by Adam Meyers
In a word, yes! Judging by what you've just written, you're doing exactly what I'm looking for.
Like Ryan Kent, I too would like more flexibility with magic. Just because a world has little magic, doesn't mean its weak (merely rare) and picture a world where magic is common, but conjuration doesn't exist or is really weak. Or a world where Teleportation magic is common to magic users, but illusions and enchantments are rare and generally weaker (or maybe the perception of the inhabitants is that those magic types were weaker- effecting magical snobbery.
If Spheres of Power can enable magic systems which could simulate the Names of Power (from Dave Duncan's ("A few good men" and "A man of his word") or the Kathryn Kristin-Rusch (The Fey series) then I would be really impressed. I do recall that many moons ago, in Dragon Magazine there was a few articles about Path Magic (for Arcane) and Spheres of Magic (for Divine). So I am looking forward to seeing what we will receive.
I think I'll throw my 2 cents in. For me at least I'm looking for something that can be constructed along a sliding scale of sorts, allowing me to create a system that fits the world design I plan to run. I guess the best way to describe it would be a system where we can establish the level of integration a metaphysical power has in the world we are creating along with the degree to which people can use it.
For example if I want to create a world where magic is weak, rare, and its users relegated to specific people I can do so sliding the scale so that the higher ranks of powers in nominally normal settings wouldn't even be conceivable, with a lightning bolt being seen as an intense, high level ability. On the flip side if I wanted to create a world where metaphysical arts are powerful, common, well developed, and pretty much everyone uses them from mundane tasks such as managing crops, cooking meals, and maintaining a stable environment in the home to instant communication across the world, mass manufacturing, and perhaps even travel to other worlds (think a magic version of our world), then I would simply slide the scales to the other end.
You could also slide the scales in differing ways to come up with other parameters. Take the Wheel of Time. Channeling can be very powerful and can do a wide variety of things. In the prior age they talk about people doing amazing things and creating a very advanced culture with many nice toys. However, its users were limited to a more select number of people born with a trait that allowed them to channel. You could slide the scales in a different way and get the Game of Thrones world where magic is generally weak and uncommon but is seeing more and more usage as it seems to spread and grow in power and scope.
I'm not sure how to articulate my notion much better than that but I guess it would come down to having scales for Effective Power of a Meta Art (or what kind of range of effect/damage you could expect to achieve with the power overall), Effective Utility of a Meta Art (or the range of options you would have with the power, what you can do with it. Can you just do damage with it, heal people, repair items. Effectively what your options are with it.), Who can Use the Meta Art (is it only select people, can anyone use it with training, does everyone have some innate ability with it that they can expand upon with training?), and finally the Effective Knowledge Base with said Meta Art (how much does the culture know about the meta art and how to use it? Are they a young culture with limited knowledge and only can access low level abilities with higher level ones being dangerous and erratic or to the other extreme are they an advanced older culture where even high level abilities are seen as commonplace and the truly cutting edge takes extreme levels of effort and people to achieve.)
At any rate I'm just throwing it out there. I've long dreamed of a system that would give the GM the most freedom to design meta arts to fit their envisioned world set with rules that would make it fit.
While it sounds like a decent goal, I'm a little worried about the whole "high-level powers will need specific GM adjudication" because it seems like it could easily mean that characters made under Spheres of Power will start falling behind as they go up in level.
At the very least, given that this is most likely intended to be used with Pathfinder, as opposed to exclusively as a replacement for Pathfinder, having those high-end abilities have a default level at which they come online "in a standard Pathfinder game" or whatever seems like a good design decision.
So basically you want to homogenize magic towards the middle ground so players have plenty of options initially available, but no high-end game changers? I support this!
I am concerned that there may be less to look forward to at later levels. I'm sure you have plans to prevent this, but I'm concerned because I quit games because I felt like my character's gameplay wasn't evolving much with each level.
However, from the test packet, I'm seeing some pretty large game-changers from the start. So far, Spheres allow 1st level characters to gain many at-will abilities more powerful than benchmark 1st level spells both in terms of utility and numbers. There's also abilities like the Teleport Beacon that can completely change how a party adventures. As a GM, this makes it problematic when trying to apply attrition when the mages have powerful at-wills and can instantly teleport home. I understand this is a VERY, very early look at Spheres, but so far, I'm not sure if the philosophy is being represented.
I started RPing in cWoD and my first real magic was with Mage: TA, this has lead me to be a fan of the less level structured systems. What I found really interesting was that players could customize their magic in more than simply picking a class, focus (school, domains, bloodline, etc) and the particular spells. This is something that you have brought to DnD/Pathfinder and made we especially happy to back.
That being said, as a thought and not recalling seeing it anywhere, is there any thought on cross/multi sphere talents? Such as combining Life and Destruction to make a draining attack. This is inspired, at least to my, by the Mage series from White Wolf. That said, I think this will be the magic system I use in a setting, I have been working on for a while but haven't made much progress due to disliking the Valerian system of magic.
This philosophy sounds fantastic, and it's great to see that you guys are putting this much deep thought into the system. (Obviously you're putting a lot of thought into it, and I've been impressed before with how great the system is going to be, but I'm just impressed again.)
As a follow-up to Elliander Eldridge's question, how easy/difficult will it be for DMs to create new spheres for things that aren't covered by the published system?
It seems good to me, but what about spells from various expansions not included in your book? How will the players know which spells should fall into a given category without DM micro-managing?
That's a very interesting perspective. I like it; it explains a great deal about some of my past gaming group's proclivities. Frankly, once the grit was gone; so was much of the interest (at least when the genre was fantasy). I suspect that is because most of our expectations in those days were informed by Howard far more than Tolkien.
Of course, the point is moot now since there are no remaining connections among the old groups, but I am intrigued to see how the Spheres system maintains its stability throughout the life of a campaign. I've never done more than a bit of tweaking, but it seems a surpassing difficult tast to establish a system that functions as a narrative device as effectively tactical assets in combat. I believe from what I have seen thus far, you've done exceedingly well.
I think it's good the spells u listed as rituals but u out etc.. What r the etcs? And I like the weak fireball at 1st level! Wizards are total wussies at 1st level and with no armor and a dagger have to constantly run away. The way you propose to tweak it balances the power and makes the game fair
er... classes or feats.
Ok, so this is less specific Pathfinder and more general magic.
I think with magic you have two separate variables: Power and Control.
The higher level magics would require significant investments of one or both, with mid level magic requiring large amounts of one, and high level magic requiring large amounts of both, or epic amounts of one.
Things like Flight I could see it requiring more contral than it does power. Fireball sounds all power and minimal control. Questioning a god would be all control, but resurrection might need no more control than a simple healing spell, but with a whole hell of a lot more juice.
Maybe give the various chunks inside a sphere a control or power stat requirement, then have the various classes of feats provide differing additional power or control.
I know I am a GM who gets flustered when the magic always supersedes the story progression, but I am also a player who will abuse the loopholes. I will always let my players design around a theme or idea before I will rule lawyer and take the fun away. I think this system might bring a balance to the table at last.
I've been playing a while (since the early 80's) but I'm a first time GM running a Pathfinder AP right now. I can tell you first hand that several of the challenges mentioned have presented themselves in the course of play and I was at a loss on how to deal with them. From the above post, I would have loved to have had this system in place in my game. What do I think? I've just begun digging into the details on the backers website so I'm looking forward to learning more. However I like the philosophy and plan to lobby for this system in my next campaign.