How can Vancian and non-Vancian coexist in a balanced, exciting fashion


4th Edition

Liberty's Edge

As the title says how can both magic systems exist side by side. Keep it civil and polite.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Define "balanced".


I ran psionics(point system) with magic(vancian), and never had an issue. A lot of it depends on the group.

I think it is better to list why you think it would be an issue, and those that have had success can tell you why it is not an issue for them.

I think understanding the rules of two systems is paramount though in order to avoid abuse.


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What makes a magic system Vancian?


DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
Define "balanced".

Balanced would imply that Vancian Wizard A vs. Non-Vancian Wizard B would be capable of replicating similar spell effects, similar levels of damage output, etc. Balanced in that there is not a clear-cut advantage afforded one of the two options beyond pure flavor. This is based off of the assumption that 5E's proposed "all playstyles supported" mantra will mean that the same class can work in different ways.

As for balance as compared by different classes? That's a different subject altogether. Would probably be easier to keep things coherent on a same-class basis to begin with.


Steve Geddes wrote:
What makes a magic system Vancian?

Preparing and "forgetting" spells that are slotted. It came from an author named Jack Vance IIRC who had a similar system in one of his novels.


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wraithstrike wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
What makes a magic system Vancian?
Preparing and "forgetting" spells that are slotted. It came from an author named Jack Vance IIRC who had a similar system in one of his novels.

So sorcerors in PF are non-vancian and wizards/clerics are vancian? I thought there was more to it than that.

.
Doesnt that make the OP's question rather trivial?


Vancian has come to mean having set Spells per Day in general. So both are considered to be so.

Non-Vancian would be similar to how psionics works using points per day that allow you to burn a few of your highest levels each day or greater numbers of low levels.


Talonhawke is correct.


wraithstrike wrote:
Talonhawke is correct.

????????? Since when does that happen?


LOL.

Silver Crusade

Strictly speaking-- yes, Sorcerers are "Non-Vancian" in the original meaning of "Vancian magic".

Now?
I still consider Sorcerers and other spontaneous casters "non-Vancian" but I guess other people have changed their definitions.


I'll pull Savage Worlds as an example of a modular system with non-Vancian casting as a point of comparison. You have a certain number of "Power Points" per day (and limited ways of recharging them in a given day, including recharge-over-time rather than recharge-at-rest) that govern how much of something you can cast. You don't memorize which spells you cast, and you can attempt to spend more power points than you can afford (although doing so runs the risk of overdrawing, so to speak, resulting in bad things happening) in order to continue dishing out some abuse despite being drained.

While certain spells are restricted to specific character Ranks (kinda like levels, although it's not quite as straightforward as that -- irrelevant) their Power Point costs are not necessarily tied to the Rank-requirements of the spells. You cannot only cast X amount of spells of a certain Rank; they are all tied to your total pool of Power Points. Furthermore, spells can be learned with specific "Trappings," which means the same character could take the Bolt spell three times as Bolt (Fire), Bolt (Earth), Bolt (Lightning), each trapping bringing with it separate sources of damage and additional effects (fire sets fire, cold slows, earth can do non-lethal damage, etc.). The benefit of this system is that a lot of spells, especially those such as Bolt, Burst, or Stun, can act as a sort of catch-all basis for developing spells that make sense for your character, as opposed to fireball being a burst of fire, and cone of cold being a cone of cold.

System Pros: It's simple, flexible, and elegant. The very nature of the one-size-fits-all driving mechanic means that almost any character concept can be accommodated. While the resource is not unlimited, there are methods of enhancing one's spell casting longevity as well as dangerous methods carrying great risk in crucial situations.

System Cons (vs. Vancian): It's too simple. The depth and range of available spells are painfully limited. The scale on which the spells progress do not match the scale by which characters might progress, often leading to casters being sorely outpaced by purely melee/ranged characters (further worsened by the fact that, in order to grow one's spell list, a caster is required to forego other Edges/Feats that would greatly boost their character). Finally, the scope of "epic" spells are virtually non existent, and the limited variety of spells in general make coming up with truly original character concepts more difficult. The Trappings mechanic does a bit to alleviate this, but not enough.


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It seems to me (taking Vancian as being a spellcaster with 'a set number of spell slots') that a non-vancian caster can always replicate that, but has added flexibility. Thus I'd think balancing it would be as simple as granting Vancian casters access to more powerful effects earlier or to restrict the 'power point pool' of the non-vancians so that an equivalently powerful non-vancian couldnt quite replicate the number of effects that a vancian caster could.

This still doesnt seem particularly difficult to me. Even two versions of the same class could choose between these options - you could declare a spell to cost the square of its level in power points or something and develop an appropriate rate of power point development - then let a wizard pick which form of spellcasting he followed. (Maybe memorisation is replaced with meditation in the morning and his expensive, necessary spellbook is replaced with a mediative crystal which has to get more and more valuable as he learns more powerful spells).


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Honestly, I completely agree with you. In my books, the Sorcerer/Cleric/etc. were the answer to non-Vancian. It represented a small difference in overall theme and system mechanics, while allowing a much different style of play where casters are concerned. Lack of versatility was tempered with a higher level of spell casting longevity. Sorcerers weren't limited enough to be one-trick ponies, but they can't prepare for every situation like a Wizard. I won't call it perfect, but it was in the ballpark. From the sounds of the other thread, there are people who want to incorporate something completely separate from memorizations and spell slots, moving towards a Spell Point system (I'm assuming akin to the one I mentioned previously, although others have brought up Psionics and variants published in older editions).

What concerns me moreso than Vancian casting itself is the nature of the spells. I like having a robust roster of spells that don't read like a spell list from a video game. Combat isn't everything. Creative players revel in the old spell design because it rewards thinking outside of the box. In the right situation, Hold Portal (despite having no face-value combat qualities) can trivialize an encounter. I've seen Wall of Iron used to disable a handful of flesh golems (extreme situation, but still in the vein of creative application). I'm already on a derail course, so I'll stop myself there. Bottom line, maintaining that old feel -- the wizard poring over his spellbooks each night and formulating complex strategies for the day ahead -- is something A LOT of people don't want to lose.

Silver Crusade

Kagehiro--

On Savage Worlds--
In an SW game part-time right now, was playing a mage, am probably about to change characters. When each spell is a whole 'nother 'edge'/increase/etc-- I'm also finding wizards painfully limited in how many spells you can get over time. Savage Worlds is a little too limiting on the poor magic-user.

To the thread in general:
Elaborating on what I'd said before-- since (to me), 'Vancian' or 'Non-Vancian' was at least as much about the 'flavor' and in-character aspects as it was about the mechanics, Sorcerers, Oracles, Bards, and Inquisitors (and any other 'Spontaneous' caster) is 'Non-Vancian'-- you know the spells you know-- period. Yeah, you run out of energy to cast them and have to rest up for a while to get your power back, but you still know your spells. Clerics and Druids aren't exactly Vancian-- but they're sort-of similar-- pray for your daily allotment, pre-selected by you at the start of each 'character-day' (or at whatever other time it is your character prays for spells)-- then you burn your slots (and the corresponding spells) as needed-- somewhat moderated by being able to swap out 'prayed-for' spells for 'cure' spells. Wizards and Magi (plural of Magus) are 'Vancian'-- hit the books and memorize your spells at the start of each game-day.

It already does enough for me in having both 'Vancian' and 'Non-Vancian' casters in the same game rules while maintaining balance more-or-less. Personally, I don't need more than that to get both flavors and enjoy it (which is one of the reasons I like PF so far).

However, I'm with Kagehiro on liking to have many more spells than just the 'combat' stuff. Currently I'm in two PF campaigns-- I'm actually playing Oracles in both of them-- and even at fairly low levels, with a spontaneous caster, at least half of my spells aren't direct combat stuff. I like my utility stuff and my creature comforts, don't'cha know....


Finn K wrote:

Kagehiro--

On Savage Worlds--
In an SW game part-time right now, was playing a mage, am probably about to change characters. When each spell is a whole 'nother 'edge'/increase/etc-- I'm also finding wizards painfully limited in how many spells you can get over time. Savage Worlds is a little too limiting on the poor magic-user.

Yep. I plotted out a character's progression up through Legendary and I don't think I broke 8 spells in total. Could you imagine a Wizard in D&D with only 8 spells at level 20? Brief plug: if you're not opposed to the whole Norse/viking edge of fantasy, you should check out Hellfrost. Funnest Savage Worlds-based system I've ever played in to date.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
memorax wrote:
As the title says how can both magic systems exist side by side. Keep it civil and polite.

The only way that a non-vancian caster does not immediately obsolete the vancian character is a major tradeoff in both power and access. Otherwise there would absolutely be no reason to select a vancian caster.


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I posted this on the other Vancian thread, I was hoping for a little insight, but I think it got lost in the back and forth.

To me, the term 'Vancian' when it comes to casting, signifies limited number of spells, a limited number of times. The table of spells/day that has been there since I started (1E). The issue I have always had with the system was due to running out of the ability to cast, and being useless, or worse a liability, from then on.

Sadly, Vancian seems to mean different things to different people, so when the designers of 5E say Vancian, what is their opinion of what it means?

RE-POST
At the end of my 3.x days I had worked to modify the core system, with a friend's help. Our biggest issue has always been that the casters have penalties to everything else (attacks, armor, HP... options), that for them to have a limited resource of what was intended to be their key component seemed too restrictive.

Now, I'm not saying unlimited spells all day. Instead of a limit to spells/day we limited how well or often they could use the "unlimited" amount based off the caster himself, not some table that they all shared. We still used the spells/known rules, and Sorcerers got a HD increase to d6, and Wizard used their spells/day table to show control how many spells could be prepared/day.

Our system:
To cast a spell was a DC of spell level x2 +10 (1st DC 12, 2nd DC 14, 3rd DC 16... 9th DC 28)
The check was 1d20 + Caster level + Casting stat modifier (lvl 2, 18 Int Wizard 1d20+6; lvl 5, 16 Chr Sorcerer 1d20+8)
For each spell cast a cumulative -2 was given, and the penalty disappeared at a rate of 1 pt/caster lvl per hour (aforementioned Wizard, after casting 3 spells, would have 1d20 [+6-6] to cast and wait 3 hours for the entire penalty to dissappear.

The classes differed in how the penalty for failing to cast presented itself:

Wizard, on a failed check, took 1d4 NL damage/level of the spell attempted (which could not be healed as normal, and returned at a rate of 1 pt/caster level per hour). It could be its own score (burnout, or something) so as to not mix it with NL from other sources.

Sorcerer, on a failed check, took 2 points of temporary Con drain (regardles of spell or spell level), which could only be recovered by 8 hours of rest. Using Con mainly since Sorcerer is flavored as having a more wild and uncontrolled magic in their being, instead of studying how to manipulate the magic of the world.

This way the two had unlimited spells, but could just as easily overdo it if they don't control how much or how often they use it. It reflects the whole commonly used draining effect that magic took on the body and mind that is used in novels. Also, as they go up in levels it becomes easier to use the lower level spells without risk, but ot removing the risk entirely. We ran the numbers, (die averages, typical acceptable high/low/common abilty scores for casters, how often they could use spells throughout the day without overuse, or "saving" them for the right time)

Is it a little more involved than just the fire and forget method, with a bit more note-taking and paperwork, sure. But it gave us the flavor, and tightened the reins all the while, allowing casters to cast all day long. If you want to spend a bunch of rounds buffing, fine, but any thing you cast after that will be much harder and you still have a chance of making yourself weaker in doing so.


I still think it worth pointing out that the empty spell list only occurred at beginner levels or at the hands of poorly played casters. If you pour everything on the 2 goblins at the entrance to the dungeon, of course you're going to be twiddling your thumbs five hours later in the mastermind's evil lair. Also, these issues were really only prevalent around 1st or 2nd level in pre-3.x editions. There's an immense well of tools to supplement and bolster spell lists in the form of feats, scrolls, staves, and wands. This is speaking strictly of 3.5 and prior. Both Pathfinder and 4E took steps to diagnose and eliminate the issue of insufficient spells.


Kagehiro wrote:
I still think it worth pointing out that the empty spell list only occurred at beginner levels or at the hands of poorly played casters. If you pour everything on the 2 goblins at the entrance to the dungeon, of course you're going to be twiddling your thumbs five hours later in the mastermind's evil lair. Also, these issues were really only prevalent around 1st or 2nd level in pre-3.x editions. There's an immense well of tools to supplement and bolster spell lists in the form of feats, scrolls, staves, and wands. This is speaking strictly of 3.5 and prior. Both Pathfinder and 4E took steps to diagnose and eliminate the issue of insufficient spells.

I think everyone already knows this, but that doesn't mean it still wasn't a problem. As in the other thread, I had linked the info for a 1st level adventure. In that adventure, you go into a mine to clear out some kobolds. So if a wizard partakes in this quest they probably will have 3 cantrips and 2 1st level spells. The adventure has approx 4-5 encounters. That's 1 spell per battle but I highly doubt that 1d3 Acid Splash is going to change the battle in the PCs favor. And the adventure sports little in the way of wands and scrolls to help spellcasters in this area. So unless the adventure or DM puts things in there that will placate this, it'll still be a problem.

And while I agree Pathfinder took measures to help this, At-Will spells of 1d3 damage is still, IMO, too little at low-levels. In my home campaigns, I just put it to an automatic 3 damage. This, at least, gives a wizard some pre-determined knowledge of how much it'll effect combat. Also, the school-specific powers and sorcerer Bloodline feats help too. So hopefully 5E will take these concerns under consideration and say Vancian spellcasting is fine, so long as it doesn't hinder a spellcaster's role of being a spellcaster (ie. being able to contribute every round).


Even at 1st level the lack of spells tends to be overstated. Given that almost all casters will get a bonus spell from their casting stat, sorcerers will start with 4 1st level spells, specialist wizards (not an uncommon choice for just that reason) with 3. In PF, as you say, the specialist and bloodline powers give them something else to do.
Nor do I really have much problem with sitting out a round or two in a easy fight while the thugs mop up, as long as it isn't too often and you're able to be effective when it counts. Or using cantrips like daze or flare to give the front line and edge. Probably more effective than straight damage anyway.
I wouldn't object to early power being bumped up a little more, as long as it didn't also bump up their high level power.

The Exchange

This is largely already addressed in 4e. You have at-will, encounter and daily powers. The dailies are the remnants of the Vancian system and still pretty much work the same way - the parallels are obvious when you consider the 4e wizard class - though in practice you can only change then when you level (so it is more like a sorcerer in practice - though it seems that the definitions of Vancian casting seem to vary between different people). The encounters and the at-wills offer less powerful abilities which can be reused more often. At low levels the encounters and at-wills figure a lot but as dailies are accumulated they begin to figure more and more. So, arguably, we already have a system that provides this. Whether 5e works like that, of course, is another matter.


See, to me 3 or 4 spells a day doesn't feel like a wizard. Or even after a few levels and I get 2 a fight.... while others are getting two attacks a round. How about around 6th level, when a TWF fighte gets 4 attacks a round, I just may have 2 spells a combat average.

I understand, wands blah, scrolls blah, but I'm a wizard, I shouldn't have to buy or find gear (that the rogue can use to the same effect) to feel like a wizard. The spells should be cast by me, I'm a FRIGGIN WIZARD!

When do the melee classes run out of their attacks? When do the skill classes run out of skills to use? Why do the casters run out of spells?

I, personally (and 4E scratches that itch), would like to cast an effective spell every round, a spell I can rely on every time I run into trouble, and not have to worry about no longer having what is essentially the defining feature of my class.

Yes, mainly at low levels it comes up, but if they are going to limit the times I can do it, it should be MORE effective than a weapon swing. "Oh, hey, I get magic missle, 1d4+1 damage 3 times per day. What do you got?" "Huh, I can only swing my weapon every round, all day long, for 1d8+4. But don't worry, your spells will become grossly overpowered at a ridiculous rate. So I will protect you, until I become the wuss that needs you to protect me."

A warrior should feel like they are effective in weapon combat, from start to finish, a caster should feel effective with their spells all day, and a skill character should feel effective with their skills all day. Yes it's a team game, but would you rather have a team that only shines at different times, or a team that all shine equally? (I would make a sports analogy, but I don't follow sports). Regardless, yes you have different positions on a team, but you dont' want a team where 1 player is only good at the start of the game, 1 good at the middle, 1 at the end, and others mediocre in a little of a few things? Then again I don't follow sports, so this may be a bad comparison, but I was in the Army, and I would rather hvbe a team I could rely on tobe useful our whole time in the field together, rather than just the beginning or end.

I always end upranting, and don't know if I'm making sense by this point, I hate typing discussions.


Yes, 4E addressed this problem, among others, by largely removing Vancian casting and applying the same system to all classes. (So if daily powers for wizards are Vancian casting are daily powers for fighters Vancian swordplay?)Many people think this was a more drastic change than necessary to address the problem.
This particular thread seems to be intended to discuss how to make Vancian and non-Vancian powers work together in same game system. 4E only does this in the most technical way - daily powers are sort of like Vancian magic, others are not.

I hope the intent would be to allow Vancian casting with the rich spell lists used up through 3rd Edition along with other non-Vancian approaches.


I think they could mostly use the system, as long as they made it unlimited amounts. If you need to up the difficulty in doing it to reflect the fluff behind casting then it could still work.

Re-use the casting time of segments to make caster more at risk, include the spell components system where they are required, and cost, and weigh. Diminish the effective power of the higher spells that get out of control if needed to let them cast them every round if need be. I just would like a caster to feel like he can cast as often as he needs to, even if it's with difficulty.

If they go back to the traditional Vancian system, then there will be a tough time walking side by side with the 4E feel of all day resources. If they make it all day, then they will have to do some tweaking to make it feel Vancian. I think te best of both would be to increase the difficulty of casting, to cast all day (like the system I posted above).


Aardvark Barbarian wrote:

See, to me 3 or 4 spells a day doesn't feel like a wizard. Or even after a few levels and I get 2 a fight.... while others are getting two attacks a round. How about around 6th level, when a TWF fighte gets 4 attacks a round, I just may have 2 spells a combat average.

I understand, wands blah, scrolls blah, but I'm a wizard, I shouldn't have to buy or find gear (that the rogue can use to the same effect) to feel like a wizard. The spells should be cast by me, I'm a FRIGGIN WIZARD!

When do the melee classes run out of their attacks? When do the skill classes run out of skills to use? Why do the casters run out of spells?

I, personally (and 4E scratches that itch), would like to cast an effective spell every round, a spell I can rely on every time I run into trouble, and not have to worry about no longer having what is essentially the defining feature of my class.

Yes, mainly at low levels it comes up, but if they are going to limit the times I can do it, it should be MORE effective than a weapon swing. "Oh, hey, I get magic missle, 1d4+1 damage 3 times per day. What do you got?" "Huh, I can only swing my weapon every round, all day long, for 1d8+4. But don't worry, your spells will become grossly overpowered at a ridiculous rate. So I will protect you, until I become the wuss that needs you to protect me."

Part of the problem may be that you're looking at one of the weaker ways of playing a wizard by focusing on Magic Missile. (You're also ignoring that it always hits, barring magical protection) You get area effect spells, SoL spells, buffs, spells that change the course of the fight even at 1st level. Think Sleep, Charm, Color Spray, Enlarge person, etc, etc. If you just want to do damage every round, a 3.x wizard may not be for you.

I, personally, like that casters play differently than martials in 3.x. Fighters focus on reliably handing out damage every round. Casters pick and choose their moment to make the big decisive moves and can usually contribute along the way. Part of the appeal is the very difference in approach the different classes have to take.


True, I was making a point with the damage spell, and as a 1e 2e Wizard, my one spell was always either sleep or armor (but in those same editions I could cast in 1 fight, 2 at 2nd, and then go back to scrawny liabiity).

They upped the amount of spells at low level, but again, I just don't like the feel of having only one round in a fight to be effective, before I move out of the way and watch the others be heroes while I act like a henchman.

No one at any point should be left to feel like "well, I'm ineffective here. So, I will stand off to the side and come up with BS ideas of what to do to 'contribute' to the group". For one fight, situational to create an effect, can be irritating but seen as a here and there necessity at times. It shouldn't be so often to where you are only allowed to be effective for 1/2 to 1/3 of the entire campaign, just because the rules were written that way.

EDIT: The Vancian system works, under the 1 condition that they find some way to make the amount a caster can cast higher. Otherwise, you are back to the complaints of 15-min adventuring day that caused them to turn to the 4E version in the first place.


It also depends on what the 5E devs consider "Vancian" as well. Do they think it means only the 'fire-and-forget" type spellcasting of a wizard? Or are the including what, for lack of a better term, I am going to term as the Semi-Vancian casting of a sorcerer, which anything with set spell slots falls into?

To be honest, the only way to balance competing magic systems against each other would be to run them both in the same game, side by side, ith players of equal skill, and see if one or the other consistently dominates. Preferably, several games and groups.


Well.

Spell point magic, powered by the number of spell points available to you, with the advantage that you can cast any spells you know as long as you have points left to you. With the possibility to increase that by using magic items. Not terribly powerful, though, and not flexible. Any spell you know, you cast as exactly that spell, not more or less powerful.

Vancian magic, prepared beforehand, and you can cast any of it that you know without worrying about magic points. Typically also more powerful than spell point magic, whether through sheer power or being longer-lasting. Where the Death spells, the Sun Spears, etc live. With the disadvantage that once it's cast, it's gone until you perform whatever actions are necessary to get it back.

Ritual magic, permanent sacrifices to enchant magic items or for other long term effects.

And of course spirit binding, sorcery, mysticism, dragon magic - Runequest does have a lot of types of magic. It might even be worth looking at it for solutions to any possible problem of balance between "Vancian" and non-"Vancian" casting.


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In 3.5, we already had wizards, sorcerers, and psions capable of adventuring in the same party. I have not heard that any of these classes were particularly unbalanced relative to the others. If they were, then we have plenty of play experience on which to base tweaks to those classes. I don't see a problem here.

In my own Pathfinder group, I am playing a summoner in a group with several prepared (and thus Vancian) spellcasters. I dislike playing prepared casters personally, but I have come to appreciate the flexibility that the other casters enjoy when we have good intelligence about what we will be fighting the following day. Philosophically, the only classes that present a problem to me are the prepared divine spellcasters who can literally pick any spell of their class from any source -- they do not even have the limitation of having to learn their spells from somewhere as wizards and witches do.


Killer Shrike has some interesting material on controlling and balancing magic. He then using Hero to design at least ten different systems.


@memorax: it would depend on which version of the vancian system you are using(1st ed or 3.5...or PF) and which non-vancian system you were using...

Example if you were using any D&D vancian system vs the White Wold Mage magic system I would say you would need alot to balance it out.

Or if you were using say the 4th ed system vs say PF you would probably need to do something to spice up the 4th edition system.

I have seen numerous things to balance out magic systems...

1) requires skills roll
2) caster takes damage or might take damage.
3) a very focused effect(like 7th Sea)
etc.

All of those and more can work depending.


In my head: most wizards would have a certain amount of spell slots.

player 1: could fill those slots with level appropriate spells, which are memorized in the morning, and cast based on description during the day, ie past editions.

player 2: fills those slots with at wills, econunters, and daylies, ie current edition

player 3: has attack spell, movement spell, utility spell etc. the player casts a spell, describes it in as much detail as the player wants to use, rolls damage based on level (which is on par with player 1's attack spells) of the spell and picks an effect, and casts until all the slots have been used.

player 4: has a point pool, and casts based upon that pool, either from the whole list ala wizard/cleric, or from a truncated, chosen list, ala sorcerer.

if all the damage theresholds are the on par, and each has some sort of effect attached. these players can all play at the same table, and none of them are having badwrongfun.

player 1 gets to scrutenize lists, follows descriptions, make selections etc.

player 2 makes fewer choices, and gets to use some as often as she wants, use some a few times a day, and a few only once per day. not as much customization, fewer things to decide from etc.

player 3 can have as much or as little investment as he wants. the lurker can just roll dice as appropriate, the thespian can have wild, descriptive fun without anything minimizing his imagination.

player 4 gets to do some serious accounting.

if we are talking wizards (magic-users), clerics (priests), warriors (fighters), and theives (rogues) (i personnaly prefer the magic-users, clerics, fights, and theives) each could in those blanks how they want. fighter has a sword, or at wills, or moves, or points to spend etc.

thats in my head.

all at the same table.


We might have to begin with a simple decision. Are spells sorted into "Levels" by thier effect in the game, or are there only a single list of spells and then those spells are of different power depending upon the "level" they are cast?


Terquem wrote:
We might have to begin with a simple decision. Are spells sorted into "Levels" by thier effect in the game, or are there only a single list of spells and then those spells are of different power depending upon the "level" they are cast?

In theory, yes. In practice, if WotC is looking to win back players who didn't make the 4E jump, they'll need to use something recognizable as the classic D&D spell lists. They can shuffle things around, but fundamentally, those are a big part of D&D Vancian magic.


3.5 patched up some of the Vancian problems towards the end of it's run, with the use of Reserve Feats out of Complete Mage; as long as you kept an unused spell slot of X-level, you could do a little at-will spell effect doing Xd6 damage sharing the same type(fire, force, shock, etc). This made it so spellcasters never had to resort to using crossbows and daggers anymore, and worked wonders in the games I used it in. I never made a mage without at least 1 reserve feat after that.

4e's at-will powers simply took these feats and built them into the class. But, these mechanics were there in 3.5, just seems not a lot of people noticed them. Monte Cook mentioned something similar for 5e in that spellcasters can take feats for at-will abilities. I think this could work well. It'd be nicer to see some kind of trade-off mechanic(holding back use of high level spells for more frequent low level powers) built into the class though, and not be feat dependent.


As long as those at-will abilities are low-level direct damage or other combat spells, I wouldn't have any real problem with that.

Giving at-will access to any low-level spells can be abused. Any buffs could be kept up indefinitely, possibly on the whole party. Even some 1st level spells are problematic here, Enlarge Person, Expeditious Retreat, Mage Armor, Shield all come to mind. 2nd level is worse.

And that approach doesn't deal with the problem of running out of spells at low-level where it's most prevalent.


They need to do a better job with reserve feats (or certain classes) if they use them in 5th Ed. As written in 3.5, I couldn't see how the warlock class was still useful, since with a few reserve feats the standard spellcaster could spam the equivalent to his eldritch blast, and still have the powerful spells in addition. That might be a more of a problem with the warlock than the reserve feats though.


thejeff wrote:

As long as those at-will abilities are low-level direct damage or other combat spells, I wouldn't have any real problem with that.

Giving at-will access to any low-level spells can be abused. Any buffs could be kept up indefinitely, possibly on the whole party. Even some 1st level spells are problematic here, Enlarge Person, Expeditious Retreat, Mage Armor, Shield all come to mind. 2nd level is worse.

And that approach doesn't deal with the problem of running out of spells at low-level where it's most prevalent.

The lowest level spell needed to be kept in reserve was 2nd level, so Wizard 3 of Sorcerer 4 and you had unlimited at-will damage you could deal, and may of which were area effects(very useful against swarms). So, if you were a 1st or second level wizard(or 2nd or 3rd level Sorc.), then yeah, you still had to be careful. Otherwise, it was a very handy way of keeping magic ready and available.


Josh M. wrote:

3.5 patched up some of the Vancian problems towards the end of it's run, with the use of Reserve Feats out of Complete Mage; as long as you kept an unused spell slot of X-level, you could do a little at-will spell effect doing Xd6 damage sharing the same type(fire, force, shock, etc). This made it so spellcasters never had to resort to using crossbows and daggers anymore, and worked wonders in the games I used it in. I never made a mage without at least 1 reserve feat after that.

4e's at-will powers simply took these feats and built them into the class. But, these mechanics were there in 3.5, just seems not a lot of people noticed them. Monte Cook mentioned something similar for 5e in that spellcasters can take feats for at-will abilities. I think this could work well. It'd be nicer to see some kind of trade-off mechanic(holding back use of high level spells for more frequent low level powers) built into the class though, and not be feat dependent.

Yea, I really liked Reserve Feats but they weren't without their quirks either. For one, you had to (hehe) Reserve a spell to syphon of it's energies. It works great for role-playing but if that's going to happen, then I don't think there should've been a Saving Throw for the few that needed them. Making them all Ranged/Touch attacks is preferrable to Deal X damage or save and take half IMO. I guess that trade off is that they were considered Supernatural effects and thus, functioned extreamly well in Dead magic or shadow magic zones (if you play FR).


Diffan wrote:
Josh M. wrote:

3.5 patched up some of the Vancian problems towards the end of it's run, with the use of Reserve Feats out of Complete Mage; as long as you kept an unused spell slot of X-level, you could do a little at-will spell effect doing Xd6 damage sharing the same type(fire, force, shock, etc). This made it so spellcasters never had to resort to using crossbows and daggers anymore, and worked wonders in the games I used it in. I never made a mage without at least 1 reserve feat after that.

4e's at-will powers simply took these feats and built them into the class. But, these mechanics were there in 3.5, just seems not a lot of people noticed them. Monte Cook mentioned something similar for 5e in that spellcasters can take feats for at-will abilities. I think this could work well. It'd be nicer to see some kind of trade-off mechanic(holding back use of high level spells for more frequent low level powers) built into the class though, and not be feat dependent.

Yea, I really liked Reserve Feats but they weren't without their quirks either. For one, you had to (hehe) Reserve a spell to syphon of it's energies. It works great for role-playing but if that's going to happen, then I don't think there should've been a Saving Throw for the few that needed them. Making them all Ranged/Touch attacks is preferrable to Deal X damage or save and take half IMO. I guess that trade off is that they were considered Supernatural effects and thus, functioned extreamly well in Dead magic or shadow magic zones (if you play FR).

I took the meaning of the feats to be just what it says they are; "Reserves." Very handy to have around, but not meant to actually out-do spells on the spell list. I was fine with them having saves, limited damage, etc. They were a pro-active way to keep casters from going nova on the first round of every encounter, and helped eliminate the "15 minute adventuring day" by giving at-will magical usage in exchange for some restraint.

Making reserve feats any more powerful, in my opinion, would run the risk of them quickly overshadowing other classes that had dedicated blasting abilities(Warlock, Dragonfire Adept, etc). And really, most spellcasters were already capable of that without the ability to spam blast damage. Removing the drawbacks would just be nails in the coffins of those classes.


I think they've got the right idea/philosophy going into this -- start with the core of the game and provide options to build on it. In that sense, I would count on the spell systems of old (that is to say, Vancian in its purest D&D form) being the standard. I'll go ahead and admit here, what I've read in the initial playtest reviews sounds promising. I know it's still in in its infancy (relatively) at this point, but every point they were hitting on had my ears perking up. I'm going from indifferent to tentatively optimistic. Seems like they're building the system in a manner that will allow the group playing the system to decide how it will be ran, rather than meticulously spelling out rules/tables/guidelines for everything under the sun that runs the risk of stomping allover DM/Player freedoms.

Springboarding off of that thought, it seems that the core mechanic for spell casting will (not surprisingly) be Vancian as it is usually associated with the D&D universe. It's also a safe bet that the spontaneous casters (like the Sorcerer) will exist in a similar capacity as they have in previous editions. I'm curious to see where they will expand it from there. The At-Will/Per-Day vs. Standard OD&D is what I'm mostly curious about. While the low-level blues of beginner spell casters is a glaring fact that's hard to ignore (even if you don't consider it a drawback so much as a fitting pacing mechanic - some can rightfully reason out for themselves that newbie casters shouldn't be able to cast so much to begin with, but that's a whole 'nother discussion) the idea of unlimited casting of spells (even low level ones) can be downright unbalanced, for the reasons pointed out in a previous post. I look forward to seeing how they tackle that obstacle.


Kagehiro wrote:
I think they've got the right idea/philosophy going into this -- start with the core of the game and provide options to build on it. In that sense, I would count on the spell systems of old (that is to say, Vancian in its purest D&D form) being the standard.

I think that they have an opportunity to develop a system with no-magic, as the default standard, but ready to receive a plug-in magic system, Vancian or otherwise, as a separate addendum to the game (perhaps even in a separate book?)

If the blueprints works with no-magic, then it would be much easier to patch a magic system (including spellcasting classes and corrective additions to martial classes, if need be) than to work with a default system (Vancian or otherwise) and retroactively modify the degree of Vancian-ness of magic.

What I'm not sure is whether they are aiming to have a 1st-ed Vancian-style player and a 4e power-style player at the same table in the same game.

'findel


True enough, but everything I've heard Monte Cook say indicates they're trying to "distill" everything back down to "the essence of D&D." That means Vancian at the core (and he has alluded to as much) of the system. The thing to remember, I think, is that they're not trying to make an entirely new modular game that will accommodate entirely new rules and whatnot; they're trying to make D&D in its purest, simplest form, and provide players the building blocks to emulate other edition playstyles.

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