Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spirit of Greyhawk - Spells per Level & Memorization

Hello again, everyone! After a lot of side trips and delays, we now return you to my not-so-regularly scheduled discussions on translating "high-fantasy" magic from the Greyhawk source material into my "Spirit of Greyhawk" implementation of Fate.

Setting Expectations

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea before going any further (i.e., digging into more specifics), to be clear about which versions of the source material I'm using.

While other versions of AD&D could be patched together to form a “best of breed” patchwork source, I think that’s an easy way to get focused on the finger pointing at the moon, rather than moon itself.

So, the publishings of AD&D (1st Edition) documentation that I’ll be using will be the following, when I refer to the “source material”:

  • Monster Manual (December 1977)
  • Players Handbook (June, 1978)
  • Dungeon Master Guide (August, 1978)

Game World Assumptions for Wizardry Spells per Level and Spells Memorized


So working from the expectations of the above source material, here's a summary of topics as how the world of Greyhawk works with respect to Wizards and the spells they can cast:

  • There is a pre-determined progression of spells per level that can be cast in a day by a Wizard of a particular level.
  • Wizards of higher skill levels can cast (per day) more spells in a particular level than a less-skilled Wizard would.
  • Highly intelligent Wizards can have more spells in their spellbook than Wizards without that same degree of intellect. In other words, they have a greater selection of spells that could be available to them.
  • Higher-level spells also require a higher intelligence. Without that higher intelligence (whether from natural stats or some sort of boost), Wizards cannot cast certain spells.

Taking those assumptions into Fate we end up with the following game-related topics…

  • The number of Spells that can be cast in a defined period are an important limiting factor and should be translated into SoG. There should be a reduction in the number of “slots” a Wizard can have for increasingly difficult spells.
  • Having a higher skill level in Wizardry allows for higher difficulty spells.
  • Given that SoG does not have a skill reflecting pure intellect (a la AD&D’s Intelligence attribute), is there a way within the existing Fate framework to account for a Wizard having an additional qualification to be able to memorize more powerful spells? Is there even a need?

Additionally, I want whatever I do for SoG to keep reference tables to a minimum and to keep bookkeeping as simple as possible.

Wizard's Spells per Level in Spirit of Greyhawk

Start with a Traditional Fate Pyramid


My first step was thinking SoG’s “Pyramid” approach is the cleanest way to implement this, based upon the Wizard’s skill level.

So, I'm starting off by stating that the highest spell level that can be memorized by a Wizard is equivalent to his skill level and will be generally defined as 1 spell in that level can be memorized.

So, a Wizardry skill level of +5 (Superb) allows for 1 5th level spell to be memorized for use within a particular period of time (see “Memorization Period” below). Using the example above, the Spell Memorization pyramid is structured similar to SoG’s Skill Pyramid:

  • 5th Level Spells: 1
  • 4th Level Spells: 2
  • 3rd Level Spells: 3
  • 2nd Level Spells: 4
  • 1st Level Spells: 5

If we compare that to "Spells Usable by Class and Level Magic-Users" (PH, p. 26), this most closely resembles a 9th level magic-user, but gives them one extra 1st and 2nd level spells. My rule of thumb for translation is that 1 skill level should generally be equivalent to 2 AD&D skill levels (in other words, SoG's Magic skill level of 5 would be equivalent to a 10th level M-U). So that seems pretty close to the source material without having to get too fiddly.

Subsequently this also means that using the current SoG ladder maximum of +9, I'm effectively capping out SoG at about 18th level. At this point, I don’t see a real benefit in trying deal with classes past that point so I'm gonna call it good.

Problem: Higher-level Wizards & lower-level spells

However there's now a balance issue in the number of lower-level spells a higher-level Wizard gets under SoG. The source material indicates that for SoG's 18th level "cap", no M-U would have more than 5 spells memorized from spell level 5 on down. Given the difference in the number of spells per day, there needs to put be a similar cap on a Wizard's spell pyramid.

Which means that instead of a Wizard at Magic Skill Level 9 having this "pure" pyramid…

  • 9th Level Spells: 1
  • 8th Level Spells: 2
  • 7th Level Spells: 3
  • 6th Level Spells: 4
  • 5th Level Spells: 5
  • 4th Level Spells: 6
  • 3rd Level Spells: 7
  • 2nd Level Spells: 8
  • 1st Level Spells: 9

…it would instead look like this…

  • 9th Level Spells: 1
  • 8th Level Spells: 2
  • 7th Level Spells: 3
  • 6th Level Spells: 4
  • 5th Level Spells: 5
  • 4th Level Spells: 5
  • 3rd Level Spells: 5
  • 2nd Level Spells: 5
  • 1st Level Spells: 5

…which I think turns out to give you a fairly decent parallel to the source material. There's a few exceptions, but nothing game-killing.

The REAL Rule for Wizards and Spell Memorization

So then the actual rule for a Wizard's Spells per Level would be the following:

  • The highest spell level that can be memorized is equivalent to the Wizard's skill level in "Magic", with only 1 spell at that level.
  • Each reduction in level gives an extra spell.
  • The maximum number of spells that can be memorized per skill level is 5.

If you're an Excel fan, it would look like this:

# Memorized per Spell Level = MAX(MIN(Magic Skill Level – Spell Level + 1, 5), 0)

Memorization Period

Source material canon states that a wizard's spell slots are allocated for a particular spell "loadout" once per day. So once a particular spell is fired, the slot used is unavailable until the next day.

However given that the Fate mechanic places an emphasis on the starting and ending of scenes, I keep wondering if perhaps a Wizard's spell slots in Spirit of Greyhawk might reset by scene, instead of by day.

My current thinking is that this is too far off canon and that SoG will stick with the “per day” memorization period. Here's why:

  • Allowing a greater refresh frequency removes some of a player's angst of "planning" a day's spells. I happen to find very attractive the idea that a Wizard character should always be trying to plan ahead and the inherent risks of doing that in an adventure, especially in the fluid nature of a cooperative storytelling mechanic.
  • Allowing a Wizard to refresh "by scene" also removes some of the distinguishing factors between a Wizard (who is always trying to plan ahead and look for angles that will help them survive) and a Sorceror who is more of a seat-of-the-pants caster.

…Especially when you consider that it's quite possible that 3-4 scenes could occur in a day. Anyone got a different perspective?

Next Time: Intelligence & Spells, Spell Books
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