Saturday, January 14, 2012

Experimental Magic System

When I've run games with "new to Pen and Paper RPGs" players I've noticed they don't pick up well with the standard spell mechanic (memorizing a subset of spells they know into spell slots).  It's also kind of a pain to track what's memorized and what's been cast.  New and old players don't jive well with "I cast one spell, and then nothing until tomorrow morning?"  Over the years I've tried various mechanics to reduce paperwork, planning, and increase frequency of "action" for spell casters.

I see two very different types of magic-users, that appeal to different types of players.  Magi, scholarly types who poor over tomes to memorize spells. i.e. the traditional D&D Vancian magic-user.  And Wizards, intrinsic magic types that have a smaller set of spells but can cast them without memorization.  Something akin to 3.x sorcerer but I believe sorcerer class made mistake of using spell slots.  Not different enough to be unique and similar enough to be confusing.


This is the experimental draft system I'm gonna try in my "after work with coworkers" campaign starting soon.  Experimental in that it hasn't been play tested and thus is lame blog filler ;)

Wizards have a pool of mana. [need glass beads, poker chips, MTG life counter, something tangible / better than keeping track on paper].  The amount of mana in pool will increase in level.  Exact numbers TBD but 10 + spell slots seems good starting point.  Mana resets daily.

When spell is successfully cast, reduce wizard's mana pool by amount equal to spell's cost, minimum 0.  It's ok not to have enough mana for spell's cost. [maybe should rename it "arcane stamina"?]    Cost normally equals spells level.  The cost for spells that scale with level (e.g. fireball, magic missile) equal effect's level.


Unlike Magi Wizards, do not get "at will" Rituals (which take 10min and cost 10gp/lvl).


To cast a spell Wizard must roll successful casting check.

    d20 + mana pool >= 20 spell cast (expend mana == spell level)
      natural "1"  - consult Intrinsic Arcane Magic Miscast Table.
      natural "20" - mana not expended.


Basically a spell point system with twist current spell point total is casting check modifier.  The slowly eroding chance to successfully cast spell gives lot of intuitive control and options for resource management.  A casting check with fairly high chance of failure is key to giving the player more to do (trying to make roll every round) without greatly increasing the number of spells cast.

Overall these house rules seemingly result in more spells being cast.  But, if rituals (which I have play tested) are an indication, it's really less "running back to town" to rest/memorize and nearly same amount of casting per session.  Which is great in my book.

I'm not sure how it holds up at higher level, 5+.  When they have large mana pool they will be able to cast many lower level spells.  First, I'm fine with magic in general and Wizards being "powerful".  Second, there is always 5% (natural 1) chance of failure.

Hmmmm, just thought of variation:   Instead of total pool being modifier to casting check, the player decides how much of their pool to use as modifier each time spell is cast.   If they make pass casting check mana is expended.  Otherwise, it's retained.

Obviously I need to ruminate a bit further.

2 comments:

  1. I like this alot so far. I have been thinking along the same lines as well, especially with the tangible mana pool thing. I look forward to seeing this develop.

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  2. New players really seem to understand mana based casting better than D&D vancian. Partly I think due to video games, partly because fewer questions.

    Though counting beads might be part of it too. I notice players like handling the little dollar store bag of crystal beads I bought.

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