Saturday, January 23, 2010

Magic Spells - Properties of Spells

In retrospect, I should have realized that it was a bad idea to start talking about Spell casting on the fly (Sorcery) without first talking about Spells first. Namely...
  • Spell Properties (the basic properties of any spell)
  • Spell Improvements (benefits that make a spell more difficult to cast)
  • Spell Modifiers (restrictions that make a spell easier to cast)
...Once those are laid out, the process of creating a spell on the fly should become pretty self-explanatory.

My Current Process of Testing the Spell Framework

Everything I have in here represents a work in progress. I have cobbled it together from a bunch of sources (SotC, Mike's previous work, my own musings and probably some things I've seen on the Yahoo group) and have been testing these assumptions during the pre-fab spell translation process (recreating the M-U / Cleric spells circa AD&D), as well as during the gameplay sessions I've had to date. So far, they're holding up. But they're certainly not carved in stone. As I run into problems during my spell translation process, I consider modifications to the the framework.

Spell Properties

Almost every spell can be defined with the following properties.

The effect of the spell — what it does. Pick a skill, such as Intimidation, Missile, Rapport, or whatever is most appropriate to the effect you want to achieve.

Example: If the desired magical effect is charm, pick Rapport skill.

Currently every power within a spell increases the difficulty by 1.

NOTE: A further elaboration of spell powers is required. See below for "Spell Powers" and countering them.

How long the effect lasts. Damaging effects default to instant; other effects default to a few minutes (position 2 on the Time Chart). Each shift spent on Duration increases the length of the effect by one step on the Time Chart.

How many targets are affected. By default, this is one. You can spend shifts to affect additional targets (1:1), or spend three shifts to affect everyone (or everything) in a zone.

OPEN ISSUE: What would be the cost to affect a SELECTED group of targets within a zone? In other words, doing a "blast" where only your enemies within the blast are affected. This should be more complicated than a single “blast”. Consider an additional +1 modifier to spell difficulty.

Casting Time
Determine the net result of the spell's difficulty and consider that as the position on the Time Chart (below). From there, every decrease in time increases the spell's difficulty by 1. Conversely every increase in time decreases the spell's difficulty by 1.

There is no "0" position on the time chart. No spell is a Free Action.

Depends upon the Power being used in the spell. Whatever the range of the skill is, this is the range of the spell. Normally this is within touching range, or within the same zone, unless a Missile power is included.

If the Power is Missile, then the default Range becomes 1 Zone away. Additional Zones can be purchased on a 1:1 basis, up to 4 zones (+3 difficulty). This takes it out to similar ranges as a rifle.

OPEN ISSUE: How to handle “Line of Sight” ranges and longer range scrying type spells? Possibly layer in a difficulty (given a GM's call) on the Range relative to the Ladder per shift? In other words, if a GM determines the range to be "Legendary" then it counts for +8 on the difficulty.

All spells have by default the "Bespelled" aspect placed upon the target of the spell in the situation of a successful casting. There is no cost for this aspect.

Additional Aspects can purchased at 1 per shift (See upcoming post on "Spell Improvements". There is one free compel per aspect, as per normal rules detailing the placing of aspects on target via manuevers. Spell aspects are considered "sticky" unless otherwise stated.

Spell Powers - More Information

When considering spell powers, there are three basic categories of powers. Each one has it's own general treatment, in addition to how to counter them (known as "Saving Throws" in the source material).

  • Spell Powers that Harm
  • Spell Powers that Help
  • Spell Powers that Hinder

Spell Powers That Harm Something

If the effect is meant to be harmful — that is, if it uses Melee, Missile, Intimidation, or some other direct-damage skill — apply the spell's Power against the target's appropriate defense — usually Endurance or Resolve, depending on the flavor of the spell. The typical SotC defenses would count here.

When considering if Armor or Shields help, the answer is somewhat dependent upon the nature of the spell and the nature of the defense. However in keeping with the source material, the default answer is NO, they do not help (unless the armor specifically provides some sort of magical defense).

Example: If the magical effect is represented with the Missile skill, and it harms the target with flame, likely the proper defense would be Endurance.

Example: However if the point of the spell was to baffle the target's mind with illusions, the target might have to defend with Resolve or Alertness.

Regardless, take the difference between the spell's Power and the target's base skill with a dice roll (let's call it the Saving Throw in deference to the source material) and deal any stress or consequences of the corresponding type and severity.

A consequence is determined by the caster but should relate directly to the magical effect of the spell.

Example: A bard’s magical song of friendship is successful (where the Power was based upon Rapport and tested against a target’s Resolve) and thereby deals a consequence: a good one might be "Thinks the Bard Is His Best Friend."

Spell Powers that Help (Or Buff) Something

If the effect is beneficial to yourself or an ally (i.e., a “buff”), apply the spell's Power as a bonus to the target's use of the buffed skill for the Duration of the spell.

Similarly, you could consider this effect very similar to drinking a potion. In other words, if someone drank a Good (+3) Strength potion, you would add +3 to your Might Skill for the potion's duration. The difference between a potion and a spell might be that the spell's caster can roll dice and get positive shifts.

SIDE NOTE TO SoG RULESET: When considering a buff to a skill not possessed by a target, the SotC default rule is to consider the target to have the skill at Mediocre (+0). In the genre of Spirit of the Century where a certain education and general competence is assumed, that makes perfect sense. However, currently in SoG, the level of a non-listed skill is assumed to be Poor (-1).

In case it needs to be said, normally there is not a Saving Throw associated with Spell Powers that Help a target.

Spells that Hinder Something

The opposite of Help powers — in this situation the caster is trying to reduce the target's capability with a skill, not increase it. Compare the spell's Power against the target's Endurance or Resolve with roll, as appropriate. Any shifts obtained over that defense are applied as a penalty to the Power's selected skill for the duration of the effect.

Examples: A spell of confusion could apply a penalty to the target's Melee, a spell of blindness could penalize Alertness, or a spell of lethargy or "Slow" might work against the target's Athletics.

Penalizing multiple skills requires multiple Powers, or all skills of a particular category (physical, mental, or social) can be penalized at double the cost (2 shifts / -1, rounding up).

In essence, this is the same mechanic as Help; Help just assumes that the target is willing, and consequently offers a defense of Mediocre (+0).

Also in case it needs said, a Power can result in a targeted skill being hindered to the point of going negative.

Side Bar: The Time Chart Used by Spirit of Greyhawk

The time chart currently in use in SoG was shared with me from Mike. It's the SotC basic chart with the following differences:
  • This actually represents two charts: one for if you're in a conflict, one for being out of a conflict.
  • If a slot has two entries, then the first entry represents the time within a conflict.
  • The second entry represents the time required inside of a conflict and conforms to SotC.

While I've considered fiddling with it further to deal with other game-time periods (end of combat, end of scene, end of adventure) for purposes of spell duration, this works fine for me for the time being.

Time Increments Table
  1. An action / Instant
  2. A full action / A few moments
  3. Two rounds / Half a minute
  4. Three rounds / A minute
  5. Full conflict / A few minutes
  6. A scene / 15 minutes
  7. Half an hour
  8. An hour
  9. A few hours
  10. An afternoon
  11. A day
  12. A few days
  13. A week
  14. A few weeks
  15. A month
  16. A few months
  17. A season
  18. Half a year
  19. A year
  20. A few years
  21. A decade
  22. A lifetime


Stuart said...

Quick Question/Comment, re: Time Chart:

"A Lifetime" - What if you are an elf? A Dragon? A Lich?

Can the time chart be extended? Are there magics that can last centuries?

I asked myself these questions. I ended up with an altered time chart.

Now, it is 4am... and my time chart tells me to go to sleep.

Stuart said...

Range still bothers me. If the power is Missile shouldn't that emulate the general range of a missile weapon like a bow (which I would think to be ~2 zones)?

Have you considered after 4 zones, allowing +1 shift for 'line of sight'?

Things like scrying I wouldn't give a range to - if they emulate Investigation or Contacting or something, that should be included in the power. Having a clairvoyance spell that works 1/4 mile away be a ridiculously difficult spell due to range seems... well... ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

The range and time ladders bother me as well. However, I think that they are a natural consequence of the approach that Guy is taking to replicate Greyhawk in FATE.

I seems to me that what he is calling Sorcery may be an attempt to create a system to translate D&D's level based spell system into a difficulty based system for FATE. But there are a lot of things in D&D that are arbitrary, ambiguous and conflicting; so it's going to be a tough job to come up with a generic system.

It might be simpler to drop Sorcery as a spell casting system (it's not very Greyhawky) and use the spell's level as it's difficulty. Average (+1) for 1st level up to Godly (+9?) for 9th level.