Kadeton Posted April 1, 2014 Report Share Posted April 1, 2014 Disclaimer: This will be 100% a gripe thread to get out some of my feelings of disappointment about the mechanics of magic in TTB. I will be trying to put down some constructive ideas as well, but since the book is already printed that's unlikely to change anything - my hope is that we can collectively improve things by throwing around ideas for house rules instead. Let's dive in. Spellcasting Pursuits There are three pursuits that allow you to start the game with the ability to cast spells: Dabbler, Graverobber and Tinker. My main annoyance here is that, unless your character begins as one of these pursuits, you can pretty much forget the idea of ever being a competent spellcaster, unless you are extremely patient. In a system with pursuits that are designed to be switched in and out according to the situation for the duration of a session, this just doesn't work. The reason for this is the restrictions placed on spellcasting - your character needs a grimoire, a personal magical theory, and some magical skills in order to cast spells. The three caster pursuits hand you the first two, and allow you to build the third. There's no other way to gain a theory or a grimoire except by FM fiat. (Note: I'm not saying that FM fiat is necessarily a bad way of running the game, but there's two problems with it. First, the game gives you an automatic way of totally bypassing that process at character creation; second, the story is for all the characters, and it can be very frustrating to have your character's progression stall just because the extended process of finding a grimoire and a teacher doesn't fit into the current arc, or frustrating for the other players to hang around while your character goes through that process.) It also negates the reason for having flexible pursuits in the first place - if your character doesn't have a theory and a grimoire, there is never any reason for you to switch into any of the three caster pursuits because they do literally nothing for you. As an example, here's a neat character story: A disgraced University professor flees to Malifaux carrying a stolen necromantic tome, and gradually unlocks its secrets through rigorous study and experimentation. It slowly drives her mad as her power grows, before she unleashes the undead horrors she's created on her enemies. I'm pretty sure I've read a variation of that story - but it can't happen in TTB without a lot of fudging and approximation. Your Academic can't start with a grimoire, so she'll have to find one. Then, the character may choose a magical theory at the FM's discretion (there are no rules for this, by the way - does it take the place of a general talent?) which is a roleplaying exercise - in this case, the character probably hears the Whisper, which instantly drives her as insane as she's ever going to get. By this stage, she's probably a few progression steps along the Academic path, so she'll be playing catch-up with the other characters once she switches into Graverobber. Alternatively, you could start the character as a Graverobber, in which case she is already a full-fledged necromancer and has done 90% of her character's development before the game even starts. That's not particularly satisfying, and it's pretty weird as well. My overall problem with this mechanic: I would like my characters to be able to develop magical skill at a developmental pace, not by jumping through a couple of hoops over which they have no control (or bypassing the hoops entirely) and instantly becoming master sorcerers. Magical Theories Aside from the problem of getting a magical theory (see above), there are numerous problems with the mechanics of the theories themselves. From the top: The Oxford Method Cast spells slowly, and don't try to bring that AP cost back down with immuto, because then you lose the only bonus this talent gives. This is basically a 100% kick-you-in-the-nuts talent compared to others you could take. Making every spell cost +1 AP locks you out of all the spells that are 2 AP already, unless you also take the Reduce AP immuto at +5 TN. That's a dealbreaker - there's no reason to ever take this theory unless you're somehow forced to. (Quick fix: change the description to read "The caster gains [+] to the Casting Duel of any Spell with an AP cost of 2 or more. The caster may always apply the Increase AP immuto to any spell she casts, even if it is not in her current Grimoire.") The Whisper This is probably the automatic choice for most Graverobbers, and nobody else would ever pick it. A positive twist to Necromancy duels (positive twists are a recurring theme here - every sensible spellcaster will always have a [+] to whatever they're trying to do, which makes you wonder why your favourite Master took a crap theory instead) and a negative twist to Intellect duels. What's an Intellect duel? I can't find a definition - if we assume that it applies to any skill based on Intellect, that's actually kind of neat, since it makes dedicated Ressurectionists absolutely terrible at pretending to be legitimate. It also makes them awful at alchemy and doctoring, which is unfortunate, and probably stops them from picking up most types of Sorcery... in which case, you really should have taken Tradition Magic instead. (Quick fix: make Tradition Magic less of an auto-take. It would also be better to apply the [-] to Social Skill duels other than Intimidate, rather than to all Intellect duels.) The Darlin Theories This one's a trap. It looks like it's intended for Ramos-style inventors, but then you run into the restrictions and broken rules. You can only cast a spell if you have a pneumatic device of some kind. Now, if you've got an expensive mechanical limb, that's great... but how are you going to get one of those? How much are pneumatic limbs actually worth, anyway - the cost listed in the equipment section (which you can't afford) "includes the cost of surgery," so does the surgery cost count for Darlin's theories? The breakout box about "Building Inanimate Constructs and Limbs" specifies that a skilled Artefactor can create a limb for one quarter the cost listed in the Equipment section - so is a hand-crafted partial limb worth 4 scrip, or 15? The Darlin Theories description states that the value of the device is equal to the cost of the scrap used to create it, so that means it's 4 scrip... have fun blowing your leg off every single time you cast a spell! (Quick fix: change the description to "The caster must apply the Focus Object immuto to every spell she casts, and may do so even if it is not in her current Grimoire. The Focus Object must be a pneumatic device crafted by the caster using the Artefacting skill." You could also add "If the Black Joker is flipped as part of the Casting Duel, the device is destroyed.") The Court Procedure This one's actually pretty good - a nice carrot and a bit of stick to point you in the right direction. It's the only one that I'm basically fine with. However, given the type of spells that a Court mage would thematically cast, an alternate option would be something like "The caster may add one Mask to the Casting Duel Total of any spell she casts that is resisted by Willpower." Thalarian Doctrine Eeurgh. This one's a mess. You can't raise your casting skills above 3 (other than Enchanting) without "special dispensation from the Guild" or "becoming a heretic". It's an attempt to use roleplaying restrictions as mechanics, and it doesn't work. I mean, everyone who doesn't follow Thalarian Doctrine but is practicing magic is already a "heretic" anyway, right? So you could just ignore the restrictions... but the bonus it gives only applies when targeting other mages, so why would you choose it over Tradition Magic? I'm not even sure where to start fixing this one, but like the Whisper, it's probably in fixing Tradition Magic. The Balanced Five Two Elemental immuto, yay! If you want to start an electrical fire or make someone blind and terrified or trap them in poisoned branches, this is the theory for you. My only issue here is that all of those things sound pretty cool, and it's annoying that the only way to do them is to take this otherwise pointless (and heavily Three Kingdoms-themed) theory. If everyone could apply multiple elemental immuto, the flexibility of spell creation would be greatly increased (and most people still wouldn't do it anyway, since the selection of immuto is so limited). Hedge Magic This is the blasty elemental sorcerer theory. Unfortunately, it's both incredibly powerful and incredibly restrictive. First, it gives you the equivalent of Mastered Immuto in one element. Then, it doesn't charge you for using that immuto - it's not clear how this affects immuto that can be applied more than once, although the result is obviously and hideously broken if you allow it to be applied multiple times for free. ("My spell does infinite burning damage!") The downside is that you can only casts spells that can apply the elemental immuto, of which there are a grand total of four in the whole game (Elemental Engulf, Elemental Projectile, Elemental Strike and Elemental Weapon). I'll put that here again for emphasis: You can only cast four spells, ever (and if you start as a Dabbler, you can't get Elemental Weapon) and three of them are variations on the same effect. Your character is now an artillery platform - albeit a really powerful one - with no utility at all. There's also the option to choose a Genus immuto under the same rules. This one's way less restrictive if you choose wisely, but then you get essentially no benefit from it. The Genus rules aren't particularly clear on whether they can be applied to useless effect - if you chose Beasts, and cast Shapeshift on yourself (which would affect you even if you had the Beast characteristic), can you apply the "unleashed" Genus without actually increasing the possible target list, or would you have to apply the "chained" version which would prevent you from affecting yourself, since you're not a Beast? (Quick fix: Just don't take this theory, it's too messed up.) Tradition Magic Finally, we come to the one and only magical theory that's worth selecting, regardless of who your character is. It gives you a [+] on all duels with your chosen magical skill. The only downside is that there's another magical skill that you can't raise above 1 (Necromancy for Sorcerers, Sorcery for Necromancers, Prestidigitation for Enchanters). But who cares? It's not like you've got any of those spells anyway. It's pure min-maxing. There's no quick fix for this one, since it basically needs a ground-up rebuild. I'd like to see it have some benefit when using all the trappings that the description talks about - staves, wands, runestones, etc. Where's the rest? I'm assuming that at some point, we'll see a supplement with some other magical theories that expand this list. Just for starters, it's annoying that there's no "Stage Magic" theory - something that would focus on Prestidigitation casters, since that seems to be the forgotten school of magic. An illusionist would be quite fun to play. I'm going to break here - the next post will pick it back up, starting with Soulstones. 3 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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