Spellcasting skill

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
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wiztigers
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Spellcasting skill

Post by wiztigers » Tue Nov 05, 2019 5:05 am

In Earthdawn 1st ed., Spellcasting was available as a skill.
This allowed non-magician adepts to cast spells in a (very) limited way. As a magician can reattune any spellmatrix (and not only their own), the non-magician adept could weave a thread to a spell matrix object (or any thread item with matrices, like a spell sword or a doll) using her dicipline-specific thread weaving talent. Then, she could request a magician to attune the matrix with a spell known to the magician ; the spell circle had to be less than the matrix object thread rank, of course. If, and only if, the spell didn't have any filaments, the non-magician adept could then cast it using her spellcasting skill.

This allowed non-magician adepts to have a taste of spell magic, thus gaining an edge if they were ready to pay the legend points cost (cost of the threaded item, plus cost of progressing the skill). Magicians could cast some spells of other disciplines without going full blown multidiscpline. Generally speaking, everyone could gain some flexibility and be more self-sufficient, with enough prior teamwork and foresight. The inherent costs of this method (especially for a non-magician adept), and the fact that nearly all high circle spells required additional threads, kept imho the power of this little-known trick in check.
In my experience, I found that learning the spellcasting skill generally made non-magician players more involved in magic related intrigues ; as a GM, I saw them participate more in arcane related problem solving, thus lessening the kind of behaviour like "oh, a ritual? let's do the magician do his thing then while I don't pay attention for a while".

However, Spellcasting seems no longer to be available as a skill, so this option would sadly not be legal anymore.
Humans can always resort to versatility as usual, but ... it's not the same, I guess.

Of course, it is trivial to house-rule this to make mundane spellcasting a thing again.
:?: But, what I would like to know is : from a game designer's point of view, was there any reason for this to be undesirable in ED4 ?

Bonhumm
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Re: Spellcasting skill

Post by Bonhumm » Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:33 am

Spellcasting was available as a skill only in the first PRINTING of the first edition; the second PRINTING of the first edition (and everything else afterward) has Spellcasting as a talent only thus this could be considered a mistake that was 'errata'ed' in the second printing.

Even if it was available as a skill, it would be of extremely limited used. Your mechanic of using another caster to attune a spell matrix object for someone else is not something I ever heard/read about and I'm really not sure I would allow it as a GM.

Thus, without this, the only way to use Spellcasting as a skill would be while casting from (someone else's) grimoire and then only spells without threads (since the character could not learn the necessary Discipline Thread Weaving).

Also, the character could not learn new spells since Read and Write Magic is a talent only ability and there's the whole question of how would someone even manage to cast from grimoire if he cannot read the spell at all (since he does not have Read and Write Magic).

Finally; this would make someone using Spellcasting as a skill more proficient than someone using Spellcasting as a talent: why could a 'skill' caster be able to cast spells from any and all casting Discipline while a 'real' caster could only cast spells from his own Discipline? Why does the 'need to know the appropriate thread weaving talent' requirement disappear for 'skill casters'?


As for why its not available as skill in the following edition is simple:

Talents have 3 aspects to them;
1- They are so 'natural' to the Adept that they can improve them without (much) training.
2- Most of them are not something that could be done at all in a world without magic (i.e. IRL now, the 5th age).
3- Even for abilites that are 'possible' IRL, they are enhancing them (for example; Lock Picking talent that summons magic pick tools or the Melee Weapon talents that makes you proficient with any and all melee weapons, even those you never used in your life yet).

Skills, on the other end, are supposed to be what we can do in real life:
1- Takes a lot of training.
2- No magical 'enhancement'.
3- Can only do what we can do in real life; Lock Picking?:yes, Melee Weapons?:yes, Spellcasting?:NO!

Anunnaki
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Re: Spellcasting skill

Post by Anunnaki » Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:58 am

Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:33 am
Spellcasting was available as a skill only in the first PRINTING of the first edition; the second PRINTING of the first edition (and everything else afterward) has Spellcasting as a talent only thus this could be considered a mistake that was 'errata'ed' in the second printing.
Apologies, this is incorrect. It is present in all printings of ED1 up to at least the Third Printing and was never removed or errata'd to the best of my knowledge.

Pages 42-43 of the ED1 "Magic: A Manual of Mystic Secrets" book has a section specifically talking about the Spellcasting skill, with some additional notes, constraints, etc.

Hope this helps!

Take kaer, James

wiztigers
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Re: Spellcasting skill

Post by wiztigers » Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:37 pm

Yup, thanks.
Back in the day, Magic: A Manual of Mystic Secrets explicitely stated this as a thing.
I never felt it was a GM-dependent trick, as it was not.
Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:33 am
Your mechanic of using another caster to attune a spell matrix object for someone else is not something I ever heard/read about and I'm really not sure I would allow it as a GM.
Well, it's not "mine".
First, as I said, this technique was explicitely described in a 1st ed. sourcebook. Second, you interpret it as you like at your table, of course, but even in ED4 the section about casting from a spell matrix specifies that the character casts from his/her matrix. However, in the same chapter, the section about reattuning mainly says "a matrix".
I admit I read it with my "1st ed. eyes", but to me it seems attuning a matrix for someone else is not impossible -just unusual, maybe as unusual and old fashioned as spell matrix items themselves. I read it like that, because I like to have options to write adventures or to give to my players -even if this one would rarely be used.
Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:33 am
Thus, without this, the only way to use Spellcasting as a skill would be while casting from (someone else's) grimoire and then only spells without threads (since the character could not learn the necessary Discipline Thread Weaving).
Not even.
Casting from their own grimoire is not possible for non-magicians, as they can't use Patterncraft (or the read & write magic talent in previous editions) to copy the spell formula in the first place. Casting from a grimoire belonging to someone else requires Patterncraft, too (or the appropriate thread weaving talent in previous editions) to attune. So non-magicians are out in both cases.
Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:33 am
Finally; this would make someone using Spellcasting as a skill more proficient than someone using Spellcasting as a talent: why could a 'skill' caster be able to cast spells from any and all casting Discipline while a 'real' caster could only cast spells from his own Discipline? Why does the 'need to know the appropriate thread weaving talent' requirement disappear for 'skill casters'?
It doesn't at all.
If reattuning a spell matrix (object) belonging to someone else works, all magicians can already cast spells from any discipline ... provided the spell has no threads, and provided they find someone to attune their matrix. The last part is the main problem, because there are little sharing between magicians of different disciplines (finding a master for a second magician discipline is hard, learning spells with versatility is hard, and so on). But it's not impossible : that's why I said mundane spellcasting required teamwork and foresight.


I don't say that "spellcasting should be available as a skill" or "it's was better before" (spoiler alert: it wasn't IMHO).
I just asked this question hoping to get opinions from a game designer's perspective. Because, as a GM, I like little options like these that are balanced, make my players more engaged and can benefit any character provided they are ready to pay the price, and I hate to say "no, you didn't choose the 'right' race/discipline for that lol whatever human magician master race".


IIRC, mundane spell crafting was possible in Shadowrun, too. Mundane conjuring, even.
It was hard, weak, dangerous and generally a bad idea ... but it was a choice.

Bonhumm
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Re: Spellcasting skill

Post by Bonhumm » Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:48 pm

Anunnaki wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:58 am
Apologies, this is incorrect. It is present in all printings of ED1 up to at least the Third Printing and was never removed or errata'd to the best of my knowledge.
I thought the copy I had was 2nd printing but it is indeed 3rd printing; sorry about that

wiztigers wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:37 pm
Well, it's not "mine". First, as I said, this technique was explicitely described in a 1st ed. sourcebook. Second, you interpret it as you like at your table, of course, but even in ED4 the section about casting from a spell matrix specifies that the character casts from his/her matrix. However, in the same chapter, the section about reattuning mainly says "a matrix".
Could you tell me where (page) this is described in the first edition book? Although I agree the wording of 4th edition ('a' matrix' instead of 'his' matrix) could be interpreted like that, this would imply that any caster could re-attune any other casters matrices at will; this would be a rather big issue in combat.
wiztigers wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:37 pm
Casting from their own grimoire is not possible for non-magicians, as they can't use Patterncraft (or the read & write magic talent in previous editions) to copy the spell formula in the first place. Casting from a grimoire belonging to someone else requires Patterncraft, too (or the appropriate thread weaving talent in previous editions) to attune. So non-magicians are out in both cases.
which is why I also said:
Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 11:33 am
Also, the character could not learn new spells since Read and Write Magic is a talent only ability and there's the whole question of how would someone even manage to cast from grimoire if he cannot read the spell at all (since he does not have Read and Write Magic).
wiztigers wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:37 pm
If reattuning a spell matrix (object) belonging to someone else works, all magicians can already cast spells from any discipline ... provided the spell has no threads, and provided they find someone to attune their matrix. The last part is the main problem, because there are little sharing between magicians of different disciplines (finding a master for a second magician discipline is hard, learning spells with versatility is hard, and so on). But it's not impossible : that's why I said mundane spellcasting required teamwork and foresight.
That's.... an interesting concept. I always assumed the 'thread weaving of the correct discipline' requirement applied on the spell itself but I have to admit I cannot find any written rule clearly stating that so it could be argued that the the 'spell matrix attuned by someone else' would indeed allow a caster to cast a spells from any discipline. This would also mean the same would apply to casting from grimoire (as long as its a spell with no thread).

I doubt very much, however, that this was the intent of the developers. Casters would just pile on matrix objects and I don't think the whole 'casters of different discipline don't share with others' would hold against 'I'll scratch your back if you starch mine'.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Spellcasting skill

Post by Slimcreeper » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:26 pm

Alchemy is also a skill, and involves magic.

What would be interesting _to me_ is a class of equipment that was activated using spell casting. Like a self-packing backpack or bookshelves enchanted to organize and shelve books. spell casting working almost like engine programming in 1879 for items with complex enchantments. More powerful items might be thread items, such as boots with built in rockets used for jumping or blasting.

Altanius
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Re: Spellcasting skill

Post by Altanius » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:14 pm

wiztigers wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:37 pm
IIRC, mundane spell crafting was possible in Shadowrun, too. Mundane conjuring, even.
It was hard, weak, dangerous and generally a bad idea ... but it was a choice.
Mundane summoning is possible. There's a ritual to summon spirits that requires only a set of ingredients (which varies by spirit type) which mundanes can perform. However, unlike actual summoning it places no strictures on the spirit, so it's (as you said) generally a terrible idea unless you're desperate or have some other means of subduing the spirit.

Mundane spellcasting is not possible in SR (at least currently.) Dunkelzahn/Mountainshadow actually set out a pretty fat bounty in his will for anyone who can pull it off.
Slimcreeper wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:26 pm
Alchemy is also a skill, and involves magic.
Arguably, this does not require 'magic' per say, only skill. (Which may be why it isn't a talent.) Specifically all of the magic involved comes from the ingredients, not the person doing it. FWIW, the same is true in SR. Artificing (The SR equivalent to alchemy) can beused by anyone, including mundanes. Interestingly, they can even design spell formula, and a few up the best spell designers in the world actually are mundanes who just seem to have an 'eye for it.'

wiztigers
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Re: Spellcasting skill

Post by wiztigers » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:18 am

Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:48 pm
Could you tell me where (page) this is described in the first edition book? Although I agree the wording of 4th edition ('a' matrix' instead of 'his' matrix) could be interpreted like that, this would imply that any caster could re-attune any other casters matrices at will; this would be a rather big issue in combat.
Of course. Magic: A Manual of Mystic Secrets, pp 42-43, section "The spellcasting skill".
It's a 15y old softcover I have, I've no idea what "printing" it is. Where do I see that ?
My 1st ed. core rulebook is in french, whereas the 4th ed. player's guide is in english, so I cannot compare the wordings "attune a/the/his matrix" between editions. It would be interesting to do.

I suppose reattuning on the fly a spell matrix belonging to an opponent who happens to have the same discipline is possible.
However, you always have to touch the spell matrix object to use it, so in a combat situation that would mean getting dangerousely close, which is a thing anathema to many magicians. And you can't touch a spell matrix talent without astrally projecting (Astral Sight talent doesn't make you "dual" AFAIK). In anycase, that would just be losing your action to make the opponent lose theirs (to reattune their matrix with the spell you just dumped).
Why go through this hassle while you can just dispel magic and call it a day ? Or, at higher levels, use astral/matrix strike to more permanently disable the matrix (at least until the end of the fight) ?
Bonhumm wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:48 pm
I always assumed the 'thread weaving of the correct discipline' requirement applied on the spell itself but I have to admit I cannot find any written rule clearly stating that so it could be argued that the the 'spell matrix attuned by someone else' would indeed allow a caster to cast a spells from any discipline. This would also mean the same would apply to casting from grimoire (as long as its a spell with no thread).

I doubt very much, however, that this was the intent of the developers. Casters would just pile on matrix objects and I don't think the whole 'casters of different discipline don't share with others' would hold against 'I'll scratch your back if you starch mine'.
Well, you have for example to use Thread Weaving(nethermancy) to attune and weave threads to nethermancer spells. I, too, assume that you are only able to weave threads to your own spells -although IIRC there is be a knack to share spell thread weaving between magicians. Multi-discipline spells (is it still a thing in ED4?) are a different matter entirely, and, to be frank, I don't remember well how they worked. But it's in Magic: ..., so I can take a look if necessary.
However, spellcasting is just that : uttering a few words, making gestures, maybe using some material components and voilà ! spell is cast. But spellcasting needs a completely weaved spell pattern. And (although this might be an personnal interpretation), the spell pattern must be hold in a spell matrix you own (ie. a spell matrix talent, or a spell matrix item you've weaved a thread to using your specific discipline Thread Weaving talent).
Altanius wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:14 pm
Mundane spellcasting is not possible in SR (at least currently.) Dunkelzahn/Mountainshadow actually set out a pretty fat bounty in his will for anyone who can pull it off.
Yes, and it never was. Spell crafting is, summoning is, but spell casting isn't.
Excepted the filtering metamagic technique (not sure of the name), SR doesn't differenciate between thread weaving and spellcasting however. So it's kinda hard to directly compare the two systems. Especially if one considers the paradigms, as long as what magic can and cannot do in each setting, are vastly different.
Slimcreeper wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:26 pm
What would be interesting _to me_ is a class of equipment that was activated using spell casting. Like a self-packing backpack or bookshelves enchanted to organize and shelve books. spell casting working almost like engine programming in 1879 for items with complex enchantments.
Yes, there are some "magical" actions that don't need the "magician gene". Alchemy is an example.
For spellcasting activated items, you've got stuff like the frost pouch. It is sad that now only magicians and humans can use it.
If you're talking about spellcasting activated, non-thread items, well ... I'm not sure many Barsaivians would learn the spellcasting skill, even if it still existed. You know, like people generally don't want to use in their everyday life tools that are too complicated to use and require a specific formation. Mundane Barsaivians have enchanted items that "just work", and the ones that "know magic" are generally adepts who can weave threads.
However, for the rare people that craves magic but doesn't have "THE gene", I suppose there's enough incentive to create specific/complicated stuff like that (if spellcasting skill was available). I just doubt he'd be able to sell it to anyone at a large scale ...

Telarus
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Re: Spellcasting skill

Post by Telarus » Sat Nov 09, 2019 9:11 pm

I really love the ideas here. We played around with spellcasting-as-a-skill in 1e, but left it behind when the campaign went to 2e.

I'm really liking the idea of attaining a 0 thread spell to a matrix object and handing it to another spellcaster. There's really nothing in the metaphysics that spoils that. I also have played around with the idea of 'spell scrolls', being 1-off (or more) matrix objects with the spell pattern locked in. (Honestly that started as a way to use the old-school dungeon loot tables as-is... but it really opens up some interesting gameplay if you can 'rent' spells via spell-scrolls.

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