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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 138 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Unearth]: scribery  (Read 1063 times)
karl fungus
Member

Posts: 4


« on: January 11, 2010, 10:37:12 PM »

Hello again.

In my Unearth setting, there are human mages called scribes. They're called such because they etch patterns onto a sort of crystal called crysophene, which they then use as a power source for all their supernatural abilities. From these patterns, they can gain dominion over energy, matter, space or time, but only one of them per crystal. From my somewhat outdated notes:

Quote
Energy: The creation and manipulation of energy, in all of its forms. Massive explosions, spontaneous combustion, and frigid cold are all within a scribe's grasp. They are limited by their inability to directly control tangible things, but this is offset by the raw destructive power.

Matter: The manipulation of matter, as well as the creation of temporary things. As the energy scribe directs energy around, the matter scribe has dominion over all things tangible, with the ability to summon temporary equipment out of the ether, and twist around an opponent's weapon into something completely harmless. Particularly skilled matter scribes can also heal wounds, and summon temporary meals to nourish until the next town can be reached. However, they may not transmute matter; for that is entirely the domain of the high alchemist.

Space: The manipulation of space, as in the dimension itself. One of the harder patterns to master, the space pattern allows for near instantaneous, yet highly inaccurate travel over long distances, as well as the stretching and shrinking of tangible things. The space scribe can drastically lengthen a weapon, cause his ranged weapons to fire from many miles away, and even crush opponents. They may not, however, create or destroy energy or matter.

Time: The manipulation of time, which is perhaps the hardest pattern to master of them all. A great deal of fringe uses are granted by the time pattern, which allows for things like greatly speeding up a subject, slowing down time to a standstill, and even creating portals to another point in time. The creation of these portals, however, requires the scribe to stand in place, concentrating for the entire time while the portal anchors itself between the time it is created and the time the scribe stops concentrating. Needless to say, this is very draining.

In combat mechanic terms, energy translates to a variety of attacks, matter to summoning things, and space to screwing around with the other guy's equipment. Now, none of them are strictly bound to those uses, and they can be combined if you have either two scribes or two crystals laying around. You could summon a field of oil, set it on fire, and then teleport enemies onto it. The sole thing that bugs me now is time.

How can I get time magic to work in combat? Sure, you can speed up and slow down time, but that could get old fast. The only thing that I find fits into my game's spirit of improvisation is the ability to create time portals, but I have no idea how to implement that, and I can't think of any good examples in other games. Since you're required to set a point for the start of the portal, maybe combat could be restarted up to the point where you first made the portal, but I can already see a load of annoyance on the GM's end. Maybe time travel is extremely risky and could cause serious repercussions? Maybe you can't travel backwards, but only forwards?

Maybe time should just be replaced with something else?

The system, by the way, is at http://sites.google.com/site/unearthsystem/notes
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Warrior Monk
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2010, 11:49:02 AM »

I've got the feeling your magic system is way too overpowered in a way that would require a complex setting to balance that. Either that or giving most objects and creatures anti-magical qualities. Another way to regain balance is to put a limit on magic. What if each time a scribe makes magic there's an increasing chance the crystal may broke with fatal consequences? There are a lot of ways to limit the use of magic, like implementing a paradox system as in WoD or a degenerating condition of the user, as in Don't Rest your Head. You just have to modificate it a bit for use in long campaings.

About time you can also have the scribes accelerate time passing effects on an enemy or item, either fowards or backwards. For time portals you would have to choose a time theory for your game. Can the past be changed? Does it alter the future substantially? Can you take things or beings from other time back with you? Try to picture the consequences of everybody having such power in your setting, that will help you define the limits of your magic system. Best luck!
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chronoplasm
Member

Posts: 286

Kevin Vito


« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2010, 02:19:28 PM »


How can I get time magic to work in combat? Sure, you can speed up and slow down time, but that could get old fast. The only thing that I find fits into my game's spirit of improvisation is the ability to create time portals, but I have no idea how to implement that, and I can't think of any good examples in other games. Since you're required to set a point for the start of the portal, maybe combat could be restarted up to the point where you first made the portal, but I can already see a load of annoyance on the GM's end. Maybe time travel is extremely risky and could cause serious repercussions? Maybe you can't travel backwards, but only forwards?

I'm reminded of Magic: the Gathering for some reason.
Obviously, you have time related spells like Time Walk or Time Stop that manipulate turns and turn order (take another turn after this one, end the current turn, etc.)
You also have instants. 'The stack' is probably the best representation of time manipulation in games that I've ever seen. When the opponent plays a spell, you play a spell in response, put it on the stack, then your spell resolves first even though you played the card after the other guy played his.
It's a little gamist, and not very indie at all, I know, but I think there's something there that can be applied to a more narrative style.
Time is a sequence of events, right?
What you want to do is give players the ability to reorder and manipulate the sequence of events.
The players and the GM have to be able to visualize this somehow. This could be done by creating a timeline of some sort.
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2341


WWW
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2010, 04:27:42 PM »

Hey Karl,

Make time an abstraction? Check out how Jared Sorensen does it in A Time To Kill.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
karl fungus
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2010, 10:25:07 PM »

Ah, thanks for all the replies. I love this forum.

Quote
I've got the feeling your magic system is way too overpowered in a way that would require a complex setting to balance that. Either that or giving most objects and creatures anti-magical qualities. Another way to regain balance is to put a limit on magic. What if each time a scribe makes magic there's an increasing chance the crystal may broke with fatal consequences?

At the moment there is just one mechanical safeguard against scribes getting too jumpy with their powers, and that's due to the crystals exploding if you fail to inscribe properly. You never know if you failed or not, so your brand new magic source could just explode in your face. In a day or two I'm going to be adding some more rules regarding portals, so to create one you must draw the pattern out on a material object with an activated crystal. Thus, you can still make an entrance portal around someone's feet leading to a volcano, but this would mean you have enough time to get up close, somehow evade all their opportunity attacks, and manage to create the portal before they can run away. You won't be able to make portals at a distance anymore, which was probably just wishful thinking after seeing the portal gun in Portal.

Also, in the setting itself, there is a massive church organization that's been around since the dark ages. Many local leaders in the human empire are just puppets of theirs, and the emperor himself can't do much without their approval. They see the scribal orders as a major threat, since besides their magic they also have copies of ancient books from the previous civilization and a great deal of technological knowledge. Many times before, they've tried to destroy the scribes, but each time they manage to come back as a different numbered order (the current one being the 13th). Thus, they wage a massive propaganda campaign against them, branding them as witches and being in pacts with demons. Your average villager is going to be very, very scared of a scribe, eliminating any chances of getting supplies from them. Going anywhere near church territory as a scribe is suicide, and this would mean you'd have to go through the Tlek-inhabited deserts just to reach the other coast. Tlek will gladly devour humans.

Quote
About time you can also have the scribes accelerate time passing effects on an enemy or item, either forwards or backwards. For time portals you would have to choose a time theory for your game. Can the past be changed? Does it alter the future substantially?

At the moment I am leaning heavily against travel into the past. I'll likely be allowing it in the end anyway, but it'll definitely be very dangerous to use in combat too often, or even on a whim. You'll probably have to roll off on a mishap table to see just how badly mutilated you come out on the other end. Future travel, on the other hand, is fine with me. I can see it working in combat with the character completely disappearing for the round, reappearing seconds before an enemy takes his turn to give him a nasty surprise attack. Outside of combat, it's a great way to escape authorities, especially the church. Regardless, you'll still have to roll on a mishap table, as with all time-related effects, but this one wouldn't be as harsh as going into the past. The worst that can happen is being stuck in accelerated aging, as compared to backwards travel reducing you to where all your atoms were years prior to you being born.

Time will not be some get out of jail card, since when you go backwards you will be you, along with any wounds and effects currently on you. It's just that sometimes the timeline does not like being messed around with, and will "rub" against you in the wrong way, producing one of those temporal side effects. The time stream in the Unearth universe wants to stay on course, and will take actions to correct itself. I will likely be adding some more rules to reflect this. Time magic is going to be complex, and likely to hurt a player's head.

Quote
What you want to do is give players the ability to reorder and manipulate the sequence of events.
The players and the GM have to be able to visualize this somehow. This could be done by creating a timeline of some sort.

I like this idea. What I'll probably do is have anyone who wants to use time travel keep a timeline of the battle, recording all the events that go by. If you go back in time, you can alter one of the events, or if you get the whole party to come with you, the whole combat scenario is reset to that point. If you go forwards, you (or the party) disappears while the enemies takes their turns, wondering where you've gone. As previously stated, none of this is without side effects. Something terrible will happen.

Quote
Make time an abstraction? Check out how Jared Sorensen does it in A Time To Kill.

I'll take a look at that, thanks.
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