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Some thoughts on DragonQuest

Rupert

Active member
Validated User
The problem was that backlash was easy to get, so if your effective skill was 45- (likely from what I recall), you were as likely to backlash as get a basic success, and as the backlashes were fairly likely to hurt more than the spell was going to help, you just didn't use spells, especially resisted ones where the actual odds of something useful happening were even lower. If backlash was like BRP's fumble chances, where the chance was a low percentage (5% usually) of your odds of failure magic would still have been dangerous and spells would've been risky enough that trivial use of them would've been foolish without them just not being a real option. Oh, and very high skill chances wouldn't have pushed them right off the table.
 

The Fiendish Dr. Samsara

The elegant assassin
Validated User
One of the best ideas for a magic system that I have seen was in Hero's The Valdorian Age. When a magician missed the spellcasting roll, they could still succeed, but at a price: the magician would accept debt to supernatural powers in the amount of whatever they needed to make the roll. This debt could be worked off in small doses by doing favours; if the debt got too high, bad stuff would happen. If I were to try and run DQ, I might think about implementing something like that to keep magic dangerous - and maybe a dubious alternative many times - but not so nuclear. I think that if a game allows you to make a dedicated magic-user, then playing such a character needs to be reasonably doable.
 

artikid

passerby
Validated User
I was thinking of an effort based mechanic. Like +10% of success chance for each additional Fatigue point spent.

And/or simply change all success chances to
Talents 60+rank
Basic spells and rituals 50 +rank
Special spells and rituals 30+ rank
 

The Fiendish Dr. Samsara

The elegant assassin
Validated User
But...but...but, that's so consistent! :) . I very much like the idea of using Fatigue as a type of hero point. Very much.

Do you mean that you would make Adepts roll for Talents? They are automatic RAW.
 

artikid

passerby
Validated User
But...but...but, that's so consistent! :) . I very much like the idea of using Fatigue as a type of hero point. Very much.

Do you mean that you would make Adepts roll for Talents? They are automatic RAW.
:ROFLMAO:
I didn't remember Talents were automatic, well maybe it would be better to leave them so. And lower Basic and Special chances to 45/25 +rank
 
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Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
The problem was that backlash was easy to get, so if your effective skill was 45- (likely from what I recall), you were as likely to backlash as get a basic success, and as the backlashes were fairly likely to hurt more than the spell was going to help, you just didn't use spells, especially resisted ones where the actual odds of something useful happening were even lower. If backlash was like BRP's fumble chances, where the chance was a low percentage (5% usually) of your odds of failure magic would still have been dangerous and spells would've been risky enough that trivial use of them would've been foolish without them just not being a real option. Oh, and very high skill chances wouldn't have pushed them right off the table.

Not completely; in most BRP incarnations a 00 was always a fumble, no matter what your success chance. But in that context most people would consider it okay, if most of the fumble results were annoying but not crippling, since fumbles were supposed to be bad.

As you say, the issue is the chance of backlash was so damn high.
 

The Fiendish Dr. Samsara

The elegant assassin
Validated User
At last we get to the cool stuff: Colleges of Magic. It occurs to me that many of the early competitors to D&D included multiple spellcaster types and/or magical styles, setting themselves apart from Ye Auld Game in this way. I’m thinking here of games such as Runequest (1978), Rolemaster (1980 - 82), Palladium (1983), the Arcanum (1984), and - of course - Dragonquest.

Since DQ doesn’t use classes, it focuses on styles of magic, which it terms “Colleges”. The edition that I am looking at here, includes 15 Colleges filling almost 50 pages of the book. In my thoughts here, I am going to include information from the Designer’s Notes in the discussion of a College, even though they actually appear later in the book.


[50] All of these Colleges are divided into three Branches of magic: Thaumaturies, Elements, and Entities. Now, I love me some categorization in magic and trying to make sense of the thing; I don’t enjoy the idea that “it’s all just magic!” So I love the idea of the Colleges and the Branches. The execution is often another matter.

Starting with the Branches: I get the Elements and mostly the Entities. The former involves Colleges aligned with the four classical elements, plus a College of Celestial Magics. The Branch of Entities mostly contain magics about summoning things: Necromantic Conjurations, Black Magic, Greater Summonings, Lesser Summonings, Rune Magics, and Shaping Magics. As you might suspect, a couple of these don’t seem to fit.

But the one that just seems to be whatever doesn’t fit into the other two is the Branch of Thaumaturgies, which includes Ensorcelments and Enchantments, Sorceries of the Mind, Illusions, and Naming Incantations. And you can’t quite shrug off the Branches as mere flavour, because, as written, an Adept’s magic resistance is affected by his Branch’s relationship with the magic’s Branch in a Same-Neutral-Opposed relationship.



[52] The College of Ensorcelements and Enchantments has an awesome name. It is supposed to emulate the magic of folklore and romance. Their Talent is “Witch Sight”, which also sounds cool and should let you see invisible things. Instead, it gives you a pretty lousy chance to see invisible things: Perception + 4%/rank chance. Note that when the text said that Talents work automatically, what it meant was that you don’t have to make a casting check i.e. fear Backlash; it didn’t mean that they actually work.

I’m not going to go through all the spells here - they read the most like a D&D magic-user list of low-level stuff (charm, telekinesis, sleep, invisibility) - but let’s focus on the very first, maybe the paradigmatic, spell to get a look at how bad one’s chance to cast spells really is in DQ. So the General Knowledge Spell of Charming is rather like the 1st level MU spell “Charm” EXCEPT that it has a base chance of success of 15%. Can you improve that? Sure and in some flavourful ways. If you know the target’s generic True Name, you get +15%; if it’s the Individual True Name, you get +25%.

So, yeah, you know that whole thing in Earthsea where a mage has to protect his True Name like life-itself? That’s here except that it increases the chance to a whopping 40%. Oh yeah, you could cast this as a ritual over the course of 10 hours and bring your chance up to 70% (that is, if I understand the ritual rule right). But any thoughts of doing the Ben Kenobi? No way; trying that gives you an amazing 55% chance of Backlash!

The most interesting thing these chaps get is a General Knowledge Ritual to create a “Crystal of Vision” which makes me think a lot of John Dee.



[53] Sorceries of the Mind is what would be called “psionics” in Ye Auld Game and the Designers’ Notes are quite explicit that they were thinking of the Deryni novels for this college. They get three very decent Talents - Resist Temperature, Resist Pain, and Sensitivity to Danger - all which actually work. But then, they have a Special Knowledge Ritual called “Binding Elements” which I not only do not get thematically, but which has - I kid you not - a 1% chance of working. No, I didn’t forget any zeroes there: it’s ONE PERCENT.

Otherwise, their powers are fine, but few and they miss some of the cooler Deryni aspects, such as crystal focusing, and that thing that Camber did to make his weapon super-powerful, and investing a non-Adept with power. Compared to the beautiful disaster* that was AD&D Psionics, this college is sort of bland. OTOH, it has three different ways to puppet people, which is always cool.


* Is there a German word for "beautiful disaster"? If not, there absolutely should be.
 

Preterite

No Future
Validated User
Best instance of Backfire we've experienced affected a Drow Necromancer PC. He started with a single-digit Physical Beauty score, and a Backlash roll reduced it to 3. Which means anyone who sees his face has to make a Fear Check.

More than one battle has been won by the Necromancer whipping his mask off and sending the opposition into a panic.


And/or simply change all success chances to
Talents 60+rank
Basic spells and rituals 50 +rank
Special spells and rituals 30+ rank
The only problem with this is that nearly every College has an insta-death spell; I wiped out half the party last month with a College of Water Magics spell that did damage to everyone who passively resists and renders everyone else into confetti. Such spells start off with a Base Chance of 1-5%. A GM can easily restrict PC access to such spells, but still...
 

artikid

passerby
Validated User
Best instance of Backfire we've experienced affected a Drow Necromancer PC. He started with a single-digit Physical Beauty score, and a Backlash roll reduced it to 3. Which means anyone who sees his face has to make a Fear Check.

More than one battle has been won by the Necromancer whipping his mask off and sending the opposition into a panic.




The only problem with this is that nearly every College has an insta-death spell; I wiped out half the party last month with a College of Water Magics spell that did damage to everyone who passively resists and renders everyone else into confetti. Such spells start off with a Base Chance of 1-5%. A GM can easily restrict PC access to such spells, but still...
😦
I do have to get a copy... Memory is not good enough.
Is that a Basic spell or a Special one?
 

The Fiendish Dr. Samsara

The elegant assassin
Validated User
I wiped out half the party last month with a College of Water Magics spell that did damage to everyone who passively resists and renders everyone else into confetti. Such spells start off with a Base Chance of 1-5%. A GM can easily restrict PC access to such spells, but still...
Who cast it; was this an NPC antagonist? How did they cast it?
 
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