[MUD-Dev] Focus on Hocus Pocus

Eli Stevens listsub at wickedgrey.com
Mon Oct 1 12:38:59 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Here is the basic idea underlying a magic system that I would have a
lot of fun with.  I am not sure how all this would be presented to
the players, but behind the curtain, it would be structured along
these lines.

---<begin core idea>---
'Effects' specify a number of targets and other effects and
manipulate them.

'Targets' are they recipients of those effects.  They can be chosen
in a number of ways.  They can be selected at the time of the
casting of the spell, they can be recalled from a list of stored
targets that the caster keeps (keeping a target draws a miniscule
amount of power continuously), they can be selected by other
portions of the spell.  All targets default to the caster, and some
can only be moved by spell effects (these are indicated by a
<target0> that precedes the effect name - they are the last target
in the execution of the spell, but they default to the caster if
there is no other).

'Power' is the elemental energy used to fuel the spell effect (I use
Fire, Water, Air, Earth and Metal).  The different elements make the
effect behave slightly differently.


Line effect syntax: <target0> line <power> <effect1> <target1>
Becomes: <target0> <effect1>
         <target1> <effect1>

  Creates a 'line' of <effect1> between <target0> and <target1>
  (most likely the caster and the target).  Note that the effect
  hits both targets - damage spells would benefit from also
  providing some resistance to the caster.  Must have line of sight.

    Fire: slight delay (allows for more complex defensive spells to
    enable themselves), harder to resist.

    Air: quick, travels past <target1>, possibly affecting more
    targets.  Water: instant (only the simplest defenses have time
    to respond), easier to resist.

    Earth: hard to resist.

    Metal: possibility to affect <target1> twice.

Fire effect syntax: <target0> fire <power>

  Hits <target0> with fire.  Most likely will cause damage, but
  other outcomes are possible (i.e. fire elementals might be

    Fire: does the most damage.

    Air: less damage, but pierces defenses based on Air better.


Resist effect syntax: <target0> resist <power> <effect1>

  Resists damage from the <power> element while <effect1> is in
  existence.  Resistance capability is inversely proportional to the
  amount of time <effect1> has been around.

Delay effect syntax: delay <power>

  Effect remains in existence for a time corresponding to the amount
  of <power> devoted to the effect.

    Fire: delay time is more random, but has chance of noticeably
    longer times.

    Air: may flicker on and off toward the end of the delay.  


Multi effect syntax: multi <power> <effect1> <effect2>

  Allows an easy route to get two effects into one effect slot in a
  spell.  Most likely using one effect twice in a spell would make
  it considerably more expensive.

    Fire: ...

    Metal: possibly repeats some of the effects twice.


Target effect syntax: target <power> <target1> <effect1>

  Provides a <target0> for <effect1> that can be something other
  than the caster.

Series effect syntax: series <power> <effect1> <effect2>

  Executes the effects in order, one after the other.  <effect1>
  must finish before <effect2> can begin.  Allows chaining effects
  and contingency spells.

Nearby effect syntax: nearby <power> <target>

  Waits until a target is in the vicinity that matches <target>,
  then finishes (used with series or something similar).

There would be many more effects.

A ray-of-fire spell would look like:

  > resist power-fire-30 line power-water-10 fire power-fire-20 Bubba


  > resist f30 line w10 fire f20 Bubba

Where it gets interesting is that you can use ANY effect where an
effect is called for...

  > resist f30 line w10 line w10 fire f20 Bubba Boffo

Which becomes a two pronged finger of fire:

  <target0> line w10 fire f30 Bubba
  <target0> line w10 fire f30 Boffo

Chain ray of fire (think chain lightning, and note that Bubba gets
hit twice):

  > multi a20 resist f30 line w10 fire f20 Bubba ...
   target e10 Bubba line w10 fire f30 Boffo

An orc zapper (with all the powers but resist left out for
simplicity), this would wait until an orc was around, then blast him
with some fire:

  > series nearby orc resist power-fire-30 line fire orc
---<end core idea>---

Now for some extensions to all this (this also goes back to the
community items bit that I like, from Paul Schwanz).

We could provide players with a wide range of pre-built spells in
the world.  Those spells could be accessed from the seeded
spellbooks (think the giant magical tomes bound in demonhide and
tooled with electrum, not the traveling spellbooks of D&D) in the
world.  Guilds with a certain spellbook could learn the spells from
that book, but no other spells (unless they had two spellbooks, of
course).  If they wanted more spells, they would need to get someone
else's spellbook somehow.

Using the effects present in the spells they know, players could
research their own spells.  Weaker spellcasters would know a few
effects, and would be similarly limited in the spells they could
create.  Spellbook creation would be expensive and time consuming,
but would allow the player to cast spells that no other player had
(once the book was done, they player would have to learn it as

The only difference between the player created tomes and the seeded
ones would be that the seeded ones would be much more powerful
(read: expensive), so that a truly dedicated player could replicate
one, but only in theory (it would take years).

I don't know what would prevent one player from copying each spell
from the big tomes into smaller, cheaper books and selling them,
making the rarity of the big books a non-issue, without making real
spell invention impossible.  Perhaps each spell could only be
recorded once?  Then you have griefer / hoarding issues.  Hmm.
Maybe you could only research and record a spell if you do not know
it.  Since each of the powerful, flexible effects that make up the
spells would only be in two or three seeded spellbooks, each
character could only make one copy of a portion of the spells (they
would have to learn a bunch of other spells to learn the correct
effects).  Since we would promote distrust and separation between
guilds, the probability that they would be able to study each of the
required tomes to duplicate a spell from another, unstudied one
would be low.

Also, we could have bookworms and the like to shrink the global pool
of spellbooks (making the big ones immune somehow - maybe that is
why they are so expensive).  If the bookworms are attracted to
powerful spells, and preferentially ones that are duplicates (some
game fiction can explain why), it would help keep spells unique.
Nice PvP tactic - "Here, you can study from one of my (infected)
books - you can borrow it.  Take it back you your guild's
library..."  And since you cannot scry bookworms...  ;)

Hmm...  Maybe whenever you copy a spell, the original just spawns a
targeted bookworm (sort of a self preservation tactic?), bent on
eating the copy.  Or each spawn a bookworm targeted at the other,
and only one book can survive (once one worm gets its book, they
both die) (another PvP tactic, just copy off all the spells your
enemy guild has, and hope your bookworms get there first).

So, yeah, that is what I had kicking around in my head.  Fun?  Too
much work?  :)


Never use brute force in fighting an exponential.
      -- Andrei Alexandrescu, "Modern C++ Design"

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