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[Houserules] Encouraging Wizardry over being a Psychic

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  • [Houserules] Encouraging Wizardry over being a Psychic

    I'm planning on running 2e soon, and while I like the concept of Yantras, they don't really add much in the way of complex decisions other than deciding which ones are applicable and then choosing which one has the biggest bonus. I want to make them more integral to the casting, instead of just an equipment bonus. Too many of them end up being +1 to the roll. So I'm looking for feedback on a few scattered ideas:
    • Dedicated Tools and Path Tools are the same and as such, provide the same -2 to Paradox. They're often the same as it is, but admittedly the real reason for this merger is because I want Techne to be better. At first I thought it was like Magical Tradition, but it really isn't. I have an idea for a stage magician, who'll be the mentor of a street magician character, and something more like that would be good for them, and as is, Techne isn't that great. But providing -2 to Paradox means this Yantra is a meaningful choice over an equipment bonus.
    • Rotes provide free Spell Factors possibly instead of or in addition to the free Reach it provides. Essentially I want to have Tome of Mysteries' Rote Factors. A Rote of Cleanse the Body that is a communal healing ritual is +Expression and gives free Factors of 5 subjects provided everyone drinks from a communal cup.
    • Rotes are highly specific is the flip side; if you want to heal just yourself with that Cleanse Body Rote, you'd be out of luck. You'd need to either cast it Improvised or find a few other people who are poisoned and share a drink, since the "Communal Cup" Rote doesn't heal only one person. Because of this, I might make Rotes cost Beats per dot instead of Experiences. I'm sure there's some easier way of doing that I haven't thought of, though. Alternately, some Rotes give Spell Factors instead of +Skill bonus? Or maybe free Spell Factors equal to half your Skill dots? Or maybe free Spell Factors equal to each skill dot?
    • Environmental Yantras provide no bonus instead of a meager +1, they're flat out required for any spell you don't Reach to Advanced Casting on. Rituals have a Complexity determined by the ST. Simple rituals require just enough clean floor or level ground to lay out your shit and do the spell, whether it's a simple chalk circle and candles or a meditation space. More complex ones might require silver inlaid sigils or a moonlit glade. I kind of want to make it risk Paradox if you don't have a proper ritual space, but that just encourages Reaching for Instant Casting. Maybe I should allow a proper ritual to have more Yantras or something.
    • Patron Tools are handled by the Prelacy Merit, with the Seer Prelacies being a specific version. If you make deals with a Rank 6+ entity, you too may dedicate your soul to them in exchange for power. The Merit's effects are basically the same, except for the Verge is related to the entity.
    • Casting Times are lessened though I'm still not sure how much. Possibly keeping at 3 hours for Gnosis 1, but jumping down to one hour, half an hour, so on, down to rituals taking only two turns or something when you're Gnosis 10. Basically, if things take less time, the players will be encouraged to ritual cast. Although I may base the casting time on the Arcanum level of the spell, not the Gnosis level of the caster. A simple Unveiling ritual might only take a minute while an Unmaking ritual could take all day. Higher Gnosis could cut the default time by a fraction.
    That should hopefully encourage my players to think about what yantra they're using, and do more than just determine the biggest bonus from applicable Yantras. Essentially, like the topic name says, I want to encourage the characters to act like wizards, not psychics. I want them to deal with occult trappings and weird juju instead of just instant casting anything they want. Improvised Casting is still important, but I want it to be putting together a spell idea and then grabbing the right ingredients to put it together as the default, not just pew pew instant cast. Pew pew instant cast is still a possibility, but now there's more variety in doing rituals, or at least using more meaningful choice than "which Yantra gives me the biggest bonus".

    I'm also thinking of making Paradox unrolled and automatic, but I feel like that gets rid of the choice to Contain or Release when you already know how bad it will be. Harder to gamble when you know the results. I just really don't like how Paradox is handled. I like as few rolls as possible, and having a Contested Roll with your own Paradox in the middle of a scene is tense, but also slows the pacing.

    I only used the angry icon because it's cute.

  • #2
    I like some of your changes (especially the environmental one), but I don't think they really offer you a solution. If your players are thinking in purely instrumental terms, no end of mechanics are going to fix that.

    I would also add that limiting rotes seems like a very bad idea. I suspect you'll find people just ignore them if you do that.


    • #3
      I would keep the rotes as normal.

      For runes, there are a set of houserules here ... I particularly like Runecraft, which lets you use runes for extra reach options instead of extra dice.

      The Enviromental Change is nice, but I'd keep the +2 bonus in the cases of say, a Demense or Verge.

      If you are going to do the casting times by Arcana, it can work very neatly: Level 1 spells take 1 minute, Level 2 take 10, Level 3 take 30, Level 4 take an hour, and level 5 take 3 hours. Of course, this means that all mages regardless of power would be casting at roughly the same speeds, so another route would be to base how long it takes by how much free reach your spell allows. If you receive only 1 reach it takes 3 hours. If you receive 2 reach, it takes an hour, 3 = 30, 4 = 10, 5 = 1 minute. This does not require the reach to be spent, of course - it's just how fast you can cast a spell based on your mastery (an Adept casting a level 1 spell might take 10 minutes, while a master only takes a minute). A notable side effect of this is that rotes increase this speed in this scenario, as would the runecraft merit I mentioned earlier.


      • #4
        I agree that the most interesting Yantras tend to be the least valuable. Perhaps I can provide some perspective as to why this is the case, so you can have a better idea on how to balance any prospective changes.

        Yantras which provide a +1 bonus are ones which have little to no cost. A handful of magical tools, a coin, your presence in a particular building, a lake reflecting the moon. All of these things are easy to come by and easy to replace. With enough clever thinking you can usually find plenty of these.

        Yantras which provide a +2 bonus have a cost or drawback. They either require effort to obtain (Legacy, Sacrament), or they have caveats (High Speech, Concentration, Runes), or are rare and coveted (Supernal Verges, Demesnes). They generally do not require much in the way of permanent investment though.

        Yantras which provide a +3 or higher bonus have a significant cost. A trip into another realm of existence (Sacrament), or some large exp cost (Rotes, Shadow Name, Lex Magica). Yantras of this level are almost always highly situational.

        So, the way the game is set up, if you want to make a Yantra stronger, you need to give it costs, caveats, and make it situational. If a player wants a stronger magical tool, it needs to be hard to obtain, difficult to replace, and needs to be specific to a particular purpose.

        In my opinion, the chief problems with the Yantra system are High Speech and Shadow Name. These two are too easy to get and too widely applicable. High Speech ostensibly is balanced by the merit dot it takes to buy, and the fact that it cannot be used reflexively, however the fact that players get it for free, and can apply it to any spell messes things up. Similarly, Shadow Name is ostensibly balanced by the 3 to 4 merit dots it costs, and the fact that it applies only to spells that are in line with your character's magical persona, but the other benefits of Shadow Name are already worth the merit dots, and it's not too hard to find a Persona that fits for the vast majority of cases.

        I also think Runes could use a buff.

        Maybe I should allow a proper ritual to have more Yantras or something.
        That sounds nice. I do think Rituals don't quite have enough of a benefit as-is, especially compared to just brute forcing it by casting multiple times in an isolated area away from bystanders.
        Last edited by Strill; 06-21-2016, 12:57 AM.


        • #5
          Michael Well, to be fair, I haven't started running it yet. I just want to make varied Yantras more mechanically interesting and incentivized. I'd hope that giving Rotes a lot of free stuff and making them cheaper would encourage them. I already feel they're pretty good, especially for three and four dot spells, where you'll really benefit from every little extra Reach. I'll admit most of it is just worries from reading the book, and wanting a slightly different tone for things.

          Jakondite I like some of those Merits. The idea of Runes providing other benefits is nice (although it suggests Advanced Duration, but if I'm reading right a Rune lasts for as long as the mark lasts). For rituals, I think the "based on free Reach" idea might be a way to go, combined with based on the rank. So an Initiate spell might take 20 minutes or something, but each rank up would cut it in half (to 10, 5, 1.5 minutes and then ten turns at Mastery). That way you can have people casting simple spells without taking all day. Although maybe I should just eyeball it and base the ritual's time on gut feelings. A ritual for a simple "point the direction to the person this blood belongs to" spell might be only a minute or two, but "open this hole in reality" might take upwards of ten minutes, and "kill someone across the world" might take hours of chanting. Iunno. That's basically taking it from Dresden Files.

          Strill Similar to above, I may just toss standardized Yantra out the window and allow players to create their own Yantra and personalize them with various options:
          • Free Reach probably just one or two, since I want Paradox to be a threat, which is a good reason to use one of your Yantra slots on this, as opposed to something like bonus dice.
          • Free Spell Factors I'll probably be more lax with this, since Spell Factors are interesting and neato, and any given Yantra is only going to be useful for certain things. This is what the cup example above would be, which through the application of the Yantra would also mean you don't need to physically touch anyone; the spell is essentially Aimed, but drank instead of thrown.
          • Paradox mitigation similar to how Dedicated Tools are currently.
          • Standard dice pool bonus I'm not against it, I just wish it weren't the only game in town.
          Having more varied ones and no real standardization beyond things like High Speech (which is useful because you don't need anything on hand) might even make Prime's Yantra purview a little better. I might come up with a list of sample Yantra.


          • #6
            Aspel Advanced Duration is one of the benefits yes - a spell doesn't innately last as long as the rune does, a rune is just an anchor for a spell - the big, major risk of a rune is that if any rune is cut off (especially if you are using 2-3 for reach), the entire spell collapses because it lacks that runic element. Of course, there are ways around that as well, for the crafty runic player *G*