Coded blue.

Wednesday 31 July 2002

Screenshot Morrowind

Pic of the day: Please welcome Mr Scamp (second from left) to the family. Each of these summoned creatures requires its own spell. (In the foreground the Summoner, this time without silly hat.)

Morrowind magic

Thinking back, I realized that yesterday's entry did not contain nearly all I wanted to say about my Morrowind Summoner. Basically it was written for those already familiar with Morrowind. But there are still people just now getting the game, and some who will get it later. (It does require some hefty hardware 256 MB RAM is really a minimum.) So I decided to use the Summoner to explain some features of Morrowind, for better and for worse...


Compared to the earlier games, magic is powered down quite a bit. The main difference in my opinion is the way magic scales with levels. Or not, as the case may be. In Daggerfall most spells had a level multiplier; that is, they grew automatically more powerful for each level. A levitate spell would keep you floating in the air twice as long at level 4 compared to level 2, and so on. In Morrowind, leveling up has no effect on your spellcasting, unless you choose to improve your attributes intelligence or willpower. To make matters worse, some Schools (families of spells) are governed by intelligence and some by willpower. Intelligence also decides how many spell points you have available for casting. Finally there is a good chance that your spell will fail unless your skill is high enough, and this too is independent of level. You can be level 30 and still fail a simple spell if you don't have enough practice in that school of magic. There are 6 different schools of magic, and practice in one of them has no effect on the five others!

Even by ordinary RPG standards, Morrowind spellcasting is not impressive. The only magic system I can think of that may be worse for a magic user is GURPS. And in Morrowind, magic is also powered down compared to the fighting and thievery skills. A pure mage is a sorry sight indeed.

But then again, in Morrowind there is no need to play a "pure mage". As my character demonstrates, you can throw in armor and weapon skills as needed. In fact, the Summoner has 3 fighting skills among his 5 most important skills, even if he is a mage! Furthermore, the skills you use the most will increase no matter what your class. Only the 10 class- defining skills (5 major and 5 minor) will count toward leveling, but the rest can all be increased by training. So my summoner could get a longsword and go whack things until his Long Blade skill reached 100. He would not level up, or at least not from using the sword. But he would still become a dangerous swordsman. (Actually it would be a good idea to level now and then while doing this, as he would then get multipliers to his strength attribute during level-up. The maximum multiplier you can get for each level is 5, so raising a skill by 100 or even 20 in one level is kinda overkill.)


The solution to the magic problem is enchanting. You can enchant various items with magic spells, depending on the quality of the item. You need to know the spell, you need to have the item, you need to have or buy a soul gem with a trapped soul, and you need lots of money (or extremely high Enchant skill and intelligence). But once the item is made, it can be used to cast the spell over and over. There is no risk of failure as long as there is enough magick charge left in the item. When depleted, it needs time to recharge. This time depends on you Enchant skill, which also goes up with use. It also depends on the spell relative to the trapped soul: With a simple spell and a high level soul you can cast the spell over and over for a long time. If the soul comes from a pitiful monster or the spell is powerful, you may have to wait for hours between each casting.

You can also substitute alchemy for basic or common spells like healing or levitation. This will save on your spell points so you can concentrate on the more unique spell effects.

The whole School of Conjuration consists of unique spell effects. You have to learn (that is, buy) one spell for each creature or item you will summon. There is a wide range of spirit beings that can be summoned. It starts with a simple ancestral ghost, and continues with skeletons and other bone creatures, through a range of Daedra to some of the most powerful monsters in the game. Any of these spells can be made into an enchantment. The standard summoning lasts for 1 minute (real time), but you can define your own spells with shorter or longer duration. The same holds true for enchanted items: The longer the summoning lasts, the more expensive the enchantment, both in terms of money and item quality and soul quality. So don't expect to have Golden Saints (an uber monster) as constant companions, at least until late in the game.

As an example, my Summoner bought a belt that summons Skeletal Warrior for 10 seconds. It was cheap, and well it should be: It takes typically 5 or more seconds for the warrior to realize what is going on, who is fighting who, and leap into action. If you stand a bit away from the battle, he may not have time to deliver a blow before he dissolves. If you are closer, he may get in one or two blows ... still, it is in character for my Summoner to use such a device, and it is better than nothing.

I hope this has given the outside spectator a glimpse of just how complex this game is and how much strategy there is involved, especially in the use of magic. A fighter may grab his longsword and whack at moving objects till they stop moving, but a mage needs intelligence both in the game and in real life!

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: A somewhat queer dream
Two years ago: Unbored
Three years ago: Debunking Pascal's Wager

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