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 Magical theory and Spell design in AD&D
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GMWestermeyer
Learned Scribe

USA
199 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2011 :  06:28:29  Show Profile  Visit GMWestermeyer's Homepage Send GMWestermeyer a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
So... I've nticed a few old names from the past around here and the spell tactics discussion in 'Magical theory 101' got me thinking about how magic actually works in the Realms, and how new spells are designed.

I am frankly usually very disappointed by Realms novels, which don't put much thought into the magical system or how spells are 'balanced.' I'm sure many people disagree with me on that so let us just assume I am wrong to avoid the subject and jump instead into the nity gritty of spell design. :)

I'll be writing from an AD&D 1e/2e stand point, so if you are writing from a 3e or 4e POV please say so, and be kind to an old grognard by explaining any significent differences.

here's what I see as the basics. Magic can be accessed by anyone who can learn how in the Realms. Spells must be 'memorized' leaving the spell like a bullet in the brain of the spellcaster to be fired when chosen.

Casting spells involves manipulating Toril's magical weave, the actual act involves manipulating the weave through three components: speech (verbal), gestures (somatic), and ingrediants (material). The spells power comes from a simple XY graph, where X=the spellcaster's power and Y= the spells difficulty but in many cases the power of the spellcatser.

When a spell is designed it can be limited via casting time, duration, saving throws, range, or the required components. A spell that only requires verbal component would be higher level then a spell that does the same thing but requires an hour casting time and 2000 GP ruby.

Though players tend to forget this, in theory they can modify existing spells via the spell research rules... a mage might research an alternate version of Find Familair that requires no expensive incense and herbs but takes a week to cast and requires the mage to make a Con check each day successfully to continue casting the spell.

So... that's a start on how I think magic should work... thoughts? :)





"Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that is even remotely true."
Homer Simpson, _The Simspons_

Sill Alias
Senior Scribe

Kazakhstan
588 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2011 :  06:44:19  Show Profile  Visit Sill Alias's Homepage Send Sill Alias a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yes, that is the usual way. Of wizards, that is.

There are individuals whose magic comes naturally. They have gift to make it. Many theories say it is because of blood of ancestors, including fey, dragons, demons, celestials and so on. They are called sorcerers. Their magic is activated by two basic components - verbal and somatic. Unlike wizards, they do not need materials since they tap into the source directly and form the spell they desire with sheer power of will. It gives great abilities and feats unavailable to wizards, but the sorcerers lack the theoretic training and have limited choice due to the way they concentrate. They engrave the spells in their bodies without book and scrolls, not able to learn them like their scholar colleagues.

You can hear many tales from many mouths. The most difficult is to know which of them are not lies. - Sill Alias

"May your harp be unstrung, your dreams die and all your songs be unsung." - curse of the harper, The Code of the Harpers 2 ed.
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Alystra Illianniis
Great Reader

USA
3732 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2011 :  06:58:43  Show Profile  Click to see Alystra Illianniis's MSN Messenger address Send Alystra Illianniis a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'll add that bards also do not require books to memorize spells, so they are much like sorcerers in that regard, except that their spells always have some sort of verbal component. They usually require a gesture as well, and rarely a material component. This comes from the nature of their magic, which relies on harmonics, resonances, and sounds to make the magic manifest.

The Goddess is alive, and magic is afoot.

"Where Science ends, Magic begins" -Spiral, Uncanny X-Men #491

"You idiots! You've captured their STUNT doubles!" -Spaceballs

Lothir's character background/stats: http://forum.candlekeep.com/pop_profile.asp?mode=display&id=5469

My stories:
http://z3.invisionfree.com/Mickeys_Comic_Tavern/index.php?showforum=188

Lothir, courtesy of Sylinde (Deviant Art)/Luaxena (Chosen of Eilistraee)
http://sylinde.deviantart.com/#/d2z6e4u
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Halidan
Senior Scribe

USA
470 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2011 :  19:21:40  Show Profile  Visit Halidan's Homepage Send Halidan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Good to see you active in the Realms Paul. Hope things are going well.

As for your question about spell mechanics, my thought is this - there are many ways to access the Weave in Toril (other worlds - like Greyhawk or Dragonlance may work differently). All magic works by taking a piece of the weave and changing it to fit your needs.

For mages and specialist mages (of all editions), they manipulate the weave like a mechanic does - by assembling parts (somatic, verbal, material) into a completed effect. If some parts are missing (like no somatic component), then either the spell will be less effective or take more energy to run (i.e. it will be a higher level spell).

Bards on the other hand use their voices and musical instruments to create a sound wave that matches threads in the weave. Once they match the weave, they lock on and then by change the pitch and tone, to create a spell effect.

Clerics implore their dieties to make the changes for them.

Psionists move the threads of the weave by the strength of their mental ability (this assumes the psionics work like magic rule from 3E).

Sorcerers also have a natural ability to manipulate the weave - usualy because of thier bloodline.

That's at least how I view it.

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

Edgar Allen Poe - 1849

Edited by - Halidan on 17 May 2011 20:00:15
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GMWestermeyer
Learned Scribe

USA
199 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2011 :  23:31:44  Show Profile  Visit GMWestermeyer's Homepage Send GMWestermeyer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Alystra Illianniis

I'll add that bards also do not require books to memorize spells, so they are much like sorcerers in that regard, except that their spells always have some sort of verbal component. They usually require a gesture as well, and rarely a material component. This comes from the nature of their magic, which relies on harmonics, resonances, and sounds to make the magic manifest.



Is that a 3e thing? Because in 2e Bards do have to use spellbooks, I'm reasonably certain.

"Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that is even remotely true."
Homer Simpson, _The Simspons_
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Tyranthraxus
Senior Scribe

Netherlands
423 Posts

Posted - 18 May 2011 :  08:32:12  Show Profile  Visit Tyranthraxus's Homepage  Click to see Tyranthraxus's MSN Messenger address Send Tyranthraxus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Halidan

Good to see you active in the Realms Paul. Hope things are going well.

As for your question about spell mechanics, my thought is this - there are many ways to access the Weave in Toril (other worlds - like Greyhawk or Dragonlance may work differently). All magic works by taking a piece of the weave and changing it to fit your needs.

For mages and specialist mages (of all editions), they manipulate the weave like a mechanic does - by assembling parts (somatic, verbal, material) into a completed effect. If some parts are missing (like no somatic component), then either the spell will be less effective or take more energy to run (i.e. it will be a higher level spell).

Bards on the other hand use their voices and musical instruments to create a sound wave that matches threads in the weave. Once they match the weave, they lock on and then by change the pitch and tone, to create a spell effect.

Clerics implore their dieties to make the changes for them.

Psionists move the threads of the weave by the strength of their mental ability (this assumes the psionics work like magic rule from 3E).

Sorcerers also have a natural ability to manipulate the weave - usualy because of thier bloodline.

That's at least how I view it.



You've pretty much hit the nail.

Also, warlocks (3E & 4E) get their spells by making pacts with entities like fiends ands fey who manipulate the weave for them to use.

quote:
Originally posted by GMWestermeyer

quote:
Originally posted by Alystra Illianniis

I'll add that bards also do not require books to memorize spells, so they are much like sorcerers in that regard, except that their spells always have some sort of verbal component. They usually require a gesture as well, and rarely a material component. This comes from the nature of their magic, which relies on harmonics, resonances, and sounds to make the magic manifest.



Is that a 3e thing? Because in 2e Bards do have to use spellbooks, I'm reasonably certain.



Bards not using a spellbook is indeed a 3E (and 4E) thing, they also use their Charisma to cast spells, as opposed to Intelligence.

I could be wrong though, I don't have my 2e Player's Handbook at hand.
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Diffan
Great Reader

USA
2823 Posts

Posted - 18 May 2011 :  13:03:09  Show Profile Send Diffan a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I've always felt spell design is very tricky (regardless of edition), and should be treated with caution and play-testing (in game play-testing to be exact). An example would be if a wizard comes up with a new spell, he'd need to test that spell against various threats (probably ones conjured or peasents) to make sure it works properly. Out of character, this is needed to make sure the level is appropriate for the spell and all the requirements/effects are met that mesh well with concept/power.

My AD&D is a bit rusty, so I'll go with v3.5 and 4E as examples of good spell design. In v3.5, various requirements are needed to perform magic. The components, often comprised of verbal, somatic, XP, and/or Focuses are needed to town down how powerful the spell will be. The more things required, the more powerful the spell can be for that level. Take Chromatic Orb (AD&D), it required Verbal, Somatic, and a gem worth 50gp per casting. That's a lot of $$ for wizards to carry around. This means that Chromatic Orb needs to be more powerful than a wizard's typical Magic Missile spell.

The game takes a different turn balance-wise for 4E as they've taken out the need for Somatic, Verbal, and Material components for spells. A spell's power is evaluated based on the effects the spell does, duration of said effects, and the role of the class the spell/power/prayer comes from. Take the wizard for example; their spells often don't deal HUGE amounts of damage as their role isn't designed for that style of play. They're better at maniplulating the battlefield, placing debilitating effects targets, and wiping out minions and swarms. So based on those paramaters, wizard spells that deal excessive damage at a particular level, say a 5th level Daily spell, shouldn't have a long debilitating effect (like stun, slowed, weakened) but could possibly have something extra like ongoing 5 damage (save ends). To have a strong effect, large amounts of damage, and a good range would make the spell overpowered IMO.

4E Realms = Great Taste, Less Filling.

"If WotC were to put out a box of free money, people would still complain how it was folded."
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Alystra Illianniis
Great Reader

USA
3732 Posts

Posted - 19 May 2011 :  02:20:39  Show Profile  Click to see Alystra Illianniis's MSN Messenger address Send Alystra Illianniis a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In 2nd ed bards used spellbooks, but not to the same extent or for the same reasons as wizards. In 2nd, they scribed their spells in a book to learn them, but once learned, they could use any spell in their book. However, they did not have to study it each day like wizards, IIRC. In other words, they did not need to prepare them, but cast their spells off the cuff, as it were. Of course, they had a wider range of spells they could use back then, so I imagine eliminating the need for a book was done partly to compensate for the fewer spells they could access in 3rd ed.

As for how they tap the Weave, I see it as something that is an inborn gift, much like a sorcerer, but instead of their bloodline creating the connection, it is their heart, or "soul" that allows them to manipulate the Weave- their voice is simply the vehicle or tool that creates the specific effect, but the power itself comes from the strength of their will and presence.


The Goddess is alive, and magic is afoot.

"Where Science ends, Magic begins" -Spiral, Uncanny X-Men #491

"You idiots! You've captured their STUNT doubles!" -Spaceballs

Lothir's character background/stats: http://forum.candlekeep.com/pop_profile.asp?mode=display&id=5469

My stories:
http://z3.invisionfree.com/Mickeys_Comic_Tavern/index.php?showforum=188

Lothir, courtesy of Sylinde (Deviant Art)/Luaxena (Chosen of Eilistraee)
http://sylinde.deviantart.com/#/d2z6e4u
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Faraer
Great Reader

3235 Posts

Posted - 26 May 2011 :  00:41:44  Show Profile  Visit Faraer's Homepage Send Faraer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
There's a long-standing ambiguity between bards as jacks of all trades who learn some Art, and bards as practitioners of musical magic. Because of the general avoidance of discussing how magic works in print, and the tendency to defer to current rules norms, it's hard to piece the situation together from the sources.
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