Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

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Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by dcfitch »

I was curious what most people use for their C&C magic system, the standard Vancian magic in the PHB or one of the options in the CKG (mana points, spell slots)? I am leaning towards giving spell/mana points a try. Thoughts?

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Buttmonkey »

I switched to spell slots for my home game this year and haven't had any problems. I was introduced to spell slots at Gary Con a few years ago and really liked it, but was hesitant to try it in a regular campaign. Eventually, I couldn't think of a good (enough) reason not to just make the switch "full time". The players like it and it simplifies the game in a good way.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by dcfitch »

It seems like, mathematically, there is not any real difference between spell slots and spell points.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by pawndream »

Spell slots, i.e., PCs do not have to declare the spells they are preparing. I haven't used Vancian casting since the late 80's. Never tried the mana system in a D&D type game.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by serleran »

Use them all and more, based on the type of caster involved. I prefer not having a catchall. Not for magic.

Oh, and its not exactly how described in the books as I don't necessarily agree with the numbers. Or even how it works.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Captain_K »

Here is what we use. I also do not make spell casters sleep all night and pray/read all morning. They recover spells like a fighter recovers the ability to fight... naturally.. well, OK, I make them run out and relax and pray and read, but just not so darn long...

OHR#3 Expanded Spell Memory - All Spell Casters
1) Same CnC PH spells per day and use of tables, with each spell casting PC getting their INT or WIS bonus to each spell level to determine the number of spells "they can cast each day". Ex. A 3rd lvl Druid with a 16 WIS gets one BONUS 1st and 2nd lvl spell they can cast each day; (4) 0th lvl spells, (2+1) 1st, and (1+1) 2nds.
2) All spell casters memorize or pray for more spells than they can cast in a given day. The quantity of spells, of each level, that a spell caster has in memory is 1.5 times (round up) the value noted in the spells per day table for each class. Include the INT or WIS bonus into the number of spells per day to be multiplied by 1.5.
3) These are the spells they "pray for" or memorize from their books and have handy "in memory" until cast from; to the limit of spells per day noted in the table.
4) The PC can cast any of these spells in memory with no limit to repeating a spell in memory - it is not truly "wiped away" when cast, only one spell use of that level in the normal time frame is used. The "slot" or "mana" of the spell was used, not the memory of how to cast that specific spell. So in the example above, the 3rd lvl Druid would have (6) Zero lvl, (5) 1st lvl, and (3) 2nd lvl spell in memory to choose from, but still only be able to cast (4) 0th lvl spells, (3) 1st, and (2) 2nd, but they could be from any of the 6, 5, or 3 spells in memory.
**This gives all casters the same level of "repeatability" without having to multiple memorize a spell. This small change gives more variety without more spells being cast, adding depth and purpose to the casters. Plus the list of spells to choose from is only slightly longer than normal.
5) All PCs need to note the spells they have in memory for the day and keep a tally or count of the number of spells cast in each level against their normal daily maximums, but they do not "cross" off any given spell.
6) Spells in memory stay their until actively changed out through prayer or book study normally associated with regaining daily allotted spells.

OHR#2 Divine Healing
1) Any level Cleric spell* (or memory slot) can be exchanged for a Cure Wounds "spell" at 1d8/(Cleric spell level). Ex. Any second level spell can be immediately converted to a 2d8 Cure Wounds spell.
2) Any level Druid spell* (or memory slot) can be exchanged for a Cure Wounds "spell" at 1d8/(Druid spell level-1). Ex. Any third level spell can be immediately converted to a 2d8 Cure Wounds spell.
3) Illusionists cannot convert spells to curing.
4) Clerics & Druids add their Wisdom bonus to the total of any cure spell, Illusionists add their intelligence bonus.
* This makes cure spells except Goodberry, Healing Circle, Heal, and Mass Heal no longer required to be memorized. The Druid's Cure Critical Wounds is effectively increased by one level, but so many more are gained this change should not matter.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Go0gleplex »

I have used a mix of all three before. Vancian for mages, Mana points for sorcerors, and the spell slots for clerics and druids. Of the three, my preference runs towards just spell slots though mana points runs a close second.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by maximus »

I've always used the "by the book" rules, but am considering converting to spell slots. I will say that I like some of the variations posted above.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Buttmonkey »

dcfitch wrote:It seems like, mathematically, there is not any real difference between spell slots and spell points.
There is a big difference (at least assuming I am using the commonly-accepted definitions). Spell points give the caster a vastly increased degree of flexibility. In a spell slot system, the caster gets the same number of spells per spell level as a BTB Vancian caster. The difference is the spell slot caster can cast any combination of spells at each spell level without having to declare at the start of the day which spells are being taken. Thus, if a caster has 3 first level spells, the spell slot caster can cast any three 1st level spells the caster has access to that day without having to decide in advance which three spells to take. The BTB caster has to declare the 3 first level spells being taken at the start of the day. Thus, the spell slot caster has a lot more flexibility than a BTB caster.

In a spell point system, the caster is not limited to a specific number of spells from each spell level. Instead, the caster gets a pool of spell points based on the spells the caster can cast at each spell level. The caster gets one spell point per spell level per spell. For example, a caster who BTB would have 4 first level spells and 2 second level spells would have 8 spell points to use throughout the day. The difference between spell slots and spell points is the spell points caster can expend those points without any consideration of the BTB spells per spell level limitation. Thus, our hypothetical spell points caster could cast 8 first level spells since she has 8 spell points. That is double the number of first level spells that a spell slot caster could cast per day. The spell points caster could also go the other direction and cast 4 second level spells (each costing 2 points since the cost to cast a spell is equal to the spell level of the spell). Again, the spell points caster is able to cast twice as many 2nd level spells as a spell slot (or BTB) caster.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Rigon »

I've used spell slots in the past for clerics and druids and it worked out fairly well. They became much more flexible as casters. So, I would think that would also be the case for wizards/illusionists.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by dcfitch »

It seems like spell-slot variant in the CKG is the easiest to use on the fly. Buttmonkey makes some great points concerning the spell point variant (called the "advanced spell slot" system in the CKG), and the Troll Lords seemed to have remedied some of the mathematical imbalance with their mana-point variant. But I like the simplicity of the spell slot variant. Once can use this variant through referencing the spell slot charts in the PBH whereas the other variants are considerably different than the RAW in the PHB.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Treebore »

I prefer Vancian, more or less. In the case of Clerics, I do let them change out any spell they pray for with any heal type spell they end up needing. As for why I like Vancian, I like the agonizing over what spells to select.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Captain_K »

That is why my slots still have a pool of spells to pick from that is only 1.5 normal. What I find is folks always pick the same old safe spells and some never get selected yet they're great spells in the right instance.. my goal was to try to give more versatility with simple values and number that the core PH sticks with, aka the spells castable per day in the tables. Like Treebore, I like to let healers convert any spell to healing so they don't suck up slots with the required healing. We're rather happy with the system, we've also found selection paralysis slows the game when its wide open for the caster to select from anything... most of my players just don't have it all memorized.. so forcing a smaller pool helps speed that along.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by TheMetal1 »

I pretty much play spells BTB/Vancian.

Arcane's (Wizard/Illusionists) have a spell book and must memorize from that for what they need for the day. Spells are learned during training (Based off what the PC wants to learn and what the NPC is willing to give them), found in tomes or scrolls.

Divine's (Clerics/Druids) have access to any spell on their level list. But have to choose each day what spells they want. No trading out for healing, etc.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Lurker »

Well, as I've said before, magic is my weak area of knowledge, so take my input with a huge grain of salt !

I've never liked the BTB / fire and forget style of magic . It just always rubbed me as counter intuitive. I can see game balance etc as a reason for it, but still it just doesn't sound/feel right to me.

However, the 'mana' system looks like it will result in a way over powered spell caster - never played any form of magic user in a mana game or ran one myself, so I have no first hand knowledge here.

With that, It sounds to me like 'spell slots' would be the better middle of the road choice. It makes more realistic sense (silly me referring to reality when talking about magic in a game) is more flexiable without completely overbalancing the magic powers open to spell slingers.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Go0gleplex »

Mana Points aren't that bad and can actually be burnt through real quick if the player isn't paying attention since it is easy to start spamming spells. This does sort of add fuel to the wizard vs fighter debate though. You can get around this by tweaking the recovery rates. Rather than doing an X/hr recovery, we used a an exponential scale. So the wizard rests for an hour and gets 1 points back. 2 hours and they get 2 points, 3=4, 4=8, etc. The longer the wizard rests contiguously the more points they get back. If they rest four hours, then do a bit more wandering, the next time they rest they restart at the 1 point recovered in an hour. Clerics and druids didn't have this issue since we didn't use mana points for them.

Seems like a big nerf but it does model the poor physical conditioning of wizards in general fairly accurately when you think about it. :)
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Traveller »

There are pros and cons to each system, from what I can see.

Vancian
  • Pros: Limits the power of spellcasters by not allowing the caster to cast spells beyond their level of experience.
  • Cons: Casters are required to memorize the spells they intend to use on a daily basis. Multiple copies of a spell must be memorized individually. System has not aged well, as it was based upon fictional works of the 1960s that many of today's players are likely not aware of.
Mana Points
  • Pros: Memorization of spells not required. Casters may cast any spell they know, so long as they have points available to pay.
  • Cons: With sufficient points available, there is no limiting factor, allowing inexperienced characters the ability to cast very powerful spells. Casters can cast an infinite number of 0-level cantrips if spell level is the point cost.
Spell Slots
  • Pros: Memorization of spells not required. Casters can cast any spell they know, subject to limitations. Limits the power of spellcasters by not allowing the caster to cast spells beyond their level of experience.
  • Cons: A revision to the Vancian magic system that removes the memorization requirements while leaving the spells per day limits intact.
-----------------------------

My original take on this was a combined mana point/spell slot system. This thread however made me revisit that house rule. While the original intent of combining the two was to ensure that situations such as a 1st-level caster casting prismatic sphere do not occur, the spell slot system does that job just as effectively, without the resource management involved with mana point systems. So, I believe a spell slot system is best. It is the system I believe requires the least amount of work to utilize, since all you have to do is remove the memorization requirements.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Julian Grimm »

I like the mana point system. It works well enough and has never been an issue in my games. I've never noticed anything that makes it seem overpowered. But then again, I usually don't worry too much about balance unless it's a big issue and causes problems.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by koralas »

I generally go with standard Vancian rules. That said, I love the change in the 5e Rules. You can memorize your attribute modifier + Level number of spells from any spell level you can cast, and may cast spells of a lower level from a higher level spell slot, and this is how the spells become more powerful, they are cast at the minimum level for the spell slot used, plus 2 for every slot higher than the spell level. You can cast a number of spells by spell level at each character level as normal. This follows the norms, so 1st level spells 1st level caster, 2nd level spells, 3rd level caster, 3rd level spells - 5th level caster, and so on.

Thus a 3rd level Wizard can cast 3 1st level spells, and 1 2nd level spell. Any 1st level spell cast from a 1st level slot act normally at a base level, thus MM is only 1 missile; however, you could cast MM using a second level spell slot, and if doing so it is cast at what would normally be a 3rd level MU, so 2 missiles are granted. Fireball would start at 5d6 if cast from a 3rd level spell slot, but would be 7d6 from a 5th level spell slot.

Cure Wounds would be the only spell in that tree, that is no Cure Light, Cure Serious, etc. and would heal 1d8 damage per spell slot level it is cast as. So it would cure 4d6HP if cast from a 4th level spell slot.

I will probably work up some of the lower level spells to see how they are affected, but will probably end up adjudicating a lot of spells on the fly.

Now this both makes spells more and less powerful. the low level spells that do ramp up based on character level get hit the hardest, so it will remain to be seen what other tweaks may be required, but I like this as my new favorite non-Vancian system.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Fizz »

There are some other options too (though not from the CKG).

The Sovereign Stone rpg has a system where the user must channel the magic. Every spell has a unique number of points required to cast it (teens to hundreds). Each round, the caster rolls a d20 + his level that goes towards the casting threshold. Once he's gathered enough points, the spell is cast.

Or you could make a skill-based system. Fighters have to roll to do what they do (fight), so why not require the caster to roll to do what he does? Spell checks, with difficulty varying with spell level and bonuses with class level.

Both of these help limit high level casting by low level characters, but is more free form than spell slots. I also find them more... "explainable"... than spell slots, (at least for me, never liked the fire-forget justification).


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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Nahuris »

I've always preferred the mana point system, and there is an easy cap on the power level. We keep the same limits by level, that are already in the game, so a 3rd level wizard can cast up to 2nd level spells, but cannot cast 3rd level spells until he has reached 5th level. That keeps players from casting really high level spells before the game is ready for them.

I do require that players have spell books, and that they spend a minimum of an hour a day with study or review. If they go 3 consecutive days without that required study time, then on that third day, they start needing to make Intelligence saves to cast spells, with a penalty of -1 to the save for each further day without study. And it takes 3 hours of uninterrupted study, + 1 hour for each additional -1 penalty to the save, to remove the need for saving throws. So, ignoring your study time, or worse, loosing your spell book, is something that can be very detrimental.
There is one additional option, that I allow, and that is a "permanently memorized" spell. At each spell level, the wizard can choose a spell that they practice and focus on, until it is a part of them. Once they have completed the ritual to bind that spell, they can always retain it, as though they studied it every day.

This bound spell isn't automatic -- the player has to spend 12 hours of uninterrupted time, per the level of the spell, focusing and practicing the spell, until it is part of him -- he may eat, or sleep during that time, but no adventuring, research, or creation of magic items --- he must be totally focused on that one spell, until it is complete, and then he/she may note that this spell is permanently bound and retained. And he can work on it no more than 12 hours a day towards the binding ritual

The exception to these are cantrips, or zero level spells -- these were designed for apprentices to memorize and are easily retained, and so a wizard will always remember any of those, that he has learned, as long as he spends at least one hour praticing it.

This allows spellbooks to still be a treasure to find, and finding an ancient book with a spell a wizard doesn't know would be an awesome treasure for a player, and something higher level wizards would send parties out to recover. Plus, it also makes it very much something that a wizard wants to protect.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Thrasaric »

I use mana in my game. It has been working fine, with a need for a few things I house ruled. I still require study time and they need to have their books. I don't let them cast way above what they normally would be able to. I will let them go one level up. It's been working great! My casters like it they get to use spells on the regular, NPC casters get the same treatment.

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Captain_K »

Here's a thought, can all three co-exist in the same game at the same time based on how the player wants to play their particular character? Is one really more powerful than the other? You could even have a odd Cleric that their God forces them through all three systems depending on their level... that could be cool.

I think I would rank them in power as Vancian, Slots, Mana from weakest to strongest. But with some limits, or strengths added to the weak, they could co-exist. It would be kind of fun having two old cranky mages both constantly arguing over "my way is better"... while basically doing the same thing in two different ways.. like that famous dwarf and elf duo killing orcs and keeping score.

That all said, We're pretty happy with our "modified slot system" (posted above). It explains well to the players too (several have noted they don't like the logic of fire and forget), "your god has granted you these spells to cast from (OK you prayed for them)" or "these are the spells from your book you have refreshed in your mind and are prepared to cast from". Once the slots are all used up, your power for the day is down and must be restored.. like hit points, you only get so many and when they're down you have to get them refreshed. WOW.. that gives me an idea.... sorry Tree, got another submission coming your way.... That said, we house rule a faster rate of natural hit point return AND much faster spell recovery. Waiting around for spell casters to learn spells from a book or pray is fine, but once we all "sleep, eat, and do our business" the game actions those tasks entail is kind of thought about and finished.. further forcing just the casters to spend 5, 10, or 15 MORE hours guarded to regain spells is just UNFUN for all. Cool to "make it happen" smoothly once or twice, like a gaming challenge, but to do it day in and day out it becomes a pre-written script they follow and ask the CK.. "so do we pull it off without something coming to try to kill us????" Gets kind of old. We still force the logic and the actions since all need some level of rest, repair and recharge, just not so darn many hours of it.

By the way, where does the name Vancian come from? Only old book I read that was close to this method was second generation Amber Series with the younger caster Corwin's son who's name escapes me.. even that seemed kind of slot-like. Well not counting Keepers of the Flame.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Buttmonkey »

Captain_K wrote:By the way, where does the name Vancian come from? Only old book I read that was close to this method was second generation Amber Series with the younger caster Corwin's son who's name escapes me.. even that seemed kind of slot-like. Well not counting Keepers of the Flame.
The term "Vancian" refers to the books of Jack Vance. Check out his Tales of the Dying Earth where the fire and forget system is demonstrated.

Corwin's son in the Amber novels was named Merlin.

I can't recall whether the Guardians of the Flame series utilized Vancian magic.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Captain_K »

Guardians of the flame was straight DnD players transported to their game world and they played by all the crazy game rules.. more or less.. the wizard blew up his own spell book within one hour being on the world, had no spells, and decided to give up on magic all together and just be the engineer that he was in the modern world..
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Captain_K »

Thanks. Are the Jack Vance books a good read?
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by maximus »

I read them about 2 years ago and liked them for the most part. Cudgel the Clever is quite the character...

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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Buttmonkey »

Captain_K wrote:Thanks. Are the Jack Vance books a good read?
I really disliked Tales of the Dying Earth, but Vance has a lot of fans for some reason. Not all tastes are the same.
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by Captain_K »

Its so far into the future that magic is back again? It's a SF novel with magic.. interesting,...
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Re: Mana Points, Spell Slots, or Vancian?

Post by T1Hound »

We tried a mana system 2x. The first time we had a magic-user or D-Door to a keep, throw down a fireball or two, and D-Door out. The issue was he wouldn't have had that many spells, etc. There were other issues and spells being cast but with the hit and run tactics it broke play.

The second time, using a system from Skip Williams, we had players with way more casting of spells than normal.

Maybe it was better - but it felt really over powered compared to everything else we ever had.

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