Golden Xan

Staff member
Mallius Odium
Players Playing Bloodbath Demo
OG 2020
Grim Scribe
Vampire Scholar
Old World
Mar 30, 2019
Hey everyone,

I would like to share some thoughts on what the magick system in Deadhaus could be like, especially for magick-focused classes such as the Liche, tying the words of power system from Eternal Darkness, the Tarot Cards in DHS, and even some Blood Omen in between.

Before I talk about this suggestion itself, let's consider an issue we have with the distinction between Magick and Essence. Magick is typically considered anything that isn't naturally physical in games. So every kind of power would consume "mana" or an alternate element to be cast. But in DHS, we have Magick and Essence, and Essence is hard to define. It could be a secondary, green mana bar, but that would make it less interesting. So to make Essence relevant and meaningful, I propose classifying it as such:

Magick is related to primordial powers: force and elements. By force, I mean the manipulation of physical forces, such as gravity, pressure, energy. By elements I mean the typical elements used in games, such as fire, water, air, earth, etc.
Essence is related to the soul and form. Souls are what determines consciousness. They are taken from living things, and they are attached to different shapes to create various forms (thus, Wights and the many transformations some of the classes go through).

With that out of the way, onto the suggestion.

This system focuses on the spellcasting for a Liche.
Spells uses Words of Power to manifest. Each spell has three components:

A Word of Conjuration, a Word of Projection, and a Word of True Name [Alternatively, just True Name, a Battery, or a Catalyst]. Each component determines one aspect of the spell.

Words of Conjuration specify the method in which the spell is cast. Conjuration happens with the uttering of words in one way or another. You can think about the words to conjure the spell, or you can say them out loud, or you can sing them in ritualistic fashion--runes forming around you as you do, Eternal Darkness-style.
{Xul} "Thought" allows you to cast spells instantaneously, without having to charge the spell, but they are weaker.
{Tyr} "Pronunciation" allows you to channel spells for as long as you maintain the spell triggered, consuming mana over time.
{Kata} "Ritual" prevents you to move as you sing the words in place, runes appear manifest around you in the ground or the air, and you release a more powerful version of the spell, with a limited charge.

Words of Projection determines how the spell is going to be manifested. For example, whether the spell is a breath attack, an environmental change, a bolt being tossed, a trap being formed on an area, a rapid blast, or else.
{Tú} "Bolt" sends a flying projectile straight at the target.
{Yol} "Rain" creates an environmental change in the surroundings.
{Xal} "Breath" creates a cone of breath in front of you.
{Ose} "Pillar" springs forth a pillar of an element.
{Virth} "Whirlwind" manifests the power in a radial around you.
{Qwirar} "Summon" invocates a minion under your control.

Words of True Names are the source of power you are using, such as the core of a Will-o'-Wisp to create blinding lights, or the molten heart of a lava elemental to manifest spells of fire, or a slab of living rotten meat to spew forth diseases. It is what constitutes the spell type, it is a battery, or catalyst. The True Name of the being you control is the Word of Power itself.
{Allmadoth} as the name of a Lava Elemental, allowing you to use its own fire powers to fuel your spells.
{Xurranoth} as a Lightning Elemental, allowing you to use electricity in your spells.
{Gallmazuuch} as the name for the Basilican Giant Toad, giving you acid to spew forth.
{Tragmun} as the name of a Wasp Queen of Tropos, allowing you to create swarms of insects to sting your enemies.
{Kolmutharaglolizogledak} as the name of the Will-o'-Wisp, permitting you to manifest its blinding light.

This effectively manifests in-game in the following way:
Each Word of Power is represented by a Tarot Card. You have your Tarot Deck, and before entering a mission you can equipe however many cards you want, up to your maximum, with a minimum of one of each type.

When you are in a mission, you have access to your current spell attack at all times. For this example, let's say your spell attack is assigned to your Right Mouse Button (RMB).

To change the spell you intend to cast, you have to select its components. Each component is associated to a function, key/button press. As an example, Conjuration can be accessed by Q, Projection by E, and True Name by F. When you press and hold either of those keys, it opens a selection wheel that divides itself equally between the number of Tarot Cards of that type assigned to your Deck. Alternatively, you could also press the key to cycle between the available words for that type.
If you press and hold Q and you have two Conjuration types assigned, you have one type at the left side of the selection wheel and the other type at the right. If you have three, one would be above, the second on the bottom left, and the third on the bottom right, and so on for further amounts.

When you select one Conjuration, one Projection, and one True Name, you have your spell ready, and you can cast it however many times you want without having to prime the spell again. If you want to change any aspect of the spell, such as fire to lightning, all you have to do is change the True Name, and the rest of the spell stays the same, permitting you to quickly switch between different kinds of spells.

If you have three Tarot Cards for each component, you will have 27 spells with just 9 slots, that can be swapped interchangeably with just 3 key/button assignments. If you can have more Tarot Card slots, that number can grow quickly.

An example spell would be Tyr-Xal-Allmadoth [Pronunciation, Breath, Fire Elemental] to, after a brief channeling period where the Liche pronounces the words, start spewing forth fire in front of you. By changing Pronunciation with Ritual, you could swallow an entire field with lingering fire. By changing Breath for Whirlwind, you could make gusts of fire orbs rapidly flowing around you, hitting those who get too close. Make that a Ritual Whirlwind, and you instead summon a fiery tornado, controlling its movements.

Another example would be Kata-Tú-Xurranoth [Ritual, Bolt, Lightning Elemental] to sing in place and summon a lightning bolt from the sky, exploding the area of impact and electrocuting the targets. Swap Bolt for Pillar and you have an area around you bursting with electricity. Have Thought and Breath to send instant trickling through your fingers, stunning a single opponent, or use Pronunciation instead to sustain it, like Emperor Palpatine would proudly use.

As for the consumption of Mana or Essence, I'd say that all spells consume mana. If there is no mana, then Vitality is consumed. If there is no Vitality either, Essence is consumed. The Tarot Cards associated with draining souls are Essence-based, and they can help you recuperate your pools faster, and some Tarot Cards could influence the Essence and Vitality pool you have, but I'd argue every spell should consume Mana, initially. The Liche can store his own soul in a vessel and access its power from afar, but that is done magickally more so than by manipulation of Essence.

This is the core of the system. It could be made more complex by adding the Words of Annex, permitting the linkage of two different True Names. But it could also be simplified, by removing Projection, and having the Conjuration determine how the spell will manifest, or vice-versa.

Now, I recognize this system has its flaws, which is one of the reasons why I'd like to discuss it with the community and hear other people's thoughts. Some of the main criticisms I could think of were:
  • Selecting spells can be clumsy, or slow, for a fast-paced action experience.
    That much could be true, but then again, having one spell always primed and being able to create a completely different spell with a single button press does not slow you down much. Choosing spells would be initially difficult, but you'd soon memorize the combinations you prefer, and swapping can be as fast as pressing two keys in a row.
    It is also true to say that not every class is supposed to play the same, and that perhaps a Liche would be much slower to prepare for combat, instead of jumping into enemies like the Vampire, yet be powerful in its own way.
    Alternatively, if selecting spells were to prove itself too inconvenient for some reason, the spells could instead be "crafted" using the Words of Power before the mission, assigning them to slots as the Tarot Cards themselves, each Tarot representing a spell, and then you'd have instead 9 spells selected for a mission instead of 27 (for 9 slots), but that would simplify their selection while still having the freedom in creating them. Thank you @Faceless Mike for the suggestion.
  • Some Words of Power just don't mix together.
    This is something that would have to be looked into when designing the Words themselves. It could be that some combinations simply don't work, and you'd have to learn them, or that they simply cannot be selected together. With crafting the spells before the mission, that solves that problem by having a limited set of combinations, thought that again lacks in freedom. It would depend on the developer's creativity to make it work.
  • This spell system doesn't work with other classes.
    It could work, but I agree that it would require some adaptation, and that's a problem. I would argue that this system is appropriate for Liches only, and other classes would have their own ways of handling magick. That gets us to the next point.
  • That's a lot of development and effort put in for a single class.
    Yes, it is. But each class is supposed to be asymmetrical, so each class should already play differently from each other, and having a proper spell system for the Liche would go a long way in making it different from most wizard classes in most games.
  • What about Physical and Contained powers?
    This is possibly another matter entirely. It could be that spells that manipulate the mind and the consciousness, those that transform and intermingle, and those that animate the unliving are Essence-based and either use the same system, yet consume Essence, or don't use the spell system at all, and it could be that the Physical powers are focused on fighting skills, yet still manifest through Magick and Mana, or that they change your fighting style completely. I initially considered having Mana be represented by something else entirely, such as runes, with each rune having a cooldown before it could be used again, and having Essence as the Liche's mana bar itself, but that would go a bit against its Trinary Archetype positioning, and it would add a level of complexity to the spell casting that I'm not sure would be beneficial. This is something I'd especially like to hear suggestions on.
  • What about basic, non-magickal attacks?
    I'd say that it is appropriate for Liches to not be able to attack in melee like other characters do (moving around and hitting people with a staff), but instead use its telecinetic powers to levitate weapons, fragments, and objects around it to swing and fling things at oponents. Physical Tarot Cards would improve this capability, as well as help the Liche move around faster, being able to levitate and manipulate gravity to either push enemies away or to float himself away in bursts. This aspect of combat is more appropriate to be separated from the spell system, I believe.

And that's how far I got into thinking about a spell system for the Liche. What are your thoughts?
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Link to the Thread Bishop started a little while back with our thoughts on the same topic.
I took a look at this as well as the Evolution of magic.

I would propose a few things differently.

First to separate essence from magic, start with the concept of separation of sorcery vs primordial magics.

With this there will be overlap, but it makes the most sense to my brain.

Pulling out all notions of spirit/soul from a liche makes no sense to me since they are masters of their own spirit, capable of locking it away in a phylactery. They understand death and spirits in ways far beyond that most do. Saying "nah, they just don't do that because essence is a different thing" doesn't really make thematic sense and it really handicaps what they should be capable of according to literally every definition of liche including DH. Where you would mark the divide is the potency and specialization, ie essence centric casters would have the higher ceiling there, but not have it exclusive.

Instead put your sorcery type stuff with liches, then theme your essence around stuff that makes sense for shamans and druids and witch doctors and such.

There is overlap in both directions but they are simply two ways of understanding different things, each having it's own relevant use case and focus areas with higher ceilings.

This is also consistent within lore to a degree with the write ups of Wights being representative of more primitive undeath understanding and magics.

So yeah, it's less about functional separation and more about thematic stuff.

Next, your power words thing... it's too clumsy imho. There is a way to make it work though, which is using the power words for meta magic stuff (ie adding in extra range, or damage, or AoE or whatever. This way you still have your spamables (which are essential for glass cannons since they must have high mobility and both burst and sustain DPS), but if you want to be enhance your magic like a friggin proper liche wizard you start dipping into more and more powerful power words with different combinations to different effects.

The more powerful you want your liche to be the more you enhance how many power words you can stack, and then it's a balance of "how fast do I need to do this, what can I have prepared, and how long is it going to take to cast".

This allows that if you were say, doing a castle seige something like the old world of warhammer game, and you're atop a tower, reigning fiery deatth across tthe battle field is totally doable because you have the time to prepare and cast such a potent spell... but at the same time, if you're crawling through a dungeon you may just need a dimension door type spell to avoid getting turned to paste by a trap of boss telegraph attack or something.

The versatility is really the reason you play a caster to begin with-- that and shiny particle affects.

By putting the emphasis on customization of the spell, you're increasing the versatility and playing to both the strength and appeal of the class type.
I think we ended up saying mostly the same things. You are correct to say that Liches have the power to manipulate souls, and that they so even with their own, and I think the distinction I made of magick and essence was revolving around that. Theme, as you said, is probably what should differentiate them, even with overlaps existing.

I also think it's quite possible that this suggestion does end up being clumsy. I think it's possible it does not, depending on how well it is created, but it could be clumsy. That's why my first alternative suggestion was to use the words to craft spells instead, before engaging on a mission, which I believe is very close to what you were thinking.

Now, as for customization, I think there is no better way to customize spells than to be able to literally create them on the fly in the middle of the action, because that way you have access to a huge variety of powers at any given moment. The issue lies in how that is done in a way that is fun and efficient.

We also have to consider that each element is tied to a Tarot Card, and each have their own talent trees that you can customize freely, allowing you to make those smaller, yet meaningful, changes such as increasing reach over length of a spell, etc. I believe we had similar very considerations in mind.
When it comes to distinguishing magick from essence I've always thought of it like comparing electricity to gravity. Essence manifests around and within physical structures, holding the souls to their vessels like gravity holds us to the ground.

The body is the physical element or presence in the realm of the living, the soul is the magick or energy that animates the body, and the essence is the gravitational field or force that holds it all together.
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