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Old October 9, 2008, 21:05   #1
Mangojuice
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Magic system thoughts

So lately, for Z+, I've been thinking about a major change in the magic system. Here's the big idea:

1. There would be more spells available. Instead of 8 spells per book, the books would have 12-11-9-8 spells; so 23/40 are in the common books.
2. Characters will have a cap on the total number of spells they can learn. So although there are 40 spells per realm, for instance, a Priest can only learn 60 spells among the two schools. So, you are forced to make choices.
3. In addition, you can spend a spell slot on "spell focus" instead, where you don't learn a new spell but instead can cast an old spell better: less mana, more power, and less failure.
4. Once you have learned a spell you can never unlearn it. You can "forget it" if you lose levels, but it will be restored when you regain the level.
5. In addition, the cost/level of learning values will be normalized. Each spell will have internal values, and these will be adjusted in an algorithmic way based on your class. This eliminates guessing about classes... and while we're on it, has pointed out a number of badly out of balance level/cost settings. (Example: Resistance True is a level 15 spell for Mages, but a level *35* spell for Rangers, while Rangers generally don't do much worse than Mages in their spell progression.)

This attempts to address many game balance issues at once:

1. Certain realm pairs overlap so much, it creates a significant disincentive. This way, if your realms overlap, you can use your spell slots on the non-overlapping spells and not suffer... or use your slots on focusing on the things you do well.
2. People have complained that spells aren't as good as missile weapons. In Z+, missile weapons are a little less nasty in the first place... but maybe now spells can compete better, when you focus them.
3. Class balance: High Mages can be allowed to learn all the spells in their one realm, while Mages can be restricted to, I'm thinking, 85%. This along with their faster learning rate and lower mana costs can balance things out better, making High Mages more attractive.
4. I have some sweet ideas for new spells but it's really hard to remove old spells.

This will be a big change, though. Anyone see any game balance issues I should be wary of?
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Old October 9, 2008, 21:42   #2
Pete Mack
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I think this is probably a bad idea:

Quote:
.
5. In addition, the cost/level of learning values will be normalized. Each spell will have internal values, and these will be adjusted in an algorithmic way based on your class. This eliminates guessing about classes... and while we're on it, has pointed out a number of badly out of balance level/cost settings. (Example: Resistance True is a level 15 spell for Mages, but a level *35* spell for Rangers, while Rangers generally don't do much worse than Mages in their spell progression.)
In V at least, utility spells are generally cheap for rogues and expensive for rangers. Buffing spells are the reverse. And Rangers tend to have an easy time with Acid spells, but hard with Fire. It's not a big deal, but it's nice to have a little flavor.
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Old October 9, 2008, 22:57   #3
Mangojuice
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Mack View Post
I think this is probably a bad idea:



In V at least, utility spells are generally cheap for rogues and expensive for rangers. Buffing spells are the reverse. And Rangers tend to have an easy time with Acid spells, but hard with Fire. It's not a big deal, but it's nice to have a little flavor.
I have a system for dealing with that kind of thing, but I'm not sure how specific to make it. One thing I noticed, for instance, was that Mages get Identify (in Sorcery) very early compared with other classes, even adjusting for different spell acquisition rates. I see the point... but this had an unfortunate side effect, which was that the spells after Identify were often pushed back much further than they should have been just to compensate for what was essentially a single penalty.

Basically, what I was intending on doing to be more specific:

Mages / High mages get mana cost bonuses to ID/*ID*/mapping spells.

Rogues and Monks get mana cost penalties to attack spells.

Priests and Paladins get power (duration) bonuses to buffing spells.

Rogues get power penalties across the board; this makes their attack spells and buffing spells less effective.

Also, each class has a set of bonuses/penalties for each distinct magic realm; so for instance, Priests get level, cost, and power bonuses to Life magic, but penalties elsewhere, which makes them better at healing magic without having to have a separate rule.

So there's still flavor. But I do want more feedback on what kind of flavor there should be. I haven't written code for the data structures yet, and I need to plan that out.
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Old October 9, 2008, 23:24   #4
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I think one big consequence would be that people would try to skip most low level spells. Detection and Clairvoyance make every other detection spell else obsolete, especially if you can reduce their cost. Same thing with a couple buffs and nearly all healing and attack spells. That's not necessarily bad- the player would be forced to make a tough strategic choice between something that can save his bacon now or trying to hold off for a bigger reward. The down side is that you'd see a lot of mages running around with long bows and staves of detection. You could make the weaker spells prerequisites for the bigger spells to force spell casters to actually cast the occasional spell, but that might effectively confine the choices and sort of defeat the purpose.
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Old October 9, 2008, 23:30   #5
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this is why I don't think it's a good idea. You are putting logic into the program, where previously it was data-driven. It's a relative lot of effort for little gain. If you want to do this, you should follow unangband's model of generating the data files automatically, then using that. It's more flexible, and probably easier.
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Old October 10, 2008, 00:15   #6
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Originally Posted by Pete Mack View Post
this is why I don't think it's a good idea. You are putting logic into the program, where previously it was data-driven. It's a relative lot of effort for little gain. If you want to do this, you should follow unangband's model of generating the data files automatically, then using that. It's more flexible, and probably easier.
Sigh. I guess you're right. I suppose it takes a bit more memory that way but ultimately no big deal, and it does give me fine-tune control for any specific alterations. And it does make coding this much easier.
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Old October 10, 2008, 00:21   #7
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Originally Posted by pampl View Post
I think one big consequence would be that people would try to skip most low level spells. Detection and Clairvoyance make every other detection spell else obsolete, especially if you can reduce their cost. Same thing with a couple buffs and nearly all healing and attack spells. That's not necessarily bad- the player would be forced to make a tough strategic choice between something that can save his bacon now or trying to hold off for a bigger reward. The down side is that you'd see a lot of mages running around with long bows and staves of detection. You could make the weaker spells prerequisites for the bigger spells to force spell casters to actually cast the occasional spell, but that might effectively confine the choices and sort of defeat the purpose.
Yeah, I think that is the big difficulty. The question is, what spells will be important enough at low / medium levels that you wouldn't want to do without them. Because focusing on a late-game spell could be very powerful. And, will there be enough important spells?

I'm not a big fan of prerequisites, but perhaps I will make the spell limit separated by power level of the spell. So, for instance, you get at most 8 slots for lvl 1-50 spells, at most 16 for lvl 1-40, et cetera, something like that.

I don't mind encouraging some min-maxing, but it should be under control. I want people to have flexibility.
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Old October 10, 2008, 06:25   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangojuice View Post
So lately, for Z+, I've been thinking about a major change in the magic system. Here's the big idea:

1. There would be more spells available. Instead of 8 spells per book, the books would have 12-11-9-8 spells; so 23/40 are in the common books.
2. Characters will have a cap on the total number of spells they can learn. So although there are 40 spells per realm, for instance, a Priest can only learn 60 spells among the two schools. So, you are forced to make choices.
3. In addition, you can spend a spell slot on "spell focus" instead, where you don't learn a new spell but instead can cast an old spell better: less mana, more power, and less failure.
4. Once you have learned a spell you can never unlearn it. You can "forget it" if you lose levels, but it will be restored when you regain the level.

...

This will be a big change, though. Anyone see any game balance issues I should be wary of?
As someone else has pointed out, this penalizes people who attempt to learn low level spells in favour of waiting for higher level spells.

I've done a lot of thinking about magic systems (see my blog for details), and I think you're going to do OK, this way. I can offer the following concrete suggestions that might help improve things:

1. More spells available is a good thing; however make sure they're not just iterations of Water / Fire / Acid Bolt in various shapes. Instead each element should have its own set of attack shapes unique to that element.

2. Cap the total number of spells learnt, by making higher level spells cost more 'study points'. Levels 1-9 cost 1 study point, 10-19 cost 2 study points and so on. Either that or restrict the number of different spells that can be learnt in each band: e.g. you can only learn 8 spells of level 1-9, 8 of level 10-19 and so on.

3. Don't bother with spell focus: just add improved versions of a spell with a pre-requisite that the worse version has to be learnt first. It has the same effect with an easier to understand interface.

4. Allow players to change (re-spec) which spells they can learn; but only at an Inn, Magic Guild or another hard to reach place, where they can't exploit this. Maybe make forgetting a spell a store service.
This allows the player to change spells if they find a spell particularly useless.


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Old October 10, 2008, 07:38   #9
Mangojuice
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As someone else has pointed out, this penalizes people who attempt to learn low level spells in favour of waiting for higher level spells.

I've done a lot of thinking about magic systems (see my blog for details), and I think you're going to do OK, this way. I can offer the following concrete suggestions that might help improve things:

1. More spells available is a good thing; however make sure they're not just iterations of Water / Fire / Acid Bolt in various shapes. Instead each element should have its own set of attack shapes unique to that element.
The new spells will not disappoint. I try to make sure each spell fills a game niche of some kind. Example: One of the new Chaos spells I have in mind, Immolation, gives you an aura of fire for 20-40 turns. Against a monster that is actually wailing on you, I think this compares quite nicely to a fire bolt.. but the damage it does is much less immediate than a fire bolt, and requires you to be hit. Another Chaos spell, Ray of Frost, is a low-range frost bolt doing low damage (1d4 + lev/3, I think), but it costs no mana at all. It has its place: it's an alternative to Magic Missile that is inferior in the long term but probably superior at low levels, which is when magic missile is most important anyway. Other realms were easier than Chaos, because so much of Chaos is attack spells, which can get very repetitive.

Quote:
4. Allow players to change (re-spec) which spells they can learn; but only at an Inn, Magic Guild or another hard to reach place, where they can't exploit this. Maybe make forgetting a spell a store service.
This allows the player to change spells if they find a spell particularly useless.
I thought about this, but I think it's broken. Many spells fill a niche need that expires at a certain point in the game. For instance, low-level healing spells are of some use early in the game but are quite useless later. So you should be cautious in learning them, especially multiple ones, because you'll be stuck with them. But if this mechanic is available, it's like there's no real downside. It would have to be rare or expensive enough that even top-level characters can't reliably access it... on the level of a potion of new life, maybe, or maybe a chaos patron reward.

That said, I think that if your choice of learning a spell is irrevocable, it's only fair that you get a complete description of the spell before you choose to learn it.

I'll check out your blog.
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Last edited by Mangojuice; October 10, 2008 at 19:39.
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Old October 10, 2008, 14:57   #10
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Originally Posted by Mangojuice View Post
That said, I think that if your choice of learning a spell is irrevocable, it's only fair that you get a complete description of the spell before you choose to learn it.
Wouldn't that be nice, a browse-able short description before you learn the spell. And in addition, a more complete description once the spell is learned (maybe a paragraph, for some spells).

When I first started playing FA I never bothered learning Detect Evil (assuming it worked much like in AD&D). I just didn't see the point in determining if a particular creature was evil or not before killing it.
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