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Help me get over my issue with fourth edition


D&D 4th Edition (and Beyond)


So I'm currently playing a 4E campaign and, I'm sure like many other folks, there are some things I like about 4E, and some things I don't. But for me, there is one thing about 4E that bugs me more than anything and really stops me from enjoying it. Specifically, it's just that magic doesn't feel as "natural" as it did in previous editions. I'm hoping that one of the kind posters here will read my concern and maybe point me in the direction of a 4E supplement that helps remedy my complaint.

Anyway, what I mean by this is that in almost all fantasy literature, "magic" is typically represented as some kind of mysterious "force" that spellcasters can draw from. I think this makes magic feel like it is really something "alive" and an integral part of the world.

I also felt that 3.x and earlier D&D also felt like this regarding magic. Spells were basically a generic resource that many different classes could draw upon. So the classes felt more like they were just different "methods" of reaching out to the "force" as opposed to self contained entities that just had powers like a game.

And this is where my problem with 4E is. Powers are now all contained within the class. So a wizard power is a wizard power specifically, and other arcane classes could never use it (barring multiclassing or hybrid). It makes magic feel kind of artificial because each class has its own lineup of powers...it's not like they are drawing upon any common source of power like you would expect.

So does anyone know of a 4E book that fleshes magic out more? Makes it seem more like it does in fantasy literature?

Cheliax

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Essentials and ritual magic might be the answer your looking for. Rituals are things you can do in addition to the normal powers. I don't know how many rituals there are though. Essentials I have never read but I have heard people say it takes the classes a bit more back in the direction of 3e was in some regards so it might be the answer as well. I am sure someone who knows a lot more about 4e will be of more help.


Dark_Mistress wrote:
Essentials and ritual magic might be the answer your looking for. Rituals are things you can do in addition to the normal powers. I don't know how many rituals there are though. Essentials I have never read but I have heard people say it takes the classes a bit more back in the direction of 3e was in some regards so it might be the answer as well. I am sure someone who knows a lot more about 4e will be of more help.

Hmm okay, thanks for the tips. I will look into them.

Andoran

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What Ms Mistress says above is true. There are a tonne (metric) of rituals - but keep in mind everyone can in theory use these, not just those you would see as a 'spell-caster'. Rituals also take time to cast/use and aren't for in-combat. Which sort of stinks the ship of the argument that 4e is a combat only game.

My group I run use only the Essentials line. Not because the rest of 4e is bad/not good, but because I like the feel of the magic, more old school as pointed out above, but mainly because my group likes a closed system. Meaning we have never gone in for tens of rulebooks.

Other than the books by Jack Vance and the later books written under TSR/WotC the original 'spell per day' D&D magic system doesn't really appear much in fantasy literature. Ever read of Gandalf needing a spell book?

If the only issue you have is the 'magic = powers' then check out the Essentials Wizard it may me more in line with what you are thinking.

But there is no reason you can't have an Essentials AND a 4e Wizard in the party!

S.


Stefan Hill wrote:

What Ms Mistress says above is true. There are a tonne (metric) of rituals - but keep in mind everyone can in theory use these, not just those you would see as a 'spell-caster'. Rituals also take time to cast/use and aren't for in-combat. Which sort of stinks the ship of the argument that 4e is a combat only game.

My group I run use only the Essentials line. Not because the rest of 4e is bad/not good, but because I like the feel of the magic, more old school as pointed out above, but mainly because my group likes a closed system. Meaning we have never gone in for tens of rulebooks.

Other than the books by Jack Vance and the later books written under TSR/WotC the original 'spell per day' D&D magic system doesn't really appear much in fantasy literature. Ever read of Gandalf needing a spell book?

If the only issue you have is the 'magic = powers' then check out the Essentials Wizard it may me more in line with what you are thinking.

But there is no reason you can't have an Essentials AND a 4e Wizard in the party!

S.

Essentials is really good at capturing the older feel of D&D and helping put some of that feel back into 4e, so I will also reccomend you look into it if that is your thing.


Creslin321 wrote:
So does anyone know of a 4E book that fleshes magic out more? Makes it seem more like it does in fantasy literature?

I can't recommend any books, but I can tell you how I think of magic:

Magic is an art. This is a common theme not only in fantasy lit generally, but specifically D&D fluff and fiction. Now this doesn't really jive with pre 4e rule sets, because everyone casts spells to the same effect; a Protection from Evil spell is exactly the same whether a wizard, a sorcerer, a druid or a cleric casts it. When you consider that all these classes have starkly differing magic sources, it just feels weird. IMO, YMMV, etc.

4e magic feels much more artistic because every caster uses it differently. Wizards have Scorching Burst, sorcerers have Burning Spray, druids have Flame Seed, and so on. Just like every artist will draw the same apple a bit differently, every caster class slings his spells a bit differently.


Tequila Sunrise wrote:
Creslin321 wrote:
So does anyone know of a 4E book that fleshes magic out more? Makes it seem more like it does in fantasy literature?

I can't recommend any books, but I can tell you how I think of magic:

Magic is an art. This is a common theme not only in fantasy lit generally, but specifically D&D fluff and fiction. Now this doesn't really jive with pre 4e rule sets, because everyone casts spells to the same effect; a Protection from Evil spell is exactly the same whether a wizard, a sorcerer, a druid or a cleric casts it. When you consider that all these classes have starkly differing magic sources, it just feels weird. IMO, YMMV, etc.

4e magic feels much more artistic because every caster uses it differently. Wizards have Scorching Burst, sorcerers have Burning Spray, druids have Flame Seed, and so on. Just like every artist will draw the same apple a bit differently, every caster class slings his spells a bit differently.

You give a decent argument, and basically prove the point that everything is really subjective. As you say, YMMV. IMO, magic just felt more like it should in previous editions, but I can see your points as well.

That said, there were some spells in previous editions that were more flexible and artsy like polymorph and illusion spells. You could pretty much do whatever you wanted with them. So I did think that element of art was there...albeit not everywhere.

Also IMO, the only game I've played that actually represented magic as closely as possible to how fantasy lit represents it is the Mage White Wolf game. But the problem was that it was almost completely dependent on improving every single spell effect, it put a huge demand on the DM. So I do actually prefer a little "gaminess" in my magic system. I think it all comes down to personal preference in the end...


I think this is pretty much a style issue. Essentially a cosmology of a 'science' of magic versus an 'art' of magic. Pre-4E the system was a science of magic. Especially true in say 1E (but elements are certianly there in 2nd and 3rd) where the spells went out of their way to specify exactly what components where needed to cast a spell and also what your mage is 'doing' to cast the spell whether the spell has verbal, somatic etc. components.

In effect the idea is that there are universal 'laws' of magic. If you have know the correct words and hand gestures (probably through learning) and have some bat fur and a pinch of sulphur then its simply a matter of going through the correct hand gestures while saying the correct words and voila you have a spell. The underlying conceit is that anyone who knows the correct way of performing the ritual, has the correct components and is practised enough to do the rigid acts perfectly can cause a very specific spell effect to take place.

4E hints at this idea with rituals which anyone can use if they have the correct ritual, the correct components and have the ritual caster feat (representing the training) but most magic in 4E is 'art' in the sense that the powers are specific to an individual, they and few if any others have exactly the same types of powers and accessing such powers was an individualistic journey which resulted in them gaining these powers (either through formal training - pacts with magical creatures or maybe they where just born with magic coursing through their veins or a Goddess cast an enchantment on their cradle or what have you and then had a journey of self discovery to learn to harness their power.

One of the interesting elements in this regard when comparing 4E to previous editions is 'how special is special?'. I noted above that the players where pretty unique in 4e. This stems from the fact that it is the 4 or 5 people sitting around the table with player characters that are the one and only people using the character builder to make their PCs. While the players may have an idea of what all the powers in the game are like and what the different character archetypes look like they make them using a resource that only they have access too - the result is that they are technically completely unique in the the entire campaign world - no one else is like them.

However if the DM wants access to the same kinds of powers he does in fact have such access through the Monster Builder. In effect during the campaign each DM really should make a conscious choice about how special special really is. If the DM wants to give the impression that the powers the characters have access to are more universal with many people learning the same sorts of things then the DM needs to make many NPCs that access the players powers, conversely if the DM wants to go the route of everyone in the world really being a unique individual who wields magic (and even mundane weapons) with their own signature style then the DM generally should avoid using player powers when designing NPCs.

Personally I take the second option only using player type powers if the PC suddenly comes face to face with their evil twin or is actually battling the wizard who originally tuaght them or some other dramatic element like this where it makes sense that the NPC has the same types of powers as the PC and I want to emphasize this for dramatic and story reasons.


Creslin321 wrote:

... it's just that magic doesn't feel as "natural" as it did in previous editions. I'm hoping that one of the kind posters here will read my concern and maybe point me in the direction of a 4E supplement that helps remedy my complaint.

Anyway, what I mean by this is that in almost all fantasy literature, "magic" is typically represented as some kind of mysterious "force" that spellcasters can draw from. I think this makes magic feel like it is really something "alive" and an integral part of the world.

I like how Tequila Sunrise said that magic is like an art. That each artist takes the same resources yet applies it differently. I take the perspective of the different power sources being their own "Pool". A wizard draws magical power from the Arcane pool, and going by rote formula, is able to achieve their magical effects. Sorcerers draw from the same pool, yet their magic manifests through them differently, as their heritage adds to the magical abilitys and alters it accordingly. Swordmages focus on their weapons, and through their martial training, utilize the same Arcane pool differently, using muscle-memory, hand techniques, and intricate words in a balance with their blade to conjur magic. Warlocks derive power from their pact, who's power is drawn directly from the Arcane pool and then transferred with their own "essence" to the Warlock at the inital point. That "essence" or "taint" forever bridges their connection to their Power's patron, be it an Infernal Fiend, an elusive Fey power, or a powerful spawn of darkness.

Creslin321 wrote:


I also felt that 3.x and earlier D&D also felt like this regarding magic. Spells were basically a generic resource that many different classes could draw upon. So the classes felt more like they were just different "methods" of reaching out to the "force" as opposed to self contained entities that just had powers like a game.

And this is where my problem with 4E is. Powers are now all contained within the class. So a wizard power is a wizard power specifically, and other arcane classes could never use it (barring multiclassing or hybrid). It makes magic feel kind of artificial because each class has its own lineup of powers...it's not like they are drawing upon any common source of power like you would expect.

So does anyone know of a 4E book that fleshes magic out more? Makes it seem more like it does in fantasy literature?

I just don't think there are mechanical ways to go about changing this. It is what it is, so to speak. But as a role-player it might encourage you to add in as much flavor into why magic is special for you as you cast spells and draw from the Arcane power source. Personally, I'm all for reflavoring powers and the way the work with the world and such.

Qadira

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

There is nothing much in 4e that either helps or hinders what the OP wants. Sorcerers and wizards shared the same spell list - now they don't. However, they both draw upon the same power source - Arcane. This isn't terribly different to the notion of arcane magic and divine magic in previous editions - it just so happens they have a few more sources in 4e (Primal, Psionic, Martial). Apart from that... I agree with what others have written, this is really an issue of play style. I disagree that magic in previous editions really feels that much like it does in literature - magic is in many cases in lterature a deus ex machina, even where it is "justified" by a "system", whereas for game purposes magic is much more codified in rules terms (and not really very "magical" because of it - just another set of rules). Either the approach in 4e floats your boat, or it doesn't - and I would suggest that trying to shoehorn 4e into a 3e set of preconceptions is a great way to not get the most from the 4e rules.

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