Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Why Vancian is Better Than Spell Points (and what to do about it)

First, let me lay out my credentials for my click-bait title.

Over on our Discord, (mail me if you want in on chances to play elf-games online), we have been playing a lot of Lodoss Companion, a game I translated from Japanese. It uses a stat called MP (magic points) to cast spells from. If you run out of MP, you faint.

About a couple years back I was in another RPG that uses spell points (run by Fear of a Black Dragon's Tom), Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying 1e. We played through the Enemy Within adventure path thing.

On the Discord, we also spent a few months going through my other big fanslation project, Double Moon. Dubmoon, being from the same publisher as Lodoss, shares a lot of its DNA, including the MP system, using Psychic Points called PPs, much to our amusement.

Finally, also on the Discord, we messed around with my hack of Arduin for a while. Uncle Dave "Killmepleasedaddy" Hargrave used a hybrid between Vancian and spell points back in the day. He also gave levels to spells because he was basically using 0DnD. I opted to just have spell points spent just be the level of the spell, let PCs cast any level of spell, and kicked Vancian restrictions out of there.

So all of these systems used points is my point. What is the problem I've noticed time and again? You are extremely incentivized to cast the same spells each combat. It was really bad in WHFRP. Once I learned Lightning Bolt, I would try to cast it each round. We could point out here that RAW material components would have ameliorated the problem, but like most groups we ditched those rules.

In Lodoss it's usually the same routine. Cast buffs on the fighter. Summon a spirit to fight. There is a bit of deja-vu each combat. My players do like the system though. One said they really dig not having to choose spells that they might use each game morning.

The Arudin games were a bit better, probably because of the sheer amount of gonzo spells the players wanted to try out. Also, without level restrictions, they could consider casting powerful, yet expensive spells.

 So, what's my solution to keep a game with spell points interesting? Well, I have a few.

  • Spell points are still a thing, but whenever a player casts a spell, it is gone for the day (sneaky Vance). 
  • Spell points are still a thing, but each additional time you cast a certain spell in a day costs one extra point per level of the spell (Vance tax).
  • Use DCC-style Mercurial Magic, which may make the player prefer to cast different spells for different situations. You don't need DCC tho; I got a d60 list of crazy spell requirements and effects.
  • Incentivize spell prep with Memorization Side Effects (using a Vancian hybrid or pure Vancian).
  • Use those material components up. Boo. Hey, maybe have all your spell-casting based on material components to make it better?
  • Seed a whole lot of situations that will require spells as tools. This one is hard to do, because utility spells are usually taken care of by equipment or the thief's abilities. 
  • Spells are free-form, but you can never cast the same spell twice (the Barony/Conrad's Game method).

Got more ideas? That's what comments are for!

Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Lessons to Learn from New Vegas (for TTRPGs)

I recently, finally, started to play 2010's Fallout New Vegas. I bought it on sale, but had never gotten around to it due to thinking it was some kind of mere add-on to Fallout 3. Nope. Obsidian studios were told by their overlords to pump something out and they really did a good job. 

Okay, so the thing that is inspiring me as an elfgamer is the way missions are set up. Basically, it is a sandbox world. You can go anywhere, but some areas are just plain dangerous, so you have to listen to the NPCs to see which routes are relatively safe. 

NPCs will give you missions. They are all optional. Your actions can prematurely end them if you don't think carefully and kill the wrong people or something. The NPCs also usually give you an idea of where to go. Most of them even mark a place on the map you could check out.

I'm thinking this kind of approach could be particularly useful on Carcosa. My players have--thanks to risky psychedelics-- managed to glean the workings of a few rituals, but they are still a little rudderless. I do appreciate the few rituals that mention geographic locations though. I've been thinking about ways to give them more quests.

In the most recent sessions, they inadvertently created a horn-mutation on a lobotomite's forehead. The horn gained psionics and sentience and soon set itself up as a god-king amongst the locals. Now its followers are asking the party to fetch them some pink stones so they can strap them to their heads and look more like God-emperor Horny.  Meanwhile, the "true" king of these locals is trying to get the PCs on its side.

What I need to do soon is to have a small camp be encountered the next time the PCs are out exploring. The camp will have a sorcerer looking for a few humans for sacrifice purposes. The PCs will probably suss this out as evil and work to kill the sorcerer, or maybe they'll get down with evil. It's their choice; we have X-cards and social contracts to protect us. You can choose to do an evil run in New Vegas. It changes the outcome of the game, and makes people's opinions of you start to sour.

Speaking of opinions, you can usually use your words to steer conversations to peaceful outcomes in FONV, or insert expert observations thanks to your skills. I like that. Unlike a game with a reload system, there is no reason to keep the dice out of the equation though.

Freedom. Consequences. Many little things to do everywhere on the map. I do recommend New Vegas style sand-boxing.

Here's further inspiration:

Share good posts with good goblins. Claytonian at the gmails.

Monday, January 4, 2021

2d6 Loyalty

Your PC eyes a tough lady in a bar. "Might you be looking for employment?" you say.

She regards you cooly as a bald hobbit rolls some dice. "Mayhap I am. Sure am thirsty though."

"Ah, well,  feel free to buy a drink. I don't imbibe myself."

Well you just missed a social cue. That bald guy was the Dungeon Master. He was rolling 2d6* to see her beginning loyalty. Each time you screw up, that number goes down. Can you guess what happens at zero? Next time, start by buying your henchman a drink.

*: Snake eyes mean they'll rob you at the first opportunity. Boxcars mean they'll follow you fanatically lest you get really murderhoboey.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

roll a d666 for your new ability scores

I like me some quick character generation. You can roll a 2d6 to get your scores and call it good, or add in a third d6 to find out which one of the standard D&D scores is your first score using the first number in he cell (the rest follow in order, as Crom intended). It really is best if you have that third d6, so that not everybody has a sucky first score. These scores are probably too week for power-fantasy D&Ds.







3, 5, 7,
10, 12, 14

3, 6, 7, 1
0, 12, 14

3, 7, 8,
10, 12, 14

3, 8, 9,
10, 13, 14

3, 8, 10,
10, 13, 15

3, 8, 11,
11, 15, 18


4, 7, 9,
11, 13, 15

5, 7, 9,
11, 12, 15

6, 8, 9,
11, 12, 14

7, 9, 10,
13, 14, 14

8, 9, 11,
11, 11, 13

9, 9, 11,
12, 13, 18


5, 8, 10,
12, 14, 15

6, 8, 10,
12, 13, 15

7, 9, 10,
13, 13, 14

8, 9, 10,
13, 13, 15

9, 9, 11,
12, 12, 13

9, 10, 10,
13, 13, 18


6, 9, 11,
12, 15, 15

7, 9, 11,
13, 13, 13

8, 9, 12,
13, 13, 14

9, 9, 11,
14, 14, 15

9, 10, 11,
12, 13, 14

9, 9, 9,
13, 14, 18


7, 9, 12,
12, 15, 16

8, 10, 12,
13, 14, 13

9, 10, 13,
14, 15, 16

9, 10, 11,
13, 14, 15

8, 11, 12,
12, 14, 15

9, 11, 12,
13, 15, 18

3, 7, 10,
12, 15, 18

4, 8, 11,
13, 13, 18

5, 9, 12,
13, 14, 18

6, 10, 12,
13, 15, 15

7, 11, 12,
12, 13, 17

9, 11, 12,
14, 16, 18