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That One NPC

Alternate Casting Systems (The OP Mage Problem)

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I have a somewhat unique problem, and it requires an explanation.

 

Since 2011, I have been developing a Final Fantasy tribute story. This is my pride and joy as a storyteller, but it wasn’t created as an rpg. Since my late return to RM, I’ve begun to seriously consider adapting this to a non-commercial JRPG. This comes with a plethora of technical issues and hiccups that need to be reconciled.

 

One of the major hiccups being Casius Magnus. Cas is a Black Mage from my verse. They don’t toss magic around in cheap, or use it as a weapon at the drop of a dime. It’s a power given to mortals by the Gods, and the Black Mage people recognize and respect this. It is a very rare, extreme occasion that any Black Mage casts a spell. (This is done so magic never becomes some cheap parlor trick.)

 

After centuries of ancient warfare with Odinspawn, the Black Mage people migrated to the most savage, uninhabitable part of the world. Rather than depend on magic to solve their problems, they developed proficient martial arts used to disarm and counter foes.


 

Now for my story, this worked just fine. Cas always shows a great deal of restraint so his OP nature never became a visible problem. If anything, he ended up being the guardian angel of the group.


 

Now for JRPG format…this is a serious problem. The story and characters are so developed, it’s hard to just hack and slash at them, changing things to suit the needs of the format - I’d sooner not make the game if that’s what it comes to.

 

I have thought about several solutions to this conundrum:

 

Nurf his physical power (which essentially makes him like any other mage, and takes away from his people’s backstory and culture.)

Nurf his Magic (same results just reversed)

Adjust spell ‘learning curve’

Adjust Max MP curve

Use his spells like a ‘limit break’ feature, only being accessible when his health reaches a certain %, or the HP of party members

Or make the top shelf spells only available when his HP is at a certain %


 

Needless to say, I can’t reconcile the nature of the character with the rpg format. I would have to toss everything about my Back Mages out the window and make them like any other we’ve seen before.

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That's kind of the problem with trying to fit a game to a story rather then the other way around. It might indeed be better to make this a story instead of a game, or maybe make the character in question an important NPC and not a PC.  That being said, that reminds me of another 'OP magic user' in a story... Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. Only here is the thing about Gandalf: Even if he is one of the most magically powerful beings in that setting, he really can't actually do that much. Make things catch fire and some other things and that's about it. But even being able to do that much is actually a big deal. That's just kinda how magic in middle earth works, it's ridiculously rare and mostly indirect and situational. A Final Fantasy black mage throwing their spells of destruction around like candy? That would be thought of as impossibly powerful even though in other settings it's completely normal.

 

But the thing about black mage magic is, it's almost completely focused on combat. Magic in Lord of the Rings is much much more subtle and can effect a huge number of things in little ways. Black mage magic is very very direct and probobly dosn't have that much practical use outside fighting things. In a normal situation which isn't a save the world type crisis, which would you rather have, black mage magic or white mage magic? I don't know about you but I would pick white mage magic. It's just so much more useful to more people. Okay, really I would pick becoming a red mage because red mages are cool, but that's besides the point. There is also probobly a huge amount of studding someone has to do before they can learn magic at all, even simple spells.

 

What's my point? That I don't think you need to make a character 'OP' in game terms for them to be a seriously well respected magic user. Same doubly goes for martial arts. I mean, do you see boxers throwing chi blasts at each other that much? Being able to disarm and counter foe at all still takes training, and I imagine some people specialize in martial arts while others do in magic anyway. Remember that most party members in rpgs are exceptional people in on way or another. Your average peasant ain't got nothing on even a level 1 black mage. You don't have to make him do everything and carry the party, just make sure he does what he does well.

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Without Cas, it just wouldn't be the same. :P I couldn't take anyone out of the roster without messing up the entire story arc. He doesn't talk much but he does end up playing  big role in the over-all story, and toward the conclusion.

 

I could just make him a Monk who has some special Black Magic 'limit break' type of feature, but then there would be no magic at all. Magic isn't something you can 'learn' in this mythos, it's genetic. Only Black Mages can use back magic. Only White Mages can use white magic. It comes from the God who created each respective 'race'.

 

The White Mage character is a Paladin, so he doesn't know any spells. That was another hiccup, having no white magic user in the story.

 

It's heart breaking but I've come to the conclusion that it's not doable without butchering the story and characters.

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1- Enemies developed countermeasures against Black Magic, reducing the power output.  This means that Cas would have have to cast the stronger spells to do "regular" damage, and there would be side quests to remove these countermeasures so that the Black Magic can work normally in that region.

 

2- "Cas" joins the party.  At a later point, you'll meet the real and powerful Cas.  Maybe fake Cas is a pretender or he's an illusion sent ahead while real Cas has other business to do.

 

3- A spell causes Cas to regress to a younger age for a time being, back when he didn't have much training.

 

4- You can keep Cas, but Cas would want the party to fight and gain experience.  Thus using Cas's spells would reduce or negate EXP for the party.  Or Cas pretends to have long cast times to see how the party plays out.

 

5- If Cas is very old, probably make him like the senile kung fu master.  You know, "wipe the windows" and such.  Level could be leveling up his "trust" as he decides the party is legit and worth his powers.

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I hadn't thought of the last one. He could simply not 'fight' until the plot picks up more, and he's witnessed the long arm  of Zenobia at work up close and personal.

 

There are actually certain points where the player could get a taste of his dual-class prowess. I had been looking for a Suikoden-style, 1v1 turn based duel script to do certain fights that were rather intense in the story. Casius having to fight Leo on several occasions were a few good examples. This could allow them to remain interested in the character while he does his pacifist routine.

 

That could actually work without breaking the plot. Ana Maria doesn't fight either, and she's the main character. It posed a major problem as well. Perhaps there can be a sort of 'plot party' that includes other characters. Cid is too old to fight but I wasn't above making him playable, and giving him some skills tied into his airship. Things like crew dropping aid to heal the party, scanning enemies and bosses, and firing upon enemies at higher lvls.

 

 

I really would love to do it, lol.

Edited by Loco Choco

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You know, I have been thinking for a while that it would be cool to have a 'combat system' that featured conflict escalation and conflict resolution. Imagine if most encounters started in a sort of 'low threat mode' where you could use persuasion and speechcraft-like skills to try and resolve things without every actually fighting, and if any violence happened it would escalate to 'non-lethal mode' where everyone would attack with disarming strikes, and if things got really serious it could escalate to 'lethal mode' where everyone was actively trying to kill each other, and on some rare occasions there could even be a 'weapons of mass destruction mode' where skills that would otherwise cause serious collateral damage could be used freely.

 

I was reminded of that because it seems to me if your game used such a system, Mr Cas might be balanced in such a way that they were far more useful at higher threat levels but would refuse to use any skill that would escalate the conflict while  Ms. Maria might perhaps be far more useful in lower threat modes and avoiding fights altogether, but wouldn't be very useful if things escalate (unless she is a white mage type, but still not for offense). I kinda like the idea of a system that encourages you to not go around nuking everything you see. Unless they are undead or machines or something anyway, there should probobly be at least some encounters where the same rules don't apply. But most of the time I think you should be rewarded more for not escalating the conflict.

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A combat system like that would be cool. Something refreshing and unique given the right plot and setting. Some enemies could inherently trigger more lethal modes, being wild, violent beasts. You could take it a step further and add in over-all player/party reputation, and individual actor alignments that change depending on how the player negotiates combat on a regular basis.

 

An Actor's alignment could directly impact that battle process. For example if you had 4 evil characters, it could be nearly impossible to find a non-lethal mode, as any of their action immediately escalate the situation. Alignment could dictate the nature of the player's skills. If someone is peaceful, they don't have a ton of options when things go Lethal, and vice versa.

 

Also, it could become an aspect of party management. Balancing the alignments of your party could ensure that you are able to manage the situation at any Threat Level, as well as manipulate the Threat Level using actor skills.

 

This is actually a wonderful idea for a project.

 

 

EDIT: Also that's pretty intuitive. ^_^ In the lore Ana Grace is a descendant of Whiteguard slaves taken by Odinspawn during the great war. The hope was that these slaves would 'use de magix' to aid and heal their forces in battle. What they couldn't have known without asking,  was that not every white mage can use magic. It's a rather exclusive thing requiring years of devotion to the temple. Those who were able to use magic, refused and were executed. When the war was over, remaining white mage slaves merged into Odinspawn cultures all over, and Ana's family ended up in Zenobia, thousands of years later.

 

In the story, this never really came up, but it did explain a lot. For a game adaptation, this does eave some options on the table. When I first started considering this, I was going to make her like a hardcore support/hype unit, and one of her skills was a distress cry. I had the idea that if Cas was in the same party when she cried out, it would send him into 'berserk' mode, letting him go off and use his better skills. I may need to just nurf him for the sake of balance.

Edited by Loco Choco

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Hehe, I probobly wouldn't have out and out 'good' and 'evil' characters if I did it, just ones with different personality traits and skills that lean them to fighting a particular way. Effectively the same idea though. I am not to interested in doing this idea myself right now anyway. I briefly was working on a project that had elements of it, but that sort of fell through and it dosn't really fit my current project. So feel free to run off with my idea if it suits you, but I would imagine it would be hard to pull off without lotsa scripting work.

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I prefer a more straight forward battle system for the average rpg, especially if it's story-based vs play-based.

 

Not cut & dry good and evil characters, but I would definitely make battle actions impact characters alignment, so you never fall into a repetitive funk and get bored of the system. If the player keeps using X actor to massacre everything that moves, there needs to be a price paid for that.

 

 

it's also not often you play an RPG to make friends in battle after buying a ton of weapons for your crew to kill shit with. It would need a lot of conceptual work to even make sense on a practical level. But one way to make it work is to give the player control over that threat level. So they can stand around trying to make peace and part ways without bloodshed, or they can antagonize every situation they encounter (at a cost).

 

I would play the version that gives me control over my own fate. I might not play the Peace Keeping RPG. ^_^

Edited by Loco Choco

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Yeah, one of the ideas I had was that how the player handled encounters would effect how enemies would treat them. If they became known for killing everything in their path, you could expect enemies to be a lot more aggressive and willing to resort to lethal measures themselves. And also I always had the idea that some encounters just flat out ignored the normal rules of engagement. Like zombies and other mindless undead, which would just mindlessly attack and are in turn usually thought of as something that should be destroyed by any means.

 

The idea I had for the project that fell through was that all the monsters were mostly invisible to most people and most people were not even aware they existed, and the more aware and panicked people got the more monsters could slip through into the human world. The thing I wanted to do is mostly have monsters pop up harassing towns people and you had to drive them away. I wanted to give the player many ways to do that like making deals/friends with them, scaring them, capturing them, or just outright beating them over the head till they left, but oftentimes that was simply impractical to use too much violence because it would cause too much panic, and the enemies couldn't really die but would just be banished and might come back later. The big thing I wanted to avoid was making it a kind of morality thing like Undertale. Ultimately the player would only really be judged on their results not their methods, but beating up everything in your path just wasn't always a feasible option. The project got way to complected to work on then I was easily able to deal with though. Party because it was my only attempt at doing a team project and I am not too experienced in that. And partly because I never figured out a good way to make monsters and townspeople interact with each other.

Edited by Kayzee

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I see it more clearly now. I was thinking more along the lines of not trying to hurt the enemies when the threat level is low. That perhaps it was possible to 'defuse' battle altogether if it starts out non-life threatening in nature. I was thinking it maybe provided bonus exp if you won that way.

 

But now I see where you're coming from.

 

The difference between killing enemies, and defeating them, visible by the nature of skills. Arrows tend to kill when targeting center of mass, but a leg wound will just take a bit of the fight out of you. A sword is for killing, but it does have a broad side.

 

I picture magic being invaluable in a system like this. One the one hand you have lethal spells that can cause major damage. On the other hand you have incantations and affects to potentially control the behavior of enemies.

 

 

I like that plot concept. I like it a lot and let me tell you why. :P I have been cooking my noodle, trying to establish a plot concept for a grass roots RPG set in the modern era. This comes from my life-long and brightly burning love of Earthbound. It pulled off the aforementioned concept and context perfectly. And it's just such a rarity to have an rpg format work so flawlessly in a modern setting. Granted EB is crazy, and there are some head-scratcher aspects about it, but it just worked.

 

The plot you described can kinda be done in any period or world setting. ^_^ Kinda made me take two and think of that.

 

That's a cool idea. I see lots of potential for sub-features surrounding a system like that. What plans did you have for captured monsters?

 

Edited by Loco Choco

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Hehe my plan was that capturing monsters was that to capture them you basically bound them to item and equipping it could let the player learn and/or use their spells. But to do it the player would have needed a specific item for each monster and figure out how to capture them, and maybe unless the player has a strong will or the monster somehow grew to like the player the monster would be able to act out and do stuff like not letting the player use the spells, causing them to be randomly effected by status effects, or even out right possessing their body for a bit maybe.  I was kind of thinking that the whole reason why there was such a bad monster outbreak was there was a cult opening the door between worlds to collect monsters for exactly this reason.

 

 

Edited by Kayzee

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so, regarding OP characters, I feel that raising MP costs is a better way to handle it, perhaps reducing costs as a part of the story, mainly trying to decrease the upper limit in which you can use magic.

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The main issue is with continuity. Black Mages barely ever resort to the use of magic. So to make a game where the user can cast at will (at any MP cost) discredits his character concept.

 

It's just another shining example of how you can't port my stories from one medium to another, lol. It just doesn't follow. ^_^

 

The best way to handle Cas would be to make him a Martial Artist who has a Black magic limit Break of sorts. (His health hits 20%, Black Magic Command becomes available.) 

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