Project Arcana: Weekly Chat Dump, Vol. 1

We expect that Project Arcana will take several weeks, with two posts per week; Wednesday and Saturday. On Mondays, we’re going to dump out the more interesting and relevant pieces of our chat log from the previous week. Clearly this is a work in progress and under due consideration. What are, this week, sound ideas and firmly held beliefs might be so many regrets by next Monday.

Why We’re Doing This…

Shawn : Once we’re done, Illusion and Enchantment are going to be very similar.
Matthew : Yeah, that’s why we’re killing Illusion
Shawn : I think there’s enough difference between Illusion – which imposes sensory impressions brain – and Enchantment – which creates chemical reactions in the brain – that they can remain two different schools, or sub-classes.
Matthew : So you’re saying that Illusion spells specifically fuck with the senses while Enchantment messes with thoughts and emotions?
Shawn : Yes. It’s a fine distinction, but it’s usable. I want to give DMs options.
Matthew : Very fine, but okay.
Shawn : I don’t want to eliminate a school unless it has so few spells after the take down that it’s just not viable. If we can get some measure of homogeneity in the schools, it opens up possibilities for DMs. A DM could retain those two (reorganized) schools, or create his own school of ‘mentalists’ (or whatever) that combines those two.
Matthew : Right. However, a bunch of spells are getting pulled out.

On Spell Creation…

Shawn : So, this is cool… There’s an illusion spell called Mislead, which is a 5th level spell that combines Mirror Image and Invisibility, which are both 2nd level spells. That’s an excellent example of how to create new spells from old. That’s something else we need talk about: describing how to combine lower-level spells to make higher level spells.
Matthew : Yeah, a little system for making new magic is a good idea. I’m not sure how much the DMG goes into that (although the AD&D one had a couple rules jotted down for it).
Shawn : Another reason I was talking about ‘connective’ magic. It doesn’t seem reasonable that I can just mash two spells together to make a new one. I need some sort of ‘glue’. Even if the glue is just a set of simple rules. Like: “When combining two spells to make a new one, if they are in the same school add the levels together and add 1. If they are different schools, add 2.”

On Project Image…

Shawn : What school is Project Image? It isn’t Illusion because it creates a visible image, not a mental image. Plus the whole seeing and hearing thing.
Matthew : I’d argue that it’s conjuration. The projected image is like a semi-formed portal which projects you, and you can see/hear through it, but it’s not solid. And that holds with the fact that you have to have been there before, much like a teleport. Yeah, I like that explanation
Shawn : That doesn’t make sense to me. Also, this: “Physical interaction with the image reveals it to be an Illusion, because things can pass through it.” And this: “. If the Illusion takes any damage, it disappears, and the spell ends.” If things can pass through the illusion, how does it take damage?
Matthew : Haha good question.
Shawn : I might be able to see ‘Project Image’ as an Illusion, sort of. Hrm… No, never mind. There’s no way the Illusionist would be able to see and hear through the projection. The closest would be to tap into the eyes and ears of those affected while projecting his image and voice into their minds. But that’s ridiculous.
Matthew : It’s conjuration; I’ll lay it out m ore specifically when I get a chance. I’ll even draw a diagram.
Shawn : I’ve decided that Project Image is Mirror Image+Clairvoyance. It works well with our ‘compound spell’ concept, M.I. is L2, Cl. is L3, P.I. is L7. So, 2 + 3 + 2 (for diff schools) = 7. We need to come up with a magic ‘color wheel’ for complementary magics to establish the compounding penalty.
Matthew : No, because you also project through it with your voice. And mirror image has an LoS restriction.
Shawn : The spell only works in an area the Illusionist knows. And his voice can be created in the minds of those affected the same way his image is. Duh. So, maybe Major Image? Yeah. Major Image does sight, sound, smell. However, if there’s another way to get this effect, yeah, let’s talk about it.

On where we’re going with this…

Shawn : Yeah, I would shy away from words that make it sound like we’re going to establish a new system of magic. We’re just going to come up with a different way to organize it, in order to give DMs/PCs more options.
Matthew : Phase III, to me, will be a new system of magic. I thought that’s what we were going for
Shawn : I guess it depends on your definition of ‘system’. We’re not overhauling the magic system in a big way. We’re just reorganizing it in a functional way, which will give DMs and players options for how they set up their magic. We’re not coming up with new spells, just new relationships between them. We’re just doing on a big scale what people have done when they’ve come up with things like ‘Arctic Druids’, who specialize in magic related to the environment.
Matthew : I have this vision of us breaking down all the spells into their component bits and making a new system out of it, whether it’s your elemental idea, or Bob’s magic pathways thing. A system that fully allows the spells that already exist, but may let players be a little more free form in how they use magic
Shawn : I don’t think we’re going to be able to get that low with it. Even if we do, nobody is going to use it. It will be too much for all but a crazy few. How many people code their own programs?
Matthew : Yeah, that’s true. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Well, I assume we’ll get fewer and fewer users as the phases progress anyways. That’s why each phase is standalone. I wrote phase 3 to be ambiguous enough that maybe we just won’t do it if we decide it’s not worth it.
Shawn : I expect the reorg and suggested ‘New Schools’ will be pretty well-accepted. After all, they don’t require anything more than sticking your finger on a page and going, “This one”.
Matthew : Right.
Shawn : What we want to produce is a ‘magic system cookbook’.

Shawn : The 5e rules for creating items aren’t arbitrary, they’re sketchy, which makes them difficult.
Matthew : The rules for CRAFTING magic items are arbitrary. That’s different than the rules for a DM inventing magic items.
Shawn : All rules are ‘arbitrary’. The question is: are they user friendly?

On WTF With Create Food and Water..?

Matthew : Create food and water: Evocation to literally create the stuff from the magical aether, or conjuration because you’re actually bringing it from the elemental plain of bland food?
Shawn : Yeah, I was looking at that. I’m not sure what to do with it. I can see it as transmutation. You’re turning other things into food and water.
Matthew : you’re turning the air into food and water?
Shawn : Yes, turning air into food and water. That is, supposedly, how Star Trek transporters work.
Matthew : Ok, so, would it work in space?
Shawn : Maybe? Depends on how serious the vacuum.
Matthew : Ok, so doesn’t work in space, and, in a sealed chamber, a cleric could literally create food until he asphyxiated. It says “create” and I’m willing to allow that a fantasy knowledge base considers made from air as “create”.
Shawn : Well, in any case, it’s Transmutation, not Conjuration.
Matthew : Yup, that’s fine.

Matthew : So, creating a physical object from nothing? Are we just going to generally assume it’s Transmutation of the air and transient molecules?
Shawn : I don’t see how it can be anything else. The only other option is that you’re pulling the material from another plane or some bullshit.
Matthew : Which is what “Creation” does, and that’s obviously Conjuration. But that spell SPECIFICALLY says that. Other, similar effects aren’t so specified
Shawn : Yep.

New spell ideas on the fly!

Matthew : You know, it’s surprising there isn’t a spell that makes someone keep their voice down. Like Silence is a whole area thing and completely dissallows verbal components. But there should be a “prevent him from yelling for help” spell at lower levels.
Shawn : There’s an enchantment called ‘Calm Emotions’, which is both the most obvious and most stupidest name ever. But, yes, there should be a ‘Quiet’ spell. What level is Silence?
Matthew : Level 2.
Shawn : So, ‘Quiet’ would be an obvious Cantrip.
Matthew : Yeah, like “Target may not speak above a normal conversational tone for 1 minute. May only affect one target at a time”.
Shawn : Wait… Hmm… What’s the mechanism for a Silence spell? Either the spell is vibrating the air in an opposite way to negate the noise vibrations, or it is removing the energy of the vibration from the air.
Matthew : Ew no. It’s an enchantment. Just the thing’s brain won’t let it yell.
Shawn : OK, then call it ‘Whisper’, but there’s no equivalent in Enchantment right now.
Matthew : I know, it’s a weird oversight. That is an insanely useful ability

Curse you, 5e!

Matthew : WHY THE FUCK IS HEX AN ENCHANTMENT!? It’s a CURSE that deals NECROTIC DAMAGE. That’s necromancy even by 5e’s shitty standards.
Shawn : Yes, that’s exactly what I put in my notes.
Matthew : What the fuck? Even the material component for it is all creepy necromancy shit.

This is some Stephen Hawking level shit right here!

Shawn : So, I’m thinking ‘Silence’ should be an evocation. You’re directly using magical energy to dampen sound waves.
Matthew : I can get behind that. Using magic to produce opposite soundwaves? Makes sense to me.
Shawn : Or that.
Matthew : “dampen” and “make opposite” are equivalent.
Shawn : Not really. Make opposite is to introduce counter oscillations. Dampen is to remove oscillations. One adds energy to the system, the other removes energy from the system. However, Evocation uses energy, it doesn’t extract it.
Matthew : that is a fundamental misunderstanding of how waves work. “dampening” still requires energy
Shawn : It requires a transfer of energy. One is passive, the other is active.
Matthew : it’s just “conservation of energy” law. You only feel like it’s passive vs active because that’s how you conceive of sound deadening material vs active noise cancellation. But from a physics standpoint they are identical processes.
Shawn : Identical processes applied to different part of the system.
Matthew : in the “active” sense you are using opposite waveforms to lessen the waves, in the “passive” sense friction is doing the same thing
Shawn : Yes. But If I’m dampening sound via active noise cancellation, I’m putting energy into the system. If I’m dampening via sound deadening insulation, I’m changing the location of the energy into the system (into the insulation), but I’m not adding energy in.
Matthew : the insulation is energy
Shawn : It absorbs energy. Or, rather, it translates it.
Matthew : E=mc^2. Matter is energy.
Shawn : Now you’re just being pedantic and impertinent.
Matthew : No, it’s 100% relevant the underlying physics of matter. Deadening sound is the same as “active” noise cancellation.
Shawn : Yes, and we’re opening a HUGE can of worms either way. So, choose your poison. 1. Evocation can create sound waves, which means at higher levels you could have a sonic weapon. 2. Evocation can remove energy from a system, which means at higher levels you can freeze shit at will. What’s it going to be?
Matthew : Evocation does both of those things. Both of those are spells.
Shawn : Evocation spells?
Matthew : Yes.
Shawn : I know there’s cold, but I thought that was conjuration.
Matthew : Ray of Frost and Thunderwave are two examples.
Shawn : Okay. I haven’t looked at Evocation yet. Well, That being the case, it doesn’t matter how it works, because there are higher level spells that exploit both methods.
Matthew : Sure.
Shawn : Don’t you patronize me.

On Conjuration.

Matthew : I think Conjuration may end up with 3 categories (though two could probably be combined if necessary): Intraplanar travel, Interplanar travel, and Untargetted Summoning. Untargetted Summoning being a form of interplanar travel, but where you’re not concerned with WHERE things come from.
Shawn : What is Untargeted Summoning?
Matthew : Like conjuring elementals and shit. There are enough effects like that that I think it’s a worthwhile subdivision
Shawn : You are ‘targeting’, but you’re targeting a thing or creature instead of a place.
Matthew : Mmm, not even, really.
Shawn : No?
Matthew : Like some of them “conjure spirits which take the form of what you want”, and they end up being random ass celestials or fiends. Maybe “Nonspecific Summoning”.
Shawn : Okay. Hmm… It still sounds like the mechanism is a thing instead of a place. Like that spell that you can use to get something out of your lab?
Matthew : Theoretically, those spirits could be from your own plane I suppose.
Shawn : Right.
Matthew : So you have Intraplanar (blink, misty step, transport via plants, teleport), Interplanar (planar shift, demiplane, Handjob’s Horrible House or whatever), and then Nonspecific (conjure elemental, find steed, conjure other shit). That’s my 3-subschool breakdown.

Matthew : what is “Conjuration” going to be the magic of? The magic of location? The magic of presence? The magic of travel?
Shawn : It’s the magic of moving shit from one place to another. Portals or gates or some shit.
Matthew : Magic of transport?
Shawn : No. Then it sounds like you make carts or some shit.
Matthew : Right
Shawn : Shift? The magic of location shifting?
Matthew : Transferrence? Oh, Displacement. There it is.
Shawn : OK

Everyone talks about the weather…

Matthew : Question: how are we handling weather? Because right now a lot of it is in Conjuration.
Shawn : Energy?
Matthew : So Evocation?
Shawn : That makes sense, actually.
Matthew : It makes sense to me, all of the components to make extreme weather exist in evocation (lightning bolt, cone of cold, fireball, wind wall).
Shawn : Yeah, sounds perfect.

Curse you, Mirage Arcane!

Shawn FWIW: I think the whole ‘Shadow Plane’ concept is egregious bullshit.
Matthew Shadowfell? It’s an echo of the material plane wherein things are twisted and corrupt Have you watched Stranger Things? Shadowfell is a plane that was created for an adventure module way back when.
Shawn Blah blah blah. It’s something someone pulled out of their ass to justify a bullshit spell effect. I mean, I get it. “Ha ha ha! It’s MAGIC!” But that’s no excuse for it not to have the tiniest bit of internal consistency.
Matthew word.

Shawn : You might want to make a point that Mirage Arcane might want to go into Conjuration as an upgrade to Mord’s Mansion.
Matthew : I don’t agree with that assessment even a little bit.
Shawn : Then where would you put it?
Matthew : Transmutation probably, although the “can interact” thing is worrisome. It’s got nothing to do with portals or anything.
Shawn : It’s not ‘worrisome’, it’s a fucking show stopper.
Matthew : It is for conjuration, too.
Shawn : Yes.
Matthew : Out of all of the non-divine spells, that one has given us the most problem. I feel like our final PA article is going to be “OK, finally, WHAT THE FUCK Mirage Arcane?”
Shawn : Very likely, at this point. Although there may be a couple of others in there by then. Like Crown of Madness, which has a fucking visible crown. WTF?
Matthew : Meh, I wouldn’t sweat that, we can write that one off. “His mind has become so embroiled with madness that it taps into its own latent magic to form this twisted crown-like visage.”
Shawn : I’m just going to say ‘fuck the crown’. They’ve already got the light of madness in their eyes.
Matthew : Yeah, I’m not sure what function the crown serves other than to “look cool”.
Shawn : Some chucklehead thought it was awesome.