... now with 35% more arrogance!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Vancian/Non-Vancian: The Real Distinction

If Vancian magic is really just a disguised spell-point system, does that mean there's no reason to favor one over the other?

No. It's just not about mechanics.

The reason why non-Vancian proponents object to Vancian magic is not because they don't like the math, but because they don't like the model. Vancian magic assumes that magic is mostly about the preparation: call it "memorization", or don't call it that, but in a sense, it's not about who the spell caster is, but what the spell caster has done. It's possibly to describe a Vancian spell as being powered by purely natural forces surrounding the caster, rather than power inherent in the caster.

Non-Vancian spell point systems, on the other hand, usually model the spell caster as a battery that stores magical energy. You expend power to cast spells; when you run out of power, you must recharge.

For some people, that's a preferred way of imagining magic, so they dislike the memorization model. On the other hand, I dislike the magic battery model. So, of course, I prefer Vancian magic. Or rather, Vancian plus some other systems, which I'll talk about in a future post.

This is the only real distinction between magic systems: which one matches the way you imagine magic working?


  1. How about MU as channel? Only so much magical energy can safely go through an MU each day. It makes who and where important (if dieeferent spots have different amounts of magical energy).

    1. For my next campaign I'm using dice pool casting, sort of like Chainmail, but with variable numbers of dice, and I've separated recharging spells from recharging magical abilities. You get your spells back each morning, but you can only recharge your dice in ley circles or areas of wild magic - which are also haunted by magical creatures who need the energy to survive.

      It's my post hoc justification for the "remote wizard's tower" trope.

  2. I'm not anti-vancean, but if I have an objection to it, it's the certainty of the system: you can always count on the results. It's nice for the players, but it makes magic seem rather mundane. I sometimes wish there was an element of danger to casting spells, like perhaps under certain circumstances you could attempt to exceed your typical capacity--upping the intensity of a spell or casting a spell that you don't officially "know"--at some risk of failure or backfire. On the other hand, I don't think that the DCC Random Table for Every Spell is necessarily the way to go either.

    1. Isn't it, if you look at the other resolution systems in RPGs, absolutely different from mundane because of it's certainty? ;)