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Teaching Spheres of Power/Might

Teaching Spheres of Power/Might

TL:DR - gonna be teaching Spheres of Power/Might/Champions to my casual players this weeked, and I cannot expect them to actually read up on it before hand. How do I teach it, easily?

Long version:

After a 2-3 month break from GMing, I'm about to start a fresh Pathfinder campaign with my favorite casual murderhobos - my live group. I've got two of my players returning, too, namely my wife (the king of murderhoboing) and my brother (the pot-head). With them are the usuals, my brother-in-law (the cleric who forgets his spells) and our friend (the 5e guy), who we just finished a fairly lengthy arc involving far more intrigue than most of us are used to. And possibly a new player, thanks to my brother, which I hear has decent level experience with PF.

Regardless, I'm going to be running a fairly laid back, beer-n-pretzels, dungeon-crawler (it's what I'm good at and my wife would not play anything but that) and planning to introduce Spheres of Power/Might to them. I feel that the SoP system is a bit easier to learn, since one can easily focus on a single sphere or two, instead of sorting through the massive list of standard spells (which is a massive issue with my players). Plus, SoM offers some fun options for the martials beyond 'hit with an axe'. However, because of their natures, I do not expect any of them to actually read the rules regarding SoP/M. I'll be lucky if they even gloss it over. I mean, they haven't even read half of the CRB, so why would they read SoP/M?

Thus I come to you, my comrades, for advice. How do I go about introducing it, and teaching how the spheres and talents work out?

PS: before anyone even suggests a different system, don't bother. Been there, tried that. It don't work for these guys.

Well I plan to run a Spheres game...I'm just still deciding on the campaign setting that I'm going to use but anyway to teach and the likes:

For a beers and Pretzel game, would recommend the following:

-Tell them to either pick Spheres of Power or Spheres of Might for their characters, Champions are nice...but this is really for advanced user of the Spheres system. New players of the system will be lost. You might just outright ban champions.

-If they are familiar with any kind of rpgs like diablo, path of the exiles, etc...tell them it's kinda like that...you choose talents everytime you rank up and you can choose specialize in two or three trees (aka spheres).

-Present Spheres of Power and Spheres of Might with TV tropes. Spheres of Might has so many references to many media it's actually kind of insane (one piece is very obvious).

-For beers and Pretzels, I wouldn't include advanced talents (Spheres of Power) but legendary talents (SoM) are fine. I mean most of the time Legendary talents are just playing catch up with magic anyway. One guy being able to slash somebody long range...is not as ridiculous as someone shooting a fireball.

-Depending on your setting, you might consider limiting the list of casting traditions. You can just pick a bunch of classic traditions so people will be familiar with them: Traditional Magic, Divine Petitioners, Bardic Magic and Druidic should cover most vancian like ways of casting spells, if people aren't too creative.

Originally Posted by Chaos Emerald View Post
-If they are familiar with any kind of rpgs like diablo, path of the exiles, etc...tell them it's kinda like that...you choose talents everytime you rank up and you can choose specialize in two or three trees (aka spheres).
Okay, so this is the advice I was really looking for! I needed that starting point. Thanks!

Hell, I went to Reddit for help, and all they did is tell me that I'm terrible teacher of Vancian casting or I should switch systems LOL

Introducing the spheres as a series of skill trees that you would find in other RPGs is probably your best bet. I would assume that most have played some kind of game with such trees, so the concept should be easy to grasp. Toss them a basic two sentence(or so) blurb on what the spheres do, let them choose what they want to do, and help them pick the talents/class to do it.

Yeah, in a lot of ways the Spheres stuff is simpler than much of what's found in regular D&D/Pathfinder. Thinking of the talents as skill trees does sound like the best way to approach it.

IMO Spheres of Might in particular is badly written and unclear, though this mostly derives from my slightly irrational dislike of their use of the attack action (I won't rant about it right now). It also feels less... "necessary", or rather what I mean is, it interacts more weirdly with the existing rules than Spheres of Power which just replaces them. For beginners, I'd be tempted just to use Spheres of Power, and the regular martial classes.

Basically: Pick one or two families of skills (Spheres), pick extra talents from those Spheres, and you get Spell Points which are mana/whatever to be spent on things. That's essentially all there is to it in general terms, everything else is likely to depend on what they actually want to do with it.

The skill tree analogy seems like a solid point, and I'll come up with some descriptions of the various spheres and classes. That is indeed a solid starting point.

Fred, I agree that SoM has some issues in its writing. While I have no problem with the Attack Action, since it tones down the reliance of full attacks, the terminology makes things confusing. You have to really watch out for references to Attack Actions and just Attacks, and if you're not paying attention, you may think certain talents stack when they actually don't.

I'll be allowing SoM, since many have expressed interest in its many crazy options, although I suspect my wife will want nothing to do with it LOL

That's what I mean - the mechanics of it, well, it annoys me that so damn little of it works will full attacks because it means you need to invest quite a lot into SoM before it is even on a par with regular martials, but mostly it's the bad terminology. Paizo started it and should be slapped but it's way worse in SoM.

But I think as long as you get the basic idea of it and then read everything quite carefully, it's OK. It's not exactly complicated, just foolishly worded.

By far the most confusing and annoying aspect of Spheres (particularly Might) isn't really their fault: it's the nature of the Standard Action attack called Attack. As in, the one that is specifically called out for things like Vital Strike, and specifically called out as NOT being the attack of a charge, or with Attack On the Run or similar stuff (Yes I realize you guys talked about it above, but I like ranting about it).

Dear Paizo: This hasn't stopped being dumb and confusing for no good reason. You should be able to Vital Strike on a charge, it's not going to break the game more than the Fly spell already does.

Once you wrap your head around that (might I recommend renaming the Attack action as the Basic Attack action? Make it clearer how it's its own thing), a lot of Might is easier to understand. Talents are kind of like awesome feats or feat-replacements you gain at certain levels (as shown on your class chart), grouped together in Spheres with a theme of sorts. Generally speaking, they tend to develop a character more horizontally than vertically, giving you more options and versatility both in and out of combat (free skill ranks, new movement modes, cool fluff, etc), and as a whole they make martial characters a lot more mobile by emphasizing the Basic Attack action and de-emphasizing the Full-Attack.

Edit: I admit I'm mostly speaking of Might here. I'm on the fence with Spheres of Power; it's neat and allows for some cool builds which are much harder with the vancian style, but you can also definitely break the game in half with a few... weird combos.

@TheFred - In 3.5 I would agree that SoM needs to put in significant work to match core martial damage from full-attacks. However in Pathfinder I find full-attacks are much harder to come by for melee characters, because Paizo seemed to go out of their way to make Pounce and similar stuff harder to get. So outside of some very specific builds (Pummeling Style, natural attack Barbarians, etc), the improved focus on the Basic Attack action probably bridges the overall damage gap far more than you might expect, especially when you take the Vital Strike chain into account.

I will absolutely agree with you that some design choices are still questionable (the aforementioned Vital Strike chain might as well be considered a feat tax), and terminology issues... well, we've both complained about that in this thread. It needs some balancing work too; some spheres are straight up better than their alternatives (Barrage is a clear win over Sniper, for example). And yes, a ranged build with solid defenses like the Zen Archer probably stomps all over anything a Sphere of Might class can do. But I still say it's a massive step in the right direction with expanded options in and out of combat for martial characters who really do need it.

Originally Posted by Duckerby View Post

Once you wrap your head around that (might I recommend renaming the Attack action as the Basic Attack action? Make it clearer how it's its own thing), a lot of Might is easier to understand.
And now I'm thinking Lunch Money...

But that's a good idea to refer to Attack Actions as Basic Attacks. Now if only I could edit the wiki...


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