Magic conversion and overthinking

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Lustvig
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Magic conversion and overthinking

#1 Postby Lustvig » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:20 am

OK,

This is driving me nuts. I'd like to convert a module or two for use in conventions based on a game that has dungeons and some dragons. I want to keep the distinct flavor of spells, without re-creating all 6000+ spells from scratch in write-ups. Now, I have Fantasy Companion and its wonderful notes on trapping, but how do I ... write down the spells? Especially for players who have not played before! My though is thus ... (x means I don't have the info in front of me as I write this...

Wizard Powers>Spells

Power: Bolt (Rank: Novice, PP 1-3, Rng x/x/x, Dur Inst; fires 1-3 bolts doing 2dx damage)

Magic Missile (Damage 2d4, AP 3)
Acid Arrow (single missile 2d8, then one die step lower each turn)
Ice Dagger (roll vigor or -1 Pace)
Flaming Arrow (catches items on fire)

(Actually, I find Bolt overpowered. IIRC, there was a "Lesser Bolt" somewhere which might be more appropo....)

Anyhoo - does this looks fast, accuarate, and reasonable. BTW, to emulate the game I am removing the New Power edge. Heroes need to find each spell (really a trapping), and the Powers themselves remain behind the scenes and are just used for the base concept...

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#2 Postby Clint » Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:41 am

If you are running it at conventions, then you only need to write down the trappings that the specific pre-gen has. Bolt could be the most "complex" since you could break down its trappings per each of its four uses. Such as...

Bolt (Ranged Combat Spells) Range 12/24/48

1 PP = Ice Dagger spell: Does 2d6 damage and a raise on Spellcasting means the target's next movement is halved (Difficult Ground).
2 PP = Acid Arrow spell: Fires two 2d4 acid arrows (roll one Spellcasting die for each; can be separate targets or the same). Targets take 1d4 damage at beginning of next round unless they wash off the acid somehow.
3 PP = Magic Missile spell: Fires three 2d4 AP:4 force missiles (roll three Spellcasting dice as above).
3 PP = Flaming Arrow spell: Fires one 3d6 fiery arrow that bursts into flames surrounding the target, bypassing any armor that isn't full coverage. Target and anything they are carrying may catch on fire as per the normal rules.

So basically, for one power the spellcaster gets four different "spells" via trappings.
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#3 Postby Lustvig » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:04 am

As always, some really cool a FFF feedback.

I still like the idea of the Power as a definition, and the trappings as "spells." Thus the use has find or learn each trapping (aka spell). That way when the heroes find a scroll or spellbook, they don't get "Bolt" or "Ray" they get Acid Arrow and Lightning Bolt.

Looks like a clean way to write it up ...

Power Name (basic attributes)
Spell Name (PP, notes)
Spell Name
Spell Name

Looks like this will sort of toss out Rank Requirements to learn? Or could we place Rank requirements within each "spell" (aka trapping).

Personally, I'm going to drop the Power into the background in order to more closely mimic the system I am emulating. The Power is there, as a "power source" (no pun) so the basic rules of how it works are there.

Thus, we can have Blast do Fireball, Snowball Swarm, Pillar of Fire, etc.

Teleport could power Teleport, Dimension Door, Passwall, Displacement, etc. Each named spell simply has a different trapping, but is based on Teleport. But each spell must be found and/or learned (a Knowledge: Arcana or Knowledge: Miracles roll? Or a Common Knowledge roll for a spellcaster?)
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#4 Postby kronovan » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:30 am

Lustvig wrote:I still like the idea of the Power as a definition, and the trappings as "spells."

Personally I think that's the ideal approach to take if you can find the time to write up all the different spells. That approach is particularly effective when you're converting from another setting/system, as it translates the flavor best.
Lustvig wrote:BTW, to emulate the game I am removing the New Power edge. Heroes need to find each spell (really a trapping), and the Powers themselves remain behind the scenes and are just used for the base concept...

I wouldn't take that approach unless magic is very common and powerful in your setting. By removing the New Power edge you give the player an additional 2 free advancement points per power that they can use to quickly max out their power casting skill or add some edge that further boosts their arcane ability. If magic isn't so common and not very powerful, I'd take the approach of requiring the PC's to find a new spell and then take the NP edge as part of the process of practicing/learning it. Of course if magic is uber and found in all facets of your setting, then for sure take out NP.

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#5 Postby The Dread Polack » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:35 am

I would actually lead with the spell name, like this:

"Magic Missile"
Bolt: 3 PP, Fires three 2d4 AP:4 force missiles...

It's a unique power. "Bolt" is just the generic name for the set of rules that describe what it does, mechanically. If you want them to think of what they're doing in-character, then start with the name of the spell. If it's a con game, then they don't need to know what's going on behind the scenes. If it's a campaign, then they should read the rules and understand what's going on.

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Good points

#6 Postby Lustvig » Wed Aug 01, 2012 1:36 pm

These are all excellent points. I don't need to stat up the NPCs with "named" spells when Powers will do just fine.

And as for converting folks who like underground dwellings & lizards, sure - just give the spell a name and list the info. Easy.

See ... I was over-thinking it.

P.S. The module in question is I3 Pharoah, but I set it in Greyhawk in the Sea of Dust.
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#7 Postby SavageGamerGirl » Wed Aug 01, 2012 1:44 pm

A good rule of thumb for this kind of stuff is to convert the concept, not the mechanics. Use the SW rules, and convert other stuff only if it's absolutely necessary to the plot of the module you're converting.
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#8 Postby TTM » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:50 pm

SavageGamerGirl wrote:A good rule of thumb for this kind of stuff is to convert the concept, not the mechanics. Use the SW rules, and convert other stuff only if it's absolutely necessary to the plot of the module you're converting.

Definitely this. You will drive yourself nuts trying to convert every minutia especially the magic system. That game also has a distinctly different paradigm with regards to power level scaling, and magic items especially.

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#9 Postby ogbendog » Wed Aug 01, 2012 4:21 pm

The Dread Polack wrote:I would actually lead with the spell name, like this:

"Magic Missile"
Bolt: 3 PP, Fires three 2d4 AP:4 force missiles...

It's a unique power. "Bolt" is just the generic name for the set of rules that describe what it does, mechanically. If you want them to think of what they're doing in-character, then start with the name of the spell. If it's a con game, then they don't need to know what's going on behind the scenes. If it's a campaign, then they should read the rules and understand what's going on.


Kind of like:

Flaming Sword
Longsword with the Smite power and 5 pp

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#10 Postby StJason » Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:20 pm

This is a pet peeve of mine: There really needs to be a line drawn between story effects ("I shoot blue sparkles...") and mechanical effects ("...each of which explode!") in the trappings rules. They've gotten better with Deluxe, but still, there needs to be a better division, and perhaps a framework for how much to add for these various effects (there are for a few of these...)

OP: There was a fan-suppliment somewhere that did all the D&D spells. I have the PDF on my hard-drive, but can't remember where I got it (Savagepedia maybe?)


UPDATE: Found it on Savage Heroes -
http://www.savageheroes.com/conversions ... Spells.pdf

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#11 Postby Clint » Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:50 am

StJason wrote:This is a pet peeve of mine: There really needs to be a line drawn between story effects ("I shoot blue sparkles...") and mechanical effects ("...each of which explode!") in the trappings rules. They've gotten better with Deluxe, but still, there needs to be a better division, and perhaps a framework for how much to add for these various effects (there are for a few of these...)


Well, two things I'd mention.

First, there are over 25 examples in Deluxe of adjusting a power based on a trapping. A lot of those are easily adapted to different trappings too. For instance, Radiation trappings could use the same mechanics for Burn from Acid, Spasms from Electricity, Fatigue from Fire/Heat, or Glow from Light.

And second but most important, there's no real way to set up a framework for this when arcane powers are one of the most inherently altered aspects of the rules based on setting. In effect, arcane powers in themselves are a Setting Rule, so it would be like trying to set up a framework off something that is already a variable itself.

Best we can really do is, "I'd suggest sticking with this, but here are some examples if you want to try that, and give it a cool name however you do it."
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#12 Postby 77IM » Thu Aug 02, 2012 10:17 pm

StJason wrote:This is a pet peeve of mine: There really needs to be a line drawn between story effects ("I shoot blue sparkles...") and mechanical effects ("...each of which explode!") in the trappings rules.

This is kind of a blurry line, though, between story and mechanical effects. You might be fighting a monster that is vulnerable to blue sparkles. Likewise, the explosion effect might just be damage (standard bolt effect with no additional effect from trappings). My personal guideline is that any trapping which matters, mechanically, 1/2 of the time or more, must be written out mechanically; things that are clearly relevant much less than 1/2 of the time can rely on situational modifiers.

My preferred way to write up a spell is like this:
    Force Bolt • 1-3pp; range 12/48/96
    You hurl up to 3 bolts of 2d6 damage for 1pp each, or a single 3d6 bolt for 2pp. These bolts of force can affect insubstantial creatures normally. [bolt; SWD p.109]

That's a lot of details but it means I don't have to look up those details (and if I should need to, the page number is written right there).

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#13 Postby FoxBlue » Mon Aug 20, 2012 6:58 pm

I like to use Tomes in my fantasy games to give magic a but more flavor and to make iconic setting spells.

They contain a number of spells (usually 3 to 5) with premade trappings. A character may cast a spell he doesn't know from a Tome at -2 so long as he can read directly from it and meets the rank requirements. A character may also learn a spell from a tome at the cost of a skill point. A character may still take the new power edge but in this case it specifically represents them inventing a new spell. This allows a character to know more spells and potentially have a ton of them available. The drawback is that a lot of these spells will be commonly known among mages (and mage Hunters), and will have known countermeasures. Common Tomes may be purchased at 'bookstores' but the good ones usually have current owners who are less than willing to give them up and/or are found as treasure.

Also note that this assumes a high fantasy setting where mages are common and an accepted part of society.
Last edited by FoxBlue on Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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#14 Postby Vonether » Mon Aug 20, 2012 8:10 pm

kronovan wrote:I wouldn't take that approach unless magic is very common and powerful in your setting. By removing the New Power edge you give the player an additional 2 free advancement points per power that they can use to quickly max out their power casting skill or add some edge that further boosts their arcane ability.


If "New Power" is too specific for the setting, I'd create a "Continued Research" Edge that gives you the right to learn new magic (be it a new trapping to a power, a new power, a lengthy ritual, etc.)

In essence, if you don't take the edge at least once per Rank and you find a tome, it's indecipherable until you acquire the edge again.

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#15 Postby GranFalloon » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:42 pm

I'm looking to run a Dragonlance game soon, so I'm dealing with sort of the same thing. It's mostly new players, so I'll only be writing down the spells the actually have, rather than every single one. Once people have a grasp of the game, they can start making up their own.

For anyone interested, I've tossed together a Google Doc spreadsheet dividing Arcane magic into six schools. The idea (stolen blatantly from 50 Fathoms) is that you begin with two schools, and may learn any of the powers available to them. If the same spell is available to multiple schools, good job, you now have extra spells.

Bolt is the best example. If you have the Fire school and Air/Lightning/Force school (if anyone wants to help name them, I'm listening) you have Firebolt and Chain Lightning. If you later take the Transmutation school, you can turn them to stone (the mechanics are mostly the same, just that anyone who dies from it is turned to stone. Or a chicken, or whatever).

I like this approach because you're not just handing the character every possible variation, but you're also not making them spend an Edge on mostly redundant powers.

Here's the link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AgpT8TGPgeLRdHBjNVBhbmU4cVRwZkdZSkwzWWg2YVE

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#16 Postby Vonether » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:57 pm

GranFalloon wrote:I like this approach because you're not just handing the character every possible variation, but you're also not making them spend an Edge on mostly redundant powers.


Gaming is all about perception. The power might feel redundant to you because you are the man behind the curtain. If the players are getting the variety they crave and don't feel like they are underpowered, then it may be an nonissue. Remember Champion players have been doing game effect+trappings for ages and they are used to playing the numbers squeeze more into an effect.

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#17 Postby Chaosmeister » Wed Oct 02, 2013 10:26 am

It is one of the bigger issues my players have with SW. Buying the same power again just with different window dressing is a waste for them, especially considering you do not get that many advances. Personally I am taking the stance that if a new trapping is cool and fitting the character and the player has an in gane explanation why he has it I let him run wild.

However I also like the idea of having each option of a spell as a separate trapping, that could alleviate the low tier "I am a mage with one spell" syndrome.
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#18 Postby farik » Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:02 am

Chaosmeister wrote:It is one of the bigger issues my players have with SW. Buying the same power again just with different window dressing is a waste for them, especially considering you do not get that many advances. Personally I am taking the stance that if a new trapping is cool and fitting the character and the player has an in gane explanation why he has it I let him run wild.

However I also like the idea of having each option of a spell as a separate trapping, that could alleviate the low tier "I am a mage with one spell" syndrome.


thst perception of bolt being a bolt being a bolt it why I tend towards systems where the SFXtrapping are either all inclusive (bolt can be fire or ice or phantom daggers you just need to decide before casting) or in game objects. So for instance once you have bolt you decide the SFX but then you might find another trapping for that particular power in a scroll or be able to buy alternate trappings approx the same price as a common weapon (the trapping is useless without the base power already having been purchased).

There are some times when I'll apply more restrcitions to powers and trappings but it's usually because the setting have very few powers (or power sources) already.

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#19 Postby Zadmar » Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:10 am

Surely it would depend on just how different the trappings are? See here and here for example.

I also find alternate trappings make a good option for magic items (e.g., a wand of fireballs which requires the Burst power, and allows you to cast it with a fire trapping).

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#20 Postby The Dread Polack » Wed Oct 02, 2013 11:13 am

I'm a Hero (Champions) player as well, and what Vonether says makes a lot of sense.

In SW, trappings can be as simple as fire vs. kinetic force, for instance, that might not have a mechanical difference built into the power as written on your character sheet. That is- one says fire, the other says kinetic, and we all understand the difference, but the power stats are the same.

On the other hand, players and GMs can depart as much as they want (or so I've been made to understand) from the power as written with trappings. You can tweak damage/effect, duration, range, cost, etc. to match your trappings.

In Hero, my first example is called a "special effect", which don't affect the cost of the power; while the mechanical adjustments to a power are called either "advantages" or "limitations", which do affect the cost of the power.

In SW, it's mostly eyeballed instead of having a hundred pages of rules defining the cost of building powers. On the one hand, this makes things Fast, but on the other hand, and as a Hero player, it feels like there's a lot less of a difference between powers even with different trappings.

All this leads me to my actual point: it matters how much the trapping change the power. If I have two bolts, ond fire, and one ice with no mechanical difference, then it feels like a waste to take both. But, if one of them burns for an extra round while the other can break armor and weapons, that's better. If one erupts out of the ground instead of my hand, and one can set and triggered by stepping into a circle; one is cast with a wand and doesn't cost PP, the other has the possibility of turning my hair blue on a critical failure, etc. etc. etc. then it really feels like two different powers.

Put even more simply: play with trappings *a lot*. I think the core rules could benefit from even a couple pages of more trappings advice. They make their point, but it still seems easy to miss.


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