Sunday, October 28, 2012

Expanding on the Evolution of Magic

The more I build on the concepts I introduced in The Evolution of Magic, the more I love this concept. Magic really needs to be used more as technology is today in modern high action/adventure. Missions can center around a new form of magic - either better, faster or cheaper. Sending the players out to recover a stolen magic wand - a new proto-type or a potion capable of more or different results - These make great adventures. Think about your spy missions - Evil guy steals the new explosive and turns it over to his scientists so they can reproduce. This works perfect as “Evil guy steals new fire potion and turns it over to his alchemists”. Or it works as evil country’s necromancer escapes his handlers and is trying to bring the plans for the new hideous zombie to the “good guys” and someone needs to protect him. Or the beautiful herbalist is on the verge of developing a new herbal potion that will enhance farm yields, but the bad guys are planning on kidnapping her and taking her back to their country. Any spy plot will work. I guess my point is simply that too often magic is considered static in most games or campaigns. GMs come up with new, cool magic items, but they are mainly for the PCs to keep them interested. Magic that doesn’t specifically affect the PCs can make for good missions too. Maybe you already do these missions, but I really haven’t. If you haven’t, I think the best way to get the new ideas is to check out other system’s magic supplements. There should be tons of ideas there that your game hasn’t used, at least not yet. (Check out the Book of Wishes) This is just another in my eternal use of genre switching methods to liven up a game.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Bucket Shop

Why do I do what I do? I get these weird thoughts in my head, and I have to figure them out to determine if my books and rules make sense. Take the bucket shop. Every morning, the workers march off to their jobs and leave their buckets at the bucket shop. Every evening they march home and pick up their buckets of beer. How big? Well, three pints for a husband and wife seems “normal”, but when you’re talking about buckets, they could be any size. We’ll stick with three pints. The brewer needs to sell to 88 people in order to make his 12sc per day. Where did that come from? Well, I worked it out. Grain Into Gold tells me that a pound of barley is required to make a gallon of beer. It also tells me that a pound of barley costs 2.75cc (copper coins), and a pint of beer sells for 1cc. That was based on a cottage industry model of tripling costs. (2.75cc x 3 = 8.25cc for a gallon or 1cc for a pint) Then I looked at everything that goes into turning barley into malt. It takes a couple weeks, and lot of space. It also takes a cistern and a good sized oven/kiln. I’ve recently priced malt at 4.35cc per lb. I worked it out as whether it was done by the local farmer or by a malthouse and both really seemed to work at that level. So the brewer, seeking to make 12sc per day buys malt at 4.35cc per pound and over the course of weeks/a month, produces beer that he sells for 8cc per gallon. Thing is, he has multiple batches running all the time, to produce reasonably fresh beer for his customers. His profit margin is 3.65cc per pint, so to get his 12sc, he needs to sell about 33 gallons (thus 264 pints or 88 customers). If each customer bought four pints, then he’d only need 66. Doesn’t seem like a lot does it? one guy making 33 gallons of beer? if this is his full time job? But think about it this way: #1 - he likely lives very well on 12sc a day (that’s often considered skilled craftsman wages). #2 - assuming it takes about 30 days to brew the beer, he has over 400sc invested various ingredients in his brewery or well over a month’s wages. That’s a lot to risk. #3 - he had to invest in all the equipment to brew the beer at the multiple stages and store it. While it may not seem like a lot of output, you have to wonder how long it took this guy to put together the capital to have all these ingredients and all this equipment. Could he afford to have more going at any given time? Now, when I expand this to the big breweries, they’ll be able to process far more than 33 gallons per person. That means that they will make more profits, the kind of profits that pay for all those bosses and brew masters. Why do I do it? Because it works! Grain Into Gold has been on the market for about six years now, and while it isn’t 100% perfect, it works in just about every scenario I’ve tried. If you’re looking to avoid doing all this math for yourself - You might want to pick up Grain Into Gold.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Curses and Diseases

I remember that original FRPG. Lost in the game master’s book was a rule that said that every player character had a chance of catching a disease every month (and a chance of parasitic infestation). I think it started at 1% and went up depending on conditions. I kind of liked that rule; thought it added flavor. The problem is, I remain curious how diseases run in a fantasy era. Oh sure, the priests can cure diseases, but I don’t think that should be a 100% chance. (See this post) So I’ve been doing a little research on diseases and trying to put them into game rules. I also want them to all be a little different, not just have each one reduce Endurance. But another thought came up and I’ve been developing the two together. What are curses? I’m going to make curses magical diseases. Now many of the curses will be identical to the diseases, except that you can only cure them through magic. (You can get over a real cold, but not a cursed cold.) So now I’ve given myself the task of not only figuring out what diseases will do, but of assigning spell like stats to them as well. There will be some wildly magical curses too. Stuff like every time you sneeze, you turn blue. That would be a fun curse! A thought has come up in all of this though: Can you curse someone with lycanthrope or vampirism? I think so! I think the curse would be a pretty powerful spell, but I think so. Pretty nasty thing to do to somebody, but pretty cool too. I’m thinking that killing the curser (OK, “witch”) will remove the curse. That makes curses better mission starters. The prince insulted an old hag and now every time he sneezes he turns blue. Go capture the hag and get her to remove the curse, even if you have to kill her. OK, not the most original, but not too bad for a little filler mission. I’m still working on developing curses that will reduce luck or something like that. The game balance on something like that could be very difficult, otherwise the curse becomes incredibly powerful. Any ideas?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When is magic a lifestyle?

In Legend Quest, the main spell casters are the mages. The mages/wizards have six schools of magic: conjuring, druid, healing, illusion, necromancy and sorcery. Now the way I see it, sorcery, conjuring and illusion are just tools to getting a job done. Sorcerers are out there casting fireballs and such and wiping out vast numbers of people. OK, that’s not normal, but being a killer isn’t based on sorcery. Similarly, the conjurers and illusionists are using magic as a tool, though more indirectly than the sorcerers. That leaves the others. Most games see druidic magic as a religion. Well, most games see healing magic as religion as well. Although we don’t see either of them necessarily as a religion (it can be, but doesn’t have to be), I think either of these disciplines does inherently cause the user to think and live in a different manner. When you are actively controlling the magical forces of the world in order to heal injuries or assist nature, it changes you. For most, it would make them more reflective. Maybe this is a philosophy and less religion, but there has to be something there. Magic is no longer just a tool to get your job done. It is a force for good. On the other hand, those who use necromancy or use druidic magic to cause harm (“despoilers”) would also have it change them. You cannot alter the flow of magic in the world to tap into the power of death and divert death magic to create zombies or drain the life from a person without it changing who you are. Even the sorcerer is actually using the magic to create fire; he’s not directly using the magic around his target to deliberately pull the life out of him. Compared to the necromancer, the sorcerer is using magic indirectly as well. He may know the fire will kill his target, but he’s making fire, not making death. You get into the whole deliberate vs. intentional argument here. What’s the point? I think the point is that healers naturally have to be different from “normal” folk. They have to see the world differently. So do necromancers. They aren’t just creepy because they wear weird robes; they think in creepy ways and understand the universe in creepy ways. There will always be those whose lives are affected more by something else than by their magic, so not every necromancer is going to have the exact same personality, but there will be an underlying current of death running through the necromancer’s life and personality.