The following post was initially slated to go up on New World Alchemy. It was written in June of 2016.
At the end of May, I attended MomoCon and ran a bunch of demo tables of Murders & Acquisitions. This time around, I re-introduced magic and monsters into the M&A game. In the weeks rolling up to MomoCon, I reworked the spellcasting rules and created a bunch of new monsters.
This variation of M&A feels a bit like “D&D in an office” but that’s okay.
As I dove back into designing magic, I first revisited what I had developed earlier. In the previous iteration of the magic rules, magic functioned as a skill. Players with spellcasting characters had access to a special skill called “spellcasting.” Each spell included a series of related effects, broken out over a series of target numbers. You rolled your spellcasting check and the target number you hit determines the effect you get. And you were able to take a lower target number effect if you wanted, something I really liked (and still do) as it provides flexibility and interesting choices.
The system also used Power Points. Each spellcasting character started with a game session with a certain number of Power Points and the total went up and down as the spellcaster spent the points to cast spells and regained them during rests. I included this as a balancing feature, since spells were inherently more powerful than normal skills.
After reviewing this, in preparation for redesign, I came to realize that the system I had developed actually sort of punished you for the simple choice of playing a spellcaster. Purchasing spells known was expensive. You had a limited pool of points to spend, so you could only cast so many spells. And since spellcasting checks could fail to hit a minimum target number needed, you could actually go a whole game session without casting a spell successfully. You only had so many tries and if the dice gods were frowning on you, you got NOTHING for your effort.
It’s bad enough that botches cause bad things to happen to your character with any skill check. (And admittedly, the botch system is there more for flavor and creating interesting challenges for the characters than it is for punishment.) Having a chance to not be able to use your cool abilities simply doesn’t promote fun in the game.
So, for this round of playtesting, I’ve removed the Power Point system entirely. Spellcasting characters can now cast spells as often as they wish. There’s still a chance the spell will fail (just as any skill check can fail), but you can try again down the road without worrying about depleting your handful of chances to even cast a spell. Botches are still in there, so there’s a downside to big failure. But there isn’t an added downside to normal failure, just the downside that is there for any skill check – the failure itself.