Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Streamlining Formal Magic in NERO

Note: Origins Recap will be coming later in the week. Stay Tuned!

I really have a love/hate relationship with how formal magic is done in NERO.

On one hand, I think that the power level of formal magic rituals is where it needs to be.
- 5 minutes to 1 hour is a pretty good time window (although I would prefer a max time of 30 minutes).
- I like the openness of the roleplay.
- I like the high stakes event it often presents.

On the other hand, I hate the logistics of formal magic.
- I hate having to have an OOG marshal present, breaking immersion for something that is supposed to be heavy on roleplaying.
- I hate how clunky it is with what all is needed rules wise (at least, until I get a pocket formal rules book).

I understand the importance of making sure everything is done correctly. I understand the need of having a formal marshal monitor to make sure a backlash doesn't happen. I just don't want to have to grab an OOG marshal to cast a nothing formal magic like a simple enchant, mark (on a willing target), or any other non-plot related magic spell. And I don't want to have some man/woman hovering over me with a white headband on watching over me like a judge on American Idol.

So I'm trying to find a way to remove the need for a marshal for every spell. I think I have an idea based on changing the way Auto-Success and Dark Territory work.

Auto-Success would no longer require a formal magic marshal present, as there's no way for something bad to happen.

The worst case would be if the formal caster took damage or stepped outside the circle. In those cases, the formal magic would be interrupted, but nothing would be lost. Perhaps lose the formal levels required for the casting, but the scroll and components would remain safe. The reason nothing terrible happens is that the caster is not releasing the full extent of their power, and therefore they have greater control over it.

Auto-Success would not be possible on several formal magics that involve:
- Agressive actions (DFMs on unwilling, Marks on unwilling, Obliterates, etc)
- Actions which already require plot input (Dream Vision, Delve History, High Horoscope, etc.)
- Anything else plot might deem important to monitor (defend the ritual modules, etc).

The reasoning behind this could be that a caster who acts against another's will has to put more effort into the casting. Additionally, information delving topics might require more effort. Whatever fluff works.

Dark Territory
Dark Territory would be pretty much the same as casting in Dark Territory now. Requires a marshal, and has a harsher rules regarding failures and more intense consequences when failures happen. Change some of the percentages to make dark territory magic more likely to succeed, since all the PvP magic should have a better chance of success (except Oblit, which can remain at the old values since it could never be cast out of dark territory).

I would suggest 40% Success, 40% Flaw, 10% Fail, 10% Backlash. The 20% failures could be dropped if it's deemed overly damaging to PvP.

Players who are identified as abusing the non-marshal'd style of magic would get a warning at first, and if they continue to abuse it would lose the ability to cast with Auto-Success. Not really any different than we have in the rules currently.

- Less formal marshaling when it's not necessary
- Makes casting in Dark Territory more enticing (than the standard 50% failure rate)
- Does not diminish PvP formal significantly (if failures are removed).
- Generally improves the formal magic casting side of the Formal Magic skill (by making it more accessable.

What do you guys think?


  1. Mark Henry ~MariusJune 28, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    What you have laid out sounds good. When I had a little formal I can honestly say I did not want to be bothered by the whole process. I used mine for cantrips and one plot formal ritual (cause it was exciting).

    On the actual casting of it I would like to see shorter times and more roleplay. Over 10+ years I have seen some amazing rituals roleplayed and some down right horrible ones (people sitting in circle for X time basically). In other words I would rather see someone put 100% into a 5 minute ritual than 5% into an hour long one.

  2. That's an interesting way of trying to do balance those factors.

    I tend to avoid dark territory stuff if at all possible, because of the necessary OOG elements (dice, tables, marhsal telling you what happens, etc.) So on that level I'd hate to see commonly used stuff like divination formals have more OOG logistics tacked on them.

    I've seen something similar to your version of auto-success as a sort of de-facto rule in some places (at least, when dealing with experienced players casting formals). For rituals that aren't PVP, contact with the marshal tends to be on the level of "Hey, random friendly NPC, I'm about to go change this person's race, does this scroll look alright to you? Sure, you can have the used-up components when I'm done."
    Either that, or lots of PCs are formal marshals, so you can basically handle it IG, without having to waste the staff's time, or be stared at by somebody in a white headband.

  3. The only reason I included the divination formals is that those often require plot anyways. Obviously, I'd be fine with making those safe, as long as players ran it past the plot team first (as it says in the formal).

    We've got many of the same relaxed rules here in Ohio, but we still have the "Someone needs to be OOG for this" rule, so one of the players always tends to take a nap. That's really the thing I'd like to eliminate.

  4. I'm not a big fan of auto-suc. or not having a marshal present. The reason we went to having a marshal present at every casting was because, well, people cheated. A lot. And then it was a lot of, "I didn't know that it worked like that, or that you had to do x." There was a fairly significant issue nearly every event for quite a while. After we switched to having to have a marshal present, that was almost completely eliminated. While I understand that it is kind of a pain to walk up the hill (or go to the shack at other locations), and do the logistical side of it, I for one am totally okay with it.

    From a personal perspective:
    - writing everything out, sometimes you catch an issue that you wouldn't have otherwise
    - prevents people from simply going up to the shack and saying they cast it (yes, it has happened numerous times), when they haven't
    - keeps everyone familiar with the rules on it

    Why not just have a set of rules that stays with the circle? How often do you cast it without a circle anyway? Leave the rules set there, and anyone that needs to cast formal, there is the circle, the dice, etc....a formal magic "kit". Complete with 10-15 formal magic sheets, a white head band, etc...


  5. We're not eliminating logistics. If you want your magic item, you still have to come to plot. And in the grand scheme of things, a person telling you they cast an enchant when they didn't isn't game breaking, as long as all the exact same resources were used (formal levels, components, scroll). And guess what? If you find out they cheated, they get punished (just like everything else in the game).

    If they don't have the proper resources, then nothing happened. No charges used, no components used, no formal used.

    I personally would much rather have players say they cast formal when they didn't than have to have honest players pull someone out of game for 35 minutes to make a 5 effect item.