What is Heroes & Other Worlds?

Heroes & Other Worlds is a game of adventure inspired by Metagaming's classic Melee/Wizard/TFT system combined with inspiration from the Moldvay edited basic game. The rules are easy to learn and use standard six sided dice. The system is simple, sensible and flexible in the spirit of classic role playing games from the early 80's. Become a Hero, Other Worlds await!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Honey I broke your spell book

Over on RPG geek is a good discussion regarding Wizards, magic and a spell flaw.  Below is the newly edited version of the flawed spell from page 35 of the HOW rules:

Shape Shifting IQ18 (T) EN8 R:Self

Caster changes form into a creature it has seen at least 3 times before. The Attributes of the caster remained unchanged but the special abilities, movement and AR of the creature are conferred (flight, fire breathing, webbing etc.). The caster assumes original form if knocked unconscious, killed, or the spell effect ends.

Why the change? Read the thread here.

I appreciate the critical eye shown by the poster. From what I gather, it seems like thoughts/opinions based upon a reading of the rules, not necessarily through playing them.  While playing may not change ones opinion to the better, I think too often we read rules for the sake of reading them and may miss what the actual applications are and thus the true aspects of them by playing.

Both Robert St. John and Rob from Vargold  are working on play test reviews and I look forward to their thoughts and opinions. 

Back to crafting a spell book.


43 comments:

  1. Having read the thread, I remain unconvinced by the extreme example he set forth. What will this wizard transform into when he finds himself in a tight 5-10 foot corridor under ground? I believe this character might have a few successes with this tactic, but in a short time, with a low ST and DX, he would be toast. Regardless, Your changes seem to address the implied short coming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks DD!

      I'm thankful to see the poster discussed the spell as it showed where my intent versus how I worded the spell were at odds. I appreciated the opportunity to fix it to reflect my original idea. Either one will work and a good referee, through examples you pointed out, will make it work.

      But it should be said, one could make any number of potential game breaking extreme examples...then new rules...then breaks and then new rules...and then one has an over ruled college text book again. I prefer the old ideal of free range gaming, over modern chicken cooped rules. If people are going to look for ways to abuse a system, they will find it. If they are looking for ways to break the system, they will find that too.

      To be clear, I did not see munchkin power play as being the intent of the poster at all, just an honest questioning over a potential pitfall caused by my mis-wording of a spell.

      I rely on common sense, good sportsmanship and a good referee to sort out players who may try to abuse/game the system. I don't think my adding lots of "Though shall/though shall not" micro managing rules would makes the game better or more fun.

      At the same time I appreciate someone like the poster with an honest question and someone pointing out a potential pitfall because of a failure on my part getting my meaning across.

      Delete
  2. The fix is fine, although it does make difficult the sort of shapechange that Maleficant undergoes at the climax of Sleeping Beauty: I'm not thinking that her dragon form was limited to human-level STR.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True Rob, very true. You could of course stick with the original if you like! I am hopeful the Magi Carta will flesh out some of the gaps/opportunities for interesting spells in HOW.

      Delete
  3. I think you'd have to be playing some one-encounter-per-day arena combat game for Dragonlord Ken to be a 'problem'.

    The fix doesn't work for me. If a Hero turned into a rat to escape from prison I'd want the character to have a rat's ST and DX rather than a Human's so he acts like ST1 creature, e.g he definitely fears getting stomped on by a guard and so acts like a cowardly rat.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah that does sound like an extreme case and more importantly a 'Theoretical' one. Personally I think any fixes for a game need to come from the GM and players in relation to problems they have with how a game works in actual play.

    ReplyDelete
  5. After thinking this over, I'd only change the original text about seeing the creature in question one time. The revised requirement of "at least three times" makes more story sense: you need to study a creature to be able to assume its form. (It's also worth noting that I sincerely have my doubts that beginning PC "Dragonlord Ken" will have even seen a dragon once.)

    Some clarification about END might help here as well: if a shapechanged wizard blows his 8 END to cast the spell and transform into a dragon, can he continue to cast spells in the new form--and thus have that massive STR battery to draw from? I'd say not, but I'd like to hear what others think.

    Finally, I'd probably be inclined as GM to forbid players from starting the game with INT 18 spells. Those are the mightiest incantations around--no master is just going to be teaching those to his apprentice. INT 18 spells are the ones you have to earn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Rob, they way I play it you can't have advantages of being both dragon and wizard. Just one or the other, so no spell casting as a dragon.

      I agree regarding starting spell IQ. The available IQ level of starting spells caps at 10 for my own games if the character is from a city. IQ9 from a town and IQ8 if from a village. I specifically did not write hard and fast caps into the game because my own favoritism towards limiting starting magic might impede another referee or player creativity.

      Delete
    2. Now those caps are interesting and fit in more with the limitations a starting Wizard would have had in TFT. So, even if I choose IQ18 at the outset, I will only know up to IQ10 spells initially, albiet at a very good casting chance. As I gain experience I can learn higher IQ spells and because I'm smart enough to learn them well, I cast them at 3/IQ. That's more like it. Are you planning to publish these "house rules" somewhere. Perhaps in your Cauldron magazine?

      Delete
  6. Hi guys. I was the poster over at BGG. I was not trying to rubbish the game but to point out a legitimate concern I had from reading through the rules. My admittedly extreme example of Dragonlord Ken was chosen only for effect. The flippant comment that he would only need to know one spell was just that. In reality, with IQ18, he would know a good number of spells and would have 8EN and up to 8ST to cast them. Also, his IQ18 would mean that he would almost always succeed in casting any of the spells he knows. This is another of my concerns. As I stated in my post, having IQ used to both learn and cast spells makes the Attribute doubly powerful for a Wizard.

    Why would a Wizard choose to spend one of his precious 10 extra Attribute points on ST? An extra point of IQ is much more useful to him, especially since these Attributes cannot change once the character is created.

    Another thing that concerns me is that, as long as the Wizards IQ is the same or greater than the spell being cast he only rolls 3/IQ. So an IQ10 Wizard casting an IQ10 spell (Dazzle) only has a 50% chance to succeed. An IQ18 Wizard like Ken casting an IQ18 spell (Shape Shifting) has over 90% chance of success. Why? Surely they're both casting a spell at a similar relative difficulty. On P9 of the rules you mention “Opposed Tests”. I think a better rule would be that casting a spell is treated as an opposed test (casters IQ vs Spell level), this would serve to limit the value of High IQ a little.

    Alternatively, you could go back to using DX for casting spells (as in Metagamings original Wizard game), which would force the Wizard character to think a bit more carefully about how he allocated Attribute points.

    Anyway, I'm trying to be constructive, so I'd be happy to hear how those of you playing the game are getting on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris. I have read a number of great potential house rules provided by others to help you work around the perceived issue you have with magic.

      It seems to me, and I could be wrong, that unless magic also requires the use of DX you will find the Magic system a problem. So here is a house rule which should dispel any issues for you:

      Any spell with a range other than SELF requires a 3/DX roll to cast if the spell IQ is equal to or lower than your own IQ. If the IQ of the spell is above your own, it requires 4/DX to cast.

      I hope with that out of the way, you will give the game a play through and enjoy.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, missed this before. I quite like the sound of that. But I'm still in two minds about whether I'd want to involve DX in spell casting or make it an opposed roll on IQ. When I used to play TFT a lot, I modified the rules so that all rolls were contests. I used a simple table at the time, but I think your opposed rule is probably simpler and more elegant.

      I'm going to create a sample party and run them through a few encounters to see how the different varaints work.

      Delete
  7. If DX was used for casting spells I think it would become the uberstat that it was in the original rules, in that it is used for most of the physical skills, most of the combat moves and the movement rate. It would mean an Adventurer who wanted to pick up the odd spell could focus on DX. At the moment there's that temptation to put something into IQ if you're looking to the long term.

    I think it's a great feature of HOW that if you put all 8 points into IQ as a Wizard you reap the reward of being considerably better at any magic than IQ10, but also very reliant on your magic as your physique lets you down time after time - weaker and slower than more-rounded Heroes. Dragonlord Ken would be a spell junkie, it would be his crutch.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Chris, I am still not convinced by your examples that what you are presenting is a real problem for the game. It may be a problem for your hypothetical wizard though. You are not considering that this unbalanced character you are proposing ( and I'm not really concerned about balance myself ) may be surprised or lose initiative. Even if his party wins intiative, he most likely will be the slowest member and, as a result, have to move and act last in combat. This may and can affect his ability to cast certain spells. If your wizard sustains any injuries during the first round, you may have to depend on ST to power those spells. ST takes an entire day to recover 1 point. It is not an attribute I would want to rely on to power my spells, unless I had no choice, because you are now more vulnerable to missiles and first round damage due to surprise (one or two lucky hits and your MU is dead). So, what will you fall back on? You have a DX of 8 and are not particularly good with weapons. If you let your ST fall below 6, you're going to suffer penalties for using any weapon other then a dagger (pg.36). Besides having to roll under 8 to hit something with a dagger will put you in a vulnerable place for an opponent to grapple you. Once again, you will suffer with a low ST.

    As far as your Shape Shifting example goes, I would probably fall back on the old tactic of run away and prepare an ambush. You will have expended your EN and the encounter will have ended, hence the spell would end, putting you in that vulnerable spot I mention above.

    I think you really need to give this game a spin and see how it would pan out at the table to see if you don't change your mind.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's a good job ancient dragons don't cast spells because if Ken knew Wizard's Wrath as well, while wearing a belt of endurance....BOOM!

    ReplyDelete
  10. The more I think about this analogy of the IQ18 wizard, the more I realize this is an argument that is lacking. It could be made for any of the attributes. I want to have an all powerful barbarian who beats foes into submission with his bare hands, so I stack his ST; I want a wickedly accurate ranger who sits back and picks people off from a distance, so I stack his DX; I want a tank-like paladin that will absorb massive damage for the team, so I stack his EN. Now I have an Uber-force of characters put together as a team, but each individual will have unique weaknesses that could be their down fall. This is a fundamental element of a point buy system. The fix is not to shift spell checks to DX no more then it would be to shift the grappling check to IQ. It is simply to house rule that a characters Hero Points must be distributed between 2-3 attributes during creation.

    Another option, if you prefer random determination, is to start out with 6 pts. in each attribute and roll 3d6 (or 6d3 or 2d6+6 or 5d3+3). The total rolled is your pool of Hero pts. that you can distribute, with the added caviat that no individual attribute can exceed 17 or 18 (and possibly must be a min. of 8). This would create a wide range of possible characters, some of which would probably be hopeless, but extreme characters would be less common. These are just some ideas, if you really think it needs fixing at all. Any other thoughts on these ideas are welcome.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The ST18 fighter still needs DX to make a hit. The DX18 Ranger needs ST to use a decent Bow. The IQ18 Wizard just needs IQ to both have and use spells. (They all need EN of course).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except in Combat - where positioning, movement, line of sight rules are applied.

      DX18 guy just needs good positioning for his ST8 1d6 bow to become a decent bow (higher ground, from behind/surprise). Or if he had a spear instead and charges.

      IQ18 Wizard needs time - unlikely to have initiative from the start - and positioning - because if he's casting spells he can't move much even though he needs line of sight for targetted spells and needs to be far enough from his foe so they don't waste him on the first turn.



      Delete
    2. Hi Chris. Yes, you have pointed out two apparent weaknesses to this approach of stacking all points in one attribute and I'm assuming you saw my hypothetical Paladin for the meat shield he would be. The thing about my ST18 Barbarian is tactically I would not depend on his DX for striking. Instead I would depend on his ST to Shield Bash (3/ST) and then grapple (3/ST) a foe into submission. But if he was going to make a Melee attack (3/DX), he would do it with the most devastating weapon he could get his hands on (prob. a Battle Axe that does 3d6 damage of which he would gain an additional +3 damage due to his ST. That's a min. 6 and max. 21 damage pts. if he hits -see pg. 36). As for my hypothetical DX18 Ranger, tactically he will be quite comfortable using a standard bow as well as javelins and he won't be too shabby with a short sword (2d6-1) either. Besides, he will out maneuver most other players, as Geordie has mentioned. I'm not saying any one of these stacked characters is better then any other stacked character type though. My point and the problem with all these characters is that they would essentially become chess pieces that really only have one advantage and all would have weaknesses that could be exploited.

      I had purposefully not muddied the water of the discussion with the addition of skills which would further add to the effectiveness of the Barbarian or Ranger. But looking at skills now, I think the game might benefit by including a few ST and/or EN based skills. I also think Chris's ranged spell house rule above might be worth trying. Why not?

      Delete
    3. Oh one more thing about your comment above "The IQ18 Wizard just needs IQ to both have and use spells". No, this is not true. A Wizard must have EN (or ST) to power spells. The Fighter does not need EN to accomplish anything. And as I mentioned earlier, depending on ST to power spells is a risky endeavor.

      Delete
  12. Total digression - but what's the range of a dragon's Breath Weapon ?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I thought that initiative was all one side or another? If the Wizard's side win intiative they all move before the enemy (if they elect to). Then the enemy all move. Then the Wizards party all act first in order of MV rate. In other words, the DX8 Wizard will still act before the DX18 enemy archer as long as the Wizards side has won ititiative. If the Wizards side do not win initiative the party would likely stay together to protect the Wizard and other weaker members of the party. Am I reading the rules correctly?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahh, so Dragonlord Ken has backup now!! :)

      You're correct about the phases of combat, but let's go back to one-to-one - let's say the DX18 archer didn't manage to surprise the Wizard. If the Wizard wins initiative the DX18 archer will be able to move before the wizard takes action. So even if the wizard has moved into the best position he can with his 5' move (so he can spellcast), the archer is able to move - even run, aiming for a place where the wizard does not have the required clear line of sight. If the wizard's side do not win initiative, the archer's crew could close on the wizard (as they move first) so his subsequent 5' move is irrelevant, and he cannot be completely shielded from the surrounding enemy. So, both ways, the spellcasting can be thwarted. Wizard supremacy is not a done deal.

      But given the choice, I'd want to play the IQ18 Wizard, his timed spells last for ages 18 + spell IQ turns(unless dispelled).







      Delete
    2. Remember the Dragonlord doesn't need LOS on his enemy--he just needs to transform into Smaug before the enemy can attack. Then he has all those turns to hunt said enemy down.

      Delete
    3. Hmm, curious. I interpret the spell description for Shape Shifting to imply that it ends after the encounter ends. But others might use the general rule for timed spells on page 22- which would be 18 + spell skill level in turns.

      Delete
  14. Ooops yes, forgot about that. So it's down to terrain, cover and what constitutes an end to the encounter. If the archer manages to hide from Smaug, how long before that counts as no longer in encounter ?

    So, you have 4 more points to spend on spells/skills, what others would you choose ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Might go with: Detect Enemies, Illusion, Magic Sight, Insubstantial.

      Skills are for plebs.

      Delete
  15. Actually, just had an idea which might sort out my concerns with Magic being overpowered at the start.

    A starting Wizard get 5 skill/spell points at the start.

    Lets say he has to learn spells in a progressive manner. In other words, he first has to learn an IQ8 spell before he can learn an IQ9 spell and so on.

    That would mean a beginning Wizard could only know up to an IQ12 spell at the start no matter what his initial allocated IQ.

    This would produce a result for starting Wizards similar to what Fenway uses in his house campaign.

    Actually, the more I think about this the more I like it.

    No more Dragonlord Ken straight out of Wizard school.

    What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not a bad ruling, although I'd want to know what the rules are for changing out one's spell repertoire. Would a master wizard with INT 18 have to keep all of his IQ8 through IQ17 spells once he learned an IQ18 spell? Or could he replace some of the lower-level spells at that point?

      Delete
  16. I like Chris' idea, but would add that a lesser version of a spell could be replaced by a greater version.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Rob, I think the lower IQ spells with their lower IQ cost will always be useful even for a powerful Wizard.

    I do agree with Geordie's suggestion that they be allowed to swap to the upgraded version of a spell when they reach that level of IQ.

    Perhaps we could have a gradeable version of the shapeshift spell. IQ12 Sparrow. IQ14 Wolf. IQ16 Bear/Giant. IQ Dragon.

    Sparrowlord Ken is born!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ug! My comments got eaten!

    Well here's the condensed version.

    You can only know a max # of spells equal to IQ. So an IQ12 wizard could know 12 spells and an IQ18 mage could know 18. What this means is that the IQ12 wizard would use up 5 slots progressing through the levels, leaving him 7 slots to fill randomly. The IQ18 mage would use 11 slots progressing through the levels, leaving 7 slots. No matter what the magic users IQ is, he will always have 7 additional slots once done progressing to his IQ spell level.

    I could live with that (:

    ReplyDelete
  19. What about skills? Don't they compete with spells for those IQ slots?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Assuming you want to attain your max. spell level potential, you would choose one spell from each level until you met your limit. If you decide you would like to have some skills as well, this would slow that progression and potentially limit your ability to reach that goal. But, as I mentioned, if you use Chris' rule you will be left with 7 available slots, no matter what you IQ is, to use as you'd please after reaching your max IQ spell level.

      Interestingly, there seems to be some info in the rules on how many spells and/or skills a wizard could have that is not perfectly clear in this respect. On page 16 (where you are sighting) it says "...total number of skills and spells any Hero can learn is equal to the Hero's IQ". On page 22 it simply says "A Hero may learn a number of spells equal to his IQ". I guess the key word there is "may". I would go with your point and say it is the max number of skills and spells combined. It would certainly be something I would want to consider ahead of time when I'm creating my character.

      Delete
    2. Maximum number of spells and/or skills (combined) a character can learn is equal to their IQ.

      Delete
    3. Official rule is that there's no limit on the order in which those spells can be learned, though, yes?

      Delete
    4. Hi Rob, correct sir! I wanted to provide maximum flexibility/creativity for referees and players. There is a way I like to play, but I did not want to fill the core book with those restrictions. I will be adding more optional rules/guidelines in Blades & Black Magic...and it looks like I need to expedite the magic stuff, so Magi Carta will get some magical rule options.

      Delete
  20. Heroes can only know as many skills and spells combined as they have IQ points.

    ReplyDelete
  21. However, there's nothing to stop them improving an individual skill or spell without limit as far as I can see. So an IQ8 barbarian could be sword +25, bow +15 etc.

    If your campaign got to high levels you could allow attribute increases (at steep cost in XP) or just ignore the IQ limits completely, if that fitted the needs of your game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just saw the max bonus allowed is +6 for skills or spells (p.51). This means each skill or spell has six levels. I'm not sure how this would come into play with an IQ18 spell though, and it would seem to have gradually less value as the spells increase in required IQ from IQ13 on up. Magi Carta may have more info to clear this up.

      With skills like swords, you would get an extra attack at +3 level even if DX was 18. The way I read it, you would get 2 additional attacks at +6 level. So, it would still have benefits even if you had a high attribute.

      Delete
  22. We're going to test out using spell trees -i.e you need Lesser spell before learning Greater, which you need before learning Ultimate (Only from the associated mage guild/society/tea circle - it's a High Fantasy setting we're using). This is to make magic very costly for non-wizards and promote a generalist vs. specialist wizard split.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Look forward to some play reports Geordie.

      Delete
  23. Dervish, OOPs. Thanks for pointing that out. I'd never have seen it as I don't use XP and so never read those sections in game rules. It seems reasonable to cap skills/spells at +6 but could be allowed to go higher if required.

    ReplyDelete