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Yora
2013-01-14, 09:41 AM
In theory, I like the idea of magic having drawbacks and not using it on a whim. But I don't like the old "magic is evil and eats your soul" stuff, that seems more like overkill and not really fun. Setting balance in specific spellcasting systems aside, what things could be done with spellcasting in RPGs that makes it desireable to limit its use?

ActionReplay
2013-01-14, 09:51 AM
Magic is capitalism and eats your bankroll is always a good incentive to cast only when needed. Could also take a karmic approach to it much like the rng. Where if you use magic to bring about a 20 [Or just insert desireable magical effect] it causes a 1 to come up for you in the story later on. This being purely a story effect, there are usually things in place that let you get wonky with dice already. Using magic weakens the barrier between this world and the world of [insert undesireable entities that mean harm to your player's world here]. Could also just go with the ever reliable masquerade ala NWoD but that may fall short given some settings. Only other thing off the top of my head is maybe a horror esque approach. Whereas using magic too frequently draws attention to yourself from a [demonic/eldritch/IRS] monster that pursues the character inflicting pain and punishment for stepping into it's territory.

Eldan
2013-01-14, 09:54 AM
Things which are more purely fluff effects, maybe? In some settings, evil-ish magic still fits very well. Using magic turns the moon blood red. Dogs go into a frenzy when they smell a witch. Cats flee. Milk goes sour. It doesn't directly kill the character. But it should make them careful. Of course, if magic is beyond a certain power level, it won't do much.

I also like the proposed karmic effect. You shift probability a bit in one direction, but it will fall into another later on. This could work especially well in a system like FATE, where you already have the fate point mechanic that works similar.

Morty
2013-01-14, 10:00 AM
I'm fond of making magic mostly harmless when used once or twice but its effects "piling up" and warping the environment when used more often in a short span of time and/or the same area. However, it's only in theory as I can't think of any tabletop system that actually does it.

ArcturusV
2013-01-14, 10:02 AM
Had one homebrew system I used that used what I called Momentum Casting. It has some of those "Bite you in the ass" features but in a different flavor than eating your soul, or deal HP damage, etc, that you usually see.

Idea being that a mage couldn't just go "BOOM! Meteor Swarm!" right off the bat. They had to build up to it by opening a conduit to natural magical power through them. Either by effectively "Charging" a spell which could have disastrous effects but didn't require them to magic. Or by casting a spell.

It was meant to have magic be like the tides or a runaway train. You start off casting small effects which allow you to cast larger effects, allowing you to cast larger still effects (But with chances for consequences), until eventually you have built up enough Momentum to your magic that you could cast the very powerful level 5 spells, but doing so had a decent chance of going out of control and causing mayhem with spells and unintended side effects.

Also you couldn't go "Cold" without risking serious damage and shock. Going from casting high level magic to casting nothing was the metaphysical equivalent of ramming your car into a brick wall. Yeah, it might stop you. Or you might keep going but slower. But you're probably not going to like it.

Though a mage could cast spells one level lower to successfully bleed off momentum, trading power for safety.

It was an odd system, never got a good group to run it. Wish I did.


Morty: Doesn't Mage: The Ascension do exactly that?

Saph
2013-01-14, 10:04 AM
The Warhammer approach is pretty fun. Any use of magic/psyker powers has a chance of causing Psychic Phenomena (eerie and weird, but not all that dangerous) and a lesser chance of causing Perils of the Warp (chaotic and powerful, and VERY dangerous). It doesn't exactly 'eat your soul', but it does make spellcasting rolls extremely tense.

Perils of the Warp/Psychic Phenomena are also one of the fastest ways to get Insanity Points, which, this being the Warhammer universe, actually have some associated benefits.

Elderand
2013-01-14, 10:14 AM
There is the chaos sorcery system for dnd from mongoose.
Each spell has a casting dc you have to beat with roll of d20+level in chaos mage + wisdom.

Suceed and you take nonlethal damage and the spell work, fail and you take lethal damage and the spell fail.

The real fun is when you roll a 1

First time you do it you get a small mutation or mental disorder
Next time you roll a 1 you need to roll a d20 again, if you roll equal or under the number of mutation/disorder you currently have, you gain a new one.
If you ever reach 10 mutation/disorder, you die and can never be brought back.

Starting at level 12 you can spend xp to remove disorders

Yora
2013-01-14, 10:24 AM
I'm fond of making magic mostly harmless when used once or twice but its effects "piling up" and warping the environment when used more often in a short span of time and/or the same area. However, it's only in theory as I can't think of any tabletop system that actually does it.
That's like what came to my mind when reading Eldans idea:

Magic exists in several types, like air, earth, fire, water, life, death, illusion, and mind-control. And every time a spell is cast, the targeted location or person retains some residual magic that takes some considerable time to dissipate. If a certain location builds up in residual "fire mana", there is an increasing risk that any further fire spell will "stick" to this residual energy and add it to the mana provided by the spellcaster, resulting in an uncontrolled explosion.
If a place is saturated in "illusion mana", it might be prone to spontaneously create hallucinations. Or a paralysis spell in a place full with death-mana might drain the life out of everyone in the area.
It could be useful, but also be harmful to any spellcaster who would try to exploit it. Since the mana is completely unfocused and unchanneled, it might do anything it wants. And a spellcaster would never know for sure how safe it is to cast certain spells, even if he knows how much residual magic is present. A 5% chance to trigger could blow up in your face with the very first spell you cast. And even with a 90% chance, you might be able to get of three or four more spells without any accident. Unlikely, but possible.

The difficulty would be in tracking such things. Keeping an accurate account of all spells cast by the PCs and all the NPCs just over a single day would be a big pain. But it could be something that can be included in building environments. The GM would declare an area as "10% chance of fire magic mishap" because a dragon had a fight there a week ago, and any PC who attempts to judge the mana in the area would be informed that there are "mildly elevated levels in fire mana". If he casts fire spells, the GM rolls for mishap, otherwise nothing happens.
If PCs are in a siege situation and keep the main gate guarded with a wall of fire for several hours, then a GM could just declare increased chance of fire spell mishap for the area if he wants to. Since it's unpredictable, there is no need for precise rules how many spells of what strength have to be cast within what amount of time to result in what percentage of mishap chance.
If a PC mage and some NPC mages end up in a fight and there are two lightning spells thrown around every single round on average, a spontaneous declaration of 50% mishap chance for any further lightning spells could be added to the battlefield.

Eldan
2013-01-14, 10:29 AM
I like the idea, but having it affect things other than spellcasters would be interesting.

Casting too many fire spells in an area makes plants wither and things more likely to catch fire for the next week.

Casting too many evil spells makes people irritable and impulsive when they spend too much time there.

Too many illusion spells, and people become superstitious or start to see weird things from the corner of their eyes.

Your idea would work well with Shadowrun's system. A mage can decide how much power to throw at a spell, but the more they throw in, the higher the chance that there's a potentially damaging feedback. With the lingering environmental mana, it would add power to similar spells, but increase their chance of having a mishap. Not necessarily just on the caster. But perhaps things like "area spells have a 50% bigger area" or "the lightning bolt is now 10 feet wide and blinding bright".

pendell
2013-01-14, 10:32 AM
The problem with rewriting reality -- which is what "magic" is in most fantasy settings -- is that most humans don't understand reality well enough to tamper with it. Anyone who's worked on a software development project and compared the requirements document with what's actually possible given the technology and resources understands this well, I expect :).

Let's say, for example, that you alter reality such that it is now raining instead of sunny where you are. Okay. What does that do to the weather pattern as a whole? Does it mean that the sudden introduction of cold air where there was warm air will result in thunderstorms and tornadoes where cold and warm air interface, killing innocent people and damaging property? It just might.

When you multiply the problems created by one poorly-thought out spell by thousands of high-powered practitioners, the world starts to become a very unstable place, more like a dream where people can suddenly turn into monsters for no apparent reason. Where gravity is optional and people can fall up one minute then left or right the next. It may not even be the direct result of a spell, but an indirect consequence as a result of , say, a featherfall cast thirty miles away. If gravity suddenly stops exerting the same effect in one area, what happens to the surrounding area? Does it balance out and smash other things flat, for no obvious reason?

And what happens when you have the byproducts and side effects of millions and millions of spells all interacting with each other?

To model this mechanically, I would add a 1d100 "fumble" effect to any spellcasting. Something terrible happens on a roll of 1 with percentage dice. This factor could be mitigated by taking the time to do research and to prepare a proper ritual, and aggravated by acting hastily, say, in a battle situation. Continue hasty casting should have a cumulative effect , making a fumble more and more likely.

It might also be useful to introduce some governing authority, whether a mage's council or some supernatural entity, who has made it their mission to ensure that day follows night and what comes up comes back down. Such beings would be on the lookout for dangerous magical use and would seek to neutralize a practitioner straying too far from the bounds of reality. This might take the form of de-powering them (if possible) or banishing them to another plane. In a world where beings in the afterlife can do magic just as well as living beings "death" is not an answer to a power-mad spellcaster. If anything, it may serve only to break any existing bonds they have with living human beings, making them a greater threat than ever.

So that is how I would model it in a "crunch" arena -- fumble table, cumulative chance of fumble for risky behavior, and the potential for a magical adversary. This not only serves as a drawback but may also provide useful quest hooks.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

ArcturusV
2013-01-14, 10:34 AM
The only issue I'd have with that Yora is that because it's unpredictable, it'd be frustrating. Too often it'd feel like basically the DM waving his hand on if something terribad happens or not. I mean the beauty of Dark Heresy's system for Psychic Powers is that you KNOW when you rolled you messed up. "Oh crap, a 9. And I didn't roll enough to manifest my power but something bad is going to happen anyway!"

Whereas the Residual Effect system would play out more like this:

Player: I cast a fireball at the enemy horde. *rolls dice* Successful!

DM: Due to residual fire mana in the area the fireball leaves a wake of fire in it's path that spreads outwards and deals fire damage to all your teammates.

That's the sort of thing that makes me think would happen around the table. And it makes the game feel like the DM is just railroading you into a No-Win Fight (Or easy Fight if it works for you), or just is out to screw with you unjustly and with no real warning.

Morty
2013-01-14, 10:36 AM
I see the "residual magic" idea as something that affects the world more than any individual spellcaster. A single spellcaster only has to worry about serious side effects if he or she uses a lot of magic in a short span of time, but the effects aggravate when there are more of them. I view it as a way to regulate the impact of magic on the world and its way of life. An adventuring wizard casting a lightning bolt on a giant green toothed thing is fine. A batallion of wizards using such magic in a battle risk unleashing effects that will fry their whole army. A group of wizards trying to run a power plant using magically conjured lightning risk having it blow up or open up a door to another dimension. And so on and so forth.
Still, something like that would obviously require some mechanical representation. I think GURPS mana level system could be used to do it - in GURPS, every location has a background mana level. When the level is normal, spellcasting works as written. When it's low, it's harder or even impossible. When it's high, spellcasting is easier but if something goes wrong, it goes really wrong.

Eldan
2013-01-14, 10:37 AM
Eh. There's ways around that. Give wizards a magic sense. In roughly half of all literature they have that anyway.

DM: "As you enter the area, you feel as if a hot wind was brushing over your skin. This area is highly saturated in fire mana."
Wizard:" Better save my fireballs for the boss fight!" *prepares lightning bolt*

hamlet
2013-01-14, 10:55 AM
The older Compleat Arduin system had a setup where the more powerful spells (above 3rd or 4th level I think) aged the caster, so it really made those mortal casters think twice or thrice before unloading their powerful spells every day.

nedz
2013-01-14, 10:56 AM
How about: Magic is like Communism. It takes part of your health and shares it out to those around (friend or foe). Basically you take non-lethal damage, but bolsters others around by a tiny amount as the magical energies dissipate.

OK, the sharing of health is very minor and secondary, but the tiring effects would leave the caster weakened and thus vulnerable. It would also put a stop to Novaing, or at least restrict that. In systems where magic is quadratic, then the damage should be quadratic also, and you have to block mitigation.

randomhero00
2013-01-14, 11:02 AM
I personally liked how Mage: The Awakening (white wolf) did it best.

There was something called vulgar spells which created Paradox. Basically very obviously magical spells would cause you bodily harm.

From Wikipedia

Covert spells are those that do not outwardly appear magical, and therefore do not automatically risk backfiring (called Paradox), while Vulgar spells are unmistakably magical, and risk backfiring. All spells have a greater risk of Paradox when they are cast in the presence of Sleepers, or non-Awakened humans. Supernatural beings, or humans that have some hint of the supernatural about them (Ie: Ghoul, Sleepwalker, Wolfblooded) do not contribute to Paradox

There is still of course Mana to limit the amount of casting as well. But what this did was still allow you to be a bad*ss mage in certain circumstances, but much more withdrawn whenever around the normal world.

Raimun
2013-01-14, 11:33 AM
I like the way Shadowrun (4e) does this.

The spells are very powerful for the setting. Normal people don't stand a chance against invisible mages who can control their thoughts.

Thing is, you just can't cast spells all day. Spells have a very real possibility to cause fatigue (stun damage) to the caster. You never know how much exactly a spells costs fatigue, if any. The more you take fatigue, the more tired you become and everything is harder. Also, holding the cast spells on makes everything harder too.

All this means you can make wonderous things happen but you are randomly limited. Even if you are a master magician, you could be completely exhausted after casting two spells or if you're very lucky, you can cast way more. Makes you think when you should cast and actually seek non-magical solutions too.

Doxkid
2013-01-14, 11:43 AM
Magic changes you and you change the magic.

Overusing a type of spell (or a specific spell) slowly starts warping your personality, spirit, what have you.

Evocation-ists tend toward passionate lives and don't live as long as other people. Their magic tries to make everything nova; if they cast Charm person it works almost as well as Dominate for a few seconds, then charm for a little while, then gives a minor bonus to interaction with that target.

Enchanters become control freaks that are incapable of trusting others: if your best friend doesn't pick up that milk you wanted him to he is OBVIOUSLY going to murder you in your sleep. Their magic and plans work wonderfully...in the specific ways they orchestrate it to; you won't see a teleporting Enchanter land anywhere near his target if he messes up, but otherwise you would think he can see the future.

and so on.
---
This would also help explain some of the problems people have with necromancy and/or evil spells; they aren't a problem in their own right (strong willed mages can dabble without any consequences), but cast enough of them and you'll start thinking differently, acting differently, attracting the undead to your home (whether you want them there or not) and want to cast the corrupting spells more and more. Likewise the spells will become more and more 'effective'.

You have complete control, right? It'll be fine to call just a few demons just this once...

AuraTwilight
2013-01-14, 01:26 PM
Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. For every fireball, something in the world freezes. For every resurrection, someone dies. And eventually it builds up, and a wizard might find that there's another him running around, doing everything in it's power to undermine his goals...

nedz
2013-01-14, 01:41 PM
Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. For every fireball, something in the world freezes. For every resurrection, someone dies. And eventually it builds up, and a wizard might find that there's another him running around, doing everything in it's power to undermine his goals...

Well surely a smart Wizard and are there any others, except perhaps those on the coast would say "I'll have a Fireball over there, and an Iceball over here"?

Lapak
2013-01-14, 01:47 PM
Well surely a smart Wizard and are there any others, except perhaps those on the coast would say "I'll have a Fireball over there, and an Iceball over here"?Other than creating havoc twice as fast, I don't think that would have much of an impact. Nothing in AuraTwilight's post implied that there was any direct relation between what you were doing and where the fallout occurs. :smallwink:

I don't know if anyone has mentioned Dark Sun yet, but arcane power sure as heck carries a drawback there; spellcasting is empowered by draining the life energy out of the surrounding area.

Which is why most of Athas is now a vast, lifeless desert.

randomhero00
2013-01-14, 02:04 PM
Oh, I just remembered an interesting book, can't remember the name, that had some interesting consequences based on what type of caster you were.

There were primarily two types, Chaos and Order. For example a Chaos mage might disintegrate his enemy into a pile of dust. Whereas an Order mage would rearange your molecules into stone or something. Basically pure destruction vs transmutation.

Anyway, Chaos mages aged quicker, were more likely to get cancer, get burned, lose their hair etc. At a certain point of power they couldn't drink wine without it turning vinegary before it touched their lips.

An order mage on the other hand, would get calcified bones, arthritis, callous/dead patches of flesh, etc.

Both would start to get nutritional problems as the food they ate would change a bit at the molecular level. So both would weaken the more magic they used. Both eventually become sterile. Both suffer frequent nausea.

Not sure how one might fit this in mechanically...just a thought. Because its less of a rolling dice, and more of a constant buildup. Maybe roll a die to a chart to see what type of malady they are afflicted with and have negative combat things associated with each and then multiply that negative effect times level in mage.

edit: it'd definitely work better with a morale system for sure.

Friv
2013-01-14, 02:47 PM
Option: There is a certain amount of ambient mana in a given area of the world. Casting spells drains MP not from the caster, but from the terrain in which he resides. But magic is also like a lake, so more mana flows in to fill the gap, over whatever time period seems appropriate.

The result is that wizards are stronger when they stay away from one another. More powerful wizards, rather than having more mana of their own, can cast spells at a lower cost; a few apprentices fumbling around and draining all of the region's power still ruins them. Many magical creatures require small amounts of mana on a continuous basis to survive; they try to stop humans from entering their lands to preserve local mana streams.

(Presumably, there are also fonts of magic that pour into the world to replenish what is spent, and areas near those fonts have a greater suffusion of mana as a rule. In addition, areas that are commonly drained start to tax surrounding areas, creating zones that have less mana in them until you leave them alone for a few weeks or months. Some cities might even hire wizards solely for the purpose of draining the local region's magic, in order to prevent rogue magicians from causing trouble.

You could also have talismans that can store mana, and limit how much energy a mage can draw from those talismans while also creating drawbacks to keeping many of them close to one another.)

Grinner
2013-01-14, 02:50 PM
@Friv: Then you run into the problem of PC wizards intentionally burning up the area's mana to incapacitate the BBEG wizard. Then it becomes a war of talismans.

Lapak
2013-01-14, 02:52 PM
Option: There is a certain amount of ambient mana in a given area of the world. Casting spells drains MP not from the caster, but from the terrain in which he resides. But magic is also like a lake, so more mana flows in to fill the gap, over whatever time period seems appropriate.

The result is that wizards are stronger when they stay away from one another. More powerful wizards, rather than having more mana of their own, can cast spells at a lower cost; a few apprentices fumbling around and draining all of the region's power still ruins them. Many magical creatures require small amounts of mana on a continuous basis to survive; they try to stop humans from entering their lands to preserve local mana streams.

(Presumably, there are also fonts of magic that pour into the world to replenish what is spent, and areas near those fonts have a greater suffusion of mana as a rule. In addition, areas that are commonly drained start to tax surrounding areas, creating zones that have less mana in them until you leave them alone for a few weeks or months. Some cities might even hire wizards solely for the purpose of draining the local region's magic, in order to prevent rogue magicians from causing trouble.

You could also have talismans that can store mana, and limit how much energy a mage can draw from those talismans while also creating drawbacks to keeping many of them close to one another.)Oh, I like this.

Cities could also hire magicians to drain the mana from an enemy city prior to an attack. Or as a first thrust of sabotage, followed up by a plague or poison that cannot be stopped by magic.

I proposed a variation on the 'magical creatures need magic to live' myself once, in a discussion about why worlds don't always turn into Tippyverses. My version broadened it to 'everything needs mana to live' and civilizations that leaned on magic too heavily had their populations fall and crops fail. But your suggestion is subtle, and I like it.

Friv
2013-01-14, 03:19 PM
@Friv: Then you run into the problem of PC wizards intentionally burning up the area's mana to incapacitate the BBEG wizard. Then it becomes a war of talismans.

That's not a problem, it's a strategy. In fact, I assume that it would be the default strategy in most wars; people try to get as many spells off as quickly as possible, draining the local battlefield, and once they've done that the main armies get into the thrust of things. If you have a grand tactical spell, you need to decide whether to risk waiting, at which point the chance will have passed. (On a larger battlefield, of course, it would be possible for some areas to drain faster than others. I leave it to a more mechanical mind what the easiest way to model that would be.) Any BBEG wizard will have bodyguards to do his fighting for him.

In a setting in which this is how magic works, being a mage is never the be-all and end-all. Long-duration buff effects are considered to be stronger than short-duration blasting, because they have a longer-term effect on other soldiers, and war wizards also learn other techniques. Probably archery is preferred, because you don't want to lose your wizard after he's out of juice, and you don't want him to be wasting too many spells on protecting himself - each of those spells is one that can't be used on your troops or the enemy.


Oh, I like this.

Cities could also hire magicians to drain the mana from an enemy city prior to an attack. Or as a first thrust of sabotage, followed up by a plague or poison that cannot be stopped by magic.

Indeed, and depending on how long it takes to recover from the drain you could have spy stories about trying to track the people draining mana so that you can stop them and get your healing spells back online.

Presumably major cities would have lots of talismans scattered about for emergencies, at whatever the appropriate distance from one another was. You could have Strategic Talisman Reserves that nations pull out for major emergencies, and stealing those talismans could be another focus. Major cities could be built with talismans can hold a lot of power, but can't be moved, making it more difficult for cities to be captured by one another and increasing the likelihood of competition-style battles being fought to prevent long, brutal sieges.


I proposed a variation on the 'magical creatures need magic to live' myself once, in a discussion about why worlds don't always turn into Tippyverses. My version broadened it to 'everything needs mana to live' and civilizations that leaned on magic too heavily had their populations fall and crops fail. But your suggestion is subtle, and I like it.

That would also be possible, although you'd probably want to keep it long-term. As mentioned above, I believe that Dark Sun went that route. I like the idea of magic being more like coal or oil, though - it's not needed for anything but itself, but boy do you not want to end up running out.

Guizonde
2013-01-14, 04:15 PM
The Warhammer approach is pretty fun. Any use of magic/psyker powers has a chance of causing Psychic Phenomena (eerie and weird, but not all that dangerous) and a lesser chance of causing Perils of the Warp (chaotic and powerful, and VERY dangerous). It doesn't exactly 'eat your soul', but it does make spellcasting rolls extremely tense.

Perils of the Warp/Psychic Phenomena are also one of the fastest ways to get Insanity Points, which, this being the Warhammer universe, actually have some associated benefits.

+1 to everything stated, except for two things:

-"eating your soul". if your head asplode and out pops a greater daemon (slim chance, but still there), technically your soul IS eaten by chaos gods.
-how do insanity points bring benefits in whfrp? all the insanities listed are a real handicap, and very tough to cure. it goes from ptsd to schizophrenia to paranoia to alcoholism/drug addiction with dire consequences. the only good thing i see is with storytelling and adding flavor to a broken-minded character

Hiro Protagonest
2013-01-14, 04:33 PM
I don't know if anyone has mentioned Dark Sun yet, but arcane power sure as heck carries a drawback there; spellcasting is empowered by draining the life energy out of the surrounding area.

Which is why most of Athas is now a vast, lifeless desert.

There is a conservation option (although from what I gather, it's mostly that it draws a little bit of energy from hundreds of miles around, rather than draining a noticeable amount from everything within ten feet of you). Plus, it's only "most of Athas" if Athas consists of one continent. We don't know what lies beyond the Silt Sea or the Forest Ridge.

CarpeGuitarrem
2013-01-14, 05:01 PM
Dresden Files has "magic comes from your willpower". When you cast an evocation spell, you take mental stress, and you can take extra mental stress if you don't have a high enough Conviction skill to muster up the power needed for the spell you're trying to cast. (For instance, a Power 8 spell, when you have 6 Conviction, gives you a 2-Stress hit to cast.)

The system also includes backlash--if you fail your casting roll (as I recall), you can either choose to have the spell backlash into the environment or you can take the damage as mental stress to contain the fallout.

(Fluff-wise, there's also the idea that "you are what you cast", which is why magic that kills people is verboten. Monsters are fair game, though.)

Arbane
2013-01-14, 05:12 PM
I see a lot of the big ones have been mentioned but how about 'magic is usually more trouble than it's worth'? If casting a spell requires long magical rituals and specific astrological alignments, people will only use it for stuff you CAN'T do by mundane means.

AuraTwilight
2013-01-14, 06:40 PM
Well surely a smart Wizard and are there any others, except perhaps those on the coast would say "I'll have a Fireball over there, and an Iceball over here"?

Yea, you wouldn't be able to predict that sort of thing. It's magic.

And if there is a way to predict it, then it's an aggressive Murphy's Law. The Iceball shows up in the place that screws you over hardest.

raspberrybadger
2013-01-14, 07:00 PM
I like a lot of the systems mentioned so far. I don't think anyone mentioned Gandalf's dilemma (at the Redhorn pass) yet. If you cast, others will be able to detect that, and that could be a really bad thing. If you don't cast, what's the good of being a wizard? Sometime, I'm going to test a system on these boards with that (amelioratible) drawback to all casting, plus a few more drawbacks for arcane.

Also, the game I've been running IRL for years and years has magic alter the local area, at least some of the time. Multiple castings in the same area, and you can get unpredictable effects. Even if some of those castings were long ago. Of course, some people have abused that, especially as an act of desperation. Part of the reason this is a drawback is the social reaction to potentially disasterous impacts of casting - there are those who try to police against those who take unacceptable (for society) risks.

nedz
2013-01-14, 09:42 PM
I like a lot of the systems mentioned so far. I don't think anyone mentioned Gandalf's dilemma (at the Redhorn pass) yet. If you cast, others will be able to detect that, and that could be a really bad thing. If you don't cast, what's the good of being a wizard? Sometime, I'm going to test a system on these boards with that (amelioratible) drawback to all casting, plus a few more drawbacks for arcane.

I thought that this was due to the Ring of Power he was carrying ?
But the book is not clear on this.

hiryuu
2013-01-15, 01:09 AM
I see a lot of the big ones have been mentioned but how about 'magic is usually more trouble than it's worth'? If casting a spell requires long magical rituals and specific astrological alignments, people will only use it for stuff you CAN'T do by mundane means.

I do this a lot. Also that magic -is- the "mundane means." That is, making things and interacting with them are just really refined rituals. A blacksmith making a sword is a refined magical ritual. Swinging that sword is a refined ritual intended to cut someone. Powerful magicians are just people who can "skip steps" because they have family lines or have proven their strength and integrity to the world itself.

Magicians cut you with the very idea that they have a sword. They shoot "guns" because the idea of guns is either impressed with them or frightened about what they might do if they don't have their will be done. Magicians pull fire out of wood because the fire is too chicken to try and hide from them.

TuggyNE
2013-01-15, 03:04 AM
Option: There is a certain amount of ambient mana in a given area of the world. Casting spells drains MP not from the caster, but from the terrain in which he resides. But magic is also like a lake, so more mana flows in to fill the gap, over whatever time period seems appropriate.

The result is that wizards are stronger when they stay away from one another. More powerful wizards, rather than having more mana of their own, can cast spells at a lower cost; a few apprentices fumbling around and draining all of the region's power still ruins them. Many magical creatures require small amounts of mana on a continuous basis to survive; they try to stop humans from entering their lands to preserve local mana streams.

(Presumably, there are also fonts of magic that pour into the world to replenish what is spent, and areas near those fonts have a greater suffusion of mana as a rule. In addition, areas that are commonly drained start to tax surrounding areas, creating zones that have less mana in them until you leave them alone for a few weeks or months. Some cities might even hire wizards solely for the purpose of draining the local region's magic, in order to prevent rogue magicians from causing trouble.

You could also have talismans that can store mana, and limit how much energy a mage can draw from those talismans while also creating drawbacks to keeping many of them close to one another.)

That's basically the system I borrowed from Tales of the Questor (http://www.rhjunior.com/totq/) for my (very thoroughly WIP) game, except that here, mana (called lux) comes from living things. So while it's possible to temporarily drain an area of lux, it won't stay that way for more than a few hours, and only a few can drain any substantial area at a time.

There's also problems with channeling too much lux at once, or over a day, and it requires effort to bring in lux or retain it. Finally, all "magic items" also require lux to function, which means you can balance them out with casters more (i.e., everyone has to be able to use lux to some degree).

Kami2awa
2013-01-25, 04:02 AM
In Nomine has an interesting one, reminiscent of Star Wars :)

Using magic (or in the case of IN, miraculous powers) causes a "Disturbance" in the world that spreads out like ripples in water. The more powerful the magic the greater the range and intensity of the Disturbance. Supernatural beings and other spellcasters can feel Disturbances and track down the source.

This limits spellcasters who want to be covert, and would be very troublesome in a world which restricts or bans magic. In addition, the players can here Disturbance too, which means they can be easily drawn to plot hooks as Disturbance will advertise the presence of other supernatural beings.

NichG
2013-01-25, 07:24 AM
I think the real answer to giving magic potent drawbacks is that you have to embrace the idea that maybe everyone can in principle use it. If one guy is all about abilities he can safely use every game all the time, and another guy's schtick is overpowering force but only safe to use once every 10 games, the second guy is not going to have much fun. That doesn't mean that everyone's magic is the same though.

For instance, lets say each 'magic' corresponds in some way to a base competency that can be used at all times. The use of 'magic' is just going beyond the normal limits of that basic competency in an overtly supernatural way, perhaps with a price.

The guy whose magic is the manipulation and growth of plants can cause small plants to grow quickly at need, has an herb pouch that contains herbs and substances for any occasion - healing, poison, stimulants and sleeping draughts - and can read off all sorts of information in a forest setting. He's also good at setting tricks and traps to confound enemies, and is stealthy. His magic though goes a step beyond - with the right sacrifices, time, whatever, he can make a forest several square miles in area grow overnight; he can entrap all enemies on an entire battlefield in roots and vines; and so on. He can't do it every game, but he has the every-day abilities to let him continue to participate actively.

The guy whose magic is the manipulation of fortune and luck might be a surprisingly skilled duellist and strategist outside of his spellcasting. He can predict factors in a situation and gain advantage over his enemies by exploiting those factors, as a mundane all-the-time ability. He can gamble like no-one else, and things just tend to go better for him all the time. When its a situation where you have to choose right or left and you have only a split second, he never fails to choose correctly (or at least gets to roll twice and take the better). His 'actual' magic lets him unwrite ten minutes of history so that it can be done again, but if he uses it too often then he himself begins to fade from history, so he can get away with once every couple of games.

The fearless warrior has incredibly martial skill and can do a variety of combat maneuvers in a fight, excelling at fighting a single foe or multiple foes in melee. His magic is that every so often in a time of need he can call forth a new ability from arms or armor, which it has permanently thereafter. But to do this he must first imbue each item with a history, a story, which of course takes some time (a few games worth of play should give it enough of a reputation for a new ability...). Because of his magic, he is never caught completely without a means to address an enemy. If his sword must burn it shall burn. If he fights a flying enemy his boots become things that let him jump across an incredible distance, and so on. Perhaps due to the permanence of his effects, there is an additional cost beyond that of the other magics, a promise that must be made lest the item lose its powers - this sword must never taste the blood of the innocent, these boots must never touch water, etc.

Amphetryon
2013-01-25, 09:18 AM
This might be more crunchy/penalizing than what you're after, OP:

Magic draws from realms outside the ken of normal folk, and those who dwell there may take notice when their environment is disturbed. Spells cast have a percentage chance of drawing the attention of such Outsiders to the caster. The exact percentage is 1% per spell level per time cast in a day. This means a 0-level spell has no chance of drawing unwanted attention, while higher level spells have greater risks of drawing such attention, especially with repeated castings.

Lapak
2013-01-25, 10:42 AM
This might be more crunchy/penalizing than what you're after, OP:

Magic draws from realms outside the ken of normal folk, and those who dwell there may take notice when their environment is disturbed. Spells cast have a percentage chance of drawing the attention of such Outsiders to the caster. The exact percentage is 1% per spell level per time cast in a day. This means a 0-level spell has no chance of drawing unwanted attention, while higher level spells have greater risks of drawing such attention, especially with repeated castings.I like the theme, and think it's usable if you cut the chance down a bit. By a factor of 10, maybe: if we assume a 1% per ten spell levels, then we get the following patterns:
- minor magicians and hedge wizards would be safe day-in and day-out
- a single PC has the potential to attract trouble starting around 4th level if they blow through their entire loadout
- any significant magician's duel or conflict with an enemy spellcaster carries a minor risk
- battlefield magic is made MUCH rarer, risk has to be weighed carefully
- there's an in-game rationale for spells topping out at 9th level; that's the most powerful a spell can be without being enough all by itself to run the risk of drawing otherworldly attention

ArcturusV
2013-01-25, 11:14 AM
I never was THAT fond of the penalty ideal to Magic spells. It tends to turn games into Dark Heresy territory, which is generally fun, but gets to the point where one bad roll of the dice is instant TPK territory.

I mean imagine in the above situation where you cast two 5th level spells, and end up rolling 00, or 01 depending on how you do it, on the dice. Now you can DM fiat and basically handwave it out saying "oh, they just Take Notice but don't actually do anything". Or you end up bumping up what should be a challenging, potentially deadly, fight by instantly dropping an enemy that the team would not have been prepared to deal with in the middle of it. And you end up killing someone off just because.

Now I'm not someone who minds PC death. In fact I had a reputation of keeping DMs honest and killing me off, if it called for that, rather than cheat in my favor. Nor am I against self deserved penalties either. But it needs some sort of limit between potential TPK and no real punishment at all. And if the Outsiders in question end up being easily handled by a party? It's no punishment at all. If they're not easily handled? Usually TPK on top of whatever caused them to burn the spells that drew the attention in the first place.

It's why when I homebrew games I tend to avoid Magic Penalties/Drawbacks compared to making magic harder to use to start with. If it's harder to use, you avoid a lot of the Magic One Shots Everything problems. You also avoid a situation where you end up with 5 players and all of them are Spellcasters of a sort because it's obviously the most powerful, and give other classes their room to stretch out.

Amphetryon
2013-01-25, 11:30 AM
I like the theme, and think it's usable if you cut the chance down a bit. By a factor of 10, maybe: if we assume a 1% per ten spell levels, then we get the following patterns:
- minor magicians and hedge wizards would be safe day-in and day-out
- a single PC has the potential to attract trouble starting around 4th level if they blow through their entire loadout
- any significant magician's duel or conflict with an enemy spellcaster carries a minor risk
- battlefield magic is made MUCH rarer, risk has to be weighed carefully
- there's an in-game rationale for spells topping out at 9th level; that's the most powerful a spell can be without being enough all by itself to run the risk of drawing otherworldly attention

I think you're talking about spell levels differently than I am. If it's per 10 spell levels in the fashion I was using the term, you'd need to use 10th level spells for this to have any effect.

Lapak
2013-01-25, 11:39 AM
I think you're talking about spell levels differently than I am. If it's per 10 spell levels in the fashion I was using the term, you'd need to use 10th level spells for this to have any effect.I was thinking totals over the course of a day rather than on a per-spell basis. With a 1% chance per spell level, even the most conservative magician who only casts a single 1st-level spell per week is more likely than not to have been eaten by an Outsider just over a year into his career. (The odds pass under 50% right in his 69th week of casting.) Only the luckiest mages in the world would live to hit 6th level.

Amphetryon
2013-01-25, 11:43 AM
I was thinking totals over the course of a day rather than on a per-spell basis. With a 1% chance per spell level, even the most conservative magician who only casts a single 1st-level spell per week is more likely than not to have been eaten by an Outsider just over a year into his career. (The odds pass under 50% right in his 69th week of casting.) Only the luckiest mages in the world would live to hit 6th level.

I never said, nor intended, that it was cumulative day-to-day; I apologize if something in my post made you read it that way.

Lapak
2013-01-25, 11:52 AM
I never said, nor intended, that it was cumulative day-to-day; I apologize if something in my post made you read it that way.No, I mean even a static 1% chance. Even in the super-careful once-a-week mode, 1-in-100 chances do come up - and statistically, it doesn't usually take 100 tries to get there.

99% safe * 99% safe * 99% safe... crosses over 50/50 odds of a triggered event at the 69th iteration. Higher-level spells will trigger them faster. Anyone who regularly engages in any level of spellcasting will be eaten sooner rather than later, unless the threats attracted are more of a nuisance than a danger. I suppose if they scale with the level of the triggering spell, that could work...

ArcturusV
2013-01-25, 12:06 PM
Then again, if they are just a nuisance... it's not really much of a drawback. It's more like "Free XP and material components for all those Needs a ___ of a ____ spells."