Sunday, December 13, 2015

College Ritual Book Magic: Some playtest results

I've been using my College Ritual Book Magic system in my Castle of Horrors game, which has been the most sustained playtest of it so far. (+Nathan Joy used it a bit in +Uhuk of the Guard's Chaos Scar game, but those sessions were scattershot and Nate's attendance was spotty and it was hard to really evaluate what was going on.) I think it's held up fairly well, which doesn't really surprise me since it's really a codification of a bunch of existing GURPS optional rules, but there have been a couple of things we need to change.

Rational Spell Damage Changes

The biggest thing we noticed is that [Elemental] Weapon and [Elemental] Missiles are overpowered, the latter especially so when combined with modern firearms. Adding 4-7 points of damage to every shot from an automatic weapon for a minute is overpowered for 4 energy points.

My intent with [Elemental] Weapon/Missile was to make it a more powerful spell: +2 damage for 4 energy and 2 seconds casting time might have been acceptable in 2nd edition GURPS, with 100 point adventurers, but it fails to be useful under 4th edition expectations of 200+ point adventurers with rapid strikes and Weapon Master. I think I went too far.

One easy change is to double the energy cost. Then these spells compete with Great Haste as highly desirable combat buff spells, but with a different tactical role: Great Haste turns a warrior into a cuisinart against foes he can already harm but can only be cast after the fighting starts, while [Elemental] Weapon/Missile can be cast in anticipation of a fight and can give a warrior a more effective damage type against foes nigh-invulnerable to his usual attacks.

The other change we made was to rule that either spell's bonus damage can only be applied to one damage roll per attack roll. This is a simple way to reign in autofire and area effect attacks.

One other change is giving the spells a lesser form. For 4 energy and 1 second casting time, the bonus damage is fixed at 2 points.

Finally, +Kevin Smyth suggested blocking versions of each spell that would work for a single attack. It's a good suggestion, but I don't see why there needs to be two spells for such a minor effect.

Here's the new versions:
(Element) Weapon: Imbues a melee weapon with elemental energy that does 2 points of damage as a follow-up attack on a single damage roll from a successful attack with the weapon, with the element's usual damage type and damage modifiers. This spell takes 1 seconds and 4 energy to cast and has a duration of 60 seconds, with a maintenance cost of 2 energy. Enlarging the spell doubles the energy cost and increases the damage to slow progression. As a separate concentrate action that may be repeated, the spell can also be enlarged to apply to another weapon, at 4 or 8 energy per extra weapon. The weapon is not harmed by the elemental energy. Prerequisites are Magery 2 and Shape (Element), Resist (Element), Create (Element) or 9 spells from the college, whichever spell count is easier to achieve.
(Element) Missiles: Imbues a missile weapon with elemental energy that does 2 points of damage as a follow-up attack on a single damage roll from a successful attack with the weapon, with the element's usual damage type and damage modifiers. This spell takes 1 seconds and 4 energy to cast and has a duration of 60 seconds, with a maintenance cost of 2 energy. Enlarging the spell doubles the energy cost and increases the damage to slow progression. As a separate concentrate action that may be repeated, the spell can also be enlarged to apply to another weapon, at 4 or 8 energy per extra weapon. The weapon is not harmed by the elemental energy. Prerequisites are Magery 2 and Shape (Element), Resist (Element), Create (Element) or 9 spells from the college, whichever spell count is easier to achieve.
(Element) Strike: This is a blocking spell that imbues a melee  or ranged weapon with elemental energy that does 2 points of damage on a single damage roll from a successful attack with the weapon within the next second. It costs 1 FP to cast, but can be cast for 3 energy in which case the follow-up damage uses slow progression damage instead. The weapon is not harmed by the elemental energy. Prerequisites are Magery 2 and Shape (Element), Resist (Element), Create (Element) or 9 spells from the college, whichever spell count is easier to achieve.

Threshold and Calamity

Kevin has been casually letting his tally go over his Threshold, and he's suffered some minor penalties from calamity for doing so. The risk has been been pretty manageable, and if it looks like a spell will get people out of jam, or prevent a badly wounded comrade from dying, it's worth going over Threshold. Given that in my prior limited experience with Threshold magic, no one went over Threshold for fear of exploding, I'm very pleased with the new table.

I'm not as pleased with the balance point on Threshold magic in general, though. Wizards are still generalists, and they pick up a lot of power for not a lot of points. I'm toying with changing the cost of Extra Magic Ability, the advantage that increase Threshold and Recovery Rate, from 10 points/level to 15 or even 20 points/level. Wizards will still be able to do a lot of stuff, but they'll run out of power faster and risk Calamity earlier. I haven't made the change yet, but it's something to keep in mind as we do more with the system.

Learning Spells

In my original thoughts for the system, I assumed there would be two types of spell-casters: dabblers, who would pick up individual spells as Mental/Easy skills using the existing prerequisite system, and wizards, who would learn entire Colleges as Mental/Very Hard skills and would use grimoires to improve their skills with individual spells. Which was fine, as far as it went, but there was never a good solution to question of a wizard who wanted to specialize in a specific spell.

My current suggestion is that a wizard can use the points spent to learn a College to learn "virtual prerequisites," so a wizard with 4 points in the College of Fire could effectively know Ignite Fire, Create Fire, Shape Fire, and Fireball - and then learn Explosive Fireball as a M/E skill for 1 point at IQ+Talent level. He still wouldn't be able to learn Fast Fire, because he wouldn't know the prerequisites of Extinguish Fire and Slow Fire, but he could cast it at the normal default penalty and improve his effective skill with a grimoire.

2 comments:

  1. I think we have a different perception on the effectiveness of the breakpoints for Threshold magic; my role so far has been more 'apply First Aid after every fight, with magical healing to fill the gaps/deal with heavy wounds' and 'contribute to fights where the enemies don't seem to care much about pi or pi- damage'.

    I'm not sure how you feel 'not a lot of points' applies in this case:

    -80 points on IQ (yes, I'm also getting other benefits here, but IQ and social skills are GREATLY underused compared to DX and combat skills)
    -25 points on extra magical ability + Magery
    -20 more points on magical talents and 7-10 points in College skills to be a useful generalist.

    That's nearly 75% of the game's point budget spent to be 'an effective generalist wizard', ignoring the 30 more points spent on odds-improving advantages (Luck and Destiny) to avoid some of the bigger worries like critical failures.

    I'd likely be significantly more effective at the things the game needs ('bigger holes made in things that largely ignore bullets') if I'd spent those 130 points on being a Weapon Master (to stay Cinematic) or even just a very strong and skilled melee fighter (without cinematic options). We'd be dealing more with the effects of wounds (First Aid can only do so much), but we might take fewer of those wounds to begin with.

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    1. So...you're building a so-called "generalist wizard," and are concerned because he's not very good at the one thing you tried to use him for.
      No offense, but I feel like this could have been avoided if you had looked up the definition of "generalist" before finalizing your character.

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