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littlered

Magic advancement system

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Craig1020    124

Okay, well first of all, I would probably consider the idea that depending on a players level it would increase the potency of a spell, this allows a player access to a large range of spells, while still promoting advancing their levels and abilities. 

 

Forcing a player to "spend time" is debatable, remember the purpose of a game is to extract a person from reality, but at the same time there needs to be some reward for work, it's an idea worth tinkering with anyway in my opinion. 

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Nougati    145

 

Should there be some sort of spell research system where a mage spends time in their library or laboratory to become proficient in the spell?

This is a really cool idea. The concept of research is something I think could work really well in a practical setting.

As to how one can achieve this, I would tend to think that to call it spell 'research' while nesting outside of tedium will be a challenge. Personally I would consider research to be something that you could use to help intertwine the character-power mechanics with the elements of the world. For example, a fairly basic idea that might be interesting food for thought could be a means of using the loot from certain enemies as a means to 'transmute' (to some degree) reagants that would be forever with the player from that point. I think this could be a really good way to promote exploration and side questing.

 

Rough example: you get the "fire heart" of some demon breed/elemental or something that is found in some area that is non obligatory, however obtaining the heart and transmuting it with some means will allow you to permanently have the potency of the heart stored in a stone you created which is simply regarded as some sort of extra passive ability, i.e an ability that buffs your fire, or allows your area of affect fire spells to affect a greater range.

 

As for doing this within a laboratory, that could lead to some epic feelings of progression and adventure as you venture out and back into your lab to create a trinket that would empower you. This coincides nicely, in my opinion, with your approach to have your mage "draw" energies from other places, rather than simply conjuring it. Not only this, but the breadth you could push this mechanic to would be immense, spanning throughout the entire game as a means for people to get tangible benefits from exploration.

 

Keep in mind this is just an idea. There are many, many other ways. Maybe this is just something to serve as food for thought.

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Dodopod    700


The background to the system is that the mage could 'draw' energy from the surrounding environment, and channel that to cast the spell.

So what exactly are you thinking of? I can interpret this sentence in a couple ways: The player could simply have an automatically regenerating mana pool. Or they could have a 'draw energy' ability that keeps them from attacking/using weaker spells (or possibly even moving) in order to charge enough to use a more potent spell. (The player would just charge their energy to max every time before going into combat, so you might want to limit its use, maybe keeping them from holding on to energy for too long.)

 

Perhaps different types of spell would use different types of energy and so the player would have to pick which spells they want to be able to use (they might have a cap on total energy). Perhaps different areas would have different energy concentrations, adding a tactical depth through maneuvering. Or certain areas could be drained of energy, either just because they have a limited amount, or by using a specialized 'drain energy' spell (that would of course be less efficient than 'draw energy', if it exists, but could deprive an enemy mage of power).

 

That kind of switched from interpretation to brainstorming half-way through, didn't it.

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Nougati    145

Perhaps different areas would have different energy concentrations, adding a tactical depth through maneuvering.

Now that's a cool idea. That would be such a good way to ensure the game has good pacing too as well. The only problem would be creating a system that's too complex early on, but I suppose that could be counteracted by the environments at the start being fairly basic. That would be really good to work in adventure while justifying it with different means of magical power / experimentation. That's the sort of thing that if any part is removed, the core is broken.


by using a specialized 'drain energy' spell

I don't really understand this, do you mean something that could allow a player to intentionally drain an area of magical power OR a player? Or would it only be used to drain the energy of an environment which an enemy seems to be specializing in?

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Dasha    145

Another idea might be that they have to learn fire from say, studying a flame and learning the properties of it. That way it forces the player to travel to obtain new skills, and you can keep the higher level stuff in areas that are harder to reach.

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Nougati    145

Another idea might be that they have to learn fire from say, studying a flame and learning the properties of it. That way it forces the player to travel to obtain new skills, and you can keep the higher level stuff in areas that are harder to reach.

What would studying entail? I feel like that is the key to making the process more interesting than simply "go to place x and pick up flame y and get skill z."

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jbadams    25675


The spells themselves are composed of both a 'type' spell and a 'target' spell, so casting "Fire" and "Other" might cast a fireball, but "Fire" and "Self" might wrap the caster in a column of protective flame.

I recently through together a rough prototype of something similar as a board game -- an excellent way of quickly testing these sort of mechanics without having to put in a lot of programming effort up front -- and I had expanded on the possibilities by providing additional targeting options; a spell could target self (healing or defensive spells), other (target a specific individual other than yourself), radial burst (spell effect applies in an expanding ring around your location), cone (target a cone-shaped area expanding outwards from your location), line (targets a line, useful for making "wall" type effects).

 

This doesn't directly help with "levelling" the spell capabilities, but it does provide additional options.

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LorenzoGatti    4442

Don't confuse different aspects of the magic system that are actually rather independent, particularly strategic improvement (acquiring new spells or improved variants of old spells), tactical spellcasting (e.g. gathering energy, performing rituals, hitting targets, etc.) and intermediate time scales (e.g. "preparing" spells in advance, D&D style, or keeping magical objects ready).

What is it that should feel more "magical" than learning from a trainer? What do you really need in your game?

Making study a boring activity that is left off screen and skipped over, but actual spellcasting player-skill-intensive, cool and complex, is as legitimate as making learning spells a varied collection of mystical revelations and discoveries, themselves an important part of the plot, but casting spells simple and dependable like mundane melee or ranged combat.

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DuPlaine    136

Just blame it on my poor comprehension skills and over-literalness, but I'm afraid I do not know exactly what part of the magic cycle you are wanting input into; the acquisition of the spells, the advancement of said spells, or the prevention of potential spell usage by the player. all were mentioned, but you rather emphasized one.

 

If prevention, I.E., how to keep weak players from using strong spells in an organic, less arbitrary way:

If players are drawing energy from the environment into themselves to cast spells, then that is a lot of energy being contained in a rather frail human body. If the spell costs, say, 500 manna, but your character has a manna cap of say 350, than that player shouldn't be able to hold it inside for very long, and, upon releasing the spell, damage would be done to her body. Also, the effort of holding in too much energy should cause her focus to waver somewhat, causing a decrease in either potency or accuracy. Or, you could have it that the chance of successfully casting a spell is ratio of player level over spell level, or some other such equation.

 

As for Advancement, I.E., increasing the effectiveness of spells as the player levels up/progresses through the world:

I've always been partial to small bonuses that cumulatively increase as one gets better at the skill in question. For example, all fire magic might have an innate, albeit weak, armor piercing capability, say 2%. As the player gets better at fire magic, that small armor piercing will increase, to 3%, then 4%, 5%, etc., eventually getting more effective, especially if you have other such tiny perks, say a burn status effect which will also increase.

 

As for actually getting better at the magic, you could have it increase with usage, and with finding books that advance that specific magic.

 


a fairly basic idea that might be interesting food for thought could be a means of using the loot from certain enemies as a means to 'transmute' (to some degree) reagants that would be forever with the player from that point.

 

I absolutely adore this idea, but I feel that it really depends on whether your game is single-player or online, and, if single-player, how linear the game is. I think it would lack its appeal if you get these items from bosses that you have to fight to advance the game, because then it would just be a tedious complication of gaining power from killing bosses when you you usually do that anyways, through a boss having a 100% chance of dropping a strong sword, or was guarding the morphball, etc.

 

As for actually acquiring the spells in the first place, again it rather depends on whether your game is online, linear single-player, or more open-world single-player.

In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, there are a couple of magic spells (though to be fair, they were not all that useful, and were not the focus of combat), which you could perform. You either discovered them by accidentally doing the requisite movements to cast them, or by buying a scroll which told you how to perform them. Another example of such a system was Legend of Legaia. In it, your attacks were based on a small queue in which you placed in any order your actions(in this case, high-low punches and kicks I believe). If the order and combination of actions conformed to a specific special move, then your character performed that move instead of the actually moves you placed. Depending on how the player actually casts spells in your game, you might do something similar. If the player casts spells by combining power words, than the player might accidentally discover a new spell by experimenting with the order or composition of the words, or by finding books that have a spell already mapped out for them.

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jefferytitan    2523

I once put a lot of thought into a rune-based spell system. The general idea was that it was an actual language that described the movements and transformations of energy. The sorcerer would have a number of various pools of magic, e.g. fast magic (non-regenerating), slow magic  (non-regenerating) and magic source (regenerating). They would move magic from their own source (or an external source of magic) to their fast or slow magic pools so they could actually cast a spell. Then they would need to transform it for the desired effect and targeting and cast it. More complex spells would have multiple phases which may require filling and casting multiple times, and doing so in the correct order so that the effects hit in the correct order and timing. External sources were also tricky because they would either need to be purified or transformed so the pools could hold them safely, or the casting would need to be external (e.g. not through the sorcerer themselves) which gave more potential power but less control. As far as leveling up, the size of the pools would have a big effect. A clever sorcerer could do a lot with little, but many would just use pre-written spells rather than crafting their own. Because of the fine-grained control there would be great potential to burn yourself out (too much magic for the pools), or get bizarre backfires if you wrote your own spells.

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Dasha    145

 

Another idea might be that they have to learn fire from say, studying a flame and learning the properties of it. That way it forces the player to travel to obtain new skills, and you can keep the higher level stuff in areas that are harder to reach.

What would studying entail? I feel like that is the key to making the process more interesting than simply "go to place x and pick up flame y and get skill z."

 

The actual study would be up to you. It could be as simple as having the player simply wait while the character learns it, to having a mini-game(simple or complex) that can either take the scientific route of putting together atoms or putting together elements, or items, or even just having them actually make fire by somehow making a spark with given items, and getting that spark onto something that will keep flame. Maybe even figuring out what takes the flame best in what situations.

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Mouser9169    401

If you can find a copy of it, Middle Earth Role Playing (a tabletop RPG from the 70's/early 80's) had a magic system similar to what you are describing. Every spell was a 'list' of ten effects. The more powerful a mage you were, the further up the 'list' you could cast. There were lists for elements, defense, all sorts of spells.

 

I'm not a big fan of spending real time 'training'. I figure my character does that off-screen somewhere. Charging money to progress may be mundane, but it serves a purpose as a money sink. A lot of games suffer from going from not enough money in the beginning to excessive amounts after the mid-game (Vtm:Bloodlines I think I could have wallpapered my haven in hundred dollar bills if I wanted...).

 

'Experimenting' sounds great in theory, but remember there will be a FAQ up within 48 hours that lists every possible combination and what it yields. You could go with random results from 'experimental' reagants or something (the 'seasoning' to the base recipes, if you will), but that brings its own set of headaches to the table.

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serratemplar    1656

A lot of good thoughts in  here; I thought I'd briefly weigh in with some games you might have a look at to see what others have done.

 

Recently (at PAX East) I saw a game demoed called Lichdom: Battlemage which has a crafting system for spells; i.e. you have some number of "talent points" (or components/resources, that actually wasn't clear to me) that you use to craft spells which are then bound to single-press buttons.

 

My favorite magic system to date is the one in Magicka i.e. you have eight magicka buttons, each one maps to an "element", and you have several "Cast it!" keys, and you get to experiment with element combos and discover spells. Some spells are gated by you getting to a certain point and finding a Book, thereafter you string together an arbitrary ordering of elements then hit Spacebar for a crazy effect (like teleporting or summoning lightning bolts from the sky...or literally crashing the game to desktop is a spell!). BUT you have many spells at your disposal right out of the gate, which you don't know your first time through, but your second time through you are immediately more dangerous. I can't emphasize how well done this system is; I really recommend trying it out. (The game is also hilarious.)

 

Finally, what magic discussion would be complete without a mention of Arx Fatalis? :) The stand out quality here (for better or worse) are the mouse gestures; i.e. you use the mouse to write (rough approximations of) runes on the screen and that's how you cast your spells. This game is pretty inexpensive and, admittedly, hasn't aged that well, but it's sufferable and you get a feel for the magic early on.

 

I hope this helps with your research. :)

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Telcontar    1554

I'm developing an RPG system which uses something similar - a certain kind of magic user can draw energy from his surroundings and other sources and use them + own knowledge to work a spell. My suggestion comes directly from my system.

 

In yours, you describe "type" and "target" spells. However, what happens if you allow a mage (as they gain power) to apply multiple "type" levels to each casting? So, a level one mage (or skill 1, whatever system you use) has one Type slot and one Target slot. But when that mage gains in power, they earn a second Type Slot. They still must pick a single target (unless you can think of a good way to utilize multiple target slots...) but they can increase the power of a spell by using multiples of the same Type (2 Fires + 1 Other == Bigger Fireball!) or even get more complicated spells by mixing Types (1 Fire + 1 Air + 1 Other == Fire Tornado?)

 

It has the possibility of getting very complex, but with a few ground rules on how to handle certain uncharted multiples you can handle much of that. For instance, you could have a  "general energy" Type, and any time a mage tries to cast a spell which isn't actually it's own spell the extraneous Types get turned into general Energy. So, if 1 Fire + 1 Water + 1 Other wasn't actually a spell, it would turn into the spell 1 Fire + 1 Energy + 1 Other. Thus, you draw everything back down into a baseline which you make sure to define behavior for.

 

My only question for this system as you've defined it (with Target being a special magical sphere of its own) is how many targets you're really going to have? In my system, the target is not a magical effect in itself, and mage level basically directly corresponds to how many Spheres he can throw into his spells.

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valrus    2238

One game to look at is Rudra no Hihou, an old Square RPG with a systematic spell language, where the player could type in *any* spell they wanted at any point.  Even nonsense spells do something.  There were three constraints on this, however:

  • Spells still had MP costs.  Even if you know the most powerful spell, you don't want to be wasting all your MP doing 300 points of damage against 10 HP mooks.
  • You simply don't have enough data to deduce the whole language at once.  You work out the system slowly, as you hear about new spells.
  • Even though there are hundreds of spells, you can only put about ten spells at a time in your spellbook.

The three of these together let the player progress in knowledge in a technically "free" system, but still limits your freedom and gives you difficult choices to make.

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Two thoughts:

 

First, how about having each "word" in your magical language be an improvable skill?  Have a vast matrix of abilities and let the player level them up organically through experience.  I've often thought about this kind of "education" system, so I'm going to expound a little on an old idea of mine:  Say you're casting a projected lightning bolt at a training dummy.  The success of the spell would depend on your expertise in three fields:  Lightning, Projected Magic, Training Dummies.  Also, you would gain some practical knowledge of all three things by performing the spell, allowing you to level up as you "practice".  That way, your magical performance is something like a language, where each spell is a sentence and you're leveling up your nouns and verbs to get bigger and better results, and expanding your vocabulary by encountering new kinds of magical elements and effects, as well as by learning about the sorts of things you'll be casting them on.  A party's main healer might have high levels in restorative magic, projected effects and human targets, but not have much skill at healing the knight's horse (Damnit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a veterinarian!").

 

Second, how about a split between theoretical and practical experience?  There was an old fighting game about samurai called Kengo, and in it you boosted your fighting skills with two kinds of activity:  You would train on your own and you would spar with other people.  Stats like strength and agility had an actual value and a potential value.  Sparring would raise your actual skill, but it could only go as high as the potential you had put into it with your solo training exercises.  So if you want to boost your strength, you have to spend a few hours a day out doing exercises with a weighted sword to build the muscle.  At the same time, just pumping iron wouldn't make you a stronger swordsman.  You had to get in the ring and face opponents in order to integrate your training's benefits into your combat skill.

 

So let your wizards nerd it up in the library and in the lab, but don't let them finish reading a book and conjure a demon from the netherworld.  Make them study to build the skeleton of their knowledge, then flesh it out with real-world experience.

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littlered    154
Thanks for all of the replies - some great thoughts here.
 

Allow the 'level' of the mage to apply some base enhancement to each spell cast

 

I like this idea. It provides a familiar levelling mechanic, and adds to that some room for becoming increasingly proficient in the player's favourite spells, allowing them to customise the play style of their character.

 

So what exactly are you thinking of?

 
The idea currently is more along your second example, where each discreet region has an energy supply (but the amount isn't necessarily disclosed to the player). The player could draw from this reserve, but if they use all of the region's supply then natural resources won't respawn and potentially there will be an impact on the health of all creatures there. I liked your idea of making that a much finer system though, so there are 'hotspots' of energy (I guess tapping into Ley lines, or Henges and so on?) could provide some interesting tactical decisions. And I think Nougati's point about restricting energy-rich areas based on distance to start zones is a good one, although I did think that a mage could draw energy for a spell, but then if they were interrupted or walked at all, then that energy would dissipate, so they couldn't 'carry' that energy to another region.
 

I had expanded on the possibilities by providing additional targeting options;

 
Yes, I've started drawing up a table of effects to make sure I've got the diversity I want, and I like your Cone, Radial and Line options.
 

Don't confuse different aspects of the magic system that are actually rather independent

 

Great points. At the moment the actual casting is a very mundane affair, with clicking the 'type' icon, the 'target' icon and then clicking the destination on the map if required. I'm in two minds about if that should be made more magical - I don't want the UI to get in the way of a player making a fast, reactive spell against a sudden situation. I'm hoping that with the act of drawing the energy first, that there is a sense of power being gathered and then unleashed that would provide that 'magic' to the process.

 

Just blame it on my poor comprehension skills and over-literalness, but I'm afraid I do not know exactly what part of the magic cycle you are wanting input into; the acquisition of the spells, the advancement of said spells, or the prevention of potential spell usage by the player. all were mentioned, but you rather emphasized one.

 

All of them smile.png

I love the preventation idea where a player could actually use a spell that is too powerful for them, and there are consequences for doing that. That in itself might remove the need for any spell levels - the mana cost of the spell provides that.
 

having a mini-game(simple or complex) that can either take the scientific route of putting together atoms or putting together elements

 

This is a great idea. I don't think this should be mandatory though, I think some players may find it irritating, but it would be lovely to include for those players who want that depth.

 

'Experimenting' sounds great in theory, but remember there will be a FAQ up within 48 hours that lists every possible combination and what it yields

 

Agreed, this is the danger with any experimentation system. I don't think it's feasible to try and make it unique to each player - but it could be enjoyable for those players who don't read the spoilers.

 

My only question for this system as you've defined it (with Target being a special magical sphere of its own) is how many targets you're really going to have?

 

Going back over my notes (I've been making this game for over ten years, so I do forget things smile.png), I originally had a 'verb' and 'noun' system. So the nouns had things like Self, Other, Earth, Fire etc, and the verbs had things like Reveal, Heal, Change State, Move, Damage etc. So a simple healing spell would be 'Self' and 'Heal', but it does mean that a fireball potentially needs 'Fire', 'Damage' and 'Other' which could get complicated.

I need to draw up a full table to see what the corresponding effects would be.
Although maybe there needs to be three types? Noun, Verb and Element?
 
Which nicely leads to:

A party's main healer might have high levels in restorative magic, projected effects and human targets,

 

Yeah, I think there's something in this. I think at the heart of this, I need to define the 'language' of the spell configuration.

 
I think the advancement problem could be nicely avoided using DuPlaine's idea of being able to cast a spell that is too powerful, but it causing damage to the player or opens a rift that causes demons to appear that would attack the mage.
 
I'm still not sure how to approach the acquisition of new spells though. Should it be learned from an older mage, or could it be accidently discovered in the wild? If the mage encounters a Fire Elemental, then they have access to a 'Fire' spell from then on after exposure to such a strong amount of this type of magic. It could make for some self-initiated quests for the mage to expose themselves to a variety of magical creatures to gain these spells.
Edited by JohnHoltRipley

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Igor Fedirchyk    113

So let your wizards nerd it up in the library and in the lab, but don't let them finish reading a book and conjure a demon from the netherworld. Make them study to build the skeleton of their knowledge, then flesh it out with real-world experience.

Good point about difference between education and training. It will be interesting for players to learn new elements / effects / targeting patterns from the spell books. At the same time the actual accuracy, randomness of damage or critical chance of spells will depend on the frequency of their usage, making them more eager to actually use their skills.
A little off-topic but the system with limited number and quantity of mana types in an environment can lead to interesting accent on creativity and efficiency in the mage duels.

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gorogorosama    187

It's tough to give a good suggestion without a better idea of the game as a whole, target audience, etc.  Is everyone in the game a mage learning spells, or is this just one possible class?  Is this an MMO or a single-player RPG? Is it action-focused or more turn-based combat?

 

If you want the most control over when and how a player gains new spells, I'd definitely add some unique resource (Research Points or whatnot) that they need. Then you can give players Research Points naturally as they kill enemies, add some mini-game where they can earn them, or just let them buy them (so different player types can unlock according to their play-style).

 

If this is an action-RPG like Magicka, the self-exploration would probably best compliment the game. When casting is quick and fun it's cool to experiment. But if this is a turn-based thing it could grow tedious trying out a bunch of combinations, and then accidentally killing the low-level enemy I'm practicing against and having to go find another one.

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I'm still not sure how to approach the acquisition of new spells though. Should it be learned from an older mage, or could it be accidently discovered in the wild? If the mage encounters a Fire Elemental, then they have access to a 'Fire' spell from then on after exposure to such a strong amount of this type of magic.
I like that idea.  Give the player a chance of identifying and reverse-engineering magical effects that they observe or experience, so they can either read about it in a book, be told about it by a teacher or learn about it through direct exposure.  You could even include a sort of "pure research" mechanic, where they'll spontaneously discover or invent new magical effects by witnessing or performing effects near them in the magical tech tree.

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littlered    154


It's tough to give a good suggestion without a better idea of the game as a whole, target audience, etc

yeah, sorry, currently it's a single player live action RPG. Currently I'm thinking that every character would have the opportunity to learn magic (ie. there wouldn't be strict 'classes' as such), but it's there as a development path if the player chooses.

I'd like the game to have a lot of exploration, crafting and experimentation options within it - anything that is an interesting mechanic away from just killing things.

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Having played Magicka, I'm worried about input mechanics for a spell-heavy action RPG.  If you're making the casting as deep as this thread seems to indicate, then you might frustrate players when they are called upon to whip up an appropriate magical maneuver in the time they usually use to swing a sword.  In Magicka, that usually leads to either long periods of kiting while deciding on a spell, or players just ignoring 90% of the possibilities and jamming out endless streams of identical spells, only changing their formula when they meet a hard counter for their primary weapon.

 

You didn't ask for input system advice, but I'm going to throw something out there:  How about letting players pre-fabricate certain spells that they use frequently, and keep them on a "hot bar" or something, to be used like Duke Nukem uses different weapons?  Instead of manually constructing and casting their spells, they could bottle them up and use them at will.

 

Going a little deeper down that rabbit hole, could you tie aptitude into that system as well?  Make a distinction between "memorized" spells and "improvised" spells.  In addition to being more convenient for the player to cast, a memorized spell might get a reduced cast time or mana cost, but the character's level puts a hard cap on the strength and complexity of spells that can be memorized.  An improvised spell is clumsier to cast, takes longer, can be messed up by player error and costs the full amount, but it can be customized for the circumstances and you can make bigger, beefier spells this way than any spell you could have memorized.

 

So give them three or five or ten spell "slots" to store their usual go-to spells in, and then give them the tools to whip up something creative, at their peril.

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valrus    2238

Yo dawg, to put another rabbit hole in that rabbit hole, the memorization mechanic could be part of the spell system itself.  That is, the ability to create a shorter "macro" for a longer spell is itself a spell.  

 

Say you have four inputs (let's call them A,B,X,Y), every valid spell starts with A, and every pair {B,X,Y}x{B,X,Y} is a spell macro.  (So memorized spells are quick to cast -- only two inputs -- but you only get nine of them.)  Meanwhile, however, there's a spell schema A<spell><macro> that assigns <spell> to <macro>.  (So if you wanted to assign the spell AXXBY to BX, you'd cast AAXXBYBX.)  This spell type has the benefit of allowing you to change your macro strategy on the fly, but the downside is that it itself is a long spell with no immediate payoff.

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