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Old 10-24-2020, 10:44 AM   #1
Sorenant
 
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Default [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

When the Sorcery system was being designed, how frequent the hardcore improvisation rules were expected to be used and how many times it did actually come up during playtest? Asking because I think I've never seem it being used but taking a closer look at it I see a good potential that makes me think I've been using the system incorrectly.
For example, the Sorcerer template from Pyramid #3/82 has Will 12, Thaumatology at IQ-2 and a lot of point on unmodified Sorcerous Empowerment, Talent and known spells. It seems to not be designed for using Extra-Efforts or HC Improvisation, perhaps for simplicity of use.
By simply reducing the points spent on Innate Attack and combat skills to 4 and 2 respectively and putting the extra points on Thaumatology, the character can roll against 14 for 25% improvisation or extra-effort and 12 for 50% improvisation, which seems quite decent to me. Specializing in one college could further improve it.
I find this build more flavorful, magic is the bread and butter of a mage so the high point expenditure on Thaumatology is akin to a warriors raising their favored weapon skill and adds to the character's "academic" feeling (lower combat skills, higher knowledge skill). The sorcerer still retains his known spells but now through HC improvisation they have better flexibility to cast niche spells for specific situations.
For such a build, would a perk that would add +1 (maybe leveled) to the roll to improvise a specific spell be legal? Mechanically it's not unlike Trademark Move or RPM's Ritual Mastery and as a fluff it serves to bridge improvised and known spells.

As a tangent, I think the Psi Amplifier from Psi Tech would work greatly as magical staff for a sorcerer but I'm not sure how to modify it to fit a low tech setting. Would it be wrong to treat it as a Psychotronic (Metatronic) Generator? The basic price would be adjusted to the setting TL's starting wealth and then increased by half to make it self-powered (bacause there's no batteries). The equivalent of a Psi-Amplifier Headband for TL3 could be a Magic-Amplifying Crystal, to be placed atop a staff or wore as amulet, that gives +2 to talent for a single college and costs $450, +$225 per additional college it can boost, weight unchanged.
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Old 10-24-2020, 03:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

I can't answer what the designer intentions were, but I can give some perspective from a game that I run. We use sorcery as the core magic system, and have a wide spread of magic users. Some characters only have SE1 and a couple cheap spells, others are master wizards with talent 2, SE 3, and maxed out Will/IQ/Thaum. Character points are about 300 points right now, but the dedicated wizards have maxed their magical capabilities around 150 points.

My experience with the hardcore improv system is that it is a very powerful part of the sorcery system, to the point of making buying spells useless once you are a certain quality of wizard. The lead wizard of the party has Will 17 and Talent 2 (A 55 point investment, if you don't buy up IQ), and thaum trained up for a +2 bonus (16 points). That's an effective skill of 21 for improv, or an 11 for an 100% improv with no extra FP spent. In my game with an effective cap of SE 3 (40 points) it would cost 111 points to reach this level of magical mastery.

In practice this resulted in wizards only learning were combat spells that they expected to throw in a fight every round. If a spell was intended to be cast before combat it was almost always improv'd, and non-combat spells were universally never learned. Affliction based buff spells were another notable problem: players would improv buff spells for traits like DR, ST, or Luck alongside a long duration. The increased base FP cost was rarely ever an issue; a failed improv roll resulted in a 30 minute rest.

In the end I placed a number of limits on spells:
  • Improv spells cannot have a duration longer than 3 minutes.
  • Divination spells (spells that produce information from a different time or place) cannot be improvised.
  • All spells "lock out" their FP cost until they expire, so an FP spent on a 12 hour buff spell is gone until the end of that 12 hours, not just for 10 minutes.

The results have been good so far, and eliminate most of the problems I've had with improv completely replacing learning spells. We still see custom-crafted attack spells in fights, and wizards usually spend a lot of FP to eliminate the chance of botching the improv roll on these. Outside of combat there have been more players taking buff spells to explicitly support the rest of the party (instead of it just being expected that all wizards improv all the buff spells). Magical investigation spells (Clairvoyance, clairaudiance, detect, ect.) are now useful specific abilities, instead of wizards hiding in a rented room improv'ing all of the divination effects they desire.

I think Sorcery is a great system in general, but if I could roll my game back to the start I would have cut out hard core improvisation entirely and placed more of a focus on Extra Effort for known spells.
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Old 10-24-2020, 04:52 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

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Originally Posted by VariousRen View Post
I think Sorcery is a great system in general, but if I could roll my game back to the start I would have cut out hard core improvisation entirely and placed more of a focus on Extra Effort for known spells.
Thanks for the reply, it has been very insightful. That said, I want to argue against eliminating hardcore improvisation because I feel it's a great feature to make a sorcerer feel more organic by allowing them to cast spells that they would reasonably know but didn't acquire it as known spell because it's niche and can't improvised because of cost.
For example, a Fire Mage could have Create Fire, Shape Fire, Seek Fire, Extinguish Fire, and Fireball as their known spells because those are the most emblematic abilities and also the most versatile/useful. If they ever need to cast the Fireproof spell, they would only be able to improvise it if they have 24 levels of SE, which is unlikely, but with hardcore improvisation the mage would be much more likely to capable of casting it.
Instead of a hard exclusion, I believe using soft caps and incentivizing the sacrifice of flexibility on player's own volition could be a more fun way of rounding the edges of the system. RPM suffers a lot from the threat of its own flexibility and I think we can learn a lot from its solutions. For one, hardcore improvisation could only be allowed for spells the mage might reasonably know, like those part of his tradition (like the fire mage example above). For a less vague limitation, spell familiarity could be introduced, so the mage can only improvise a number of spells equal to half his points spent on magical skills (this would likely result in a predefined list of spells which would help the GM to keep track of the character's ability). To incentivize specialization at cost of flexibility, the introduction of magic talents that includes bonus to Thaumatology skill for one or two optional specializations and a couple of other mundane yet related skills is one of my favorite ideas from the Ritual Path Specialist article from Pyramid. Those are just untested ideas, but I believe they're worth exploring before completely prohibiting hardcore improvisations.

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Originally Posted by VariousRen View Post
  • Improv spells cannot have a duration longer than 3 minutes.
  • All spells "lock out" their FP cost until they expire, so an FP spent on a 12 hour buff spell is gone until the end of that 12 hours, not just for 10 minutes.
Could you explain this part better, please? I failed to understand your meaning. If spells can only last for 3 minutes, why is there a 12 hours buff?
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Old 10-24-2020, 11:57 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

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Originally Posted by Sorenant View Post
Could you explain this part better, please? I failed to understand your meaning. If spells can only last for 3 minutes, why is there a 12 hours buff?
Improvised spells specifically can never last more than 3 minutes. Wizards can still learn buff spells that lasted longer. I didn't like the fact that they would pay the FP cost once, rest for 10 minutes, and then the subject would have that benefit for the full duration (sometimes days or weeks). Having the FP eaten up until the end of the spell duration forces them to choose a small group to cast on (conveniently about the size of an adventuring party!) before they are seriously down on FP all the time. Without this modifier a buff that lasted 7 days could theoretically be maintained on hundreds of people at a time by a single wizard.
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Old 10-25-2020, 02:03 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

I have mentioned this before in other threads, but I think that a lot of what is Sorcery can be done just as well with Magical Powers (Fantasy, p. 159) or Spirit Control (Powers, p. 134). You take TK as the base ability and either purchase Affliction as alternative abilities or apply the Using Abilities at a Default rules (you could even buy techniques to improve the defaults, just like in Psionic Powers). In either case, you do not have a pool of points that do not have a primary use.

For example, let us look at Spirit Control. For 100 CP, you could purchase TK 20 [100]. With 20 CP, you could purchase Jumper (Spirit) as an alternative ability. During at emergency, you could spend 3 FP and roll against Will-4 to improvise Affliction (Malediction, +100%; Mortal Condition, Heart Attack, +300%), perhaps representing you attempting to draw out the soul of your victim.
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Old 10-25-2020, 04:24 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

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Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
For example, let us look at Spirit Control. For 100 CP, you could purchase TK 20 [100]. With 20 CP, you could purchase Jumper (Spirit) as an alternative ability. During at emergency, you could spend 3 FP and roll against Will-4 to improvise Affliction (Malediction, +100%; Mortal Condition, Heart Attack, +300%), perhaps representing you attempting to draw out the soul of your victim.
Assuming this is an example of "Using Abilities at Default" (P173), I think that's quite the stretch. Using your TK to stop their heart seems like a much better explanation, and that it's a spirit based power explains why it can be a Malediction and thus bypass armour (in a way that a more physical PK attack might not). Also, an affliction is not the same sort of power as TK (or Jumper), so you take another -2 to the Will roll.

Note that a sorcerer can do the same thing, and it's skill-based so they can use Will-based Thaumatology (plus talent) which at high levels of skill comes out marginally cheaper if you wanted the Thaumatology anyway. The sorcerer has to pay for a 'blank' power, but in return gets a much more generous set of rules for minor improvisation.

I think that, when it comes down to it, the difference is mostly flavour.
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Old 10-25-2020, 08:25 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

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Originally Posted by VariousRen View Post
Improvised spells specifically can never last more than 3 minutes. Wizards can still learn buff spells that lasted longer. I didn't like the fact that they would pay the FP cost once, rest for 10 minutes, and then the subject would have that benefit for the full duration (sometimes days or weeks). Having the FP eaten up until the end of the spell duration forces them to choose a small group to cast on (conveniently about the size of an adventuring party!) before they are seriously down on FP all the time. Without this modifier a buff that lasted 7 days could theoretically be maintained on hundreds of people at a time by a single wizard.
Oh right, that makes sense. I thought by "All spells" you mean "All improvised spells", my bad.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexanderHowl View Post
I have mentioned this before in other threads, but I think that a lot of what is Sorcery can be done just as well with Magical Powers (Fantasy, p. 159) or Spirit Control (Powers, p. 134). You take TK as the base ability and either purchase Affliction as alternative abilities or apply the Using Abilities at a Default rules (you could even buy techniques to improve the defaults, just like in Psionic Powers). In either case, you do not have a pool of points that do not have a primary use.
Hardcore improvisation is just a fluffy name for Using Abilities at a Default with Sorcerous Empowerment, isn't it?
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Old 10-25-2020, 12:30 PM   #8
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

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Originally Posted by Sorenant View Post
Hardcore improvisation is just a fluffy name for Using Abilities at a Default with Sorcerous Empowerment, isn't it?
Pretty much. It has the -2 for 'not similar to the base power' built in.
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Old 10-25-2020, 03:55 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

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Improvised spells specifically can never last more than 3 minutes.
I was considering "Hardcore improvised spells can never have fixed durations", thus if you wanted one that had a duration you'd have to maintain it. That way if you want a running buff, even a short duration one, it's your only operating spell unless you learn it (with a duration, of course).

I'd probably also make it a stylistic thing that sorcerous spells tend to have short durations - no 10 day shield spells and the like. "It's just the way sorcery is."
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Old 10-25-2020, 04:12 PM   #10
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Default Re: [Sorcery] Regarding Hardcore Improvisation and Psi (Magic) Amplifiers

I was under the impression that "Abilities at Default" were limited to one use or one minute. Does Sorcery hardcore improvisation not have the same limits?
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