View Full Version : M:tG Color-based Spells [Theoretical System]

2006-12-31, 10:32 PM
First things first. Yes, this may be one of the least original ideas I have had in at least a month.

Now then, on to busboy. This system isn't yet complete, and I'm primarily posting here to get help/ideas for the system. As it is, I have the basics more or less down, so I'll put what I have.

Magic: the Gathering, as I assume just about everyone here knows (at least to some extent) is a TCG based on the premise of two spellcasters doing battle with summoned creatures and spells of all sorts. These spellcasters draw their mana from the land around them: mountains, swamps, plains, and so forth. There are five colors of mana: blue, black, red, green, and white. My proposition is this: How can we set up a system that does not revolve around arcane/divine magic, but rather these five colors?

"Hasn't color-based magic been done fifty billion times over by now?" Probably. Unfortunately, I can't find hide nor hair of such a system, and even if I did, it would be at least somewhat different from what I have in mind.

"M:tG players are assumed to be wizards. Can't you just screw with the wizard specializations and leave it at that?" Yes, in theory. You could have a wizard who specializes in what M:tG would call white magic. But in all honesty, what kind of wizard would have a spell named something like "Divine Intervention"? A cleric, that's who. Hence the revamping of the magic system. Wizards can cast blue, red, and conceivably black magic with little trouble. Green and white magic, less so.

If we removed the primary spellcasting classes (wizard, sorcerer, cleric, and also druid (fret not, wild shape may return)) and placed in five classes, each focused on one of the colors of M:tG magic, that wouldn't change actual roles overly much. We'd still have token healers (white), nature casters (green), exploderizers (red), subtle tricksters (blue), and even antagonistic casters like jolly old Xykon (black).

These classes will probably not have the same variety as the old classes with their spells, but will instead make up for it with class features such as connection to their "terrain" (so that black mages, for example, would have better spellcasting power within swamp regions, and probably in a broader sense than that, such as underground caverns). Additionally, we can offer some of the abilities to each class that their predecessors had, such as wild shape for green mages (maybe not to the extent of the druid), positive/negative energy powers for our white and black mages, respectively, as well as less standard powers like sudden metamagic (such as the feats in Complete Arcane) or granting temporary abilities to weapons. Some of these may be inaccessible until higher levels, and it's impossible for a character to have all of the abilities from a single mage type (ideally, unless we're talking epic level).

As for those of us who rely only partially on magic (paladins, bards, rangers) their spell lists barely need to change. They can classify their magic as the most logical color (rangers as green, paladins as black, bards as blue) and everyone's happy sort of.

With regard to "compatibility" between classes, it makes sense to me that the five colors can interact somewhat better with close colors. Red mages, for example, can probably use scrolls prepared by green mages and black mages reasonably, unless the spell is one they couldn't normally cast. If a green mage had written a scroll of, say, burning hands, it stands to reason that a red mage could cast it. If that same green mage had written a scroll of entangle instead, that red mage probably wouldn't know how to cast it (unless they had Use Magic Device. I'm a bit fuzzy on the whole inter-class magic item set-up, but then again, I aim to learn with this project).

As for ability scores, I know already that green and white magic will probably be based on Wisdom (not much of a stretch) and that the other three schools will probably be either Intelligence or Charisma (actually, I'm not too sure about black magic). Preparation comes from a meditation on the color of magic that you wield, and will probably be spontaneous, although given the whole "wizard duel" setting, a spellbook doesn't sound out of the question either.

Last, alignment. I'm not going to propose any alignment restrictions on the schools of magic or their new corresponding classes. Why, you ask? Why can a black mage be good? Simple: the colors of magic themselves have no true loyalties. Granted, it may be easier for a white mage to uphold the law and defend the weak, but there's nothing that stops someone who wields white magic from using it to defend his team of brutal mercenaries, just as there's nothing preventing a black mage from using his undead minions to safeguard a charitable Healer's Guild. Intent and method are completely separate; although said Healer's Guild may not approve of the method, they may appreciate the intent. This was even kept in mind when the TCG was designed.

Okay, now that I have all that out somewhere... please, offer helpful advice/criticism/nudges away from a doomed topic (without flames, if you please).

2006-12-31, 10:48 PM
Well, my first step would be to compile all of the DnD spells and seperate them by M:tG flavor. For example, Fireball would be a red spell, while Disguise Self would be a blue spell. CLW would be white, Summon Nature's Ally would be green, and Raise would be black. For any spell with the word "divine" in it, change the spell name to fit a white mage's arsernal.

As for ability scores, white and green should be WIS-based, blue should be INT-based, and Black and Red magic should be CHA-based and spontaneous. Red certainly isn't a wisdom color, and CHA can also represent fearful effects(intimidate), which provides the reasoning for Black. White, Green, and Blue mages should have to prepare their spells ahead of time. It fits in with their play styles. White and Blue are typically "control" colors (although white has its fair share of aggro). Green stays in tune with nature and their mages would probably meditate to gain spells, like druids. Black and red are CHA-based spontaneous to reflect their unpredictable nature.

For more info on what each color likes/dislikes about stuff, MaRo has a series of articles on each color and each color combination(Ravnica Guilds)

2007-01-01, 12:22 AM

Might be a good resource. It's good to point out that Black is not necessarily 'Evil,' just a fan of power, with no moral constraints on it. Over-gods would probably all be 'black,' simply because they're above morality. This would need to be enumerated to shatter the expectation that
black = evil. I think the OP's assumption that Paladin = Black is flawed though, Paladin is mostly healing/defense/boost.

Food for thought. Not a bad idea, it's certainly neater than the 8 schools sort of thing.

An idea, have casters do a sort of 'point buy,' where they get a certain amount of points to distribute among the schools of magic, affecting things like spell points used in casting of spells, save DC, etc.

2007-01-01, 03:01 PM
Sorry, meant to point out later in the post that "psyche, paladins are white" but I must've gotten sidetracked. That can happen.

And this idea probably was inspired by the articles by MaRo. I read them recently through that Izzet link in someone's sig here.

For blue being Int-based... I was kind of wary of that, since bards use blue magic and rely on Charisma for it... then again, a bard with a low Int probably couldn't use their spell repertoire effectively anyhow. Also, the part about having to prepare their spells beforehand doesn't fit with them, but we can get to them later.

I'll get to setting up a list of magic divided by school shortly, and I even have a few guidelines for that already set by school. For example, most necromancy is probably black (as it deals with death often), evocations will primarily be red (especially the trademark exploder spells like fireball and lightning bolt), and illusions blue, and so forth. Also, some spells can probably be redesigned or cut out completely (we'll worry about those when we get to them.)

2007-01-01, 03:29 PM
You're working on a few assumptions though. The problems that I see arriving rapidly is that doubtless you're saying that blue magic=subtlety and illusions and thus Charisma; while the description in the wheel above links it to
Intelligence and rational thought. That problem lies in the incompatibility within the two system we're trying to mesh together. Red magic seems to be best based on Charisma, as well as Green magic, since it is based around instinct, though Wisdom may also be substituted with a slight stretch, making it a perfect fit for the Druid to begin with. White magic is tailor-made for the Paladin's "Lawful Good" script, and Black magic for necromancers and those who want power for the sake of power. All in all, this may work well yet, any ideas for Charisma put into technicolor?

2007-01-01, 03:45 PM
I change my previous statement on Green Magic. It should probably be CHA-based. Blue magic should still stay INT-based, though. Blue may have rogues, but overall, the color favors caution, intellect, nurturing, and planning. All of which could be considered INT-based.

But heres a different idea, I think you should try reserving 5 (insert name here) points at first level of the spellcasting class. You divide them as you wish among the 5 colors. Lets say a lv. 1 Wizard starts out and gets their 5 points. The wizard decides to put 2 points in Red and 3 in Green. Then it works like an ability modifier. This wizard would get +1 1st level red spells a day and +1 2nd level red spells a day, and get +1 1st, 2nd, and 3rd levels of green spells each day. Every fifth level, the mage gains 1 (insert name here) points to put into a color. In order to cast magic of a certain color, a mage needs one (INH) point in that color to cast it. So a WUBRG wizard would get +1 bonus 1st level spells for all colors and be able to cast all colors of magic.

That could replace the ability modifiers, but then there becomes a problem with what do to now with CHA, INT, and WIS besides Skill modifiers.

2007-01-01, 06:26 PM
I do like that idea with the "pool" system for spells. Plus, it makes the need to divide one class into five much less complicated. As you said, though, the ability scores cause difficulty in that regard. They don't provide bonus spells, they just make it tougher to resist your spells (and are also required to be really high for things like miracle). So they need to be used for something else to compensate. How about... prerequisites for the aforementioned class abilities? For a good example: Wild Empathy. Any Green mage can call up green magic like a regular druid, but only those with a sign of personality can get the Wild Empathy ability. Another ability in a similar vein (thank you druids for your mess of powers) is the well-known Wild Shape. I could see ability scores playing into that as well. Of course, tying mana "proficiency" (or the mana points in a given color) would help too, so we don't have White mages with the power to rebuke undead.

With the suggestions made, I see Green and Red as Cha-based, Blue and Black as Int-based, and White as Wis-based. May change Black to Wis (as a Black mage knows what they want, and doesn't have to please people to get it. Wait... that doesn't make sense... but having common sense when dealing with deadly powers does). I'm quite happy with the suggestions here, do keep them coming.

2007-01-01, 08:47 PM
Alright, here goes. No need for modifiers:

First, use spell points (You weren't anyway?) :http://www.systemreferencedocuments.org/35/sovelior_sage/unearthedSpellPoints.html

Wizards and Clerics get an amount of 'mana points' per level equal to the amount of spell points they would normally get per day. they spend these around the color wheel, and get that many colored spell points per day. Use these to cast spells of the corresponding color. Cake.

An example:

Willy Wizard is a first level Wizard with a 20 int (Stupid non-core races) He gets a total of 4 spell points. He decides he wants to be well-rounded, and go rainbow, spending one point on each color.

So, he has WURB to start the day with. After taking a suprise arrow, he casts Cure Light Wounds spending W. He needs a magic missile to take out some kobalds, spending R. He casts Detect Evil with his U, later on, he casts Bane with his B. His friend, Matt Meatshield, takes a nasty sword blow later, and Willy holds his hand as he dies, since he doesn't has any free W.

Bobby Blaster is a Sorcerer all about the kill kill kill! He also has a 20 int, and spends his 5 mana points on RRRBB. He casts 2 burning hands, throws out a magic missile, and then casts doom twice, because the spell has a cool name.

Now, on to Carlos, the Cleric:

Clerics and Druids can only invest in two colors, a primary and a 'splash.' Which two colors is determined by the God they follow, they get an assigned primary and a choice of two secondaries.

Clerics/Drooeeds can only invest a number of mana points in their splash equal to their character level.

For example: Carlos is a 1st level cleric of Pelor with a 20 Wis (What's with these out of whack stats?) Carlos puts 3 of his 4 points into White, and the max of one into his splash, Red. At level two, he gets 6 spell points, putting 4 into W and 2 into R.

The only question now is; Do we allow Wizards to cast typically cleric spells? I say why not!

2007-01-01, 09:56 PM
Since some colors of mana work well together (look at the back of the card), perhaps "friendly" colors could share a terrain boost. For example, red has mountains and black has swamps, and they could share underground. This sounds easy, but it really isn't. I could only come up with this example here. It's your choice whether or not to assign shared favored terrain.

2007-01-01, 09:57 PM
In MTG, there are a few kinds of "common" wizards.

1> Single colour wizards.
2> Single colour, second minor, wizards.
3> Double-colour wizards.
4> Triple-colour wizards.
5> All-colour wizards.

Category 5 -- all-colour -- is a special case.

But, in general, the cost of going more colours is that your spell selection from each colour is more limited -- you are often forced to cast slightly less efficient spell varients, and entire kinds of effects are less effective.

One can avoid some of that problem by casting spells that grant you polychromatic mana sources. These usually take time to power up.


In general, more advanced casters become multi-coloured.

In M:tG, more powerful spells take time to gather the mana required to cast them.


So lets keep the "gather power", then use the power to cast spells, phases.

Higher level casters should be able to cast higher level spells. In addition...

Higher level casters can learn to gather power of a particular kind faster, or increase their flexibility in their chromatic choices, or some combination of the two.

Ideally you'd want some randomness to this.

The maximium amount of mana availiable for a caster would be the max level spell a character could cast.

Each spell would have a "mana requirement" -- say, UU5 for a 7th level spell with modest blue mana requirements. A high-blue-mana requirement L 7 spell might be UUUUU2.

Some spells would be polychromatic.


2007-01-01, 10:01 PM
Spell list:


In MTG, there are a few kinds of "common" wizards.

1> Single colour wizards.
2> Single colour, second minor, wizards.
3> Double-colour wizards.
4> Triple-colour wizards.
5> All-colour wizards.

Category 5 -- all-colour -- is a special case.

But, in general, the cost of going more colours is that your spell selection from each colour is more limited -- you are often forced to cast slightly less efficient spell varients, and entire kinds of effects are less effective.

My system takes care of all of this - you can choose to specialize, or not, but if you do you'll get more chances to use the heavy hitters more often.

Some spells will have multiple costs, and I can see the need for colorless costs, but the added necessity of time is meaningless.

2007-01-02, 12:23 AM
I think your system works pretty well for the most part Legoman, except maybe the high amount of blue spells in relation to other colors.

The point about having wizards cast cleric spells also seemed a bit off, but considering that clerics are a bit less spell-dependent than wizards, it doesn't seem so bad. After all, a cleric with a full set of armor, a trusty (albeit stereotypical) mace, and no more spell points, is a lot more terrifying than a wizard with a staff (or whatever weapon they have) and no spell points remaining. If you factor in that clerics can also turn undead, that some can get the War domain to become extra-efficient fighters (are we keeping domain powers and spell lists? I don't see a problem with it), and that they may even have Divine feats (see Complete Divine, I think, probably Complete Warrior too) then suddenly Mr. Missile-and-Cure seems a bit more balanced. Of course, this promises to get a bit more out of hand at higher levels, but then again, clerics have to focus more in the area they prefer than wizards do, so that can balance itself out as well.

2007-01-02, 12:51 AM
I was concerned about the amount of blue as well, but many of those are 'detects.' Not exactly game breakers, but it'd probably be good to move some things around. Some of the armor spells should probably be white, etc.

Can we get a collaborative Google spreadsheet going, so that we can plow through all the spells? If you use Excel's list manager, it's easy to sort alphabetically, then assign costs. Just don't give a cost to a duplicate, and have it not display blanks. Copy it to a proper spreadsheet, and you can import it right to Google.

Also, let's not be afraid to employ colorless spell points and multi-colored stuff.

2007-01-02, 04:13 AM
Throwing in my 2cp:

Fist adopt the spell point system, using this (http://www.wakinglands.com/htm_files/the_spell_points_page.htm) spell point table, since it's better than the one in the SRD.

Second, the mana sytem:
Your spell points for the day start out as colorless mana. All casters have the ability Tap Mana (Sp): as a standard action you may convert one colorless mana into one mana of your choice. This ability provokes AOO's and requires concentration just like a normal spell like ability.

Spells generally start out costing one mana of their color and one colorless. As you reach higher levels, spells have more of their mana colored, and casters can tap more mana (say, 3rd level spells cost 2 colored and 3 colorless, a 5th or 6th level caster can tap for 2 colored mana at once). Some spells are multicolored, some have more colored mana than others of their level, and some are completely colorless (this has the added effect of more fine tuning between spell strengths, but this should be on a game by game basis mostly).

Feats or class abilities could be made to allow a caster to tap for more mana, tap for more mana with a full round action, or tap for less as a swift action.

And that's what I've got. It's a net nerf to casters, but some people will like that, and others can compensate.

2007-01-02, 03:56 PM
You don't have to tie spell points to mana costs -- I'd argue that doing so gets in the way of getting a "M:tG" type casters -- in that almost every caster is 1 2 or 3 coloured, except rare high level characters.

With 10s of mana units availiable, having a splash of black mana isn't all that expensive. You'd end up with nearly every wizard above low levels being seriously polychromatic.

2007-01-02, 05:04 PM
You don't have to tie spell points to mana costs -- I'd argue that doing so gets in the way of getting a "M:tG" type casters -- in that almost every caster is 1 2 or 3 coloured, except rare high level characters.

With 10s of mana units availiable, having a splash of black mana isn't all that expensive. You'd end up with nearly every wizard above low levels being seriously polychromatic.

I see what you mean, it'd basically be just like a normal game running spell points, with the added complexity of keeping track of colors.

What about making casters 'pay' to maintain every color beyond the first? For each color beyond the first, you have to basically pay for a 'dead spell' that costs as the highest level spell you can cast.

For example - Molly Multicolored is a 10th level wizard that wants to have three colors.

As a 10th level wizard with 20 int, she gets 98 spell points. A 5th level spell costs 9 points, so 18 of them are gone off the bat to pay the 'upkeep' of her secondary and tertiary colors. She is left with 80.

As another example, Peter Polychromatic is a 15th level wizard with 21 int, getting 178 spell points. He wants to cast from all 5 colors, and so he has to pay the cost for 4 8th level spells. At 15 points each, he's out 60 points off the bat, leaving him with 118.

These don't seem too extreme, but consider the fact that they still have to divide these spells among colors. Pete's only going to have 24 spell points per color, enough for three third level spells each - not particularly impressive. By contrast, a specialist wizard can basically throw out Disintegrates (Or Heals)all day long.

2007-01-04, 01:03 PM
An attempted implementation:

A wizard has access to 1 mana at first level, and gains access to another mana every odd level.

Each mana has a colour -- White, Black, Blue, Green or Red.

Each spell has a mana requirement. A L 1 spell requires 1 mana, a L 9 spell requires 9 mana. Most spells require a mix of coloured and colourless mana.

In order to cast a spell, a wizard must have enough mana of the appropriate colours, in addition to whatever other requirement your chosen system requires (spell points, spell slots, etc). Casting a spell does not consume your mana points -- your mana is simply an indication of what spells you can cast, not a cost system. The test of having the correct mana is done at the start of the spell.

Any wizard may convert 1 mana to 1 blue mana for 1 round via a 10 minute ritual. This allows every wizard access to essential spells like "read magic".

In addition, a wizard has access to 1 mana manipulation at first level and every even level. These abilities let the wizard convert between colours of mana.

Example mana manipulations:
Way of Locale: As a swift action, convert 1 mana to a colour determined by the local terrain. This conversion can only be 1 step, and lasts 1 round. You cannot take this way more than once.

Way of Pain: Convert 1 blue or red mana to 1 black mana for up to 1d6 rounds. Take 1 point of damage for every round you keep the conversion going.

Way of Sacrafice: On the death of a creature, convert 1 mana of any colour to black mana for every 3 HD the creature posesses. This lasts up to 1d6 rounds. This way cannot be learnt more than once.

Way of Life: As a full-round action, convert 1 white mana to 1 green mana, or 1 green mana to 1 white mana. This lasts up to 1d6 rounds.

Way of the Prism: As a full round action, you can burn 1 mana to convert 1 mana to 1 mana of any colour. This lasts up to 1d6 rounds.

Way of the Ritual: As a 10 minute action, you can convert 1 of your mana to 1 mana of any colour by burning 3 mana provided by a third party. More than one third party can provide the mana. If the third party is unwilling, they must be helpless and restrained for the duration of the ritual, and 5 points of damage per mana borrowed must be done to them. All parties to the ritual must maintain physical contact for the duration of the ritual.

You can learn most Ways of Mana Manipulation up to four times, but it isn't efficient as the costs grow faster than the benefits. To generate two mana, you have to pay 3x as much (3 full round actions, 3 damage per round, 3+1 mana for the prism, etc). Two generate three mana, 6x as much. To generate four mana, 10x as much.

So, to use the Way of the Ritual to convert 4 of your mana to any colour, you need to get 30 mana from third parties.

Note that a 19th level wizard has 10 mana, but cannot cast 10th level spells.