Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Character Creation - Pre-requisites for Magic Use (Part III) - Magic Stunt

Faithful readers of this blog may see that much of the following information looks kind of familiar. That's because the basis for much of SoG's Magic Stunt is based upon what Mike has already written elsewhere in this blog:


This entry will focus more specifically on the following:

  • What differentiates the Magic Stunt from the Magic Skill
  • Applications of the Magic Stunt within SoG

First off, within SoG I generically use the term "Sorcery" to describe the generation of magical effects via the use of the Magic Stunt. "Wizardry" is the skill-based generation of magical effects.

In my opinion, the term "sorcery" is probably most used by Wizards as a derogatory term. Sorcerors would likely consider that stunt-based magic is perhaps the purest expression of magic: the instinctual ability to generate magical effects at a moment’s notice, with little or no prior preparation. Wizards would probably scoff at the notion, considering the (ab)use of Magic (with a capital M) without sufficient study as ignorant folly... ;)

Magic Stunt Overview
  • The Magic Stunt and the Magic Skill are not mutually exclusive. Someone could choose to take both. In fact, I suspect many of the REALLY powerful Wizards probably do have both, in order to allow them the maximum flexibility in generating magical effects. This would be akin to a "Master" craftsman saying something like, "You have to KNOW the rules, before you can BREAK them..."
  • The character must still have a Magic-related Aspect in order to generate magical effects.
  • The Magic Stunt allows the user to create magical effects on the fly, without having to memorize spells.
  • Generating magical effects via the Magic Stunt requires the user to roll the normal 4dF (versus the 2dF+2 of the Magic Skill). This also means that Stunt-based magic is also more prone to failure.
  • When using the Magic Stunt to generate Magical effects, the user can elect to expend as many FATE points as desired (up to what they have available) per casting to gain the necessary effect. Obviously, this can make things rather easy for a Sorceror to get in over his head in a tough situation.

Should the Magic Stunt require a FATE point to activate the Stunt? Many powerful stunts in SotC RAW require the expenditure of a FATE point to activate them--should the Magic Stunt? My current feeling is NO, the Magic stunt should not require a FATE point to activate it.
  • Based upon what little play we've done with SoG and reading other people's experiences, I think I would rather players use FATE points to have fun and bring the awesome, not as the basis of how many spells their character can cast.
  • Even if it was a requirement, I would be inclined to give the player the benefit of having expended that FATE point as if they had elected to spend it in the normal fashion.
  • This decision might also be dependent upon the realm where this is being applied. In a realm where magic is rarer (or the ability to cast it is rare), it might be more appropriate.

Important Difference between the Magic Stunt versus other SotC Stunts

Within SotC RAW, most (if not all) other Stunts are tied to a pre-set Skill requirement. However within the High Fantasy realm of Greyhawk, the PLAYER will determine what skill is tied to the Magical Stunt. Some examples are:
  • A Bard capable of generating magic effects via his song would tie his Art Skill to the Magic Stunt.
  • A dwarven blacksmith creating magic armor or weapons would tie her Art Skill (broken out as the "Craft" skill in SoG) to her Magic Stunt.
  • Healers or Alchemists could generate magical healing effects by combining the Science (known as the "Physick" skill in SoG) to their Magic Stunt.
  • High "level" thieves with the Magic Stunt could combine the Magic Stunt with Stealth or Burglary
  • Rangers could combine the Survival skill with the Magic Stunt.
  • A "pure" Sorceror would likely combine the Magic Stunt with the Resolve skill--the gift/curse to generate magic effects purely by willpower.
  • Many powers of the Monk class might be translated by combining the Magic Stunt with Athletics or Fists skills.

So I think this provides a convenient method by which we can translate the magical effects attributed to higher levels of a particular class in the source material, without having to get too rule-crunchy.

DESIGN CONSIDERATION: Can a player tie the Magic Stunt to more than one skill? In other words, could a player have a character with both Art Skill and the Craft Skill be able to sing magical songs AND create magic weapons? On the surface, I don't see why not. At least in the High Fantasy realm of common magic. I think it might present some challenges to the player as to having a clear picture of the character--but that would be common to any sort of "multi-class" type.

Gameplay Implications

A Sorceror (or someone using the Magic Stunt as their primary method of surviving combat) could find himself running out of FATE points pretty quick in a conflict.

This was on purpose. Sorcerors (and Wizards) are supposed to be smart folks: whether that's expressed as "book smart" or "street smart" or "crazy to tamper with forces beyond their reckoning" is up to the player.

So if a player is to effectively run this kind of character, this setup encourages a player to really pay attention to Aspects (whether in their opponents, themselves or in the scene) and work to tag them as much as possible and thus avoid having to tap into their own FATE points.

Literary Example: The Dresden Files. Consider how much more effective magic users are in a conflict when they have the opportunity to research their opponent, dictate the conditions, or otherwise are able to "tag the aspects"!


Anonymous said...

I have struggled with one of the issues you raise, spending a point to activate a power. I think a possible solution may be found in a game called Mortal Coil.
It uses different types of tokens rather than Fate Points but you can achieve different effects by spending, committing, or sacrificing them.

Spending a token is the same as spending a fate point

Committing a token makes it unavailable for any other use while it is committed, but you'd get them back either at the end of a scene or when the effect is cancelled

Sacrificing a token would be equivalent to a permanent reduction in your Fate Point Refresh

It requires some bending of the fate rules it does allow you to use the Fate Point economy to get different levels of effect.

Unknown said...

I hadn't thoroughly considered those kinds of alternatives before.

Either option has merit:

1) "Committing" a Fate point (good term) to the casting and then getting back after the scene: I like the parallels with stress. Though I am pretty firm on not going down the road of creating a "magic stress track", this seems like an interesting end-run option. Plus it also synchs with the AD&D convention of higher levels having more spells available, viz. 2 FATE points per character creation phase.

2) The idea of getting the point back when the effect is complete / cancelled does have appeal to me on one level but the more I think about it, the more instances I can think of where it provides an inconsistent game-play experience with the source material:
- No duration spells (ex: fireball) would be something of an exploit
- It also implies a continued connection between the caster and the spell, which would (IMO) call in question one of my early axioms: the spell (once cast) is separate from the caster.

Still, all are definitely worth considering.

Thanks for commenting, Biff!

Anonymous said...

You could interpret committing a Fate point as a continued connection (ie Floating Disk) between caster and spell but I don't think it is implied.

One of the problems with magic, especially as you describe Wizardry, is that allows the Wizard to use his apex skill (Magic) to cast Magic Missile and compete with a Ranger (apex skill Archery) then cast Knock and compete with the Thief (apex skill Burglary). Stealing other people's thunder isn't fun for the other people. Tying Magic use to Fate points limits how often the Wizard can utilize his versatility. But spending a Fate point may be too big a cost for small spells. A commit/spend/sacrifice rule lets you use Fate points as a limit that is proportional to the effect. Commit for Magic Missile, you can spam these every scene, get the Fate points back after you take a breather when the action is over. Spend for a Fireball, you can fire of a couple of these per session but you will have to weight the cost. Sacrifice for Power Word Kill, if you try to spam these you will soon have 0 refresh!

I am not convinced myself that this is the right way to go, but I thought it was worth considering.

Mike Olson said...

I have to say I love the Fate Point commitment mechanic. I plan to steal it and look for ways to implement it effectively. It's a fantastic way to limit spellcasting on a per-scene basis.

I might even say something like committing all your Fate Points in a scene forces you to spend one when the scene's over.

It also makes it super-easy to categorize spells by level -- just require the commitment of more than one Fate Point to power to spell. Or commit a Fate Point every round to maintain a spell. But spending a Fate Point gives you the same result plus a bonus on your roll.

Man, I am so stealing this. Thanks, Mortal Coil and biff-dyskolos.