Help Designing Spell List

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CitizenKeen
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Help Designing Spell List

#1 Postby CitizenKeen » Mon Jul 09, 2012 4:25 pm

So I'm working on spells for converting my home setting to Savage Worlds.

Some background on the AB: The main AB is Wizard, just like in SWD, and functions almost identically. The difference is there are eight associated Skills, one for each of the eight elements in the game. Each Arcane Skill is associated with a different stat (still working on that). A character may take more than one skill with the same Arcane Background.

Example: If you take Fire Magic d6 and Nature Magic d8, you can cast Fire Magic spells with a d6 and Nature Magic spells with a d8. You only need 1 Arcane Background (Wizardry), and you only get a total of 3 powers to start with, between Fire and Nature. However, you can use either trapping, as long as both elements have the associated power and you roll the appropriate skill (so you'd normally use the Nature Bolt, but if it were really important to set something on fire, you'd use Fire Bolt).

So I don't know if this is the appropriate way to do this - I'm working on an Alpha Test document that I'll play through with my players a bunch before going turning into a PDF to give back to you guys for all your help.

However, I want to make sure I'm getting Trappings right. Now, I don't want each player to make up what they can do - I like the idea that Spirit Magic can do things that Death Magic can't, etc. I'm sure my players could create a trapping wherein Arcane magic can be used to heal, but it can't. So I made all the Trappings myself.

Just to make sure I'm on the right path, I'd like to share my Novice Earth Magic powers. Please let me know if I'm doing this right! Thank you kindly!

Earth Magic Novice Spells
  • Stoneskin: Armor; success grants the recipient 2 points of Armor. A raise grants five (5) points of Armor.
  • No Beast Friend.
  • No Blind.
  • No Bolt.
  • Earthstrength: Boost Strength; target becomes slightly magnetic;
  • Earthheart: Boost Vigor; on a raise the target gains Armor +1.
  • Burrow: Burrow; caster gains +2 to Stealth to surprise targets.
  • Rippling Quake: Burst; those who fail their Agility roll are also knocked prone. Does not work on wood floors or against flying targets.
  • Magnetic Disturbance: Confusion; flying targets make Smarts roll at -4 (-6 on a raise).
  • Gravitic Aura: Deflection; any melee attacker who misses the target must make a Strength check or drop their weapon.
  • Sense Metal: Detect Arcana; allows caster to detect the nature of all metal within sight.
  • Grasping Earth: Entangle; requires contact with stone/earth/metal floor, and doesn’t affect flying creatures. At Veteran and higher, affects flying creatures and can work on any floor as spell becomes localized gravity.
  • No Environmental Protection.
  • No Fear.
  • No Healing.
  • Dust Cloud: Obscure.
  • No Mind Reading.
  • Earthen Strike: Smite; metal melee weapons only, and weapon gains AP 1 against metal armor.
  • Anchored Step: Speed; instead of usual effects - on a success, target ignores difficult terrain; on a raise, Pace is doubled.
  • Gravitic Pulse: Stun; targets who fail their Vigor roll fall prone.
  • Stoneroot: Succor; only works when touching earth/stone/metal.
  • Stonegrip: Wall Walker; only on metal/earth/stone; with a success he may move his full Pace, with a raise he may run.

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#2 Postby samuraicrab » Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:22 pm

What do you mean no bolt? It is a key spell to all spellcasters. No bolt makes me not want to play.

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#3 Postby catalac » Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:06 pm

some spells are stronger under this system others weaker. i suppose its ok if all the classes are balanced.

as for no bolt... samurai... have you played deadlands blessed. its happened before (in cannon) and unlike this earth mage the blessed didn't get any offensive flat damage spells at all... well besides smite.

and no one can say the blessed weren't fun but then again the blessed had tons of spells and had no power points...

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#4 Postby CitizenKeen » Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:43 pm

@samuraicrab: Well, my thought was that each of the eight elements would have different powers (the eight elements are Earth, Nature, Water, Spirit, Air, Arcane, Fire and Death). For bolt, everybody but Earth and Spirit have bolt. Each power is associated with about six elements, and as such no element has access to every power. Spirit has the weakest collection of entry-level damage powers, but it gets high dominion over things like fear and puppet and healing.

@catalac: I tried to keep the power of the trappings within range of the trappings listed in SWD.

Some will be stronger in some areas than others (I want there to be an actual feeling of difference between each of the eight elements, since that's the only kind of magic there is, for all intents and purposes). If you really want to take what two kinds of magic are good at, you have to take two skills, and true, now you have two versions of, say, deflection, and each is better in certain situations, but you've had to invest in two skills as well, so I'm hoping it's balanced. That's the plan, anyway.

Edit: I rudely forgot to thank you the two of you for your feedback, so thank you! Trying to build a non-traditional homebrew system with Savage Worlds while at the same time listening to all the "don't tinker 'til you play" advice is challenging! I appreciate all the help I can get!

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#5 Postby 77IM » Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:54 pm

This is a huge nerf to wizards. It basically forces wizards to stick to a single trapping. Paying the extra skill cost to get additional trappings is much too expensive; a power you already have with an alternate trapping is very rarely as useful as a whole new spell. Here are a few suggestions:
  • There's only one skill, and you only get one element. But an edge allows you to get an additional element each time you take it. (50 Fathoms does it this way. You should definitely look into that if you haven't already.)
  • Price secondary skills at half price. That gives you more granularity but also more fiddling point-accounting (like fractional point costs).
  • Use something akin to Skill Familiarity. There's only one skill, and you get one unpenalized element; you can cast other elements at -4. Spending a skill point reduces this to -2 for one element, then to -0 with another skill point.
These are all roughly the same price -- about one advance for a new element, so seven advances to get all the elements. Seven advances is really a lot; most casters would be better off getting new powers or more PP or Rapid Recharge or something like that. So I think even with a greatly reduced price you needn't worry about mages easily racking up all 8 elements in a way that would go against the setting.

I also suggest you don't come up with a spell list. Come up with a few examples for each element, and let your players do the rest of the work. This makes things easier for you, and allows more player creativity.

-- 77IM, can't a shard of stone or crystal be an earth bolt?

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#6 Postby CitizenKeen » Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:45 am

77IM wrote:This is a huge nerf to wizards. It basically forces wizards to stick to a single trapping. Paying the extra skill cost to get additional trappings is much too expensive; a power you already have with an alternate trapping is very rarely as useful as a whole new spell. Here are a few suggestions:


Thank you very much for your feedback! These are some great ideas. Also, it's good to know when I'm breaking balance!

77IM wrote:
  • There's only one skill, and you only get one element. But an edge allows you to get an additional element each time you take it. (50 Fathoms does it this way. You should definitely look into that if you haven't already.)
  • Price secondary skills at half price. That gives you more granularity but also more fiddling point-accounting (like fractional point costs).
  • Use something akin to Skill Familiarity. There's only one skill, and you get one unpenalized element; you can cast other elements at -4. Spending a skill point reduces this to -2 for one element, then to -0 with another skill point.


I'll look into 50 Fathoms (have about blown my RPG budget for the month, will order it in August when I get SWDE). Already wanted to purchase it because I heard it's the textbook example of a good plot-point campaign, and I want to design one to give away, so there's another reason to look into it.

I like the idea of Skill Familiarity, but what is that? I don't see it described in SWD. Am I missing it?

77IM wrote:These are all roughly the same price -- about one advance for a new element, so seven advances to get all the elements. Seven advances is really a lot; most casters would be better off getting new powers or more PP or Rapid Recharge or something like that. So I think even with a greatly reduced price you needn't worry about mages easily racking up all 8 elements in a way that would go against the setting.


That's the idea. I want it to be very feasible to have two or three elements, but I want it to be incredibly rare for a wizard to have more than four (not impossible[/], but when my PCs see an NPC drop four trappings, I want them to do a double-take). So those sound like great limitations.

77IM wrote:I also suggest you don't come up with a spell list. Come up with a few examples for each element, and let your players do the rest of the work. This makes things easier for you, and allows more player creativity.

-- 77IM, can't a shard of stone or crystal be an [i]earth bolt
?


That makes the control freak in me shudder a little, but I think I can handle it, I'll just take a deep breath.

However, how do you differentiate between "methods" of casting? In the setting, the manipulation of each element is a fundamentally different mechanic.

I don't want Fire Magic to feel different only because a firebolt might start a fire. There are just some things that each element can't do. Easy examples: Death Magic and Earth Magic should have zero access to healing, and Fire and Arcane should have incredibly limited (bordering on zero) access to healing. My players are very creative - I'm sure they can come up for a justification of any trapping for any power ("I use my necromantic forces to undo the workings of death on their body!" etc.).

But I want each of the eight elements to be tactically different. When I offer the PCs a choice of a cadre of auramancers or a band of necromancers as allies, I want them to have an idea of what kind of powers the allies might possess before they see the ally character sheet.

So, to make a short question long, how would you suggest I go about this? Should I just create a list of trappings (like the one in SWD), only for my elements, and a list of banned powers for each ?

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#7 Postby kronovan » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:08 am

77IM wrote:This is a huge nerf to wizards. It basically forces wizards to stick to a single trapping.


This is only a nerf if you think player-defined trappings are a good idea. Just be aware there's many a GM out there in the wide-world of RPGs that see that aspect of SW as a real weakness in its powers system. I personally like that play mechanic for some settings, but don't care for it all for others. IMO the flavor of Citizenkeens setting is such a setting where trappings for powers are very specifically defined, in that they're magical manifestation of a specific element.

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#8 Postby CitizenKeen » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:32 am

kronovan wrote:This is only a nerf if you think player-defined trappings are a good idea. Just be aware there's many a GM out there in the wide-world of RPGs that see that aspect of SW as a real weakness in its powers system. I personally like that play mechanic for some settings, but don't care for it all for others. IMO the flavor of Citizenkeens setting is such a setting where trappings for powers are very specifically defined, in that they're magical manifestation of a specific element.


I think you get it, yeah. That's the idea.

I'm not directly opposed to player created trappings, per ser. A PC earth wizard could define their armor spell as growths of stone emerging from their skin, surrounding themselves with hovering iron plates, or generating an impenetrable (relatively) field of magnetism (magnetism and gravity are sub-elements of eath).

I wouldn't be okay with an earth wizard describing it as "a wall of force" or "a psychic field" or "an aura of fire," because those aren't inherent to earth magic.

I also get nervous about completely free-form trappings. The SWD lists the "spend a PP, get AP 2" as a fire trapping. But what's to stop my players from saying "well, my earth bolt is super pointy, so it's AP" as their trapping, or "my air bolt can bypass armor because it wraps around the armor, so it's AP," or whatever for each element. Maybe I need to embrace SW more?

Mostly, I want to limit which powers are available to each element.

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#9 Postby The Dread Polack » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:17 pm

I can definitely relate. I'm working on a conversion for Anima: Beyond Fantasy that sounds very similar. I want to retain some of the original flavor, and some of that flavor includes the fact that certain "paths" only get certain spells, get spells earlier, or that are more powerful, or more useful than other paths. I tried doing an outline that simply lists which powers are or are not available, and some general guidelines as to their trappings, but that didn't seem like enough for me. It still allowed players to get spells that seemed out of place for the setting.

While I think that SW powers work very well, it's always been a part of SW that I never liked very much. I think they are overly broad and wish there was a better way to "build" powers. I'm a HERO fan, so that's where it comes from. Right now, I'm actually converting each individual spell from one path, as an experiment, and bundling them into edges that replace the "New Power" edge. Most spells are more heavily restricted than SW powers, so I'm thinking it might be okay allow 2-3 spells to be taken with a single edge. I'm not even done writing it out, much less testing it, so I can't say anything about how well it works, and I'm ready to abandon the whole thing. I'll let you know how that works when I get around to it.

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#10 Postby Blogotron » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:47 pm

Ok, so there are eight arcane backgrounds with approximately 6 spells each with their own trappings.

Seems ok. But how is it paid for?

Primarily do you gain every spell on the list when you purchase the particular elemental background? That could mitigate the cost of the skills you have to purchase to buy repeats of the same spells (despite differing trappings).

Could you just purchase the AB and rank the 8 elements by access via rank? So at creation you are limited to a d4 but During Novice can raise it to a D6 or above and at Seasoned you get the next Element but at a Reduced Die (thus requiring want-to-be mages to boost their Novice casting die to atl east a d6).

Do you have to spend an Edge for every element? That would S U C K !

Could you purchase the Skills as a two-fer? Say Fire and Earth together, as in your example?
Savage Worlds doesn't even have a bell curve. It has a probability line that looks like it was drawn by a blind person in an earthquake. Anything can happen.

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#11 Postby wanderingmystic » Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:27 am

Another way of trying to build the same feeling would be to have 3 different arcane backgrounds.

Specialist: Must pick one of the 8 schools of magic to master starts with 15pp and 3 spells
Dual Specialist: Must pick two schools of magic from the 8 schools, gets 3 spells but only 10pp
Generalist: may cast a large variety of spells from all the different schools but only starts with 2 spells and 10pp. In addition I would make 1 or 2 spells from each school restricted to specialist only.

specialist will have a few more pp than a mage straight out of SW but a smaller spell selection.

Making pc buy separate skills can get very cost prohibited and while I personally like the idea and feel of it I don't know if you can find a mechanical way to make it work.

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#12 Postby Vonether » Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:26 am

Just curious, have you seen how 50 Fathoms has broken out the Wizard AB into 4 elements? They used a couple of Edges specialized trappings and a few new spells to pull it off, but nothing that made you worry about game balance.

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#13 Postby CitizenKeen » Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:13 pm

wanderingmystic wrote:Specialist: Must pick one of the 8 schools of magic to master starts with 15pp and 3 spells
Dual Specialist: Must pick two schools of magic from the 8 schools, gets 3 spells but only 10pp
Generalist: may cast a large variety of spells from all the different schools but only starts with 2 spells and 10pp. In addition I would make 1 or 2 spells from each school restricted to specialist only.

I like that idea. I may do that.

@Vonether: You're the second one to recommend 50 Fathoms, so I went down to my FLGS today and flipped through it (no more RPG money until August). I'll definitely be picking it up to model my Plot Point campaign off of, and I like how they handled different elements. It's not exactly the same (oddly, eight is a bigger beast than four), but I think I can make it work.

What I think I'm going to do is this:
  • Each element has a list of powers.
  • Each element has a list of trappings, akin to those on SWD 106 and 107, but tailor-made for my elements. Players will build their own spells by combining a power and a trapping (but you only get one combination - you can't pick and choose which fire trapping to apply to your bolt on the fly).
  • If you get a power and have multiple elements, you're able to use that power with a trapping from each element (again, just one, and picked when you get the element).

Now I just have to decide how to deal with the elements. I like wandermystic's idea, but I was also thinking of just tying it into Power Edges. Arcane Background gets you 1 element, and for every 1 or 2 (thinking 2) other Power Edges you get (perhaps other than New Power), you get access to another element.

Thank you all very much for your help.

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#14 Postby Vonether » Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:16 am

Looks like you're on the right path, simpler is always better with SW.


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