The High Cost of Magic

Talk about any rules that don't directly fall under personal combat
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Agamemnon
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Agamemnon » 12 Oct 2014, 17:53

Marras wrote:22 ingredients? :shock: I own one edition of C&S but I have never played it and don't remember almost anything of it.
I was thinking we should write a compendium of six hundred and sixty-six tools and ingredients for would-be sorcerers to cross-reference and then work out a deal where the game came bundled with a software license for Microsoft Excel 2003 and an astrological calendar app.

Higgins put a quick stop to that though.

C'est la vie.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Arrow Odd » 13 Oct 2014, 06:17

Mozusuke wrote:All this created an awesome vibe. BUT...

It could also really easily turn into a massive book-keeping exercise that rapidly strayed into a territory whose name we can only whisper...... "Boring".
Such is the nature of the C&S mage. From the first edition he was the antithesis of the D&D mage. The way that experience points work and the time required for research make it unlikely that a mage would willingly waste his time 'adventuring'. Especially as this is a risky proposition. As mentioned in the rules, if he makes a ring of warding it is to keep himself safe from what he might be summoning in his study. They're designed for use as NPCs, second characters and for peculiar players. Think Paul Dirac rather than India Jones.

Then again a dead Dragon will yield a lot of ready-enchanted material which would save a lot of time if building a magical item.

However:
A: Even when building a Greater Focus the mage only has to personally collect 8 of the 22 ingredients. The others can be bought or be gifts &c. Many of the ingredients should be fairly easy to obtain, eg. lumps of oak and elm, sunflowers, otter skins &c. The rarest items will be the four gem stones and maybe some of the plants or essences such as lotus or myrrh.

B: C&S has a tradition of pro-rating characters. A 1st level player character is a rarity. The rules allow for mage pcs to begin play with a focus - if old / experienced enough.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Agamemnon » 14 Oct 2014, 16:43

Arrow Odd wrote:
Mozusuke wrote:All this created an awesome vibe. BUT...

It could also really easily turn into a massive book-keeping exercise that rapidly strayed into a territory whose name we can only whisper...... "Boring".
Such is the nature of the C&S mage. From the first edition he was the antithesis of the D&D mage. The way that experience points work and the time required for research make it unlikely that a mage would willingly waste his time 'adventuring'. Especially as this is a risky proposition. As mentioned in the rules, if he makes a ring of warding it is to keep himself safe from what he might be summoning in his study. They're designed for use as NPCs, second characters and for peculiar players. Think Paul Dirac rather than India Jones.

Then again a dead Dragon will yield a lot of ready-enchanted material which would save a lot of time if building a magical item.

However:
A: Even when building a Greater Focus the mage only has to personally collect 8 of the 22 ingredients. The others can be bought or be gifts &c. Many of the ingredients should be fairly easy to obtain, eg. lumps of oak and elm, sunflowers, otter skins &c. The rarest items will be the four gem stones and maybe some of the plants or essences such as lotus or myrrh.

B: C&S has a tradition of pro-rating characters. A 1st level player character is a rarity. The rules allow for mage pcs to begin play with a focus - if old / experienced enough.
Huh. I'm genuinely curious now. I may have to go track down a copy. One of the difficulties one encounters with something like Sword & Sorcery as a genre is that the heroes aren't really supposed to be Sorcerers themselves, but you need to have Sorcery heavily featured in-game. It is always kind of ham-fisted to just say "no, you can't play a wizard" but I've noticed that the tendency of gamers is overwhelmingly "if a wizard is available, at least one person in the group must be one." The first character is a martial-focus, the second is a wizard, the third is a stealthy thief kind of character and then the last guy winds up having to play the healer. This seems to be a habit regardless of system. It's kind of funny.

So one of the problems someone has to overcome to evoke the feeling of Sword & Sorcery fiction is to come up with a way to make magic not just another character class. Sounds like C&S might have some solutions there.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Mozusuke » 14 Oct 2014, 18:11

Good to see I am not the only C&S survivor here.

My own take on all this is that I have come to want magic to really have a sense of awe, wonder, mystery, un-knowability etc, so my view is that codifying can diminish that. (I know others vary on this)

So I like the idea it cannot ever be truly 'known' or entirely predictable. I like the idea there must be such a personal cost/exposure/risk that only the truly psychotic or sociopathic or truly alienated would ever follow that path.

I repeat that have seen on this forum preferences for other styles than this somewhat dark and fuzzy view of magic. So perhaps an adoption lever that influences this might be of interest.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Agamemnon » 14 Oct 2014, 19:54

Mozusuke wrote: I repeat that have seen on this forum preferences for other styles than this somewhat dark and fuzzy view of magic. So perhaps an adoption lever that influences this might be of interest.
As it stands, the magical system we're working on is designed to be as modular as possible, meaning that you can safely ignore the entire magic chapter and play the game as a straight historical piece, or you can add in a different magical system from a future supplement or your own house rules.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Marras » 15 Oct 2014, 01:43

Having that kind of party (fighter, wizard, thief and cleric analogues) is so true. Also, when you think about it it also represents a fire team in modern day military. Here are point men, rifle men, heavy weapons and medics. So, it is pretty much common sense if the system enforces niche protection.

Having PC wizards is a bit problematic in sword & sorcery type of games for the reasons Agamemnon mentioned. In source material they are usually awfully powerful but still to some extent vulnerable that is hard to simulate with game mechanics. There is this Finnish RPG called Praedor which fits the genre pretty well. In that game there are wizards but they are no longer humans but rather immortal beings and thus not playable. Even sorcery rules are quite light as the effects are pretty much what GM wants them to be.

I started my current RQ6 game without allowing any PC to be spell caster. It was an easy solution to drop one sub system that needed to be learned before starting the game. I suppose same will happen with 'Bastards unless I get a really great idea that need a PC mage.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Arrow Odd » 15 Oct 2014, 06:01

Mozusuke wrote:I repeat that have seen on this forum preferences for other styles than this somewhat dark and fuzzy view of magic. So perhaps an adoption lever that influences this might be of interest.
When / (if?) I get to run 'Bastards' I'll be looking for dark and fuzzy. I haven't quite settled on a setting but the more I read, the more I think it would have been perfect for our 'All For One' campaign. [Not that I have any real complaints about the Ubiquity system].

What is of interest to this thread is that although the players were given the option of having occultists or alchemists as characters the players picked courtier, diplomat, woodsman and foot soldier as their pre-musketeer backgrounds. The differences in background and their back stories were enough to differentiate the characters. They did get to encounter a couple of magic using NPCs along with other supernatural nastiness but never dabbled themselves.

I'm not sure what it was that put them off mages. I never actually explained the magic rules to them - just told them that it was a design-your-spell-when-casting, rituals and preparation trump instant effects and that there are risks involved. Also, in this setting witchcraft is illegal and the Cardinal's guard liaises closely the Inquisition.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Marras » 15 Oct 2014, 06:53

Arrow Odd wrote: I'm not sure what it was that put them off mages. I never actually explained the magic rules to them - just told them that it was a design-your-spell-when-casting, rituals and preparation trump instant effects and that there are risks involved. Also, in this setting witchcraft is illegal and the Cardinal's guard liaises closely the Inquisition.
I can't think of any reason why anyone didn't create a spell caster as a character, either :)
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Arrow Odd » 15 Oct 2014, 08:43

Marras wrote:I can't think of any reason why anyone didn't create a spell caster as a character, either :)
Well, now that I read that back... :) At the time I only mentioned the illegality not the Inquisition angle and I didn't tell them much about any of the rules while the character concepts were being considered.

A counter example would be the Deadlands campaign where we had players taking Hucksters and Mad Scientists despite the personal risks. That group was certainly focused on the 'traditional' Mage, Healer, Fighter mixture - with a smooth talker rather than a Thief.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Agamemnon » 15 Oct 2014, 16:09

Marras wrote:
Arrow Odd wrote: I'm not sure what it was that put them off mages. I never actually explained the magic rules to them - just told them that it was a design-your-spell-when-casting, rituals and preparation trump instant effects and that there are risks involved. Also, in this setting witchcraft is illegal and the Cardinal's guard liaises closely the Inquisition.
I can't think of any reason why anyone didn't create a spell caster as a character, either :)
Won't lie. I lol'd.

As an update: We have gotten most of the legwork on magic as a mechanic finished. Our current project is figuring out how to divide up possible magical effects (Say, "Talking to the dead," "Healing a wound," "cursing your neighbor") into quantifiable elements. TROS did this with it's vagaries, while other games do this by simply making broad skills called "necromancy" "divination" etc.

We are playing around with different ways of categorizing now, but I'm curious: what do you guys think? Should it be something as simple as "which thing does this effect fall under?" and then rolling the appropriate Spell Proficiency, or do you prefer the more complex "combine vagaries to 'build' a desired result" style of free form magic?
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Siggi » 15 Oct 2014, 19:20

In my opinion, you shouldn't make the system too complicated or else it may result in being too ArsMagica-ish.

To make decision about categorizing, you should think about the "physics" of magic in your setting. How does it work? Let's take "Healing a wound" as an example. Say, a wizard has a power to heal a wound. How he does that? There's a load of possibilities:
- the wizard (hereafter referred to as 'he') may affect the cells of the wounded person and make them grow and seal the wound (hello, TRoS!);
- or he may affect the ethereal body of the injured person and restore it - and that will cause the wound to heal faster (hi, real-world magic!);
- or he may take the blade that caused the injury, apply it to the wound and ask it to take the damage back;
- or he may walk on a fresh grass barefooted and siphon the energy of Life from Mother Earth (or whatever) and use those to heal the wound;
- or he may remove the wound by transferring it to another (un)willing person, or animal, or object, or himself;
- or he may briefly ascend into the multiverse and swap two shards of reality bringing back the one in which the person in question is uninjured;
- or he may banish the spirit of the wound (by sweet-talking him away or by making his own pet spirit beat him up Pokemon-style);
- or he may just wave his wand, say "Sanitatum Totalus!" - and the wound will vanish in a puff of rainbow-colored smoke (because he CAN do this kinda stuff - he's a Wizard, goddamit!!).

So, the first question is how he does that. The second question is how it looks. All the above mentioned examples may be performed in a different manner. Say, the wizard tends to the wound with an ointment. What it does exactly? The preparation harms the wound-spirit somehow, or is it a portal that helps fetch that healthy aspect of reality? Or, say, the wizards whispers something at the wound. Is he asking the wound to go and bother his pet bunny instead or is he pronouncing a mantra that restores the ethereal body?

I believe that at this point you guys must have a decent understanding of how your magic works. If you could give us a hint, it would be easier for us to help you with categories.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Arrow Odd » 16 Oct 2014, 06:39

Siggi wrote: To make decision about categorizing, you should think about the "physics" of magic in your setting. How does it work? Let's take "Healing a wound" as an example. Say, a wizard has a power to heal a wound. How he does that? There's a load of possibilities...
-I'll assume the internet ate my previous rambling reply...

I'd rather not think about the "how" too much when categorizing the "effect". In the systems in my head at the moment: C&S would call these Mode and Method, AFO calls them Tradition and Art.

In AFO terms whether the caster used Alchemy, Ceremonial Magic, Natural Magic or Theurgy to cast a healing ritual might determine how he mended the wound and how that looked to the outside world &c. However the actual effect would be adjudicated using his skill in the Art of Benignus. (the difficulty determined by a number of factors depending on the required effect).

[In C&S different Modes influence a caster's affinity with different Methods, AFO simply treats the Traditions as flavour and trappings with no rules effects].

And while I remember... As I know little of TROS what are Vagaries?
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Agamemnon » 17 Oct 2014, 19:07

TROS had a really cool, but very flavor-specific way of handling the creation of magical effects. It effectively divided all possible effects up into 9 vagaries of 3 categories - Temporal (physical), Mental, and Spiritual. Each of these 3 categories had 3 categories beneath it:

Temporal - Sculpture, Growth, Movement
Mental - Conquer, Glamour, Vision
Spiritual - Summoning, Banishing, Imprisoning.

Then each of these three vagaries could be bought at up to three ranks - Novice, Apprentice, and Master, with each level unlocking more powerful effects.

(They had a serious love of 3s).

It went a particular magic-science route, deciding that vision could see molecules and cells, etc. They decided that magic would work on more or less real-world scientific principles. Just, you know, magical.

You were then expected to mix and match these to come up with your effects, with the more vagaries you have to call on the harder the thing is. An illusion spell is going to be the application of the Glamour vagary ("a spell of one"), but something like a healing spell actually requires: Sculpture 3, Growth 3, Conquer 2, Vision 3. This also goes into the magic-science feel of the book, as the sorcerer is literally using Vision to "remotely view the individual division and growth of cells, using the Sculpture Vagary to align them correctly." with Conquer being used to suppress the target's pain.

It was a unique and very interesting system. While we might consider something akin to the "spell of one" vs "spell of many" setup, the flavor is going to be significantly different.

I'll have more on that in a bit. Spent the last week dealing with funeral preparations, and finally got through with it all today.

I'll check back in with more later.
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by higgins » 18 Oct 2014, 05:39

Siggi wrote:So, the first question is how he does that. The second question is how it looks. All the above mentioned examples may be performed in a different manner. Say, the wizard tends to the wound with an ointment. What it does exactly? The preparation harms the wound-spirit somehow, or is it a portal that helps fetch that healthy aspect of reality? Or, say, the wizards whispers something at the wound. Is he asking the wound to go and bother his pet bunny instead or is he pronouncing a mantra that restores the ethereal body?

I believe that at this point you guys must have a decent understanding of how your magic works. If you could give us a hint, it would be easier for us to help you with categories.
Agamemnon can obviously differ somewhat here, as we both have or own ideas and visions, but as far as I'm concerned, ALL of that is up to the player.

Player chooses the components. Player chooses the look. He whispers to the wound-spirit? Fine. But does he really believe that or is he just BS-ing others to keep them from trying the same thing later, as the others "can't hear the spirits"? Up to the player, really.

Would such an approach create several wildly different interpretations on how magic works in the world? I bet it would. Are such different interpretations present in good literature? Absolutely. Are such different interpretations common in our real-world folklore? Even more so. Could this approach create inconsistencies as far as the magic-users' views go? Yes, yes, yes!

One mage could use herbs for components exclusively, other could use animal parts, third one could use gems, minerals and different sands. And we all know what Melisandre likes use for components. *wink-wink* ;)

In a word, ALL of that would be up to the player. For magic to be mysterious, freeform and improvisational, this is what we want, no?

So, how would we prevent the whole thing becoming a muddled mess? My answer to that is aiming for a certain FEEL.

The difficulties that the player has to beat with their for spells are quite high. Sure, he could try and go Gandalf on them and handle everything with a staff, but for most magic users, they'd have to use components to lower the Obstacle. Use a unique, cool sounding herb or an oddly specific body part from a certain animal? *BAM* Ob -1. Does the player describe weird chants and gestures or uses their components in an unexpected way? *BAM* Ob -1. Does that description include macabre/disturbing imagery? *BAM* Ob -1.

This is the FEEL we're going for. Details are up to the players.

So, right now we're trying to quantify the effects. We have the obvious categories to cover such as Distance (touch, sight, known location), but even that isn't as clear cut. We're not yet 100% sure whether affecting an unknown location should be a thing, for example. And whether adding a "self" distance would be beneficial for some things or too much of a temptation to make Jedi jumping possible.

And depending on that, we'd also define the granularity. Right now I'm personally leaning towards "threes" myself, as (easy, medium, hard) is an easy concept to wrap one's head around.

Another tricky subject is the nature of the target. As in, should we pool animals and humans together on one difficulty or should plants really be different from inanimate objects as far as affecting them is concerned? Let's say we're affecting a person with a spell. Should killing them be the hardest task, or should we put "fates worse than death" above that? And mentally, what is worse? Coma or madness?

Then there's the area of effect and the number of targets. Would it be more difficult to summon a storm to drive off the enemy fleet, or to slay three "usurpers" much like Melisandre did. Or should the two be separate categories entirely?

Right now, I'm thinking number of targets would be a separate thing. For example, with the Melisandre demon-baby thing, we could combine "known location" of target with a "city" "area of effect" for the demon to search. If she wanted to slay more people, she'd need to go "multiple targets" on top of that.

But why would they need to sail closer to the city to release the demon? Our Distance rules fail to answer that, so, there's room for improvement already.

And... Thanks to Melisandre, I just thought of something that I hadn't considered before: Delay. Immediate effect should be the hardest to achieve. Delay (year, month, day) would work fine for fiction, but most games don't run on such a time scale. What kind of time scales would be acceptable for most players, etc?

Okay, I think I'm rambling now, but it should give you guys a good enough of an image of the direction and several areas for input.

Cheers. :)
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Re: The High Cost of Magic

Post by Agamemnon » 18 Oct 2014, 11:02

higgins wrote:
Siggi wrote:So, the first question is how he does that. The second question is how it looks. All the above mentioned examples may be performed in a different manner. Say, the wizard tends to the wound with an ointment. What it does exactly? The preparation harms the wound-spirit somehow, or is it a portal that helps fetch that healthy aspect of reality? Or, say, the wizards whispers something at the wound. Is he asking the wound to go and bother his pet bunny instead or is he pronouncing a mantra that restores the ethereal body?

I believe that at this point you guys must have a decent understanding of how your magic works. If you could give us a hint, it would be easier for us to help you with categories.
Agamemnon can obviously differ somewhat here, as we both have or own ideas and visions, but as far as I'm concerned, ALL of that is up to the player.

Player chooses the components. Player chooses the look. He whispers to the wound-spirit? Fine. But does he really believe that or is he just BS-ing others to keep them from trying the same thing later, as the others "can't hear the spirits"? Up to the player, really.

Would such an approach create several wildly different interpretations on how magic works in the world? I bet it would. Are such different interpretations present in good literature? Absolutely. Are such different interpretations common in our real-world folklore? Even more so. Could this approach create inconsistencies as far as the magic-users' views go? Yes, yes, yes!
This in particular. In the actual world, we have literally countless magical traditions and mystical philosophies that postulate wildly different ideas on how the metaphysical works. I look forward to seeing a game where too sorcerers meet and are both confused and horrorified at the others methods.

"That barbarian, that philistine! Did you know he uses endtrails for divinition? Pagan filth. If he knew anything about true sorcerery, it would be obvious that quartz crystals are the superior scrying implement. I bet he still uses a staff, too. Plebian."

Just like we don't want to mechanically confirm the existence of gods in the setting (and remove faith from the equation), we don't want to mechanically confirm the precise nature in which magic works. It's far more interesting to let that be a matter of player belief, theory, and philosophy.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
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