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Author Topic: Three-corner magic with no Secrets  (Read 7991 times)
Doyce
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Posts: 442


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« on: September 07, 2006, 01:01:53 PM »

Hi all,

So... I've had TSoY in one incarnation or another for about two years, and I finally sat down last week and forced myself all the way through the crunchy stuff on Three-Corner Magic.  Sue me: it's not something my players were likely to jump into right away, or something I'd use for an NPC too often, so it just wasn't a priority.  Also: lots of fiddly bits, compared to the rest of the game, so I gave it a pass until now.

First impressions: holy hell that's a pretty expensive piece of abracadabra! :) 16 feats, total, and six different skills.  Wowsa.

So... right.  My first thought on this was "well, what can i do with the bare minimum? *peers* whats the bare minimum? Oh, right, the skills." 

Also: Nice thing about doing stuff with just the Skills and no Feats, aside from the reduction in Advances needed?  There's no associated Pool Point Costs.

So, being at work, I grabbed the SRD for the world's most popular RPG and fiddled with the lists of lower levels to get ideas for the kinds of things one could do with just the basic Three-corner Magic Abilities.

The rules to observe:
 - Range: self or touch
 - One target.
 - Instant or one-hour duration
 - Magical effects directed at unwilling targets are Resisted, usually with the "resist" ability.

Hmm. I have questions about that last rule.
1. If, without a Secret, you have to touch someone to affect them with magic, are there actually two skill checks to make?  One for Scrapping or something and another for the actual Spell Ability vs. Resist?
2. Any suggestions for the Resist roll on inanimate things, like using Transform on a door hinge?

Okay, with that out of the way, here's a few things I thought of. I'm not sure if some of them are 'legal', so I'd like your opinions on the questionable ones, and I'm curious about how one would achieve certain effects (which i listed down at the end).

Transformation
Transformation says it can be used to move points from one ability to another, so in theory it would allow...
- Creating penalties to important abilites on the target (he's about to get in a fight and I shift his points in Scrapping over to... Complex Crafts).
- Making the target more susceptible to later "attacks" (Moving points out of Resist or React, for example, and into... I dunno... Riding. :)

Questionable uses (input, please):
- Mending damaged items (boots, tears in clothes)
- Weakening barriers (moving 'resist' points in a door hinge into... something not-Resist)
- Moving pool points around on the target, temporarily, to give them a short burst of energy?
- Make rotten food edible, or dirty water drinkable?
- As a substitude/supporting roll to a first-aid skill?

Creation
- Instant Tinderbox - making enough fire to start a real fire.
- Create a glass's worth of water.
- Some kind of... one-hour light source?  I'm not sure about this: does the fire created need something to burn in order to stay around, or can you just cup it in your hand?

Destruction
Well, this one's easy -- years of RPGs make it a simple matter to envision ways to harm someone. :)
- Hurt That Guy: it does what it says, with special effects to taste.  Again, I'm curious if you have to do this as a Complex Action (Scrapping, then Destruction), but that seems kinda mean.
- Branding Mark: Burn or cut or scratch or freeze a mark into a door or stone or ... slave? Eww.

Enthrallment
- Your basic Charm Person effect, with the TSoY-added color that the target will almost certainly be unhappy with you afterwards.
- Your basic "Hold person" in that you're telling them "you stand there and don't move."  See also commands like 'Run from here, due East, as fast as you can.'  Et cetera.

Divination
- Obviously, this is good for your basica detection of magical auras/effects/whatever, but how about...
- Human Compass... a more literal definition of divination, but one that might be really useful.  I kinda like this one.
- Understand strange languages... magical braille-reading, or a kind of comprehend meaning when speaking to someone?
- Poison Taster, but Without All the Dying -- more useful in Ammeni than Maldor, maybe, but still... thoughts?

Enhancement
- Well, this one is actually pretty simple: in its basic state, it handles every 'blessing'-type magic around. 

Hmm. Can you Enhance a skill up to Grand Master, and Transcend while it's boosted?  (Same question for an ability temporarily raised to Grand Master level with Transformation, I suppose.)

N/A?
How about illusionary stuff?  Ghost lights, false sounds, and the like?  Hmm... Occurs to me that for it to be very useful, you'd need any of that stuff to affect more than one person, but you could still use it on Guy1 to provide a distraction:
Guy1: Did you hear that?
Guy2: Hear what?
Guy1: It was coming from over here...

But... that still begs the question of how you'd create the effect in the first place. Thoughts?

...

and... there you go. Looking forward to input from you bright folks.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Doyce
Member

Posts: 442


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« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2006, 01:04:26 PM »

Also, for each point at which I wrote "feats" in the above, you can (a) assume I meant "secrets" and (b) smack me when you meet me. :(
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2006, 01:12:52 PM »

Doyce,

I won't smack you, if you won't smack me for using "attribute" where I meant "pool" in the rules, like in Transformation.

Transformation
Transformation says it can be used to move points from one ability to another, so in theory it would allow...

All of the examples are borked because it's pool points, not ability ranks. Ability ranks would require a Secret.

Quote
Questionable uses (input, please):
- Moving pool points around on the target, temporarily, to give them a short burst of energy?

This works, though. As for other uses, remember that Transformation changes the nature of something, so I'd allow it for minor uses of that, like making drinkable water dirty.

Quote
Creation
- Instant Tinderbox - making enough fire to start a real fire.
- Create a glass's worth of water.
- Some kind of... one-hour light source?  I'm not sure about this: does the fire created need something to burn in order to stay around, or can you just cup it in your hand?

The first two are great. The third - you can only make one of the four elements, and they act as normal, so yeah, you'd need to set something on fire.

Quote
Destruction
Well, this one's easy -- years of RPGs make it a simple matter to envision ways to harm someone. :)
- Hurt That Guy: it does what it says, with special effects to taste.  Again, I'm curious if you have to do this as a Complex Action (Scrapping, then Destruction), but that seems kinda mean.
- Branding Mark: Burn or cut or scratch or freeze a mark into a door or stone or ... slave? Eww.

I've never made people make two checks, although they could to get bonus dice. Both of these are good.

Quote
Enthrallment
- Your basic Charm Person effect, with the TSoY-added color that the target will almost certainly be unhappy with you afterwards.
- Your basic "Hold person" in that you're telling them "you stand there and don't move."  See also commands like 'Run from here, due East, as fast as you can.'  Et cetera.

Totally. Enthrallment is very powerful, because of the fact that the target knows what you are doing.

Quote
Divination
- Obviously, this is good for your basica detection of magical auras/effects/whatever, but how about...
- Human Compass... a more literal definition of divination, but one that might be really useful.  I kinda like this one.
- Understand strange languages... magical braille-reading, or a kind of comprehend meaning when speaking to someone?
- Poison Taster, but Without All the Dying -- more useful in Ammeni than Maldor, maybe, but still... thoughts?

I'll take Human Compass, for sure. Understanding other's languages: you could certainly get an idea of what they're saying, according to the book. The poison taster - I'd make that a secret, but I'd definitely allow Divination to be used for bonus dice on a Detect Poisons check.

Quote
Enhancement
- Well, this one is actually pretty simple: in its basic state, it handles every 'blessing'-type magic around. 

Hmm. Can you Enhance a skill up to Grand Master, and Transcend while it's boosted?  (Same question for an ability temporarily raised to Grand Master level with Transformation, I suppose.)

You know, I don't address this. I'd leave it up to the group. In my group, nope.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Doyce
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Posts: 442


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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2006, 01:20:21 PM »

Doyce,

I won't smack you, if you won't smack me for using "attribute" where I meant "pool" in the rules, like in Transformation.

I was WONDERING if that's what you meant, but figured naaaah -- I'm glad I asked, then.

This works, though. As for other uses, remember that Transformation changes the nature of something, so I'd allow it for minor uses of that, like making drinkable water dirty.

But not dirty water drinkable?  Is that because it's a "night" Foci, or just the example you chose?  Either answer is cool.

Quote
Quote
Hmm. Can you Enhance a skill up to Grand Master, and Transcend while it's boosted?  (Same question for an ability temporarily raised to Grand Master level with Transformation, I suppose.)

You know, I don't address this.

I'm downright dangerous when I get around to readin' the rules! 

Any thoughts on 'illusion' stuff, or is that really into the realm of needing some of the Secrets, as for invisiblity?
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2006, 01:35:43 PM »

This works, though. As for other uses, remember that Transformation changes the nature of something, so I'd allow it for minor uses of that, like making drinkable water dirty.

But not dirty water drinkable?  Is that because it's a "night" Foci, or just the example you chose?  Either answer is cool.

Good catch. I used that example because I see Transformation as something that inherently must increase chaos, not order, but that's a personal interpretation.

Quote
Any thoughts on 'illusion' stuff, or is that really into the realm of needing some of the Secrets, as for invisiblity?

All illusion stuff falls under the "Alter Senses" secret.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
shadowcourt
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Posts: 153


« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2006, 07:05:19 AM »

Doyce,

I'll throw my two cents in, as well, as you hit on some stuff which went unanswered in the thread previously, but which I've either come up against (we have a Maldor game going, which has a fair amount of Three-Corner Magic, both in the hands of players and SGC's) or asked Clinton about previously, specifically.

Sorry, but my option to "quote" people on this machine doesn't quite work right, for some reason, so I'm forced to make do by just referencing questions you asked.

1. Two ability checks during magic
We call this the "double jeopardy" rule in my game, and don't usually require it, either on the part of the caster OR the person resisting.

In gneral, you don't have to roll to touch me if you're using unmodified magic Abilities, but if you have some sort of amazing Bash and Hold ability you'd like to apply, you might be able to chain dice from that roll (is that the correct term? I've forgotten...). Similarly, if your opponent is acting against you actively (i.e. you're using Destruction and your opponent is using Infantry), he doesn't place YOU in double jeopardy by getting both a Resist check to undo your magic AND an Infantry check to beat your result and describe the results of the contest.

Hopefully that made sense. If not, I can explain further. Or, alternately just be quiet, and stop baffling people.

2. Resistance rolls for inanimate things
There are two ways to handle this, and both show up in our games, really. One is to just not sweat it-- is it really narratively significant to have what D&D would consider an "unattended object" to resist magics? Just let him turn that spoon into a knife using Transformation, as its nice to have the magic folks feel some efficacy (one of the best things about TSOY's magic system, in fact, is that spellcasters aren't alternately red-headed stepchildren systemically who are waiting around to become so powerful that they put other characters out of their respective jobs; you're honestly about as efficacious as someone else with an equal number of advances that have been well spent). There's no urge to make the raw elements "resist" being summoned when a character uses Creation, right? So, in many cases, just let it happen, particularly for mundane effects which are helpful for the caster but not "magicking away" something you thought was an interesting plot point.

The second option is to consider the relative skill of the person who made the object as the "resistance" roll for the magical effect. This is handy in those "I want to magic open the locked door which is hiding the McGuffin" instances, in which case you treat it about the same way you would a non-magical attempt to pick the lock, break down the door, or what have you. Again, the verstaility of TSOY plays to your advantage here-- it's rare you need a special rule set for magic, because systemically its no different than the "combat system" or the "skill system" crunch that you'd find in other RPG's as completely alternate mechanics. So long as everything is Ability-check based, revert to how you'd adjudicate if someone wasn't using magic, and it becomes a lot more clear.

3.) Kicking out all the Secrets
I can see where you're going with the idea, but I wonder about it, all the same. If it works for your game, cool, and particularly cool if it makes a system that seems daunting become more approachable. But it places an awful lot of world-shaping power in the hands of players exorbitantly quickly, and my instinctive reaction is a nervous one. If you assume that most of the Secrets get "folded" back into their appropriate abilities, then I'm concerned about some of the things you can pull off easily with abilities like Transformation. I've always found that the real charm of Three-Corner Magic is that it almost seems to crawl inside the engine itself and muck with the way things work-- it has a metaphysical feel in the games I've played in or run specifically because it does things that alter the fundamental game mechanics, like swapping pool points for each other, or even altering abilty scores temporarily.

Along the lines of your "what should magic abilities do?" question comes a fork in the road like this (at least for me): Is there any questions about an item or person's properties that Divination can't answer, or are we saying there are simply limits on things that magic can perceive? Does this mean magic can't read minds, see the future, etc. etc.? Those are fine assertions for a game world, and for this system, but it's useful to have an answer for them when they come up, or be prepared to improvise answers on the fly.

If it can do all those things, and more, is it by far the most powerful Ability in the game, so much so that it puts all others to shame? Would characters be loath to take interesting abilities like Discern Truth, or an Investigate-style ability, when Divination was an option instead?

-shadowcourt (aka josh)
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Doyce
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« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2006, 07:15:54 AM »

Hey Josh,

Great thoughts, and thanks!  One point of clarification, though:

3.) Kicking out all the Secrets
I can see where you're going with the idea, but I wonder about it, all the same. If it works for your game, cool, and particularly cool if it makes a system that seems daunting become more approachable. But it places an awful lot of world-shaping power in the hands of players exorbitantly quickly, and my instinctive reaction is a nervous one.

Just be clear, I'm in no way trying to run Three-corner magic without any Secrets -- you're right, that's a bit too over the top and unbalanced.  This whole thing was essentially (1) a thought-exercise on my part to get my head around the basics of the Three-corner magic system and (2) a way to build some examples for people to say "Yeah, there's a lot of Secrets around this system, but you don't needs all of them -- in fact, look at what you can do when you don't even get *any* of them."  I would sort of consider 'Secret-less Three-corner magic' to be the hedge-mage level of skill -- you need some Secrets to really be more than a fairly effective dabbler, IMO.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
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