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Spells as Items or Spells as Abilities


  

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  1. 1. What approach would you prefer to magic?

    • Spells as Items
      26
    • Spells as Abilities
      62


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Hello again! Sorry for making yet another thread about magic, but I thought this deserved to be discussed separately from cooldowns and even Vancian magic.

 

Well, in another thread, someone commented that he thought the reason he disliked vancian magic is that it looks like an instant respecification of the character. Like, you have a wizard decked with only fire spells, like fireball, flame shield, summon elemental, and what not. Suddenly the next day, he could memorize completely different things, like clairvoyance, invisibility, phantasmal force, teleport and what not. If you have a system like, say, Diablo, or DA, or even like Arcanum, this kind of thing really wouldn't fly. If you compare the spells to other abilities, like they are in those, that approach really wouldn't fly.

 

But spells in D&D aren't abilities. In setting, the ability to create a frozen icicle that you can hurl toward your enemy doesn't come from understanding "the true nature of ice and cold". Spells aren't like a field of science, like combinatorics or thermodynamics. Spells are much more discrete sets of knowledge. They are, in D&D, like a specific theorem or equation. The reason changing your spells every day isn't like a respec is the same reason a warrior exchanging his sword for a mace isn't a respec. Spells, in those games, are like items, not specific abilities.

 

And I really like them for it. One of the really cool things about spells as items is that they allow you to go wild in designing them. Consider, for example, a spell that summons a dead shield maiden to yourself. These maidens all have specific names, stories, and all were buried in the same church, which the spell's creator desecrated and bound to him through this spell. Every time you summon one of the maidens, she is freed, to the point that the spell will eventually run out! Heck, if an enemy summons one of them, he will "spend" one of the shield maidens. If someone (maybe the party itself, maybe one of its enemies, triggered by a player action) was to cleanse the temple, the spell would fail completely.

 

Now, about this example, actually taken from the DCC RPG (a P&P game). I really love this kind of approach, the one where spells are something you can interact with, instead of simply a combat option or a piece in an adventure game like puzzle. But this makes much more sense in a game that has spells as items. If you spent your sole skill point you got when you leveled up to get this ability, and suddenly it runs out, or is gone, or is modified because one of the shield maidens was possessed by a devil, it would be extremely unfair. At the very least, it would either lead to the more predictable abilities to be more worthwhile or to the unpredictable ones to be really unbalanced to compensate.

 

Now, I don't want to sound biased. Obviously, I much prefer spells as items, but I expect some of you disagree. I understand most people who prefer spells as abilities like them because the game is more balanced, than when you simply let casters have lots of cool toys that can run amok. I don't care much about exact balancing however. I think having the game run amok is part of the fun. Having it be unfairly hard or easy sometimes, based on your decisions, is part of what makes it worth playing. But maybe there are things I am not seeing here, so I would love if people who disagree with me would chime in and explain their position. Of course, those who agree are also welcome to comment.

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That's the nice thing about the memorization system. A mage, like a warrior, preparing himself for a specific scenario.

Doesn't work much in computer games that you have no way to get info on your next location.

To make it work in computer games, some adjustments are needed.

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That's the nice thing about the memorization system. A mage, like a warrior, preparing himself for a specific scenario.

Doesn't work much in computer games that you have no way to get info on your next location.

To make it work in computer games, some adjustments are needed.

 

Sure! People were talking about this exactly in another thread.One of the vital points of games like D&D is that you need to be able to gather information about where you are going, what kind of challenge you should expect, etc. Old game modules were full of rumors, hand outs and what nots exactly for this reason. I really like doing detective work in games, so this is a good thing, in my view.

 

Given my preference for the various reagent-based magic systems used by the Ultima series, I'm a big fan of spells as items.

 

The different systems in Ultima 8 were pretty cool too! Would love to see PE use something like sorcery or necromancy from that game. Though the comment I heard about separating combat and non combat skills doesn't lent itself very well for this kind of magic either...

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Personally I liked how spell were implemented in the Infinity Engine games.

I never played any true P'n'P Dungeon & Dragons, but I read almost every single DragonLance book that has been published in my country and I absolutely love how mages work in that setting. Up to needing the required reagents for spells and I wouldn't mind having such a mechanic in a game.

Edited by DocDoomII
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  • 3 weeks later...

I find that the plethora of spells in D&D based cRPGs really adds to the complexity of the combat. For example, the tech/bionic powers in ME were really streamlined and led to a really formulaic style of play. Whereas in Baldur's Gate, one's spell selection could mean the difference between a fight being ridiculously difficult or merely challenging, or perhaps even easy. I voted spells as items to maintain that plethora.

 

However, it would be awesome to see a variety of spell-based classes that use magic differently. Eg: A scholarary wizard that uses the D&D spell system and an intuitive sorcerer who casts spells like abilities, more similar to the Arcanum or Dragon Age system where more powerful magic is an extension of already known skills rather than learning discrete spells from scrolls.

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The (old) D&D approach of memorizing spells was not so much not cool, but it was easily abusable. In a P&P rpg, you have a basic "Ironman" scenario - something happens and thats it, you cannot (normally) change that. You come into a fight and have no combat spells prepared? Too bad...

But in addition to not having the correct spells prepared, you also only had a limited amount of them per day - and this was even more problematic, as you could run out and basically become dead weight during any additional fight for that day.

In a computer game, many of these problems can be worked around.

Not having the correct spell? Load your autosave, change spells, rest and done. Run out of cool spells for the day? rest and your good.

 

I personally find this design to be bad, because it encourages players to abuse the system and balancing is really really difficult as a mage who has all spells at the beginning of an encounter (or the correct ones) has a great advantage to any mage who may have already spent good spells or not having prepared them.

 

So from a design standpoint, we need a system that gives a mage the possibility to be "strong enough" at the beginning of an encounter, without having to rest every 5 minutes, but should force him to choose which style of magic he wants to use.

 

I guess a "spells as abilites" route would be better, but maybe give the mage the possibility to change his abilites at a point, maybe in town for a price or something - so you have the chance to change spells you dont like later down the line. (or go the D&D 4e route, where you can "retrain" some single aspect of your char, every time you level up)

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in my opinion the AD&D magic system is oudated in regard of all the rpg of these years

ok obsidian would like to retun on an old school, but if that means go back to the AD&D first version, i'ts useless

i think that the way that AD&D use magic is not fit for a video game, it's breaking the rythm of the game because of the multiple rest for the mages

 

your mage got 8 slot of magic (so a 8 or 10 level mage), an average combat use 2 or 3.... that means you MUST rest if you dont want to die after just 2 fights, especially if your party is full of mage or priest

 

so i prefer an ability system, but a with a mandatory on wich magic you wich to use, like enchantment or fire, with the possibility to have a new one all x level

 

our mage got a line of spell and some point to spent in at each level

but i would like if, like in arcanum (cf the post), we have the possibilty to learn new spells buy from a merchant

 

(sorry for my poor english ^^)

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I have never liked the pre-4e D&D spell system, because it makes the mage useless once he's used his spells of the day. At low levels, it means after a couple of fights, after which the whole party has to rest in order for the mage and cleric to refresh their spells. A couple of fights a day is okay with PnP RPGs (where the GM generally designs dungeons so that the needed rest happens naturally), but in a video game where time is a lot more compressed, it just feels unnatural to rest all the time between fights.

So yes, I prefer mages to have spells as abilities, with a mana or fatigue system, or maybe cooldowns in order to limit the number of powerful spells cast in a fight. I prefer the system for PnP, and even more for videogames, since you end up fighting a lot more.

 

Then how you can learn new spells depends on the setting ; I personnally liked the system in Skyrim with schools that give you access to new spells when you're good enough in them, but that you still need to learn in a book. This allows for a variety of spells, and still makes each mage unique in his strengths.

Edited by Ashurachan
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I agree that the whole process of preparing your spells for a certain scenario is pretty fun and challenging and I hope what the designers have in mind is a hybrid of both systems: Preparation of spells, but with cooldown instead of consumption.

Although I somehow liked that in the infinity games mages, priests and the likes become less powerful during a fight, you can get a similar tactical challenge if you set the cooldown timers high enough.

nec temere, nec timide

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I agree that the whole process of preparing your spells for a certain scenario is pretty fun and challenging and I hope what the designers have in mind is a hybrid of both systems: Preparation of spells, but with cooldown instead of consumption.

Although I somehow liked that in the infinity games mages, priests and the likes become less powerful during a fight, you can get a similar tactical challenge if you set the cooldown timers high enough.

 

but the possibility to reload takes the challenge out of this I feel, as you can just reload if you fail a fight, change up your spells and all is fine..

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...

 

but the possibility to reload takes the challenge out of this I feel, as you can just reload if you fail a fight, change up your spells and all is fine..

You can do that anyway, and if not you've hit a dead end in the game and that's bad for the player and the designers! Ability systems bear the hazard of miss-skilling. Next everyone wants the possibility of reskilling, and what's that again? By the way, wasn't there a stretch-goal with some kind of ironman mode?! I bet there will be a game mode with no reloading allowed :thumbsup:

nec temere, nec timide

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...

 

but the possibility to reload takes the challenge out of this I feel, as you can just reload if you fail a fight, change up your spells and all is fine..

You can do that anyway, and if not you've hit a dead end in the game and that's bad for the player and the designers! Ability systems bear the hazard of miss-skilling. Next everyone wants the possibility of reskilling, and what's that again? By the way, wasn't there a stretch-goal with some kind of ironman mode?! I bet there will be a game mode with no reloading allowed :thumbsup:

 

yeah I know about ironman mode - and that may be a whole magnitude more difficult than a normal game. I remember saving and reloading quite often in BG/BG2 when fights went badly, at least for the earlier playthroughs of mine. Later, I tried to play the game a little more realistic, by not buffing myself up before combat even starts, and such stuff, but this was all self imposed.

 

I personally do not think that a dead end scenario is possible in such a game, or at least the designers should do everything they can to prevent that. Basically, do not force players into situations they may get stuck in, without a way back out. I also think the design should be in that way, that a character skill should not be important to your progress in the story, meaning that a mage may choose between invisibility and fireball, but neither of these spells should ever be required to have to overcome a challange. It may be difficult to balance, sure, but that would be the preferred design (in my opinion of course)

Edited by ComMcNeil
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Spam the same spells the entire game or have a big variety to choose from to cast. What would I prefer... Difficult question. Not.

Of course IE's old system. I suppose an infinite magic missile mage would be fun for some time, but the entire game. Rather not. And no "your magic missile turns better. Because you upgrade it it gains +1 damage. Super!" isn't making up for it.

 

It sounds here like people use mages to spend everything they got in a single fight, and then need to rest and be useless. For me, not so much. All my mages got powerfull slings, and generally they did the most damage with them. Not using spells untill things got really hazy. This didn't require too much resting at all...

^

 

 

I agree that that is such a stupid idiotic pathetic garbage hateful retarded scumbag evil satanic nazi like term ever created. At least top 5.

 

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Spam the same spells the entire game or have a big variety to choose from to cast. What would I prefer... Difficult question. Not.

Of course IE's old system. I suppose an infinite magic missile mage would be fun for some time, but the entire game. Rather not. And no "your magic missile turns better. Because you upgrade it it gains +1 damage. Super!" isn't making up for it.

 

It sounds here like people use mages to spend everything they got in a single fight, and then need to rest and be useless. For me, not so much. All my mages got powerfull slings, and generally they did the most damage with them. Not using spells untill things got really hazy. This didn't require too much resting at all...

 

but it is a counter intuitive system, and a very arbitrary one as well. Especially at low levels, AD&D was really crappy for mages...either you spent one of your 3 magic missle uses (if you even have 3x magic missle and not 1 identify and 1 shield or sth), or you basically stand around and wait that your fighters can deal with the enemies. It surely got better with higher level, but starting with a mage, alone was not that easy in comparison to a fighter.

 

Also, you did not have "a big variety to choose from to cast", you had a big variety to prepare. Prepared a spell that turns out useless for some reason and you could stick with it and lose a spell slot, our you could reload and take something more useful...

Edited by ComMcNeil
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Spam the same spells the entire game or have a big variety to choose from to cast. What would I prefer... Difficult question. Not.

Of course IE's old system. I suppose an infinite magic missile mage would be fun for some time, but the entire game. Rather not. And no "your magic missile turns better. Because you upgrade it it gains +1 damage. Super!" isn't making up for it.

 

It sounds here like people use mages to spend everything they got in a single fight, and then need to rest and be useless. For me, not so much. All my mages got powerfull slings, and generally they did the most damage with them. Not using spells untill things got really hazy. This didn't require too much resting at all...

 

It's not because spells are an ability, rather than a resource, that you use the same spells all the time. The way I see it, you would be limited in the spells you cast not by the spells you memorized in the morning, but by a resource used to cast the spells (mana, fatigue, whatever). You could still learn new spells with scrolls and books, maybe they'd have a level requirement, or a skill requirement if there's a skill system (then there could be just one skill for magic, several skills each representing a specific magic school). You would be able to more or less spam Magic Missile, instead of relying on that sling (the D&D4e wizard has at-will spells that aren't cantrips, and Magic Missile is one of them ; it doesn't scale up with level as much as the old MM did, but it's better than a sling) and maybe throw a bigger spell or two if it's a tough fight. And then after the fight, after resting a bit, you would still be able to cast a couple of utility spells in order to help the party with that door the thief can't open, without having to rest first.

 

What I know for sure is that while playing a wizard in BG/BG2, I ended up always memorizing the same damage and control spells all the time, because I spent most of my time fighting things in dungeons. It doesn't matter how many spells you know, if the moment it would be nice to use them, you don't have them ready. I prefered sorcerers to wizards in d&d3 just for that reason : the sorcerer did not know many spells, but he had them ready all, all the time, so in the end you ended up knowing one or two combat spell for each level, and the rest could be utilities that you had at hand the moment you happened needing them.

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