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Darrett

Spell Power and Miscasting

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I'm working on a conversion of the WFRP casting system, and have two possibilities. The original working model is to gut the Power pool and just convert it over the to Genesys system using strain to cast, while adding the Prepare quality to more difficult spells to represent the time needed to channel power. One issue I have with this is it means that simple spells consume the same amount of strain as more difficult spells, which doesn't make much sense thematically. A solution there would be variable strain costs, but that's going to impact the strain economy which is already taxed.

Last night I started looking at reintroducing the power pool, meaning that casters will now have to track power levels and perform Channel Power actions or regenerate power over time. This adds a lot of mechanical complexity on the part of the player, though I've eliminated as much as possible. It does seem stronger thematically and gives a push-your-luck element to the magic system, which I'm in favor of. The biggest thing here is if you consistently roll poorly on your Channel Power actions, you're going to be unable to cast the higher difficulty spells, which just isn't fun. Want to cast a Fireball Barrage? Either roll well and you can cast it next turn, or if you roll poorly it might be three turns until you're ready to go. I think this worked better in a game like WFRP where battles took many turns to resolve in some cases, but it's not something I've seen in Genesys... generally battles are over in just a few turns, so spending half of your time building a power pool up isn't much fun.

What I'm leaning toward at this stage is a hybrid of the two; you can use power from your pool to cast, or you can substitute strain for power.

 

I also wanted to get some feedback on some Spell Miscast mechanics I'm working on:

The thought was that if at least three of your Negative dice (setback, difficulty, challenge) on a Spellcraft roll come up with blank results, or a single despair result, you suffer a miscast. For every additional blank or despair result generated, you add +10 to the miscast roll, which is set up mechanically like critical injury rolls.

The biggest thing I'm running into is the setback dice greatly increase the chance of miscast for each one added since they have a 1/3 chance of being blank. On one hand, it makes sense to me since black dice are generally added by circumstances outside of the norm, which would have more impact on your ability to cast without mishap. However, it could be over the top and result in making talents that remove setback dice basically a requirement, since if you're rolling 7-8 negative dice the chance of getting three blanks is pretty high.

One solution I have is to chance it so that a miscast only results on three blanks generated from your difficulty and challenge dice, but this has the issue of not representing the added risk of casting spells while distracted, etc.

The other thought is to just use the Despair and Threat symbols and have miscasts trigger on a number of uncanceled Threats or a Despair, but the set point is more difficult to establish since you have advantage results to consider, which also makes the results swing to the extremes more.

 

The main thing is that I'm trying to avoid going too far down the rabbit hole on increasing the mechanical complexity, since that isn't what the system is about, while maintaining the feel of the setting. I've already moved the entire system to a "spellbook" based system where you purchase specific spell effects like talents rather than using the Genesys charts, though I'll be including optional rules to use a greatly restricted version of the charts depending on your Order or Faith for those that want things more freeform.

 

Any thoughts?

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I am not familiar with FFG WHFR but based on your description:

For the mishap table, I would let it activate on a despair or 3 threat. Then I would allow the caster to "buy" some kind of bonus against the table. Perhaps they may get up to 2 strain only for spellcasting to gain to automatic threat against their next spellcasting check. If they generate 1 threat on their spell check and have "bought" two threat then, zorch, miscast. Additional threat beyond 3 adds +10 and additional despairs adding +30 to the mishap roll. Or maybe they just "buy" pluses to the miscast table so they don't fail as often but when they do its really big. This allows the players to keep casting each turn if they really want to push their luck.

It also occurs to me that you also just keep allowing those +10's to accumulate until miscast activates or the player gets a Triumph or 4+ advantages. You could also allow them to buy down accumulated +10's at a rate of 2 advantage per +10.

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8 hours ago, Richardbuxton said:

That miscasting idea is just brutal, even to the point that it feels like it goes beyond Grim Dark into some other new level of “your character will always die” genre. Couldn’t you just take the Threat/Despair table from the core rule book and crank it up a notch?

Miscast work mechanically like critical injuries in that you roll D100 on a table and add +10 to the roll for various reasons, but they don’t add critical injuries to your character. For the actual effect, they use something similar to the Chaos Manifestation charts from 2E, meaning you’d have to roll an awful lot of miscast results to get anything really bad.

The 1-10% result is that you cause any food supplies you’re carrying to spoil, for instance.

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the miscast is interesting, but it should be tied to threat/despair depending on the severity of the mechanic.

Tethering it to blank difficulty dice is a "you are damned if you, and damned if you don" situation. Blank difficulty dice making things Harder/Worse is a fundamental misappropriation of the system and dice mechanics. the same as using advantage/triumph to cause a roll to fail, or counter the failure axis of the dice (or visa versa with threat/despair countering the success axis).

Specifically for something like this i would tether it in with a despair, much like you can remove a caster's magic with a despair, or alter the target of the spell with a despair. Which  imo, already represent a "miscast" of sorts, but you could expand upon it with additional options.

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The idea of a miscast table is definitely a great one, I’m toying with a very similar idea for The Wheel of Time, although in my case it will be triggered by Despair or exceeding your Strain Threshold whilst Channeling.

But I’m with Wisconsen on your idea of it being triggered by blank dice faces. The blank faces on Setback, Difficulty, and Challenge dice are supposed to represent a bit of good luck for the character. I would expect every single spell cast, except the most basic, to have a blank die, what you propose would not be an occasional thing but a regular occurrence.

There are definitely ways to do what you want, and mechanics you can introduce that are extensions of the systems expected operation. The Miscast table that’s similar to the Critical Injuries table is an excellent idea. The expected method of triggering that miscast would be a Despair, but most gm’s don’t upgrade difficulties without spending a Story Point so the chance of a Despair is probably too low for your needs.

So you likely need to have the Miscast trigger with a number of Threat, start with 3 then lower it to 2 if they are not happening often enough. In this instance a Despair could be a Miscast with +30 or something.

Alternatively  you need to increase the number of Upgrades that happen to the difficulty pool, this could be done in a number of ways. The simplest way is to automatically upgrade the difficulty by the number of Story Points in the GM’s pool, this would be a very easy way to represent the fickle nature of the winds of magic, although with a large group it could get really out of control.

Another method would be to give the player the choice of Upgrading instead of Adding Difficulty when adding additional effects to a spell. This way they can make a spell easier to cast at the risk of Miscasting.

A third method would be to have a higher strain cost for spell casting (assuming you don’t go with the mana pool mechanic), perhaps 4 instead of 2, but the spell caster can reduce that strain cost by upgrading the difficulty at an exchange of 1 for 1. For example the player may choose to suffer 1 Strain and upgrade the difficulty 3 times.

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1 hour ago, Wisconsen said:

the miscast is interesting, but it should be tied to threat/despair depending on the severity of the mechanic.

Tethering it to blank difficulty dice is a "you are damned if you, and damned if you don" situation. Blank difficulty dice making things Harder/Worse is a fundamental misappropriation of the system and dice mechanics. the same as using advantage/triumph to cause a roll to fail, or counter the failure axis of the dice (or visa versa with threat/despair countering the success axis).

Specifically for something like this i would tether it in with a despair, much like you can remove a caster's magic with a despair, or alter the target of the spell with a despair. Which  imo, already represent a "miscast" of sorts, but you could expand upon it with additional options.

 

The only reason I was going to tether it to the blank results is that it was statistically less likely than rolling the same number of threat results on a set number of dice, and wouldn't trigger at all on particular checks (simple or easy, without setback dice). However, I'm on board with the concept of tying it to the threat/despair side since it does make more sense and fits in with what people expect from those die results, I'm just going to have to look at how often you generate the result to see if it's happening too much. Having three blanks come up on a single roll isn't particularly likely, but three threats can happen quite regularly.

4 minutes ago, Richardbuxton said:

The idea of a miscast table is definitely a great one, I’m toying with a very similar idea for The Wheel of Time, although in my case it will be triggered by Despair or exceeding your Strain Threshold whilst Channeling.

But I’m with Wisconsen on your idea of it being triggered by blank dice faces. The blank faces on Setback, Difficulty, and Challenge dice are supposed to represent a bit of good luck for the character. I would expect every single spell cast, except the most basic, to have a blank die, what you propose would not be an occasional thing but a regular occurrence.

There are definitely ways to do what you want, and mechanics you can introduce that are extensions of the systems expected operation. The Miscast table that’s similar to the Critical Injuries table is an excellent idea. The expected method of triggering that miscast would be a Despair, but most gm’s don’t upgrade difficulties without spending a Story Point so the chance of a Despair is probably too low for your needs.

So you likely need to have the Miscast trigger with a number of Threat, start with 3 then lower it to 2 if they are not happening often enough. In this instance a Despair could be a Miscast with +30 or something.

Alternatively  you need to increase the number of Upgrades that happen to the difficulty pool, this could be done in a number of ways. The simplest way is to automatically upgrade the difficulty by the number of Story Points in the GM’s pool, this would be a very easy way to represent the fickle nature of the winds of magic, although with a large group it could get really out of control.

Another method would be to give the player the choice of Upgrading instead of Adding Difficulty when adding additional effects to a spell. This way they can make a spell easier to cast at the risk of Miscasting.

A third method would be to have a higher strain cost for spell casting (assuming you don’t go with the mana pool mechanic), perhaps 4 instead of 2, but the spell caster can reduce that strain cost by upgrading the difficulty at an exchange of 1 for 1. For example the player may choose to suffer 1 Strain and upgrade the difficulty 3 times.

 

I am planning to use the Despair as a +30 to the roll if it isn't the trigger, as it gets away from a potential priority issue if you had a Despair and three threats rolled at once and they didn't add the same amount to the roll.

Despairs will continue to be somewhat rare due to the lack of upgrading on unopposed checks, though there are enough opposed rolls in the current system I'm using that you're going to see Despairs come up when you're trying to cast things like mind-effecting spells on unwilling targets that have the Discipline skill trained. The thing to watch for there is if it means certain spell schools that have a lot of opposed rolls are miscasting at a rate significantly higher than those that tend to have unopposed checks.

I'm planning to get rid of the strain mechanic, though characters can substitute strain for power to provide options when they're only 1-2 power short of a spell instead of spending an additional turn channeling. I'm also getting rid of the spell effect charts and moving back to a spellbook-type system where you have specific spells you can use, since splitting the existing charts up adequately between 17 different varieties of casters wasn't working out so well.

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10 minutes ago, Richardbuxton said:

Can you list the 17, I seriously cannot think of 17 different types of magic in Warhammer

The 8 Orders and the 9 Faiths. Although there's also the Hedge Wizard and the Runepriest, but they're a little different than the others.

 

Edit- I should mention that I'm going to include the "Classic" Genesys magic rules as optional with the spell types split up as best as I can for the different Orders and Faiths with the note that players and GMs should try to ensure that any particular effect is in the spirit of the caster's variety. Gives some different options if people prefer the more freeform and less tied-to-flavor system.

Edited by Darrett

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Ahh, ok. I would have just put Talents in like the Flames of Kelios talent. Most of the differences just boils down to description of the spells. Although I do see a bit of a problem where there’s Arcane magic that can heal, but again a talent that precludes Curse whilst allowing Heal using Arcane would be fine 

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4 minutes ago, Richardbuxton said:

Ahh, ok. I would have just put Talents in like the Flames of Kelios talent. Most of the differences just boils down to description of the spells. Although I do see a bit of a problem where there’s Arcane magic that can heal, but again a talent that precludes Curse whilst allowing Heal using Arcane would be fine 

I thought about doing that, but you'd end up with a five paragraph long talent listing out what you could and couldn't do in each spell list, and adding a bunch of new effects on top of the existing. As it stands I've got converted versions of the spell actions from 2E/3E with some modification, that I'll be printing out to see if I can compile them into an Order/Faith specific list. For instance, Shallya has a bunch of different heal spells that work mechanically differently, but it might be possible to compile it all into a "Shallya Heal / Shallya Augment / Shallya Barrier" section to allow for mixing and matching, as long as you were willing to cut out the more niche spell effects.

Could be another possibility for an optional rule.

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It does sound interesting, and I do love the 3e spells since they are all so different, but having pages and pages of spells to look through has gotten really old for me. Why have thirty different attack spells when a single one can be modified into hundreds of combinations with a narrative description only limited by your imagination.

What I’m saying is I’m jaded, and probably should shut up and let you do your thing.

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1 hour ago, Richardbuxton said:

It does sound interesting, and I do love the 3e spells since they are all so different, but having pages and pages of spells to look through has gotten really old for me. Why have thirty different attack spells when a single one can be modified into hundreds of combinations with a narrative description only limited by your imagination.

What I’m saying is I’m jaded, and probably should shut up and let you do your thing.

 

No, I appreciate the perspective. I am cutting out anything that looks like a tiered set of spells, so you won’t have Fireball 1 through 5, but I’m trying to keep anything that’s unique.

One thought that’s coming to mind is how a hybrid of the two would work if only the outlier spells had individual choices but the casting lists in core were retained for all other applications.

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That’s where I would utilise the talent system. If you need a hyper specialised Spell which requires xp to unlock then you create it as a talent. For tWoT my example would be Balefire or Gateways, in Realms of Terrinoth you have the Dissonance and Encouraging Song talents. 

You dictate a skill, define the activation requirements (action, manoeuvre, Incidental), set the cost of Strain/Wounds/Story point, then lay out the effects of the spell.

If the spell has an effect that improves with the ability of the caster then you either tie the effect to ranks in a skill, make the talent Ranked, make an improved/Supreme version, or just have the effect be influenced by the number of Success/Advantage which will increase as a caster gets more powerful.

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Originally I had all my spell effects set as the equivalent of Talents, only you don't pay XP to unlock them, you gain certain ranks of them as you move into new Careers.

I've got Sigmar and Shallya figured out utilizing a modified version of the existing magic lists, but they're also two of the easiest ones. Once you start getting into Morr, Verena, and Manaan, you start to have to create unique lists, so that will take more time.

 

Quote

Sigmar’s Rejuvenation- Base difficulty <> Easy. Engaged range, heals 1 wound per * and one strain per ^.

Area Effect: The spell affects all allied targets within range of the spell. +<>

Range: Increase the range of the spell to short. +<>

Restoration: Select one brief condition that the target is suffering. This condition immediately ends. +<>

Heal Critical: Select one critical injury of severity 3 or less the target is suffering. If the spell is successful, the Critical Injury is also healed. +<><>

Revive Incapacitated: The character may select targets that are incapacitated. +<><>

 

Sigmar’s Boon- Base difficulty <> <> Average. Engaged range, all engaged ally targets treat their Brawn score as being 1 point higher, and increase their strain threshold by a value equal to the rank of the caster for the duration of the spell.

Haste: All targets can perform a second maneuver during their turn without spending strain. + <>

Range: Increase the range of the spell to short. +<> <>

Strength of Will: Targets also treat their Willpower as 1 point higher for skill checks.+<>

Viciousness: Weapons wielded by the targets gain the Vicious 2 quality. +<>

 

Sigmar’s Fist- Base difficulty <><> Average. Engaged range. Perform a melee combat check using Presence in place of Brawn for the check and damage dealt. The attack gains the Burn quality equal to the character’s ranks in Piety.

Blast: The attack gains the Blast quality equal to your character's ranks in Piety. +<>

Heldenhammer: When dealing damage to a Chaos target, each * adds +2 damage instead of +1. +<>

Impact: The attack gains the Knockdown quality and the Disorient quality with a rating equal to the character’s ranks in Piety. +<>

Restoration: You restore wounds equal to the number of uncanceled * results generated, up to your character’s ranks in Piety +<>

Suffer Not the Witch: This attack deals Power damage. +<>

 

There's a working draft of Sigmar. The good thing about doing it this way is it reduces the number of unique spell entries by eliminating some of the more common effects. 

Edited by Darrett

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I'm also trying to figure out a good way to do the Warhammer magic that isn't too complex. 

I have created a Magic Power pool that can a magic user can channel to increase. But I'm thinking it's too much work to convert all the spells. But, like you, I am not a fan of every spell costs 2 strain (or power) to cast.

I'm thinking perhaps you use a Magic Power pool and every effect that you add increases the power/strain used?

My only concern with the standard Genesys system is for new players to the system it is a bit daunting/time consuming to decide what effects to add to a spell.

 

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