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Author Topic: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic and Xenosynthesis  (Read 16423 times)

NW_Kohaku

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I was going to post this in response to a different thread, but since it's involved enough, I guess I might as well make a thread of its own...

If you ever looked at the game Changeling: the Lost, which is a game based around a darker take on old fairy tales and folkloric creatures, and so in order to incorporate a rationale behind why a player would want to behave as a fae creature from fairy tales, what you get are "contracts". 

A contract is different from a magic spell that a wizard gets because it's based upon making an actual contract with another being.  The contract is powered by its own contract magic, and can benefit both parties, so long as the terms of the contract are fulfilled. 

For example, a character with gnome-like characteristics might make a contract to repair another person's tools in such a way that they gain magical competency or make their motorcycle race faster or some such using their gnomish abilities, and ask in exchange for that that a saucer of milk be left out, or some other meaningless token.  The simple act of receiving this token gives the player back some of their magical essence they need for using their abilities through fulfilling the contract. 

At the same time, these contracts have penalty clauses that place a curse upon anyone who breaks the terms of the contract.  This curse is automatic, and part of the binding act of the contract itself, so the effect is instantaneous when a person breaks their word, and doesn't even require the other party's knowledge or awareness of being cheated for the penalty clause to take effect. 



For DF, contract magic would fit in fairly well with what we already have for a magic system:

Necromancers are twisted souls that make contracts with fell powers for magic control over life and death.  Vampires and werecritters are beings who are cursed by the gods for doing something wrong. 

All we need to do is expand the game so that being turned into a weresloth is a curse that befell a would-be contractor of some higher being who reneged on their word.  Inversely, necromancers are beings that are keeping up their end of the bargain, but whose powers are one that come at the price where your only friends are zombies or other necromancers. 

Likewise, elves live by their strict code of life based upon what their nature spirit asks of them, including not killing other living beings of the forest, but consuming the dead, and not chopping down trees, but using the wood of those trees the nature spirit says are ready to die.  Elves live by a very complex contracted existence with their nature spirits.



Contract magic is based around first finding some sort of mystical being, such as a spirit or a fae creature or a shrine to deity with the power to enter into a magic contract.  A human village may have a shrine to a sky god, for example, and they will go to the sky god to pray for rain for their crops.  That prayer may be part of a ritual for fulfilling a contract with the sky god - they offer prayer and some sort of token sacrifice to the sky god, and the sky god will bring rain at the appointed times, in accordance to the contract. 

Contracts, however, are often tricky and personal things.  Contracts might just be given out openly, but those are typically given out by beings that seek to profit greatly for their services (such as demons who may ask more than you are willing to pay for the power they give). 

Spoiler: Open Contracts (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Personal Contracts (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Fortress Mode (click to show/hide)

Just as personal knowledge of a spirit being might lead to learning a new open contract, there might also be a way for open contracts to lead to personal contracts:

That is, spells to summon spirit beings of various types (historically, angels, demons, or nature spirits of all stripes) in order to simply get the chance to make a personal contract with them were summoning spells that this set of rules I am talking about would consider an "open contract". 

For example, you might have a ritual to summon a specific named angel or demon or elemental or nature spirit, but they would not behave like a summon spell in D&D does, and instead, you'd have to summon the creature (probably with another spell meant to prevent the demon from running amok) and then try to enter into negotiations for a personal contract, or else have to dismiss the creature, or let it go free. 

Other, simpler open contract spells might simply lead you to the nearest spirit being that is already on the current plane, like leading you to the nearest dryad or nymph, since those types of creatures are typically tied to specific magical locations. 



One more thing on contract magic:

In general, players should be expected to pay their end of contracts "up front" for most contracts unless there is a really painful penalty clause. 

However, you might also have methods of paying for a spell "in advance", like performing a ritual to a sky god to gain the power to summon a storm, but where the actual storm doesn't happen until you take some final triggering action.  That way, you might have a spell that takes sitting at a shrine praying for a while and performing your part of the contract in order to "prepare" the spell that could be activated on the fly later on.  (It would obtain some "Vancian Magic" properties in that fashion, as well, now that I think about it.)



Spoiler: On Xenosynthesis (click to show/hide)

More on xenosynthesis and how it relates to contract magic starting from these quotes here.



I also have later updated this concept on how to handle a player that is an inherently magical being (that can cast magic from their own innate magic).
« Last Edit: February 17, 2013, 05:25:06 pm by NW_Kohaku »
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JWNoctis

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2012, 02:01:35 am »

Demonic contract? Sounds good.

Although contracts like this would probably not always have to be bilateral. After all, there's little you can do even if there is an escape clause or two for the supernatural side if you really want the power.

Also demigods could be handled differently. Since being somewhat supernatural yourself will almost certainly limit your choices on contracts with other beings, or open up some unique opportunities especially when you have some innate godly power yourself.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2012, 08:58:31 am »

Well, current demigods aren't really meant to be "demigods", they're just mean to be adventurers with more stats than normal.  That said, Toady has talked about letting players start as something like a priest or an "inquisitor" (as in, a religious figure tasked with hunting night creatures) from the start of Adventure Mode as an alternative to starting as a peasant or hero.
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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2012, 03:52:25 pm »

Me likey contract magic... and this suggestion is top-notch.

It's pretty much how magic was thought of in many parts of the world historically, and I think it's a lot more creepy and interesting than some contrived "magic points" system.  So, yeah!  I'm all for it! I could imagine the rich dimension it would add to the game having to deal with such contracts and powerful, magical beings.

I could imagine books playing into this as well, with necromancers and other people dabbling with the occult/magical writing and building up their own spellbooks, essentially containing contracts and magical procedures needed to summon this or that being or cause something magical to happen.  It would be cool if these things looked a lot like their real-life analogs (here is a wonderful annotated reprint of an actual 15th century necromancer's handbook that I've had the pleasure of reading... this book has many excellent examples of contract magic).

I really like the spells in this book that require the tracing of a circle of protection to shield the spell caster from the spirit being summoned as well as sometimes contain it.  The symbols and stuff are really cool, too.

EDIT:  This would really play well into some sort of abstract knowledge system... A lot of how magic was viewed historically had to do with knowing the secret, true names of this or that spirit or object or action in order to command it, and the exact protocols needed to use these words effectively; words had inherent power.  It was analogous to how magic was treated in "The Wizard of Earthsea" series.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2012, 03:59:26 pm by Andeerz »
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Silverbit

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2012, 04:56:27 pm »

If gods get a larger role in the game, this is certainly one of the kind of things I would like to see. Perhaps the ability to play as a spirit and hire oneself out to naive wizards? This would add some modding potential too; the code from anything like this could create a bounty hunter or something. A good idea all round.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2012, 05:05:14 pm »

If gods get a larger role in the game, this is certainly one of the kind of things I would like to see. Perhaps the ability to play as a spirit and hire oneself out to naive wizards? This would add some modding potential too; the code from anything like this could create a bounty hunter or something. A good idea all round.

Yes, when Toady was first talking about adding night creatures, and them having weaknesses that you'd have to discover, potentially only by getting priests to perform magic rituals, one of the first things I asked was "would we get the ability to be one of those priests, ourselves?" 

From: http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=84398.msg2281409#msg2281409
Quote from: Toady One
Quote from: NW_Kohaku
In the case of an adventurer, will we be capable of receiving training as a religious figure or whathaveyou that lets you acquire this sort of weakness-revealing information on your own, and become a "Adventurer Role: Slayer of Nightcreatures" in the sense of being a traveling exorcist?  Or must you go out and find those religious figures and ask them on the weakness for every night creature you run across?

There's nothing wrong with learning things in advance rather than on a case by case basis.  If we don't have time advancement, it's more of a char gen issue, which would be cool.  We'll see if this is necessary during testing when we have our first creatures with weaknesses/etc., which might not happen this time.

So, one of the ways Toady said "would be cool" to have player magic would be for players to roll up an adventurer who is already some sort of initiate priest with training for hunting down night creatures, with powers that help them divine the weaknesses of their prey.
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GreatWyrmGold

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2012, 05:35:33 pm »

One thing I'd like to add: At least some personal contracts should have no re-negotiation, outside of one party (probably the guy getting the power) breaking his/her/etc side of the deal. That way, one could find a way to technically fulfil the requirements of the agreement without meeting the spirit, and a deal you later wish you hadn't done isn't so easily undone.
Also, while the idea of having to re-negotiate the terms of a contract in the midst of battle is amusing, it somehow seems more gamey to have seven uses of a power than to be able to use it for seven days. Food for thought, once we figure out why that is.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2012, 05:40:17 pm »

One thing I'd like to add: At least some personal contracts should have no re-negotiation, outside of one party (probably the guy getting the power) breaking his/her/etc side of the deal. That way, one could find a way to technically fulfil the requirements of the agreement without meeting the spirit, and a deal you later wish you hadn't done isn't so easily undone.
Also, while the idea of having to re-negotiate the terms of a contract in the midst of battle is amusing, it somehow seems more gamey to have seven uses of a power than to be able to use it for seven days. Food for thought, once we figure out why that is.

Well, you shouldn't be just forced directly into the negoatiation phase as soon as your timer runs out, it's just that the contract, if invoked, would stop functioning.  You would hopefully be able to re-negotiate/negotiate a new contract before or after the actual expiration date of the old one.

Besides that, yes, a contract like "I, Faustus, will give Mephisto my immortal soul on the date ____ in exchange for the secrets of life." would probably not be one that Mephisto would be willing to renegotiate near the time when Mephisto was getting ready to collect, unless dear Dr. Faustus could come up with something else to sweeten the deal.
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GreatWyrmGold

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2012, 06:28:24 pm »

First off, I was speaking in the first part about something completely different from the second. In the first, I suggested deals in which you could continue to use the power as long as you kept your end of the bargain to the letter, although your power might be increasingly to-the-letter as well. In the second part, I separately noticed that having a combat power run out of uses in the middle of combat, requiring one to re-negotiate the terms of the deal before it can be used to finish smiting the enemy would be amusing but reliant on principles that seem "gamey."

Hm...I just thought of something. Since adventurers can retire, retiring with a way to have a good living could be a "win" condition, as much as anything is a victory. Such a thing might be a deal like what we're mentioning, which would encourage development of not-in-game history development. More than it already is, I mean.
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NW_Kohaku

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2012, 06:40:08 pm »

First off, I was speaking in the first part about something completely different from the second. In the first, I suggested deals in which you could continue to use the power as long as you kept your end of the bargain to the letter, although your power might be increasingly to-the-letter as well. In the second part, I separately noticed that having a combat power run out of uses in the middle of combat, requiring one to re-negotiate the terms of the deal before it can be used to finish smiting the enemy would be amusing but reliant on principles that seem "gamey."

Hm...I just thought of something. Since adventurers can retire, retiring with a way to have a good living could be a "win" condition, as much as anything is a victory. Such a thing might be a deal like what we're mentioning, which would encourage development of not-in-game history development. More than it already is, I mean.

Well, I think that re-negotiations in the middle of combat would be a bad idea.  Even if talking is a free action, you would notably be in a very bad negotiating position. 

I think it might be better to think of it like walking into a gunfight with half your last remaining clip of bullets empty - maybe you should have thought of reloading before you got into the gunfight?  (Or comparing it to a D&D wizard who didn't bother to sleep and rememorize their spells after spending almost all of them.)
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GreatWyrmGold

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2012, 07:24:14 pm »

I said it would be amusing, not a good battle tactic. Obviously, it would be possible for an absent-minded person (or player) to forget to renew their deal with whomever, which I suppose is (again) an amusing enough thought to put aside my complaint of "gaminess."
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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2012, 08:11:34 pm »

I said it would be amusing, not a good battle tactic. Obviously, it would be possible for an absent-minded person (or player) to forget to renew their deal with whomever, which I suppose is (again) an amusing enough thought to put aside my complaint of "gaminess."

Theoretically, unless you're doing something pretty extreme or abusive (and when have DF players EVER exploited rules to maximum benefit?!) you shouldn't have all that many limited-use personal contracts lying around that you forget about them, anyway. 

The open-contract sorts of spells should be your more common-use spells, while the ones that are taxing enough upon the contracted spirit that they have to give you serious limits on how often you can do them and they want you to keep coming back to them to pay them more and more each time you cast it would be the sorts of spells that could allow a single wizard working for a kingdom to swing a battle in the favor of an underdog army, not the thing you fling around as a fireball at every passing troll. 

That said, personal contracts of the "you saved my sacred sky shrine from night trolls and recovered my holy artifact and recovered and gave a proper burial to one of the founding saints of my religion" type might be specially granted powers like a not-evil version of necromancy, where players might have access to things like the ability to shoot lightning bolts three or four times a day as a reward for doing things to make a champion deity extremely pleased with them. 

Of course, as a "reward", it would also be subject to possible "if you ever piss me off, those powers go bye-bye" clause.
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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2012, 08:51:47 pm »

Just to defend my statement: Have you never forgotten something you do a lot? Maybe it's unlikely for a player, but I can totally see an in-game character forget something vital like that. Especially if they've been through a lot of hard fights lately, or if the guy in question is absent-minded.
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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2012, 09:27:04 am »

Ok I have finally taken the courage to write in this forum about magic.(I'm very sorry for my english)
I posted on this thread because I had a similar idea, and I find that it fits well with other stuff I've gathered around and other thoughts in my head.
I wrote this imagining: me ,in the future, playing DF with a magic system implemented. I tried in this way to make analogies with already existent aspects and mechanics of the game,In a personal effort, not having programming experience, to not completely disconnect from reality (all efforts were vains), so that some things even if impossible (maybe all) are,at least naively, thinkable.
The purpose of this is inspirational, it's simply a model who would fit my personal taste and an exercise of mental masturbation.

Many ideas below are borrowed from other threads but they were very sparse so I built kind of a Frankestein.

 
CONCEPTS
I see "magic" like a tempting bitch who turns your fort to dust.(maybe I've gone too rough on this)
In this model: magic is a wild, non-scentific force, a trap for greedy players who want to bet on it.
Even in worlds with great amount of magic, it is not necessary for running a fort smoothly, and the player should be able to avoid it.
In this "model" the price you pay for using magic is not some sort of points (mana,stamina or whatever) nor the gathering of some strange materials, the
price is "risk". There are many chances that even a simple spell can become an uncontrollable wild force which kills hundred of people, the logical consequence of this
is that magic is not used for simple routine goals but only for legendary ones. So that tecnology and magic keep distinct roles.

Source of magic: entities randomly created during the world generation process.You could set in the advanced option menu how many of them you want at world gen.
according to your taste: for a world  with no,a bit or a lot of magic. Entities could also die during the history of the world like megabeasts, and they behave exactly like
civilizations, with possibilities of wars with them and between them.
Entities have complete control on magic. (All this entity stuff was an idea of another thread, I thought it could fit well with rest I'm going to write)

NOTE:even in a world with high number of entities, magic is not very common.In this system, magic is very exclusive: a talent for a few gifted of every race who can perceive
it.The others are all excluded no matter how much study or effort they make.

Magic in creatures:
1) "You're born with it"(X-Dwarves): speaking about dwarves, there is a rare possibility that a pregnant woman become possessed by a particular entity
(the probability increase with the number of entities around the world) , resulting in a strange mood identical to those you see in the workshops where you
have to gather some materials.Although,in this case you're not obtaining an artifact but an X-child. A dwarf with the gift of magic , who can see and recognize it and
also has some kind of power. Examples could be the : healing with the touch of his hands, regenerating like a lizard, speaking with the animals,
have the skin made of steel, breathing fire... (in analogy of some megabeast's abilities).
Basically X-men adapted to the contest.If the mood fails the result could be: an exploding mother and abortion, or a steel-made-child in berseker mode.FUN in general.
There are also X-goblins,X-elves,X-humans and X-animals.

2)Not all creatures, but some of them can acquire the gift of magic... eating it(obtaining the "X"). So maybe the player could be interested in that magical-elf merchant serving lunch
to his dwarves in the legendary dining room...

X-dwarves are controlled like a normal dwarf: without the possibility of  directly telling them what to do . So you can't tell Urist McFireworks to burn that goblin
down instead of hitting it with his mace. Urist McFireworks knows what's better for him.
Magic is invisible and not recognizable, a part from X-folks, so: if you don't have  X-dwarfs in your fortress you can't tell if one of yours chickens is
magical or not.
I've read a thread where someone suggested the possibility of seeing magic as some kind of flow, an argument was brought up that this could result in lags caused by the over
utilization of the CPU, maybe if it was visible only when an X-dwarf is in range of sight this problem could be avoided...? (I don't know , I'm ignorant on pretty much everything I'm
writing here)
X-dwaves have the abilities they're born with, they're not capable of learning other "types" of power, and I feel that a skill tree or a skill level
could be unnecessary for them.


Ways to perform magic/ acquire magical items (partially controlled by the player):
 
1) Contracts: developing the analogy "entities<-->civilization" they could , under certain conditions, coming at your fortress, knocking at the door and make you an
offer; in a way quite similar of a liason or diplomat. Would be interesting if in this "trade" , you could know exactly what you're going to get but
not what you're going to give.
As suggested in this thread: entities could be honest or tricky and some of them instead of asking a contract, could chanllenge your dwarves in a chess game or in a flute contest.
Also the offers could be absurd or bizarre, like baby-sitting a dwarf-eating-pet in exchange for some absurd trinket .
Entities return periodically to your fort to check if you're keeping your part of the deal.

2) Rituals: the player can (for example through designation) choosing an artifact for rituals, so an X-dwarf will come to perform it.When the ritual is performed the
artifact is destroyed. The ritual can go well or end in tragedy, and the decision is taken by a coin-flip .
If the ritual goes well: you obtain a storable-incredibly-powerful-usable-when-you-want-spell (maybe linkable to levers) whith  only one shot,
depending on who performed the ritual and the artifact you chose.
If it's your unlucky day your fort could explode, you could have a rebellion of cabinets in the sleeping quarters and so on.
Also the risult of a well performed ritual is unknown to the player until complection. In this way ,unlike contracts, the player know exacly what he gives, but
not what he gets.The "magic" you obtain depends on the artifact you use for this and on the particular abilities of the dwarf who performs the ritual.

If you have read this far thank you! That's all.
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helmacon

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Re: Alternate Means to Magic: Contract Magic
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2012, 11:40:50 am »

Renegotiatiing in the midst of a battle sounds like something a diety may actuly do on purpose, after all, it puts them in a pretty good position to negotiate.

"What? You dont want to give me twice the animals this year? Fine, ill just take back the flying powers from your hovering crossbow squad."

Maintaing a contract with a god in fortress mode is a huge atvantage, a should be very difficult to keep. They should demand things such as a conversion of other dwarfs, or perhapps a purge of those who dont worship them. They may require specal nobles, such as a high priest, or may force you into a "holy war" against civs that dont belive in them. They most likely would demand that you have no other contracts but thiers.
Im a bit off subject but my point was i think there should be in seige renegotiations.
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