This leads me to think that no doubt a lot of people have probably tried alternate systems. Has anyone here tried any they’d care to describe?
Sure. Generally, I like my sorcery to have more ideas, but simpler execution.
What I’ve been doing is using magic as a tool method. Magic as a ‘swiss army knife’. ‘Information is crucial’ says the canon. I ask sorcerors to have spell lists, so I can anticipate functions/impacts desired by the PC.
The best use of magic might be getting hidden info before a fight or discovering other magic so you can plan defense.
I treat most ‘combat’ spells as wounding attacks with special effects.
I base all magic damage on the same premise as tech damage or blade damage: that is weapons are designed to do enough hurt to lame/kill a mortal. This means steel/tech/magic has much less impact on a healthy amberite (roughly 25% impact of the same harmful force.) I make it unlikely that a single application of steel/tech/magic is fatal to PCs and their peers.
Yes, there are lynchpins.
Yes, there are racks.
Yes, you need to understand the local magic of shadow.
Yes, the flinging of spells (psyche) is generally faster than steel (warfare), but the preparation of spells is much slower than maintaining steel.
With the above carrying over from ADRPG ruleset as ‘style’ rather than substance. And what I mean by ‘style’ is that ‘sorceror styling’ can be assumed once everyone knows what they should be. Once you know how a revolver works, using it is style. The GM doesn’t usually ask PCs if they have loaded the revolver they just pulled. But the GM will remember is the revolver has already been used six times without time for reloads.
With these assumptions, I’ve never had trouble getting sorcerors to understand the genre expectations of my Amber games.
What if a spell is designed to flatten a castle?
Which is the same question, I suppose, as “what if a megaton fusion bomb is used on a command post?”
In my genre game experience, if sorcerors create these mega-spells they rarely have any place to use them. That would change if you had a king/army you wanted removed in an impressive fashion.
And Eric did use nukes on Corwin/Bleys’ army. Canon support and all that.
So my answer tries to define the ‘backstory’ to the spell/tech/weapon. Tech has its own style and manners. You can order a fanatic to use a fusion bomb on strangers. You can steal a fusion bomb. You can know enough tech to set one off, even if you didn’t design it.
There is little point in telling a PC that s/he can’t do this (or that it isn’t canon). So as GM, I want the story behind the device. How did you corrupt the officials to get the bomb? How long did you search shadow?
This answer informs the GM’s response about the spell for flattening castles. The difference (favorable, IMHO) is that sorcerors can steal spells, but still have to do the prep and carry around the racked energy. (Setting aside that you could just get a sorceror to do this for you.)
So again, I don’t say “no”… I ask about style and process. In this, I use a rule of thumb pulled from the ADRPG ranks: ranking up is about 1.5x to 2x as good.
Castle flattening is killing something like 100 to 1000 people in one brute attack. That would be six to nine rank steps. Starting from the basic magic premise that ‘wounding’ magic levels are the starting point, the PC needs to show six to nine times the effort to create and maintain the ‘flatten castle’ spell.
If a basic spell takes two hours to rig: ‘flatten castle’ takes 18 hours. Time is a resource that is strictly monitored by the GM. Fast-time shadows work oddly and spells constructed in fast-time are less predicatable.
The spell still needs a lynchpin, local magic key and line of sight delivery. Basic rules of discovery, defense and dispell still apply. Discovery/attunement of magic spells to a strange shadow takes a couple hours.
Now if that question was more: “Can I kill a couple of amberites in yonder castle by spell from a nearby hill with my mega-spell?”
The GM answer is maybe, but don’t count them dead until you see the bodies.