Words of Power Playtest Note


Round 2: Words of Power Discussion

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drayen wrote:
Kryzbyn wrote:

This seems so far to resemble Scrabble.

Yeah you can spell some words, but eventually you'll end up with a couple Q's and a Y.
So what happnes when toward the end all you have are a few words that cant be combined? Can this happen?
You seemed to do pretty well with those left over y's, n, k, r, b and z

LOL

Can't use proper names in scrabble :P


'Rixx wrote:
drayen wrote:
Kryzbyn wrote:

This seems so far to resemble Scrabble.

Yeah you can spell some words, but eventually you'll end up with a couple Q's and a Y.
So what happnes when toward the end all you have are a few words that cant be combined? Can this happen?
You seemed to do pretty well with those left over y's, n, k, r, b and z

That made me laugh.

In any case, you don't "run out" of words - if you know a word you can use it as many times as you like.

So you still have spells per day then.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32

This system is going to be great for (non-wordcaster) characters wanting to conduct spell research to create new spells.

On the other hand, it's much too complex to be used as an alternate casting system for most players. I'm sure some people will be able to use it quickly, correctly, or both. But the fact remains, the player of a wordcaster (especially a spontaneous one) has to take off his player hat and put on his game designer hat to resolve his character's actions.

Further, this system combines all of the problems of a point-based system with all of the problems of a slot-based system, while using the advantages of neither. A good point-based system allows flexibility without complexity; everything has a flat points cost and you just purchase effects you want until you hit your point limit. A good slot-based system reduces flexibility, but also reduces bookkeeping; everything has a fixed slot cost and you either have a slot available or you don't.

By contrast, words of power has points costs that retroactively change the points costs of other effects being added to the same ability, which then get tracked back to a slot cost, which isn't immediately evident until you've completely calculated the points cost, and only once you've calculated the slot cost do you know if you can cast the spell you want to cast.

For example...

Let's say your sorcerer is ambushed by fire giants, and needs to pump out a bunch of cold damage in a hurry. Here is the decision-making process he uses on his turn (sans metamagic):

1) Pick available spell that deals the most cold damage.
2) Is a slot of that level available?
3) If yes, then go to (4); else disregard spell and return to (1).
4) Cast spell; resolve spell as written in its description.

Now let's see the decision-making process used by a psion in the same scenario (sans metapsionics):

1) Pick available power that deals the most cold damage.
2) Are enough points to use it available?
3) If yes, then go to (4); else disregard power and return to (1)
4) Does the power have an augment cost you can pay?
5) If yes, augment power; else use power normally.
6) Manifest power; resolve power as written in its description.

Now let's see the decision-making process used by a wordcasting sorcerer (again sans metamagic):

1) Pick the effect word that deals the most cold damage.
2) Pick a target word for that effect and add additional effect words as desired.
3) Can any of the effect words be boosted?
4) If yes, then apply boosts as desired; else go to (5).
5) Note the highest level word used and add together all points costs (after accounting for boosts).
6) If points cost exceeds that associated with the level calculated, increase the level accordingly.
7) Is a slot of that level available?
8) If yes, then go to (11); else can points cost be reduced in steps (3) and (4)?
9) If yes, then disregard chosen boosts and return to (3); else can points cost be reduced in step (2)?
10) If yes, then disregard chosen target and additional effect words and return to (2); else disregard effect word and return to (1).
11) Determine the spell's saving throw by comparing all effect words used.
12) Cast spell; for each effect word, is the saving throw changed?
13) For each effect word, if yes, then resolve effect word with the new saving throw; else resolve effect word as written.

There is absolutely no way I'm ever playing at a table where a character is required to go through that last process, no matter how good he is at doing it quickly. People screw up the psionics rules all the time, and those rules are simple. I don't even want to know how often and how badly well-meaning people will make missteps when confronted with the steps needed to cast a wordcasting sorcerer spell.

I realize, of course, that a lot of the decision-making difficulty can be reduced by pre-printing words of power spells. At which point, you've just defeated the entire stated purpose of words of power, because the game already has pre-printed words of power spells. They're called spells. They appear in the Core Rules, plus numerous other supplements, and do not require any wordcaster mechanics whatsoever to use.

Edited for clarity, and because I accidentally wrote "frost giant" instead of "fire giant".


Epic Meepo wrote:

I realize, of course, that a lot of the decision-making difficulty can be reduced by pre-printing words of power spells. At which point, you've just defeated the entire stated purpose of words of power, because the game already has pre-printed words of power spells. They're called spells. They appear in the Core Rules, plus numerous other supplements, and do not require any wordcaster mechanics whatsoever to use.

I agree with this mostly. However, I can also see where parts of these pre-built spells can be swapped out for other effects, the simplest, of course, being energy type effects being swapped out for another of similar point cost.

Poor Jason. :/ You know he's busted (READ: busting) his hump putting this together... I feel like a piranha.


That echoes my sentiments exactly, Eric. The dove-tailing systems of point-cost and spell slots just ends up WAY more complicated than a ´flat´ point pool used for spells/powers ala 3.5 Psionic or Spellpoints.

Even to have a Wordcasting Wizard* would make the start of each adventuring day another opportunity to hypothesize several more of the infinite possibilities of Word Combinations, with Word Burning and changing Memorized ¨Spells¨/Word Combos meaning there will almost always be SOME amount of ´unspent´ Word Points (?) which would ´call out for´ looking how you could buff up a few more spells. And that´s clearly how the system is SUPPOSED to work, because otherwise their simply isn´t a point to it.

So obviously this isn´t for me, or any game I´m involved in, but I get the impression no major decision will be changed here. OK. All I can say is the best way to salvage this for a broader audience would be doing what Eric says and presenting a way this subsystem can be used for ´Spell Research´. I mentioned elsewhere that allowing a ´Part Time Wordcaster´ Feat is an obvious option, but that still brings the spell design system into normal play... Packaged as Spell Research, with time to research as normal, fits the existing game dynamic much better and essentially is just a way to codify the existing Spell Research system (as to what exactly a spell of a given spell level can do). It needn´t invalidate Spell Research that isn´t modelable via Words of Power, it would just be one option.

* Word Cleric who can Know all Words, presumably? that`s gonna be a loooong talk with God


I think that the wordcasting system should not be option for existing classes and instead should have one or possibly two core classes to which it would be available. For any full spellcaster already in game it won't have effect anyway and I think that it will be complex enough that mixing it with class abilities of existing classes a bit too much. This is my initial feeling of course after looking through the playtest sample.

More thoughts on Words Of Power coming later.


Words of power seems like it would be a great Psionic system...


Epic Meepo wrote:

I realize, of course, that a lot of the decision-making difficulty can be reduced by pre-printing words of power spells. At which point, you've just defeated the entire stated purpose of words of power, because the game already has pre-printed words of power spells. They're called spells. They appear in the Core Rules, plus numerous other supplements, and do not require any wordcaster mechanics whatsoever to use.

I do see a lot of what you're saying. There are two things I disagree with though.

First, the individual parts of a spell for a wordcaster are fairly simple and straightforward. I think this would shorten the time it takes to cast a spell when you compare it to how convoluted a lot of standard spells are. My group usually has to look at the fine print every time a new spell is cast, but since a single word can be used in so many situations it will shorten the time to figure out what exactly a spell does.

The other thing is that even if you pre-print your words of power spells, you still have one big advantage compared to standard spellcasters. You can freely shape the effects of your spells to work with the situation. You only need to pick up "Force Blast" once to be able to freely shape it into a single target, burst, line, or cone. Ordinarily a player would have to have to devote multiple spells to have that sort of versatility. This will simply be amazing for sorcerers, and it also shouldn't be too hard for them to write in their notes "20 ft burst Force blast = 5th lvl, 40 ft burst Force Blast = 6th level".

Also, I have to point out that any good Wordcaster caster will be able to figure out what they're doing while waiting several minutes for the melee to resolve their full round attacks anyway. The actual round a Wordcaster will take will be faster because the actual spells that he casts are simpler. At least, that's what I'm thinking it would be like...I really need to playtest it XD


Kryzbyn wrote:

This seems so far to resemble Scrabble.

Yeah you can spell some words, but eventually you'll end up with a couple Q's and a Y.
So what happnes when toward the end all you have are a few words that cant be combined? Can this happen?

You spell "Kwyjibo" and Golarion explodes.

-Ben.

The Exchange

drayen wrote:
Kolokotroni wrote:
It does at first glance, I looked at a few spells and many classic spells are better then their normal words of power equivalents. Jason has already said that you lose some of the specific power in exchange for the versatility. So a fireball is better then it's 3rd level equivalent in words of power but a word of power caster can cast a lightning ball, acid ball, and ice ball just as easily. That is the price you pay for being as flexible as the system is.
Is that in the pdf? I don't see where I can substitute energy types. If that is the case (and it would save much page space by listing energy words as one generic section over five separate sections saying basically the same thing with the words acid, cold, electricity, fire and sonic being exchanged for one another)it is a great alternative to the normal spell.

Nah, what drayen is talking about is that you can just grab the lightning word, the acid word, the fire word, and the ice word and now you can pump out the different energy types without too much difficulty. Though you could always pop the Energy Substitution Metamagic feat on your fire blast word to make it cold, if you wanted to. (Not a good choice by any means, but it would work).

Epic Meepo wrote:

Let's say your sorcerer is ambushed by fire giants, and needs to pump out a bunch of cold damage in a hurry. Here is the decision-making process he uses on his turn (sans metamagic):

1) Pick available spell that deals the most cold damage.
2) Is a slot of that level available?
3) If yes, then go to (4); else disregard spell and return to (1).
4) Cast spell; resolve spell as written in its description.

Now let's see the decision-making process used by a psion in the same scenario (sans metapsionics):

1) Pick available power that deals the most cold damage.
2) Are enough points to use it available?
3) If yes, then go to (4); else disregard power and return to (1)
4) Does the power have an augment cost you can pay?
5) If yes, augment power; else use power normally.
6) Manifest power; resolve power as written in its description.

Now let's see the decision-making process used by a wordcasting sorcerer (again sans metamagic):

1) Pick the effect word that deals the most cold damage.
2) Pick a target word for that effect and add additional effect words as desired.
3) Can any of the effect words be boosted?
4) If yes, then apply boosts as desired; else go to (5).
5) Note the highest level word used and add together all points costs (after accounting for boosts).
6) If points cost exceeds that associated with the level calculated, increase the level accordingly.
7) Is a slot of that level available?
8) If yes, then go to (11); else can points cost be reduced in steps (3) and (4)?
9) If yes, then disregard chosen boosts and return to (3); else can points cost be reduced in step (2)?
10) If yes, then disregard chosen target and additional effect words and return to (2); else disregard effect word and return to (1).
11) Determine the spell's saving throw by comparing all effect words used.
12) Cast spell; for each effect word, is the saving throw changed?
13) For each effect word, if yes, then resolve effect word with the new saving throw; else resolve effect word as written.

There is absolutely no way I'm ever playing at a table where a character is required to go through that last process, no matter how good he is at doing it quickly. People screw up the psionics rules all the time, and those rules are simple. I don't even want to know how often and how badly well-meaning people will make missteps when confronted with the steps needed to cast a wordcasting sorcerer spell.

For an unprepared player of a wordcaster sorcerer, yes it would look like this. But, due to the complexity of the wordcasting system (which I loooooove), a player that doesn't want to take the time to prep ahead of the game (the same ones who just have the names of their spells listed, and not write-ups of the spells themselves [or don't have them memorized], that don't have stat-blocks ready for their summons, etc...)

will have to go through that process for wordcasting. For the prepared player of a wordcaster, the process will look A LOT more like the process for the Vancian sorcerer as he (the player) just needs to shuffle through his deck of word combos, find the best cold damage dealer and let it fly. But your point about how long a turn could be I completely agree with; Words of Power is not a system for (a) those players that dislike complexity, (b) those players that refuse to put extra time into prepping a game, and (c) math-phobic players.

Anywho, I think the Words of Power is neat and a I already prefer it to Vancian casting and I would say it is neck and neck with psionics for me. And as another note, while I can see mostly spontaneous casters being wordcasters, a wordcaster wizard is freaking terrifying to think about. Where as a Vancian wizard can have those few hundred spells in his book, when it's all said and done, that wordcaster wizard can have those couple hundred words in his book which can combine to be thousands (if not significantly more) of possible spells. Give that fella a day to prepare, and you are screwed indeed.

Grand Lodge

AlanM wrote:

Anywho, I think the Words of Power is neat and a I already prefer it to Vancian casting and I would say it is neck and neck with psionics for me. And as another note, while I can see mostly spontaneous casters being wordcasters, a wordcaster wizard is freaking terrifying to think about. Where as a Vancian wizard can have those few hundred spells in his book, when it's all said and done, that wordcaster wizard can have those couple hundred words in his book which can combine to be thousands (if not significantly more) of possible spells. Give that fella a day to prepare, and you are screwed indeed.

Except that for the prep casters, it's STILL the vancian system. You prep spells into slots and use it...except you make your own spells from from parts. And the spont casters are still the same...that I think is suppose to be the selling point of the system...but because it takes a system that really is best used for a power point system for spell making and then they try to squeeze it into the vancian system, it just doesn't work well. This system really should use a power point system and go completely away from the vancian system period.


To alleviate this issue (relatively), I was wondering what could be done, especially for Spontaneous Casters.
It occured that if you limit the number of Word Families (?) they know, that forces them to condense their Words Known into the SAME Word Families, which combined with the rule that you can only use one Word from the same Family within a Spell, means that their possible combos are reduced vs. if each of their Known Words was of a different Word Family, for (an extreme) example.

Obviously, people are going to pick words from the same Families ANYWAYS, but enforcing it rigorously seems especially appropriate to Spontaneous Casters who traditionally have fewer ´Spells Known´. Since ´Word Combos Known´ rather than ´Words Known´ is really the most direct analog to ´Spells Known´, it makes sense to rigorously limit Combos, and restricting Word Families (on a per Level basis) seems a viable approach, amongst many others I´m sure.


I was wondering if there are going to be words for:

-Physical damage spells (Non elemental or force)
-Spells that hit adjacent targets (ala ring of blades)


Here is a thought: spell templates.

Regards,
Ruemere


I've been DMing a bit as of late and if I find a player cannot keep up with combat I simply act as if they've taken a delay action. If the character cannot come up with something to do within 10-15 seconds real time they get skipped until they come up with something. Players have PLENTY of time during the time the DM and the other party members are taking their actions to plan out their next move.

Another thing is if you know a player doesn't come prepared for at all for what they're looking to do don't allow them to play that sort of a character. One time my brother played a summoning wizard and he did a beautiful job of keeping things flowing even though he had seven celestial dire hawks flying about pecking things eyes out. He came with a separate sheet with all the summons he would use and stat'd them out appropriately. On the flip side my girlfriend played a summoner recently and anytime her Eilodon dropped in combat the combat flow came to a screeching halt as we came up with the stats for her elemental with augment summoning attached to.

As a DM know your players and allow or disallow things that would break flow if that's your concern. The idea of spell templates would be a good thing for those "oh noes!" moments when something unexpected happened.


Quandary wrote:

That echoes my sentiments exactly, Eric. The dove-tailing systems of point-cost and spell slots just ends up WAY more complicated than a ´flat´ point pool used for spells/powers ala 3.5 Psionic or Spellpoints.

The problem this approach introduces is one we also saw in 3.5, the Nova.

The format is a little rough, but I believe my numbers are basically correct:
The following ignores word burning and bonus spell slots (which wordcasters also ge, and benefit greatly from, as they get more spells and more points from bonus slots).

Caster level, total points, max points per word 
{#max point words/day, no spellslot cap} (real max pw/d)
 1,  14,   5 {2} (1)
 2,  22,   5 {4} (2)
 3,  29,   7 {4} (1)
 4,  41,   7 {5} (2)
 5,  51,  10 {5} (1)
 6,  61,  10 {6} (2)
 7,  79,  13 {6} (1)
 8, 102, 13 {7} (2)
 9, 125, 16 {7} (1)
10, 154, 16 {9} (2)
11, 181, 20 {9} (1)
12, 215, 20 {10} (2)
13, 252, 24 {10} (1)
14, 296, 24 {12} (2)
15, 350, 28 {12} (1)

I think it is a game balance issue to allow a 15th lvl wordcaster twelve level 7 equivalent spells per day, even if doing so means the wordcaster gives up nearly all other spells.

Keeping spell slots removes this complication.


xorial wrote:


I have yet to see a system that really allows spellcasting on the fly. I don't think it can be done.

Have you ever played the mage games from WOD? :) that would constitute as on the fly as any other, though very off topic.

I had always wondered how a make your own spell and make spellcraft checks system would work...


Cold Napalm wrote:
AlanM wrote:

Anywho, I think the Words of Power is neat and a I already prefer it to Vancian casting and I would say it is neck and neck with psionics for me. And as another note, while I can see mostly spontaneous casters being wordcasters, a wordcaster wizard is freaking terrifying to think about. Where as a Vancian wizard can have those few hundred spells in his book, when it's all said and done, that wordcaster wizard can have those couple hundred words in his book which can combine to be thousands (if not significantly more) of possible spells. Give that fella a day to prepare, and you are screwed indeed.

Except that for the prep casters, it's STILL the vancian system. You prep spells into slots and use it...except you make your own spells from from parts. And the spont casters are still the same...that I think is suppose to be the selling point of the system...but because it takes a system that really is best used for a power point system for spell making and then they try to squeeze it into the vancian system, it just doesn't work well. This system really should use a power point system and go completely away from the vancian system period.

I am not sure that this is meant to replace vancian mechanics, so much as create a more dynamic spell system, where you can devise "new" spells as you need them. This system more replaces the use of metamagic feats to make rote spells more malleable.


F33b wrote:
Quandary wrote:

That echoes my sentiments exactly, Eric. The dove-tailing systems of point-cost and spell slots just ends up WAY more complicated than a ´flat´ point pool used for spells/powers ala 3.5 Psionic or Spellpoints.

The problem this approach introduces is one we also saw in 3.5, the Nova.

The format is a little rough, but I believe my numbers are basically correct:
The following ignores word burning and bonus spell slots (which wordcasters also ge, and benefit greatly from, as they get more spells and more points from bonus slots).

Caster level, total points, max points per word 
{#max point words/day, no spellslot cap} (real max pw/d)
 1,  14,   5 {2} (1)
 2,  22,   5 {4} (2)
 3,  29,   7 {4} (1)
 4,  41,   7 {5} (2)
 5,  51,  10 {5} (1)
 6,  61,  10 {6} (2)
 7,  79,  13 {6} (1)
 8, 102, 13 {7} (2)
 9, 125, 16 {7} (1)
10, 154, 16 {9} (2)
11, 181, 20 {9} (1)
12, 215, 20 {10} (2)
13, 252, 24 {10} (1)
14, 296, 24 {12} (2)
15, 350, 28 {12} (1)

I think it is a game balance issue to allow a 15th lvl wordcaster twelve level 7 equivalent spells per day, even if doing so means the wordcaster gives up nearly all other spells.

Keeping spell slots removes this complication.

What if the max number of word points you could jam into a spell was your casting ability mod + you caster level (barring special feats like word burning)? Then you wouldn't need to look up some silly chart every time you want to know how many words you can do. You also just keep the spell slots to determine your spells per day.

edit- Or rather Caster ability mod + spell's spell level, to keep it a relative constant. Sure, a 12th level wizard now has a much higher intelligence than when he was level 1. But that could be made part of the balance some how.


I'm really unhappy with the lookup table, myself. I think it should be possible to have a modular spell system withouth being that fiddly. There have been a few suggestions in this dicussion forum, I'm looking at using some of those in my playtest.


Evil Lincoln wrote:
I'm really unhappy with the lookup table, myself. I think it should be possible to have a modular spell system withouth being that fiddly. There have been a few suggestions in this dicussion forum, I'm looking at using some of those in my playtest.

Although to be fair, its a simple enough table, one could copy it into the margin of a character sheet pretty easily.


Anburaid wrote:


Although to be fair, its a simple enough table, one could copy it into the margin of a character sheet pretty easily.

A simple table would have an obvious algorithm. This table has an algorithm of some sort, but it isn't simple enough for me to remember easily.

What is it? Uh...

  • starts at 3 for 0th.
  • +2 for 1st and second.
  • +3 for 3rd, 4th, and 5th.
  • +4 for 6th, 7th, and 8th.

    I'm not especially gifted with math, is there a formula for that relation?

    Anyway, I had really hoped that we would see Words taking up spell slots. It would be expensive, but flexibility is supposed to be expensive.


  • The table is needless additional bookkeeping that, if it serves any other purpose at all, is to give the illusion of a point based system when you are really using the old Vancian spell slots.

    Now if the point values matched an alternate point based casting system, then they would be meaningful.


    My opinion is the whole system is too needlessly complicated. That is a deal breaker. If players look at it & say, "Why can't I just use the old system?" then it won't work. I know this is an optional system, but the point is I feel I would have to force any of my players to use this in order to try it out. Heck, I don't wan to use it as is. I would prefer a system that I can effectively use instead of the core system. Maybe if this was combined with mana points & made into a skill based system, I would use it.


    Jason Bulmahn wrote:


    The playtest of the words of power system is specifically targeted to examine the underlying mechanics and to get at some of the power balance concerns we have. As a result, we decided not to include all of the classes or even all of the words. While we wanted to give a representative sample, what we really want to focus on is the Sorcerer/Wizard words and the power that one can achieve just looking at some of the more potent words at their disposal. So, that means you are seeing a lot of straight damage words along with other words to give flavor to the overall system.

    Jason, I think you may have made a structural mistake with this playtest given the bolded bits.

    The simple existence of the archetype "god"/batman wizard indicates that the real power of spells is in 2 areas - the utility/buff and "save or suck" effects. The current collection of words is really limited in these areas...

    The current system will allow a caster to generate spells that significantly violate the damage caps (particularly with word burning). However, this is not really a balance issue; the current damage caps were established with AD&D hit point levels in mind (ie. before monsters got CON scores...).

    While the current system will really somewhat re-emphasize direct damage spells, if you really want to look for broken bits, I think you need to look into the effect words for utility/buff and "save or suck".


    One of the things I noticed, and it seemed a bit off to me, was that the words of power still require somatic and material components. This may be for balance purposes and I totally understand on the one hand, but on the other, they are words, and they way they are described made me think more of a, "I say the word and it happens" (or not)and less of the show that a wizard would normally make when he casts. Not saying it should be verbal component only, more curious as to why not? any thoughts?


    Personally I like the concept but the mechanics are too time consuming.
    I'd more likely use it as some have mentioned, as a guideline for new spell creation, which back in the day was half the fun of playing spellcasters. It made casters more unique...granted complete customizing of power word spells is completely a step in that direction, I feel again, too time consuming to be fielded in game...unlike say, metamagic feats.

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