Monday, September 23, 2013

Psionics and Magic and Divine Magic and Gifts

The other day, Jason was engaging in some "hypothetical" mental exercises themed towards capturing Nel and siphoning off their power to increase his own. He had some interesting ideas, but there was one major flaw in some of them. He was working under the assumption that Gifts = sorcery and Nel = supernatural creatures like a Demon, Devil, or Efreet.

Now, I haven't expressly said otherwise, so that's not a horribly foolish assumption to make. There are a few things I've shown that should give him, and others, pause though.

When Andorian/Evandor spoke of the Builders, they told the guys that the Builders were immune to the sorcery of mortals and irritatingly resistant to their Gifts. When Karl asked Andorian about magical theory, Andorian laughed and said he was no mumbling sorcerer that rolled bat shit between his fingers to fling fire. When Andorian has used his powers in front of the guys, he has not once paused to mutter incantations, procure material components (even the Eschew Materials feat only accounts for materials of less than 1 GP), or wave his hands around in complicated gestures. Nor does he know anything about misfiring spells or why sorcery is stable in Orcunraytrel.

Now yes, the powers of the Nel are modeled after arcane magic. Those are some pretty heavy key differences though. Looking at them and thinking about it, we can safely assume a couple of things even without all the knowledge I have as a GM:

Clearly, Nel need no material, somatic, or verbal components to use their Gifts, something all arcane spellcasting classes require to use their spells. This means they can cast spells in armor without risk of failure, as that is only relevant to spells with somatic components (funny gestures and wiggling fingers). We have no data to make a guess at whether or not shoving a blade into a Nel's gut would distract them from using their abilities like an arcane caster. We also know that silencing them is useless, except with Gifts that use sound to convey their effect (like the thunderous scream that Karrak watched Andorian use to instagib Cant), as they.use no verbal components.

With Andorian's reaction to magical theory, we can at least assume that he has no ranks in Knowledge (Arcana) or Spellcraft and at one time fought a sorcerer that used fireball on him. Which means Nel likely don't have some analogue to a spellbook and probably don't learn their Gifts from a teacher.

We can also assume that spell resistance is probably useless, or at least less effective, against Gifts.

So we can say Gifts are like arcane magic, but definitely have some differences. A lot of those differences make Gifts look more like psionic powers than spells. I generally assume Donovan chooses not to display the various psionic displays of his powers, which requires a check that I'd only make him make if he needed stealth and it mattered if the check failed. So that could account for the lack of activity in Andorian prior to using his Gifts. However, when they were healed and had their power points restored by the Green in Cantellen, Grey and Donovan were somewhat sickened by the experience. Plus, Andorian told Karrak that anti-magic effects would harm him, which is definitely odd. Anti-magic effects don't affect psionics at all. So, based on the above, I think we can safely assume that Gifts are not somehow related to psionics rather than arcane magic.

The long and short of it is that Gifts and arcane magic are similar, but definitely not the same. The really short answer is that Gifts are Gifts and they work how they work.

Alright, so onto other issues.

Divine magic. This stuff is power that stems from deities or their equivalent. It in no way comes from the caster, they are merely channeling the might of their deity by praying for spells and that deity choosing to grant them power. In theory, this magical divine energy is the power the gods use to run the cosmos and create angels and archons and divine realms and stuff.
So this, in my head at least, is the juice powering the cosmos that divine casters get a taste of for serving deities. So why does anyone get a save against divine spells? Why isn't there a divine resistance like there is psionic resistance? If divine magic comes from deities and arcane magic is just ambient or internal magic manipulated through gestures and special materials, shouldn't they be classed as different power sources with specialized resistances?

Additionally, Clerics are channelers of divine will. But because game, any kobold with a bit of luck can say "Nah, hold person isn't going to work on me today. Fuck your greater god and his ability to create entire fucking planes and armies of creatures from the higher planes."

To me, if gods exist in a campaign and they are the creators/caretakers/abusers of reality, divine magic should be a straight up order of magnitude more powerful than psionics or magic. You shouldn't be able to use Spellcraft or Knowledge (Religion) to identity what spell is being cast by the Cleric when he begins casting, because it isn't a spell. It's a prayer asking for aid. Maybe there are forms of address the church uses, but they aren't reciting arcane phrases and making gestures specific to a certain spell. Each request for power is going to be specific to the church, the sect of the church, and the priest. When people see a Paladin, they should run. Not just because he has a shining holy sword. He can channel not the power that alters reality like a Wizard, but the power that made and fuels reality. Resisting divine "spells" should be like resisting gravity or suffocation.

I dunno. These are just some thoughts that crossed my mind while thinking about Jason's "hypothetical" exercise in plotting to waylay Nel. Obviously divine and arcane magic are heaped together because it's a game. The way divine magic works just seems silly to me sometimes.

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