A step away from the Vancian Magic System


Round 2: Words of Power Discussion


I, for one, would like to take a step away from the spell slot system.

I have no constructive way to suggest this, I just thought you'd like to know. As an alternate magic system (and I really like Words of Power so far, don't get me wrong)... I don't know... doesn't feel too DRASTICALLY different other than allowing the player to craft their own spells (at the beginning of the day, or on the fly) instead of using the legacy ones. Again, I LOVE this concept, but is there anyway way we can take just one more step distant from Jack Vance's system?


I would like to see, in Ultimate Magic, a simple, elegant and balanced rule that lets you convert ''vancian'' tables to ''mana'' tables AND ''mana'' tables to ''vancian'' tables.

With such a rule, I could play a ''vancian'' bard and the OP could play a ''mana'' paladin.

However, if Pathfinder completely move away from vancian magic, I'll move away from Pathfinder.


Maerimydra wrote:


However, if Pathfinder move away from [vancian] magic, I'll move away from Pathfinder.

The point of alternate systems (in my opinion) is not to completely replace the ones that exist, simply to allow both to exist. I'm not suggesting doing away the Vancian magic system-- just, if there's going to be a different spellcasting system, make it adhere less to Jack Vance's concepts. :)

And that's not to say that I particularly like the spell-points system (although I have not been able to play a game using them before).


I always have liked the vancian spell system because it objectively graduates the spells by levels by their effects and damage caps, but also I equally have desired an optional alternate system that allows more flexibility and depth.

Words of Power seems to me like a cousin of Ars Magica, where spells are cast via syntax (technique + form). WoP evolved this system smoothly to be played at Pathfinder, respecting the frame of simplicity in which PFRPG wants to keep the game mechanics. But I agree with Ganymede...

It would be nice if someday there were a hybrid spell system with all the goods from other supplements that could be implemented freely in any game, that could be allowed in tables that desire it, and if not, they could keep playing with the core mechanics:

The system of my ideals would have the next things:

-Furthermore from spell slots and their respective levels, it will have an alternate advancement of spellcasting capabilities measured like power points (like in the psionic powers)

-A way to slightly boost slot spells via points, like the Augment option (from Expanded Psionics Handbook) in some power entry, obviously, not conceding effects that only could be achieved by metamagic feats or higher level spells.

-A complexity rating like in Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed in which every spell also had difficulty level added to it (simple, complex and exotic). Every class can cast spells while they are using simple spells, even without proper training, and some serious spells could only be reached by full spellcasting classes with uncommon requirements even if they are 1st level spells.

-Alternate themed spellcasting, I know, PFRPG has too many spellcasters already, but I want back something like the Binder or Truenamer from TOM. The Summoner hit that spot in a certain way.

-Alternate components, like knowledge checks in Rituals (found in Unearthed Arcana) or some other cost or side effect like the corrupt spells in the BoVD.

....Certainly, implementing or adding changes to the core mechanics implies that some players will find tedious to keep track of every spell singular variables, points + slots + words, and also every material done after would need to be converted. -_-.

Well, forgive my english.


Not I.

As a gamer, I have played many games with other magic systems. If I really wanted a skill system or a point system, I would know where to get those.

As a GM, I know that working alternate systems into games is a total pain. The only hope of any alternate system actually being useful in my Pathfinder campaigns is if it dovetails flawlessly with the existing magic system. I don't want to have to reinterpret every effect and item.

The potential for WoP is to allow some custom spells without throwing out the well-known benchmarks of the existing magic system. That would leave item crating, CR balance, and balanced adventure modules in-tact. Hopefully some caster statblocks too.

I respectfully disagree with the OP.

The Exchange Owner - D20 Hobbies, Representative - D20 Hobbies

Ganymede wrote:
anyway way we can take just one more step distant from Jack Vance's system?

For everyone that hates Vancian, there are folk like me that prefer it.

I was initially really opposed to Words of Power, but after reading it I'm alright with it.


Ganymede wrote:
I, for one, would like to take a step away from the spell slot system.

Are you particularly thinking of the method used by memory casters (Wizards) which I would refer to an Vancian, or do you want to move away from the spontaneous casting system (Sorcerers) as well?


In a way, neither specifically.

I find it hard to believe that such a "magical reservoir" can not be empty, but not allow a character to cast other level spells. It's hard to quantify without using analogies that use numbers (which the Vancian system does not). But, for example, exactly how many second level spells would equate to a third level spell slot? The Vancian magic system simply states that there is no number, regardless of how high, of second level spell power that can equate to a third level spell.

I find that highly dubious.

On another note, I greatly dislike the flavor of the smartest characters in the game having to reread the same 20 pages of the same book each day to prepare their spells. (True, this is a highly glossed over, minute detail... but still.)

And I agree with a few of the previous posters' comments, even the dissenting ones, especially Evil Lincoln's argument concerning dovetailing systems.


Ganymede wrote:

In a way, neither specifically.

I find it hard to believe that such a "magical reservoir" can not be empty, but not allow a character to cast other level spells. It's hard to quantify without using analogies that use numbers (which the Vancian system does not). But, for example, exactly how many second level spells would equate to a third level spell slot? The Vancian magic system simply states that there is no number, regardless of how high, of second level spell power that can equate to a third level spell.

I find that highly dubious.

One way to see it is simply that it isn't a mathemathical factor. While 3rd level spells are generally more powerful and harder to master, that doesn't have to mean they're the same type but with more magical energy. Think of it as different types of travel; no matter how large you make a car, it's not going to become an airplane or boat. Or, in the game, you could see it as being created by different types of "magic threads" or formed by different parts of the brain and so on.

I have some issues with vancian magic, but that's hardly the largest.


stringburka wrote:
Ganymede wrote:

In a way, neither specifically.

I find it hard to believe that such a "magical reservoir" can not be empty, but not allow a character to cast other level spells. It's hard to quantify without using analogies that use numbers (which the Vancian system does not). But, for example, exactly how many second level spells would equate to a third level spell slot? The Vancian magic system simply states that there is no number, regardless of how high, of second level spell power that can equate to a third level spell.

I find that highly dubious.

One way to see it is simply that it isn't a mathemathical factor. While 3rd level spells are generally more powerful and harder to master, that doesn't have to mean they're the same type but with more magical energy. Think of it as different types of travel; no matter how large you make a car, it's not going to become an airplane or boat. Or, in the game, you could see it as being created by different types of "magic threads" or formed by different parts of the brain and so on.

I have some issues with vancian magic, but that's hardly the largest.

But it works in reverse, I can prepare my 2nd level spells in my 3rd level slots. If I make a plane small enough I can drive it on the highway?


I love the words of power, and if done right, I could see it being a good system to use for spontaneous casters. The vancian system works fine for wizards, clerics, druids, and other prepared spell casters. It breaks down when you get into limited spell list, spontaneous casters; its just too hard to balance the individual spells against each other and the metamagic feats are frequently too costly to casters that frequently don't have the spell levels to use them. Ideally, the words of power system would be a way to make the spontaneous casters truly unique and still viable along the more traditional and structured prepared casters (this would especially help the sorcerer get out of the wizard's shadow). In this scenario, it wouldn't be an alternate system as much as a second regular system that would allow a wider variety of spellcasters.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Ganymede wrote:

I, for one, would like to take a step away from the spell slot system.

I have no constructive way to suggest this, I just thought you'd like to know. As an alternate magic system (and I really like Words of Power so far, don't get me wrong)... I don't know... doesn't feel too DRASTICALLY different other than allowing the player to craft their own spells (at the beginning of the day, or on the fly) instead of using the legacy ones. Again, I LOVE this concept, but is there anyway way we can take just one more step distant from Jack Vance's system?

At that point it really isn't just "one more step". It's a major spanner thrown in on how casters and noncasters are balanced. It would be as drastic a revision of the game as 4th Edition was to 3rd. Thing is Vancian magic is as core to the game as the d20 roll. It was one of the core pillars the game was built around.


Ganymede wrote:

On another note, I greatly dislike the flavor of the smartest characters in the game having to reread the same 20 pages of the same book each day to prepare their spells. (True, this is a highly glossed over, minute detail... but still.)

Kind of a tangent, but I've always interpreted it flavorwise a lot like the magic system seen in Roger Zelazny's second Amber series. (Which is Vancian, even!) Which is that, basically, a spell that does anything useful takes 15+ minutes to cast. Since that's way too long to be combat-useful, magicians have learned to prepare/cast spells in such a way that they can do most of the 15+ minutes ahead of time, carefully omitting a few small key clauses (called lynchpins), such as who the target of the spell will be. Keeping an array of spells 'hung' in this way and ready to go at a moment's notice requires daily maintenance.

Thereby you have a system of prepared/Vancian spellcasting that doesn't require super-genius wizards to forget spells they've memorized and cast a million times.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dire Mongoose wrote:
Ganymede wrote:

On another note, I greatly dislike the flavor of the smartest characters in the game having to reread the same 20 pages of the same book each day to prepare their spells. (True, this is a highly glossed over, minute detail... but still.)

Kind of a tangent, but I've always interpreted it flavorwise a lot like the magic system seen in Roger Zelazny's second Amber series. (Which is Vancian, even!) Which is that, basically, a spell that does anything useful takes 15+ minutes to cast. Since that's way too long to be combat-useful, magicians have learned to prepare/cast spells in such a way that they can do most of the 15+ minutes ahead of time, carefully omitting a few small key clauses (called lynchpins), such as who the target of the spell will be. Keeping an array of spells 'hung' in this way and ready to go at a moment's notice requires daily maintenance.

Thereby you have a system of prepared/Vancian spellcasting that doesn't require super-genius wizards to forget spells they've memorized and cast a million times.

that pretty much is how spellcasting worked in the earlier editions. it used to take 15 mins per spell level for each spell for a wizard to memorise each spell. so the casting was essentially the closing of the circuit. ( so yes it took an hour to memorise one 4th level spell)


The main reason I play pathfinder is that the magic system resembles that of earlier editions of dungeons and dragons. I love the traditional dungeons and dragons magic system. I find it fantastic, balancing, and easy to write for. If yoy want to add to that system, great. But to chuck it, I say nay. Long live the traditional dungeons and dragons magic system. Thank you Paizo for publishing products that allow for that system and even build on it.


I really don't like vancian magic, but like many have stated, rewriting the system would take quite a while, why don't you try a psionic class? they use "mana" (as power points),its a bit more complicated for newcomers, but once you get the hang of it, it offers more flexibility.


James Risner wrote:
Ganymede wrote:
anyway way we can take just one more step distant from Jack Vance's system?

For everyone that hates Vancian, there are folk like me that prefer it.

I was initially really opposed to Words of Power, but after reading it I'm alright with it.

+1

I feel the same way. In fact to me D&D without the vancian system is not D&D. The main reason i never bought 4E books, after browsing throw them at the book store.

Sovereign Court

I personally like the mana / power point system better. I wished the power power point system used in expanded psionics handbook, could be used / translated to the magic system, both arcane and divine.

mathematically / mechanically it makes so much more sense. Power and ability IMO can be allocated at will and in whatever level u want until tapped / drained.

The vancian system has always been frustrating in the 20 plus years I've been playing leading to many home variations.

I think the connection to the vancian system's fan base is rooted in tradition and "its been that way forever" mentality. There is no real mechanical reason for it still being there. Tweeks have been made with nearly every aspect of DnD in the name of bettering system. Mention anything about casting levels or Vancian casting and terms like "tradition" and "sacred cows" start coming out. Interesting


Lynx wrote:
I think the connection to the vancian system's fan base is rooted in tradition and "its been that way forever" mentality.

Have you considered the possibility that some people have played games that use point systems and games that use Vancian systems and, despite being fully informed, still prefer the latter?


No, I'm inclined to agree with Lynx on this. Only possibly take it a step further. A while back I introduced true sorcery to my players and after we fixed the errors in the book so that it was more balanced, they won't go back. Spells per day is so rigid and inflexible; it's rather annoying. You can't make creepy winds that raise the dead or earthquakes that spit tiny water elementals out with spell slots. I was hoping words of power might be something like that, but so far I have never been disappointed with things in the pathfinder series, and they do seem to give some flexibility to the caster.

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