Saturday, June 7, 2014

GM Notes: Talislantan/Omni Magic

House Rules are always a GMs favorite tool.  Today I am going to talk about the house rules for the Talislanta setting and Omni system that are going through my head.

 Magic is such a large part of any fantasy genre game that special attention must be paid.
First, I use a combination of 4th and 5th edition Talislanta.  I use the modes from 4th edition, with the changes from 5th edition for the calculation of spell levels, range, etc.

Per my standard house rules, characters receive a number of spells in each mode equal to their Mode Rating, or Skill Level in that mode, plus an additional number of spells equal to their Magic Rating.  The bonus spells from Magic Rating do not have to be in any particular mode.

For example, Azadim, a Cymrillian Magician has the following modes: Attack +3, Influence +2, Defend +3, Alter +4, Heal +3 and a Magic Rating of +5.  This gives him a starting spell list consisting of 3 Attack, 2 Influence, 3 Defend, 4 Alter and 3 Heal spells.  The bonus starting spells he receives from his +5 Magic Rating he decides to put 2 into Alter (total 6 Alter), 2 into Attack (total 5 Attack), 1 into Heal (total 4) and the last into Influence (total 3).  Altogether, this gives our intrepid adventurer 18 spells in his repertoire.  Not too bad, really.

Now, I have to make a choice.  Flavor text describes Talislantans as always being on the lookout for new spells, especially Archean (ancient) spells that do not fit into the modern magic system.  Another section talks about how Talislantans have hundreds of spells.  Even another section describes players coming up with spells on the fly.

Yeah...not so much my cuppatea.

I have already limited the number of spells each character has, now its time to put them to work.  If we look at magicians in our standard way, and realize that this is a post-apocalyptic setting, then it would not be too far of a stretch to say that magicians do not spill all their secrets.

So...the choice is Dynamic vs Static spells, or Dynamic vs Semi-Static spells.

Common practice dictates that anything that is bound to Spell Level is scalable.  So for the Heal mode, you would only need 4 spells:  Heal, Harm, Cause Disease and Cure Disease.

And to make matters worse, with scaling involved, you would only need a few of each mode.

Attack: 3 spells; Bolt, Blast and Melee
Alter: 4 spells; Increase Attribute, Decrease Attribute, Increase Skill, Decrease Skill
Conjure: 2 spells; Conjure by Mass, Conjure by Area
Defend: 4 spells; Aura, Flat Barrier, Cone/Cylinder Barrier, Dome/Sphere Barrier
Heal: 4 spells; Heal, Harm, Cause Disease, Cure Disease
Illusion: 1 spell
Influence: 1 spell
Move: 1 spell
Reveal: 3 spells; Reveal, Scrying, Conceal
Summon: 2 spells; Summon, Banish
Transform: 5 spells; Trivial Change, Minor Change, Major Change, Radical Change, Complete Change
Ward: 2 spells; Ward, Hex

But, if all the spells are the same, and there are only 32 distinct spells...what about all that searching and secrecy that wizards are known for?

How about if only the Spell Level effects are scalable and everything else is static, like range or number of targets?  Okay, that helps a little, but still leaves us with basically 3 attack spells and 4 heal spells.  Still seems rather weenie in the grand scheme of things.

So let us take a look at the flip side, NOTHING is dynamic and the spell creation system is just that, a way to create static effect spells.  Now we have something to go on: a bunch of not-too-happy players.

Well, we never want unhappy players.

There is a middle ground.  Scalable effects, those that effect Spell Level only, can only be scaled up or down a number of levels equal to the Magic Rating of the caster from the base spell.

Hey!  Now that sounds like a good plan!  The GM is happy because he sees the wizard PCs scrambling for new spells and the PCs are happy because they get to do some cool scaling effects.

I have not playtested this yet, or mentioned it to my players, but you can expect me to test it before too long.

(This has been playtested since I originally wrote it, the happy medium was found: players get all basic skills in each mode they have; Spell Level is scale-able, everything else is static)

Enjoy the game!