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.