Monday, April 18, 2011

[Greyhawk] Approaches for Magic Translations

So after working out some of the low-level infrastructure issues in the Spirit of Greyhawk ruleset, I've finally started to get some traction with translating the source material's spells into their Fate equivalents.

However in doing so, I've run across an issue that I wanted to think out on paper (albeit digital paper).

When translating spells, it's a given that that not everything in the source material's spell listings is going to translate out nice and tidy into a Fate implementation.

So how would you resolve conflicts with the translation?

Example 1: If the source material lists "Fireball" as a 3rd level spell, and if after translation it turns out to be +4 difficulty spell (i.e., in Fate the same effect would net out as a 4th level spell), what do you do?

Example 2: Conversely if a 5th level spell translated into a 3rd level spell under the SoG ruleset, should it be left as +5 difficulty? Or be a +3 difficulty to cast correctly?

I've been thinking through a few approaches and each one has it's costs and benefits...

Approach One - Err on the Side of the Source Material
This means that if the spell had a specific series of effects and was originally at "X" level, then that spell would have those effects at that level regardless of the Spell "economy".

  • Translation time is quicker--less fuss about balance
  • Most consistent with the source material and original gameplay expectations
  • Possible balance issues
  • Most inconsistent with the "fractal design" approach

Approach Two - Err on the Side of the Fate Mechanic
One of the reasons the Lord of the Rings movies were as satisfying as they were for most viewers, is that the writers understood that they were not trying to do a page-by-page recreation of the books, but rather used the books as the source from which the movies were taken and then put that into an effective structure for presentation within the movies.

In other words, spells would be accurately translated, and whatever the Fate spell difficulty would be, that's where it would appear in the spell lists. Using the example above, the Fireball spell would be considered a 4th level spell, instead of a 3rd level spell.

  • Translation time is quick, as it is what it is.
  • Most consistent with the "fractal design" approach
  • Wizardry effect powers have better balance with on-the-fly magic (stunt-based magic or Sorcery)
  • Less consistent with the source material

Approach Three - Change the Spell to Stay Within the Same Level
This resolution means that you modify or redefine the spell effects to change the net difficulty to stay within the pre-determined level.

So in the example above, the spell might be changed (hopefully in a minimal fashion) to have the net difficulty now be +3, instead of +4. Perhaps an additional cost could be associated with the spell, or a reduced effect.

This could also be a situation where perhaps a spell turns out to be LESS difficult than source material would imply.

  • Spell Lists consistent with the source material.
  • Expectations of what a spell does will need to be modified.
  • Translation time increased having due to having to "balance the budget".

My Campaign's Personal Preference
I've had the opportunity to pose the question to my players and I got a very interesting answer from them--they don't care about the accuracy or balance right now. Third level is third level is third level. I find this really interesting for a couple reasons:

  • The campaign's magic use right now is typically Sorcery or on-the-fly magical effects. So the decision would not impact their abilities with Magic.
  • My intention was to use Wizardry more in the form of their opponents and monsters that use magic, so it would be their opponents who are impacted.
Most interesting, this lack of concern on the players' part indicates to me that they appear really have embraced the cooperative story-telling mechanics of Fate and have ceased to get concerned about things like this in the first place. Very interesting!

So What Might This Mean for SoG?
I will probably end up doing something along the lines of Approach One (Translate the spells, leave the difficulty ratings in place) with the occasional dip in to Approach Three (Modifiy the spell) if something translates to being WAY out of whack.

So that's just for my SoG campaign--if/when the compiled SoG material ever becomes available, I may end up doing some sort of dual-table layout, where there's the "traditional" spell list, and another one with an alternative spell listing that groups spells by their translated difficulty.

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