Writing Series

Writing Atlas: Spells and the Sorcerer / Wizard Classes

Hey, we’re back. Last year I was talking about the Travel pillar when I stopped, but I kind of wanted to move away from it to the classes because I wanted to write those first instead. So, I’m putting a pin in the Travel Pillar for a while to talk about Classes because it’s probably more fun anyway.

If you’ve seen the Atlas Progress Tracker page you know I’ve been going through the classes alphabetically, and it starts with Arcane, so the daily articles will follow suit.

The two base classes in the Arcane template are the Sorcerer and the Wizard. They’re both “basic” magic using classes but they apply their magic in different ways. The Sorcerer is the more offensive and combat oriented of the two, while the Wizard focuses on utility and support.

It’s important to mention that spells in Atlas are entirely in the players hands. Much like the Crafting mechanics, players are in charge of their spell design and how they work. The GM is there to keep a balancing cap on them and make sure their spells fit the theme of their classes. The player will create a “spellbook” of a number of spells known that they can call upon at any time they can afford the mana cost of the spell. The GM has a duty to make sure the mana cost and numerical effects of the spell are balanced, and has a right to ask a player to rebalance their spells if the GM feels they’re a bit off.

In game, you can represent a spell nerf by saying “You’ve been casting this spell for a while, but the effect is taking a toll on you and you find it reasonable to alter it slightly to keep up the effect.” In this case the character is finding that casting the spell is affecting them negatively so they fine tune it a little bit to keep the effect, but increase the mana cost. Buffing a spell can be explained similarly with “The spell is feeling more and more natural as you use it and you believe you’ve found a more efficient way to cast it. One night pouring over your spellbook, you finally find a means of improvement.” and just like that your spell is cheaper or more powerful to match your level. It’s easy, it’s fun for players to feel like they get to design their spells, and I don’t have to write 900 pages of spells for each level of the 30-50 something spellcasting classes. Everybody wins.

It’s important to make this distinction because GMs are the ones tasked with making sure the spells fit a character thematically. So a Wizard character who wants to have a Fireball spell in their spellbook might reasonably be denied by the GM since offensive spells are more the domain of a Sorcerer. Likewise a Sorcerer might want a Mage Armor spell, or the ability to cast a quick and cheap spell to lift a set of keys off a Prison Wardens desk and get denied because those are the kind of spells a utility-focused Wizard is capable of.

As you gain levels and take more levels in other classes you can reasonably expect to cast new types of spells with different flavors. GMs may even allow you to alter spells slightly even if you branch into non-spellcasting classes. Taking levels in Skilled classes might be cause to allow your Wizard spells to be silent, or lightless in order to keep your stealthy aspect of your Skilled classes intact. It’s all about the transaction between GM and Player and making a compromise that will breed creativity and fun for everyone.

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