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Vancian to Zelaznian magic

KentDT

Explorer
Following up on my own ramble: In D&D, different classes have different spell lists. Some, like the Bard in D&D 3.*, were really light on combat spells. Like, nearly none. (Glitterdust actually counted as an offensive spell for a 3.* Bard. That's how starved they were for damage dealing spells.)

The Zelazny style of magic would tend to blur the lines from one class to another. Suddenly every caster of every stripe is a combat caster.

Not sure if that's a good thing or not. Leaning towards "not" though, since the different spell sets were one of the aspects that defined a class, the advantage you sought or the price you paid for choosing that class. It makes that choice almost meaningless in many ways.
That’s why, in the system I’m proposing for my own campaign, it would only apply to Wizard casters. All others would use the system and in-world explanation found in the PHB.
 

KentDT

Explorer
If you have not done so, you could always grab a copy of the old Amber Diceless RPG and see how they did the magic system in that. Maybe it would give ideas for what you want to do.
Good point, and the PDF is only $12 on drivethru. So, I’ll give it a look. I enjoy reading other games and systems anyway-even if I don’t end up playing or using them.
 

KentDT

Explorer
The spells don't go away until they are cast. Well, in the books they eventually go stale, but that takes weeks at least, possibly months. A high level wizard would not need to spend hours daily unless they ran themselves out of spells. Also, in the books there didn't appear to be any limit to the number you could hang as long as you spent the time to do it, but of course that wouldn't work for D&D.

For D&D the trade off would be in requiring the wizard to choose spells in advance, but allowing more spells to be cast daily. If you use your one counterspell in a combat, just take some time after the combat and hang another one.

It also opens the door for feats or class abilities to allow quick hanging of spells a limited number of times per day, or signature spells that you could always hang quickly.

It's an interesting idea, but it might be too powerful to add that many extra spells to the wizard's daily allotment.
Yes, I’m thinking don’t add any spells to the daily allotment-the wizard would still be limited by the number of slots they can cast per day (but with the possibility to go beyond by accruing exhaustion levels I mentioned above). The ability to hang or prepare a spell would only be limited by time (which requires a little more bookkeeping but I think an acceptable level). A wizard could even hang a few spells every short rest so, although there would be a little more player planning required than RAW, not that much.
 

KentDT

Explorer
Having read the books and considered this, there was one aspect that caught my eye: Casters "Hung" spells (i.e. prepared them) and they could stay there for a few days before fading. The character involved was specifically Merlin (no, not *that* Merlin), and he tended to hang a few defensive spells, an attack or two and that was it. As he put it, "After that it just came down to throwing raw power at each other."

That last part was the big difference between Zelazny's magic system and D&D/Vancian magic. Unused ability (i.e. spell slots) could be used as direct assaults, and presumably defenses. Just raw, formless magical power.

So if you want to use Amber style magic, all you really need is to define what raw magical attacks and defenses look like, from a mechanics point of view.

I wouldn't give them an element type (that is, they aren't Fire or Cold or Electricity or Acid or Sonic). They're just magic.

Now, does that mean that they'll bypass standing defenses, such as Fire Resistance? If so it makes those element-specific defense spells obsolete.

Do general "throw raw power at them" defenses apply to element specific attacks? As in, does a Fireball bypass a general defense?

I'm not sure. I'd almost class "raw power" as yet another element type, for the purpose of game mechanics.

Now this approach actually gives raw power something of an advantage, since you can always switch to it on the fly in combat. Any non-dedicated spell slot is instantly available for that sort of offense or defense.

But raw power magic can't do any of the specific things, like heal wounds, open doors, help someone fly or go invisible, so that's a weakness. That also means that caster's will most likely prepare/hang utility spells and perhaps some element specific attacks/defenses. Raw power is whatever is left over.

Just sort of rambling there, but I think I may be rambling in a workable direction. You are, of course, free to think otherwise.
This is true but I’m not looking for an exact duplication of the magic system in the books. I think cantrips (especially like firebolt or ray of frost) and signature spells (all of which require no preparation or “hanging”) could approximate the raw power aspect from the books.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes, I’m thinking don’t add any spells to the daily allotment-the wizard would still be limited by the number of slots they can cast per day (but with the possibility to go beyond by accruing exhaustion levels I mentioned above). The ability to hang or prepare a spell would only be limited by time (which requires a little more bookkeeping but I think an acceptable level). A wizard could even hang a few spells every short rest so, although there would be a little more player planning required than RAW, not that much.
The thing is, if you are limiting it to the number of spell slots per day, prepped in advance, and the spells go away when cast, you've re-created Vancian ;)

I don't think that allowing the hanging throughout the day is enough to escape that. The key difference between Amber magic and Vancian magic is that Amber magic is almost limitless as long as you take time to hang spells.
 

KentDT

Explorer
The thing is, if you are limiting it to the number of spell slots per day, prepped in advance, and the spells go away when cast, you've re-created Vancian ;)

I don't think that allowing the hanging throughout the day is enough to escape that. The key difference between Amber magic and Vancian magic is that Amber magic is almost limitless as long as you take time to hang spells.
Yep. It's a feature, not a bug.

I never really minded Vancian magic but I did want a better in-world explanation for how it worked. I like how now the game has other options for using arcane magic (sorcerer and warlock, of course) with different levels of flexibility. I like their in-world explanation of how their magic works.

For wizards, I wanted a little more flexibility than prepare once, cast, lose it, have to prepare again (ie straight Vancian). So, I added flexibility with;
every spell can be a ritual but actually casting counts against your daily slots
you can prepare or hang a spell anytime when you have time (ie, short rest) with no limits to how many spells can be hung.
you may be able to go beyond your daily slots but still limited by getting exhausted each time (and it may not even work as you have to make an ability check to succeed in casting).

Amber magic wasn't limitless, there was a fatigue factor (most obviously seen in wearing the jewel of judgement for a prolonged period of time-not actually casting a spell, I know but it was explained that everything Amberites did with their power was some sort of drain-I think exhaustion models this well).

I might fiddle with the daily slots available after play-testing but my feeling is that it is well balanced compared to RAW, since the slots don't change and the ability to hang a spell multiple times (or at any time) pretty much models how RAW lets you prepare a spell once and keep it prepared even after casting, until you want to take the time to change your prepared spell list.

My main goal was to keep as much of RAW as possible (and keep it balanced compared to the other casting classes which I don't change-except to give the option of extending their daily slots by taking on exhaustion, same as the wizards) but adding on the story elements I'm interested in.
 

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