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Old 09-03-2011, 10:52 AM   #1
Blind Mapmaker
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Mannheim, Baden
Default [THAUM] Varying Spell Difficulty

In an effort to bring spellcasting a bit more in line with regular skills, I am toying with the idea of changing some spells to have easy or average difficulty. For example, really low-powered spells such as Light or Sound would be easy and more powerful ones such as Shape Fire or Spasm would be average. This would make it possible (read: not a total waste of points) to play an IQ 12-13 dabbler with one level of Magery and still get cost reduction due to high skill for a handful of spells.

I already did a conversion for a magical school game that had 1-2 easy and 2-5 average spells per college, but that campaign never really got off the ground.

My questions are: Has anybody actually done something like this in a campaign? How did it affect balance between mages, non-mages and dabblers? Could it be reasonably extended to even more spells (e.g. make Fireball average and Explosive Fireball hard)? Am I missing any potential pitfalls or is having only hard/very hard spells just a world-building decision?

In a related question: Would lowering the skill thresholds to save energy by one or two have a great effect on how magic is used?
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:17 AM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Houston
Default Re: [THAUM] Varying Spell Difficulty

Ive considered doint the very same thing for quite a while.

I havent implemented it yet as we are currently 'between mages' at the moment.

Ive considered doing it a few different ways.

First I thought about varrying the OTHER pre-requisistes (Most notably Magery Level). For example, Take Fireball as a Hard Spell With magery 1 prereq. Would it be reasonable to have a variant form of the fireball spell that was very hard, but had only magery 0 as a pre-req? What about an Easy version for Magery 3? This way the lesser mages could still buy access to spells, but they would pay for that access through increased difficulty (and therefore points). The other side of the equation (Easier spells for more talented mages) would allow for lower IQ higher magery talent mages. I still like the idea, but it does give me pause as I am horrible at spell design and balance.

The other Idea I thought about was allowing a whole spectrum of difficulty beyound the E to VH spectrum. its all just integer modifiers right? So why stop there? Concievably, you could run a + 10 to -10 set of modifiers. So for somethign even so pedestrian as create water, you could have a -10 version of the spell that could generatevery large volumes of water or a +10 version that would only provide a few drops. This could be an easy way for great subtley and uniquity in spells. This idea at its core though is already hinted at somewhat in Thaum (page 40 I think?).

Again I abandoned both these ideas, as Im never sure about the balance in Magic spells and they are something that can get out of hand quite quickly from what I understand.

Since we have no spell design system and its been said its been balanced by W.A.G. since its inception (Unlike say powers which has both a rigorous design system and is weighted via points for balance) Im just not confident enough to make the big changes.

I even considered seeing what I could get for my trouble if I took every spell and used the metrics of Pre-Req Count, Magery, Cost, Duration, Time to cast and Effect and tried to readjust the outliers. Sadly, since I have no real idea how those should be weighted against each other and I dont know what (if any) other factors might be involved (College strength, Spell chain strength, etc) I could event treat that question intelligently.

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing what you arrive at.


Last edited by Nymdok; 09-03-2011 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:49 AM   #3
Blind Mapmaker
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Mannheim, Baden
Default Re: [THAUM] Varying Spell Difficulty

Revising the whole spell system to make it more systematic would certainly be a worthwhile goal. I don't think I'm going to get quite that far, but doing something with a varying Magery level could be interesting. I just think that making spells easier for higher Magery pushes players too much into taking Magery. It does take care of IQ 16+ mages with high defaults for all IQ-based skills, though.
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Old 09-03-2011, 05:01 PM   #4
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Canada
Default Re: [THAUM] Varying Spell Difficulty

I keep working on different approaches to a complete spells-as-skills overhaul. Suffice it to say I haven't come up with a satisfactory solution yet.

But what tinkering with variant difficulties (either sticking to the standard Easy/Average/Hard/Very Hard or kiting off into hardcore houserules land) really reminds me of just going with the Ritual magic system, as each spell becomes a technique based on prerequisite counts you get a (very) wide variety of penalties.

The differnet spell difficulties end up as a sort of intermediary between the two - standard-skill-based and Ritual/technique-based
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