Using Abstraction and Distillation with BWG

Abstraction and Distillation is one of the few chapters in the Magic Burner that we at BWHQ felt was not really compatible with BWG. After all, it relies on the BWR rule, Spellweaver, in which you used Sorcery + Will to cast spells and abstractions.

I know a number of you are interested in a solution so you can go back to using abstractions in your games. I propose we take the Abstraction and Distillation rules as they are, but remove the Spellweaver component. You now use Sorcery alone to cast (though FoRKs and Help are kosher).

But the obstacles are so dangerously high! Well, I further propose that we add a series of items to the Resources list. Here’s an example:

Rod of Inferi

These rods are a common accoutrement among wizards, especially young ones, who follow the Path of Fire. Anyone with a bit of knowledge of sorcery can easily identify the caster’s specialty from this item.

This two-foot long rod is carved of ebony and inlaid with flames in purest gold. Held aloft while casting any Fire element spell, the Rod of Inferi grants +3D to Sorcery.

The Rod of Inferi is a focus meant to aid the wizard in channeling the raw eldritch forces of Fire element abstractions. If used to cast a finalized spell, the rarified and focused energies are too much for the rod to contain. Upon completion of such a spell, it erupts in flames and quickly burns to ash. Roll a die of Fate. On a roll of 1, the caster is unable to throw the rod away before it is consumed in flame. Power = Caster’s Will + 2, VA 2. Die of Fate to Determine IMS.

Saliva from a salamander.[/INDENT]

I think similar foci would be available for each Element and Impetus, but you can only ever benefit from one while casting an abstraction; no using a White focus and a Destroy focus at the same time.

In Character Burning these could be available as follows (pricing is tentative, this may be way too low):

[li]+1D Advantage, 5 rps
[/li][li]+2D Advantage, 10 rps
[/li][li]+3D Advantage, 15 rps

[li]+1D Advantage, 10 rps
[/li][li]+2D Advantage, 15 rps
[/li][li]+3D Advantage, 20 rps

Once the game starts, you may purchase these items from a skilled Enchanter using resources: Element Focus +1D (Ob 3); Element Focus +2D (Ob 4); Impetus Focus +1D (Ob 4); Element Focus +3D (Ob 5); Impetus Focus +2D (Ob 5); Impetus Focus +3D (Ob 6).

You may also create these items yourself using the Enchanting rules.


Looks very cool, and a good way to get around the new difficulty of the abstractions system. If I was bringing these in, I might even waive the process of learning abstractions, and just say you can’t perform them without one of these focuses.

But the obstacles are so dangerously high!
After enough Abstraction madness in my last campaign, I’ve decided fuck Sorcerers, those Obs should be dangerously high.

I had another thought: Traits. If you want to do lots of abstracting, maybe you could make a Die Trait to that effect. +1D to any Sorcery test that involves abstraction. Something like that. Or higher-value die traits that apply to a particular impetus or element; a Sorcerer could have a trait like Draconic Heritage, giving them a +2D to cast any Fire abstractions.

I like the focus idea. Maybe that’s how sorcerers actually find abstractions; instead of learning them, they find one of these foci that allows them to add the facet.

A player of mine wondere if abstraction and distillation shouldn’t be a bit easier for a wizard that already knows spells of the same facets. I think that makes perfect sense so here’s my take on a rule that would allow for easir BWG compatibility:

Been There, Done That
During abstraction and distillation, a wizard may use spells they already know as FoRKs. Each spell may only be used as a FoRK once per ring and the spell must share the same facet for the ring it is being FoRKed into. A different spell may be FoRKed into another ring but you may never FoRK more than 5 spells during the abstraction process (although your spell may contain multiple facets per ring you may only FoRK one spell for ring). During distillation the number of spells you may FoRK is reduced as the wizard combines the different facets; First distillation, 4 spells; Second distillation, 3 spells; Final distillation, 2 spells. FoRKing a spell grants a +1D advantage; if the spell shares a total of 3 or more facets it grants +2D.

So… That’s actually easier than the old-school Sorcery+Will version. (At least if you have a lower-average B4 Will and are well-supplied with spells. But we are talking about a sorcerer who is now distilling more spells, so if she ain’t well-supplied now she will be soon.) You’re talking about adding, oh, probably a minimum of three dice* every time, up to a max of ten dice. (And while I’d be surprised to see ten dice ever, I would not be surprised to see that those 3-facet matches are more common than you think.)

I’d do something much, much tamer. More like a 1D advantage if you know a spell with the same Element or Impetus, and a separate 1D if you have a spell that’s closely related conceptually but has different facets (like if I knew Turn Aside the Blade, I might lobby for advantage when distilling a different physical protective effect). At the very least, I’d eliminate FoRKs for the Origin and Duration facets: I suspect if you look only for matches in the other three rings you’ll get results somewhat like what you’re envisioning.

Just for kicks, I opened BWG to a random spells page (210/211). Everything on that page is Personal Origin. There are four Anima elements, plus a Heaven and an Arcana. Two Instantaneous duration, four Sustained.One Presence area, one 10s of Paces, one Single Target and three Single Target/Caster. Two Tax Impetus, two Enhance, and one each Influence and Control.

Now let’s say I have the first five spells on that page (Courage, Dark of Night, Delirium Tremens, Dexterity of the Cat, and Dog’s Ear.) I want to create the sixth (Eldritch Shield). None of my spells has any conceptual link to my new spell. I have no Turn Aside the Blade, no Touch Not Sublime Flesh, nothing particularly weird-wizardy, no spells that affect other magic. Nevertheless I have two 3-facet matches, so I assign one each as my Area and Duration matches and something else as my Duration match. That gives me five extra dice, just for having some unrelated spells. And I’m not cherry-picking Eldritch Shield: Dark of Night would get four dice, everything else gets five or more.

*There are only three Origins, so if you can’t find a match for that facet you suck. Duration is similar, with four options but most spells falling in Instant or Sustained. Area is more varied, but an awful lot of effects fall into Single Target/Caster or Presence: unless you absolutely need this spell to be 10s of Paces, expect it to be shoehorned into one of those for extra dice.

This thread is about compatibility of Abstraction and distillation with BWG and not about how to nerf it. At least with Will removed from sorcery you aren’t going to have a wizard with a massive Will stat which will have an effect on other aspects of the system in addition to their magick. I expected that getting 5 dice wouldn’t be too difficult and during abstraction would be a big help for a wizard. Once into distillation, the FoRKs are reduced and in order to FoRK into the combined facets the wizard must have a spell that matches both facets. Even if that is easily done, you’re looking at 8D, 6D, and finally 4D at the most. Yes, that’s a lot but again the wizard player isn’t sitting there with a B8 Will because he needs it for Sorcery; they can have a normal Will like everyone else but still get as many dice as the original system was designed to provide them. If you want to tone it down, just limit the spells to providing +1D only.

Honestly, once you get to around a B7 Sorcery, it really stops being so much of a problem. However, if you really really really want to get advantage dice to Sorcery when Abstracting, try -wises as FoRK’s. Folklore and/or Astrology could work. Don’t forget Doctrine - maybe make a special skill called Doctrine of the Magi or something. Or just use the existing Doctrine skill.

Believe me, a player who is clever in lobbying for FoRK’s, and puts in the time to get Persona artha, will have the dice to feasibly pull off some Abstractions.

I apologize if my wall-of-text made it look like I was slamming your idea. I wasn’t; I think it’s a cool, interesting concept. I was, and am, concerned that “bonus for related spells” is cool and interesting but assigning bonus dice based on overlapping facets without any other control doesn’t really create that effect, becoming instead “gimme 6D advantage for having some random unrelated spells.”

So, there are two issues here. One is power-level calibration. I haven’t run or played sorcery long-term, so I should probably punt on that one. But I have heard from folks who have made serious use of Abstraction under the old rules that it did tend to get out of hand, so in general terms I suspect it needs more dice than just Sorcery but fewer than the old Sorcery+Will was giving it. (For comparison, Thor’s OP gives 1D-3D advantage on any given test, not 3D-8D.) Maybe that’s not your experience and you want to increase the power of Abstraction over the old setup. Tune it to your taste.

The second is whether it really enforces the notion of related spells. I don’t know how important that is to you. It is what jumped out at me as cool about your idea, so maybe I’m concentrating on it too much. Element and Impetus overlaps do indicate some degree of relation. Duration overlaps absolutely do not. In fact, if I were to make heavy use of your system, the first thing I’d do when I decided I needed a new spell is ask “Is there any way I can write this effect to be Personal, Instant/Sustained, Single Target?” If I can do that, I pretty much get six dice automatically from the dozens of totally-unrelated spells sharing that profile (some three of which I’m almost assured to have). Maybe that’s fine and you just want a way to give out six dice for abstraction, but I’d want more of a guarantee of relation.

So: I think it’s a cool idea but I’m concerned that the details make it so most of the dice come from the least-related facets. I want to make it more related! What about an automatic 2D for any Element or Impetus match, with another one or two available for conceptually-related nonmatching spells?

I really like this idea Thor. I have been considering making Abstraction the only spellcasting system in our campaign, and your idea is similar to an idea I have been tossing around with using spell components to add +1D to spells with certain elements. I actually toyed with the idea of letting sorcerer players use certain things in the environment to aid them in spellcasting as well (essentially using environmental surroundings as components). For example, a bonfire within the presence of the caster would grant +1D for casting spells with the fire element.

For other components, I would require them to find the appropriate focus/rare herb/ogre toe or whatnot for a one time bonus (the components are used up in the casting). They could use herbalism skills, circles, and other appropriate skills to wrangle up components during down time.

I think if I added your focus items, I would likely only grant +1D for spells of the proper element.

What do you think about using spell components?

One other related question: Do you find that players typically use Abstraction during practice times, distilling spells during that time, and then later having the Distilled spell ready for adventure? It does seem that casting times are rather large for Abstractions and may not work so well in combat.