View Full Version : Low magic system without spell points or slots per day

2016-12-03, 08:42 AM
I am toying around with an idea for a magic system that is more like what you see in many fantasy books instead of game mechanics. What I am thinking of are magic rules that are not tied to any spellcaster class, have no limit on how many spells you can know, and how many spells you can cast before recharging your magic energies. Something anyone could do if the instructions for the spell are at hand, with the character's specific skill at magic determining only the success of the spell.
The main limitations would be that the casting takes considerable time and rare components, and that any spell could fail, making it inconvenient and needlessly risky to try magic when not really necessary. The main applications I want to cover are summoning, divination, and curses. Are there any RPGs with magic systems that go somewhat in this direction that I could use as references?

In addition, I am thinking to also have some "minor summonings" of simple elementals and spirits that possess the summoner and give him one of their powers for a short duration, like climbing walls or breathing fire. Tome of Magic for D&D has an interesting option for this that I want to take another look at. But if anyone can think of something similar I should give a shot I'd like to hear of that as well.

2016-12-03, 10:53 AM
From what I recall of Exalted 2e, magic spells (as opposed to charms and stunts) was time-consuming, but it was powerful. Then again, it also still had a points cost to it. Mutants & Masterminds has magic that's always on. Monster of the Week might fit everything you're looking for, but it's light on specifics for magic use - it's more or less describing what you're doing and the GM adjudicating what time and material costs there are (within the system's limits).

2016-12-03, 11:18 AM
Unearthed Arcana had a system like that, Incantations, I think they were called? You should be able to find them in the SRD. Quite interesting. Pretty much a ritual magic system, where you need to pass a few knowledge checks to make the magic happen and it can go wrong pretty badly. Now, the effects as shown are actually pretty high magic, but I'm sure the system could be adapted.

2016-12-05, 02:29 PM
d20 Modern has Incantations. Probably stolen from that Unearthed Arcana thing, now that I think about it.

In short, you make Knowledge: Arcane Lore (Int) checks to perform rituals you discovered. It allows you (as the GM) to make incantations with certain limitations and effects from scratch. Just lower the difficulties to whatever makes sense for the power level of your campaign (as-is, even a character with maxed Arcane Lore can't do much until mid-level, but that can be remedied by reducing all difficulties by, let's say, 10).


2016-12-05, 02:52 PM
IIRC, Nephilim (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim_(role-playing_game)) had an interesting magic system that might fit your bill.

It was very much tied to historical magical writings from the likes of Aleister Crowley and other Hermetic tradition alumni - which might be a bit too close to the bone for some. It was full of dark details and needlessly baroque: it had tables for working out the best day and time to cast your ritual based on the symbolism of tarot, zodiac, ancient religions, etc, etc.

Could be inspirational, if nothing else.