Thursday, January 21, 2010

Destined: Too Many Spells?

My working title for my FATE/d20 mashup ruleset is Destined. Why? Obviously because it's derived from FATE and it has two Ds in it.

My current game design conundrum, like my last one, focuses upon the nature of the magic system. I have a few options:
  1. A ton of spells of various power levels. This is the D&D option.
  2. A few spells, most of which are available to beginning characters, but:
    1. would have more powerful/customizable effects depending on the result of your spellcasting roll (more powerful characters will tend to do better on this...)
    2. include explicit support for customizing/skinning spells (the Bolt spell could be a Fire Bolt or an Ice Bolt or a Force Bolt... and each of these would function slightly differently.)
    3. include feats that give extra options to basic spells (the Necromancer feat might let you use Charm to affect undead)
    4. include rituals (already part of the system, though often used as plot devices) that give new options to the spells you have (a ritual might allow you to prepare an object so that when you cast a spell like Mage Hand that doesn't normally allow fine manipulation you can effectively animate that object).
    5. Some combination of (a) - (d)
I was originally looking a (1)... with some of (d) added on. The more I thought about it, the more I'm tempted to go with (2)+(a) - (d)... or at least (b) - (d)... though (a) seems like a good idea for the inclusion of divine magic.

Some people like to play wizardy types because they want to manage the spells. I suspect that just as many people (at least) avoid playing wizardy types for the same reason. If I just had a few basic spells and the system was designed so that you could effectively play a wizard with just those... but you had the option of tweaking a few dials... that might be ideal.

What do you think? What sort of spell lists do you like to see in games?

2 comments:

Guy Bowring said...

Hi Stuart:

So about the spell lists, I'll chime in with the direction I'm using in Spirit of Greyhawk (over on Spirit of the Blank)

I'm kind of playing both sides with my "Wizardry" versus "Sorcery" delineations.

In my nod to the old school experience, SoG has a fairly traditional spell list (a list of pre-fab spells at each spell level), however as you have no doubt figured out, there are a bunch of grouped spells that fit much nicer into the Fate mechanic if they are (for lack of a better term) "flattened out".

Meaning that there's only ONE "theme" spell (showing up at the lowest common denominator spell level), and then are made more effective not because you get the more effective version of the spell, but are a more effective caster, or are in a situation where you scored a bunch of positive shifts.

Some prime candidates for flattening out would be:

* Monster Summoning
* "Healing damage" spells
* Restoration spells
* Detect Magic/Good/Evil/Whatever

And to give the "Fate flexible" experience, I've also allowed room for magic on the fly with Sorcery.

I also happen to agree with your point that a lot depends upon the nature of the player and the group. Some will want the flexibility to determine their own magical effects, some will have a yen to stay as close to canon as possible.

The OTHER more practical reason I included both options was that flexible Magic afforded the opportunity to play the game now (leveraging the fractal game design theory) without yet having had to come up with a significant amount of spell translations, working on them in the meantime.

biff-dyskolos said...

My thoughts on spell lists are

1) A short spell Menu is a good tool for new players (or new-to-spellcasting players). It makes a character playable out-of-the-box without having to make a lot of descisions. The character should be the focus of character gen, the spells are just the tools - like a sword.

2) No spell list will ever be complete so you need to have a system for creating new effects.

3) Most spell lists focus on colour rather than effect. Ice bolt, Magic Missile are the same spell, a ranged, single target attack that deals stress (4dF + Skill vs. 4dF + skill).