Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

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Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by Slloyd14 » Sun Aug 02, 2015 10:55 pm

Hi all! I was thinking about ways to do low magic, and it turns out, I can think of a few ways that low magic can be approached. One way is that magic is rare and so the heroes are not allowed to use it, but a few NPCs can. These will usually be major players, such as the big boss or the helpful wizard. However, even these wizards have relatively few powers.

Despite the heroes not having any abilities related to casting spells, they can now have skills such as magic lore and second sight and talents related to protection from magic will also be helpful. Also, it is not impossible for heroes to get some kind of magical ability later on, but only 1 spell and or power (similar to having the Templar talent). Maybe if you're feeling generous, heroes can learn minor magic at some point (but not start with it unless they are an elf).

Since only a very few characters have magic, you can be more fast and loose with the rules, such as having a spellcaster who can use befuddle from the wizard list, ZAP from the sorcery list and bless from the priest list who can also enchant sundries.

Skills to remove: Magic - Wizardry, Magic - Sorcery, Magic - Priestly, Magic - Minor, Magic - Necromancy, Magic - Mask Magic, Magic - Conjuration, Magic - Tattooing, Magic - Battle Magic, Magic - Enchanting.

Talents to remove: Templar, Arcane, Blessed, Focus, Holy, Natural Mage, Physical Empowerment.

Items: There are enchanted items, but they are rare. There are still plenty of sundries, but curiosities and trinkets should only become available if they are directly relevant to the stories and enchanted items are almost unheard of. Magical weapons might have no bonus and are just there to harm supernatural creatures. Some magical weapons might offer a bonus against a very specific creature (such as +2 to skill and damage rolls vs dragons or +4 to skill and damage rolls vs Relem the Night Demon).

Adventures: Spellcasters are rare and magic is usually a plot device, such as a necromancer who has an army of the undead to stop or a way to destroy a dragon that is terrorising a village. Although magic can be powerful, it requires a lot of time and effort to pull off and so there are no wizards walking around who can just fling fireballs around and obliterate armies (no battle magic). Apart from their big spells, spellcasters can cast relatively few "actionable spells" - maybe 6 at most and maybe none that would cost more than 4.

Powers should not always be quantified and if the heroes do get magic, it would be something along the lines of a priestly power or a 1 or 2 cost spell to be used once a day. Otherwise, it is similar to a no-magic campaign.

Since the Magic score and magic points would be a lot more useless without actual spells, get rid of those scores (maybe give elves a +1 bonus to luck or 2 more skills) and let minor spells be used at will and all other spells be used 1/day.
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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs

Post by SkinnyOrc » Mon Aug 03, 2015 4:21 am

My impression from the gamebooks and the Titan book isn't far off this. With the notable exception of the Sorcery books it wasn't that common for you to be a spellcaster, although sometimes like in Scorpion Swamp you started with items that sort of made you one.

AFF2 the way I'd guess many people are likely to play it is higher magic than the background seems. If every party has a Wizard or Sorcerer, and a Priest and maybe another character with some minor magic, and that's typical of adventurers in general, it means magic is pretty common. That's a choice of course but if you leave it up to the players it's a choice most will take a lot.

So banning player spellcasters would sort of be taking AFF back to it's roots. You could just ban it for starting characters but they can still develop a character into a magic specialist in game. They have to find and pay for teachers, which might be really difficult, and it's not going to happen overnight.

An alternative to an outright ban might be the players roll their character backgrounds randomly and that determines most of what stats and skills they start with. Maybe they just choose the talent. That can make magic specialist starting characters rare but not impossible. I've played WFRP where you roll characters randomly and the players might moan a bit at first but most soon come to like the challenge of characters that aren't min-maxed out. Plus by giving the character a pre-adventurer career it adds background for them to roleplay. The mistake WFRP made was to apply the careers to current advancement, not just what they'd done before. Which was always awkward.

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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs

Post by Nuvole! » Tue Aug 04, 2015 8:24 pm

Arguably a high percentage of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks is along these guidelines (live on a side Citadel of Chaos...): the player may occasionally be able to cast magic, but it is typically out of a scroll and/or is extremely complicated or limited in its uses, like the kind of "one-off magic" required to defeat Zambar Bone in the Ciity of Thieves or the "Di Maggio" spell in the Warlock of Firetop Mountain, etc.
I think it fits pretty well with the background story, but effectively removes one interesting roleplaying options..
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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs

Post by Slloyd14 » Sat Aug 08, 2015 10:08 pm

Hullalla wrote: I think it fits pretty well with the background story, but effectively removes one interesting roleplaying options..
True, so maybe an addition to this rule could be that heroes can learn some spells.

They can learn spells that cost 2 or less.
Heroes can learn 2 minor spells per point of magic lore.
They can learn a total number of spells (sorcery, wizardry or necromancy) equal to their magic lore.
Can learn a number of priest abilities equal to their Religion Lore in that god's religion. They may only learn abilities for one god at a time.
The spell can only be cast once, but they work automatically when cast and do not require rolls,
They have an inner strength (or the equivalent) of 5
There could be some time taken to teach spells e.g. 1 hour per point to stop people loading up on as many spells as possible just before an adventure.
There will be a monetary cost, unless the teacher waives it - about 50gp per spell or priestly ability and 25gp per minor spell (we don't want this to be an excuse to just load up on spells)
If you want to make things harder, you could say that spells cost a number of stamina points equal to their cost.
Spells not used after a month can no longer be used.

Also, there could be some magic items that allow the heroes to cast a spell once if they have a Magic Lore skill with at least the same number of points as the cost of the spell (or religion lore for priest powers). There may be more costs in terms of skill, stamina or luck. Cursed items automatically roll on the Oops! table.
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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by Nuvole! » Sun Aug 09, 2015 9:07 am

Probably some complex / unique items or conditions may help casting more complex magic, such as the Zambar Bone death conditions.
However, lowering the magic level (to, let's say, Conan or even lower) would fit fairly well with Titan background. Maybe you can assume that the War of Wizards "used up" most on tha magic powers of the planet and now there are just minor leftovers still available.
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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by SkinnyOrc » Wed Aug 12, 2015 11:59 am

The prob with any restrictions not also on NPCs is it's going to seem unfair to the players. "If that NPC can cast those spells how come there's no way any of us can learn to?" You can restrict what they start being able to do, and you can make it hard as you like to learn to cast new spells, but if there's no path at all to something they're going to cry foul. I like some of the other options in the previous posts though, a combo of those could be good.

The way I see it there are two separate areas to improve on here:

1. Spell casting PCs in AFF are too common for how high-magic the background is. Which is just a result of the freedom the points based char gen gives. There are other ways it could be done but char gen as it stands is a good system. I suppose the PCs can be considered special, picked out for greatness, so the number of spellcasters they have isn't typical. But I don't think some restrictions here are out of line so maybe player's clear their choices with you. Dwarves and Elves are going to be rarer than humans, and Sorcerers might be really rare in Allansia if it's not taught there (which is how I see the background).

2. Starting specialist spell caster characters are arguably a bit powerful. The ideas above are going to be good here and some are more interpretation than changes. It's not clear how many spells you know or of what level with Wizardry anyway, it just says "a few spells, and even those of the lower tiers of power". So I'm thinking they start knowing 2 spells per point in Magic - Wizardry and only those costing 1 or 2 points. Also the 2 spells per point in the skill could be an on going limit too. I like the idea of limiting Priest powers and was already thinking about 1 power per day per point in Magic - Priestly because of the Priests As Opponents thread. They'd also get the unique power last. The flip side is I'd also allow it to go up to 6 uses with a skill of 6 (of the same 4 powers). I'll have a think about how the other ideas might fit together.

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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by bottg » Thu Aug 13, 2015 2:52 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote: It's not clear how many spells you know or of what level with Wizardry anyway, it just says "a few spells, and even those of the lower tiers of power". So I'm thinking they start knowing 2 spells per point in Magic - Wizardry and only those costing 1 or 2 points.
Page 33. "A Hero with Magic-Wizardry knows total spell levels equal to double the total of MAGIC and Magic-Wizardry. No spells above level 4 may be chosen at this stage".

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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by Slloyd14 » Fri Aug 14, 2015 1:26 am

bottg wrote:
SkinnyOrc wrote: It's not clear how many spells you know or of what level with Wizardry anyway, it just says "a few spells, and even those of the lower tiers of power". So I'm thinking they start knowing 2 spells per point in Magic - Wizardry and only those costing 1 or 2 points.
Page 33. "A Hero with Magic-Wizardry knows total spell levels equal to double the total of MAGIC and Magic-Wizardry. No spells above level 4 may be chosen at this stage".
Maybe if we go with the rule that spells above level 2 can't be learnt, maybe the maximum starting MAGIC score should be smaller (4, or 5 for elves?) otherwise, you could put 7 points into it, get 2 in wizardry and get 18 points worth of 1 or 2 cost spells.
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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by SkinnyOrc » Fri Aug 14, 2015 2:51 pm

bottg wrote:Page 33. "A Hero with Magic-Wizardry knows total spell levels equal to double the total of MAGIC and Magic-Wizardry. No spells above level 4 may be chosen at this stage".
Thanks for clarifying, I was looking in the wrong place. It also tallies with the sample characters but it sure is a lot of spells to begin with. To be fair AFF warriors start out pretty formidable too.
Slloyd14 wrote:Maybe if we go with the rule that spells above level 2 can't be learnt, maybe the maximum starting MAGIC score should be smaller (4, or 5 for elves?) otherwise, you could put 7 points into it, get 2 in wizardry and get 18 points worth of 1 or 2 cost spells.
Yep if you want to skip 4 point spells for starting characters it's a lot of 1 and 2 pointers to get to 18! Reducing starting MAGIC to 4 makes the spellcasting roll 50% (with Magic-Wizardry 2), is that going to be too low? You could maybe use a starting spells formula of total spell levels equal to MAGIC plus Magic-Wizardry (so no x2)?

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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by Slloyd14 » Fri Aug 14, 2015 7:06 pm

SkinnyOrc wrote:
bottg wrote:Page 33. "A Hero with Magic-Wizardry knows total spell levels equal to double the total of MAGIC and Magic-Wizardry. No spells above level 4 may be chosen at this stage".
Thanks for clarifying, I was looking in the wrong place. It also tallies with the sample characters but it sure is a lot of spells to begin with. To be fair AFF warriors start out pretty formidable too.
Slloyd14 wrote:Maybe if we go with the rule that spells above level 2 can't be learnt, maybe the maximum starting MAGIC score should be smaller (4, or 5 for elves?) otherwise, you could put 7 points into it, get 2 in wizardry and get 18 points worth of 1 or 2 cost spells.
Yep if you want to skip 4 point spells for starting characters it's a lot of 1 and 2 pointers to get to 18! Reducing starting MAGIC to 4 makes the spellcasting roll 50% (with Magic-Wizardry 2), is that going to be too low? You could maybe use a starting spells formula of total spell levels equal to MAGIC plus Magic-Wizardry (so no x2)?
It is harder, but characters can select the natural mage talent, the focus talent or make use of the +2 bonusfor waiting a round. They can also divert points to skill and stamina to make them harder to beat in combat. I thought of the not doubling thing, but it might make them too weak.
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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by SkinnyOrc » Sat Aug 15, 2015 6:40 am

Okay here's another idea. It's maybe surprising that it's no harder to cast a 6 point spell than a 1 point spell. A negative modifier could be applied to the spellcasting roll of half the rank of the spell, rounded down. So 1 point spells would have no modifier, 2 point spells -1, 4 point spells -2 and so on.

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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by Nuvole! » Sat Aug 15, 2015 3:42 pm

Going back to the title, one option for justifying the fact that players do not cast magic but NPCs can woyld be having all magic as black magic, coming from demonic deals,involving massive side effects. Side effects may involve one or more of these: not having power outside a specific area, having nearby a weapon that can kill you easily, dying in daylight, being confined in a parallel dimension with difficult contacts with the rest of teh world or similar, as happens more or less to Oldoran Zagor, Zambar Bone, Razaak, Zadharran Marr, Balthus Dire, Bythos, etc.

This may look a good option for limiting the availability of magic to the characters, but it also removes the "good" wizards, like Yaztromo, Pen Ty Kora and Nicodemus, that would be "demoted" to the rank of "sages". Maybe you can leave only some less powerful styles of magic available, and specially the ones that are more suitable for NPCs, like Mask Magic, Tattoo, Alchemy, maybe minor magic and perhaps some priestly magic.
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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by SkinnyOrc » Sun Aug 16, 2015 1:20 pm

Nice rationalisation, that hangs together well. I wonder if with the players having no magic they would find the character options too limited? Extra skills to choose from might help and I still like the idea of those being based around pre-adventurer careers (fisherman, farmer, merchant and so on).

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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by Slloyd14 » Sun Aug 16, 2015 6:06 pm

It could be like Iron Heroes where the PCs have no magic, but they have better resistance to NPC magic and are stronger in general to cope with magic.

I guess just having a luck score deals with that.

Also, if the PCs can't use magic, then the NPCs don't necessarily have to follow any rules for magic - the rules are mainly for the PCs, so the NPC magic could be weaker.
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Re: Low magic AFF2 rules part 1: PCs have no magic, but NPCs do

Post by Nuvole! » Wed Sep 02, 2015 11:56 pm

Hullalla wrote:Going back to the title, one option for justifying the fact that players do not cast magic but NPCs can woyld be having all magic as black magic, coming from demonic deals,involving massive side effects. Side effects may involve one or more of these: not having power outside a specific area, having nearby a weapon that can kill you easily, dying in daylight, being confined in a parallel dimension with difficult contacts with the rest of teh world or similar, as happens more or less to Oldoran Zagor, Zambar Bone, Razaak, Zadharran Marr, Balthus Dire, Bythos, etc.

This may look a good option for limiting the availability of magic to the characters, but it also removes the "good" wizards, like Yaztromo, Pen Ty Kora and Nicodemus, that would be "demoted" to the rank of "sages". Maybe you can leave only some less powerful styles of magic available, and specially the ones that are more suitable for NPCs, like Mask Magic, Tattoo, Alchemy, maybe minor magic and perhaps some priestly magic.
In alternative, maybe magic can be cast only close to a specific place (personal "connection" with the magic world...) that can be moved in space only with great difficulties and waste of time, so you have wizards setting up their towers and staying there, while PCs may want to travel.
Maybe you can cast spells of a progressively lower power while you go further and further away from your "focus" place. This way you can explain / rationalize a bit better the fact thatPCs can't cast magic, while NPCs can, making it more acceptable.
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