08 September 2014
Deluxe T&T − Excellent Kickstarter Update
I have already mentioned on this very blog how elated I was by the playtest copy I'd received of the dT&T rules as a backer, most notably by its high production quality, and by its content. I was even able to use the PDF to GM an adventure with my kids. Well, the spells were missing from it so I had to use the previous editions of T&T whenever my kids' characters (both rogues) would cast their spell.
Guess what, the latest KS update by Liz Danforth is about SPELLS! What she has sent is so cool I will simply copy it here. Again: I am happy this KS is going in the direction it is going. Who cares about being late! Honestly, for a 30+ year-old role-playing game, what kind of difference do a few months make?
Let me tell you about magic in deluxe T&T. This section has probably taken longer to revise than anything else in the game. I didn't expect that, but once I started digging into it, it proved to have more conflicting bits and pieces, more potential for confusion or problems, than anything else I'd worked on. Magic doesn't have any real world analogues, so Ken's core instruction to "Do what's logical" led down a blind alley. I found problems with how similar spells scaled to each other, how they scaled up with themselves when raised to higher levels, how spells might or might not interact or "stack," and where the tropes of fantasy faltered in the face of "but I can imagine a spell that does XYZ" wish-fulfilment.
We built an Excel spreadsheet of spells, and I assigned one column to hold all the questions that came up about how each spell was written. Bear and I spent hours on the phone over the course of several days, discussing each spell one at a time. Ken weighed in on email. The KISS rule was applied over and over. If it couldn't be explained briefly, then something had to give. If a spell would work fine in a novel but badly in a game, then it was appraised more critically. Sometimes spells were rewritten; a few were ultimately thrown out.
We broke down each spell by type — was this a summoning spell, a mind-control spell, a weapons-enhancement spell? That let us compare like to like — should a powered-up Vorpal Blade be better than a Whammy if both were cast at the same level? No, so maybe the way the spell powered up had to be restricted. Did a Banishing spell work on an Invisible Fiend or on an elemental? What was the determining factor, so players could use it consistently? If a spell could power-up in more than one way (say, by potency or duration), could you mix and match the effects, and if so how? (We decided against that: pick one aspect to power up and stick to it.) If a Wink-Wing powered up, how was it different from Blow Me To...? Bear and I discussed how the spells were used, back in the day, and that led to some clarifications — Wink-Wing is always shorter range and the Blow spells are always longer range now.
We reconsidered what level certain spells should be at, and Stefan was particularly helpful here. Were first level spells apprentice spells, the equivalent of a high school education minimally preparing you to enter the work force? Then a powerful mind-control spell capable of permanently enslaving another person to your bidding (Spirit Mastery) shouldn't be as low as second level. If the first level Call Wind spell (a puff of air) could become a raging gale at higher level, then what made that different from the old spell known as Wind Whistle? Could Wind Whistle get a makeover into something more dynamic? Storm Force Five was created as something quite different from a simple wind spell, and interacts with Divine Disapproval (thunderbolts) to make a weather mage a force to be reckoned with.
Ken wanted us to be sure similar spells did not stack. You should not, for example, be able to cast a Vorpal Blade on an enchanted mega-sword like Stormbringer, or even a Vorpal on top of a Whammy. He wanted to be sure two mages couldn't each cast Little Feets on a warrior to make him fight four times as fast instead of twice as fast (as intended). It took us all awhile to come up with some simple guidelines and rules that could be consistently applied, but we did. (At least I think that's what we accomplished!)
So what does this mean to you? Will you recognise anything in the spell list, in how magic is used in the game?
I say YES. Your magicians will still cast a Take That You Fiend! to slay monsters, and a Poor Baby to heal their friends. The casting cost points still come off their WIZ rating. A staff will still reduce casting cost for wizards, and rogues can still learn new tricks from a Teacher spell. But magicians won't risk fumbling every time they cast a spell any more than archers spill their arrows on the ground whenever they're under the frequent, familiar pressures of an adventuring life.
Almost all the old familiar spells you've always known remain in the book. Some old spells may be at different levels or have slightly different specifics, but the descriptions should be a little less fuzzy (but not burdensomely detailed even so). Actually, most of the legacy spells needed little or no alteration; they were clear back in 1978 and they're still perfectly clear today. The Wall Spells have returned. You will have new spells to experiment with. (Some of those needed extra work.) We filled in holes here and there — we always had more ways to enchant weapons than armour, for example, and now that disparity has been improved a bit. And so on.
Most of the pieces are in place now, and I expect Steve Crompton can start laying out pages this week. After he has performed his own brand of magic, the Kickstarter backers will get the Magic section to drive around the block and tell us if the wheels fall off. I hope and honestly expect you'll be pleasantly surprised with the result. --Liz