Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Big Now or Bigger Later

I'm noting that a mage could want to recreate all their X-level spells at their max possible spell power. For example, a 1st level mage would create a 1000 SP Magic Missile spell, with 3 Missiles from the beginning. Even if the wizard is higher level, it can be a boon for one's apprentice, and would very soon replace the Magic Missile spell.
The above is excerpted from Vlad Malkav's comment on my post about spellpower.

As usual, Vlad, you're asking good questions. You've raised an excellent criticism here.

Let's get one thing clear above all else: once spellpower and spell-creation rules are firmly in place, spell creation would absolutely not be available to first-level mages, as you indicate. Think of spell modification and creation as authority- or expert-tier abilities in Alexis's sage system. Maybe even sage-tier for spell creation: it's a big damn deal.

That being said, the core of your point -- that a more powerful mage would create a spell which has its powers maxed out already, and pass it on to others -- is completely valid. Off the top of my head, the solution I would use is that damage (or other effect) dealt by the spell when first acquired, without any scaling, would cost X, and damage dealt by the spell as a result of level scaling would cost less than X.

For example, let's take Magic Missile again. Setting aside all other factors to focus on damage, let's suppose that the 1d4 component of the base damage costs 250 (100 * 2.5, average result of 1d4), and the +1 costs 200 (100 * 1 * 2). Because the fixed bonus is more reliable, its price is doubled. This gives us a final result of 450 SP for Magic Missile's damage component.

Then, let's say that for scaling, each d4 and each +1 costs 1/2 of normal. Thus for each additional 1d4+1 missile, the increase in cost would be (2.5 * 50) plus (50 * 1 * 2) = 125 plus 100 = 225. Thus, with two missiles the total damage SP would be 450 + 225 = 675.

You can see where I'm going with this, no? Let's create a spell called Arcane Blast which is still within the (totally hypothetical) 1000 SP minimum for 1st level, but which starts out with two missiles, no scaling needed. Then its base cost is double that of Magic Missile as written above: 450 * 2 = 900 SP.

Now here's the trick. If we continue to assume the 1000 SP ceiling for level 1 spells, then Arcane Blast could not gain another missile through scaling, since that additional 1d4+1 missile would cost 225 points, and 900 + 225 = 1125, which is greater than 1000. (Note that it could gain another +1 damage through scaling, since that would cost 100, putting it exactly at 1000 SP.)

On the other hand, by the above pricing scheme, Magic Missile could gain a third missile. Two missiles was 675 SP. Add another, at 225 SP, and we end up with 900 SP total. Hell, there's still room for another +1 damage, too, just as above with Arcane Blast.

What this all is going to boil down to is a bunch of adjusting variables and price-per-each-variable-from-base and price-per-each-variable-from-scaling. But the above tradeoff (two missiles now vs. three later) is a prime example of the kind of discussion this deepening and codifying of spell logic can produce.

Imagine: the PC mage who invents Arcane Blast has to decide whether to teach that or regular Magic Missile to his henchman-apprentice. Arcane Blast will keep him safer up front and it's only a first-level spell, but with no way to retrain them, isn't it limiting his potential later? And what about feuds between mages who prefer the newfangled Blast, with its more-up-front reward, and the traditionalists who preach the virtues of delayed gratification?

Naturally the above scenarios don't require a spellpower system. The character with the appropriate skills could just come to me and say "hey I want Magic Missile but you get two shots up front instead of three (or four, or five) later." And I could say sure, ad-hoc, and allow it, or say no, ad-hoc, and disallow it. But I think you understand my objection to that kind of thing.

Finally, apart from the above, I want very much to have a deeper logic behind the level a spell is, both simply for the sake of having that logic exist, and for the ever-gratifying feeling that there is more to my world than the players perceive. This is just like how I want there to be a deeper logic behind how items are priced. That's why I follow in Alexis's footsteps and make my own trade system, right? Same idea.


  1. Hello, and thanks for the compliment ^^

    Your solution seems simple and clear, I think it's a good one.

    And the desire to have a better logic ? Yeah, I definitely understand that ^^, that's why I read Alexis' blog and follow his ways ^^ .

    Keep up !

  2. It could also mean that, onc you've quantified the spells in the game, you realize that certain spells are clearly underpowered. So you change them. Ramp them up to just enough power to not go over the next level; and do that for all spells. That way, you're not introducing I'm balance by allowing high-level wizards to create new spells because all the spells that already exists are at their maximum potential.

    1. Yes, exactly! Rebalancing in this way would be obligatory once the quantification was mostly settled.

    2. It wouldn't have to be perfect but I could stipulate that all spells of a given level have to be within a 200 point range, say, and then adjust them to fit that.

      Lots of different schemes for this could work. Much harder to actually do the quantifying. I just feel so unable to take on large projects at this time. Pretty much all my D&D stuff feels very half baked right now. Economy rewrite is stagnating, and I have lots of ideas which I could program if I had the fundamentals of a world simulator working but I am so far away from that that I get frustrated thinking about it.

      I can't quite figure out how to begin to tie all my projects and my ideas together into one big system. But I think maybe I can at least prototype some of the smaller ones and show those here. Stay tuned.