Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Best of Both Worlds

     Okay, so I think the "Vancian"spell-slot  magic system in D&D (and Pathfinder, alas) is the worst game mechanic ever.  I hate it.  Also, I hate it.  Oh, and before I forget let me mention that I hate it a lot.  So when D&D 4the Edition (4E) was first announced I was hopeful that they had finally removed the spell-slot monkey from D&D's back.  Initial reviews of the game were skimpy, but it did appear that they had at least attempted to drive a nice sharp design stake through the monster's heart.  I pre-ordered the core set through my FLGS (Games and Stuff, Glen Burnie MD in case anyone's interested) and eagerly rushed home to see what they'd done with the magic system.

     Well, as those of you who've read the 4E rules already know, the magic system was indeed quite different.  Hooray!  Umm, except that now spell caster types get a smaller set of spells and most of those seem to be combat-oriented.  The old "Swiss Army Knife" caster had gotten a makeover.  Also, they gave all classes a similar set of "powers" (which are spells in the case of spell casters) in an attempt to balance all the classes more closely.  Class balance had been a constant complaint in the earlier versions of D&D and they had now thoroughly overhauled all the classes in an effort to solve that.  Now, I'm fine with the design concept of creating these "powers" and having an identical progression framework for all classes.  In the earlier versions of D&D (and now Pathfinder) class creation seemed to be more art than science and properly playtesting them must have been difficult.

     The new powers system gave players a certain number of powers in a couple categories: those which could be used "at will" (actually once per 6-second round during an encounter), those usable once per encounter, those usable once per day.  For casters there was also a separate category of "rituals" which took longer to cast and were meant more to be cast outside of combat.  I wasn't sure how this would feel in play, but luckily one of the friends I game with (Hi Dan!) ran a great demo for us and I got to play a Tiefling warlock.

     First off, I was thrilled to have the at-will power, especially at first level.  Normally, a D&D style spellcaster at first level gets a only one or two first level spells PER DAY, after which it's time to take out the crossbow.  That's not how I imagine a magic using type.  With 4E I had a magical attack every round, even if it wasn't very strong.  Also, I could use my encounter power in a more relaxed fashion instead of fretting about whether this was the best time for my one spell for the day.  It was a refreshing change.

     With that positive experience of 4E behind me, I then stopped to consider.  At that time I had already started buying the Pathfinder rules, despite the crappy spell-slot system, because I liked many other things about it and because my gamer friends generally liked it as well.  So now I am trying to find a way to combine the two.  In other words, I want to use Pathfinder but somehow use 4E style spells.

1 comment:

  1. D&D (and Pathfinder) already have an alternative to the Vancian system, psionics. The best spell point system I've ever seen. But if you want something different, try Radiance. Lots of options but no slots and no endless spell lists.