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It seems to me that the force of a spell is either a great descriptor of how powerful the spell is or almost totally meaningless - which doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

First off, I realise that all spells have a limit on max hits being equal to force. We'll call this the first force multiplier, or effect of force on the outcome of the spell.

We then have a few different categories of spell, and some variation throughout each category:

Combat: The spells have a second force multiplier, in that the base damage is equal to the force. Area spells have a third force multiplier in that it determines the area of effect. When casting combat spells force is king.

Detection: These spells generally have a second force multiplier in that the range of the sense is a multiple of force.

Health: For most of these spells force is irrelevant except as a limit on hits. There are a few such as Detox, Increase [Attribute] and Stabilize for which you need a certain force for the spell to work.

Illusion: Again there isn't really any effect for higher force other than a higher limit on hits.

Manipulation: These have the widest range of possibilities, from Armour and Shapechange (no effect apart from max hits), to mental manipulations (target gets to resist every force turns) and area effect spells (changes area), up to area effect mental manipulations with three force multipliers.

Basically if you have a spell like Armour, Barrier, Heal (force doesn't even affect drain for this one!) or Shapechange you never have a reason to cast it at a higher force than you can reasonably expect to gain hits. If you have a Manabolt or Fireball then you can throw hits to the wind (well, so to speak) and push your force to achieve spectacular effects. What is the reasoning behind this? To my mind a force 8 armour spell should be as much better than force 4 armour as a force 8 manabolt is better than a force 4 manabolt, but this just isn't the case.

Has anyone ever taken any steps to resolve this particular problem?

Second point - the reasoning behind some spell effects doesn't seem very clear. Shapechange is the prime example - it can give you a massive boost to physical stats (better than increase attribute in many cases, Body can be increased by Hits+2 for instance), disguises you, can enable you to fly, cause physical damage in melee, assist with stealth or infiltration by shrinking, etc. All for one fairly low drain code. Taking the logic behind shapechange you could concieve of a Supercharge spell that just adds to all your physical stats for each hit - silly, but implicit in the logic of shapechange.
Personally I don't have a problem with froce meaning different things to different types of spells.

And part of the outcry against a "metahuman form" spell comes from the very fact that you point out in your last paragraph.
The only potential problem I cautiously agree with is that force is too important for combat spells (especially if you use the hillariously silly optional rule of punishing the mage for achieving hits on combat spells).
For everything else, the number of hits is the by far most important reason for a high force spell, so the absence of further limits isn't that important. Force is king for all resisted spells (or those needing to affect high-technology) anyways, even without further helpful tidbits.

And yes, the rules that determine spell drain are kinda "suboptimal", which is the main reason to be extra observant with every homebrew spell, even if it follows the spell creation rules.
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