Seeking the Form

June 22, 2017

So, we’ve already explored why magic in D&D, traditionally, is basically madness given form. The big reason for this is there’s no design format or structure for where spells go, what they do, and how powerful they are for each spell slot. In order to fix this, make my job easier as a designer, and empower players to make their own spells I’m giving each school Spell Forms rather than just spells directly, then building spells out of those rules. It’s like a video game designer first creating level creating tools or something similar then using those to build the elements of the game.

We’re going to start with the Universal school, things all Arcanists have access to intuitively. These are raw forms, things that are born out of feeling rather than direction, and are unrefined. When an Arcanist moves into their specialty, they start learning more structured forms that are informed by their schooling; Warlocks learn to shape their spells using the Forms granted by their patrons, Wizards learn to refine these basic forms into highly technical and specific forms, and even more esoteric spell casters learn even stranger systems.

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Systems in Systems

June 6, 2017

Tyr’s Hand, everyone, D&D’s magic is obnoxiously complex. There’s, like, nine systems in here and none of them are talking to each other.

We’re gonna have to break this down; first system is the spells themselves and how they’re designed, the second system is how they’re allocated between levels based on their power, the third is how they scale, and the fourth is how they interact with other systems (like damage resistance, AC, HP, saves, etc).

Today we’re gonna start at the bottom – what a spell level is and what it’s worth.

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He’s a Magic Man

May 15, 2017

Oof, magic. The biggest elephant in any Dungeons and Dragons shaped 10×10 room with an orc in it.

The problems with D&D’s traditional magic system are both numerous and arcane (hah!) and there’s no silver bullet to them. The answer, I think, is both complicated and difficult but it starts very simply – we need to make each style of magic mechanically different. The two biggest ones, the ones I’m going to talk about here, are Divine and Arcane magic – the focus of the Accolyte and Arcanist classes and all the classes that spawn from them – clerics, wizards, warlocks, paladins, etc.

The first change, I think, goes into how the spells manifest. Arcane spells in this system are going to be mutable, modifiable, and customizable – a reflection of the experimentation and examination that goes into making Arcane magic work. Divine magic, though, is more rooted in the powers they come from. There is no changing the prayers that summon them, and there is no adjusting the expression of that power.

So, details wise, what does this mean?

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The Rogue’s Surprise

April 12, 2017

Fighters might use Stratagem to outsmart and outwit their opponents with planning and quick action, but Rogues try to outsmart their opponents before their opponents even have a chance to act. Rogues use these Tricks to demoralize, undermine, and break their opponents using only their own guile.

These techniques are easy to see, and perhaps even replicate, but only someone who has a true insight into the body, into the weapon, and into the understanding of their foes can understand the Trick behind them.

Rogues, whether the practiced assassin or the intrepid dungeon-delving adventurer, are all possessed of this unique insight.

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Fighting Strategically

April 10, 2017

So we have a bit of a basis for understanding the Combat Economy. We know the limitations of a single character in the abstract (Move, Act, Fast Act, Say Something), and we have a way to discuss the outcomes of a character (Damage Per Round, Healing Per Round, Action Efficiency). So we can now start talking about actual abilities that characters have because they use this framework…and sometimes exploit it.

Exploitation, in fact, is the theme of the Fighter’s abilities. We’re calling them Stratagems, the kinds of combat strategy that lets Fighters exploit their enemies’ actions, placement, and decisions in the thick of combat.

So what is a Stratagem?

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Tactical Goal Strategy

March 17, 2017

This isn’t a new anime, I promise. It’s our design philosophy for combat mechanics. We’ve got one more important concept to talk about, and it’s the goal of well designed combat mechanics; Flow. Flow is the pace of combat and how fast a turn can be completed so the next person in line can go. When it takes a long time to make the decisions that go into a turn, the whole combat gets bogged down. This is also true for anything that requires hard steps (like 3.x’s Move then Act priority system). When you have people waiting to go, it’s best to have a system that’s flexible, easy to work with, and keeps everyone engaged.

Flow, by far, is the thing that suffers the most from having an unbalanced combat system, as well. It’s always a tragedy when one player just sits around not engaged during part of the game. This goes double for a segment so important to the design, like combat in D&D’s many incarnations and variants.

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Occupational Theory

March 11, 2017

So I’ve got a few ideas for what Occupations should do for their half of Origin. Part of it is inspired by D&D5’s kind of ideal of how a class starts, and part of it borrows the Backgrounds from the same. It’s definitely more than that, though, I think and I’d like to call it “Background” but I’m afraid of calling it something that’d conflict with another system that’s copyrighted. Maybe History? I’m not sure. Anyway, let’s get into this.

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