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Do you think Free-Form Sorcery is a good idea?

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Voting closed: August 05, 2003, 02:46:38 PM

Author Topic: Free-Form Sorcery  (Read 3454 times)

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Offline CaptainPenguin

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Free-Form Sorcery
« on: August 05, 2003, 02:46:38 PM »
I have adopted a system into my game which I think works very well, those some others I've met seem to frown upon it.

Rather than write up a long list of complicated spells, I use Free-Form Magic. My players make up the spell and it's uses, and if it doesn't seem to powerful, I let them have it.

What do you think?

Edit: By the way, they can only make up to three spells per level, and no new spells until next level.
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Offline sniperspy

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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2003, 06:03:36 PM »
Well, I think that that may be useful, but it could overwhelm newer players, and it can also be manipulated. You do tell them if the spell is too powerful, but the range they can use is unlimmited.

For example, with a list of spells, a person must choose his character's spells carefully, or will be at a loss when a situation he has no spell for comes along. Also, they must gain certain experiance and level points before being able to access more powerful spells.

With free-form magic, a person can make up any spell to help them through any situation. They can't level an entire cave of monsters with one spell, but they can illuminate the darkness, tunnel out of danger, or even fly through a hole in the roof. Whenever a new situation comes up, they just make up a spell with the specific function they need.

Of course, you could let them create spells only at designated times, and only when they are experianced enough to control the spell, but this will wreak havoc on new and even moderatly experianced players. The challenge of creating spells to be used in whatever trap they might find themselves next would be enough to throw even the elite players off-balance, and cost them the game.[/code]
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2003, 06:07:46 PM »
I don't think you understand. They get to create up to three spells per level, and no new spells until next level. I think you may have suggested that in your reply.
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Offline Strolen

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Free-Form Sorcery
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2003, 07:36:16 PM »
<rubs his hands, this could get ugly>

I LOVE freeform magic. But it depends on the system. What you are doing sounds pretty good, but do they make up unique magic spells or do they stick with the standards or heavily base their 'made up' spells on well known systems?

The system your magic depends is a very important aspect of freeform magic.

1)))Magic is based on scholarship and studying. Then it is basically D&D. Most anybody can do it if they study. I would assume that yours is this case since they can only make up 3 spells per level or whatever. That would imply they gained knowledge and created new spells.

But then you have to think, how did they create the spells in the first place? If they created them on their own then they must have some kind of talent for it, to improvise a new spell cannot be that easy. Unless it is just a manner of reading the same magic words from the magic dictionary in a different order. But if they truly developed their own magic then that leads to another system.

2)))Magic is a skill that only those with the talent can perform. It is an innate ability that you have or don't have. You need to have the talent to feel the magic and you use prewritten spells and then, on your own, manipulate them to do other things because you have a feeling for the magic and understand it at its most basic instinctive level. These are the ones that can have a need and develop a new spell to satisfy that need because they are part of the nature of magic.

3)))Magic requires special materials or items to cast. Basically do only what they were designed to do. The magician will be able (through 1 or 2) to enchant certain items or materials to cast certain spells. Depending on size/strength of the material makes the spell only that strong. Allows low level to get a staff that can hold much and use their power to enchant the staff with as many spells as it can hold and allow upgrades in the future. Then the must have the item to cast with and they are limited by the item to how much they can cast. DM can make up items that allow or limit as much or as little magic as they want in their campaign.

4)))Any others?

For my homebrewed system I used a combination of 1 and 3 and limited magic to the elements. The elemental magic is tied to sand which is a limited quantity distributed and hidden throughout the land. There are many different levels of sand as well from the most pure and strongest to the diluted and weak. A caster can only carry so much sand though because the sand simply does not allow anybody to stock up. Then, depending on the quality of the sand, the caster can cast ANYTHING they want of that elemental sand they are carrying (elements cannot be mixed, mages are specialized to an element). Stronger the spell, the more sand it uses...and also depends on the dilution of the sand. So a Fire Mage can cast a flame thrower until the sand runs out. Can light hundred of small fires or engulf one house in flames. Up to the caster what he wants to do and the amount and power of the sand he has. Sand is hard to get and expensive if bought so they are frugal as much as possible and only use it all if in dire need. No telling when they will be able to get more so it is a good limiting factor. (I don't like High Magic worlds)

Could do the same thing with the staff with a rest cycle or something.

I would like to hear a little more detail of your system Cap'n.[/list]

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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2003, 10:11:58 PM »
Basically, the way it works is this:

Say we have Yusuf al-Yahid, the Mage of el-Habir. He is a level two wizard, thus he has six spells. When he first made his character, he created these spells:

-Candle: A small flame appears in Yusuf's palm, lighting the area round him. He can use this two times per day, because he is level two.
-Magic Slap: Yusuf makes a slapping motion in the direction of his enemy, causing a magical, invisible hand to slap them. Two uses per day, as per his level.
-Sidestep: Yusuf increases his dodging ability by 10% (Dodging ability is measured in percents) for three turns. Two uses per day, as per his level.

When Yusuf ascends to second level, he creates these spells:

-Palm of Flame: Yusuf makes a quick shoving motion at his enemy, throwing a handprint of flames in their direction. Causes 3 Hp worth of damage (Quite a lot in my game). One use per day, as per his level.
-Void-Sent Missive: Yusuf shouts into the sky, sending one, ten-word message to any being within thirty miles. One use per day, as per his level.
-Silver Blessing: Yusuf touches a weapon, turning it into silver for one day. Silver weapons cut supernatural flesh with better efficiency. One use per day, as per level.

That is how my system works. If I think a spell is too powerful, they must make a new spell. My friend's druid, Kaaltharik, is a third level druid. He wants to make a spell that he calls "Soaring Devil Leap". It allows him to quadruple his natural jumping length for one jump. I think "Quadruple?! That's total ****!" So I say, nope. He comes up with a new spell. And so on. It works quite well for us.

I suppose that it's mostly 2 with a dash of 3 thrown in.
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Offline Ylorea

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« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2003, 01:40:31 AM »
I do wonder what system you guys are using in your campaign.

Currently for me the numbers do not add up to D&D, AD&D, or D&D 3(.5)

Besides that, I do like your system very much and basicaly use that for my campaign as well, though I never told my players. They are allowed to use the spells in the books, but just the same may invent their own.

Yours, Ylorea

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I think I am going to encourage my players to do things like this a bit more.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2003, 01:52:58 AM »
Ylorea, you were wondering what system I'm using? The system I use in most of my games (The one I used in the example) is one I divised myself.
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Offline Strolen

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« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2003, 01:58:37 AM »
Down with published magic systems!!  ;)

Magic was never my favorite thing anyway and published systems are usually too complex for something I don't really get too deep into. Much easier, for me, to devise a simplier more free system to play with. Never had problems with people abusing it but probably does depend on who you are playing with. It could get pretty complicated quick if you had a magic junky. I try to dissuade that in my games.

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Offline MoonHunter

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« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2003, 04:55:24 AM »
I am going to say that I like flexible magical systems, preferably skill based.  But Freeform magic actually sucks.  

Freeform magic is normally defined as "any reasonable magikal effect" that works dramatically with the story.  Freeform magic is normally only used in freeform roleplaying games.  You know what I am talking about. Games without rules, but where players post up parts of the communal "story" on the forum or email.

So if they need a light area spell, it goes off.  If they need a "smite evil things within the immediate area" spell, it goes off.  You begin to see...

The main requisite of a freeform game system is communal trust, i.e. everyone is working together to make a story, rather than competeing against the world/GM to achieve X.  (That is why you are not allowed to do anything against anyone without the creating character's permission, including against bad guys not of your own creation).  Most table top games are not based on communal trust. While the group might work together to built plots and develop characters, the game portion of the rules (randomness and limits on what you can do) create a competive element to the game.  


The closest things to a freeform spell system in conventional gaming are the magic systems for Mage the Ascention and Ars Magica.  

Mage's system defines levels of effects the character can achieve.  So if you have life-2, you can generate any effect that either senses life (Life-1) or "adjust" an existing biological process (life2). Each tier is given numerous examples and shows how you can combine them all together.  

Ars Magica is a "skill" driven system.  You "knowledge" of a given element and magical verb, defines your chance of success performing a given skill.  If the spell one that you have learned (or created and learned), your score in the element effected and the verb associated determines your chance to cast.  You could still cast spells that you had not learned, but they were performed at a minus.  

Mage had "well defined" levels of effect for each tier.  But even these well defined areas did not balance the system.  In the original mage (ed1), a begining mage could create an atomic explosion by creating unstable matter (showing that they people that playtested the game did not understand science).  That was cleaned up in second edition, and more example rotes were given so people could actually understand what was possible with what tier of effect.  

Ars Magica went the other way, with a huge list of example spells. Players were still creating their own spells, but they could use the "common" spell if they wanted.  This has the advantage as this huge backlog of allowed GMs to have a variety of spells to NPCs, rather than spend time and effort to create unique spells for each mage.  The backlong served as examples so GM's could determine skill levels and power effects appropriate for what the players wanted.  

What CP had defined is a "non standard" spell list.  Instead of 22 possible spells per level (as per DnD and most systems that use a D20ish spell system). He is going to allow the players to create their own spell effects.  How many spells are castable on a given day is defined by the game system he is using (which is a homebrew if I remember correctly).  

Every spell system needs guidelines and limits.  Guidelines define what is appropriate for the setting, in terms of effects (what it can do), power (how much of what it does), and feel (in a gothic world, having a happiness spell just is not appropriate, while in a Slayer's game having a summon elder god spell is not appropriate).  Limits restrict what is and is not possible.  These limits can radically change the feel of the game.  Take away resurrection and easy magical healing, and players will need to adopt a very different style of play (or roll up lots of characters) than when these effects are plentiful.  

Now even Mage and Ars have these guideleins and limits.  Any magic system that is not destined for GM hatred has them.  For everyone's safety define the spell by end effects, not about what it can do.  

So CP, what are you going to use to show your players guidelines and limits for the game?  Or are you just going to let them throw things at you until you either relent or they figure out what your unwritten rules are.  

I mean, can I create  a small electrical arc spell that occurs between my hands. Does very little actual damage to what is between them.  Seems innocent enough.  Until the first time the mage does a grapple attack and sets the spell off... basically stopping the target's heart.  Oops. A death save spell has been created.  

So simple is not neccisarily better.  Simple allows more possible ways for the players to "whack the system" and fewer rules that allow the GM to disallow certain spells (besides using the GM fiat... which can seem heavy handed).  Some magic systems are not intended to be abused, but are because the players are comming from a different view of the world (mage's atomic issue).  

While I personally hate spell slot systems (D20 base magic), well defined, well playtested rules, are always the way to go.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2003, 01:44:26 PM »
My spells still function by the rules.
There are still mechanics that they must follow.
They're just player-created.
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Offline CaptainPenguin

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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2004, 10:42:11 AM »
Hmmm...
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