What would my perfect Spell Law look like? Pt I Channeling

I am rather jealous of Brian’s reworked Spell Law. He and his group have obviously but hundreds of hours into that rebuild project. That is time I do not have at present but I am giving this more and more thought. So what would my perfect spell law look like?

Essaence as the motive force

This is one of Brian’s ideas and sums up the concept that all magic is Essence and that what changes is the way that the character taps into the essaence. Essence users manipulate the essaence around them, mentalists control their own essaence and channelers recieve essaence from some outside entity. I like this idea and want to go with it. I do have a problem with Channeling magic though. That is the realm that doesn’t work for me.

Channeling doesn’t work

The problem with channeling is that it seems to be tied into the natural world. This is where you find animists, druids and shamen as well as your clerics. If your nature magic casters are getting their essaence from nature around them are they really not essence casters? Can you have channeling without the gods?

Brian pointed out an issue with Shadow World’s gods in that if there is only one god relating to spirits, souls and the dead can any other clerics cast life giving spells?

Channeling and Armour

Mechanically Rolemaster had an issue with channelers not being able to cast magic in metal armour but the fantasy roleplaying commmunity all want their Paladins in platemail. The Rolemaster solution is to add more rules to bend the existing rules, in this case Transcend Armour as a skill.

Channeling Healers are a bit crap

Channeling Healers are a bit crap. The problem is that there is at least one open channeling list relating to healing (concussion ways), most of the closed channeling lists are related to healing and all their base lists are related to healing. They really are the stereotypical one trick pony. If you want to do anything else with your character you are pretty limited. You cannot afford to get stuck into the action as the party need you  alive at the end of the fight to put them back together so fighting is out and your other magic is rather limited. So what do you do?

So what purpose does channeling serve?

Channeling is the preserve of most of the healing magic and nature magic and bizarely necromancy. Does that need an entire realm of its own? If you bumped the healing into Mentalism and the necromancy into Essence (most people think of Necormancers as mages not dodgy clerics I think) all you are left with is the nature magic. Using the definitions above of Essence using the magic from around the caster and Mentalism using the casters own Essaence then it feels like the nature magic should be in the Essence realm. The rest of the channeling open and closed lists are just duplicates of the essence and mentalism open and closed lists so they could be dumped.

So my perfect Spell Law would have no Channeling realm at all.

What about traditionally channeling professions? Well I would make Paladins mentism users. That is where the healing spells mostly live and ever realm has the basic detection spells for detecting evil. It is a 7th level Essence spell but a 6th level Mentalism spell so even the existing lists suggest that mentalism should be the Paladin’s natural home. I would put clerics in the same pot as the paladins.  Animists and Shamen should be essence users. They can still get their nature magic but their open lists would actually be a bit more powerful. The channeling healer you can simply drop in favour of the Lay Healer.

8 thoughts on “What would my perfect Spell Law look like? Pt I Channeling”

  1. Peter:

    Lot’s to unpack here and I have to get to work but thought I would leave a few comments and then blog at greater length this weekend.

    1. I’ve struggled with Channeling too. Kulthea is set in the “real world” and the Gods aren’t really gods but just powerful extraplanar entities. While Essaence seeping into the world is a nifty explanation for magical powers on the world the Channeling angle raises a lot of other issues.

    2. We expanded “realms” to 6-7 driven by the spell mechanics. So 1 source of power (Essaence) so there is no separate PP pools for a realm and no hybrid PP’s and no realm specific power multipliers and adders. “Realms” are just the process in which the Essaence is converted to affect.

    3. Given your argument, why not eliminate Mentalism and just pool all the spells into “magic” or “essence”?

    4. Since we rebuilt the spell lists by aspect or similarity (and not by filling a list to meet a profession/class theme ) we could easily pool all the spell lists together, still keep the Base/Closed/Open assignments and spell users could choose a base list that would define their archetype. A spell user focused on Fire Law would be a “mage” while a spell user focused on “Natures Ways” would be more of an animist/druid. There was always the idea that we would publish Project BASiL, so it’s easily adapted to RM2, RMSS, RMU, archetype style (non, semi, pure) , No Profession style or even as one “Realm”.

    1. My problem with channeling is what happens to priests who worship the sun or the moon? Unless one deifies just about everything these priests should not have any magic. On the other hand if as a GM you give priests added base lists to reflect their gods domain such as Fire Law to priests of the god of fire (Which I think is a good thing!) then your fireball hurling priest is a damn sight more powerful than a priest of the god of needlework. The other alternative is to create a ‘template’ spell list where the actual visible effect is defined by the gods domain but the spell mechanics are identical. The RMC Elemental Warrior does this with one spell list but 7 different elements and unique elemental effects. Either way it is a bit of a fudge.

      I suspect where I am going with my ideas your 6-7 realms may be what I am thinking of as ‘schools’ of magic. I am thinking of putting all the illusion and summoning type magic into a ‘conjuration’ school and the elemental magic into an ‘elemental’ school and so on. Rolemaster illusions when you get above about 7th level are creating virtually real objects for the duration of the spell so they are more conjurings than illusions.

      I can see the justification for Mentalism as being the casters own essaence. Comparing the Fly spell in the Essence realm you have speeds up to about 30mph and it is castable on others. The mentalism Fly spell is personal only and maxes out at about 5mph if I remember correctly. The same is true for a great number of spells with the same name but wildly different scope. 50th level essence casters can teleport anywhere in the world, 50th level mentalists can teleport to anyone who’s mind they know. The essence/mentalism divide is supported by the actual spell descriptions. For me I can see those two realms as being coherent.

      I am still bouncing ideas around at the moment regarding spell lists. What I am tempted to do is try and create a kind of branching tree-like structure with all the spells from all the companions so two casters can choose Fire Law but end up with different spells by taking different paths through the list. One option would be that when you advance in a list you gain a slot. You can then fill that slot with a spell of your choice of that level or lower from the same list. So I can have many spells at each level and when you advance if you don’t like any of the new spells at your new level you can add in a lower level spell you don’t already know.

      I do want to keep open, closed and base lists. I am thinking of them less as lists but more like paths. Some paths are straight but others can meander back and forth. Some casters will want to always have the most powerful spells while others may prefer to have a greater variety of low level magic which makes their power points go further.

      Your Project BASiL has been generally well received you should talk to Nicholas about being able to publish it. In these days of print on demand there is little barrier to publishing things just to see how they do.

  2. Quote: “On the other hand if as a GM you give priests added base lists to reflect their gods domain such as Fire Law to priests of the god of fire (Which I think is a good thing!) then your fireball hurling priest is a damn sight more powerful than a priest of the god of needlework.”

    Like me, I think you need to differentiate between setting specific issues (ie what does it mean to worship the moon?) and mechanics specific. (paths, schools, etc). Not sure if you saw the Aspect/God specific base lists I put up for Orhan or Charon in the misc SW thread on the RM forums? Those I see as setting specific, although many are common diety aspects used in various game worlds. That’s why I didn’t include them in the BASiL threads.

    As far as power/balance I notice that the default argument on the RM forums is usually related to offensive abilities and attack spells. It’s probably the easiest way to compare apples to oranges and RM is a combat oriented system BUT those contrasts often ignore the other qualitative spells that can be quite powerful. Given that I accept your challenge and will create a base spell list for the “God of Needlework” to show that it could be as powerful or cooler than that old boring fireball mage!

    1. Oh I agree. In Spacemaster there is a weapon called a needle gun that was absolutely lethal one could have a needle bolt spell that used the needle gun attack table and criticals. You could have a number of wall of needles spells the base spell does and A puncture critical if you pass through it, the next one does a B critical and so on. You could have a cloud of needles spell just like stun cloud that does puncture criticals each round.

      There are more than enough offensive opportunities. The utility spells could be taken from some of the prosaic lists and even throw in a bit of healing in the form of the clotting spells but under the name of sutures.

      There you go. The point is though that GM has to make it up on the hoof if a player suddenly wants to play a priest from a minor deity or the GM has to prepare all of this in advance which is not always viable. If the GM has just bought a brand new game then writing whole new spell lists is not really a newbie task. If the game is a one off session then that level of prep is not always possible either.

      It can be done and I could do it in about 5 minutes. If I was a player I could create such a list of spells and put it to my GM for approval but then I have decades of experience just like you and most people on the forum.

      I am a massive fan of player researched spells. I always try and do it when I am a player, my NPCs always have unique spells and I encourage my players to research spells and whole new lists. That may give me a head start at creating a new list. You have done all your BASiL lists so you know your way around a list or two. Not all RM GMs have that background.

  3. Peter, have you given this much more thought? This post has stuck in my brain, I can’t un-see it, and it just drives me to huge re-design thoughts.

    A friend is running a 10-ish session adventure in RMU (yay, I get to play), and a h.r. he has done is only Essense users recover PP by RAW. Channelers have to pray and get power from their deity/entity which is a Channeling maneuver. They may recover less or more than by RAW. Mentalists have to meditate, using a Mental Focus maneuver in the same manner. He’s still working on the modifiers (like how many times a day you’re praying.)

    As I was rereading this post I was considering the possibility of replacing Channeler spells with ‘powers’ in a more dnd 4e kind of style, based on their deity, the current status of the relationship with the deity(piety?)…or even making it completely up to the GM when & how the deity intervenes.

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