Building Valentia: The Blog

  • A Brief History of Spellcasting

    August 2, 2014

    Spellcasting looked a lot different at the beginning of Valentia's development:

    • Each path was purchased as a separate skill, so you could have a 10 IR in Fire and a 5 IR in Air. This was before skill variants.
    • When casting, you had to spend a number of AD equal to the spell's tier, though only one contributed to the roll.
    • A penalty applied to the spellcasting roll equal to the spell's tier.
    • Most combat spells took one phase per tier to cast.
    • There was some long forgotten rule that allowed you to pick a random assortment of spells, rather than follow a path.
    • It did not cost CP to buy up tiers. What you could cast was simply based on the AD cost and tier penalty.
    • DR did not apply to spells.
    • Contests could not be overloaded.
    • Spells generally did a lot more damage – most mass effect spells did one die per two levels.
    • Electricity caused startling as a side effect, not EP loss.

    It did not take long to determine that this original method had some major problems. Updates were made:

    • Skill variants were introduced for spellcasting and other skills. Paths could be added for 10 CP each.
    • Costs were added to buy each tier of spells. They were originally lower than they are today and then higher.
    • Spellcasting no longer required 1 AD per tier.
    • Crude Casting and other alternate spellcasting perks took over the job of buying random assortments of spells.
    • Casting from spellbooks was added to allow characters to cast above their level and help when they could not overload outside of combat.
    • Spell damage was scaled back significantly.

    A few years later, another round of updates happened:

    • People were building tower wizards that started above 20 AR. Upper IR costs were increased significantly and other rules were put in place to stop this.
    • Contests could now be overloaded.
    • DR now applied to most spell damage.
    • Electricity now reduces EP instead of Startling (inspired by Skyrim).
    • The cost of buying up your tiers was balanced between the low and high ranges it previously cost.

    More recently, another round of updates have happened:

    • Spell damage has been increased.
    • Contests that cost AD now must happen as response actions.
    • The cost of additional path skill variants has been reduced to 5 CP.
    • The number of phases in a round has been reduced from 10 to 5, providing fewer safe casting situations.

    We are now considering dropping the tier penalty to the spellcasting skill check. This is one of the last vestiges of the original spellcasting rules. Our hope is that this will encourage more dabbling in magic and reduce the need to build tower wizards.

  • Turning Criticism Into Creation

    May 11, 2014

    About 15 years ago, our weekly gaming group was playing a house-rule laden version of Dungeons & Dragons Player's Options. By this time, most of the players have experienced every version of AD&D, as well as many other role-playing games. Like any other group of geeks, we had our opinions of what rules made the most sense and which ones should change. Certain abilities were always off-limits and others were heavily modified. The result was a hodgepodge of rule tweaks that was nearly impossible for everyone to remember.

    Around that time AD&D 3rd Edition was released, a philosophical discussion began in our group about how best to represent reality in games. To be playable, every game shortcuts reality – some more than others. AD&D, for example, uses simplified combat to keep things moving. Other games provide you with chart after chart of potential outcomes for each roll. Generally, as the realism of a game increases, so does the weight of the system on gameplay. So, while it was easy for us to sit around the table and offer our thoughts on how to make this rule or that rule more realistic, we all knew that realism has a cost.

    Central to our discussion was the idea of character classes. Class is one of those staple shortcuts of fantasy role-playing games. It allows players to say, "my character is an X (fighter, wizard, thief or priest)" and instantly convey the package of abilities that comes with it. While convienent, it can feel like a character is being pigeonholed. In real life, the skills you learn define your areas of expertise. Character classes seem to reverse that, making your occupation define the skills you are allowed to learn.

    So, based on the theory that a character could be built from their skills up, we listed every skill we could find and then, over snacks at Kent State's Rathskeller, Mike and I began arranging them in groups. To us, the resulting groups looked a little like pinwheels. The system kept that working title until it was recently named Valentia.