Friday, 19 August 2011


I am the Warden!!

Over two months ago, I set out to create means for spellcasters to invoke spells and improvised bursts of magic known as arcs in the Optional System. Hence the Spell option was born. In this version of magic, casters summon/introduce/create unique effects through a series of ritualistic incantations completed within a short period of time. To explain it mechanically, you need to successfully roll a certain number of Spell options in a row to cast a spell.

While these options are currently undergoing playtesting (in fact, we're testing it out tomorrow), something bothered me about the Spell option. Not the Spell option itself, but casters in general. Was I creating a magic system similar to others in which magicians/wizards/priests had more than half of a sourcebook dedicated to them while fighters/warriors/rangers just needed to know the name of their weapon? Was I creating an unfair bias against non-casters?

Muggles Are People Too
Magic has always been a rather fickle concept; it's the ultimate game breaker. So many worlds exist with magic as part of its life blood but only as a concept for PCs to manipulate. Some worlds have impressive architecture and technology thanks to magic (Eberron) and others incorporate that energy into every facet of the game (Earthdawn). I've played in campaigns where magic crystal act like cell phones to allow instant communication between the heroes and their employer. Seriously, the GM actually said "They're like magical cell phones." Suffice it to say, it's probably clear I've never liked magic in fantasy. Peter Jackson and I share a lot in common but I get my hair cut at least once a year. Professionally.

When the first draft of the Spell option (which you can read in Optional: Playtest) stared back at me from my screen, I bugged me just a little bit. Not the option itself, but the implication in having a magic-only option designed to work as part of a series, never on its own. At the moment, there is no use for a single Spell roll (though I'm thinking about it), you need to roll at least 2 or more to activate a spell. And both spellcasters in our playtest party get spellbooks; the third hero, a rogue, gets nothing special.

Don't get me wrong. My beef (today) is not with magic in general but a mechanical equivalent to the Spell option for other non-casting creeds. And a universal delivery method for such a concept. Is there a way to have the function of a Spell option in a non-magic context? Yes, and I need some input to pull it off.

The Co-Option?
This idea involves a unique type of option (similar to defensive options working different than regular options) tentatively called the co-option. A co-option does not work on its own; it can only be used as part of a series of options working together to create an individual success. Much like the Spell option, rolling a couple of times doesn't mean anything if your last roll fails like meatloaf. Each application of a co-option varies on its output: some collects all the hits rolled into one large pool, others simply need you to make it through to the last success.

Stacked Options
Another idea I'm toying with are certain options which can work independently and together to form different results. These would be stacked options. Since my inspiration for this comes from the rogue creed in my monthly Friday campaign, the thought is taking the Stealth option and converting it into one of these. A Stealth option on its own can be used to sneak up on an opponent or you can make multiple rolls in a row to pick the lock, set a trap, or more.

This post has been particularly hard to write because my mind is all over the place on this topic... and I have a game to get ready for! Holy crap, time to roll. Give me your thoughts on this topic, I'd love to hear them.