Friday, February 11, 2011

Fire and Forget

I was struck by a thought as I was driving home last night (no one was hurt and I was able to maintain control of my vehicle). I was thinking about the AGE system used in the Dragon Age Dark Fantasy Roleplaying Game and how it felt like an Old School game. While I haven't played it yet, what I've read so far suggests this to be true, except for one thing: spell casting.
"Helpless Pieces of the Game he Plays"
Adelaide Hanscom [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

DARPG uses a mana point (MP) system for casting spells. Mages have an allotment of MPs to spend on the casting of each spell. This is a dynamic an free form system that plays very much like a video game: pick a spell and spend your MPs, keep casting until you run out of MPs, rest to recover MPs, repeat. I've watched my son do this when he plays a spell-casting character in World of Warcraft.

But it doesn't feel Old School enough for me. I come from the "fire and forget" school of D&D and think that is a perfectly natural way for magic to work, especially if you've read Jack Vance's Dying Earth series. So, I began a little thought experiment as I drove: could you use the AGE system to mimic the F&F approach to magic.

My first thought was to have the mage characters spend their MPs each day "memorizing" spells. I think the number of MPs might need to change a little bit and stress from armor also has to be taken into account. I haven't been able to allot much time to this thought exercise so here is my first pass:

Learning Spells
At level 1 a mage has learned Magic + 3 spells. These spells are recorded in the mage's spellbook. A mage may only have learned (Magic * 2) + Level spells. The exception to this are the spells learned at level 1. For Example: a mage with Magic 0 will have learned 3 spells at level 1; if the mage does not raise his Magic, he may not learn another spell until he has achieved level 4 ( (0 * 2) + 4).

A mage can learn any spell he comes upon by making a successful Learning Roll: Cunning (Arcane Lore) vs a TN 10 + MP Cost of spell. For spells with variable MP, use the lowest value in the range.

Memory Points
Memory points (MPs) represent a mage's mental capacity when it come to holding the chaotic energy of spells in their mind. A mage has trained their mind to act as a receptacle for the formulaic spells that are used to unleash magical effects. The mage's mind can only contain so much chaotic energy at one time. These spells are imprinted into their mind and held ready until they are released by the mage to create the desired effect, casting the spell. After the energy is released, that spell is "forgotten" and cannot be cast again until the mage has "re-memorized" it. A mage can memorize the same spell effect multiple times, provide the mage has sufficient MPs to do so.

A level 1 mage starts the game with memory points equal to 10 + (Magic * 2) and adds Magic * 2 more every time he gains a level. Apply changes to Magic before calculating MPs gained for a new level. MPs gained for previous levels are not recalculated when Magic is raised, it only affects MPs gained going forward in levels.

Powerful mages can hold many more spells at the ready in their mind than a novice. Each spell has a cost associated in MPs which must be paid when the spell is memorized. A mage must be wise and prudent when selecting which spells to memorize for the day.

Preparing Spells
Mages store their spells in written form in their spellbooks. Each time a mage wishes to prepare a spell for casting they must sit in study with the spell, memorizing the formula and imprinting its pattern into their mind. This act of memorizing the spell prepares it for later casting. The time it takes to memorize a spell is equal to 15 minutes per MP cost for the spell. For example, Arcane Bolt, MP Cost 2, will take 30 minutes to prepare.

Spells and Armor
Mages can cast spells while wearing armor, although the strain of such an action can interfere with the spell casting. Use the strain listed in the Casting in Armor table as a penalty on the Casting Roll.

Regaining Memory Points
Mages regain MPs by resting. A full 8 hours of rest are required for a mage to regain all spent memory points. If a mage still holds un-cast, memorized spells in their mind, the mage can choose to "forget" any or all of those spells at this time to free up MPs to be used toward preparing more or different spells. The time it takes to safely expend the memorized spell is 15 minutes no matter how many MPs were originally used in preparing the spell.

Spellbooks are large bound tomes used to store the spells the mages has learned. Spellbooks come in various shapes and sizes. A blank spellbook cost 75 sp and can hold up to 10 spells as well as copious mundane notes. Ink used to record the spell in the spellbook cost 10 sp per MP cost of spell.


Follow Your Bliss,


  1. I see what you're going for but man, you just gave me a headache. There has to be a simpler way to do that.

  2. Really? I thought it was pretty simple. I'm not advocating for spell slots, just using what's already there. A level 1 mage is DARPG is still pretty powerful.

    This all came about as I was trying to see if DARPG would be a good system to support what I was trying to do with Icosa. There is a part of my that wants to stay true to the roots of D&D, but if it is too complex I'll just drop it and use DARPG as is.

    There is a video game flavor to the DARPG mage that doesn't sit well with my image of Icosa. I'm still working it out, but I'm kinda energized by the prospect. I'm looking forward to learning from Tower of Druaga to get a better picture of the the game in my head.

    Consider this post shooting from the hip. Sorry to have given you a headache. ;)

  3. You know, I read it on my iPod so maybe the formatting made it seem really dense. Let me re-read it at home later and see if I can visualize it better and then give you feedback.

  4. Feedback is always welcome. Thanks for taking a look at it.

  5. Since I have played a ton of GURPS games I don't feel that mana point systems feel like a video game.

  6. @JesterOC good point. I was never really a GURPS player. Some things are hard to shake. I played D&D as my first RPG and it has been the primary one for most of my gaming life. This was reinforced once I started researching the influences to the game.

    I would say this is a personal bias on my part. I'll have to bring it up with my therapist and see what she suggests could be the cause of this.

    Thanks for the comment.

  7. JJ, wanna run this on the DAOracle and see how the feedback goes there? I have a slot for the 24th available. LMK.

  8. Sounds good, I got the invite to the blog, do I just copy and past the content and set a publish date?