To begin, I'll copy a comment I wrote yesterday, describing my spellcasting system:
For my spells to function, the character must first 'cast' the spell, which means to gather the energy and control it within; during this time, if spellcasters are jarred or have their concentration broken (by a weapon, attack, another spell, etcetera), then the spell is RUINED and cannot be cast again that day.
Once the spell is cast and ready (and with high level spells, this can take two to five combat rounds), it must be 'discharged,' which means sent out from the spellcaster's body at the thing to be influenced. Thus, the full procedure of using spells is loading the gun/firing the gun.
Consider the limitations this provides:
- Spells must be cast from a vantage point where the caster is protected; otherwise, a stray arrow, thrown weapon, splinter from a ballista or some other flying object is going to ruin a critical, valuable spell at the wrong moment.
- Everyone on the battle field knows that when someone starts moving, chanting, waving their arms about, falling into a state of deep concentration and so on, that the 'gun' is being loaded and that the spell is coming soon after; therefore, seeing this happen will cause an opponent able to free themselves from a melee to hurl themselves at a caster to stop the spell from happening.
- Nor can the caster stand amidst a mob of friendlies, since as the battle waves and pushes, a shoulder slamming into the caster at the wrong moment will also ruin the spell.
- Because casters cannot, therefore, stand on the front line of a battle and throw spells, spell power is limited by what the caster can see - which in many cases won't be much if the caster is at the back of an allied mob.
- Coupled with the spell taking time, so that something like a fireball will take three complete combat rounds to employ in the battle, more of the actual battle is taken up with actual combat and not spell use.
Compare the battle described with a gaming system that allows casters to use spells without having to 'load the gun,' repeatedly, as often as they need to, without any specific concern regarding the environment surrounding them. Clearly, from the combat, every major change occurred because a caster let loose a spell or fired a wand: the ladder force at the south wall being extinguished in the first few rounds; the north gate battle being utterly changed by a second fireball; the appearance of ghouls and toads, shoring up the battle after the battle was lost; the north gate being warped so that it couldn't be closed; the brownies being conjured, greatly affecting two troops of defenders; and finally the strongest mage smoking the defenders once free to let loose. Change this to free, continuous use of magic and we have greatly diminished the effects of ordinary, low level fighters who literally held the situation by sheer numbers and will.
The insistence that magic should be continuous and convenient has, like the creation of the machine gun over the flintlock, eradicated much of the tactical quality inherent in battle. Magic is altogether too powerful a force in the game to permit an inexhaustible supply of it. But then, I know that most 'battles' that are being run consist of three or four super-powerful enemies against three or four super-powerful players, so that battle has degraded into endless slug-fests of smashing down hundreds of hit points by small percentages round after round. Battles are not, as I've depicted, large numbers of contestants, many of which are fragile and easily blown apart. As such, the defense to the role-playing 'machine gun' has not been the acknowledgement of the meaningless trench war slaughter that followed historically, but the transformation of characters and enemies into thickened rubberized Gumby dolls able to soak up damage.
I learned much from the mass combat, so that today I would play it very differently from a defending point of view. Today, rather than have the towers populated by archers whose purpose it was to shoot into the crowd of attackers, they would be trained and ready to identify spellcasters on the periphery, keep them under close observation and have means to tag such individuals for other archers. From the beginning of the combat, these archers would be waiting for a spellcaster to twitch; they would be trained to recognize the tiniest movement or lack of movement (concentration) as spellcasting. And every spellcaster on the field that had released a spell would be under a continuous barrage of fire, while ordinary attackers were virtually ignored. Why fire at a man-at-arms when that man-at-arms is not going to win the battle for the enemy?
On a grand, worldly scale, this would produce a combat strategy where casters deliberately kept themselves concealed until the latest possible moment, to get that first, all-important blast off before they were identified - recognizing that once they did, they would be known and afterwards targeted mercilessly, by teams whose sole existence was to be trained to shoot at and hit magic users. Like other crack teams of trained forces through history, these 'mageshooters' would be deadly shots, +2 to hit vs. spellcasters at least, perhaps +4 if the target is actually casting.
Not that I want someone to run with that and create some goofy character class out of it.