Monthly Archives: June 2012

A History Of Facile Video Game Comparisons

In Convenient Chart Format

Year Edition Video Game
2000 Third
2008 Fourth
2012 Fifth

Discuss.

Hoard Contraction

Hoard Contraction

Transmutation

Assassin 3, Bard 3, Sorcerer/Wizard 3; Domain: Metal 3, Trade 2

Casting Time: 1 Standard Action

Components: V, S, M/DF

Range: Touch

Target: Up to 1000 coins per caster level up to 10,000 maximum, coins must all be in a single bag or container.

Duration: Permanent

Saving Throw: None; Spell Resistance: No

This spell, beloved of adventurers who often find themselves with a lot of small change, transmutes coins of one sort into coins of another, ‘rolling up’ their value. It will turn 10 copper pieces into a silver piece, or 50 silver pieces into five gold pieces.

The spell requires a coin of recent mintage, of the highest value desired (for example, a silver coin will allow copper to become silver, but not gold or platinum). Having multiple coins (1 each of silver, gold, and platinum) is ideal. The “target” coin must have been minted in the past year and must be a common coin in an area within 10 miles of the caster; this spell cannot be used to turn copper pieces into antique coins worth far more than their metallic value. Indeed, the coins created by this spell, while of the proper weight and purity, are generally worn, nicked, and otherwise seemingly well-used (this is by design, as a sudden flood of glistening, newly-pressed coins in the hands of disreputable wandering mercenaries is likely to raise eyebrows).

A “tax” of 1% of the total value of coins transmuted is enacted by the spell; this raw material is part of what powers the transmutation.

All coins to be transformed must be in a single container, be it a sack, chest, box, and so on, including extradimensional storage. The spell affects 1,000 base coins per caster level and begins with the cheapest coins, seeking to combine them into the highest value possible. Hence, a fifth level caster with 5500 copper pieces and 100 silver pieces would end up with 4 platinum pieces, 9 gold pieces, 500 copper pieces, and 105 silver pieces. (At fifth level, the spell will “look” only at the first 5000 coins — 5000 of the copper pieces. One percent of this, the spell’s “tax”, is 50 copper pieces, or, five silver pieces. The 4,950 copper coins become 4 platinum pieces (consuming 4000 of the copper), 9 gold pieces (consuming 900 copper), and 5 silver pieces (consuming 50 copper))

False coins (as determined by their metal content, not necessarily their mintage) are not affected by this spell, making this an interesting way to sort out shaved coins, or coins containing admixtures of base metals. The spell can work on small pieces of pure metals not necessarily minted into coins, but cannot affect any piece weighing more than an ounce.

There is a legend that a powerful trickster-mage authored a reversed version of this spell, and tricked a dragon into casting it, thus entombing the dragon under a mountain of copper pieces. This reversed spell, if it ever really existed, has been lost to common knowledge.


Design Notes

This arose from last night’s PF game, where I realized it was a shame to leave low-value coins just lying around because they were heavy and bulky and even a portable hole only holds so much, especially when you dump a petrified mammoth into it. (Don’t ask.) It occurred to me that this would be a useful spell, and so, I wrote it up. Now, any spell that deals with precious metals is an open invite for a clever player to find ways to completely crash your game world’s economy, and so, I tried to find appropriate limits that would keep it at the “handy utility” level, and not the “hyperinflation level”. Many obvious combat uses are nullified by the simple expedient of the spell rolling up, not down — otherwise, you could bring a sack of 10 platinum pieces, cast this, and shower 10,000 copper pieces down on some unsuspecting enemy. The fact it costs 1% of the total wealth imposes, well, a cost on the spell, making it at least a tiny decision to use it or just get bigger bags or more hirelings. (I might kick it up to 5% or 10%, as I think about it.) The need to have local, current, coins is there because the first exploit I thought of is creating coins whose value to historians or collectors greatly exceeds their metal value. The idea that it could be used to “filter” fake or tampered coins was a happy inspiration as I thought about exactly what the magic could and couldn’t do, and how it would react to lead slugs in the coin bag.

Thoughts on other possible loopholes which could/should be capped, or non-exploitative but clever uses, are welcome.

Common Law vs. Statutory Law

Common Law vs. Statutory Law

(I thought I posted this ages ago, but no searches return it. Weird.)

One of the best things I’ve seen that helps spell out a lot of the rules style debates on RPGs was pointed out to me by someone whose name I forget on RPG.net, namely, the difference between Common Law and Statutory Law.

In Common Law, disputes are settled primarily by judges and magistrates, who look to prior cases and try to apply the same decision to the same facts. There is no body of formal law, just an accumulation of cases, and the practice is to look through prior cases and use them to reach a conclusion. In different regions or different nations, different sets of precedents evolve, and there’s no great need to reconcile them, as it’s believed they reflect the beliefs of the people who live under the law.

Statutory Law relies on well-documented laws that specify what rules apply to what actions and what penalties to apply. In the event that a specific law can’t be found, or the law is ambiguous, the judge is supposed to interpret the laws that are written to reach a conclusion that is consistent with prior law. This also forms a body of precedent, but the precedent is a record of how laws have been interpreted (and is often an impetus for the laws to be formally clarified), and is not the basis of the law itself. Consistency among different regions is very important; conflicting interpretations will be brought to higher and higher courts until a final decision is reached.

Those who want “rulings based” games like Common Law. They want a few broad guidelines, and they run their games based on their past rulings of situations. Two different DMs may rule very differently on the same action, but they are then reasonably consistent going forward in their games. They want game companies to provide guiding principles and a few examples, from which they’ll build their body of precedent. They often want to pick and choose which facts may be relevant to a given case, and ignore what seems unnecessary.

Those who want “rules based” games like Statutory Law. They want a well-defined set of rules that spell out as many situations as possible. They recognize no set of rules can be complete, but they see the role of the DM as finding the closest possible rule and extending it just enough to cover the situation, and this then creates a new rule. They want game companies (the “legislature”) to correct poor rules or provide final and absolute answers to contradictory rules. They want a clear listing of all factors to be considered when applying a rule.

Neither of these is likely to be absolute, and neither is “better” or “worse”, but they satisfy different needs and appeal to different people.