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Old 10-31-2015, 09:42 AM   #11
vicky_molokh
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

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Originally Posted by Anders View Post
I don't agree with this. First of all, it tends to make the mage master-of-all-situations, and so there's no need to have a party. Secondly, I think that it's the restrictions more than the flexibility of the system that channel intelligence and innovations. And your example points to this - a restricted ability (being able to split water) is used for two very different applications. In a very flexible system you can just improvise "Create Explosion" and "Breathe Underwater" spells.

But that's just me.
Oh, restrictions are certainly important. But the sort of restrictions there are makes a system flexible or rigid. Usually it's a difference between a tool-spell and an outcome-spell*. The former is being like 'split water' and the latter being like 'remove penalty for not being able to breathe'. GURPS traits are generally closer to the latter type - they grant specific narrow effects, no matter how they're achieved; Doesn't Breathe can represent an anaerobic metabolism, or an air-creating spell, or an internal superdimensional supply of air so large that it is unlikely to ever end throughout the campaign.

* == Note that this is a simplistic explanation of a spectrum on which spells only have relative, not absolute, positions.
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Old 10-31-2015, 10:01 AM   #12
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

I like it if thought and ingenuity can get more out of a magic system, and it like it to be able to interoperate with the other ways of doing things within the game. But I don't demand other specific things of a magic system: the design of a system is one of the major aspects of a setting from which the gameplay emerges.
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Old 10-31-2015, 11:34 AM   #13
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

My favorite kind of magic system is one that isn't. A system.

Or more accurately, one that isn't a separate system from the rest of the game.

The less-unlike doing other things in the game the magic is, the happier I am.

I love the idea of spells-as-skills because it takes the "I know how to do a thing" concept of skills and just expands on "a thing". Obviously, GURPS Magic isn't just more skills, because we have a whole big blob of text trying to explain it; but it's a subset of skills, not an entirely different creature. One of the reasons why I'd like less narrow spell-skills is that's more in common with the actual skill system. Of course, the actual skill system doesn't have much in the way of making-new-skill advice (and generally tries to stay away from it), so the Magic as Skills system having even less advice is at least consistent, if annoying. It also suggests there shouldn't be too many magic skills, since there (in principle) shouldn't be too many skills.

The Action Points article is seductively attractive to me because that is, in a way, bringing non-spell skills more in line with spells - spending from a pool of resources to do the thing, along with making your skill roll.

I like spells-as-powers because that again unifies it with another part of the game. Powers, unlike skills, have a whole LOT of heavy support for "make a new thing" kind of stuff. Unlike skills, there's less unified support for an existing catalogue of powers/spells, although every year the catalogue size gets better and better. However, each base advantage tends to actually "do" a unique thing in play so it's a little hard to say it's a gameplay system; it's really a creation system. I suppose you could say it's systematicly not systematic?

4th Edition D&D had other things to complain about in its powers/spells/actions/whatever the hell system, but there was a commitment to making the basic architecture of combat, special abilities, spells, psychic powers, "techniques", magic items, and anything else they could think of work pretty consistently. They started experimenting with things that were off that system-structure near the end of the lifespan of 4e, and frankly I didn't like them.

I don't really like "My special ability is special, so I have to have unique mechanics to emphasize how special it is" as a game design philosophy. I understand it, I get the appeal, and I know it has very broad appeal. But I personally don't like it.
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Old 10-31-2015, 01:25 PM   #14
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

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Originally Posted by Bruno View Post
My favorite kind of magic system is one that isn't. A system.

Or more accurately, one that isn't a separate system from the rest of the game.
This rings true to me. The beauty of simplicity predicated on logical consistency makes learning, playing, and running a game all the more fun.
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Old 10-31-2015, 02:23 PM   #15
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

There's something to be said for having magic use the same type of mechanics as the rest of the game but there's also something to be said for not having the same set of mechanics for different types of magic. If your mage/sorcerer/wizard is using skill based magic that he powers himself then maybe your summoner/shaman is negotiating with spirits to get them to do stuff and the priest of the gods is following a path of piety and ritual and doing something entirely different.
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Old 10-31-2015, 03:17 PM   #16
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

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Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
There's something to be said for having magic use the same type of mechanics as the rest of the game but there's also something to be said for not having the same set of mechanics for different types of magic. If your mage/sorcerer/wizard is using skill based magic that he powers himself then maybe your summoner/shaman is negotiating with spirits to get them to do stuff and the priest of the gods is following a path of piety and ritual and doing something entirely different.
Unless, of course, the shaman only thinks he is negotiating with spirits, but is actually just manipulating reality the same way other magic users do. Or vise-versa.

Another way to put it would be that the mechanics can be the same and the role-playing can create the difference.
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Old 10-31-2015, 04:57 PM   #17
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

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I just really prefer systems that let me do these things on this timescale without hassle.
I, on the other hand, have become quite tired of magic systems like you describe. My fantasy setting is very limited on direct damage options, and has no instant "have some HP back" style healing, and casting times are typically measured in minutes.
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Old 10-31-2015, 05:32 PM   #18
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

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Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
There's something to be said for having magic use the same type of mechanics as the rest of the game but there's also something to be said for not having the same set of mechanics for different types of magic. If your mage/sorcerer/wizard is using skill based magic that he powers himself then maybe your summoner/shaman is negotiating with spirits to get them to do stuff and the priest of the gods is following a path of piety and ritual and doing something entirely different.
Recycling the same game-mechanical infrastructure is often fine, though.

Using GURPS Powers, you can design several different magic systems for the same world, by using a different set of Limitations (and Enhancements) for each one, with only a little overlap. And you can define certain magic systems as being unable to do certain things. For instance, maybe Arcane Magic can't heal. Maybe psionics must always have the No Signature Enhancement? And so forth.
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Old 10-31-2015, 05:46 PM   #19
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

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I, on the other hand, have become quite tired of magic systems like you describe. My fantasy setting is very limited on direct damage options, and has no instant "have some HP back" style healing, and casting times are typically measured in minutes.
The only reason Sagatafl and my Ärth setting has direct damage spells is because of legacy, since the Ärth world was originally based on someone else's RPG system, Quest FRP, which had such spells.

By the time I gave up trying to GURPSify Quest FRP, and instead decided to resume development of what was then called FFRE, there was more than enough backstory legacy for the Ärth NPCs to make it impossible to surgically remove the combat time-scale direct damage spells.

I don't mind those spells being there.

They're not as crazy as AD&D and D&D3 having a low-level area-of-effect damage spell. Fireball is a 3rd level spell, on a scale from 0th or 1st up through 9th level, and with a huge area. Sagatafl's spell scale goes from 1st to 6th level, and the only area-of-effect damage spells you get are puny-area 5th level ones and somewhat-larger-area 6th level ones (but still not the hundreds of square feet of AD&D's Fireball), although they are still combat time-scale (with a Casting Time Increment of 1 Round, meaning you usually cast them in 2-10 Rounds depending on your skill and on how strong your Focus item is, and of course whether you want to take the risk of trying to cast a 6th level spell at all; best case scenario is you turn your familiar into a horny catgirl, but most casting Fumbles, especially of 6th level spells, are actually unpleasant).

But if I were to start over from scratch, those spells wouldn't have been there.

(I've also seriously thought about making parts of the Ärth setting the equivalent of a "Low Mana" area, specifically for spells from the Element category, but ultimately decided against it, since that would boil down to screwing the players depending on which area the campaign started in, and I'm against GMs having sex with players.)

Instant healing isn't available as learnable spells. There I did put my foot down, relative to Quest FRP.

You get the equivalent of some characters being able to learn and cast spells to temporarily give others Rapid Healing or even slow Regeneration (such spells aren't CTI 1 round, nor do they need to be), and things like that, but insta-healing is only for inborn Powers, such as Virgin Powers, Divine Powers and Royal Powers (think unicorn-riding maidens, Abrahamic prophets with healing hands, and dudes like Aragorn, respectively), which are explicitly rare in in-world demographics terms.
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Old 10-31-2015, 06:13 PM   #20
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: What Makes a Great Magic System?

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Originally Posted by Shostak View Post
Unless, of course, the shaman only thinks he is negotiating with spirits, but is actually just manipulating reality the same way other magic users do. Or vise-versa.

Another way to put it would be that the mechanics can be the same and the role-playing can create the difference.
Well, that's something I've heard said often but I don't really think it reflects the way mechanics help the players immerse themselves in what the character is doing and having a feel of how the world works.

'One mechanic fits all' games feel flavourless to me....

But this is getting way off the point of magic systems. Well, fairly off the point.
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