As I mentioned in the last post, my first goal for Dragon Hack this year is to get cracking on the spell conversions to bring a lot of Pathfinder spells into the AGE game, to give Dragon Hack players more options and flexibility, and to again more mirror the Pathfinder game’s high-fantasy feel in the AGE system. Longtime commenter and collaborator Vaelorn posted on his own blog a while ago about his thoughts on spell conversions for Dragon Hack, and I recently commented on his post with some of my own thoughts. The following is basically a distillation of my comments on his site, but I thought Dragon Hack fans would like to read where I’m coming from, and hopefully that will spark a conversation about how best to approach spell conversions between the two systems.
My initial thoughts on spell conversions:
First, I like what Vaelorn has done with remapping the plentiful Pathfinder schools into the handful of schools that exist in Dragon AGE. After all, each Dragon AGE school needs not only a focus but a dedicated talent tree, with novice, journeyman and master levels, which adds another level of complexity to creating schools for each of those that exist in Pathfinder. That said, I think we could probably afford to match up most spells to existing AGE schools while leaving the door open for adding one or two more schools to the list (and creating the focuses and talents for them).
For example: While illusion would fit in the spirit category broadly, there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of spells in AGE canon so far that would fall under the illusion category to use as templates for Pathfinder conversions. And maybe it’s just the old-school DnD player in me, but I would love to see an Illusionist Specialization the way the school was broken out in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook (even if we’re veering a little bit away from a core Pathfinder conversion.) I don’t have an example yet of exactly how I would break it down, but I’m thinking 6-7 spell schools in total, with four of those being the ones from the core Dragon AGE game. The new ones would all get dedicated focuses and talent trees, of course, which would be included in the Dragon Hack manual.
Second, as Vaelorn mentions in his post, there are waaay too many spells in the Pathfinder core book (not to mention resources such as Ultimate Magic, etc.) to transfer into AGE. And I don’t think transferring every single spell should be our goal. One thing that I think will make our job a lot easier (and I discovered as I was converting spells for the upcoming Midgard campaign setting book) is the way that Dragon AGE spells stack, or essentially have a line of requirements that force a player to pick up earlier/weaker spells in order to cast their more powerful cousins later in the game. For example: A player can start the game with the Flame Blast spell, but can only cast Flaming Weapons (from set 2) if they already possess Flame Blast. If the RPG follows the video game at all, Flaming Weapons will be a requirement in order to pick up the Fireball spell, which will be a requirement in order to eventually cast Firestorm. (If I’m remembering my spells names correctly/it’s been a while since I played the video game). This greatly reduces the number of spells that need to be converted to Pathfinder because in each case we should be looking for spells that fit a theme that can be grouped together by requirements. After all, spells in AGE do not have spell levels, so the requirement entry of the spell description serves that role by limiting what spells a mage can choose at a given experience level or prior dedication to a spell school. Similarly, a group of higher level spells can be grouped together by making the first spell in the “chain” require the journeyman or master level of a spell school talent, meaning the player would have to at least be 5th or 7th level before they could take the intro spell for that chain.
An example of a possible spell “chain” taken from Pathfinder could include the “acid” line of spells in the conjuration school. 0-level Acid Splash, 2nd level Acid Arrow, 6th level Acid Fog. Because of the differences in the spell levels, we would have to balance the spells out to be an appropriate power level for when a mage could choose them in the AGE game. The key characteristic of acid is that it continues to burn, or finds gaps in armor to burn the skin beneath, so it should probably have the Penetrating spell effect. To balance that against existing mechanics, we could say that Acid Splash functions pretty much as the Shock spell, but is a spray of acid coating the creatures in its area of effect. Acid Arrow works like Lightning (though we could reduce the damage a bit, or increase the spell’s TN in order to make its effects last for more than 1 round with a test to resist the ongoing damage), and Acid Cloud would do similar damage to the Chain Lightning spell that we can expect to see in the third boxed set, but have game mechanics (it hangs around in a given area) equal to the Pathfinder spell.
Essentially my thoughts for converting Pathfinder spells to AGE is that while the names and broad effects should be the same, the power level and when mages can acquire them needs to be more in line with what’s available for the base AGE game to keep things balanced. In short: they need to have Pathfinder flavor, but AGE mechanics.
I would love to get feedback on these ideas from my readers, as for now they form the basis of my plans for converting Pathfinder spells to AGE.