D&D General It's all Jack Vance's fault

niklinna

Legend
"E, I, and Y make the G sound 'juh""

My 7 year old learned that in 1st grade. Kinda like the "I before E except after C" thing. If e, i, or y follows a g (as long as it's not the first letter in a word), then it's a "juh" sound, like "agent" or "egypt" or "digit".
Ah yeah I missed that! Thanks for the highlight.
 

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Stormonu

Legend
Never read Vance's works.

If it were done from scratch now, I think I'd prefer a system where the spell has a fixed DC to cast*, getting more difficult with each repeat casting (ranging from +0 to +10 per spell cast - akin to the spell's level to the difficulty each time). You could increase the DC to make the spell more potent, last long or such. Spellcasters would have a small bundle of spells they know, probably along the current "known spells" they get.

* casting it on an opponent would be something like DC 10 + target's defense attribute + spell difficulty.
 

Aside! How do you pronounce "Cugel". I can think of three ways off the top of my head:
  • Rhymes with "cudgel".
  • More like "coo-gel", with a soft 'g' like in "gelatin".
  • Or like "coo-ghel", with a hard 'g' like in "gelding". (This is how I pronounce it.)
I was under the impression that it was supposed to be pronounced "cuh-ghel", with a hard "g", but I don't know why I'm under that impression.

In my head he's "Cudgel", because that's the name that fit his personality (and I got through most of the first book before I noticed the spelling). He just sort of blunders about casually ruining people's lives and occasionally overthrowing a society or two in pursuit of his own short-term needs. Seems like the human embodiement of a cudgel to me. Maybe he's not the most obviously cudgel-like person (he is Cugel the Clever after all), but when he comes to your town expect things to get smashed.
 
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One of the things I really liked about Vance's system was specificity. I would have magic-user players tell me, "I'm memorizing three burning hands today." And I'd say, "Okay, Jabberwocky's a short poem. I want you to memorize Jabberwocky before next session, but I want you to memorize it twice, in different parts of your brain." I got the point across. It encouraged caster players to find similar spells with slightly different effects that were nevertheless different spells. It only works if the GM actively makes sure there are alternatives that can be found.
The obvious retort would be "If I memorize Jabberwocky, and then recite it, it doesn't disappear from my memory. In fact, the act of reciting it will if anything solidify it in my memory, making it easier to remember and recite again without having to study it again. So it seems this is not analagous to this spell-casting system."
 

Cordwainer Fish

Imp. Int. Scout Svc. (Dishon. Ret.)
The obvious retort would be "If I memorize Jabberwocky, and then recite it, it doesn't disappear from my memory. In fact, the act of reciting it will if anything solidify it in my memory, making it easier to remember and recite again without having to study it again. So it seems this is not analagous to this spell-casting system."
I dunno, a lot of what I learned in high school vanished from my brain right after the final exam.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Never read Vance's works.

If it were done from scratch now, I think I'd prefer a system where the spell has a fixed DC to cast*, getting more difficult with each repeat casting (ranging from +0 to +10 per spell cast - akin to the spell's level to the difficulty each time). You could increase the DC to make the spell more potent, last long or such. Spellcasters would have a small bundle of spells they know, probably along the current "known spells" they get.

* casting it on an opponent would be something like DC 10 + target's defense attribute + spell difficulty.

I suspect making how many times you can cast dependent on being lucky with dice would not go over well with a lot of people.
 

Vancian magic has--not with Mr. Vance's fault, but with others'--become the reductive "this is what magic should be." Not just spells--magic, practically EVERYTHING supernatural, is forced into this one, single, narrow, limiting space.

It's quite frustrating to me, and a big part of why I prefer classes to avoid using spell slots and instead go for other types of stuff. I'm a big fan of "rune word" magic, for example, where you can assemble spells via the right runes in the right sequence. Spell slots are a horrible application of that system, yet it SHOULD be something quite doable in D&D.
 

niklinna

Legend
Never read Vance's works.

If it were done from scratch now, I think I'd prefer a system where the spell has a fixed DC to cast*, getting more difficult with each repeat casting (ranging from +0 to +10 per spell cast - akin to the spell's level to the difficulty each time). You could increase the DC to make the spell more potent, last long or such. Spellcasters would have a small bundle of spells they know, probably along the current "known spells" they get.

* casting it on an opponent would be something like DC 10 + target's defense attribute + spell difficulty.
In Torg Eternity, you have to roll the applicable magic skill (alteration, apportation, conjuration, divination) for the spell to work at all. The DC-equivalent is either fixed at a certain number, or vs. some defense attribute of the target. The DC doesn't go up with each casting, but you accumulate a -2 penalty for each spell you are maintaining with concentration (there isn't strict limit of 1). Spellcasters generally know a handful of spells at best, usually 3–5, although it's possible to accumulate more, very slowly. (Spellcasters from the high-magic cosm, particularly elves, can get quite a bit more.)

So, you can spam spells like cantrips, but it's never certain, and if you roll low enough in a cosm with low magic, your character can even "disconnect" from their own world's magical laws and lose the ability to cast until they manage to reconnect.

Torg is a funky game.
 

Jack Vance's magic is basically Q from James Bond. Near the start of the story the protagonist goes to Q/The Library and picks up a couple of spells/gadgets that will do useful and unusual things during the story then mostly blow up or get wrecked/erase themselves from memory. Flexible plot coupons that don't seem like ass-pulls because they were set up at the start.

Of course the greatest Vancian archmages could memorise at most six spells at once. In 1e that's a fifth level wizard - and by 3.0 it was a third level specialist wizard with Int 14. I don't think Vance is to blame for that.
 




'weird' is the only exception I can think of off the top of my head...
Zeitgeist is either a feisty adventure path in more than eight parts with a seismic heist where multiple species steal fancier specie and has a clear leitmotif but as far as I recall neither a kaleidoscope or a rottweiler. When playing I can drink out of a stein at leisure working out prescient science policies for society.

The "i before e except after c" rule is complete rubbish.
 

In my OSE game, I've been toying with a Vancian magician class, who can memorize up to their level in spells per day. There are two "levels" of spell: simple and formidable; formidable spells take up "1.5 levels" for memorization (this is also supported by Mazirian, who can memorize "six spells, or four of the most formidable.")
By two "levels" of spell you mean two categories, right? Since later on you explain spells do not have levels. So a wish is 1.5 levels of memorisation while an affect normal fires is 1 level.
Perhaps there are other requirements necessary to cast certain spells - INT score, class level...etc

Since OSE only goes to level 14 (and that's rare) it's not too outrageously spell-heavy. And spells have no level, but that doesn't mean they're all "equal in power." The Charm of Untiring Nourishment can keep you from needing to eat or breathe, but only until you eat or breathe yourself (or, you know, you go to sleep.) Meanwhile, the Excellent Prismatic Spray (as you noted) kills the target who fails their saving throw; and even on a success they take a lot of damage which may kill them. I'm not super-happy with it yet, but I'm still tinkering.
And once cast, can they relearn them during a short rest?
By them not being "equal in power" the trick then comes into how casters acquire new spells.
 
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Well, that's only five paragraphs but there's a lot of launchpoints in there. What do you think about Jack Vance'd Dying World, and its magic? What do you think about how it's influenced roleplaying games? What do you think about how it was adopted, and how it was changed over the years? What do you think about conceptions of magic between real-world practitioners, anthropologists/folklorists/storytellers, and gamers?
Having read Vance fairly recently, it strikes me how idiosyncratic and bizarre the "magic" system he picked was. It's a very odd approach, one that's completely at odds with virtually every take on magic in mythology, and almost more like super-science than "magic" as we know it.

The equivalent would be, I think, if say, D&D was created today, and the creators decided to model the "magic" system on Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. It's a wildly idiosyncratic take, has no real connection to mythology, and in that case resembles superpowers more than "magic".

I don't really believe they particularly "thought it through", either. I think they just grabbed a system which was easy to implement and which they were fans of. Implementing something like a more Earthsea-esque take on magic would require a whole entire approach to rules-making which didn't even really exist at the time.

As for the influence on other RPGs and fantasy videogames and so on, I think it's been curiously limited. You can really split them into two groups - those directly emulating D&D, which often have Vancian systems, and those not emulating D&D, where close-to-none have Vancian systems. In videogames literally only D&D/Pathfinder games have Vancian systems, and not even all of those!

The vast majority of other games, tabletop top or video, go for spell-point-type systems, where spell-points can come back either extremely quickly or extremely slowly, and where pool depth varies greatly as well.

I think it's kind of weird and unhelpful that D&D has stuck to the system so tightly, and I also think that, if D&D did abandon Vancian magic, it would not meaningfully impair D&D's popularity, and would probably gradually and slightly increase it. People are obsessed with certain spells, but very few people actually care about the Vancian aspect. As 5E showed by moving hard away from "standard Vancian". Also D&D hasn't done a good job of emulating Vance, because D&D Wizards can cast dozens of spells, whereas Vance's ones often have like 1-6 spells memorized (and when they're used, they're gone, no more "using slots" on that spell). The only TTRPG I know which really does that is Worlds Without Number.

You can't just save up your points and only cast fireball. This is a good thing, and most spell point variant rules either end up being overtuned because the caster can always fire on full automatic (well, with a 5-minute work day but they're heavily incentivized to do that) - or they try to recreate this with additional limitations on high-level spells but those rules always seem kludgy.
I mean, this is really only true of a very specific set of spell point rules.

Those that:

A) Are intended to be retrofitted directly to an existing edition of D&D.

and also

B) Are designed around a very deep, long-rest replenished spell-point pool.

If you design an RPG to use spell-points or another related mechanism from the outside, you don't get these problems. If you design a retrofit spell-point system that doesn't use a very deep, long-rest pool, but say a more shallow pool that replenishes on shorter rests or continually, you don't get the the same issues.

So it's completely solvable. As countless other RPGs show.

It's also of note that, in the early days of D&D, one of the most successful and long-running D&D variants used spell points (and a number of other "before-their-time" rules, like non-casters having actual defined abilities in a way not really seen until 4E/5E, well or Earthdawn I guess), and I think it's very easy to envision a timeline where, perhaps, that became the dominant style of D&D, and this conversation wouldn't even be happening.
 
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Dioltach

Legend
Here's a quick, untested and not even close to properly thought-out idea for emulating the "spells cost energy" idea without ditching the Vancian system: besides memorisation, every spell requires a pre-casting preparation time of 1 round per level, and a post-casting recovery time also of 1 round per level.
 

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