Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Conversion Machine: D20 SRD spells to Talislanta 4th/5th ed Part I

So, for 'funsies' I decided to start converting the D20 SRD spells to the Talislanta 4th/5th edition mix that I use.  'Mix' because I prefer the modes from 4th edition but some of the changes that appeared in 5th edition.

Using the magic system from 4th edition has always been fun for me, I absolutely loved the players that would come to the table wanting to play a caster, but not wanting to take the time and energy to create their beginning spells.

This would allow me to not only have fun creating the spells, but also kind of show them what the magic in Talislanta was like.  From the minor skin and hair enhancements to pillars of flame that destroyed just about anything it touched, magic in Talislanta runs the full spectrum.

At times, using the Omni/Talislanta system for more 'standard' fantasy games, the thrill of watching a player look through their brand new, custom spellbook, carefully reading what I have handed them, to hear them say, "You, sir, are a sick and twisted man."  (This was stated by a player who had taken BattleMagic while looking through his healing spells.  New meaning to "A pox on you and your people!")

This always did seem to put the game on hold, for at least one session, while I crept back into my hole to do my dirty work, and some players just like to have a list of spells to choose from.

This brought me back to memories of searching through the AD&D 1st and 2nd edition spell lists, and, always being a sucker for punishment, I decided to grab the D20 SRD and do some converting.  Most of my players are familiar with DnD in some manner, so they would get a kick out of it.

So, a quick google search and download later, I had the spell descriptions from A-B and my Talislanta modes custom cheat sheet opened in my trusty word processor.

There are some caveats that you have to acknowledge when doing any conversions, especially when you want to stay true to the feel of one game, while using the system from another.

For example, modern magic in the Talislanta RPG system has the following rules:
  1. Cannot return the dead to life
  2. Cannot create life
  3. Cannot affect time or causality
  4. Cannot control two Powers at once (Fire and Earth, for example)
  5. Cannot cast more than one spell at a time or blend two spells together (ie, use two modes at once)
Note that these rules do not apply to ancient magic.

Okay, so I already know there are going to be some issues with spells from DnD, no problem, all of the above can be accomplished using Sorcery from the Codex Magicus.

But then we get into the choices that MUST be made.  While Talislantan magic is very personal and a creative endeavor, magic from DnD is not.  This is because of the history from the two games, not the world history, exactly, the real world history of the games.

DnD sprung from miniature battles, massive scale battlefields and siege rules where wizards stood atop battlements and hammered the opposing army with magical artillery.

Talislanta came from table-top RPGs, where character development and a search for the unknown and history were active at the same time as a heavy interest in the post-apocalyptic genre.  Games such as Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Earthdawn and Gamma World were all popular.  In a way, Talislanta helped to usher in 'Fantasy-Punk' if you wish to use that term.

One of the big differences that these two paths differ on, is range.

Standard range for an Attack mode spell in Talislanta is 50ft+10ft per additional boost, in DnD the range is much further.  The quintessential 'Magic Missle' spell, for example, is 100ft+10ft per level.

Additionally, targeting is different.  In Talislanta, that magic bolt effects only a single target while in DnD you gain an additional missile every two levels (max of 5) that can be split between up to 5 targets.  Also, the Talislanta bolt requires a roll to hit, the magic missile is unerring and always strikes its target.

As I said before, a lot of these differences can be ignored, or you can use the Sorcery rules from the Codex Magicus to get a more exact conversion.  But how does that effect the usefulness of the spells themselves?

Let us look at Magic Missile.

First, from the D20 SRD:
Magic Missile
Evocation [Force]
Level: Sor/Wiz 1
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Targets: Up to five creatures, no two of which can be more than 15 ft. apart
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: Yes
A missile of magical energy darts forth from your fingertip and strikes its target, dealing 1d4+1 points of force damage.
The missile strikes unerringly, even if the target is in melee combat or has less than total cover or total concealment. Specific parts of a creature can’t be singled out. Inanimate objects are not damaged by the spell.
For every two caster levels beyond 1st, you gain an additional missile—two at 3rd level, three at 5th, four at 7th, and the maximum of five missiles at 9th level or higher. If you shoot multiple missiles, you can have them strike a single creature or several creatures. A single missile can strike only one creature. You must designate targets before you check for spell resistance or roll damage.

This is a 'Level 1' spell for Sorcerers and Wizards, an 'easy' incantation that almost every single player I have met has in their wizards repertoire.

Now let us look at the Talislanta version using the basic rules for magic:
Magic Missile
Attack Mode
Level: 1+
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Medium (50 ft. + 10 ft./additional -1 to casting roll)
Targets: 1
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Evade (yes, in Talislanta, you can dodge offensive magic)
Spell Resistance: Yes (lets face it, resistance to magic is pretty universal)
Base Difficulty:  -1 per Spell Level
A missile of magical energy darts forth from your fingertip and strikes its target, dealing 1 point of force damage per Spell Level.

As you can see, the range is much lower, and you have a chance to miss.  Also missing is the ability to target multiple creatures.  Another realization is that while the DnD Magic Missile tops out at 5d4+5, there is no upper limit to Spell Levels in Talislanta, although I would not suggest casting a spell more than 1.5x your total bonus, that can get nasty.

Now let us look at the Talislanta version using a direct conversion:
Magic Missile
Attack Mode
Level:  3+
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Targets: Up to five creatures, no two of which can be more than 15 ft. apart
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: Yes
Base Difficulty:  -33 (Qualitas, unerring -15; Qualitas, additional missile per additional 2 levels max 5, -10; minimum range -5, Spell Level 3 base)
A missile of magical energy darts forth from your fingertip and strikes its target, dealing 3 (avg 1d4+1) points of force damage.
The missile strikes unerringly, even if the target is in melee combat or has less than total cover or total concealment. Specific parts of a creature can’t be singled out. Inanimate objects are not damaged by the spell.
For every three spell levels beyond 3rd, you gain an additional missile—two at 6rd level, three at 9th, four at 12th, and the maximum of five missiles at 15th level or higher. If you shoot multiple missiles, you can have them strike a single creature or several creatures. A single missile can strike only one creature. You must designate targets before you check for spell resistance or roll damage.

YIKES!  This simple, basic spell just became a Master-Level...bee sting.

Now, to put this in perspective we will look at what a beginning Talislantan Wizard has for his skill.  I am choosing the Cymrillian Magician from the 4th Edition Talislanta book to use as an example.  The reason for this choice is simple, they are supposed to be the absolute best at spellslinging.

With Magic Rating of +6, and beginning mode at +3 for a total of +9, that shows great potential.  So, to cast even the most basic of the direct conversion, our awesome Magician, best you can get for a starting character, will roll d20-24 (d20+MR+Mode-Difficulty).  Ouch!  He just got fried, for a whopping 3-6 points of damage depending on house rules for Magical Mishaps (or, he just had the party teleported to some random dimension...).

Now, this does not mean that our Magic Missle cannot be done, it just shows how different the two schools of thought are, and pretty major genre differences.

Okay, so this leaves us with some serious thinking to do.  Not to worry, I will show another way to work this next time, and it will actually make the spell more powerful, and easier for our Cymrillian friend.

Until next time, enjoy your game.