Magic-user versatility within a strict Vancian interpretation (now that’s a lame title if I have ever seen one.)

This post grew from watching a video by Aaron the Pedantic (Twitter: @cha_neg) I saw recently, where he mentions things he (as a new guy with that edition) likes about AD&D, second edition. One of them is the Vancian system of magic, with its well-known memorize & lose style of spellcasting. He believes that the restrictions imposed by such a system are a good thing, as they encourage more thoughtful gameplay rather than just “cast whatever you want.” But, paraphrasing from memory, he says that the system is “At the start of the day you pick up which spells you will memorize…”

Although that is, indeed, how most people play and how Vancian magic is usually explained and understood, the goal of this post is to explain that there’s (or could be) more to it than that, and that I believe (whether it was intended or not when the rules were written) that Vancian magic is very versatile if one follows the memorization process as explained in the Dying Earth books, which implies dropping the assumption of “at the start of the day.” Maybe this might help dispell the idea that Vancian magic is broken or doesn’t work in games, which might be of the reasons later D&D editions ignored it. The point is that people who claim such things are not exactly wrong, for Vancian magic can be unnecessarily restrictive, but I believe this comes from a mistranslation from the books to the games or a too gamey implementation of its logic. Also, I don’t believe my reinterpretation requires new, strange rules because what I’m going to say is implied, yet rarely noticed, in the rules themselves. It might be common-sensical for some people.

Continue reading “Magic-user versatility within a strict Vancian interpretation (now that’s a lame title if I have ever seen one.)”

Level Inflation is a disease even clerics can’t cure.

I recently read a Twitter conversation about high-level cleric characters in D&D and their effects on the game, and I thought about writing something on that. But as usually happens, I can’t tell the difference between things I have already written or just things I have thought about, because as it turns out, I already had a post about this very same thing. But it was in my drafts folder, from July of 2016, unpublished. For reference, this is the tweet that triggered memories of that three-year-old dusty draft:

So here it is, with some minor variations, the post I wanted to write three years ago but never did for some reason:

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How fiction starts: an analysis of 1200+ sff books

When I make my writing analysis posts, I usually pick random sentences but beginnings may be an even better choice. They are probably the most edited, if not overthought, parts of a book, and it’s also where writers show off their skill or (if they fail at it) their weaknesses. And if you want to see how writing changes through time, the first sentence may actually be all you need to read. And for those who have huge submission piles to plow through, the first two sentences is all you need to read for the first culling.

If you have followed me for some time, you already know my dislike of contemporary writing fads and techniques and my belief that you can see its decline in quality just in the formal aspect of writing. Strange syntax, (too) deep POVs, -ing participles galore, unnecessary descriptions, showing where telling would be perfectly fine and, finally, no personal style and no distinctive narrator—just piles and piles of descriptions, one after the other, like a transcription of a video recording. And, sure, it’s fine and all to talk about these things in the abstract and using a few examples from time to time, but it’s better to have some solid evidence to back you up. So here it is.

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Door stoppers, or how you can probably cut off half of any sff novel.

Despite this blog’s interest in fantasy, there’s actually a lot of “beginners” books in this genre that I never read when I was a kid. The kind you either read young or you never will because as an adult they seem… kinda bad. I ignored almost all the D&D novels aside from a few Drizzt books, and I never touched a single Dragonlance book (more than a hundred already written as of today.) That changed yesterday when, in a whim, I began reading the first Dragonlance book. And, well… it was somewhat better than I had expected. Better than a lot of the stuff being written today, anyway.

Continue reading “Door stoppers, or how you can probably cut off half of any sff novel.”

Armor as a weapon

Originally, in this post, I explained a small modification to the known AC system used in D&D up to advanced second edition. My goal was to reintroduce something that was lost when the game migrated from wargaming to RPG, but then, as a final afterthought, I made some calculations and discovered that, well, my changes made little (although not insignificant) difference. Preceding a post with a disclaimer like “what you are going to read may not be as useful as it seems” is probably not the best hook, but I still believe there are a few interesting bits here and I may also have unwillingly solved an ancient argument about AC vs. damage reduction that sometimes still rises from its grave (spoiler: there is surprisingly little difference in the long run unless you make a completely different system from scratch.) Besides, I’m a believer in the idea of publishing negative results, even if they are not as eye-catching as positive ones.

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You are not doing it wrong, but change it anyway: injuries and healing spells in D&D

I wrote this post yesterday, but for some reason, the auto-save function isn’t working, which means I had to write it – again.

Long story short, this is the second part of a well-received post I wrote a long time ago about how to interpret Hit Points in D&D (or similar games) in light of the literature that inspired it. The basic idea was that Hit Points shouldn’t be understood as an absolute value, at least if you want to “visualize” or describe what is happening when character lose hit points. By the way, this is not an esoteric interpretation because even the gamey 3.5 edition acknowledges that:

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