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Sorcery And Spell Levels


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I'm thinking of running a game which will allow both mages and sorcerers so I've been re-reading the powers section. There are a couple of things I'm not sure about though. One is to do with balancing characters and the second is about Grimoires so I'm hoping you guys can give me some help.

So, balance first of all. I'm planning on running my game at Heroic level for standard characters. If someone wants to be a mage they create a Heroic character but obviously have to spend some of their skill points on spells. That's fine and balances itself nicely. For sorcerers, because they buy spell levels out of a pool based on INT I was thinking of shifting their skill points down to Normal level, otherwise they'll have all the skills of a Heroic character, plus spells on top.

That seems fair enough to me, but the sticky point now is whether to give them Normal or Heroic levels for their sorcery. Which is best balanced against Heroic characters/mages? I want the power levels about equal but I don't have enough experience of using the two magic styles alongside each other to judge this. I'm sort of leaning towards Heroic level sorcery but I don't want either of the two magic classes to overpower the other (nor standard characters for that matter).

Secondly, I'm a bit confused by the rules for grimoires. Now, when talking about the number of spells known (i.e. in your grimoire) BGB pg 122 states:

Normal: Your character begins with up to 1/2 of his or her INT (rounded up) in levels of sorcery spells known, and also marked in his or her grimoire. For example, if your character has an INT 17, he or she knows nine spell levels.

Heroic: Your character begins with his or her INT in levels of known sorcery spells, also marked in his or her grimoire. For example, if your character has an INT 17, he or she knows 17 spell levels.

Fair enough. But when talking about the spells in memory (i.e. available to cast) it says:

Your character’s Intelligence (INT) characteristic is equal to the maximum number of spells he or she has immediate access to. Sorcery spells are cast from the spells your character has in his or her memory. If you want your character to cast some sorcery spell not in memory, he or she must first dismiss some other sorcery to make room.

(BGB, pg 123)

If I'm reading this correctly it seems that the grimoire is largely useless to a starting character at Normal/Heroic level, simply because the number of spell levels known in total is the same as the number they can hold in memory (for Normal level they've still got half their total capacity free).

Now, I understand that higher level characters will have more spells known, at which point the grimoire is essential, and that as soon as a Heroic character starts finding more spells they'll need to use their grimoire, but for a Normal character they won't need one for possibly some time. The reason I'm worried that this is an issue is that I assumed part of the balancing of sorcery against standard magic is that the grimoire effectively acts as a limitation on how flexible the sorcerer is, compared to a mage.

Maybe I'm miss-reading something though.

Anyway, all thoughts and suggestions appreciated.


"Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing."

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Howdy. Here are my thoughts.

You are correct in your assessment of the grimoire. It is not a limiting agent and is really unnecessary until much later in the sorcerer's career.

As to the question of how the sorcerer and mage balance out, I feel that sorcery spells are geared to be helpful in certain situations but limited in the extent of it's effectiveness. Magic on the other hand is for specialists.

Let's say the mage starts off with an INT 17 and POW 15. The mage can have up to 9 spells in memory, and needs to jot the rest down in a grimoire. The mage selects their starting 6 spells, but probably want to put their skills into three or less of them and have the rest as low level spells to be trained at her leisure. She wants one to be a POW v POW spell to bump up her POW. If she wants a direct damage spell, she takes one. The other is her utility spell.

Now she shops for a familiar. A hawk is SIZ 1-2 and has an average POW 7. This works for her and her POW is now 14 but her mp pool is 21 mp. Right off the bat she can cast a 6 level spell doing 6-36 points of damage without her or her familiar going unconscious. Pretty impressive for a PC starting out. Now things are about to get scary.

Our mage took Control because it's never too early to start bossing around minions. Her immediate goal is to make a staff. In the coarse of several adventures she has used her Control spell and her POW has increased from 14 to 17. She also now has enough money to make a staff. Her own POW goes to 16, her staff has 16 mp and her hawk has 7 mp. Here effective mana pool has just gone up to 39. She now has the luxury of developing some of her other spells because she's established her niche and does it well.

Going straight from the BGB a sorcerer really can't compete with this sort of fire power. The sorcerer is around to cast the utility spells that will give the party a minor advantage. The mage is too busy musing about who she's going to explode. Now, this all changes when demon summoning starts happening, but the BGB really doesn't support demons. For that you want Elric! or to wait until the Magic World magic supplement comes out.

Also, I highly recommend that you pick up Classic Fantasy. The work that Rod has done with the magic system is fantastic and greatly expands upon the options available to your mage PCs.


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