Why don't all spells have DCs?

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Why don't all spells have DCs?

Postby JBowtie » Tue Oct 18, 2005 4:52 pm

OK, so here's what I've noticed:

There are multiple mechanics for resolving spells.

1) Based on skill check - caster rolls
2) Saving throw with fixed(?) DC - caster does nothing
3) Other effect based purely on ranks - caster does nothing
4) Opposed checks (or check opposed by saving throw) - caster rolls

One of my players, playing a spellcaster, reasons that all spells should have the same mechanics. If they're going to work like skills, they should all have DCs for everything, and should always require a roll (unless taking 10, of course).

Plant Shaping is a good example of something inconsistent -
Woodcrafting and plant healing are skill checks, but plant growth is based entirely on ranks.
Psychic Blast is an example of a saving throw-based spell (the caster does nothing).

This inconsistency means that she is never sure whether or not to make a skill check. And she asks me every time.

So, before I start doing a round of redesign, I'm curious to see if anyone else has been bothered by this, and, if so, what they've done about it.
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Re: Why don't all spells have DCs?

Postby skywalker » Tue Oct 18, 2005 6:31 pm

JBowtie wrote:So, before I start doing a round of redesign, I'm curious to see if anyone else has been bothered by this, and, if so, what they've done about it.


It doesn't bother me at all. This is systematic of D20.

The main reason is that though there is a core mechanic in d20 that is the same throughout (roll a d20+bonus), this rule gets applied differently to ensure that stuff is mechanical balanced and works in the way intended. This is an issue throughout D20 and not solely that of True 20 magic. If you are going to homogenize Spells then there are many other things that you will need to look at such as removing Saves. Why is Combat bonus not a Skill?

Finally, I note that skills are the same as they also use a number of these different mechanics. Most are DC, some are opposed checks (using Bluff to Feint), some are resisted by Saves (Intimidation), some are based on ranks (Speak Language).
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Postby JBowtie » Tue Oct 18, 2005 6:38 pm

I think the issue from my player's perspective is:

We just overhauled the magic system (switching from standard d20-type magic) to work more like skills, and it's still inconsistent.

I would argue, though, that skills are far more homogenous in their application of the rules; the player *always* rolls a skill check, and adds in various modifiers.

I think spellcasting can benefit from the same degree of consistency - especially ones like Plant Shaping where it's arguably more appropriate to use a skill check in the first place (shouldn't entangling via plant growth be easier in a jungle than in the desert?)
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Postby skywalker » Tue Oct 18, 2005 6:51 pm

JBowtie wrote:I would argue, though, that skills are far more homogenous in their application of the rules; the player *always* rolls a skill check, and adds in various modifiers.


I am not arguing with you. My point is simply Powers draw on a number of mechanics as do Skills. The two are similar, though I agree that Skills are more consistent. This is inherent in D20 when you have a multiple different mechanics like Attributes, Skills, Saves covering similar concepts.

So I can see the reason you want to change Powers. However, once you have done that I would find myself applying the same logic to change Skills, Saves and other parts of d20 as well. As such, the overall effort required would scare me away from starting down the slippery slope YMMV :)
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Postby Bhikku » Thu Oct 20, 2005 2:52 pm

I can see wanting a particular facet (such as Powers) to be relatively consistant, the same way we'd want all saves to work approximately the same way - roll a die and add the applicable bonus.

I'm thinking that you could adjust the powers that call for a save without a check to make them checks instead of saves - make it a power check with a DC generated by a formula based on getting the same chance of success using the subject's applicable save bonus. For example, instead of the subject saving against a DC of 10 + 1/2 Adept level + Ability (or however that formula is setup, i can't remember), it could be a Power check DC of 10 + twice the subject's Save bonus, or something to that effect. Someone more math-oriented than I can probably tweak the formula to make the odds match up better, but I imagine that exactness is not the issue, just getting approximately the right odds in a simpler or more consistant way.

On the other hand, if the problem is just for your player trying to remember what to do with different powers, you might try my method, wherein each power lists a brief, simple code. c=check, s=save, l= level-based, and -=innate (like talking with animals). Some powers will require both a check and a save, IIRC, and level-based should be reserved for powers that use neither a check nor a save, since those are really ways of defining level's impact on the power's efficacy. You might use * for powers that have multiple possible effects, indicating you should see the book; or you might list each of the options under the power's heading with its own code in order to save that much time.

I also use another code to clarify what kind of actions are needed and what kind of concentration: m=move action, s=standard action, r= full-round action (because I also append an 'f' for fatiguing powers), and - for powers that don't use an action; c=concentration, t=total concentraint, - for powers which can't be maintained (i think i also had m for powers that last 10 rounds/1 minute without maintenance... haven't got my stuff with me right now to be sure about that one).

So a power might be listed with something like c/mc, or s/stf. The first requires a check, a move action, and can be maintained with concentration, the second provokes a save (requiring no check) and requires a standard action and total concentration, as well as a fatigue check.

Maybe something like this would be helpful for your player. In True 20, since all powers will have the same modifier (unless you're using multiple abilities to contribute, like in Blue Rose), you don't really have to list the bonus for each power the way you would in a system that used skill points (like the Psychics' Handbook version). That frees up plenty of space on a character sheet for a handy little code like this.

I hope these ideas can help you out.
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Postby JBowtie » Thu Oct 20, 2005 7:13 pm

We already have a substantial "cheat sheet", but it doesn't really help. I still find myself looking things up a lot.

I think I'm going to go ahead with the work and get it out of the way, since I think it will save me time in the end. Here's the rule of thumb I'm looking to use for my changes:

* No change for checks or opposed checks.
* Save-based: save DC = check result - 5 (just a guess; I'll work out a real approximation formula)
* Level-based: DC of 10 or 15; actual result is same but casting can now be affected by modifiers.
* Innate: DC of 10. Ditto.

The end result is much the same, but the rule is more consistent; caster *always* rolls, there is more scope for ad-hoc modifiers, and a couple of my new arcana will have decent mechanics ('Dispel' and 'Magic Shaping', for those who care) instead of the schizoid mess they currently are.
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