Monday, October 7, 2013

Alternate Rules: Sorcelators

Sorcerers are an arcane full caster class, and they're something I call an intuitive caster. I'm not sure if this is an actual term or if it is something I came up with. Intuitive casters are casters that don't train or learn or memorize spells, they just do them, and they typically use Charisma as their casting statistic. Bards and Sorcerers are intuitive casters. The other kind of arcane caster is the learned caster. They are casters that train and learn and memorize and usually have a spellbook or something like that and use Intelligence as their casting statistic. Magi, Witches, and Wizards are learned casters. Alchemists are kind of a learned caster in that they use a formula book and sort of have to prepare their extracts, though it only takes a minute to prepare an extract before using it and they don't have to determine what extracts they'll use at the beginning of the day.

Sorcerers are a class where you have an inborn ability to use magic, usually stemming from a bloodline involving some sort of supernatural creature in your heritage. You have this spark of magic that you either never learned to control so you could be a Wizard, or was just too powerful to control. This spark of magic manifests as spells, the Eschew Materials feat (which lets you ignore material components up to 1 gp in value), and various supernatural abilities and resistances related to what kind of magical ancestor you had. One interesting thing I've seen recently is bloodlines that let you use Wisdom or Intelligence as your casting statistic. Which is odd to me, as those ability scores do not represent inborn power (or undead lifeforce) like Charisma does. Sorcerers have a limited number of spells they can know over twenty levels, unlike a learned caster, which typically has unlimited ability to add stuff into their spellbook. However, they can cast spells more times per day and don't have to memorize spells. They just know them and cast what they want up to their limit per day.

One of the themes of Sorcerers is lack of control and lack of training. They just do stuff. How this translates to them still using incantations and knowing which components a certain spell needs is something I do not know. Because game, most likely. You can make the case that they don't use the normal incantation and just mutter some mumbo jumbo that sounds right to them (which would make them immune to Spellcraft checks to identify their spells) or they intuitively know the words to call up the spell because the incantation is a part of the spell. You can make a case that they instinctively know they need a super expensive component for wish as well. Because game, that sounds right to me though.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying Sorcerers should be changed. This is a game and there needs to be an element of fairness and balance to it (unless we're talking about psionics). So yeah, I get why Sorcerers still need components and incantations that follow all the normal rules of arcane spellcasting. Also, to me, saying they intuitively know the incantations and components does make sense. They are intuitive casters, they don't learn magic, it's in their blood, the spells are a part of them and fireball knows it needs some bat guano. In the real world, there are people who instinctively know how to perform complex math equations without having to scribble all the in between work on a sheet of college ruled to get there. So yeah, I'm not too concerned about why or how a Sorcerer knows the right words to a spell or what components it needs.

Alright, so everything about Sorcerer spells kind of just happens and they have no training. They can do magic and stuff, but they don't know what the standard spells are and generally haven't had the training to know that magic missile is a little dart of force magic that always strikes true and lightning bolt shoots lightning in a straight line. They just will stuff to happen with their magic and it happens. From the rules perspective, every few levels you add new spells into your list of spells known, representing you developing new ways to achieve effects with your inborn spark of magic.

The thing I thought of that inspired this post is what if Sorcerers don't get to choose their spells known? What if you start play as a 1st level Sorcerer and you select your 0 and 1st level spells, but that's the only spell selection you truly have full control over during the next nineteen levels of adventuring. Aside from the option of removing spells and replacing them with other spells at set levels. I think it's at every fourth level or some such that Sorcerers and Bards can do that.

The way it would play out is that the GM, and likely the player, keeps d20pfsrd (or some equally comprehensive rulebook) handy and opened to the spell lists. You get into a situation, like say a locked door, and you have some open spells known spots and you need to use magic to open the door. You don't currently know anything applicable to this situation though, or just want to try and get new magic to do it. The player controlling the Sorcerer outlines what they want to do. Do they want to open it quietly? Do they want to make an entrance and blow it off its hinges? Do they care either way? Etc. Basically, they describe what kind of effect they are trying to achieve, and the GM selects an appropriate spell to add to their spells known list and they do it. Depending on the intent described for the situation above, the applicable spell could be knock, dimension door, any offensive spell with sufficient force to blow a door of its hinges, or even disintegrate.

This isn't an alteration of mechanics that I'm saying should be added to every game, or even to my game. I'm just talking about it because it kind of struck me as a very in character way of doing spell selection. It adds a lot of flavor to Sorcerers/intuitive casters to further differentiate them from other arcane classes, and it could be kind of fun and exciting. There's the whole element of "How will my magic/the GM respond to my intent?" Now, it is pretty easy to metagame this system. Most people know what iconic spells like mage armor, disintegrate, fireball, lightning bolt, and finger of death do. Especially people who have experience playing casters, obviously. Also, there is the issue of what if the most appropriate spell has a component that isn't available and doesn't fold into Eschew Materials? There's also the fairly sizable issue of removing control of the character from the player, which is generally frowned upon. 

Like I said, I'm not suggesting this interpretation of spell selection belongs in my game, it just struck me as a very flavorful and interactive way of having a player choose his character's spells, despite having some issues that would make it clunky. Weeding through spells alone could eat up valuable moments of gameplay. I dunno, I just thought it was kind of interesting and neat. Your mileage may vary.

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