member, 10 posts
Wed 8 Nov 2017
at 04:25
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
So designing a continent right now and eventually maybe a world to run some games. A brief summary of concept: It will be a rather corrupt world filled with many contradictions and fanatics. Where religion and religious ideals are a very big deal though perhaps not fairly enforced. Many arcane classes are outlawed; Sorcerers, hexblades, warlocks are all seen as devil and demon worshipers and burned at the stake; Archivists, truenamers, Shadowcasters, and binders(maybe others) are seen as apostates and similarly burned at the stake; and what is left over is tightly controlled by countries, religions, and perhaps some over arching organizations. In this case spells over level 3 are tightly controlled and sparse to the point that many countries, religions and organisations may only have a few spells over level 3 which they guard as national treasures.

My aim is to make religious classes more focused on the intricacies of their respective religions and how the goals of the gods interplay and conflict with politics. As well as make wizards a more interesting class since thematically they are supposed to be focused around research and understanding of the world but have been reduced to walking weapons that automatically evolve in power as they kill.

As such I have been milling over a revamp of how wizards gain spells. I want to make getting spells interesting and challenging but still possible and better utilize the skills given to wizards. Here is the frame work please let me know your thoughts:

Healing is added to wizards skill list and its use is explained below.
Upon gaining levels wizards do not automatically gain new spells. The two new spells shown in the PHB are representative of resources offered as congratulations upon advancement by the organization backing said wizard. level 1, 2, and 3 spells from the PHB are considered common enough that almost all organizations have them and they can be bought by wizards that do not belong to any organization, though this often takes greasing the correct wheels. Similarly a wizard without an organization would gain no free initial or new spells upon leveling up and would have to obtain them in some other way. To continue gaining new spells beyond 3rd level spells wizards must bind themselves ever closer to the organizations supporting them and achieve ever greater merits. Furthermore, not all organizations are equal and many have few higher level spells. With that said there are of course other ways of obtaining new spells, such as finding them in ancient ruins, obtaining other wizardsí spellbooks, scrolls, or even performing tests and experiments. As such wizards without backing and high leveled wizards tend to struggle greatly for each new spell and guard them zealously once obtained.

Testing and experiments covers many different things. For example analyzing and decomposing a spell to create a better understanding of magic and applying that understanding to creating a new spell. Or capturing a creature with spell-like abilities and performing experiments and even dissections to learn the secrets behind their skills. Some desperate or perhaps crazy wizards even try random combinations of words, gestures, and materials; Though this method is highly unreliable because of the inherent danger involved. Mechanically, these methods function by use of skill checks.

In the case of analyzing spells: decipher script, spellcraft, and knowledge arcane or planes depending on the spell. Each analysis takes a week per spell level of spell being evaluated to analyze, formulate, and test the new spell. All skill checks are made together each day and must be passed together 3*spell levels(of new spell) times during this time period in order to successfully learn the new spell. Furthermore, the new spell will be inline with the old spell analyzed and the original spell must be one in your spellbook.

The experimenting on creatures requires healing, related knowledge, and spellcraft skill checks. A creature experimented on in this way tends to be a useful test subject for 1 week per spell level. During this time all three checks must be made each day and passed together on once per spell level.
In both cases extraordinary successes can also give bonuses to said skills.(after rolling a natural 20, roll a 1d100 getting a 95+ gives a permanent +1 to said skill.)
Mechanically random trial error is based on 3d100, a 3 is automatic disintegration and 300 is the successful creation of a new spell. Everything in between is something varying from something interesting happening, nothing, and varying levels of injury.

Furthermore, there are still other methods, such as bargaining with demons, devils, fey, or other such intelligent beings. Wizards are also capable of learning spells from sorcerers and other arcanists.
Though these methods take a bit of time and understanding to convert the spells over from other intelligent beings or arcane spell models they are still much easier and faster than aforementioned testing or experimentation.
Mechanically, it takes one day per spell level being learned and requires a successful Spellcraft check.

I am still mulling over DCs I want it to be challenging and scale-able to succeed but not impossible for the testing or experimentation. In the case of learning spells from intelligent beings and other spell casters I am thinking the check should be similar to identifying a spell and the key is the time taken as well as the tutelage of the teacher.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts or ideas.
 member, 174 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Wed 8 Nov 2017
at 16:32
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
The 2 spells per level that wizards normally get are the results of the research and experimentation that they do off-camera, similar to how fighters are assumed to practice and maintain their weapons, and clerics are assumed to go through the normal rituals of their faith.

Putting that research on-camera is best used to serve some kind of story purpose, rather than just grinding mats to expand your spellbook - unless expanding your spellbook is the story.  (Wizard pokemon?  Filing that away for later...)
The focus on experimenting on creatures might also raise the "ick" hackles.  It also has the unfortunate and ironic side effect of in all probability making Wizards less versatile than sorcerers - without a direct source, Wizards' spellbooks will almost certainly be smaller and more limited.

With any of these systems that disallow abilities without provenance, you also run into the problems of genesis.  If creating spells is so reliant on observation, how do spells without observable analogues get created in the first place?  Is creating a new spell actually a result of random chance?  Do skilled arcanists actually stand no better chance of creating a new spell than rank novices?

Furthermore, with all these knobs to turn and levers to pull to expand their prowess in various ways, which are ultimately self-serving and not story-serving, where does that leave Fighters, Rogues, and the like?  Are they advantaged, because they don't need to hunt down secret techniques or observe skilled fighters to advance their skills?  Or are they disadvantaged, since their advancement and progression does not provide them with the opportunity to capture spotlight time?  If you did require these advancement spotlights for nonmagical progression, would you have any time to explore a story?
 member, 373 posts
Wed 8 Nov 2017
at 18:37
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
 Let me start with neat idea regardless of ability to pull it off here.

List of things that you actually need to pull this off

1) Players willing to do hoop jumping for what is otherwise free in every other game.
2) XP. You have to generous enough with the xp awards to justify level advancement. I can not express that enough.
3) The understanding that this needs to be "playtested" some. This is more on your part than the players. To get a system that works you are gonna have to experiment at least a little.
4) Probably either an all mage group, which would give you a larger pool but less quality players, or the rest of the party needs a reason to keep the mage alive. Not just any reason will do either.
5) I must ask what are the clerics and god of Magic doing while the followers of the god are being butchered?
6) So what could be the basic plot broad strokes nothing specific.
 member, 11 posts
Thu 9 Nov 2017
at 17:20
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
So this will be a long ramble and hopefully I will have answered your comments and added more to be commented on?

So to an extent I am creating these rules so I can run all wizard games that would have a better focus on development of their power. I would be giving experience for said research and having that be a focus in such a game. Furthermore, that is why I donít just have one way to obtain spells, while yes performing experiments on creatures to understand their spell like and perhaps supernatural abilities is limiting you can still join an organization, barter with intelligent creatures/arcanists, or study spells. When I said, you can only get alike spells from testing a spell I should be more specific on my meaning, what I meant is you canít expect to study an evocation spell to have a resulting divination or necromancy spell. But I donít see any argument against someone who has studied necromancy spells and has a firm understanding of their principles not being able to create a new and different necromancy spell. Also, when I said scaling DCs I meant scaling with spell levels not becoming more difficult as you gain levels. For example having a 27DC(+4 int bonus 4skill points 19roll) check for a level one spell. Similarly 43DC(+4int 20 skill 19roll) check for a ninth level spell. On the surface, they seem just as demanding, but with all the potential for bonuses for a level 17 character it should end up being easier. The real question here is what DCs are actually reasonable and like you said most likely this will come down to play testing

Yes, I do agree I am throwing out a roadblock but I am planning on throwing out other roadblocks too. Let me give a bit more info about the world, gods, and some of the restrictions.  The world I am creating is one of clear divides and often strong hatred between the races and the gods representing them. While Elves, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and halflings still tend to be found living together there are staggering differences in treatment depending on which race is in power in that region. Furthermore, slavery is common place in many areas and it isnít uncommon to see intelligent creatures being traded and treated as livestock.

The gods are not omnificent and all knowing who have full control over their domains. They are simply mortals that have been elevated to godhood and have a firmer grasp of these domains and concepts than people at most they can hear a few words of a conversation whenever someone mentions their name and besides that are left to high level divination to find out more. They fight and squabble amongst themselves over the faith of the masses and have little direct control in the prime material plane. Though they could send down an avatar it would consume most of their power to do so and leave them wide open to be killed by the other gods. So instead they bestow a bit of their divine force to chosen to further their own goals. As such divine power is a gift only bestowed upon their followers that can just as easily be taken away. The gods have full control over divine magic and view arcane as a threat to their power. Since they do not have the ability to get rid of arcane magic from the world they instead decided to try and restrict and control it. So classes like sorcerers who get their power from their bloodlines and warlocks who get it from deals with powerful spirits are deemed as the enemies of the gods and chased down and killed as devil worshipers.

Divine power (cleric, paladin, favored soulsÖ) power is given by the gods for furthering their gods goals. So you could spend all day killing your way through a dungeon and not gain a single level in these classes unless there is something important to your god hidden there.

The study of arcane magic is a struggle. The different religions by far have the largest breath of spells, especially those associated with gods of magic but they enforce ever tighter control over wizards in their care. Furthermore, they outlaw any forms of magic that they canít control, and portray them as evil monsters to the masses.

In the end classes such as rogues, fighters, and barbarians are the easiest way to power, but also the weakest in comparison. In the time it takes for a one of them to kill the man in charge of the army the wizard or cleric could probably have destroyed the armyÖ Also because of the setup of the world magical items are much less common especially among non-magical classes.

As far as wizards offending the gods by experimenting on their followers that is all a calculated risk. If you are already an enemy just based on your race (say human wizard and ogre mage) what do you care about offending the ogreís god? Also not all creatures/ races have gods to begin with since the gods do all they can to prevent new ones from rising up.
 member, 487 posts
Thu 9 Nov 2017
at 22:09
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
So kind of Dark Sun with the wizards?
 member, 377 posts
Fri 10 Nov 2017
at 03:16
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
In reply to Rothos1 (msg # 5):

Similar it seems to me yes.

So the basic idea is an all wizard game then. Well to be honest I would be a terrible fit in that metagaming aside. It would make sense to get a team together and have each study one arc of the wheel. In that way they can trade spells with in the party and make things seriously easier. Just saying.
 member, 488 posts
Fri 10 Nov 2017
at 04:25
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
So creating a PC organization then. I think that in order to pull it off you would either need tightly controlled access to magic research institutes, with high creation DCs for not having access to research material or make innovation hard by forcing several different levels of a spell having to be created by refinement creating hermit wizards who crank out spells via research. E. G. Fire missile a variation of magic missile becomes Flame gout a 2nd level spell, then that becomes Fireball. Note, I'm not letting wizards recreate divine spells in my idea although they could.
Metamagic feats become more valuable, consider tacking on either Knowledge arcana or Spell craft ranks to its prerequisites
A divine caster would need Knowledge religion instead.
Now, you'd see someone taking Explosive Spell as a Feat to get a little more out of spells they have.
 member, 12 posts
Fri 10 Nov 2017
at 17:04
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
Thanks for the input, I was thinking, that things like wizard towers, colleges, and libraries would play a much more significant role.

I was also thinking this would be a good setting for running political/conquest games, as well as high seas and desert campaigns since the low magic gets rid of the argument of why are we sailing when we could just teleport there argument...
 member, 13 posts
Sat 11 Nov 2017
at 23:22
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
I definitely think having naturally high DCs for creating spells makes sense and tightly controlled magical institutes that provide varying bonuses to skill checks depending on the power of the organization backing the institute makes a lot of sense and is a good idea. Also adding in the need of a basic laboratory to do experiments makes sense too. Furthermore, it would make sense that if you were going to do experiments that might offend other organizations/gods you would want ever increasing levels of divination blocking spells covering said lab.

I can see having such a setup be a good source for adventures for a group of wizards. If the group cannot gain access to those institutes it would force them to find and explore ruins and what not to find spells and research and perhaps also to find materials for constructing their own wizard tower.

I must say I do like your idea of iterative progressions of spells as it makes a decent amount of sense. However, as GreyGriffin said being so restrictive would overly limit and handicap wizards. Further, from a design perspective I think to pull it off I would really need to create something like a spell tree diagram that shows how one spell leads into another. though I find that pretty cool in theory it would be a be a huge undertaking to make and use. I fear it would end up loosing too much focus and going overboard on complexity. I want to add in enough complexity to make a wizard college type game interesting and viable but still leave enough loopholes that it is possible to run games that do not focus wholly on developing your spell book for any wizard involved... I want spells from the PHB such as fireball to be common enough that most everyone has heard of them and they wouldn't be overly hard to get a hold of (killing a wizard from another organization and stealing his spellbook for example). Also it seems reasonable that there would be more than one way to create the fireball spell which would only make it that much more of a nightmare to try and come up with an iterative process for spell progression.

I also want to leave things open for creating home-brew spells. For example in such a world killing people to steal their spellbooks becomes extraordinarily more enticing. So creating lesser forms of explosive runes that destroy your spellbook if someone tries to read it without the correct password become very important.
 member, 178 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Sun 12 Nov 2017
at 09:27
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
Just a word of warning: Skill DCs, especially static DCs, are a dodgy method of control for any given action.  If there is a skill check, there is a way to stack your bonus up to reach it.  It's not my field of CharOp, but be aware that there are level 1 Bards who can take 10 on Diplomacy to turn any Hostile creature at least Neutral, and it gets worse from there.

And if you adjust your skill check DCs to account for such stratospheric bonuses, there is no way for the player who doesn't go through the same CharOp hoops to do it can't approach the necessary bonuses to succeed.

It's a bit of a catch 22.
 member, 14 posts
Mon 13 Nov 2017
at 18:18
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
Ya that was one of my concerns with doing skill checks, yet I couldn't think of any better way to go about it and that is why I also had three different skills needed. I figured while it is easy to get one that has stupid bonuses it is a lot harder to get three or four. Also the main way I have found to keep people from abusing the rules is to not let them do it in the first place.
Do you have any ideas of what might work better than skill checks?
 member, 151 posts
Tue 14 Nov 2017
at 04:13
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
yes, rp. give them an initial -100 to their check. i don't care how much charop they pull off, they won't succeed against that without good rp to alleviate that penalty. if there's good rp going on and everyone is having fun, then again it doesn't matter how much charop they pulled off. all is good.

of course, this assumes you want this as a focus of your game. if this sort of stuff is supposed to happen in the background, behind the scenes, during downtime, then i think you might be stuck with skill checks. in that case, you're right. take a fine tooth comb to the char sheets up front and get rid of any that are too heavily optimized. in this case, be up front with your players as to how much optimization you're expecting and how much you will allow. as long as everyone is on the same page, it should work out ok.
 member, 1227 posts
Wed 15 Nov 2017
at 10:35
[Advice/Interest D&D 3.5]
I generally just make the mechanics reactive to the rp. As in, the player can't just say "Oh, I rolled a X to do Y." Instead, they have to roleplay the scenario out in order to get a check at all. Eventually players start seeing the narrative potential and that multiple skills can be applied.

This is aided greatly by being more narrative in your descriptions. It isn't a poison dart trap they found, it is a pressure plate with holes in the nearby wall.

For example, when the aforementioned pressure plate is encountered, players can jump over it, walk around it, do a wall run over it, get a plank and a block to make a bridge over it, use wax to plug the holes, or try to shim the plate so it doesn't depress. Only the last two use disable device, the others use athletics, acrobatics, or in the case of the bridge, a simple dex + str check to avoid slamming the board into the plate and setting it off.

Or better yet, get the table from the last room and stick it in front of the holes. Of course, the wouldn't work against poison gas, but hey.

In any case, when the players start needed to actually find a way around traps instead of relying purely on the dice, things get better.

This message was last edited by the user at 04:41, Mon 20 Nov.