Refining the Arcanist

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A note before talking about the Arcanist again. I had planned to do more about mecha in this post, but the combat system isn't testing well. Essentially, my attempt to do mecha combat without minis is confusing. I am not a minis person, but I may need to concede that mecha combat is much easier with them than without them.

Why the shift in focus? It's not really a shift but more of an 'aha!' moment while re-reading my notes for inspiration. At one time I had wanted to convert all the d20 spells into their OpenD6 equivalents. Using the spell creation system in D6 Magic and Vade Mecum Magic seemed simple enough that I thought the project would take a couple weeks.

D&D Magic, though, is quite resistant to being easily categorized in such a way. I know that killershrike.com converted almost all the spells to the Hero System. He seems to have run into the same issue I have when attempting to convert Air Walk (I couldn't convert it either). When you build spells based on effect, it is difficult to separate Air Walk from Levitation though in a prosaic sense, the difference is obvious. Sure, both lift you in the air, but one is like gliding up and down an invisible elevator, while the other is like walking on invisible stairs.

Vancian  Magic  has certain characteristics, most notably, that it "... is no science, [it] is art, where equations fall away to elements like resolving chords."  I also like the description that it is like putting a demon in your head. In attempting to differentiate the Arcanist from a Mage, I thought about how an Arcanist approaches magic.

Primarily, a skill-based mage would approach magic like any other craft. There is a base knowledge that must be attained. There are specialized tools used to ply the craft. New knowledge is built upon the proven knowledge of what came before. The mystery of magic for a skill-based mage comes from exploring what is unknown. Once a spell is known, it is no longer a mystery - it is a ritual that can be reproduced as often as desired.

Does this mean that an Arcanist would never sell his soul to a demon for more power? Absolutely not. Everyone is tempted to take shortcuts. An Arcanist, over time, will be able to craft tremendous magic. After a lifetime of study, his/her power will be quite formidable. But if there is a way to have all that power without the lifetime of study, well... you can see where the demons come into play.

What does this mean in game terms? At its simplest, a points system coupled with a completely different (from D&D) method of magic research. An Arcanist can make potions and wands, but the manner and costs will be very different from a mage. Spell research will also be different in that variations of a similar spell will cost much less for an Arcanist to research. An arcanist may be able to cast a spell more than once, but he/she has a greater chance for failure when casting.

The base skill level to cast a spell at 1st level is 11. Per Andras convention, a roll of 11 or less would indicate the successful casting of a spell. A roll of 12-19 and the spell does not work and the Arcanist loses 1 spell point. On a roll of 20, consult a yet-to-be-created Critical Fumble table.

The base skill is modified by the level of the spell and any other conditions the GM believes is appropriate. 1st level spells add five to the base skill. In other words, a 1st level Arcanist must roll a 16 or less to cast a 1st level spell. After that, spells become much more difficult per the table below:

Spell Level 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
Adjustment 5 -1 -7 -13 -20 -27 -34

Except for Experience Points, here is the Arcanist Progression Table.

Level Hit Dice (d4) Spell Points Abilities
1 1 6  1st level Spells
2 2 12
3 3 23 2nd level Spells
4 4 40
5 5 56 3rd Level Spells
6 6 83
7 7 110 4th Level Spells
8 8 147
9 9 184 5th Level Spells
10 10 231 Create Spell Stores*
11 10+1 278 6th Level Spells
12 10+2 335
13 10+3 356
14 10+4 387
15 10+5 449 7th Level Spells
16 10+6 485
17 10+7 516
18 10+8 552
19 10+9 558
20 10+10 569

*Spell stores are special magic items specific to Arcanists. Spell stores allow the Arcanist to store spell points in an item. These stored spell points can be used instead of using the Arcanist's spell point reserve. These points will also allow an Arcanist to exceed the maximum spell points usable per day, though an Arcanist can only use one spell store at day. The amount of points that can be stored is equal to the Arcanist Level times five. For example, at 11th level, an Arcanist can store 55 spell points in a spell store.

The points will last until they are used or until the item is destroyed. Breaking the item will not cause damage, but the spell points stored within the object are lost. When an Arcanist drains the last spell point from a spell store, the item disintegrates. Spell stores are not rechargeable.

Tomorrow or Thursday, some example spells for the Arcanist as well as the Spell Creation tables.

Arcanist Update and NPC Idea

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Back in January, JD posted this gem about an RPG mashup. It appeals to the part of me that likes to provide the unexpected to folks like me that have been playing for years.

In Andras, I mentioned the Arcanist Class a while ago, and then instantly regretted its poor execution. Testing has proven to be positive for the new and improved Arcanist that is based  on OpenQuest's Sorcery rules (with a touch of Battle Magic). OpenQuest's skill-based and spell point sorcerers are working out pretty well. The only difficulty lies in determining spell points. I can't seem to find that happy medium that prevents lower level Arcanists from being too powerful and allows higher level Arcanists to be greatly feared. The idea of basic spells that can be increased by expending more points is exactly what I wanted. The Magnitude table of effects provides a compact way to describe what powering up a given spell will do. The spell list is complete and allows Arcanists to be very distinctive spellcasters in the D&D world. Throw in a dash of Gygaxian Spell Names, and it could be something fun for your OGL game.

One of the spells in OpenQuest is Animate (Substance). This is actually a category of spells because an OQ Sorcerer has to learn a different spell for each substance. For example, Animate Earth is a different spell from Animate Wood. In an attempt to flesh out the Arcanist class more, I came up with an Arcanist that specializes in the Animate (Substance) and Form/Set categories of spells. For simplicity of reference, let's call him Tim (or more properly in lingwa de planeta, Faihonaboh). So far, I have Animate Earth, Animate Stone, Animate Bone, Animate Steel, Animate Water, Form/Set Earth, Form/Set Stone, Form/Set Darkness. He also has the Create Magic Point Store and Create Spell Matrix spells.

The important skill Tim possesses is sculpting. A successful skill roll for sculpting allows him to form various minions to do his bidding. Not all of them are humanoid in shape, so some of his constructions perform unique tasks. For example, the stone spheres of various sizes work to take intruders off their feet. The more humanoid shaped minions can hurl un-animated spheres as weapons. Why is this important? Once major limitation of the animate spells is that only one or two animated objects can be controlled at a time. That's why he can created a number of spheres that can alternatively be animated or thrown by other animated object. Form/Set Steel allows him to repair swords and shields. The Animate Steel spell allows him to animate suits of armor. The Animate Earth spell allows him to manipulate earthen embankments in all kinds of bizarre ways like having a giant hand come out of the earthworks can throw would be attackers or defenders.

Note that he doesn't have the blacksmith skill, so he can't really manufacture weapons and armor, only perform minor repairs. According to the Andras proficiency system, anything can be attempted by rolling 3 or under with a d20. With a 15% chance of success, this prevents him from becoming a wholesale weapons and armor manufacturer. Maybe, I could allow making a steel shield, but nothing like a sword and definitely not chain mail.

Those are just the military purposes, but other are available as well. A small stone structure can be animated to assist the occupant. In other words, tables spontaneously form from the floor for mealtime, create an opening for a window, wall-up the door, etc. You could even have the house get up and walk away to a new location. Animated stone ladders can be used in a scroll repository. Being fairly small, it would use only one or two spell points to raise/lower or move around. Oddly enough, you could even get your steel cutlery to chop vegetables and help prepare meals.

With so many spells, I figure that Tim has reached 80 percent with his Arcane Skill. This translates to rolling a 16 or under with a d20. Just like 2e, though, this represents casting in an extraordinary situation. When Tim can take his leisure to cast a spell, he do the equivalent of taking a 10. I also figure that he is around 12th level or so.

Based on my current point system, he has 26 points to invoke spell effects. Invoking any of the Animate spells for a human sized creature takes 14 points, but lasts as long as he maintains concentration. The stone spheres take only 2 points to animate for the larger ones and 1 point for a smaller one. This doesn't include the form/set costs because we're assuming that the objects he wants to animate have already been created. This seems like he is limited in spells at this point, but the effect of Create Spell Matrix, allows him to store animate spells in certain objects. This means he could create a few of these devices in advance to animate pre-made objects. With the sculpting skill, he could certainly create any number of statutes, humanoid and otherwise. With the Animate Steel spell, he could also use empty suits of armor. Using a few Spell Point stores, he could also spontaneously animate and form/set any other figures he may need.

Still, despite the ability to store spell points in advance, the points feel too low for a 12th level spellcaster. I have the feeling that the arcanist should be able to animate and form/set at least one human-sized object before draining his power points. I like the flexibility of the arcanist at this point, but I'm having trouble with the points to use. I still need to settle on a table that determines what a 1 point effect does compared to higher point effects. I have a good idea based on weight, but want something that would include length, area, information and other variables. Any thoughts are welcome.