[4E] Musings on Magic Pt. 2

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PeterLind
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[4E] Musings on Magic Pt. 2

Post by PeterLind » Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:39 am

MUSINGS ON TAL MAGIC 2

I have been exploring how it may be possible to harmonize the Talislanta magic system across its several editions. In the earlier thread, I have taken the discussion up to 3rd edition, and ended it with some additional material, such a new spells, to supplement the earlier editions. As I have been looking at 4th edition, I have to admit that there are some rules changes that make my proposal a challenge, at the very least. I suggest that you check out the Talislanta rule books from 1st to 3rd editions, and then compare with 4th edition, and you will see what I mean.

But then a thought struck me. The rules have changed, but Talislanta, the setting, has not. If you read some of SMS’s writings, you will see that Talislanta has always mainly been about the setting, and less about the rules. What I began to see is that the magic system, with its rules and spells, are really a part of the Talislanta setting itself. So then I thought, how can the spell system become even more embedded, even more hard-wired, into the Talislanta milieu?

What if each spell in Talislanta was treated as something rare, unique, special, like a magical artifact? The only difference is that a spell is a virtual kind of arcane technology, rather than a physical item. What it each spell was given more description, more commentary, more historical background, on how it fits into Talislanta? What is its origin? Did it come from the Archaen Codex or was it a later invention by a powerful sorcerer? What ancient tome is it found in? Where is the spell usually taught?

What if there was a definite number of known spells? What I mean is, what if, for example, there are only 100 known spells in Talislanta? If so, which ones are commonly known and which ones are lost, or kept hidden? By the way, I think that this concept very much fits in with the milieu and feel of the setting, with all of the arcane knowledge that was lost in the Great Disaster. Consider this quote from the Grand Master himself, Jack Vance, in Turjan of Miir, of the Dying Earth:

“In ages gone,” the Sage had said, his eyes fixed on a low star, “a thousand spells were known to sorcery and the wizards effected their wills. Today, as Earth dies, a hundred spells remain to man’s knowledge, and these have come to us through the ancient books . . . But there is one called Pandelume, who knows all the spells, all the incantations, cantraps, runes, and thaumaturgies that have ever wrenched and molded space . . . “

So, what if a definite list of spells could be developed for Talislanta magic in 4E? In this way, you could tell your players. In Talislanta, there are only xx known spells. You were taught these few spells while apprenticing at the Lyceum Arcanum. . . etc. What do you think?

jack of tears
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Re: [4E] Musings on Magic Pt. 2

Post by jack of tears » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:20 am

Something I've been toying with for a long while was having magic users start with X number of spells written up at character creation. As they progressed in "level" (buy higher skill levels in their magic), rather than having them learn new spells they instead learn how to empower their existing spells in new ways. Thus a Fire Bolt might later be improved to allow multiple bolts, or those bolts might be empowered to light things they strike on fire, or do knockback, or chain from foe to foe, transform into a cone instead of a bolt, cause debilitating pain, etc and so forth. Effectively every spell is unique to the person who develops it and as they grow in power so do the handful of spells they command. This makes every spell book a treasure trove and the single most important possession of the mage for a very good reason - if they lose the book they lose years worth of study and effort.

This results in a similar idea of "Spell as magical artifact" while insuring that not every mage is stuck using the same handful of spells. (the D&D syndrome, where you could usually guess which spells a mage would have by his level) It also makes another sorcerer's spell book a thing to covet, as stealing spells from another accomplished mage is the only real way of expanding your repertoire. Considering most sorcerers also pen their notes in personalized ciphers to prevent anyone else from reading them, the study of magic is slow to progress. (I could imagine the school in Cymril having dozens of books, of which they've only managed to translate a few, the remaining left as ongoing puzzles for the school's scholarly code breakers) Certainly this would help create that feel of misery wizards, living in constant paranoia of someone trying to get their secrets.

You could also mix this with your idea. Say there are only 20 commonly known spells, taught in magic colleges and passed on from master to apprentice. These spells are often the building blocks from which the more personalized and potent magics are built.

The "Dying Earth" rpg does Vancian Magic very well, I might recommend taking at look at that for ideas.

PeterLind
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Re: [4E] Musings on Magic Pt. 2

Post by PeterLind » Mon Mar 05, 2012 12:12 am

Excellent ideas here on how a magician may develop spells already known in new ways. I have not checked the Dying Earth rpg yet though, but hope some day to take a look.

Along the lines of a list of common, basic spells, I have worked on converting the basic spells of 1e/2e to roughly the 4e spell format. The file was uploaded to the Talislanta yahoo group files section under house rules, with the title "Old Magic for New Magicians."

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Big Mac
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Re: [4E] Musings on Magic Pt. 2

Post by Big Mac » Mon Jun 04, 2012 12:10 pm

jack of tears wrote:Something I've been toying with for a long while was having magic users start with X number of spells written up at character creation. As they progressed in "level" (buy higher skill levels in their magic), rather than having them learn new spells they instead learn how to empower their existing spells in new ways. Thus a Fire Bolt might later be improved to allow multiple bolts, or those bolts might be empowered to light things they strike on fire, or do knockback, or chain from foe to foe, transform into a cone instead of a bolt, cause debilitating pain, etc and so forth. Effectively every spell is unique to the person who develops it and as they grow in power so do the handful of spells they command. This makes every spell book a treasure trove and the single most important possession of the mage for a very good reason - if they lose the book they lose years worth of study and effort.
D&D actually has that hard limit on spells known at character creation. And the 3e version of D&D has Metamagic Feats that modify spells. Maybe if those things had the focus put on them, they could make d20 Tal work a bit better on the magic front.

I spoke to a Forgotten Realms fan once and he said that one of the flaws of D&D's magic was that the players just assumed they could access every spell. He said that their GM waved a copy of the (3e D&D) Magic of Faerun in front of them and said: "See this? This is a book that has some spells that your PCs might learn at some point, if you are lucky."

I think that if spells were held back, in a number of rules systems, they could become more special.
jack of tears wrote:This results in a similar idea of "Spell as magical artifact" while insuring that not every mage is stuck using the same handful of spells. (the D&D syndrome, where you could usually guess which spells a mage would have by his level) It also makes another sorcerer's spell book a thing to covet, as stealing spells from another accomplished mage is the only real way of expanding your repertoire. Considering most sorcerers also pen their notes in personalized ciphers to prevent anyone else from reading them, the study of magic is slow to progress. (I could imagine the school in Cymril having dozens of books, of which they've only managed to translate a few, the remaining left as ongoing puzzles for the school's scholarly code breakers) Certainly this would help create that feel of misery wizards, living in constant paranoia of someone trying to get their secrets.
I think another flaw of D&D is that GMs often don't make PCs roll to attempt to learn spells. Overlooking that rule makes it too easy for PCs to get spells. If you enforce it and a PC has a bad roll, they have to learn different spells instead. And that creates more randomisation.

The idea of spellcasters stealing each other's spellbooks is probably something that could work for a number of campaign settings.

I think that sorcerers could make backup copies of books, and hide them someplace, so that they have another copy if they get robbed. But then that would create a second book that could also get stolen. I suppose they need to decide if they want to minimise the risk of loosing the spell or minimise the risk of another spellcaster learning the spell.
jack of tears wrote:You could also mix this with your idea. Say there are only 20 commonly known spells, taught in magic colleges and passed on from master to apprentice. These spells are often the building blocks from which the more personalized and potent magics are built.
I know that D&D has "spell chains" where one spell is said to be like another spell, but with the following differences. Maybe the 1e-3e Tal magic systems could work with 20 spell chains, that each "improve" on a single spell.
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