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New design notes - Sorcery!


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Experience checks are not automatic whenever a success is achieved - it must involve a real risk or challenge, or result in roleplaying opportunities. The ability to award or deny an experience check

As an avid player of Ars Magica and Mage, I certainly was influenced by them. But I'm rejecting using free-form sorcery (at least for mainstream sorcery as represented in the core rules) for a variety

In all honesty no, I'm not proposing favorite mechanics in a vacuum. I propose what I would like to see given the way I'd like to imagine Malkioni sorcerers given my limited knowledge and appreciacion

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Ok, so basically, this is RuneQuest 3 with a limitation on spells one can learn, based on what Runes and Techniques one knows, and no need to create Spell Matrices. Am I right ?

I'm very disappointed.

Edit: oh, intensity, duration and range skills disappeared. Good point, but I'm still not interested.

25 minutes ago, Nick J. said:

Being most familiar with Magic World, it kind of reminds me of "deep magic" from Advanced Sorcery. Although I must plead ignorance on how sorcery was handled in RQ2 and other editions so I can't compare it to that.

Interesting in concept for sure.

There was no Sorcery in RQ2. 

RQ3 Sorcery was very close to what is described in this article, except there was no limitation based on Runes and Techniques, and every sorcerer could learn any spell.

Another big difference is that each spell a Sorcerer knew reduced his Free INT by 1, and as such reduced his casting capability. Seasoned Sorcerer used enchants to make objects that allowed them to cast spells but did not reduce their Free INT.

Edited by Mugen
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In your Lhankor Mhy example, you said he had mastery of Truth and Command, but the article already had suggested that Command and Tap aren't directly mastered but acquired through mastery of the other techniques.  So wouldn't it be Summon and Truth?

An interesting approach, I can see why there is scepticism, with each spell being a skill like back in RQ3.  A lot will depend on starting skill levels, but as I recall RQ3 sorcery skills all started out at 0 plus skill category.  i do note that skill is not a limiting factor in manipulation of a spell, just magic points available and, I assume, casting time.

 

The other critique of the original sorcery was that, with preparation, the Sorcerer could have ridiculous nigh-unbeatable buffs set up.  I hope the spell design rules, which this approach appears to be based round, will manage that risk.

 

All in all, interesting, and I look forward to learning more from the questions and discussion. 

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Maybe I need to read it again OR re-read the RQ3 Sorcery bits, but it does not sound like RQ3 Sorcery except as very basic ideas. Am hardly the expert though. One thing I did like about RQ3 Sorcery is the fact anyone could learn it. In a way it was it's own subculture OR that is how we played it. It was alien to everything else or felt that way. Now it is also tied to the Runes and subsequently to more tied to individual cultures. That could be good, its flavorful, but it also loses something IMHO, which may be the intent. 

What bothers me is that it seems incoherent even though it is just a blog post explaining the very basics.  I am also wondering how well it works in practice and if it bogs down the game. I am noticing in my own game design machinations that ideas I think I may end up changing days months or years down the line I just rip out. Sorcery feels a little tacked on and possibly not all that well tacked on. 

If it is there merely to satisfy some group of players, wouldn't it be better not to have it at all? If the design folks (and I have  no idea, not being privy to their conversations) are not sold on Sorcery, then don't put it in RQ. Make a subset of the other magics if you put it in at all. Better that, than another magic system which will generate debate more than 30 years later. Just a thought. 

Edit: Just because the blog post felt a little incoherent, does not mean I do not think the ideas came through or I did not understand them. I followed it, but it felt wonky. 

Edited by ReignDragonSMH
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I have to say that this sounds really disappointing to me as well. 

I have one really big issue with it - it sounds like it conceptually is very different to sorcery as described in HeroQuest Glorantha. In HeroQuest Glorantha sorcerers studied Grimoires (that were associated with a Rune). Now in RQ sorcerers study runes, and a grimoire is just a collection of spells if it is anything at all. This means RQ and HeroQuest now describe quite different versions of Glorantha! 

(for theism and animism, they feel like the same magic system described at a different level of abstraction - this does not) 

But it also seems to have kept a lot of the bad ideas from RQ3 sorcery. Spells as skills was absolutely terrible in RQ3. made it terrible to start as a sorcerer, and hard to progress. Free INT was also an idea that should have died with RQ3. Of course, without looking I can't tell if the duration etc rules are also as problematic as they were in RQ3. 

So this is basically the last thing I expected from Jeff - some bad ideas retained from RQ3 sorcery, but throwing away the core ideas of his own recent previous work! 

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52 minutes ago, Nick J. said:

Being most familiar with Magic World, it kind of reminds me of "deep magic" from Advanced Sorcery. Although I must plead ignorance on how sorcery was handled in RQ2 and other editions so I can't compare it to that.

 

That's what it reminds me of too with the addition of ways to extend range, duration, etc... Very interesting.

 

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Ooh, I have questions.

  1. Can a sorcerer learn spells without having their requisite Techniques?
  2. Can a sorcerer use their mastery of Techniques and runes to "free-form" cast a spell?
    (for example:  I have mastery of Summon and Command and the Fire rune.  I know the spell "The Fire Blossom of Zhang-Hilang", which uses Summon and the Fire Rune to produce a radius blast of fire anywhere within range.  Can I leverage my mastery of the Command technique to form my Fire Blossom into Pyramus's Blazing Divider?  Or must I have learned Pyramus's Blazing Divider as a spell to utilize it?)
  3. Is it wrong that this description makes me really want to play a sorcerer in Glorantha, even though I've never before been inspired by the world?

 

 

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This feels like a more streamlined version of RQ3 Sorcery. Not radically new, but RQ3 Sorcery with some more thought thrown it to balance it with other Gloranthan magic. From the outset it is great that this now makes Sorcery consistent with the other forms of magic by emphasizing the Runes, and this adds a lot of flavour to the system.

I have always liked the way that Sorcerers could alter the intensity of their spells by plowing more MP into them, and I like that we don't need an Intensity skill to do so like in RQ3, which is much better. Most of the other RQ3 Sorcery skills were widely ignored, much like the RQ3 Fatigue Points rules, so it looks like they are absent now, which is a good thing.

I don't really see why Sorcerers need to have limits on how many spells they know. My notion of a Sorcerer as an academic 'wise person' suggests that that an individual is steeped in arcane lore, including a wide array of spells. The Grey Sages of Orlanthi culture feel like they would have a wide range of spells, or be able to temporarily skill up on a wide range of spells. The Zzurbari Wizards of Malkioni culture feel that they would definitely have a wide range of spells as well. I am unclear what the rationale to limit this would be. However if the concept is to be addressed, then I'm not sure if I like the return to Free INT, it feels very 'clunky' to me and I would urge exploring other ways to do this. 

I do like that there is no broad 'Grimoire' skill; this may work in the big brush strokes of HQ, but it would be too broad for RQ. It also raises issues regarding different spells inscribed in a grimoire, as it does not make sense from a RQ point of view that a caster would be proficient is all of those, particularly if some are very different to what she already knows.

I don't mind having the Techniques, but I am unsure whether or not it may be better expressing the Techniques as percentile Skills, and not expressing individual Spells as skills % - you could either know a spell or your don't. Otherwise it takes much longer to become proficient in Sorcery than it does with other magic. However I can live with individual spells as Skills if that is what we have. 

I do like the notion of applying a Technique to a Rune to achieve an effect, and that Spells are simply formulae on how to do this efficiently.

In addition to this, what I would like to see if there was also some way to do variable 'on-the-spot' effects this way - obviously the success chance would need to be greatly reduced than what it would be if a rote spell is cast, or perhaps the effect requires far greater MP expenditure than a spell formula would cost.  

In any case it would be good if such a notion could be explored; this would really make Sorcery stand out to me.

 

Edited by Mankcam
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For me, this is a really entertainingly Gloranthan part of the new sorcery rules:

"Finally, sorcerers get bonuses or penalties for casting magic on Rune appropriate days, weeks, and seasons, and bonuses for casting spells in Rune appropriate places or using Rune appropriate components. Maintaining the ancient Brithini caste restrictions provide bonuses to a sorcerer's Free Int."

All sorts of MGF applications here!

 

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They are not skills, but techniques the sorcerer either understands or does not.

OK, I'll bite. How does the sorcerer either understand Techniques or not (I'm assuming that knowledge of Runes is based on the Rune tree we saw before). Also, if they are not skills, how does one "master" a Technique, especially if they "understand" it or not?

FreeINT to memorize spells, but no Grimoires. Sounds like a contradiction of what you have already laid down for Malkionism. If Grimoires exist, how would you mechanically integrate them into what you have just presented us? Does someone simply have to be able to read the text, magical or otherwise? If this is the case, can anyone who can read the text cast a spell out of a Grimoire? Are Grimoires simply repositories of spells that the magician has to memorize?

I'm with others. On first blush this sounds either like Advanced Sorcery, or a streamlined RQ3 sorcery, and NOT an RQ/BRP adaption of what is presented in HQ.

SDLeary

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3 hours ago, davecake said:

Spells as skills was absolutely terrible in RQ3. made it terrible to start as a sorcerer, and hard to progress. Free INT was also an idea that should have died with RQ3.

On the corollary should then sorcerers start out kick-arse and immediately gain more power?

Also without knowing the chargen process for sorcerers it's difficult to say at the moment how powerful a starting character is?

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2 hours ago, Mugen said:

RQ3 Sorcery was very close to what is described in this article, except there was no limitation based on Runes and Techniques, and every sorcerer could learn any spell.

Another big difference is that each spell a Sorcerer knew reduced his Free INT by 1, and as such reduced his casting capability. Seasoned Sorcerer used enchants to make objects that allowed them to cast spells but did not reduce their Free INT.

Let's see in RQ3, a sorcerer needed four separate skills to manipulate spells (as well as the skill for the spell itself), spells had no connection with the core magical themes of the setting, sorcerers used familiars to get around the sorcery rules, there was no guidance for how to create new spells (as a result, new spells were rarely created), and most importantly, the effects of sorcery at high intensity, duration, or range thoroughly overpowered Rune magic or spirit magic. As a result, an RQ3 sorcerer was a book-keeping mess and a power-gaming nightmare. 

In RQ4, sorcerers need to specialize in a few Runes and Techniques and then learn spells accordingly. Or learn spells that rely on a related technique (which is why the best two Techniques to learn are Command or Tap - everything other Technique can be inferred from either of those). They need plenty of magic points. They also want to use the natural Runic ecology in order to increase their chance of casting a spell - and will tend to use ceremonial magic that takes much longer to cast, but can dramatically increase the chance of success. 

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3 minutes ago, jongjom said:

On the corollary should then sorcerers start out kick-arse and immediately gain more power?

Ideally, sorcerers should start out about as powerful as other magicians, and progress roughly as quickly. Except possibly a little more so if you are playing Rokari etc (in which a wizard really is expected to be a completely dedicated magician, more so than most theists). If you are playing New Hrestoli, who basically start out as non-magicians and have to learn most magic as they go, it really sucks - learning new skills to a reasonable level is far far slower than learning new spells as other magicians do. Obviously I haven't experience with this system - but I did try to run a game with Hrestoli characters in RQ3, and basically concluded that spells as skills made that totally unviable. 

You do want to make the various kinds of magician be a bit different in how they progress etc, but not so different that players feel they have been screwed for choosing the wrong one. If your specialist magician character actually advances as a magician slower than other people, that player is likely to be annoyed. And using totally different mechanisms for advancement makes it hard to get that right (that was part of the problem with RQ3 sorcery - priests and shamans advanced by getting more POW, but sorcerers advanced by getting more skills, which was totally out of whack). 

3 minutes ago, jongjom said:

Also without knowing the chargen process for sorcerers it's difficult to say at the moment how powerful a starting character is?

It is. And presumably a starting sorcerer will be competent. But if they advance at a different rate to other magicians (and with spells as skills, probably a lot slower) than other magicians, eventually it will be an issue. Its also an issue of flexibility. If a priest wants to gain a new interesting ability, he spends some POW for a new spell, or joins a sub-cult, or something. If a shaman wants to get a new ability, they go and capture a new spirit. Both things that can happen in a single game session. But if a sorcerer wants to gain a new spell, then they can learn it in a single session - but it isn't as useful as their existing spells until they've had maybe dozens of sessions to get it up to the same level. 

 

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13 minutes ago, Jeff said:

Let's see in RQ3, a sorcerer needed four separate skills to manipulate spells (as well as the skill for the spell itself), spells had no connection with the core magical themes of the setting, sorcerers used familiars to get around the sorcery rules, there was no guidance for how to create new spells (as a result, new spells were rarely created), and most importantly,

Removing the multiple manipulation skills is a good change, working the runes in is good, and familiars were a disaster in many ways. All of these things are excellent changes, especially removing familiars, which never worked as designed (hardly anyone wants an actual animal familiar, which meant sacrificing INT) and have no support in Gloranthan writing at all that I've been able to find. 

13 minutes ago, Jeff said:

the effects of sorcery at high intensity, duration, or range thoroughly overpowered Rune magic or spirit magic. As a result, an RQ3 sorcerer was a book-keeping mess and a power-gaming nightmare. 

I think this was far more observed in theory than in practice. I saw a lot of overpowered NPCs in supplements and things, and lots of discussion about it - but very few people who actually ran a sorcery based game to get to that level. I tried running a game with sorcery PCs, and my experience was that making your way through being a low to middle powered sorcerer was so long and difficult that no one ever did it. And when you did do it, it was kind of unrewarding - sure you got to buff the party and yourself, but you didn't actually get to cast much cool magic (your powerful combat spells were often not as powerful as your friends Rune Magic, and took enormous time to cast) and the skill based system meant it basically wasn't worth learning new spells, because you wouldn't want to risk using them in combat until they were at a decent percentage. I think you've removed some of the worst bits of RQ sorcery, but kept some of other worst bits. 

13 minutes ago, Jeff said:

In RQ4, sorcerers need to specialize in a few Runes and Techniques and then learn spells accordingly. Or learn spells that rely on a related technique (which is why the best two Techniques to learn are Command or Tap - everything other Technique can be inferred from either of those). They need plenty of magic points. They also want to use the natural Runic ecology in order to increase their chance of casting a spell - and will tend to use ceremonial magic that takes much longer to cast, but can dramatically increase the chance of success. 

I hope that ceremonial magic doesn't translate to 'your character won't really be any use in combat or any other fast paced scene'. 

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The Ars Magica verb/noun construction doesn't really work for me anywhere near as well here. The verbs don't seem a particularly well chosen set (where do Perception and Communication spells go? if you want to buff your Strength, is that Summoning or Commanding, either way a strange way to think about it).

And really, the Power runes are more or less Verbs, just abstracted. Stasis is an abstraction, but stop is a verb. Death is an abstraction, but fight and die are verbs. Movement is an abstraction, but move is a noun etc. So many spells will be verbing an abstracted noun.

Again, the HeroQuest Glorantha construction (a grimoire has a rune, you mix it with a second rune, so a Element/Form + Power worked well as a noun + verb) worked better for me. 

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Expecting sorcery mechanics in RQ to match how we narrate stuff in HQG or 13G or KoDP is IMO silly. Basically in HQ, you know a book and can use the formulas in that book to overcome obstacles. Nothing needs to be scaled in HQ because everything is essentially the same mechanic. RQ has a LOT more moving pieces, uses resource depletion (hit points, magic points, and rune points - as well as Lunars, potions, etc.) in order to generate tension and force choices. 

 

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1 minute ago, Jeff said:

Expecting sorcery mechanics in RQ to match how we narrate stuff in HQG or 13G or KoDP is IMO silly. Basically in HQ, you know a book and can use the formulas in that book to overcome obstacles. Nothing needs to be scaled in HQ because everything is essentially the same mechanic. RQ has a LOT more moving pieces, uses resource depletion (hit points, magic points, and rune points - as well as Lunars, potions, etc.) in order to generate tension and force choices. 

 

The problem is not so much about the mechanics matching to me (though, FWIW, I think mechanics that worked more like HQ-G would work fine, and probably better), its that they describe fundamentally different worlds. In one, sorcerers study Runes, in the other, sorcerers study grimoires. 

Of course there are plenty of different layers of abstractions in RQ, and many more moving parts. But ultimately, priests still devote themselves to the Runes of their god, animists still summon spirits, there is plenty of detail about exactly how it is adjudicated in terms of different resources, but HQ still makes sense as an abstraction of the more complex process. But if grimoires are an irrelevant concept, then HQG  sorcery is not an abstract presentation of RQ but of some other sorcery system. 

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