Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Frayed Knights: “I Wanna Cast ‘Magic Missile!'”

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 3, 2011

Welcome to another installment of the design of the soon-to-be best-selling (in my dreams, at least) old-school-ish turn-based CRPG that hearkens back to a day when gaming meant making sure the supplies of Cheetos and Mountain Dew were fully stocked before attacking the darkness.

Today we’re gonna talk about spells.

Number and Type of Spells

A little bit has been said about the number of spells in this game. I must admit, the whole concept is a little bit daunting even to me. I have a little script I run which reports the totals so I don’t have to do much counting, because the counting is getting a little insane. After the last additions, the counts were:

SORCERER SPELLS: 30 unique spells + 109 variants.
DARK PRIEST SPELLS: 25 unique spells + 101 variants.
LIGHT PRIEST SPELLS: 32 unique spells + 139 variants.
NATURE PRIEST SPELLS: 31 unique spells + 133 variants.

If my minimal math skills serve me well, that’s around 118 unique(ish) spells, plus 482 variants of said spells available in the game. So far. That’s like… 600 in total.  But it really depends on how you count. When I say unique-ish, I mean that there are a few spells (but actually not many) that are shared between classes that are counted as unique, but may share the same effect — though they may actually be cast at a different level and have different endurance costs.  For example, while all three varieties of priests can cast straight-up heals, the divine (light) priests get the spells earlier and cheaper, nature priests (like Benjamin) get it next, and for dark priests tend to get them pretty late and at higher endurance cost.

Spells are divied up, as you can see above, into four categories: Sorcerer, Light Priest, Dark Priest, and Nature Priest. Anybody can take a feat to pick up sorcerer spells (though they will have to pick up a few additional feats to be able to cast the full range of said spells, and will never be QUITE as effective as the sorcerer class at making them “stick”). Anybody can take ONE set of priest spells, too. But only one. The gods are jealous and stuff.

Rare Spells

Not all spells are automatically available when you level up. Some of the better ones have to be found. Most of the time, you have to find a scroll, and have the Arcane Runes feat to be able to use them (Sorcerers – read, “Chloe,” get this automatically. Priests have to pick it up separately). If you use a scroll with an unfamiliar spell on it which you’d be able to cast given your current feats and level (or even if you are only a couple of levels shy of being able to cast it), you are given the option to memorize the spell instead. If you do, the spell becomes permanently part of your repertoire.

There’s also at least one case in FK1 where a spell is acquired through some other means that I won’t go into now.


Most of the spells for a particular level are more-or-less balanced with each other with respect to their effects. But there are a few extra-potent spells that are more powerful than their level suggests (like Incendiary Crackleball). These cost more than just easily-renewed endurance to cast… these require expensive material components called Spellstones. The higher-level spells use more expensive spellstones. Spellstones can be found, or purchased at the right shop.

With one exception, you don’t need to use any of the rare spells or the spellstone-requiring spells in the game. But they can be really handy.

Spell Variants

I’ve spoken about this before, but there are five optional feats that allow you to upgrade most spells. Some spells can have their effectiveness upgraded (for example, damage spells made more damaging), while others can have their duration extended (like a spell that causes blindness).  Enhancing a spell means it costs more endurance (and for spellstone-requiring spells, may require two or three spellstones instead of just one), and are cast as if they were one or more levels higher than the original spell.

Oftentimes, a “natural” spell of the same level as the variant is a more cost-effective option. But with so many different kinds of spells, effects, and damage types, there’s a good chance that there simply won’t be the kind of spell you would like at the appropriate level.  Or you may be facing monsters that are highly resistant to the damage type of your highest-level base damage spell, but you’ve got an electrical based spell a couple of levels lower which can be enhanced to do almost as much damage.

The variants have amusing prefixes tacked onto the spell’s original name. And some magical items (or traps) will use these spell variants instead of the original spell. And while the base “Microvenom” spell is generally little more than a nuisance, the Beefy Microvenom spell, only a couple of levels higher, is a serious threat.

Other Modifiers

There are some additional feats that make spells less expensive (priests and sorcerers get one of these feats automatically), or more effective. Non-casters aren’t left completely out of the action, either – there are feats that can grant characters ways of increasing their chance of avoiding magical attacks as well.

Types of Spells

I went overboard on types of spells. I don’t know how I’m going to balance all these, but I’m making an effort. Spells can have up to four effects, which fall into pretty broad categories of enhancements (“buffs”), debilitation (“debuffs”), direct damage, direct healing, damage-over-time, healing-over-time, status effects (sleep, stun, blind, etc.), and so on. And there’s combo spells, such as a disease spell which might cause both damage-over-time and a status effect (“sickened”).

Some really don’t fall into any category, especially utility spells. For example, “Cheat Sheet” is a 1st level sorcerer spell that gathers the maximum information on a particular monster and stores it in your monster journal. Normally, you’d have to fight that monster several times to get that much information in your journal.

Casting Spells

So here are some pictures. When you bring up the cast menu, this is about what you see:

The spells on the left are your Quick Cast spells, which you can designate for your favorite spells to avoid hunting them down in the following menus. The Quick Cast spells can include enhanced variants, not just the base spells.

On the right, you can choose the level range of the base spell you want to cast. You can cast spells up to your character’s level.

In the upper right corner, there’s an “S” and “F” button. This tells you if you are on the Spells or active Feat page. You can click one of those buttons to switch screens, or hit the button immediately below the character portrait to toggle.  The Feat page looks like this:

Okay, let’s say you picked a spell range. Now you get a list of spells available that are within that range. This includes all spells available to you (common ones, and the rare ones you have discovered) for your appropriate feats (or class).  It looks like this:

If you have both sorcerer spells and priest spells of some kind, or have sought out some of the rare spells, there’s a good chance that you will actually have multiple pages of these to flip through. FUN!

Once you have chosen a base spell (or have chosen a base or enhanced spell from your Quick Cast menu), you’ll come to the upgrade and target  screen:

This will show your available upgrades based on the spell level and your spell upgrade feats. Upgrades always increase the effective level of the spell, so spells that are close to your current character level with have fewer upgrades choices.

Just above the spell description are your quick-cast selection buttons. You can click these to put the currently chosen spell (including upgrade) into a quick-cast slot. Which really isn’t THAT quick, I admit, but it’s “quicker,” which works.

If the spell can target a party member, there’s also a target selection menu below the spell description to choose who gets hit with the spell. Spells targeting a single enemy will always fire at the currently selected enemy.

When everything is exactly as you want it, hit “Cast Spell” and let it fly.

A Last Note on Spells

At this point, the spell system is pretty firmed up, but we’re in a development / testing place right now where details may change rapidly as far as what spells are available, what their names and effects (and especially costs) may be, and so forth. There’s still plenty of tweaking and balancing to do, especially at higher levels.

Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 17 Comments to Read

  • Greg Tedder said,

    On a serious note, very nice!!! I like spell variety.

    Now, on a more serious note (and since it was you who opened this door), will Frayed Knights roll the dice to see if I’m getting drunk?

  • McTeddy said,

    Alright! With all these options I think I’ll even be able to attack the darkness!

    I’ll be honest, I’m slightly intimidated by all of the menus and options… but I am also really looking forward to it.

    Having such a level of control over my magic will allow me to think from a tactical standpoint rather than the standard “Throw fireball at ice monster”. Now it’s picking which size fireball will waste the least MP…

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    @McTeddy – Heh – yeah, that’s my hope. So far it seems to be working in practice as well as theory, but since it takes so dang long to play the game from start to finish (and we’ve got some save game bugs right now dropping some of the data between sessions) I haven’t really been able to give it a rigorous testing. It’s mainly formulas on a spreadsheet and spot tests that “feel” okay.

    @Greg – You know, it currently doesn’t, but you can buy drinks from the bartender in Ardin… maybe I should add that. Wouldn’t be too hard to add a “drunk” state to the game… 😉

  • BenD said,

    This is for a computer so mouse dexterity is pretty generous – any reason the list of spells on the left can’t be made of thinner buttons, so more of them on a page, so less hunting through pages for the one I want?

  • Skyre said,

    Seems like way too much clicking to cast a single spell.

    I think it might be simpler if the spells were arranged in a grid of icons.

    Alternatively you might split the spells into their categories and have little tab buttons that are always visible (default to last tab shown for that character).

    I assume those are still placeholder buttons too?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Thanks for the feedback on the buttons. We’ll see what we can do between now and release — artwork is kinda at a premium right now, so doing fully iconic buttons for a grid layout may not be in the cards, but even as I wrote this article (having been using it for a few months now since I “finished”) I could see some room for improvement. We’ll see if we can get to making some more improvements if we can.

  • Noumenon said,

    If you use a scroll with an unfamiliar spell on it… you are given the option to memorize the spell instead.

    Warning: this sounds like it might send someone to the FAQ going “where is the button to learn a spell from a scroll?” After all I’m not going to waste a scroll of an unfamiliar spell by clicking “use” when I want to learn it instead.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Since there’s always a confirmation dialog when you try and use an item, that will hopefully not be the case, but your point is well taken. I’m just not sure how to address it without making the interface even uglier & more confusing.

  • adorna said,

    hmm — maybe thats too easy but how about adding a few hints to the page where you choose your spell range ? If there are any more spell related things you can do, you can list them there. “Go to you Invetory and click a scroll with a spell you don’t know to learn it” would probably do the trick. Ir you can have several ways to do the same thing – add a menu ho bring up the scrolls from your inventory here?

    Nicer Buttons would go a long way. Especially for the spell ranges. I get that you can’t do Icons for 600 spells, but the spell ranges should be easy enough.

  • BvG said,

    Icons aside, I really hope those buttons in the screens are ‘programmer art’ because grey rectangles on parcel just looks weird 😛

    Also, UI too complicated, please rethink (no own idea, sorry).

  • Greg Tedder said,

    @Rampant You would be my hero if you did that. Though I do fear those idiots would burn the bar down under the influence.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Ah, yeah, good point on the buttons. They are easy default buttons to put in, but you are absolutely right. Just plain clickable text would look better than that.

  • Noumenon said,

    I wonder how Knights of the Chalice did it? I don’t have it installed any more.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Pretty much as described above – the images weren’t unique, but the images + color coding + level made it unique enough.


    And yeah – it does appear KotC has me beat on quantity of spells. Ah, well… 😉

  • Noumenon said,

    Sorry, meant to say “I wonder how Knights of the Chalice handled learning versus using of scrolls.”

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Yeah, Rampant, don’t keep those gray buttons. Everything else in the HUD and interface is looking so nice, but those square gray buttons clash with everything.

    I had always assumed they were place-holder art, which is why I never said anything about them before. Even a simple color switch on them to match the rest of the HUD would be a big improvement.

    And Noumenon made an excellent point about the spell scrolls and memorizing them. Having to select “Use” on a scroll to memorize it is bad. For example, I would NEVER use a unique scroll I found while playing without memorizing it first. Hence, I would be hunting fruitlessly trying to figure out how to do just that. Plus, in Frayed Knights I would be less likely to try out the spell by saving and loading (thus discovering how to memorize a spell by accident) because I would lose my Drama Star points!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    What I may do with the scrolls is add something to the pop-up description that makes a big note in capital letters or something to let you know in advance of whether or not using it will allow you to memorize the spell, and see how that works. It’s a good suggestion.

    Ditto for the buttons – I get to the point where I can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes, working mainly on my own. That’s why I publish these posts – you guys help me with my blind side. I appreciate it.