Monday, February 27, 2012

Justification for Vancian: REALLY?!?!?!

New Legends and Lore article today.  I've mostly decided to stop getting worked up over these announcements until a playable form of this game is released.  But gorram it they just keep being so bad.

This article implies that Vancian is default, and that alternatives will require feat taxes.  Granted, we don't have all of the information, but consider this line "As a result, we'd like to include Vancian spellcasting as only one type of magic in the game. And according to a recent poll here, a majority of you seem to agree—that we should incude both Vancian and non-Vancian spellcasting systems as part of the core."  This is followed by an explanation of a system whereby casters could gain new "minor" at-will abilities via feats.  The attack example we've seen, Javelin of Fire, sounds like it's basically "Return of the Crossbow:  Reflavored!"  Other examples of feats given in the article would grant Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound or Tenser's Floating Disk.  Again I say REALLY!?!?!?!

A Ritual system (which there has been talk of) would handle these types of things soooo much better; I mean Tenser's Floating Disk is a neat parlour trick but I wouldn't burn a feat to use it at-will.  Then there's the fact that, once again, combat and non-combat abilities are competing for the same slot (but this time instead of whether you prepare one or the other, you're deciding which you're going to blow a feat on to gain at-will).

Then of course there's the issue of feat-based magic not being fully developed out-of-the-box, but then again Monte Cook has a history of favoring the "casters start weak, end strong" paradigm.  As I've described previously this type of "balance" is more theoretical than pragmatic, because the vast majority of the time one type of character is going to be much noticeably weaker than a different types (casters at low levels, fighter-types at high levels).  As someone who absolutely hated being stuck with weak casters at low levels, at which we played almost all of our games and started over before advancing very high, I will flat-out ignore the system if that's the direction it takes.  A player's expectations for how their class is going to play should remain constant across all levels.  A Wizard's power relative to the other classes should be roughly the same at 1st level as it is at 15th or 20th level.  While high level play should definitely feel different, it should change for everyone while still preserving the fundamental functionality of the class.

In short, I want a Wizard with encounter-based options, but it's not something that has been mentioned at all.  The "alternative" magic system appears to be feat-based at-wills, and that seems to be the best that the designers have come up with.  Otherwise other ideas would have been mentioned after the italicized quote from above.  But then again, Monte was in charge of 3rd edition, where the Sorcerer was admitted to have been made weaker because one of the designers (can't remember who off the top of my head) liked the Wizard better, and wanted his favored class to have an advantage.

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