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Spellcasting and casting modifiers vs. power points
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Keltheos
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 6:21 pm    Post subject: Spellcasting and casting modifiers vs. power points Reply with quote

Ok, I'm not a fan of the power point system, just to get that out of the way. There's zero wrong with it, it just doesn't fit my 'play style'.

I've been going over different casting styles and rules in the books and really like how the SK rules give a modifier to casting instead of a pp cost. The downside is: the SK spells don't include spells that can be heavily abused like Bolt and Blast with meditation.

I'm also tinkering with removing the rank restriction on spells, so a caster can buy whatever spell he would like, incuring an additional penalty when casting outside his rank.

Here's where the problems kick in.

I've borrowed perplext's pointsless casting system (http://www.peginc.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20512) as well as the modifiers that seem to fit into SK to come up with the following substitutions for pp costs.

pp cost/casting modifier
1/0
2/-1
3/-2
...and so on.

Likewise, if a caster attempts a spell of a higher rank, he incurs a -1 penalty for each rank higher than his own the spell is (so a legendary spell cast by a novice would be -4).

Which leads me to the problem.

DLR's Blast is a Seasoned spell with a pp cost of 2/4/6. We'll use the most powerful effect (seasoned, 6).

The spell would be an effective TN of 4+5 (-5) +1 (-1) = 10. If the caster took 10 rounds to 'meditiate' down the penalty he'd be casting the spell at a TN 4.

I'm not sure how potentially unbalancing this would be.

Backlash in the mechanic is:
FAILURE = spell not cast & caster must make a Spirit test or reduce his casting die by 1 type.
1 ON CASTING DIE = -1 to casting die type & Spirit test or suffer 1 level of Fatigue.
BOTCH = -1 to casting die type, 1 level of fatigue & Spirit test or suffer 1 wound. ((I'd like to work in shaken as a simple effect, not sure where))

Casting dice recharge 1/hour.

Here's the issue: I like the pointsless systems. I like the meditating down casting costs, I'm not sure if it's feasible to balance without removing 'staple' fantasy spells like Blast (fireball), etc.

Any thoughts? More info needed?
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jamused
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems to me that being able to cast a maximum power blast every 11 rounds indefinitely instead of every 6 hours is seriously unbalancing.

What if casting a spell of higher rank automatically incurred a level of Fatigue? At least then he could only do it three times in a row, and only at the cost of incapacitating himself.
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Keltheos
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's definitely an option, good thought. Fatigue is pretty debilitating, so that would limit the number of times it could be cast.

I've also considered adding back the standard rank restriction as well. As it stands it's the 'weedy' guy casting a 'mighty' spell too often to balance.

When I went back and skimmed SK's ABs again I noticed both had drawbacks associated with the ABs themselves. The Shaman requires his fetish to cast without a pretty hefty penalty (-4, I believe, until he creates a new one - which isn't that easy) and the Sorcerer needs material components to cast his spells. Both are restrictions to the casting.

I could stage up the penalties faster as well. Perplext's system assigns a -2 modifier per every other pp cost (1-2 is -2, 3-4 is -4, etc). That would make successful casting tougher out of the gate. But, SK seems to take the approach that each pp for the 'normal' version of the spell translates into a -1 penalty, including the 1 pp cost spells. I was going to be forgiving with a pp 1 spell having no modifier, but maybe its built in that way on purpose.
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Clint
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jamused wrote:
It seems to me that being able to cast a maximum power blast every 11 rounds indefinitely instead of every 6 hours is seriously unbalancing.


Um, which way?

Seriously, a combat spell that can only be used every 11 rounds of combat (which I don't exactly understand to begin with) is nearly useless in SW. Heck, it'd be that even if it could only be used every 3 rounds in my opinion. Combats just aren't that drawn out in the system.

Really, I think this system would make most powers with a current cost of 3+ PPs almost pointless (pardon the term) to use in combat. They'd either take too long to activate or have too high a degree of failure.
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jamused
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clint wrote:
jamused wrote:
It seems to me that being able to cast a maximum power blast every 11 rounds indefinitely instead of every 6 hours is seriously unbalancing.


Um, which way?


A small number of novice spell casters could devastate an army, sink an armada, or reduce a fortification? Locked in a 20 x 20 room with a bunch of Orcs I can see it not making much difference at all, but I think a lot of settings would look very different if you introduced man-portable concealable infinite-ammo artillery that can fire about once a minute.
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Clint
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jamused wrote:
A small number of novice spell casters could devastate an army, sink an armada, or reduce a fortification? Locked in a 20 x 20 room with a bunch of Orcs I can see it not making much difference at all, but I think a lot of settings would look very different if you introduced man-portable concealable infinite-ammo artillery that can fire about once a minute.


Blast has the best range of all the attack powers, and it's still limited to 96" (which is an additional -4 to the attack roll that can't be reduced). So it's artillery that pretty much as to be in the middle of the battle.

Yes, it can fire once a minute... meanwhile the armada or fortifications are firing cannons or catapults once a round, 10 times a minute and possibly at longer ranges.

As far as an army goes, the spellcaster is at most 96" from them, and they have 10 rounds to get to him or just get in range with bows or crossbows. Average running result is 9.5" multiply by 10 rounds, and the spellcaster will be dropping that Blast at his feet (if the archers or crossbowmen haven't already dropped him), and that doesn't even get into the move of cavalry units.

If the casters are protected by their side, then they can't move, and all the targets have 10 rounds to get out of their maximum range and simply spread out a little bit. Or 10 rounds to get into the midst of battle with their side, so any blast will kill allies as well as enemies.

Again, it takes 10x as long as any other basic attack in the system; even 5x as long as weapons that take an extra round to reload. Even if there were enough Novice spellcasters with Blast, they'd have to be suicidal ninja Novice spellcasters to somehow sneak close to the enemy and fire off their one Blast before they become pincushions.

Ultimately though, "balance" isn't an issue of the setting; that's a case for verisimillitude. For balance, it's an issue of actual game play. Even the spellcaster who is Seasoned (without the -1 for Rank) and has to spend 5 or 10 additional rounds to cast Blast without penalty is boned in most circumstances. If the combat isn't already over, at the very least Blast will be worth less just due to how the combat has changed over that time. There are (hopefully) less foes due to the actions of other characters and those other characters are most likely in melee combat with them, meaning an AE spell (especially one with a LBT) is tactically unsound.

On the other hand by this system, the character could have fired off a 2d6 bolt every round instead or even a 2d6 MBT Blast every round at -1.

That's the flipside. The low point cost powers go through the roof in effectiveness while the high point cost powers (in combat) fall through the floor.

The Novice character with the 3d6 LBT Blast wouldn't bother me, but the same guy casting Burst every round at a simple -1 is gonna be scary.
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Keltheos
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hm. Thanks for the input on that, Clint.

As I said, it's a work in progress and its these nuances I haven't seen come up yet in testing I was hoping to get some feedback and early thoughts on to help me balance things out.

I'll have another go at the SK casting mechanic and see what I can come up with. It's just those darned PPs...

As far as the balance issue, it wasn't so much in a 'battle' situation as a 'sniping' situation. Sending in a Novice to assassinate someone (or a whole room) with blast. I'd rather that not be so common in the setting (not that mages are common to begin with).

Maybe there's a way to forego pps, but without the harsher limitations on higher level casting.

And here I'd thought I'd fixed a problem by restricting the reduction to the modifier through 'meditating' to 1/2 die type (d4 = a max of 2 points reduced).

Ok, thanks. Back to the drawing board.
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Keltheos
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Allright, how about this instead?

I've always been a fan of Shadowrun's 'cast and drain' magic system. It's sort of what I was attempting to recreate here, but in retrospect approached it backwards (apply to 'casting' instead of 'drain').

Sooo...

1. I'll reinstate the rank restriction on taking spells.
2. After casting a spell (successfully or unsuccessfully) the caster makes a 'drain test' using his Spirit. Passing the check means he's resisted the spell's drain, failed and he loses 1 die type (they recover 1 type/hour). A 1 on the Spirit die means he's also lost a level of fatigue. A botch and he suffers a wound (and fatigue and die loss).

Modifiers to the Spirit check would be per spell with the following levels:

(normal pp cost)/modifier
1-2/0
3-4/-1
5-6/-2
7-8/-3
9-10/-4

"Master Caster" Edge
Prq: Seasoned, Arcane Background
The caster reduces his 'drain test' modifier by 1.

"Accelerated Recovery" Edge
Prq: Seasoned, Arcane Background, Spirit d6
The caster recovers casting skill dice at a rate of 1/30 minutes instead of 1/hour.

This would still provide spellcasting whenever the caster wanted it, but with the tradeoff that he may wear himself out. If raising Spirit was an issue, could add in an Edge that provided the caster with a bonus (like Master Caster, but added bonuses, could be taken more than once) to his drain test rolls.

Thoughts?
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perplext
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keltheos,

if it's Shadowrun that you're trying to emulate take a look at Shark Nibbles #1 from January 05 if you have it.

in it there is a Shadowrun conversion that includes a magic system without PP.


Last edited by perplext on Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Clint
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

perplext wrote:
if it's Shadowrun that you trying to emulate take a look at Shark Nibbles #1 from January 05 if you have it.

in it there is a Shadowrun conversion that includes a magic system without PP.


I don't know; I think some hack did it. Wink
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perplext
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

well i'll agree it's not his best work but hack is such a strong word. Wink
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Keltheos
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vintage Clint? Man, fire up the wayback machine!!

You both rule.

Thanks a ton, Chummers!

Wow, that's pretty much what I was trying to achieve without knowing the best way to go about it. Smile
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Keltheos
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, so having read and digested the rules would sustaining spells simply add to the PL when calculating drain for 2nd or 3rd spells?

Say I'm casting a PL 3 spell plus I have 1 spell sustained I'd be PL 4 for purposes of comparison to the ML?

Also, and this is a more general thing, the Shaken result on a successful Drain check, does this mean a caster who successfully resists Drain is Shaken and could be Wounded if he takes a damaging Shaken result before his next activation?

What if he's Shaken, remains Shaken, and successfully resists Drain on a spell the next Round? He remains Shaken, correct? Since it's not a damaging effect, right?

I was considering changing the failure penalties and staging them this way:

simple failure: -1 casting die for 1 hour
1 on skill die: 1 level of fatigue
botch: 1 wound

I like the PL method as it lends to some other setting specific things I'm working on (recharging items, for example)
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Banesfinger
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry if this hijacks the thread:

This is the issue I have with a Power Point system: if a caster blows his PPs, it almost forces the whole party to rest while they recover. Meanwhile, the rest of the group is itching to press-on. Only spellcasters seem to be burden with this "resource management". The pace of the group is dictated by only 1 or 2 spellcasters.

I like Soloman Kane's magic system - however, I think it would break down if it allowed combat/blast-type powers.

Any solution?
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TheLoremaster
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Banesfinger wrote:
This is the issue I have with a Power Point system: if a caster blows his PPs, it almost forces the whole party to rest while they recover. Meanwhile, the rest of the group is itching to press-on. Only spellcasters seem to be burden with this "resource management". The pace of the group is dictated by only 1 or 2 spellcasters.

How frequently is the group going into combat? With a standard recharge rate of 1 PP/hour, I've never had much downtime for groups, and certainly a lot less than I ever had under any version of D&D.

You could institute a house rule that changes the recharge rate, perhaps halving it to start, then further with Edges. For a old fantasy conversion, I toyed with the idea of different recharge rates in different zones. In the world, magic would powered by ley lines that criss-cross the planet. The closer you are to a line, the better your recharge rate gets. Points where the lines cross are heavily contested by various powers, and sometimes change reality in their presence ...

Just some thoughts to consider.
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Banesfinger
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheLoremaster wrote:
You could institute a house rule that changes the recharge rate...


While this would be a good idea for lowering the delay/wait times, it throws balance out. Let me explain:

SW is similar to D&D/d20 games in that magic is a limited (but renewing) resource. If your wizards are careful with their Power Point expenditure, spells will generally be balanced with traditional attacks.

A prime example is shown in the Wizards & Warriors pre-gen characters. All of them are about equal (25 XP each).
The Wizard's (Merula) Bolt spell: cast d8 (damage 2d6)
The Archer's (Fox) Bow: shooting d10 (damage 2d6)
Both have the same range, and Merula can cast her spell 20 times before running out of PPs. Closely balanced.


The problem begins when casters decide to "unload" their magic arsenal in a few rounds. They become completely un-balanced with only an extended rest as the drawback. While GMs can occasionally put up road blocks so the players cannot rest after each encounter, in my experience this doesn't always happen (nor should it, since this is only punishing 1 or 2 characters for perfectly legal (min/max) play - and besides, most GMs will have their own monsters unload every PP as well, since they will often never see the next light of day...)

Example (continued from above)
If Merula decides to unload her Bolt spell, she can attack up to 3 different opponents, each for 3d6 damage - all in a single round. Fox could never keep up with this kind of damage output. However, Merula is almost out of PPs in only 3 rounds.
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Clint
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Banesfinger wrote:
The problem begins when casters decide to "unload" their magic arsenal in a few rounds. They become completely un-balanced with only an extended rest as the drawback. While GMs can occasionally put up road blocks so the players cannot rest after each encounter, in my experience this doesn't always happen (nor should it, since this is only punishing 1 or 2 characters for perfectly legal (min/max) play - and besides, most GMs will have their own monsters unload every PP as well, since they will often never see the next light of day...)


So the problem is that the player chooses to be unbalancingly more powerful than the other PCs temporarily and then has to be less powerful temporarily to make up for it? Confused

Sorry, but that actually sounds balanced to me, and in fact, generous in that the player has the choice in how to balance themselves. They can stay on a more even keel or go for the moon with the crash that comes afterwards.

Thing is, most of the alternatives are going to have the same game play issue; they just take the choice out of the players' hands.

For instance, if magic doesn't cost PPs, something else has to balance its effect. Usually, that's handled by some kind of Fatigue mechanics, and just as typically, firing multiple bolts drastically increases the chance of suffering said Fatigue. So instead of waiting to recover PPs, the character is waiting to recover Fatigue.

And in point of fact, with PPs, they could actually build their arcane character in SW to still be competent in combat in some way, so even without PPs, they could continue to contribute (instead of being saddled with a Fatigue penalty that would affect any action they attempted, not to mention their Soak rolls).

Merula for instance could have been built without the non-combat focus, and by dropping Investigator for a Str of d6 and the Investigation and Streetwise skills to a d4, she could have a Shooting of d8 and carry a bow and arrows herself, being quite effective with them.
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TheLoremaster
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In addition to Clint's comments, remember that the mage has to worry about Backlash too, where the archer never does.

Effectively, the PP recharge rate seems to be something that can be "dialed" appropriately based on taste and campaign style. Obviously, if every time an encounter ends, the player's want to wait 10 hours for the mage's PP pool to recharge, there's something wrong. Either the fights are too nasty or the mage player is overplaying his hand.

Like the dragon said, "Never play an ace when a two will do." Very Happy
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Banesfinger
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clint wrote:
So the problem is that the player chooses to be unbalancingly more powerful than the other PCs temporarily and then has to be less powerful temporarily to make up for it? Confused


Agreed, but in my experience (in any game that has PPs, fatigue, etc - not just SW) the temporary "less powerful" time is usually spent resting. Being less powerful while resting is not much of a set back or deterrent to 'unloading' at the first encounter of the day.

Again, (in my personal experience only) 75% of the time it will be:
1st encounter: unload everything, rest/sleep, repeat.

I'm not hacking at SW. In fact, I love the game. Very Happy PPs just happen to be my pet peeve. That is why I was thrilled to see a PP-less version with Soloman Kane.

And TheLoremaster is onto something: backlash. One of my favourite magic systems is with Warhammer FRPG. It uses no PPs, but instead has a "backlash" mechanic. This is the "balancing system" Clint mentioned. However - there is no recovery, just a good chance something bad will happen each time you cast. For this "gritty/dark" style play, it really puts an in-game fear of magic (lots of backlash results can affect other party members - no wonder people fear magic!).

Again - it is not my intention to hack SW (it is a brilliant game). I just wanted to see if there were any homebrewed alternatives to the current PP system.
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Skipper
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Banesfinger wrote:

This is the issue I have with a Power Point system: if a caster blows his PPs, it almost forces the whole party to rest while they recover. Meanwhile, the rest of the group is itching to press-on. Only spellcasters seem to be burden with this "resource management". The pace of the group is dictated by only 1 or 2 spellcasters.


I don't know about that, my players are constantly monitoring ammo. Power Points, unlike ammo, regenerate on their own with no other resource other than time. Bulletts and Arrows require time, money, and equipment (if reloading yourself). So I'm not sure this is a valid argument.
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