it a 4th lv spell rolls dc save 3+8... if they failed the spell would not backfire, it would fizzle... if failed the mage rolls dc Will save of "same" 3+8 to keep the spell instead of lose it. The closest thing to "drain" we came up with after realizing that we had to many passed out mages was to either knock back prone 5 feet (does not provoke attack of opportunity due to such sudden speed) or our favorite cause it ment it forced a mage to be more versitile with spells was to not knock prone on failure but to suspend useage of said failed spell for a # of rounds = to what ever you missed the save by (the best part is a mage whom needs a high con stat, the worst is the mage becomes the potty mouth of the group ha... its only a suggestion its not for everyone and didn't always work they way we wanted it to... half the time we dont use these rules. Have you looked at the spell point system (which is probably the opposite direction your trying to go) or the magic system in the Magic of Incarnum book
10th-Apr-2006 09:42 pm (UTC) - Re: givem more and theyll hurt themselves
Wow, that was kind of a headache to read...

I am considering implementing spell points (using the 2e numbers, not the UA numbers which don't really work). I'm experimenting with psionics in one game, and really like the mechanic for using abilities (in terms of points per day and augmenting and so on), though I'm not sure I like the "mental power" flavor as much as the "arcane might" flavor.

I've looked at Incarnum and am not really interesting in that system at all. Not only does it seem uninteresting to play (in my opinion at least), but it doen't fit what I want magic to do (summoning personalized magic items is not what I want at all).

For anyone who is interests, my current plan is to have Wizards (intelligence based) who use pretty much the system as written, but have to meet certain prereqs to automatically learn spells at each level (and perhaps to learn spells at all--I'm thinking maybe a Spellcraft check to 'fake' a prereq in the same way artificers use UMD). Then I'll have a wisdom based version of Binders (Pact magic from Tome of Magic) to replace divine casters. And then for charisma-based casters, I'll have Bards who will use a roll-to-cast method to give them a little more versatility. But I am considering either replacing the Wizards with psionics or just giving them a spell-point system (maybe I'll make it an option), or maybe replacing the Bard system with psionic versions of all their abilities (so Bards are ultra-versatile). I figure this actually makes the different kind of spellcasters feel different.
11th-Apr-2006 05:23 am (UTC) - headache back
yes im in agreement with you on the Incarnum book, interesting but not enough to play... spell point system is what my friends and i use mostly... then well add in for fun the random spell failure tables from Rifts:Paladium and modify them for situation and comedic affect, especially the list from the Rifter its all messed... i am looking forward to hearing the results of having the mages roll spellcraft checks in orrder to see if they understand the magic enough to learn it, if that is what you meant... ive got a cleric/artificer that is broken in that it is a better spell slinger than any mage ive ever played, with many more casting options to choose from... hes just a scroll tank, and if i hadnt made an infinite scroll case (described in Magic of Ebberon book) hed be (and was) a fire hazard
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