Spell Law Deconstruction: Too Many Spells. Too Many Powers. Too Generic?

[[Updated. While I was writing this Peter posted his Friday blog on the same general topic!]]

I’m fairly close to publishing a complete version of my BASiL spell system. At this point, I’m making it generic for use with any d100 system and will make it available on RPGNow.com. The project was always meant to be flexible and used with any system (much like the original RM!). I had already discarded the specific attributes of ‘Realms’, and replaced it by classification by casting mechanics.

Everytime I review or revise BASiL, I’m struck by the very same conclusions–and now after writing 50th level adventures I feel my instincts are dead on.

  1. Rolemaster Spell Casters have access to too many spells. Sure, at low level it doesn’t feel that way, but the number of spells scales up quickly. Part of this is the spell acquisition system in RM, but as a character progresses and gains A picks, they automatically gain spells without further effort. Individual spell acquisition addresses that issue/problem, but on the whole, higher level characters just have too many spells. By 10th level, most spellcasters will have 100 spells and by 20th they’ll have 300!!! What do you think happens at 50th level? Here is an example from the Atlas on a 34th lvl Navigator: Sulfean knows all Base Mentalist lists to 30th, Navigator lists to 50th, Open and Closed Mentalist to 20th. I think that’s over 400 spells!
  2. Rolemaster Professions are too similar. The causality of having too many spells is that as characters progress they become more similar and generic, and thus, Professions within a certain realm become less important. hmm. Personally, the idea that a high level pure spellcaster of any realm basically has access to EVERY relevant spell list is both boring and
  3. Basic Rolemaster Spell powers are too similar. I’ve discussed the need to better differentiate the realms powers and scope. Right now each realm gets the obligatory spell defense list, light list, movement list plus many of the same spells are imbedded in various lists in all the realms. Obviously I believe that creating a clear delineation between realms makes casters more unique and a more interesting choice when choosing professions or realms.

In my own campaign, “pure spell casters” (no matter what the realm) are resource limited to a core group of specific powers and perhaps a handful of open or closed spells using individual spell acquisition. On average, they are able to buy 3-4 spells/lvl which costs them about 1/2 their available DPs! Depending on the ‘realm’, they’ll still need to acquire magical language, prayer, mental focus, runes or similar complementary skill to properly cast spells. On top of that they need to develop PP’s as well!

  1. As Peter discussed in his last post, our pure casters are also very much defined by their core spell casting ability and are not the generalists they are in RAW RM. An Elemental Mage might have 1 or 2 elements but not ALL of them. Or a Mage may focus on defensive spells. Priests are defined by their core list that is dictated by their choice of diety. Mentalism is divided into 7-8 disciplines, with most casters developing a handful of them.
  2. My latest iteration of BASiL goes further in creating distinct abilities, limits and parameters between the realms.
  3. I like Peter’s focus on spell research and horizontal development of spells, but my players need a bit more structure and many GM’s just want to pick up play with existing rules. That said, both spell research and magic ritual provide a great opportunity for ‘free form’ or creative paths of magic.
  4. Scaling. I’ve always liked the optional spell scaling rules. In my game I allow scaling (via PPs) for range, AoE and damage multipliers but not duration.

Of the three issues I discussed above, I have addressed them thusly:

  1. Too many spells. My casters have fewer but more defined spell powers.
  2. Professions become more generic as they gain higher levels. I don’t use professions (though the process creates character archetypes that could easily be labeled).
  3. Realm spell powers are similar or redundant. I created more differentiation between the realms.

3 Replies to “Spell Law Deconstruction: Too Many Spells. Too Many Powers. Too Generic?”

  1. It is always interesting to see two people start at the same place, take different routes but pretty much end up at the largely the same place.

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