View Full Version : Help With Basic Concept for Magic System

2011-10-09, 04:01 PM
I've been brewing an idea for an RPG in my mind recently, and figured that I wanted some way for it to be possible to experiment with magic (it's going to be mainly magic-oriented). By this I don't mean researching new spells, I mean that the actual way that magic works requires you to invent and innovate. And it should do so in such a way that the effect is predestined by the input: like programming or making a circuit, you put certain things in and get certain things out. Of course, for certain spell effects I wouldn't want to use this system, but I think it would be nice to use something like this.
Also, I should make it clear that I don't mean something like spell seeds, where you just add bits to do the effects you want. I want the players to be able to go home and think about what sort of spells they can create and then think 'aha! I can do this'. In effect, I would like players to be able to do things that the creator(s) didn't actually think of when they made the game.
It's quite the task, but I know we have a lot of good homebrewers here. I will make the system. I just want an idea to get rolling with.

EDIT: something kind of like the thing I'm going for is the Magitech project (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=182780)

2011-10-09, 05:15 PM
Alright, you've piqued my interest, I'll give you that. I don't have anything quite yet, but this is a type of mechanic that I like to consider one of my fortes, so give me a bit of time to think on it.

2011-10-10, 10:25 AM
A slightly wobbly initial idea:
We could go a sort of 'particle' themed route. There would be 'particles of magic'. The magic-user would cause the particles to come into being at certain points and travelling in certain directions. Each time two particles crossed paths they would produce an effect, governed by an index of effects, e.g. A+F -> fireball. Particles would endure these 'interactions' and continue on their paths until all possible interactions have occurred, so particle X could be travelling along a line, cross paths with Y and produce an effect there, then continue until it crossed paths with Z, causing an effect there as well. More than two particles could cross paths at one point, meaning each possible combination produces an effect - so A+F+G -> (A+F->fireball)+(A+G->light)+(F+G-> permanence) -> permanent light-producing flame. As can be seen in this example (permanence), sometimes an interaction can produce an effect that only has meaning when combined with others in this way.
The spell would have an 'energy' measurement, generated from dice and attributes of the character, and each particle would require a certain amount of energy, and the rest of the energy would go towards determining the magnitude of the spell effects. So with the examples above, assuming the same caster statistics and die rolls, the fire in A+F would be more powerful than in A+F+G.

This is by no means an idea that others should go with, just my initial contribution to what I hope will be a busy brewing-pot.

Howler Dagger
2011-10-10, 12:05 PM
I guess the first thing you should start with is a list of particles. Theoreticly, you could have "negative" particles, which do exact opposite, for example:

A-G= darkness

2011-10-10, 01:26 PM
In this scenario, should -A-G = A+G?

Shadow Lord
2011-10-10, 04:46 PM
In this scenario, should -A-G = A+G?

But of course.

I like where this thing is going. It might just get the magic system that I've always wanted, going further than any other.

2011-10-10, 09:55 PM
With positives and negatives, if everything was dependent on the interactions of particles, there would also be times when one was positive and one was negative. So in addition to A+G (Light) and -A-G(Dark,) there would be -A+G(loud) and A-G(quiet.)

This would create a lot of sets of fours, such as A+F(fire,) -A-F(water,) A-F(earth,) and -A+F(air.)

2011-10-10, 10:11 PM
Taking the particle idea and running with it, perhaps each magical-particle-thing has its own 'shape', with length based on power implemented into the wave. So a shape with more power in it has a bigger bang, but also increases the likelyhood of you having to deal with side effects (as there are more places for lines to cross).

2011-10-11, 07:24 AM
This may be more in the direction of seeds than that of molecules (though one can think of the rules as defining valid molecular structures), but would something like a Context-Free Grammar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Context_free_grammar) work?

Some quick grammar rules (obviously incomplete):Spell -> Verb Object | Spell Condition
Verb -> create | increase | decrease | destroy
Condition -> in the shape of a Shape | in Target
Shape -> Creature | wall of Length | cone of Length | burst of radius Length | line of Length | thrown ball
Length -> # feet
Target -> this room | creature touched | self | allies within Length feet | enemies with Length feet
Object -> Object with Ability | Creature | Element | Statistic | Ability
Creature -> any defined creature type
Element -> earth | air | fire | water | metal | life
Statistic -> HP | MP | speed | strength | dexterity | constitution | etc
Ability -> resistance to Element | ability to Movement at Speed
Movement -> run | fly | swim | pass through Element

which allow for the spells:
Summon a metal lion (Create metal in the shape of a lion)
Destroy all metal within 30 feat
Grant all allies within 30 ft a 60 ft fly speed (Create the ability to fly at 60 ft. in all allies with 30 ft.)
Create a 100 ft. wall of fine (create fire in the shape of a wall of length 100 ft.)
among hundreds of other possibilities. Needs work (and things like drain and the important word 'and,' but is this anything like what you're thinking of or the complete wrong path?

2011-10-11, 08:41 AM
Hmm... The grammar thing is interesting, but at the moment I'm preferring the particles. To be honest, given that only their paths need to cross in order for them to interact I'm going to call them paths for the moment, but other things could work too: streams, vectors, lines etc.

I thought that the whole plus/minus thing was going to just be (++) or (--)=light, (+-) or (-+)=dark, but having four possible effects is cool too. With the two effects that makes the possible number of two-path combinations (n*2) as a triangular number (presuming particles don't interact with particles of the same kind), and if it is with the four combinations it would be (n*4) as a triangular number, which is quite a significantly larger number of effects for the same number of different paths. But it could work anyway. I think I'll wait until I come up with the rest of the system until I decide.

Also, I was thinking about what happens when two paths run parallel and in the same space. I think that the effect should happen at all points of the line, but at 1/4 strength, and that the line should reach out the the already-established range of how far away you can cause paths to begin.

By the way, my provisional arrangements for the rest of the system are:
Two attribute groups, physical and mental, and each group contains constitution, power and finesse. So you get six attributes: PC, PP, PF, MC, MP, MF. PC is like constitution, PP is like strength, and PF is like dexterity, but the mental scores don't have such an easy similarity. MC is like willpower, MP is like intelligence, and MF is sort of like perception, but also has a big role in social skills too.
Quite basic weapons system.
All characters have access to the same spells, (which I will divide into cantrips (basic, temporary effects), charms (coming from the system brewed here), enchantments (which cause permanent changes to things), and bonds (which bind creatures and characters to do certain things, also works with spirits of the land and gods. This does summoning too)), but there are certain classes that affect the way they use them. E.g. a 'wizard' class where they have to have learnt their spells off by heart before they use them but don't have to sacrifice magic power, or a 'cleric' class where they have to show that their use of the spell is in line with the values of their god.

Edit: the shape thing is interesting, but maybe, instead of being a quality of the paths themselves, you can get shape-altering abilities as you progress in your class.

Edit 2: I thought I should just make it clear how I want path interactions to work.
Say you have paths A+F crossing. You look it up in the path combinations index, and it says:
A and F combinations:
A+F: Fire damage E in radius E/2
-A-F: Cold damage E in radius E/2
A-F: Lightning damage E in radius E/2
-A+F: Death Essence damage E in radius E/2

2011-10-11, 10:42 AM
This looks interesting.

2011-10-11, 12:50 PM
I always wanted to try to make an explicit version of the rune magic from the Death Gate novels. Basically runes were tied together in particular patterns like circuitry, and the overall structure 'did something'. As specified in the novels it was a sort of language like Lojban in the sense that given positions around a rune are specific function arguments to the spell, which does sort of limit things.

One idea would be to have a sort of energy alchemy associated with the runes. Each rune has a direction of flow (and some might split flow). A rune can modify the parameters of the energy flowing through it, but if you attach two 'fountain' runes together the energies combine unpredictably to form a new effect.

So you could have something like:

[Fountain: Energy] -> [Filter: Project] -> [Filter: Heat]

that flings a beam of fire. But if you did:

[Fountain: Null] -> [Filter: Heat]

it would remove heat from the room. And if you did:

[Fountain: Energy] -> [Fountain: Null] -> [Filter: Project] -> [Filter: Heat]

it might do something weird, perhaps combining Energy and Null into 'Suppress', which would make a spell that prevents things from burning.

2011-10-11, 03:42 PM
If you are looking at your magic as a form of molecular arrangement, does the geometry of a spell alter it?

Is A+F+G in a straight line fundamentally different from A+F+G in a triangular position?

And for that matter, is A+F the same as F+A?

2011-10-11, 04:08 PM
Huh, I quite like the runic system. Perhaps we can take some ideas from both systems, e.g.:

To cast a spell you create an arrangement of Nodes. Each node has a type, a position, and a direction. The type is like (Energy), (Heat), etc. The position is where it is in the spell layout, and the direction is where a beam entering the node gets redirected to.
All spells contain a (Generative) type Node, and this node creates a stream, which has a type like A, F etc. The type of the stream determines exactly how it interacts with the Nodes. It gains Qualities as it passes through each of the Nodes, determined by the type of the node. All spells also contain an (Execute) Node. When the stream enters the (Execute) Node the spell takes effect.
Streams also interact with each other in certain ways when they intersect, usually causing an Node - type Quality to be transferred onto each particle, or causing an Execution in that area as well as the final (Execute) Nodes.

Now, this might be a bit too complex. But the reason I didn't want to go with just the rune system is that it is too qualitative; everything centres around interpretation rather than the more experimental method of putting things together and seeing what happens. I may just go with the previous path thing, but I have to say that I do like the rune idea. Maybe it could be developed to allow more experimentation?

In response to BarroomBard, you may be getting confused slightly. I did not suggest a molecular arrangement, but rather the idea of 'paths' of the particles (which I decided were a confusing concept and did away with, leaving just the paths) 'interacting' when they cross in a physical configuration superimposed on the game map. A+F+G in a straight line means that the paths interact with eachother at all points of the line, but those things in a triangular position means that you get A+F at one point, A+G at another point, and F+G at a third point.
Also, A+F is the same as F+A, just like in real mathematics. Only which paths are negative or not affect the effect, not the order in which they are expressed.

EDIT: So far it seems to me that the only way to really get the interesting interactions and combinations going is to have some sort of two-dimensional model of effects working in certain directions and such. I eagerly look forward to being proven wrong.

2011-10-11, 04:44 PM
I was about to go to bed, but I came up with another idea. It's very simple, but would allow for all sorts of cool and creative effects. The basic idea is this: magic allows you to treat, for the purposes of the spell, a substance as if it had one of the properties of another substance. So if you wanted to levitate a piece of wood, you would say 'For the purposes of this spell I will treat wood as if it had the density of helium'. If you wanted to shoot a firey ray you would say 'For the purposes of this spell I will treat air in a line as if it had the temperature of burning wood'. It is, at the moment, lacking a way to limit power and make it fit in with some sort of character attribute system, both of which are pretty vital.

2011-10-11, 07:15 PM
I was about to go to bed, but I came up with another idea. It's very simple, but would allow for all sorts of cool and creative effects. The basic idea is this: magic allows you to treat, for the purposes of the spell, a substance as if it had one of the properties of another substance. So if you wanted to levitate a piece of wood, you would say 'For the purposes of this spell I will treat wood as if it had the density of helium'. If you wanted to shoot a firey ray you would say 'For the purposes of this spell I will treat air in a line as if it had the temperature of burning wood'. It is, at the moment, lacking a way to limit power and make it fit in with some sort of character attribute system, both of which are pretty vital.

This is a neat idea. One way to limit the power is to make it so that the objects that will be exchanged have to be present, and a link must be formed. The 'source' object is specially treated and carried as a material component, so if you want to make something have the temperature of burning wood you take out a treated twig and set it on fire, then cast the spell to exchange properties. It's still a little atomic, in the sense that once you hear the premise there isn't really a 'technology tree' of things you can do, its just a matter of picking A and B.

So what if in some sense you could chain these effects due to secondary interactions. That is, you take your treated block of wood and 'steal' the reactivity of sulfuric acid for it. You then have the wood react with something metallic, and now you have a new substance, some compound of wood and metal that has new properties that can be used for new spells, etc.

2011-10-11, 08:55 PM
I was about to go to bed, but I came up with another idea. It's very simple, but would allow for all sorts of cool and creative effects. The basic idea is this: magic allows you to treat, for the purposes of the spell, a substance as if it had one of the properties of another substance. So if you wanted to levitate a piece of wood, you would say 'For the purposes of this spell I will treat wood as if it had the density of helium'. If you wanted to shoot a firey ray you would say 'For the purposes of this spell I will treat air in a line as if it had the temperature of burning wood'. It is, at the moment, lacking a way to limit power and make it fit in with some sort of character attribute system, both of which are pretty vital.

Another way to limit the power: the greater the change in state, the more difficult it is to do, whether that means it takes more energy, concentration, resources, or what have you.

For example, "I want this wood to have the qualities of burning wood" would be easier than "I want this air to have the qualities of burning wood."

2011-10-12, 10:16 AM
I like the idea of having to have something to hand. How about this: there are two basic rules. First: you must be touching something that has the quality you want to transfer. Second: you must be touching something to take any energy you will be adding from. So, for instance, making something float adds gravitational potential energy, so you have to push something off a cliff to release some energy for use. Making something burn requires heat energy, so you have to put a fire out in order for it to work.
The second rule can be violated if you sacrifice some HP (chemical energy inside the body).

Also, there's the cycle of states:
It costs no magic points to transfer qualities from an object in one of these states to an object in the same state, but for each step away it costs extra magic points.

You can also transfer less obvious states. You can transfer attributes from one creature to another (but this involves being in contact with the creature that the attributes come from for the whole spell action, as per normal). This would probably cost extra energy, but like all of these spells it would have quite a limited duration.
You can transfer thoughts, beliefs and sensations from mind to mind. These are, again, temporary, but real-life sensations are temporary and so the target might not realise that the sensations were not their own. Transfer of thoughts and beliefs is basically mind-reading, but there are disadvantages: first, you need to be in contact with the person whose mind you're reading, second, you believe those beliefs and think those thoughts for the duration of the spell. Transferring from one mind to another requires at least one participant to try to mimic the other person's mind (because if the two minds are too different the transfer doesn't work). This will require an MF roll. This also means that one participant should usually be willing. Mental transfers often include the caster as a participant.

2011-10-12, 11:40 AM
Perhaps an additional wrinkle to make the system have a discovery/invention aspect is that in order to choose the property to transfer, you have to take some sort of action that demonstrates it.

So for the burning wood, you set it on fire and then burn up a small bit of paper. For making iron as light as air, you have to not only have a quantity of air, but have a quantity of air in a floating balloon or something.

Shadow Lord
2011-10-12, 03:08 PM
This is starting to approach the point where magic is pretty sells and absurdly complicated

2011-10-12, 03:33 PM
pretty sells

What do you mean by this?

Also, I think that this is not so complicated as, say, the D&D system. It has a very basic and malleable structure, but in certain situations you have to apply certain rules. Think of the situation-specific rules like different spells, and it seems actually quite simple, relatively.

2011-10-12, 03:58 PM
Sorry to chip in without previously commenting, but for your runic magic system idea, could you have something like this:


For a basic warding circle which releases pure force (kinetic energy) whenever someone makes contact with it? I probably misunderstood some of the things you suggested, so it doesn't follow your proposal, and it is horrendously ugly (I made it quickly), but is it the right kinda thing?

2011-10-13, 01:16 AM
runic magic system idea

I had sort of mentally dismissed the runic system, on account of how it doesn't allow very much actual ingenuity, but this circle looks so preeeeeettttty.
As well as that, now that you point it out, it does allow one to generate effects in quite a flexible way. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I will have to put some thought into it.

2011-10-13, 02:05 AM
This design was kinda based on electrical circuit diagrams in the way the symbols were drawn, though I imagined the runes would end up looking more like an abugida, or a syllabic or semanto-phonetic writing system. This fits better with what the term 'rune' means after all (although since the original Futhark was an alphabet, it's still pretty far off).

Runic magic would have to be based through objects - A runemaagician (lets call him a runemaster) would have a certain number of items that he could carve/paint/whatever runes on - runes which represent various spells. By putting in mana/magic power/life force/whatever, he could activate a certain spell on his item, and cast that spell.

Presumably, more complex spells would require more energy to input (more complex here meaning there are more runes) without taking into account the magnitude of the effect. You could probably put a basic single target fire attack (scorching ray) with three runes, so it would require less energy input that our magic circle above (five runes) even if the energy released by both spells was exactly the same (although in different forms).

The system can allow great ingenuity so long as there is a wide enough range of symbols that you can dictate not only what the energy is and how it goes, (force, outward) but also why it goes (contact triggers it) and what form it takes (the circle). And that's only with five runes. What could a runemaster do a with a few hours to paint a circle of hundreds of runes?

2011-10-13, 05:11 AM
Yes, this is all very good.

I think, with the whole painting stuff, that different classes should have different ways of doing things. In fact, maybe the mechanics should stay the same but the flavour should actually vary from just runes. Some should be written or painted, some should just 'summon' runes into thin air, some bard-types could play music instead of paint runes, etc.

I think that the whole energy thing should go like this:
The spell has a certain amount of starting energy, generated from MP (MC determines how many spells can be cast before negative effects, MF determines range). It costs energy to summon each 'rune' (the universal name for runes and rune-equivalents). The leftover energy should be put into the actual effect, determining damage etc. If you have something like a 'splitting' rune which means that there are two executions, each of them uses half the remaining energy (after rune summoning).

EDIT: Execute runes should include spell shape (line, circle, area effect etc.), but what exactly do Generate runes decide?

2011-10-13, 07:24 AM
The type of energy, perhaps? Fire, Force, Ice, Morphic (the inherent shape of a living being, allowing a runic ward that, when triggered, turns you into a toad :) ).

2011-10-13, 07:45 AM
Yeah, I like that. So for a mind reading spell you could have Generate: Mind, Adjustment: Detect: Thoughts, Adjustment: Magic Memory: Thoughts, Execute: Returning.

Also I just had an awesome cool idea: each creature has a personal rune, like a truename, and if you know a creature's rune you can target spells at them regardless of distance and do other cool stuff.

2011-10-16, 10:24 AM
I'm thinking that the world should be basically the inside of a cube. The mortals live on one of the sides. On the four sides of the mortal world would be the 'four walls', the wall of mist, the wall of forest, the wall of stone and the wall of ruins. The sixth side would remain mysterious. The sun would be in the middle of the cube, and would be where angels reside. At night time the angels would leave the sun and become the stars. The city of heaven would dim and become the moon. In the mornings and evenings the different states of the leaving/returning angels would give the sun different colours. This would produce sunsets and sunrises.

Anyway, I think that instead of the cantrip/enchantment/bond system for the other magical effects that I thought of before, I want something a bit more flavourful and relating to the world, that would allow you to do things like summon a barrier of mist from the Wall of Mist etc.

2011-10-16, 10:57 AM
We have an existing model for doing this, it's called Chemistry.

First of all I'd start compiling a list of their most broken down elements, then from that you can create a language. Fire is actually made of three components, and I'd classify them as:
Heat = H
Light = Li
Grow or Blossom = Bl

That way it would be HBlLi for HeatblossomLight or Fire
That way -HBl would be -Heat,Blossom or Coldblossom or Ice
The same thing can be adapted to earth as crystal or air as cloud, though now that I think about it both cloud and ice have water, so L for Liquid and G for gas.
HGBlLi HeatblossomLight -- But then it makes it seem like it's a gas made of fire thats making light, so we need to denote it in subscript, so we use things that don't get confused, aka numbers. Let's say 2 means it's needed and 3 means it's a byproduct but not the main effect, a negative would mean it's a consumption effect and not a production.
HG2BlLi3-G3 would then be fire as Heat (Gas Needed) Blossom -> Remove Gas / Add Light
Add S for Solid and:
-HL2BlS3 would be ice as Negative Heat (Liquid Needed) Blossom -> Create Solid
Or cloud would be GL2Bl-L3

Now let's say we want to customize it, let's say we want purple fire?...
purp.HG2Bl.purp.Li3-G3 would be purple fire that produces purple light?


2011-10-16, 11:52 AM

It's got potential, but there are several problems with it at the moment. The first is that the spells are complex and sort of confusing. A second is that it would be quite difficult to define and limit the power of spells. The third is that the results would be very open to interpretation, and variable. The fourth is that the results are quite clearly specified with each combination, so there's no feeling of experiment or exploration within a limitation.