Sunday, December 20, 2009

Game-related Assumptions about Magic in SoG

So Mike mentioned in the last post's comments that SoG was something of a different perspective--specifically that SoG is not being written as a translation of the D20 game mechanic. SoG is being written as a vision of the World of Greyhawk, using FATE.

That was absolutely true. Applying the "chicken and the egg" argument to Greyhawk, my design theory for this effort is:

  • The world of Greyhawk is the "Chicken"
  • AD&D and therefore SoG is the "Egg"

The SoG approach to Magic is a good illustration of this. Most other FATE translations I have seen (to date) have expressed magic as something of an "ad hoc" approach. I say this without being critical, because:

  • It certainly reduces "time to market" as it were.
  • There are certainly tons of "realms" where generating magic effects really was ad hoc.
  • FATE is more about playing than about writing, and ad hoc magic fits nicely with that approach.
  • I too don't want to spend what little time I have available to devote to gaming in just translating spells.
  • I also use the ad hoc approach in SoG as one expression of Magic (looking ahead to the section on "Sorcery" or "Stunt-Based Magic").

However in order to recreate the play experience of Magic in Greyhawk, I felt it necessary to include the play experience of a Wizard selecting pre-fab spells, and storing up what they felt was necessary for a particular day, hoping they have "chosen well" (Deliberate vision of Crusader from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade").

That term "play experience" goes back to how the article started: SoG is about the recreation of the "play experience" of Greyhawk.

So as a starting place, I used the following ground-rules about Magic as it exists in Greyhawk that should be adhered to, or at least reviewed carefully before breaking.

Couple caveats to note:
  1. While the assumptions below might reference game mechanics, I am working from the viewpoint that the original mechanics were put in place to reinforce the game-world assumptions. (See "Chicken and the Egg" above)
  2. Not all my assumptions might be considered "canon". Some assumptions are those I chose to make (notably in the difference between psionics and magic).
  3. These assumptions also very specifically are focused on the world of Greyhawk, circa AD&D 70's-80's. I made no effort to try to cover any other ground (GH was enough!)
  4. Don't limit the FATE mechanic just because something wasn't in AD&D.

Greyhawk-related Assumptions about Magic

  • The ability to manipulate magic forces is inherent within a particular individual.
  • The actual "channeling" or functional use of magic depends upon skill.
  • Clerical magic is granted by a deity, but the functional use of that deity-granted magic still depends upon skill of the cleric.
    • That skill is not so much a function of study, but rather reflect the degree of wisdom / experience / closeness of a character to a Deity and their good graces.
    • It might also be considered that the power of the "go-between" used by the deity to grant spells (from prayer or from just asking), would also be a function of how "tight" (read: high level) the cleric is. In other words, the power level of the minion used to grant a 1st level cleric's prayers would undoubtedly be less than the power level of the minion backing an epic-level cleric.
    • (In theory, a deity could grant extra levels with Aspects that don't require education, but that's for further exploration)
  • IMPORTANT: Casting a spell is not difficult, when done by a person with skill adequate to the difficulty of the spell. In other words, in AD&D spells typically don’t fail due to the caster—they fail because the target made a saving throw.
  • Spells have a life of their own, as a result of the casters' manipulation of magical energy.
    • This is why spells have aspects of their own also.
    • CRITICAL UNDERSTANDING: Spells do not represent a player-versus-player contest (in contrast to Psionics or contested skills). Normal casting of spells are uncontested; the caster is beating a straight difficulty to cast the spell. Spell resistance on the part of the targets is not a function of resisting the CASTER, but rather the difficulty presented by the strength of the SPELL.
  • Spells to be cast are pre-determined (pre loaded) by the caster.
    • Magic User source – Memorization via a Spellbook
    • Clerical source – Granted by Deity when the user prays
  • Spells once cast are "gone" and require study / prayer (an amount of time must pass) in order to regain the spells (reactivate spell slots).
  • It is normally not draining upon the user to cast a spell.
  • Psionics are not Magic, and do not obey the same laws.
  • Lower-level spells cast by higher-skilled wizards often (but not always) give some benefit to the spell, whether in potency, duration, or something else.
  • Just because something wasn't covered in AD&D, doesn't mean it doesn't exist in Greyhawk. Perhaps it just wasn't "known" or wasn't considered a "good idea"within Greyhawk.
    Case in point: Casting a spell beyond your skill level. AD&D didn't really cover how to address that situations (other than you "couldn't" outside of scrolls). The FATE mechanic implies that it could happen. So in SoG, just because a 1st level wizard COULD cast Fireball, doesn't mean it's a good idea! (mu-ha-ha!)
  • In gameplay terms, if something in FATE allows a player to "bring the awesome" that wasn't in AD&D; allow it.
    Case in Point: Covens. Or stated in game-terms, multiple wizards working together to cast a spell that individually they couldn't cast (or to make the spell they could cast more potent). Covens are pretty much standard issue in any Magic-realm, but AD&D didn't really address how that would work. SotC has some very nice rules for allowing people to work together to increase the effective skill level--so make use of what SotC RAW offers.

Coming Up: Character Creation and Pre-Requisites for using Magic
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