Magathus's page

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It so happens I'm working on an ancient Greek-themed supplement please, I'd be interested in hearing what else you'd be interested in seeing in it :)

The Speaker in Dreams wrote:

If you're using movies as a guideline, then Conan doesn't put out or take much damage either - just the 1 swings that land or what have you.

Now, extrapolate the "hp = health" of D&D's Hit Points and change it into "luck, experience, ability to roll with blows, and *some* health" and those swashbuckler fights are *clearly* a series of hits and swings from one to the other until the final thrust kills the guy - it's NOT about "not doing damage" in those movies by D20 standards. The whole time they've BEEN "hitting" each other. But, you know, reality being what it is, if they put into the movie a series of stab wounds from rapiers and the characters laugh them off ... the entire theatre cries "foul!", throws popcorn and soda at the screen and then generally continues to decry the amount of nonsense in the movie.

In other words, the suspension of disbelief is too much for the movies to deal with IF they choose to show a...

Honestly, this is my biggest problem with d20 systems in general; the long life bar effect you describe kills my suspension of disbelief. It makes sense with huge creatures, but it still just gets silly at high level with humanoids, especially when someone is running around wrestling and performing acrobatics with half a dozen arrows sticking out of them. This really isn't a swashbuckler problem, it's a major system flaw.

Anyway, with regards to swashbucklers in the mold of Zorro (ie supreme fencer with more of an urban/roguish set of powers), the Urban ranger is probably the best place to start. The ranger's basic stats are pretty good to begin with, since it's the only class with a high BAB and a strong reflex save, and he already has several rogue-overlapping powers. Then I would swap out the spells and the wilderness/animal based abilities for stuff like evasion, uncanny dodge and improved uncanny dodge; I'd also want to have some charisma based persuasion abilities, because swashbucklers need to be witty and seductive after all...

Evil Lincoln wrote:

This is something I always try to impress on people when they are first exposed to the Vancian system: It is not skill based. Divine and Arcane spells are formulae that create a tangible effect that has nothing to do with your own skill at magic. Heck, you can even fake it.

These notions have gone perpetually unexplained through several editions of the game. It wouldn't take much to contextualize Vancian magic so that people didn't freak out about it. I hope there will be a few paragraphs in Ultimate Magic describing magic as it is perceived in-world, and what to expect when you try to duplicate popular skill-based magic tropes with Pathfinder magic. I hope whatever far-off revision of the core rules includes this kind of info too.


Context, context, context.

Every explanation for arcane magic has only created more questions; if it isn't a skill based system, then how can you get better at it? If it's purely memorization, then why don't high-level wizards have incredible powers of memory in general? If it's just a factor of having performed a ritual, then why can't anyone cast spells by performing the same ritual? If it's the channelling of arcane energies, then why don't wizards have a general pool of arcane energy they can use as they wish?

It's painfully obvious how magic was originally designed, or to be more precise, how it was NOT designed. Early gamers just made up an arbitrary hodge-podge list of magic powers, then grouped them roughly according to which ones were stronger than others, without any rhyme or reason, and created a few restrictions to limit it. Subsequent editions have tried to clean up some of the more glaring problems, but magic overall has never been properly systematized based on any sort of internal logic.

Until the magic system is rebuilt from the ground up, it will always be a problem. And until someone has the guts to step up and define the way arcane magic functions and then bring the rest of the system in line with that explanation, there will be no sense to it.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

In the same way that a 20th level master fighter should be able to hit someone with a nonmagical common longsword with more force and skill than anyone less powerful than him: because he has feats like Power Attack, Weapon Focus, and Weapon Specialization (the wizard's counterpart is Spell Focus, Greater Spell Focus, the evocation school's intense spells ability, and so on). He's still using the cheap tool. If he used a better tool, he'd do more damage.

I'm mostly with you here, I just think the importance of the tool shouldn't be overrated either. I prefer systems that emphasize skills more than weapons upgrades, and I utterly despise the fantasy trope of constantly needing to upgrade to bigger and flashier swords or spells to be effective.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

If every spell a caster has becomes incredibly powerful, then caster power increases very fast. If a burning hands can do 1d4 per level caps-at-20th, why bother learning a higher-level spell that does 1d6 per level caps-at-20th?

This is true, but I think it's a good thing to have a few less spells; we're not really losing anything except needless differentiation between things which are practically the same.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Yes, because "I cast the fire spell" isn't boring at all. :)

I don't see much difference between a player saying "I shoot him" and a player saying "I shoot him with my pearl-handled custom .357 magnum loaded with winchester hollow points and mounted with a laser sight."

The second description is merely distracting you from the action (one person shooting at another) by excessive detail about the weapon which isn't really that significant to the story...unless we're talking about one of those systems that makes you calculate the slight difference in damage caused by every little variable in weapon and ammunition type...and that's not my idea of good game rules.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

And here I thought knowing all the ins and outs of the game was a fun thing. :)

I find playing games to be fun; memorizing rules for long lists of powers, not so much.

Sean K Reynolds wrote:

Anyway, sounds like you'd like the new magic system Jason is working on for Ultimate Magic. :)

I very much look forward to seeing what he comes up with!

Sean K Reynolds wrote:


That's why.

Also, if 1st-level spells continue to scale, then casters are even more powerful... they don't even have to use their best spells to outshine the fighter.

I totally disagree. I say a 20th level master wizard should be able to cast basic spells with more force and skill than anyone less powerful than him. That's real mastery; doing something very simple, but with exquisite skill.

This also leads to the endless padding of spell lists; there is no reason to have twenty different entries for what is essentially the same "shoot fire/lightning/miscellaneous energy, cause dXX times level in damage" spells. In addition to the redundancy, it's just plain boring. You could easily accomplish the same effect by having one fire spell, one electricity spell etc with feats that allow you to expand your range and area of effect without killing so many poor trees in the process, and making players learn 30 different names for "wave hands, cause damage." Giving them fancier names is just needless window dressing.

That way, when a wizard learns a new spell, it could actually be, well, a new spell. I really like the way that PFRPG has brought additional consistency to spells and powers like summon monster, giving the spells a sensible structured progression, I just wish they'd gone a step further and done that with some of the combat spells too.

Okay, I have to admit that this book is too dang funny. I found it kind of sad that I could look at the cover and immediately thought, "no way, the wolf-in-sheep's-clothing? Seriously? Wait a second, it isn't even anywhere near April..."

I'm also amused that my very first thought upon reading the title was "Flumph?"

I can't stop giggling about this, but I will try to keep an open mind; after all, when I first saw MMII I never thought that modrons would ever be anything but a failed joke, and now they're one of my favorite races.

1 through 98. Non-vancian casting, preferably using fatigue or hit point loss to limit casting rather than spell slots.

99. More powers, hexes, curses, mysteries etc for the witch and oracle

100. That it not be too padded with new spells, which seem to be used as cheap filler for every expansion book.

The big question for me is what the new alternative spellcasting system is going to be like; is it a variant Vancian system, or something radically new and different?

Freesword wrote:
seekerofshadowlight wrote:
You ever looked at true sorcery?
Skill check to cast and non-lethal damage as the cost. I'll take that over both power points and Vancian any day.

Agreed, and I am intrigued now; so if I understand you, each spell has its own DC and if you don't meet it, the spell just fails? And how much temp damage are we talking per casting, approximately?

And did they completely redo the entire spell system, spells and all? Or they just retooled the casting rules and classes and added some new stuff?

So from now on, I'm going to always imagine that the wizard's preparation time is spent writing his daily arcane power grant request to some bureaucratic supernatural entity :O

iLaifire wrote:

LOL This is in fact how grants (at least in the US) work.

Haha, why yes, now that you mention it you are absolutely correct! I work at a state university, so I've gotten to see this first hand...

So yeah, I rest my case :D

seekerofshadowlight wrote:
You ever looked at true sorcery?

I have not, but I would be interested to hear other people's opinions who have tried it. I'd like to dig around more in alternative magic systems, but I don't have the time or money to go through every 3rd party frpg magic rules supplement, so any further references would be appreciated!

In fact, anyone who has a strong preference for another magic system, please post and tell us all why.

Several people totally missed the point of my monetary analogy.

The point is that with everything else we do, it is preferable to have one pool of general resources which we can spend on all transactions, large or small, simply adjusting the amount according to what we consider to be two items relative worth. The basic resource itself is quantified by a number, and that is the simplest possible way to manage a resource, or to represent a quantifiable amount.

We use this system for practically everything because it is the simplest way to do things. Introducing unnecessary complexity is by definition bad design.

But I didn't intend to enter this thread simply to list all the things I hate about vancian magic; I'd rather brainstorm with other fine people here about reasonable alternatives to it which would be fun and interesting.

Despite my above comments, I'm not a huge fan of plain old magic points, I just consider them vastly preferable to spell slots and all the other spell mechanics baggage from previous editions. But frankly, however you do it, both magic points and spell slots are just plain boring. Either way, you essentially have a pre-set amount of magic you can use, and then you're done. However you do it, it boils down to pacing your rate of fire to manage your ammo, which makes sense for, say, an alchemist, but makes for a really dull spellcaster who casts until his battery dies, then he's just a guy with a stick. Nothing interesting about that mechanic.

Pretty much every fantasy novel I've ever read portrays magic as highly dangerous for the practitioner, or at least extremely draining on one's mental endurance. So why don't we see that in the core spellcasting classes?

I like the suggestion about actually using the fatigued status as the limit on magic; the more you use, the greater your chances of incurring fatigue would be a good start. Now we have an actual trade off and some risk involved, which makes it much more interesting than just shooting until you run out of bullets...and it fits with most literary depictions.

Better yet, have spells actually cost hit points which can only be healed by we're talking serious cost/benefit analysis, and you have a built-in limit. Magic costs you life force, so choose wisely. As wizards gain levels, aside from getting more hp they could eventually cast lower level spells for free; eventually a wizard can cast level 1 spells at will, as I always though high level mages should be able to, but their most powerful magic would always be something with a very direct cost...

I also really like the idea of being able to cast all you want, but the more spells you cast the greater the chance becoming tainted by unnatural forces, eventually becoming some sort of magic-tainted outsider or undead type of thing if you don't stop using your powers indiscriminately.

Really what I want is some sort of interesting trade-off involved in using magic, otherwise magic becomes just plain dull. Anyone else have suggestions? Ideas for how to develop the above proposals?

seekerofshadowlight wrote:
Math is not bad, but spell points are more complex then the spell slots. It really is that simple. Spell points take more book keeping then the slot system as a whole.

If you apply this reasoning to any other area of your life, you will find this is totally false.

Do you find yourself thinking that life would be easier if you had 9 different kinds of dollars? So a regular dollar would buy a drink or a candy bar, a level two dollar could get you a light lunch, a level three dollar would get you a full dinner, a level four dollar would get you a small appliance, level five a major appliance, level six a minor medical procedure, seven an apartment, eight a car and nine a house? Oh, and you couldn't trade a level 9 for two level 8s, you can only use them for houses, etc. But it would be so much easier because you just use one dollar of the appropriate level for each purchase, right?

Do you seriously think this would make budgeting easier? Looking forward to doing your taxes next year under this system?

Unless you have an incredible fear of math, I'm guessing no. No one wants this, and it's obvious why.

seekerofshadowlight wrote:

I again must disagree with this. First off a novice player would not know what a "spell point" is, a mana pool yes, but they would not ask for a spell point system as they really have no clue what that is. And as I stated before the slots are a form of mana pool, not hard to explain or grasp in the lest.

I have had a good amount of novice gamers and to date no one has failed to grasp the spell slot system.

Most times it is in how yo explain it, I have seen far to many gm's kinda blow the how how it works thing.

The terminology isn't important; some say mana, some say magic points, and so on, usually according to whatever video game they're already familiar with. The point is that the moment you say magic points, anyone who's played any other fantasy game whatsoever can usually guess exactly how they work before you tell them; you spend them to cast spells, more powerful spells cost more, and there you have it.

And I didn't say that new players can't understand it, just that they immediately recognize the unnecessary complication of this concept that Vancian mechanics adds. It's a disincentive to playing spell casters, especially when you add the nuisance of spell preparation hindrance into the mix.

I really don't think it's just a fluke that every player in my game has stated how they like 3.5 except for the way spellcasting works, and that they all have stated that they have absolutely no interest in playing a wizard or even a sorcerer until better rules are offered. I have heard this from countless other gamers outside of my group as well.

And to be clear, as much as I loathe vancian casting on every level, I don't think it needs to be forever wiped from the earth, I just want a simpler, more intuitive and more flexible spellcasting system, and I know I'm not the only one.

joela wrote:

No theory here, real-game experience:

I played in a Ravenloft campaign where, upon request by my DM, I switched from the standard spell slots to the the spell point system from Unearthed Arcana. I can tell you that, no, the latter system's not "intuitive": like 3.x grapple, we had to constantly refer back to the the UA book to calculate cost beyond the minimum amount. Given time, it would have become easier but it will definitely be a mental challenge for anyone use to the spell slot system.

And the last line raises a key point: it's only the fact that vancian is more familiar to some of us that other systems seem confusing. Ask anyone who has never played tabletop before whether they would like to play a vancian caster or a spell points caster, and every single one will prefer a power points caster, because they can understand the system right away. My real life experience in 3 decades of gaming has been that it is almost universally preferred. When you explain vancian casting to new gamers, they will almost invariably ask "why don't they just use spell points?" or something similar. First time gamers in all my games had almost no problems with psionics yet were almost always baffled and annoyed by vancian spellcasting.

It is only simpler to those of us who have used these mechanics for two or three decades, and then only by virtue of familiarity.

seekerofshadowlight wrote:

I would have to disagree with that. The spell point system is every bit as complex, if not more so then the current slot based system. Comparing the psion to the sorcerer and the psions system is hands down more complex and needs both more book keeping and a better understanding of how they system works from all parties to be used correctly

The spell slots are easy, you get x amount of this level. It is less book keeping as a whole then "I had 28 points, this power cost 6, no 9 as I argumented it". Both are basic math, but one your taking 1 way from three and the other is 9 from 28

Now I'll give ya wizards and clerics are more complex, but that is not because of slots. That is because of having to prepare them ahead of time. Something spell points would not help a single bit as you would still have to spend your points ahead of time.

Run a wizard or cleric, then run a sorcerer or oracle, you will notice the book keeping difference. And that difference is not caused by the system, but how those classes use the system.

Your argument is only valid if you ignore the fact that vancian casting requires 9 different pools (or 7 or whatever, depending on the class) of power points.

Consider this in terms of money. Everyone with the basic literacy and math skills required to play an rpg already understands the concept of having a certain amount of currency and spending it on items which have varying costs. Whether you call the currency spell points or dollars makes no difference, same complexity.

You appear to be arguing that spending money would be simpler if you used 9 different kinds of currency, which is clearly false. It isn't appreciably harder to subtract 1 from 3 than it is to subtract 9 from 28, especially given that players already have to buy equipment with pretend money anyway.

In short, spell points that can be spent on spells of varying cost are objectively simpler and more intuitive, since one list of items is much easier to use than 9 lists, even with varying costs.

seekerofshadowlight wrote:

I guess to me the Vanaican style of magic is not to far out there. If you look at magic as tiers or circles with orders of power from 1 to 9 it starts to click. As you grow in power your able to train your mind to focus and control more and more "levels" of magic


To be honest it's not as far removed from the "mana pool" as people seem to think. The "Laws" of Vanican magic however do limit you and keep you from boosting higher tiered powers or dumping "Points" into lower tired power, In essence your "Mana" is locked into tiers as well. Each new tier of magic has it's own "pool" of power you can draw from

And this is where the arguments against power points break down. Wizards in effect do have power points. They have 9 different types of power points in fact, and each point must be accounted for in advance. So we have a power point system which is designed to be as inflexible as possible, is unnecessarily complicated and requires lots of bookkeeping. In this regard, simple spell points are clearly the better choice in every regard.

The funny thing is, this system actually makes far more sense for the newly introduced alchemist class than it ever did for the wizard, which is the class this system was "designed" for in the first place. As someone said earlier in this thread, the wizard's spell mechanics best analogy is to an artillerist who has a utility belt with set number of slots for different sized grenades. Well, after 30 years someone finally invented a class which does exactly that, and it actually makes some sense for that character; the pre-set effects, daily preparation to preserve potency and the fixed number of bits you can create and carry all work in this context, whereas they never made any sense with wizards.

Vancian magic was never defined well enough to provide any sort of internally consistent explanation from which to craft logical rules. D&D magic was always pretty much giving someone the cheat codes to reality, then "balancing" them by saying "well, you can only use it 3 times a day" with no rhyme or reason beyond the necessity of game balance.

seekerofshadowlight wrote:

Again this is incorrect, Paizo's words of power alt magic system will be in the ultimate magic book. It will be an alt system that all casters would use.

Paizo however will not be mix and matching and will not switch the core magic used in products. But they are giving folks and alt magic system.

I am kinda interested in what they do there myself.

I was wondering about that also; I think the best design decision paizo ever made was giving the players and the GM different options, so it almost seems out of character to not offer an alternative casting system. My only real concern with this is I hope the designers of the alternate casting system were bold enough to actually make the alternative casting system substantially different from the standard vancian system, and not just produce another ever-so-slightly-different version of vancian casting. That by itself will determine whether or not I buy this product.

Thanks to Mr. Jacobs for explaining his position on points systems so clearly and concisely. I very much liked your comments on the different flavor that psionics would have if developed for PFRPG, and I'm sure I'll love the concepts behind the base classes and the flavor they have, as this has been the pattern with me and my game group so far.

One question though: has there been much consideration of an expansion of the monk's ki powers rules as a basis for PF psionics? I for one love the idea, as I think it would be interesting both in flavor and mechanics, would use an existing mechanic with 3.5 precedence, and would also provide a built-in rationale for psychic powers which I think would be more in line with the PF setting than the rather more scifi-ish flavor of pre-existing psionics rules. And if not, why not?

I apologize if this has been answered before.

James Jacobs wrote:
While I understand that the Vancian system isn't everyone's favorite... it IS a favorite system for the vast majority of those who play this game, regardless of its edition.

To get back to the original post, I have to wonder, is this really true? My experience has always been that the vast majority of players and DMs from previous editions are either indifferent or actively hostile to vancian casting mechanics. In 30 years of d20 gaming the number of people I've spoken to who like and prefer vancian casting rules could be counted on one hand. Even most of the people who I've heard defending it say the same thing: it doesn't make any sense, but it's mostly balanced and it's what the game is built around, so we're stuck with it. Not that my experiences are necessarily indicative of general PFRPG players, but I have also noticed that there are quite a large number of posters here on this board who actively dislike vancian magic.

My single greatest wish for PFRPG is not a new psionic system (which I consider moot now anyway thanks to the efforts of DSP), but for an alternate magic system which is non-vancian. Clearly a great many people would dearly love to see this happen as well, so my main question would be:

Is there any chance that Paizo will finally offer the many fans of 3.5 gaming an alternative to the much-despised Vancian casting rules? Wasn't that one of the most requested changes to 3.5 rules during the initial playtesting for PFRPG after all?

Planescape is the only published campaign I'll run, and when I run homebrews they tend to be very planescapey; I read a lot of Moorcock growing up.

Snorter wrote:

I just wanted to be the first to say...

"I've got wood for sheep!"

Speaking of which, anyone else had the experience that the player who controls the sheep compactor generally wins? Maybe it's just my group...

Set wrote:

The target audience are those who liked the stuff in the Expanded Psionics Handbook (and, it seems, pretty much loathed the stuff in the Complete Psionic, which, oh frabjous day, isn't OGL anyway), and any attempt at making a psionics system palatable to people who actually liked it in the first place should be designed around refining and cleaning up the system that they were already using.

Designing a psionics system to please those of us who didn't like it in the first place is like making dog food out of lettuce.

Don't waste a second designing a different system that *might* attract some people who didn't like it in the first place, while alienating those who already *did* want the product.

I could not agree more. Making a psionic system for people who don't like psionics would be a complete waste of time.

Advocating a vancian system for the psion ignores the fact that psionics is a form of magic that appeals to many people who don't like vancian magic, and this is a group which shouldn't be ignored lightly.

Furthermore, there are several obvious potential solutions which can and should be attempted before scrapping the entire system in favor of a psion bloodline sorcerer kit.

The most obvious would be to either discard or redefine the powers which allow multiple actions per round. After all, if wish, the single most broken spell in D&D history, could be defined so that it is actually workable, then psionics is fixable too.

seekerofshadowlight wrote:

To be honest I think it upsets them more as they want an alt caster system then the fact it's psionics

For me, it's very much both, and I completely agree with ashiel's last couple posts.

As a player, I want psionics both for the flavor and because I like the system itself. I want a "magic" system that doesn't give you over-the-top super powers until epic levels, but which gives you far more flexibility in the application of those powers.

Consider me one more person for whom a vancian system would be a deal-breaker, and the folks I game with have said much the same.

I'd suggest getting a few annoying yuppies to run around Manhattan trying to save one dude's girlfriend while running a video recorder the whole time, eventually luring it to central park so the US military can blanket-bomb it into submission.

Demiurge 1138 wrote:

Hot female succubi. The art was reused from one of the modules.

Would you happen to remember which module offhand?

And I did immediately think succubus when I saw the old cover, and was disappointed when I discovered they aren't in this book; I think they're another monster with all kinds of untapped potential as major baddies, but they usually get stuck in a supporting role it seems...I'm hoping to see Paizo put something out in future with more succubi options, maybe in book of the damned vol. 2?

Planescape. Nothing else was even close in my mind.

Planescape was the reason I kept playing D&D for several years past the point where I had decided I really didn't like AD&D rules. The discontinuation of the setting was one of the main reasons I quit playing tabletop for several years. I started playing D&D again because I missed running Planescape, so I bit the bullet and started doing my own adaptation in 3e.

I also have fond memories of Birthright (lots of untapped potential there) and a couple other settings, but honestly every other campaign setting could be burned tomorrow and I wouldn't mind so long as there was still Planescape.

To be more specific, my dream product would be a big PF tome with extensive information on Sigil and the Outlands, with lots of info on the Factions and Sects, including Faction abilities, lots of info on Gatetowns, and without any of the Faction War changes to the campaign.

I know it's probably never going to happen, just thinking out loud here...