Spellcasting in Pathfinder Online Mirrors Tabletop Roleplaying

| 4 Apr 2013 22:20
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You won't have to memorize spell slots, but wizards will need to take care of their spellbook in Pathfinder Online.

It's always difficult to transfer a tabletop roleplaying game like Pathfinder to an online ruleset. There's so many variables that are fun to track with pen and paper around a table with friends that are just not the same when playing on a computer. The team at Goblinworks working on the recently Kickstarted project to craft the Pathfinder Online MMO has taken on that challenge, and one of the major problems is how casting spells will work. Today, developer Stephen Cheney detailed how magic-using classes will function in Pathfinder Online and it's a lot closer to traditional "Vancian" magic systems in classic Dungeons & Dragons than other MMOs have gone.

Pathfinder-Online
Pathfinder Online
categories: 3d, fantasy

Based on the tabletop RPG of the same name, Pathfinder Online aims to bring Paizo's famous fantasymworld to the realm of MMORPGs with deep, addictive gameplay and mechanics based on the award-winning pen and paper RPG.

First off, you'll always have simple magical spells you can cast in combat called cantrips. "The bread and butter attacks for most arcane spellcasters will be cantrips, which are very similar to weapon attacks for non-magical classes. They're particularly similar to attacks for bows," Cheney said. You'll be limited in casting them like ammunition limits ranged attacks, but, "cantrips in Pathfinder Online will remain very useful even at high level, much more so than cantrips in the tabletop game. But, generally speaking, cantrips exist so we can let you use a magical attack over and over even though your true spells are limited in number."

The big powerful spells that wizards typically throw around like fireball or lightning bolt will have that iconic feel, but you'll need to find the spell in the world before you use it. "New spells may enter the game as loot, or through spell research. They'll appear as books you can either use directly or disassemble to remove individual spells. Once you have individual spells, you can copy them," Cheney said. You can then form a spellbook, but that's not all you'll need to be a fancy wizard.

In order to cast spells that require components, for example, you'll have to have a pouch equipped and make sure you have enough of a arcane component handy. "To use spells that require components, you'll have to dedicate your belt slot to a spell component pouch. Only components in the pouch will be accessed by your spells (which should also keep you from accidentally casting a fireball with the haul you were taking to the alchemist)," Cheney said.

Your spell slots will also be determined by your Wizard level. "Say a starting wizard acquires a spellbook with a 3rd level spell, a 2nd level spell, and three 1st level spells," he said. "That wizard only has two 1st level slots. The 3rd and 2nd level spells will begin grayed out and unavailable: the wizard can't cast them yet. All three 1st level spells will be usable, however."

The reason for all these limitations is that arcane spellcasters are terribly overpowered (just kidding, but not really) and the designers of Pathfinder Online want to make sure there is a serious commitment on that part of the player for all of that versatility and power. "We want wizards to commit to carrying spellbooks and allocating useful item slots to their spellcasting is to balance equipment choices and power level between casters and noncasters," Cheney said. "Pathfinder Online is targeted at being most similar to the play experience inherent in tabletop's mid-level range. This is the 'sweet spot' where casters and non-casters are most closely balanced in capabilities."

As a fan of both tabletop RPGs and MMOs, it will be interesting to see this new translation of the idiosyncratic magic system of tabletop to a digital medium. One thing I'm really curious about is how utility spells like fly or wizard lock are implemented. Will they be ignored, or can they be used in creative ways to solve encounters too? I've sent a note to the guys at Goblinworks to answer some questions so hopefully we'll find out soon.

Source: Official Dev Blog

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