Archive for November, 2009

immlass said:
I think in your shoes I would assume that conjuration is permanent and summoning is temporary. That would make the point-worthy power actually worth separate points.

This is reasonable for the game in question (Take 2), but I’m not sure it’s the solution I’m happiest with. I’ve had to really think about what it is about this that bothers me – because there is something.

I went and looked up conjuration on Wikipedia:

Conjuration most often refers to the performance of magic tricks. This article discusses the older (and still common) use, describing acts of a supernatural nature.

The word conjuration (from Latin conjure, conjurare, to “swear together”) can be interpreted in several different ways: as an invocation or evocation (the latter in the sense of binding by a vow); as an exorcism; or as an act of illusionism. The word is often used synonymously with “invocation”, although many authors find a distinction between the two terms.

One who performs conjurations is called a conjurer or conjuror. The word (as conjuration or conjurison) was formerly used in its Latin meaning of “conspiracy”.

Illusion? Exorcism?

And hey, check out invocation/evocation:

An invocation (from the Latin verb invocare “to call on, invoke”) may take the form of:

* Supplication or prayer.
* A form of possession.
* Command or conjuration.
* Self-identification with certain spirits.

In other words, “conjuration” by common (albeit internet) definition has nothing whatsoever to do with summoning.


Conjuration presents challenges of its own. I don’t know that I like it as-is. The boundaries are ill-defined – like so much of the ADRPG – and it’s easy as pie to make this overpowered. Not to mention that nowhere is there a reasonable explanation for things like the Pattern blades and the spikards. What, were they accidental creations? “Oh, whoops, I walked the Pattern and now my sword can kill werewolves”?

I mean, “It’s become part of your personal legend” is only really reasonable – to me – for things created in backstory. What if you pay points for something mid-game? How does that work?

And where do you draw the line between conjuration and summoning sorcery?

Trump sorcery may also have issues of scale. It’s one thing to teleport someone to lower Saskatchewan in the middle of combat. It’s quite another to teleport someone to lower Ankh-Morpork in the middle of combat when you’re a hundred Shadows from Discworld.

Most of the ways in which one uses Trump are going to be much more convenient to just use Trump than to use Sorcery in conjunction with Trump. I can only see a few applications that it might be useful for, honestly: identification, jamming, defense, and traps.

Shapeshifting, to me, is much less problematic – I actually already have an example or two of spells that would fit into that application. Same scale as Pattern/Logrus sorcery, I think: Advanced power + sorcery + extra 5.

Power Words are a totally different power to me than Sorcery, though I’ve been argued with about this. Yes, they are technically cantrips, not too far off the order of the student spells in Harry Potter – but they’re not real spells. I could argue that they’re building blocks for bigger spells, but I just don’t like it. To me, there’s this clear division between the power sources of the two. Power Words come from personal energy exclusively. Sorcery uses the forces of the Shadow to work, with the wielder riding herd over them. (There’s an implication by Merlin, I think, that this is the way it works – when he discusses spikards. I can’t see why else it would be significant that the rings draw from multiple power sources through Shadow instead of just one.)

Hanging spells on Trumps is an interesting idea. One spell per card… I can see where it can and will get overpowered very easily, even if you charge the 2 points for the personal Trump deck plus, say, two points per spell storage card plus advanced on both powers and an additional charge for the Trump sorcery itself.

But it’s such a cool idea.

Edit: Both powers? Wow. Dunno what I was thinking of there. Although a properly advanced sorcery might be interesting.

Double edit: The more I think about this, the more I think it might be a good avenue to pursue… Racking 12 spells in a Trump deck would be 2 pts for the deck and 2*12 – 24 – pts for the racking part… Specify what can and cannot be on the card, maybe, since it doesn’t make much sense to me to rack on people cards…

A system of item and creature creation that cannot build canon items and creatures without listing exceptions in bettew then half of them is one that has failed at its aim.

This comment brought to you by creating a new Amber character and by having recently listened to a description of the trials and tribulations of building an item system for the upcoming Dresden Files rpg…

Sorcery, shapeshifting, conjuration, Power Words, Trump… How do they all fit together? Or do they?

Is measuring the relative ease of sorcery within a given world by the relative amounts of magic and technology really just relying on a false dichotomy?

I’m thinking it is. If we accept the Shadow is full of infinite possibilities, then it’s 100% reasonable to assume that high levels of magic and tech could exist in the same world.

Is it instead reasonable to look at simply the magic level of a given world to determine the relative ease of magic?

I’m not so sure about that, either – but I’m also not sure if I have the right answer yet. I mean, we’re talking about the flat 15-point sorcery in the hands of a Shadow-walker. They – and particularly the powerful ones – already know whether a given world is magic-rich or not, and I don’t think it would make one whit of difference to them. But on the other hand, the biggest sorcerous example we have is Merlin, who is a twink and undoubtedly has Logrus sorcery so he can ignore the rules of Shadow, so it’s hard to tell whether such rules exist. And on the third hand, you can say, “magic doesn’t work here,” for a given Shadow, so is that a relative level of magic or just a special world condition?

Hmm. This may require more thought.

For Take 2, I’m going to ignore the relative magic of places – though not the outright prohibitions – and see how it goes. At worst, I suppose, it may bite me in the ass and make me rewrite the rules mid-run… But it might actually also go well…

I think one of the big bugbears for me in re: sorcery in Amber Diceless is that it’s so disjointed, so bland – almost like it was an effort to include sorcery because it has such a big part in the Merlin books, but with no real conviction behind the action.*

This is not to say that I want all sorcerers to be casting the same magic – flavor is good. But there’s no underlying structure. “Here, have some spells, and some ‘microspell’ rules that should help you create new spells but really doesn’t,” is not structure. Throwing things at the wall until something sticks shouldn’t be published as a finished system component.

I want a genuine cosmology, something that basically hangs together anywhere you go. I want realistic levels of sorcery (High Compelling is a joke) that demonstrate why some characters can cast sorcery anywhere and some are limited to certain Shadows.

* My full opinion on how much effort was actually put into Shadow Knight and other Merlin’s-books-inspired material is best saved for another time, but can be best summed up with, “writing about how little you wanted to do this book in the introduction was a really asinine idea.”

There’s a fine line between “troupe creation” and “sitting in a room chatting while people who don’t handle creating characters in new systems gracefully try desparately to create their characters”.

There’s more to this thought, somewhere, but… I don’t handle creating characters in new systems gracefully in rooms full of people. Forcing this on me – particularly for a game I’m not entirely enthused with – does not make me happy.

I know there isn’t a perfect system, so it’s no surprise that there’s something about 4th edition D & D – otherwise a good system – that bothers me.

It’s a handful of little words.


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