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Thread: Mana Points and spell scalability

  1. #1
    Moderator Aldaron's Avatar
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    Mana Points and spell scalability

    I wanted to ask what are you guys thinking when it comes to the scalability of the magic system.

    I'm a big fan of the d&d psionic Power Point system because is far more elegant, and functional, that the old vancian system. And the big problem with the vancian system is the scalability of spells. Most spells scale one way or another but the vancian systems limits the scaling to avoid making a level 1 spells the equivalent of a higher level spell.

    For example Shield provides a +4 shield AC bonus and scales only it's duration. While it's psionic equivalent Force Screen let's you spend power points to also increase it's AC bonus making it usefull at higher levels while maintaining it's balance with higher level powers.

    For this reason many low level spells become useless after a few levels and require a higher level version that does almost the same thing. So you end up with a game with both Sleep and Deep Slumber, that is the exact same spell but that affects 10HD of creatures instead of 4HD and is level 3 while sleep is level 1.

    MoM avoided this problem by also scaling it's spells, you could spend more mana on Firebolt and it dealt more damage. Even so it had it's limitations, some spells could be upgraded further than others, some couldn't be upgraded at all.

    So I'm curious about what approach are you going to take with WoM. I'm guessing that since you have mana you'll keep a systems similar to the one in MoM.

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    Moderator Asmodai's Avatar
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    A level 5 wizard casting sleep (level 1 spell) will effect 4HD of creatures up to 150' away whereas with Deep Slumber (level 3) that same wizard will effect 10HD of creatures up to only 35' away. Furthermore the wizard could extend via the meta magic feat sleep to last double the duration and still only cost a level 2 slot instead of the level 3 Deep Slumber would take. The wizard could likewise Enlarge sleep making it's already formidable range even longer and still be only a level 2 slot. That's just an example but assuming meta magic feats (or something similar) are in the spells can already be tweaked.

    I'm not familiar with psionics in D20 and I'm not a fan of the vancian system (really glad WoM is using Mana) so I'm curious how you think this could be implemented so that it doesn't become too cumbersome for the player. If every time you try to cast a spell you are presented with a big speadsheet of all the variables (range, duration, damage/hit die, etc.) with sliders to put more and more spell points into it I think it would be a bit disrupting to the game. The meta magic feats present a few options (of which not all even apply to a particular spell) that generally increase the cost by a fixed amount (no need for sliders, etc.) The exception to this is heighten spell of course that could allow for up to 8 options as you could heighten a level 1 spell from level 2 to 9.

    I'm not sure the issue is as severe as it is in the pencil and paper game though. In the pencil and paper game when you are 15th level you don't tend to run into many 1 hit die opponents so as you say some spells become useless. In WoM I imagine you're still likely to encounter armies with lower tier units even late in the game. Humans won't just completely stop making spearman because they can make Paladins now for example so the spell won't become as useless.

    I too am curious how the spell point system works though. In my mind I just assume (perhaps incorrectly) that a spell costs spell points equal to it's level. So sleep would be cost 1 mana while deep slumber would cost 3. How much mana a unit has would be figured out by the spells per day they can cast (multiplying the level times the number and adding it all together). How much mana a caster can devote to a single spell would be limited to match the max spell level that class can cast at that experience level. Anyway that's typically how we do it when we replace the vancian system in our pencil and paper games via house rules. That may end up being nothing like what WoM does though and like I said I too am interested to see how their mana system works.

  3. #3
    Moderator Aldaron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Asmodai View Post
    A level 5 wizard casting sleep (level 1 spell) will effect 4HD of creatures up to 150' away whereas with Deep Slumber (level 3) that same wizard will effect 10HD of creatures up to only 35' away. Furthermore the wizard could extend via the meta magic feat sleep to last double the duration and still only cost a level 2 slot instead of the level 3 Deep Slumber would take. The wizard could likewise Enlarge sleep making it's already formidable range even longer and still be only a level 2 slot. That's just an example but assuming meta magic feats (or something similar) are in the spells can already be tweaked.
    Sure, but at higher levels the 4hd limit will hurt you a lot. At 5th level (when you can cast Deep Slumber) most enemies will have more than 4hd. Plus the DC will still be low since DC scale with level (and the stat). So sleep gets useless very quickly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Asmodai View Post
    I'm not familiar with psionics in D20 and I'm not a fan of the vancian system (really glad WoM is using Mana) so I'm curious how you think this could be implemented so that it doesn't become too cumbersome for the player. If every time you try to cast a spell you are presented with a big speadsheet of all the variables (range, duration, damage/hit die, etc.) with sliders to put more and more spell points into it I think it would be a bit disrupting to the game. The meta magic feats present a few options (of which not all even apply to a particular spell) that generally increase the cost by a fixed amount (no need for sliders, etc.) The exception to this is heighten spell of course that could allow for up to 8 options as you could heighten a level 1 spell from level 2 to 9.
    I don't want WoM to have to many modifiers for spells. Certanly d20 psinics didn't have them. Some spells could be augmented some couldn't.

    For example:

    Crystal Shard
    Quote Originally Posted by d20srd
    Metacreativity (Creation)
    Level: Psion/wilder 1
    Display: Auditory and material
    Manifesting Time: 1 standard action
    Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
    Effect: Ray
    Duration: Instantaneous
    Saving Throw: None
    Power Resistance: No
    Power Points: 1

    Upon manifesting this power, you propel a razor-sharp crystal shard at your target. You must succeed on a ranged touch attack with the ray to deal damage to a target. The ray deals 1d6 points of piercing damage.
    Augment

    For every additional power point you spend, this power’s damage increases by 1d6 points.
    So the only change when you augment the power is an increase in damage, it's pretty simple since it doesn't even have a DC. This power could be part of the Earth circle just like this if you can fix the range.

    Others, like Psionic Dominate have some complicated augment options:

    Quote Originally Posted by d20srd
    Augment

    You can augment this power in one or more of the following ways.

    If you spend 2 additional power points, this power can also affect an animal, fey, giant, magical beast, or monstrous humanoid.
    If you spend 4 additional power points, this power can also affect an aberration, dragon, elemental, or outsider in addition to the creature types mentioned above.
    For every 2 additional power points you spend, this power can affect an additional target. Any additional target cannot be more than 15 feet from another target of the power.
    If you spend 1 additional power point, this power’s duration is 1 hour rather than concentration. If you spend 2 additional power points, this power’s duration is 1 day rather than concentration. If you spend 4 additional power points, this power’s duration is 1 day per manifester level rather than concentration.

    In addition, for every 2 additional power points you spend to achieve any of these effects, this power’s save DC increases by 1.
    I expect the team to simplify the system so that we could fire the spells without much trouble.

    Quote Originally Posted by Asmodai View Post
    I'm not sure the issue is as severe as it is in the pencil and paper game though. In the pencil and paper game when you are 15th level you don't tend to run into many 1 hit die opponents so as you say some spells become useless. In WoM I imagine you're still likely to encounter armies with lower tier units even late in the game. Humans won't just completely stop making spearman because they can make Paladins now for example so the spell won't become as useless.

    I too am curious how the spell point system works though. In my mind I just assume (perhaps incorrectly) that a spell costs spell points equal to it's level. So sleep would be cost 1 mana while deep slumber would cost 3. How much mana a unit has would be figured out by the spells per day they can cast (multiplying the level times the number and adding it all together). How much mana a caster can devote to a single spell would be limited to match the max spell level that class can cast at that experience level. Anyway that's typically how we do it when we replace the vancian system in our pencil and paper games via house rules. That may end up being nothing like what WoM does though and like I said I too am interested to see how their mana system works.
    Yes there're several differences but I'm curious to see how they solve them. I always loved the augment system so it would be cool if they could use it.

    With the augment system you don't need to create many similar spells, you can just upgrade the same one so it has versatility and simplicity. You sleep spell can be use without upgrading on low-level units or on a higher level unit if you upgraded enough.
    Last edited by Aldaron; 03-19-2013 at 06:55 PM.

  4. #4
    Moderator Asmodai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aldaron View Post
    Sure, but at higher levels the 4hd limit will hurt you a lot. At 5th level (when you can cast Deep Slumber) most enemies will have more than 4hd. Plus the DC will still be low since DC scale with level (and the stat). So sleep gets useless very quickly.
    I just don't think this is going to be the case in WoM. You'll still be fighting human spearman even in the late game so no spell will become useless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aldaron View Post
    I don't want WoM to have to many modifiers for spells. Certanly d20 psinics didn't have them. Some spells could be augmented some couldn't.

    For example:

    Crystal Shard


    So the only change when you augment the power is an increase in damage, it's pretty simple since it doesn't even have a DC. This power could be part of the Earth circle just like this if you can fix the range.
    I don't follow you. If you can only augment select aspects then how is it different from the spells as described? While you cannot change the HD of sleep the range and duration DO go up so the spell does get better as you advance even without using meta magic feats. For attack spells damage typically goes up automatically so Crystal Shard method seems like more work to get worse results. For example a 9th level wizard casting magic missile fires 5 missiles for a single mana (assuming mana cost = spell level) whereas using the Crystal Shard method they'd have to decide how much mana to spend and spend perhaps 5 mana (one per missile) to get the same result. Unless I'm missing something it just seems like more work to get a similar result. Additionally I don't think it's a good idea to keep the system completely open ended. Can you spend all your power points to increase the damage by 100d6 (if you have 100 power points total)? Again I'm not familiar with the psionic system but if it is open ended like that it seem like something that will be quickly exploited.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aldaron View Post
    Others, like Psionic Dominate have some complicated augment options:

    I expect the team to simplify the system so that we could fire the spells without much trouble.
    That's part of what I'm asking. I'm wondering if you have some idea as to HOW they would go about simplifying something like that because without doing so that would be a pain for users to go through every time they wanted to cast that spell and no obvious simplification jumps into my mind. Just because I can't come up with something off the top of my head doesn't mean it doesn't exist so I'm honestly interested in hearing what solutions you've come up with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aldaron View Post
    With the augment system you don't need to create many similar spells, you can just upgrade the same one so it has versatility and simplicity. You sleep spell can be use without upgrading on low-level units or on a higher level unit if you upgraded enough.
    I'm not sure shrinking the spell book is even a goal. In fact since spell research is a major aspect of the game and as I mentioned earlier even the weaker spells remain useful late in the game because weak units are still running around it seems to me that the more spells you have the better. I just don't see having to research deep slumber as necessarily a bad thing if you already have sleep since spell research is such a big part of the game. I may very well be in the minority here though and again I am very interested in hearing about a proposed solution to the complexity.

  5. #5
    Good discussion! I'm going to take liberty to answer with the “Short Version” since it's late

    WoM is going to follow very much in the footsteps of MoM with regard to spell augmentation. Most spells will have a base cost and effect. You will then be able to spend more mana to increase that effect. For the moment this mainly applies to the damage a spell does, such as fireball, or how hard the spell is to dispel, such as Bull's Strength. You will be able to crank the damage on Magic Missile up pretty high, but there will be units in the game that you would want to attack with a more powerful spell. Still, you may very well run into spearmen late in the game because as they level up they will be more powerful.

    I think a compromise for keeping low circle spells useful while at the same time encouraging the players to research higher tier spells would be making the cost of augmentation higher on lower circle spells. So, you would be able to get the same amount of damage out of magic missile as you could fireball, but it would cost more mana. Anyway, it's just a thought. We'll have to kick it around and work on the “scalability enigma”, lol.

    Needless to say all the costs are still completely up in the air. We have to wait for the economy to take a firmer shape before we start assigning how much mana this or that is going to take.

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    Moderator Aldaron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Asmodai View Post
    I don't follow you. If you can only augment select aspects then how is it different from the spells as described? While you cannot change the HD of sleep the range and duration DO go up so the spell does get better as you advance even without using meta magic feats. For attack spells damage typically goes up automatically so Crystal Shard method seems like more work to get worse results. For example a 9th level wizard casting magic missile fires 5 missiles for a single mana (assuming mana cost = spell level) whereas using the Crystal Shard method they'd have to decide how much mana to spend and spend perhaps 5 mana (one per missile) to get the same result. Unless I'm missing something it just seems like more work to get a similar result. Additionally I don't think it's a good idea to keep the system completely open ended. Can you spend all your power points to increase the damage by 100d6 (if you have 100 power points total)? Again I'm not familiar with the psionic system but if it is open ended like that it seem like something that will be quickly exploited.
    I should've explained the psionic system a little bit more. You can't expend all of your PP at the same time, the limit is your manifester (caster) level. So a level 5 psion could use at most 5pp to manifest a Crystal Shard that does 5d6 of damage. Much like MoM had a limit to how much mana you could spend on combat or a individual spell.
    Some aspects of the powers scale with level (in the case of Force Screen it duration is 1m/level). For other you need to pay. Is a much more balanced system than vancian magic. You can also use metapsionic feats.

    PS: Of couse, some min/maxers got around that limitation. So that, starting at level 9, a psion could "go nova" and, via a combination of feats and powers, spend almost all of their power points at the same time to do a ridiculous amount of damage. :P

    Quote Originally Posted by Asmodai View Post
    That's part of what I'm asking. I'm wondering if you have some idea as to HOW they would go about simplifying something like that because without doing so that would be a pain for users to go through every time they wanted to cast that spell and no obvious simplification jumps into my mind. Just because I can't come up with something off the top of my head doesn't mean it doesn't exist so I'm honestly interested in hearing what solutions you've come up with.
    The upgrade bar in MoM is a cool solution. You could have something like this:

    Dominate:

    Circle: Mentalist
    Level: Tier 5
    Targets: 1 / X mana
    Saving Throw: Will negates (DC: 15)
    Magic Resistance: Yes
    Mana Points: 7

    The DC could scale automatically as you spend more mana on any spell. Something like +1 / 2 mana. As you move the bar the numbers would change so you could see easily the effect on the spell.

    Something that relly bother me about the system in mom is that much of the information is hidden. I would like to see how the spell changes when my sorcerer pours more mana on it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Asmodai View Post
    I'm not sure shrinking the spell book is even a goal. In fact since spell research is a major aspect of the game and as I mentioned earlier even the weaker spells remain useful late in the game because weak units are still running around it seems to me that the more spells you have the better. I just don't see having to research deep slumber as necessarily a bad thing if you already have sleep since spell research is such a big part of the game. I may very well be in the minority here though and again I am very interested in hearing about a proposed solution to the complexity.
    Oh I don't meant to shrink the spell book. What I'm saying is that I rather have 100 very different spells than 100 spells that include several spells that do almost the same thing (like sleep and deep slumber).

    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron View Post
    Good discussion! I'm going to take liberty to answer with the “Short Version” since it's late

    WoM is going to follow very much in the footsteps of MoM with regard to spell augmentation. Most spells will have a base cost and effect. You will then be able to spend more mana to increase that effect. For the moment this mainly applies to the damage a spell does, such as fireball, or how hard the spell is to dispel, such as Bull's Strength. You will be able to crank the damage on Magic Missile up pretty high, but there will be units in the game that you would want to attack with a more powerful spell. Still, you may very well run into spearmen late in the game because as they level up they will be more powerful.

    I think a compromise for keeping low circle spells useful while at the same time encouraging the players to research higher tier spells would be making the cost of augmentation higher on lower circle spells. So, you would be able to get the same amount of damage out of magic missile as you could fireball, but it would cost more mana. Anyway, it's just a thought. We'll have to kick it around and work on the “scalability enigma”, lol.

    Needless to say all the costs are still completely up in the air. We have to wait for the economy to take a firmer shape before we start assigning how much mana this or that is going to take.
    Another factor to encourage people to research higher level spells is to give the spells different effects or additional effects. Fireball has area damage, Firestorm could set units on fire, and so on.
    Last edited by Aldaron; 03-20-2013 at 12:19 PM.

  7. #7
    We plan to provide you with more information at your fingertips with WoM. When you spend extra mana you'll be able to see what you're getting.

    Again, much like in MoM, the extra mana you can spend will be limited by your "Skill" which you increase by spending mana on it each turn.

    Different effects and combo-effects will certainly encourage players to do more research

  8. #8
    Acolyte
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    didn´t see it mentioned here, but i think MoM kept the magic system very well balanced for battles with the distance penalty. is this going to be a feature of the magic system as it pertains to combat in WoM?

  9. #9
    We're still considering it. Frankly I think I'm leaning away from it for WoM, but we'll see what popular opinion is and then play test it good.

  10. #10
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    I wasn't a big fan of the casting distance penalty in MoM.

    While it did deter one earlier on from being able to cast more spells in combat, it also felt like too much of a penalty. Plus, story wise, if I can cast a global spell "Just Cause" or something like "Earth Lore" or "Awareness" without a penalty and its effect covered either/both planes, it seemed a bit heavy handed.

    Obviously those spells cost more mana and some had upkeep; but that is the nature of the type of spell.

    I think, with the idea of several planes, having spells not of the plane/opposite plane be less effective would be more than balanced enough; of course as Aaron always says, "play-testing".

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