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BlizzardSucks80
2018-01-13, 01:57 AM
I have been spending the last few weeks of my life designing a medieval fantasy RPG system for the tabletop and today I came to a realization that my magic system is in fact broken. Totally broken. I have given up on trying to make the magic system work, and as such have given up on making that system entirely. It's been a sad day.

So I have resolved to make a new system, one that has no magic system. That doesn't mean the world/setting won't have magic in it, there will just be no spellcasting available to the player characters at all. They can still use magic items and participate in magic rituals and such, and there will still be those capable of casting spells, but all spellcasters will be NPCs.

I just think that when I design a magic system for an RPG that it tends to go 1 of 2 ways: Either the magic system is broken because magic can do anything and the player characters that have magic can use it to their full advantage (and then some) to totally negate the challenge and tension of the game/story. This has happened to me SO many times.
Or 2: The magic system is unfun because the magic is far too limited in what it can do. It is essentially reduced to a gimic that somewhat helps but isn't really necessary. The wizard just goes: "Okay, I can do some elemental damage or whatever and maybe heal you for a few hit points. Now I'm done. Why did I choose to be a spellcaster again?"

So therefore I am done trying to make magic systems work. Instead I am going to make a kickass RPG that doesn't have any magic and will still be fun. Okay rant over.

How about you guys? Have you been met with similar frustrations when designing your own tabletop systems?

Knaight
2018-01-13, 02:14 AM
Magic systems are one of those things that tend to be particularly tricky to get right. There's a few other standouts in that regard (social conflict, vehicles, economies, crafting systems), but magic often comes up first when doing fantasy.

RFLS
2018-01-13, 02:16 AM
Yes and no. Personally, I'm happy with magic systems that present alternatives to mundane options while not outstripping them. Shadowrun (while rife with its own problems) does a fairly good job of this (someone will chime in with the uh...problems with the summoning system. Which is fair). FATE does this to an extent - your aspects grant you permission to do things a certain way with magic, but you might take penalties for trying to do something along those lines with magic, or sometimes your magic use will be used against you. Dungeon World does a decent job of it, from what I understand (take that with a grain of salt; I haven't played it). Essentially, the goal with balancing a magic system alongside mundane PCs is the present different options to the magic users, but also impose drawbacks. the trick is balancing the options against the drawbacks. Many systems fail because they don't consider the drawbacks, they don't put the effort into making them interesting, or they all them to be easily negated.

It sounds like you're coming from a D&D 3.5/5e/PF direction, in which, yes, magic is objectively broken. Consider that magic in the context of what I've described - it presents options that exceed mundane ones and contains no real drawbacks (it's clear that these systems think that lower HP/attack bonuses are drawbacks to mages).

Vitruviansquid
2018-01-13, 02:36 AM
I have been spending the last few weeks of my life designing a medieval fantasy RPG system for the tabletop and today I came to a realization that my magic system is in fact broken. Totally broken. I have given up on trying to make the magic system work, and as such have given up on making that system entirely. It's been a sad day.

So I have resolved to make a new system, one that has no magic system. That doesn't mean the world/setting won't have magic in it, there will just be no spellcasting available to the player characters at all. They can still use magic items and participate in magic rituals and such, and there will still be those capable of casting spells, but all spellcasters will be NPCs.

I just think that when I design a magic system for an RPG that it tends to go 1 of 2 ways: Either the magic system is broken because magic can do anything and the player characters that have magic can use it to their full advantage (and then some) to totally negate the challenge and tension of the game/story. This has happened to me SO many times.
Or 2: The magic system is unfun because the magic is far too limited in what it can do. It is essentially reduced to a gimic that somewhat helps but isn't really necessary. The wizard just goes: "Okay, I can do some elemental damage or whatever and maybe heal you for a few hit points. Now I'm done. Why did I choose to be a spellcaster again?"

So therefore I am done trying to make magic systems work. Instead I am going to make a kickass RPG that doesn't have any magic and will still be fun. Okay rant over.

How about you guys? Have you been met with similar frustrations when designing your own tabletop systems?

In my system, I basically built a basic combat system with only physical actions.

Then, every magic effect in the game is layered on top of this basic combat system and provides exceptions to the rules of the physical actions.

Unfortunately, my system is pretty narrow and tied to a setting where some of the obvious expectations for magic, like throwing a fireball for damage, doesn't have to exist.

hymer
2018-01-13, 03:52 AM
In a Master of Orion-inspired sci-fi-esque game I ran for a few sessions, there were powers that were effectively magical. My way of balancing them was to aim for each power in itself being better than anything you could do withuout it. But the amount of powers were severely restricted. You could force a sentient enemy to miss when shooting at you from within sight, but then that would be all you could do. You would be much better protected against single enemies you were aware of. But it would take a separate investment to get a second power, like reading someone's surface thoughts, or seeing through a wall (and seeing through walls is something you could do with the right equipment, so the main advantage there was avoiding bulky stuff that is expensive, fills up your carruying capacity, and can break). A really capable character, far more advanced than we ever got, would have eight or maybe ten of these powers.

I think it worked, but the play testing was not extensive.

Lvl 2 Expert
2018-01-13, 04:43 AM
There are several things you can try to make a magic system less powerful. I fully expect you've tried all of these already, but maybe too many of them at the same time. Try applying one of them and see how it looks maybe.

- Limit the raw power. Exactly what it says on the tin, less powerful spells. Imagine a D20 wizard who'd have full casting progression up to level 5 but slowed down after that so they'd get to what is normally level 15 by the time they're at 20.

- Limit the amount of uses. Earth shattering spells, but only one of those per week. If you do it that extreme it might make your wizards very glass cannony, a payload to be delivered. This may also encourage a 15 minute adventuring day.

- Limit the width of magical powers. Imagine a D20 wizard using only spells from the druid list, or from one or two wizard schools, or from one or two cleric domains. They are still insanely powerful, but there are going to be things they just cannot do. A main downside is that the DM will have to start catering to the players a lot, making sure there's just enough huge problems they can solve in the most straightforward way for their powers to be useful and just enough smaller problems they're going to be struggling with for things to be challenging.

- Limit the usefulness of magic as a standalone thing. To throw a fireball you literally need to throw it. To use the magical rage ability well you need a decent baseline physical attack. To use the tunnel spell effectively to get through under the enemies walls you need knowledge of tunnel construction and you need to be able to make support beams. Magic only works on an already competent character.

- Limit the exclusivity of magic. This is maybe a little bit of another side of the coin in the paragraph above. There are no or very few separate wizards who only do magic. Instead most people can do some of it. I really like Hymer's example for instance. An army wouldn't march out with people in their ranks who only know quantum physics, so why would anyone go adventuring with some bookworm who only knows spellcasting? (Because they're super useful obviously, so yeah, probably best combined with the point above.)

- Limit non-magic options. A D20 cleric can still smash someone with a hammer. He'll do half the damage a fighter does (without a good self buff like they'll usually use, so just as an example), but he can still do it. He can also have one or two maxed skills. Yet the fighter and the rogue have no magic, and more importantly no or very limited ability to do what magic does, while magic users can tackle most problems the fighter could solve with just as much ease. The healing skill is a joke compared to the most basic healing spells. Craft (alchemy) will give you acces to some fire and acid damage, but good luck having that ready within a day or two when the trolls are attacking right now. So instead of limiting the casters' casting or giving the mundanes more casting maybe limit the casters' mundane options. A wizard can't punch a guy. It's total magic to him. Muscles, what are those? He probably has a 1/4 chance to break his own fist in the first swing or something. This is a problem because his fireballs pass straight through those skeletons attacking him. He's also completely mystified by the simplest of knots. It just never came up in wizarding school okay? Now tie me in and pull me up, the orcs are coming and I don't get any flying spells in this universe.

Maybe that helps a bit, try to split depowering into different components, and see which ones work.

JellyPooga
2018-01-13, 04:55 AM
Make magic as easy/hard or harder than doing it any other way. To borrow an explanation from The Deed of Paksenarrion; creating an illusion of fire is harder than creating actual fire, because reality carries its own conviction; real fire doesn't have to worry about the light it creates or how a flame might shift in the wind, because it does those things naturally; a good illusion does need to consider those things. The argument applies specifically to illusions, but the principle applies to all forms of magic. Magic is better than mundane because it does what mundane cannot; create fire from nothing, grant flight without mechanical assistance and so forth, not because it is inherently more powerful.

How this applies to creating a magic system is in balancing the versatility of magic against the difficukty in using it. It's a fine line, but GURPS does a fairly good job of approaching it; each spell is treated like any other skill, except where a skill can be used as often as you like, magic costs you resources and is typically harder to learn. A lockpicking spell, for instance, is harder to learn than actually learning to pick a lock and is exhausting to cast, but can be done without lockpicks. Balance.

Florian
2018-01-13, 05:27 AM
How about you guys? Have you been met with similar frustrations when designing your own tabletop systems?

Created a faux-medieval game based on the Traveller SRD. I decided to split "magic" into "small magic" and "big magic", dividing that up into three different magic systems.

"Small magic" is alchemy and herbalism. Get the formula, grab some reagents and a lab, have a shot a covering the basics. Costly and time consuming, but can be done.

"Big magic" is Astrology (*)and Miracles. No matter what, nothing done with alchemy or herbalism can come close to replicating one of the effects here. Both types could be called "plot driven magic". (*) Bit of a misname, really.

"Astrology" is based on "right time, right place, right tools to get it done". That can range from actually watching the stars at a certain night and a certain place to gain knowledge when and where the next faerie portal will come active, to the specific ritual to summon a demon.

"Miracles" is based on begging for divine intervention. Researching a saint, archangel, demon or faerie queen will give info on how to please them (build up faith points) and what effects they could trigger. You could then spent those points to roll on a chart to see what happens.

All in all, had fun play testing it with my group, but it proved to be tedious to write out in detailed rules, especially the Miracles.

Jormengand
2018-01-13, 05:46 AM
This thread makes me happy because I get to insinuate that my new RPG, Dishonour Before Death, might be in production soon, and talk about it a bit more than I have previously. Let's go:

In DBD, there isn't just one type of magic: there are 8. This doesn't mean like in D&D 3.5 where you have different types of magic that work on power points or truespeak checks - in DBD, everything (almost everything) is a check on two stats, and spells are always a check on magic plus another relevant stat - but that the actual spells themselves have different tendencies. For example, there's task magic, which is very similar to Hymer's suggestion above: each spell does one thing and only one thing very well, and it's really expensive to buy spells that cover a lot of situations. The other drawbacks include blood magic, volatile magic, balance magic, and unleashed magic - spells that can hurt or inconvenience the caster or their allies in a variety of different ways - ritual magic which takes a long time, channelled magic that can easily be interrupted, and finesse magic which places restrictions on the spellcaster before it can be used: commonly the spellcaster can't use standard weapons or armour if they want to use finesse magic.

This gives people a lot of options. People who don't want to be "Punished for doing their job" can simply not use blood magic. People who don't like randomness can avoid volatile magic. People who don't want to feel like they need to place their spells perfectly in order to make them work can simply not use balance or unleashed magic. People who want to use their spells in combat probably don't want to use ritual magic. But unless someone wants to cast in armour at no risk to themselves or any allies in combat without any chance of their spell being interrupted, and wants their spells to have a variety of powerful effects, then they have some options which restrict their spellcasting so that it's no more effective to cast sword spells than be the best swordsman in the world, but no less either so long as you specialise in sword spells. Alternatively, of course, you can cast sword spells that eat your soul in exchange for more power, if that's a thing you wanted to do.

Making it use the same mechanics as sword skills or climbing skills or whatever is also useful because it allows you to make quick comparisons. What's the cost of being a good swordsman or a good climber? Is the cost of being able to emulate that with magic comparable, while still having a thematically different feel and different trade-offs?

(Also not having a class-level system so abilities have clearly-defined costs sorta helps DBD's case in this regard.)

Florian
2018-01-13, 05:55 AM
@Jormengard: Can you read german and maybe know the Splittermond system?

Pleh
2018-01-13, 06:29 AM
I haven't gotten far enough in my own system development to run into major breakdowns (just a matter of time).

I'm coming from a primarily 3.5 perspective, but I knew from the start that Spellcasting has to go out the window.

I'm intrigued by the concept of The Weave and have been building a Magic system more in tune with that premise. Threads of magic run everywhere and "spellcasting" is often just a matter of seeing the strands and plucking at them to shake the fabric of the space/time/magic continuum.

As for mechanics, I wanted to step out of the D&D standard of having prescripted spells. I would describe what I would like to do as being more GURPS-esque and mechanically constructed similar to the Warlock's Eldritch Blast with essences. Spells mechanically have a few components: Shape, Range, Aspect. Aspect of Fire into a Range of Spreading with a Shape of Cone basically replicates a Burning Hands spell. As you get more powerful, you get more complex shapes, larger range, and faster casting.

Run out of time this morning. I might add more later if people are interested.

Mechalich
2018-01-13, 06:38 AM
Above a certain level of power - which varies primarily depending on the technology level of your setting, somewhat ironically higher tech levels allow for more powerful magic - magic users simply become superheroes and your setting turns into a superhero setting with all the issues that entails. Splitting magic into NPC and PC only branches, with the PCs forbidden the really powerful stuff can help avoid this - your setting is still superheroes, but for the most part the superheroes are busy (ideally on other planes of existence) and the characters just get to play in the weird world they have created. Many sword and sorcery settings - including Conan's Hyborean Age - largely function in this fashion.

Lower-powered magic that avoids the superheroes issue is tricky. One issue that many game systems have, even at the low end, is that mastery of magic also means mastery of some other highly valuable skill that your character would want anyway and therefore magic becomes 'free.' A good example is found in the FATE Core sample characters, where the 'wizard' is allowed to use the Lore skill for all of his magical effects. The thing is, Lore's really useful by itself. So personally I believe it's useful from a design perspective to create a system wherein magical prowess requires mastery of some form of utterly esoteric and otherwise useless form of knowledge - like some bizarre theoretical mathematics or alien languages.

Florian
2018-01-13, 06:52 AM
I'm intrigued by the concept of The Weave and have been building a Magic system more in tune with that premise. Threads of magic run everywhere and "spellcasting" is often just a matter of seeing the strands and plucking at them to shake the fabric of the space/time/magic continuum.

Did you take a look at the old "Earthdawn" RPG? There's a "Weave" with "Strands" and "Adepts" are able to perceive and use those, albeit only while forcing themselves into a specific mindset, else the mortal mind would be overwhelmed.

The system was pretty cool because it did away with the "generalist Wizard" or "generalist Cleric" as not working with the "Adept mindset".

Anymage
2018-01-13, 08:23 AM
Looking at the games on the market, there are reasons that most of them have some form of magic. Magic opens up the plots available, and in many games allows players to have cool tricks that explicitly spell out how their characters are awesome. The D&D model is flawed, but that doesn't mean other options don't exist.

The two major ones in terms of local scope (combat, or other personal level situations) are to either make magic roughly as strong as the nonmagical equivalent (so that throwing a bolt of fire at someone does ballpark the amount of damage that shooting an arrow at them does), and setting up your system so that all the PCs have magic. If I'm supernaturally sneaky, you're supernaturally charismatic, and someone else has really strong kung fu, that works out pretty okay so long as the game doesn't focus on one theme too long. (And if the game does, removing magic won't change that. If combat is prevalent in your nonmagic game, expect the doctor and the diplomat to reroll as soldiers to stay relevant.) Niche protection can work, whether it's a class system or just making new powers cost XP (so that branching out and trying to do everything becomes cost prohibitive).

Epic scale magic, Dungeon World had the best system. By which I mean, they didn't really have a system. The player describes what sort of effect they want, and the GM tells them what they'll need to pull it off. Be it special materials, the assistance of some powerful entity, being at the right magical nexus during the right time, etc. In other words, send the character on an adventure. Adventuring so that your character can personally build their own flying castle feels pretty cool, but being the reward for a successful adventure means that it's all in the GM's hands. The druid's granting a fertility blessing to his hometown isn't that drastically different from the diplomat securing a good trade deal for them.

Pleh
2018-01-13, 10:55 AM
Did you take a look at the old "Earthdawn" RPG? There's a "Weave" with "Strands" and "Adepts" are able to perceive and use those, albeit only while forcing themselves into a specific mindset, else the mortal mind would be overwhelmed.

The system was pretty cool because it did away with the "generalist Wizard" or "generalist Cleric" as not working with the "Adept mindset".

Idea looks nice. Is there a legal way to get a free preview of the system? I don't mind buying a book for research, but if there's a free preview somewhere, it'd be nice to know what I'm buying before I pay.

I also like the tie in to Shadowrun. Wikipedia says the publisher broke the systems apart with no intention of coming back, so are there homebrew adaptations to bring new editions back into sync?

Black Jester
2018-01-13, 11:30 AM
Earthdawn: This (http://pandagaminggrove.blogspot.de/2012/09/earthdawn-part-5-thread-magic.html) and this (http://pandagaminggrove.blogspot.de/2012/09/earthdawn-part-6-spellcasting.html) includes most basic information about spellcasting and magic in Earthdawn.

The most important thing you could however learn from Earthdawn is not the system itself, but the approach to create a great magic syytem: Write the metaphysics, magical concepts and the inherent nature of the supertnatural first. Then, if you have built this as a frist step, then you can implement the rules from a solid base. Remember, it is impossible to write actual good crunch without a solid fluff base.

Jormengand
2018-01-13, 12:10 PM
@Jormengard: Can you read german and maybe know the Splittermond system?

Yes I can, and no I don't but I'm looking at it now. It's got similarities, like the double-attribute thing (although you roll Xd6+Yd6+modifiersd6 in DBD and 2d10+X+Y in Splittermond) but the magic types seem to be conventional schools, rather than having the drawback system. For example, they have "Death Magic" which is analogous to Necromancy (and includes necromancy). If I understand the initiative system correctly, it's almost exactly the same as DBD's as well - in DBD, you roll speed, and actions have a speed which means they cost time points, and fast actions can interrupt slow ones. In Splittermond actions have a "Dauer" and cost "Ticks" but it seems to work the same way. Weapons in DBD have varying attack speeds, and guess what, weapons in Splittermond have varying Waffengeschwindigkeiten.

I'm not sure whether to be happy or frustrated that I'm basically reinventing a system from another country that I had previously never heard of, though.

EDIT: The individual spells work differently too - you have to roll magic against the enemy save in DBD to see if you get a reduced effect because they saved, but there are no misses in DBD - you glance or you hit, the spell has a partial effect or a full effect. You also have a cast rate personal to you, not to do with your spells unless they're rituals. In Splittermond, individual spells have cast rates.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-13, 12:50 PM
I'm not making an RPG, but it is an complaint I have with many Dungeons and Dragons editions. Powerful spells like Anti-Magic Field, Contingency, Wish, etc. don't feel thematic enough to me, just really, really, really powerful. I also wish spellcasters were a bit more flexible in the skill/weapon department, so that when their theme spells weren't applicable they could instead rely on moderate weapon use instead of having a bunch of differently themed spells. Water magic won't work? Time to hang back and fire with a crossbow.

Florian
2018-01-13, 12:51 PM
I'm not sure whether to be happy or frustrated that I'm basically reinventing a system from another country that I had previously never heard of, though.

That depends on your values and ego. I´ve brought it up because I had a minor role in designing that system and you can always have a constructive talk about what works as intended and what doesn't and stays "system".

Darth Ultron
2018-01-13, 01:08 PM
How about you guys? Have you been met with similar frustrations when designing your own tabletop systems?

It's not such a hard problem.

*You really need to to step back from the comic book/anime/little kidz way of thinking. Sure it's ''cool'' to have like a spell that knocks the moon out of orbit and blows up the sun...but you really want to step back from such ''cool'' magic.

*Accept that magic has limits and can't do ''everything''.

*Accept magic has drawbacks to it's use. And not just ''drawbacks'' like a -1 for one round, but things with much more effect.

Then it's not so hard.

Ok, so you want a ''blast of fire'' that will blow up an group of foes. Ok, so you want to avoid the ''pew pew blow up an army at will with a pinky finger wiggle''. Next you want to limit the size and range of the effect. And limit usage. Then add in a weakening effect so the caster can only do one in a short wile.

JeenLeen
2018-01-13, 03:43 PM
Most homebrew systems my group does are d10-based, akin to new World of Darkness' mechanics. In it, everyone has magic and can choose what degree to specialize in it, but generally you are limited to 5 or so 'spells'. Some spells are one-round buffs to attack or defense, to mainly be used for martial characters, while others are blasting or debuffs, to be used by more 'caster'-like characters.

It seems to balance magic well, but the 'cost' is that all PCs are casters, at least in a way. There's just 4 stats (Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, and Willpower), and casters likely have more Will since that gives points to cast spells--but all matter to some degree.

On the other hand, it is limited since we only pick from a dozen or so spells. Magic might seem boring in that it can't do much. Also, all spells are of roughly the same power, so there's no earth-shattering level 9 spells. (Instead of, say, having to buy rank 1 Potence before buying rank 2 Potence, you just buy Potence, and Potence does the same thing no matter how powerful you get.) This system is built with the idea of short campaigns, of a dozen or so sessions, with the idea that you get enough xp to max out your spells and one or two skills, and that's it. It'd get boring in a long campaign since your growth would be limited after you cap out with the spells you want and the skills you want.

Jormengand
2018-01-13, 05:56 PM
That depends on your values and ego. I´ve brought it up because I had a minor role in designing that system and you can always have a constructive talk about what works as intended and what doesn't and stays "system".

So...

What works, and what doesn't? :smalltongue:

Psikerlord
2018-01-13, 05:57 PM
One of the things I dislike about dnd magic is that it is very predictable and stable.

When writing low fantasy gaming (d20 variant) I wanted a lower power magic user, but still balanced vs other party members and the world at large (remembering that in a low magic world, there might be very few opponent casters). I was also going for something that would fit the primeval thule world.

So I added a dark & dangerous magic table (similar to wild magic but with an escalating chance), restricted spells to 20 per level merging wizard & cleric spells, just a single magic user class that learns Int mod spells per level (more like a 5e sorcerer than a wizard, known spells wise), capped everyone at 12th level, reintroduced spell interruption if damaged before turn comes up, reintroduced save or die, removed cantrips, and removed the game breaker spells (no teleport, no raise dead, no detect lies).

One thing I didnt do - but now wish I had - was to rename all the spells and tweak the fluff in them, to better suit a dark & dangerous magic world. But at the time I thought familiarity would be better.

Florian
2018-01-13, 06:39 PM
So...

What works, and what doesn't? :smalltongue:

What works and doesn't work at the same time is the synergy between "mundane" and "magic" skills.
The synergy between, say, "Toughness" and "Protection", "Sneak" and "Shadow" or any "Weapon" skill and a "Elemental" skill is great and realy showcases that in a "fantastic" world, even the "mundane" will cross over into "magic" when it comes to mastery of a thing.
What doesn't work is that offensive and defensive aren't really paired. Some combinations/checks shine by having a pronounced +synergy bonus by a good pairing, but have no counter. Toughness/Protection can mitigate Weapon/Elemental, but fails at Archery/Sneak/Shadow, as you'd need Divination but that doesn't provide the means to mitigate Shadow.

Goaty14
2018-01-13, 06:47 PM
- Limit the usefulness of magic as a standalone thing. To throw a fireball you literally need to throw it.

Ooo! So like LARPing!

Wizard: I cast lightning bolt at the orks!
DM: Here's a dart. Throw it towards this target to measure accuracy
Wizard: *misses*
DM: You hit the party barbarian, roll initiative.

2D8HP
2018-01-14, 12:50 AM
I like playing Dungeons & Dragons but I seldom play spell casters, and what I do remember about the "magic system" I don't try hard to remember.

If you really want to keep magic feeling "magical", you may just have only NPC's be able to cast spells, thus keeping magic mysterious.

An example of this "system" is the Pendragon Arthurian setting RPG, which essentially uses a list of tropes for magic, as all but the 4th edition of Pendragon lack a formal "magic system". While the 4th had rules for PC spell-casting that IIRC involved bonuses for when spells were cast based on phases of the moon and astrological alignments, the 5th edition dropped them and instead went back to a list of tropes for GM use,


:Everyone in the world of Pendragon knows that magic exists, and all wise and good folk fear it. To knights, magic is unknown in every way. Its effects are known through story and rumor, but only a wizard or a witch knows how it is done. The magic of Britain is extremely potent, partially because of its very mystery. Magic is also dangerous because it is hidden and subtle: Your character knows that it is more likely to drive him mad or age him a century in a day than it is to roast him with a bolt of lightning.
Fate and luck are important components of magic, not just spells. Further, the fundamental laws of society, such as
loyalty and hospitality, are enforced by the decrees of fate, and thus enter into the realm of magic. People accept the world of magic as a normal part of the great unknowable
reality, and the wise among them know to live by its rules, not to tamper with them.
Magic in this game is for purposes of roleplaying, not for cartoon violence. Pendragon magic imitates the traditional magical effects found in Arthurian literature rather than comic-book explosions. Nonetheless, even without bursts of hellfire and bolts of eldritch energy, it is a factor of
great mystery, uncertainty, and danger.
Men will not be able to explain how Merlin marched an army over 165 miles in a few days, even if they remember being part of the army. Similarly, all people know that some druids can change their form, that magical ladies live beneath enchanted lakes, and that an invisible world exists with its own populace of frightful beings. They have heard about, and perhaps seen, magical objects like the sword Excalibur and the Holy Grail. But most honorable men do not hope to understand these things, and in fact tend to distrust magic immensely.
Magicians, like magic itself, are not to be trusted. Everyone knows reasons for this, though the reasons vary depending on the point of view of the observer. Some mistrust
them because they can alter reality, or because they talk to the dead, or because they can tell what the weather is going to be and change it if they don’t like it. Other people dislike magicians because they believe that all occult powers come from Satan. Most simply don’t like anyone who is
strange; magicians, by their very nature, have access to the unknowable, and what is not known cannot be trusted.

TYPES OF MAGIC

Different types of magic are recognized: In general, these are druidic magic, Christian miracles, native Old Heathen magic, and Saxon battle magic.
The primary types are the druidic (pagan) and Christian magics. The main difference between Christian and pagan magic is that the latter is immediate and demonstrative, while Christian magic is subtle and assertive. Curses, blessing and healing are common to both types of magic.
Spirits are acknowledged, and can be summoned, banished or exorcised by both types. Both, however, are still to be feared and avoided.
Pagan druidic magic stems from mastery of the power of glamour, which is the ability to create a temporary reality. Often this temporary magic has a permanent or long-
lasting effect, however. A fountain that was once blessed may last for generations. A healing potion fixes wounds and they stay healed.
Knowledge and wisdom are two of the best-known applications of Christian magic. Magical healing is done by the laying on of hands and channeling the power of God
rather than using physical components.
Old Heathen magic is the integral magic of the land that predates all humanity. It can be sensed in the rocks, in the earth and tides, and in the glimpses of the old gods’ minds that can be caught on unholy, moon-bright nights. It is the power of the forest, of the moor, or of the ever-changing river that exists with or without mankind.
Saxon magic makes its users mad in battle. It is gained from the blessing of Wotan, the Saxon war god. Practitioners of this magic can cut mystical runes into bone, wood, or stone to carry their unearthly powers against foes.
Demonic magic, the most difficult and thus least common type, uses magic which is gained from making deals with the truly evil forces of Satan, the Christian prince of evil.
The distribution of these different types of magic depends upon the different nations of people. Not everyone knows about the differences between these forces. For instance, among 6th-century Christians, the belief in Satan was not universal. Some or all of these forces, in the eyes of certain groups or individuals, may be totally false. Part of
the adventure is to figure out what scheme the Gamemaster has adopted for magic in his or her campaign.

TALENTS
Given below are ten basic magical abilities called “Talents.” Some of these may be available to users of magic from
any nationality, at the Gamemaster’s discretion. Though a variety of other effects certainly exist, only the most common found in the literature are given here.
Gamemasters may create whatever effect they need, even if it is not on this list.

Blessing: A blessing gives a positive effect or an advantage to someone, such as increasing their ability to resist a disease, or to do damage to a fell beast, or to have children.
It may be measurable as a game statistic, such as “a +2 modifier to Sword rolls when fighting Faerie creatures”; or it may just be part of narrative effect to give comfort to knights.

Curse: A curse gives a negative effect or a disadvantage to something or someone. It is the opposite of a blessing. Any negative magical effect is called a curse.

Enchantment: This kind of magic makes it possible to make a person feel an emotion (or an excess thereof). This is generally easier and more potent if they already subscribe to that feeling to some degree (such as through a directed passion or trait), which is then provoked or augmented with a game statistic bonus. The emotion created may also be a feeling not listed as a statistic, such as causing grief or hilarity in the target(s). It is also possible to simply confuse beings, so they are slow-witted for a short time or forget their immediate purpose.

Glamour: Glamour is the creation of a temporary reality, and is the most common form of Arthurian magic. It can be used on the magician, or on someone or something else. It can be used to raise a wall of flames, for example, or to change the color of cattle, to turn leaves into food or mice into horses, or to make a king look like someone else.
It might magically augment protection (granting armor reduction bonuses) or cause something to be unnaturally heavy. However, the effect is short-lived, generally about an hour or so at the most.

Healing: Magic, usually in the form of salves, bandages, or potions, can be used to hasten the healing process.
The deadly nature of combat may tempt Gamemasters to use this often, but such temptations should be ignored. Magical healing is very rare in the literature, and overuse will reduce its wonder and cause players to have false hopes.

Miracle: A miracle is an extremely powerful supernatural effect that comes directly from God (or a god) to change the conditions of the world. It could be a miraculous healing, an enemy abruptly turning away, or the finding of an object beyond the limits of natural chance. In effect, due to its divine source, a miracle can cause any effect from any other type of magic to occur.

Necromancy: Speaking with the dead is possible and occurs several times in the literature, in order to obtain information from the deceased. This kind of magic is so dangerous that it almost always has a terrible effect upon the user and often on the spectators as well.

Summoning: Sometimes creatures other than the dead may be summoned, including devils or other unearthly beings, Faeries, or monsters. Such magic is dangerous, as the beings almost always resent the summoning. It provokes great terror among observers (perhaps instilling a Fear passion) and often taints everyone involved with curses afterwards.

Travel: It is possible to hasten movement through magic. Large tracts of territory can be covered in short period of time, generally without the beneficiaries even realizing what they have done. Merlin is a great one for this type of spell.

Weather Control: Magicians can often draw clouds to make it rain, summon a snowfall out of season, or bring warmth to comfort freezing soldiers in the field.

MAGIC IN THE GAME

The following guidelines are very general since magic is not the point of a Pendragon game; nonetheless, these rules will be expanded upon in forthcoming supplements.
For now, when magic is used, the Gamemaster should describe the effects in non-specific times, like saying, “Fire breaks out in a circle around the knight,” or make simple statements such as, “You have been blessed.” There is no need to describe precisely how magic works — or even to state that it is being used! Let the characters speculate on it. Since many Faerie creatures have magical effects as
natural traits, what a knight considers “magic” is perfectly mundane to them.
To make magic work, the Gamemaster simply says that it works. There is no way for knights to defend against it.
This is extremely powerful, and Gamemasters are urged to use magic sparingly, not corrupting the genre by tainting it with magic at every turn. Magic ought to be used as a special effect, not a major plot device. Establish a mood with magic: Let Faerie palaces glow from a warm internal light, serve exotic and intoxicating wines from Cathay, mark trails through the forest with glowing stones.
Magic is also sometimes an essential plot device for Gamemasters. A magical event or curse can form the basis for an adventure. Magic can be used to save villains or player knights. But never should the plot rely upon a magician to do something or not do something magical — this is an example of the Gamemaster working against his or her own devices, which occurs only at the players’ expense.It is common in the literature that casters of magic must pay for their powers by sleeping afterwards. Thus, if a magician has been active for a time, he is likely to be absent for a longer time afterwards while recuperating.

MAGICIANS

Some accomplished individuals pursue magic for its own sake, others for personal gain. They may profess to be pagan or Christian, but the powers used are invariably pagan.
Enchanter/Enchantress: This is a generic term that indicates someone who uses magical powers. Priests, druids, and witches are all referred to in this way, especially if they use the power of Glamour. Recently, the term enchanter has come to refer specifically to the British druidic organization, which is separate from its Irish counterpart.
Sorcerer: A sorcerer is a general term for a magician who gains his magical power via knowledge gained from books, not from the sacred knowledge of a deity passed down through generations of practitioners. The type of book can vary widely, perhaps being a tome of ceremonial holy magic, an exposition of mystical philosophy, an alchemical dissertation, or a vile book of black magic.
Necromancer: Necromancers gain their magical power from dealing with the dead. They usually summon spirits and question them to gain lore normally hidden from mortals. These spirits are usually hostile and may volunteer additional bad news or advice that the necromancers (or their employers) would rather not know.

LIVING MAGICIANS

Here are listed some of the best-known magicians and enchanters living during the reign of Uther Pendragon.
Blaise: This ancient teacher is a recluse living hidden in the wilderness. He has taught many students, though Merlin is undoubtedly the most famous.
Brisen: This young woman at Castle Carbonek will become “one of the greatest enchantresses… in the world
living.” She works for the dynasty of the Grail Kings, hidden away someplace in Listeneisse. She does not indulge in the ways of the world, except to aid her lord to fulfill the prophecies of the Grail.
Camille: The Saxon enchantress lives in the Castle La Roche and aids the Saxons in their wars against the Britons.
Merlin: Merlin is the greatest practitioner of magic alive, and also the Archdruid of Britain. Though aging, he is still vigorous and works for the good of the land. He helped Aurelius Ambrosius, is helping Uther, and will help the Pendragon line in the future as well.
Nineve: The current High Priestess of the Ladies of the Lake, Nineve lives at Avalon, training the sisterhood of priestesses and enchantresses there. She travels about the country relatively often, though, and visits courts as needed

The Enchantment of Britain
Permanent magical effects are more common than wizards. In the literature, we find swords that are better than usual, rocks that cannot be moved or can be moved only by one person, talking brass statues, women floating unharmed in boiling water, and castles that spin about in place or relocate themselves. They are sources of awe, wonder, and fear for normal people.
These effects and devices are part of the geography of Enchanted Britain, which will become more and more commonplace as King Arthur’s reign continues (i.e., in future sourcebooks for the Pendragon game).
The causes of this “Enchantment” are not clear:
They may begin (i) when Balin, the Knight of Two Swords, strikes down the good King Pellam; or (ii) as divine retribution to punish King Arthur for sins he committed; or (iii) simply because King Arthur is
the King of Adventure. [/quote]

My second favorite "magic system is from
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-CUGACO3WRXE/To5KSQ7_8_I/AAAAAAAAguo/aLnlf1ehXgg/s400/rpg-Stormbringer.jpg

Chaosium's old Stormbringer! (http://siskoid.blogspot.com/2011/10/rpgs-that-time-forgot-stormbringer.html?m=1) game which had a "magic system" based on summoning and attempting to control demons and elementals. It was completely BADASS! and I thought it was truer to Swords and Sorcery than D&D.

Here is a

review of Stormbringer (http://projects.inklesspen.com/fatal-and-friends/traveller/stormbringer-5th-edition--elric/)

thaf seems to go deepest into the "mechanics" that I've been able to find (warning NSFW language).

I really have a hard time in reading PDF's, but here's a

Quick start Magic World PDF (https://www.chaosium.com/content/FreePDFs/Magic%20World/Magic%20World%20Quickstart.pdf)

the rules of which I'm told are based on Stormbringer.

Both Stormbringer and Pendragon are descended from the Runequest rules (as is the more popular Call of Cthullu). You can get a free Quick start PDF of the latest version of RuneQuest here (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=2&ved=2ahUKEwjJlK6I7c3YAhUH-GMKHfJpBWwQFjABegQIBxAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.chaosium.com%2Fcontent%2FFre ePDFs%2FRuneQuest%2FCHA4027%2520-%2520RuneQuest%2520Quickstart.pdf&usg=AOvVaw394JmSA-DRPUO8csLhBeDD).

"Back in the day" many found RuneQuest's magic system more "realistic" (yes I know that doesn't make sense).

Good luck on crafting your game.
[I]
“Cast a spell, weave it well of dust and dew and night and you."

The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson

JenBurdoo
2018-01-14, 03:32 AM
I rather like magic as Tolkien did it - magic items almost exclusively, with limited utility (the toy markets of Dale, for example, or the ability of swords to detect or harm certain foes), and limited but "makes-sense" inherent spell-like abilities (Smaug's charisma, Saruman's voice, the Black Breath, Gandalf's ability to increase morale and his facility with fireworks and trickery. Magic appears surprisingly frequently in the Hobbit and LOTR, but even the minor things, like moon-letters, are presented as wondrous.

BlizzardSucks80
2018-01-14, 03:38 AM
Yeah I think the magic in Lord of the Rings is awesome. But that's a series of books, not a game. I know there's been games out there based on Lord of the Rings before, but not really a fan of those games. Why play that stuff when I can just read the books or watch the movie again? Much better IMO

Some of these magic system ideas are intriguing however, particularly the one mentioned by Jormengand, Dishonour before Death. That seems like a cool way to do the magic.

But I'm just going to stay away from magic systems for now and instead go with a more gritty SciFi game and setting that I have thought up. It's post-apocalyptic, but has nothing to do with nukes. More to do with aliens :smallbiggrin:

hymer
2018-01-14, 04:11 AM
I rather like magic as Tolkien did it - magic items almost exclusively, with limited utility (the toy markets of Dale, for example, or the ability of swords to detect or harm certain foes), and limited but "makes-sense" inherent spell-like abilities (Smaug's charisma, Saruman's voice, the Black Breath, Gandalf's ability to increase morale and his facility with fireworks and trickery. Magic appears surprisingly frequently in the Hobbit and LOTR, but even the minor things, like moon-letters, are presented as wondrous.

In game terms, this means that the players get access to magic, but only the magic specifically given to them by the DM (musical crackers et al. aside). They don't get a long list of abilities to choose from, which they can then optimize the four-letter-word out of.

Lvl 2 Expert
2018-01-14, 04:35 AM
Ooo! So like LARPing!

Wizard: I cast lightning bolt at the orks!
DM: Here's a dart. Throw it towards this target to measure accuracy
Wizard: *misses*
DM: You hit the party barbarian, roll initiative.

I was thinking in game literally...



But I like your interpretation better.
To become a good spellcaster in game you need to level up in real life.

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 04:39 AM
What works and doesn't work at the same time is the synergy between "mundane" and "magic" skills.
The synergy between, say, "Toughness" and "Protection", "Sneak" and "Shadow" or any "Weapon" skill and a "Elemental" skill is great and realy showcases that in a "fantastic" world, even the "mundane" will cross over into "magic" when it comes to mastery of a thing.
What doesn't work is that offensive and defensive aren't really paired. Some combinations/checks shine by having a pronounced +synergy bonus by a good pairing, but have no counter. Toughness/Protection can mitigate Weapon/Elemental, but fails at Archery/Sneak/Shadow, as you'd need Divination but that doesn't provide the means to mitigate Shadow.

Ah. In DBD, each spell has a specific combination that is used to negate it, and so do things like poisons (an artifact of the fact that I actually like the general concept of saving throws from D&D). So for example, some things fire objects that can be blocked or deflected (deflect=dexterity+intellect) and some rain down attacks that can be dodged (dodge=agility+awareness) or attack your body directly (resist=might+will) or your mind directly (overcome=personality+vigour). Attacks are generally defended against via the two standard defensive skills (melee defence=might+dexterity) (ranged defence=agility+vigour). My hope is that everyone will probably have a good enough set of defences and saves (and can buy more bonuses to individual defence/save skills if they want) to have a chance to resist attacks. Of course, you can pay the price of levelling your magic, one other stat, and the relevant skill up to roll 10 dice on it, so you'll often be passing magic checks if you pour everything into it, which is... fair enough, honestly!


Some of these magic system ideas are intriguing however, particularly the one mentioned by Jormengand, Dishonour before Death. That seems like a cool way to do the magic.

This of course means that I have to work more on getting DBD released. :smalltongue:

Florian
2018-01-14, 05:31 AM
@Jorm:

Can you state your design goals a bit more clearly? It sounds like to want to have a RPS function, while at the same time rewarding "intelligent" use of resources to counter RPS.

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 06:24 AM
@Jorm:

Can you state your design goals a bit more clearly? It sounds like to want to have a RPS function, while at the same time rewarding "intelligent" use of resources to counter RPS.

I don't really want to have a RPS function. Just like maximising your fortitude save does counter poisons in 3.5, so does maximising your resist save in DBD, but that's not really meant to be the point. Certainly, intelligent use of resources to counter the possibility that all your spells allow deflect saves and your opponent is some kind of IN-based archer who therefore happens to be good at deflecting (because deflect=DX+IN) is something that should be possible, whether it's as simple as "Buy spells which allow overcome saves" or as complex as "Use a spell on one of the archer's party members which allows the warrior to get past and stab the archer" or even more so. I feel like, because it's still a game, you should be able to use resources intelligently to counter situations, or people, that you aren't good at fighting.

I guess that while I don't want there to be an explicit "Warrior beats archer beats mage beats warrior" (something something RuneScape something something) I do want to throw people into positions where they have to rely on their allies to do something: people should be making contributions, and that's why all spells and even weapon attacks have a partial effect on a failed save (and incidentally why I find Evasion and Mettle in 3.5 to be fairly distasteful), but no-one should be able to do all of everything - and even if you're throwing dodge saves at people who can't dodge for their lives, you shouldn't be able to take out a whole encounter alone.

So I guess the design goal is to make sure that everyone can do something and no-one can do everything, while also making no-one feel like they got cheated out of their speciality (with the possible exception of a lucky Volatile spell wiping out the enemies and not hurting allies, out of sheer luck. But even that's hard at most levels). Notably, I want skill to also play a part, to the point that a mage whose player is very very intelligent out of character can make a mess of enemies, but of course, a blunder could cause a catastrophe. Something about playing with fire...

Another thing, actually, is that the different magic systems are designed to accomodate different skill levels. Task magic allows you to point at a thing and cast the spell at it and it's okay. There's no way you can muck up with:

Arcane Bolt
Type: Task 1
Difficulty: Vs Dodge
Target: One creature within 60 feet of you.
Duration: None.
Full Effect: Arcane bolt deals physical impact damage to the target equal to 1d6 plus your MG.
Partial Effect: As full effect but the damage is halved.
Drawback: Implicit.

But the poster-child for Volatile magic requires both luck and skill to use effectively:

Wildfire
Type: Volatile 2
Difficulty: Vs Resist
Target: A cube, 5 feet on each side, within 40 feet of you; also see general effect.
Duration: 8d6 Time Points.
General Effect: Roll a single magic check for the entire spell. The cubic area of the spell lights on fire so long as it isn't burning through a solid or liquid to do so – that is, a cubic flame burns in the air, even if it's on the ground (it just can't be in earth or water, for example). It can even burn on the surface of water or ice. Any flammable object that touches the cube catches on fire immediately.

At the end of each time point, randomly choose a cube horizontally or vertically adjacent to each cube already on fire. That cube also catches on fire if able. Cubes on fire remain on fire for the duration of the spell. For example, the initial cube could set the cube in front of it on fire during the first time point. During the second, it could set the cube above it on fire, and the cube in front of it could set the one to the left on fire. This means that the initial cube, the one above it, the one in front of it, and the one diagonally in front and to the left would all be on fire. If a cube that isn't eligible (it's already on fire or it's made of a solid or liquid) would be set on fire, the cube that tried to set it on fire doesn't set it on fire this turn.

Each creature who is in the flames during a time point takes a resist save during that time point. They need to save every round to avoid the flames:
Full Effect: The creature takes 1 point of physical fire damage.
Partial Effect: The creature takes no effect this round.
Drawback: Implicit (the spell can burn you and your allies).

Of course, if you really want to try out your skill with no luck allowed, try on Unleashed magic - you must use the spell to its full extent, meaning that, for example, you can only put a wall where it will fit and only at the exact length specified in the spell - or Balance magic - like Newton's Second Law gone horribly horribly wrong - for size. That said, there is still some skill to using Task magic, especially if the spell is under such massive restrictions that you have to make compromises on what you were actually trying to do with it. In any case, it allows people to play a variety of relatively simple mages (because let's face it, I want the game to be easy to play, too) as well as a few with more interesting tricks like Wildfire.

Kaptin Keen
2018-01-14, 06:44 AM
Were I to design a magic system, I'd require players to specialise - a lot. So you'd be a fire mage, or a water mage, or an illusionist, or a summoner, or any other very specific type of caster.

Anything you could do would be tied to your specialisation. There would be no knock spells, no transform-into-fighter spells. If you want to open a door, you'll have to blast it, burn it, summon an ogre to bash it - how doesn't matter, and I have no quarrel with a wizard being able to open a door ... but if you want it done quietly, you'll find a rogue.

In other words: Not robbing wizards of utility - but only giving wizards utility that let's other classes keep their role to themselves. Wizards cannot do everything - wizards can do magic. Magic doesn't have to be subtle, in any way, shape or form.

Conversely, I'd never make non-magical classes as limited as D&D seems to enjoy.

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 07:04 AM
Were I to design a magic system, I'd require players to specialise - a lot. So you'd be a fire mage, or a water mage, or an illusionist, or a summoner, or any other very specific type of caster.

Anything you could do would be tied to your specialisation. There would be no knock spells, no transform-into-fighter spells. If you want to open a door, you'll have to blast it, burn it, summon an ogre to bash it - how doesn't matter, and I have no quarrel with a wizard being able to open a door ... but if you want it done quietly, you'll find a rogue.

In other words: Not robbing wizards of utility - but only giving wizards utility that let's other classes keep their role to themselves. Wizards cannot do everything - wizards can do magic. Magic doesn't have to be subtle, in any way, shape or form.

Conversely, I'd never make non-magical classes as limited as D&D seems to enjoy.

Be careful though: you can go too far the other way easily, which I did in one of my earlier games. Warriors got so many bonus stat dice that they could raise their intelligence faster than an intelligence-based mage and still have dice to spare for everything that the warrior needed to do. The magi were stuck learning one spell per level which was rarely more than a variation on the same theme, and playing a "Trinity mage" - which allowed you to do a whole three different things - was really stat-intensive on a class without enough stat dice to go around anyway. I ran a playtest of it where the chronomancer was quickly finding that being able to go super fast and throw objects at perilous speed didn't stand up to the array of martial capabilities and skills that non-magi possessed.

Kaptin Keen
2018-01-14, 09:11 AM
Be careful though: you can go too far the other way easily, which I did in one of my earlier games. Warriors got so many bonus stat dice that they could raise their intelligence faster than an intelligence-based mage and still have dice to spare for everything that the warrior needed to do. The magi were stuck learning one spell per level which was rarely more than a variation on the same theme, and playing a "Trinity mage" - which allowed you to do a whole three different things - was really stat-intensive on a class without enough stat dice to go around anyway. I ran a playtest of it where the chronomancer was quickly finding that being able to go super fast and throw objects at perilous speed didn't stand up to the array of martial capabilities and skills that non-magi possessed.

Oh, I quite agree.

But - I would never actually set out to design a game. It requires a mind set I don't have. Attention to and care for details. Meticulous calculations. All sorts of things that I basically am terrible at. I'm not even particularly good at playing the games, the whole mechanical side of it bores me, frankly =)

But yes, certainly you risk warriors becoming a kind of sword-wizards, and wizards becoming poor man's warriors-without-swords.

It's possible for specialisation to be cool, though. Riggers and deckers in Shadowrun are legitimately cool - even if they happen to not actually work in play.

dps
2018-01-14, 09:32 AM
I think what I'd do if I were designing a magic system is make using magic dangerous. So maybe every time you use magic, there's a chance of permanently losing a point of constitution. The chance would be very low, maybe nil or almost nil for low-level spells, low for mid-level spells, but fairly significant for high-level spells. (In this context, "fairly significant" might mean a 5% chance; the exact number would depend on the details of the system design.) Over time, high-level magic users would get very frail, and be afraid to actually use their more powerful spells except in dire situations.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-01-14, 09:43 AM
I think what I'd do if I were designing a magic system is make using magic dangerous. So maybe every time you use magic, there's a chance of permanently losing a point of constitution. The chance would be very low, maybe nil or almost nil for low-level spells, low for mid-level spells, but fairly significant for high-level spells. (In this context, "fairly significant" might mean a 5% chance; the exact number would depend on the details of the system design.) Over time, high-level magic users would get very frail, and be afraid to actually use their more powerful spells except in dire situations.

I don't like this, because while everyone else is getting better with time/experience, casters are getting worse (less able to do their thing). Edit: and randomly so. If you don't want people casting high power spells, don't include them at all or reserve them for set rituals/NPCs.

Kaptin Keen
2018-01-14, 09:43 AM
I think what I'd do if I were designing a magic system is make using magic dangerous. So maybe every time you use magic, there's a chance of permanently losing a point of constitution. The chance would be very low, maybe nil or almost nil for low-level spells, low for mid-level spells, but fairly significant for high-level spells. (In this context, "fairly significant" might mean a 5% chance; the exact number would depend on the details of the system design.) Over time, high-level magic users would get very frail, and be afraid to actually use their more powerful spells except in dire situations.

This kind of approach tends to not actually work, in my experience.

Shadowrun has ... what's it called again, Drain? A feedback function that can potentially kill you. Only it never does, cause you can too easily manage it, and it's essentially a non-issue. (later versions of the game may have improved on this, I couldn't know - but it's doubtful).

The various Warhammer systems have chaos tables to roll on - but they, too, are essentially irrelevant because there are too many get-out-of-jail-free cards - fate, modifiers, rerolls and so on.

So you wind up with a system where, either mages don't get played because they tend to explode - or there is a limiting factor that doesn't work.

The second is actually worse, because it will invariably be used as an argument why mages should be super powerful: Oh, but it's a trade-off ... I run the risk of exploding. Which basically just isn't the case.

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 09:48 AM
I think what I'd do if I were designing a magic system is make using magic dangerous. So maybe every time you use magic, there's a chance of permanently losing a point of constitution. The chance would be very low, maybe nil or almost nil for low-level spells, low for mid-level spells, but fairly significant for high-level spells. (In this context, "fairly significant" might mean a 5% chance; the exact number would depend on the details of the system design.) Over time, high-level magic users would get very frail, and be afraid to actually use their more powerful spells except in dire situations.

I'm very wary of this idea of random, eternal shots-in-the-foot for doing your day job. Sure, if you accept that your magic is dangerous by choosing a type of magic that's dangerous, you should maybe have a chance to accidentally hit yourself with the spell if you're both careless and unlucky, or you should pay in hit points to cast the spells, but... say in D&D, if you're facing a 5% chance of losing a constitution point every time you cast a 9th-level spell, 4% for an 8th, 3% for a 7th, 2% for a 6th, 1% for a 5th and none for anything below, then with a decent charisma a sorcerer can expect to take 0.13 points of CON loss at level 10, 0.1625 at level 11, 0.455 at level 12, 0.5525 at 13, 0.6175 at level 14, all the way up to 4.65 at level 20, which is going to make him very very frail indeed just for doing his day job, through no fault of his own. I'm not a fan of permanent stat loss, honestly.

Florian
2018-01-14, 09:54 AM
What is so hard about talking about magic and a risk vs. reward mechanic?

Pleh
2018-01-14, 10:58 AM
What is so hard about talking about magic and a risk vs. reward mechanic?

If I understand the question, I'd say it's due to the fact that gambling is for suckers to fund casinos, while magic is for cheaters (they call themselves pragmatic) who like to leave nothing to chance.

Volatile magic only really works in a setting where you intend all magic (or at least all trump card magic) to be a faustian deal where you know the mage is just storing their uppance. Any time you gamble, eventually you lose, and losing with magic is often hard to recover from. Volatile magic casters are chumps going all in on a bad bet.

For the same reason as gamblers: if gambling were reliable for getting rich, someone else would have done it by now. If volatile magic were a powerful asset, someone would have already conquered the world with it.

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-14, 11:16 AM
Earthdawn: This (http://pandagaminggrove.blogspot.de/2012/09/earthdawn-part-5-thread-magic.html) and this (http://pandagaminggrove.blogspot.de/2012/09/earthdawn-part-6-spellcasting.html) includes most basic information about spellcasting and magic in Earthdawn.

The most important thing you could however learn from Earthdawn is not the system itself, but the approach to create a great magic syytem: Write the metaphysics, magical concepts and the inherent nature of the supertnatural first. Then, if you have built this as a frist step, then you can implement the rules from a solid base. Remember, it is impossible to write actual good crunch without a solid fluff base.

Especially true of magic systems.

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 11:25 AM
If I understand the question, I'd say it's due to the fact that gambling is for suckers to fund casinos, while magic is for cheaters (they call themselves pragmatic) who like to leave nothing to chance.

Volatile magic only really works in a setting where you intend all magic (or at least all trump card magic) to be a faustian deal where you know the mage is just storing their uppance. Any time you gamble, eventually you lose, and losing with magic is often hard to recover from. Volatile magic casters are chumps going all in on a bad bet.

For the same reason as gamblers: if gambling were reliable for getting rich, someone else would have done it by now. If volatile magic were a powerful asset, someone would have already conquered the world with it.

Not all powerful assets are powerful enough to conquer the world. Maybe volatile magic is enough stronger than other magic types to make up for the drawback (or the drawback is no worse than the others anyway). Particularly, Volatile mages are the most likely to take on a dragon with ten times their effective XP and come out okay, because they might just get that lucky. And hey, some people like that.

Plus, it's like a flamer. It's good, it's powerful, but it carries a risk of burning something you didn't mean to and you'll have a bad day if someone hits the tank. That never stopped people using flamers, though.

2D8HP
2018-01-14, 11:31 AM
I think what I'd do if I were designing a magic system is make using magic dangerous.....


..Volatile magic only really works in a setting where you intend all magic (or at least all trump card magic) to be a faustian deal where you know the mage is just storing their uppance.....
Makes thematic sense to me, and fits the literature, i.e. "Tower of the Elephant".

Pleh
2018-01-14, 11:44 AM
I should clarify that my points were intended to be general statements, not absolute facts.

Exceptions do occur.

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 11:44 AM
fits the literature

I'll admit (because this is apparently the DBD thread now. Sorry guys) that fitting fantasy literature - lots of which I haven't read - isn't really a concern for me. For a start, no-one wants magic to fit the fantasy I've read which did have a well-defined magic system, because that was mainly Inheritance and The Black Magician, and while I did like the level of thought put into both magic systems, the former isn't highly regarded and the latter is, in my experience, rarely regarded by anyone at all. Plus, both of them still leave open questions answered (I have no idea, for example, what the real limit on Trianna's power is in Inheritance, because it clearly just doesn't work the same way that practically anyone else's magic works), and the same is true of almost every other fantasy book or book series, which doesn't help when you're trying to write a cohesive game with well-defined abilities.

Still, Volatile magic of one kind or another has been a staple of almost every setting, from the Faustian pact itself to the grim darkness of the 41st millenium. So I guess it does fit the literature anyway.

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-14, 12:10 PM
It's not as if all magic has to be volatile or equally as volatile.

A system could be set up so that an effect that's bigger, or more powerful, or longer-lasting, or cast in less time, carries more risk. Small subtle internal effects might be pretty much safe, while causing an entire building to burst into flames instantly might have a very high risk of something very bad happening to the "caster".

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 12:21 PM
It's not as if all magic has to be volatile or equally as volatile.

A system could be set up so that an effect that's bigger, or more powerful, or longer-lasting, or cast in less time, carries more risk. Small subtle internal effects might be pretty much safe, while causing an entire building to burst into flames instantly might have a very high risk of something very bad happening to the "caster".

Yep! In DBD, it's not riskier to cast spells faster, but stronger-for-their-level spells have bigger drawbacks - Wildfire is the poster-kid for Volatile because it can fry a small army, but possibly also you if you're not careful. Of course, if you cast it at maximum range in an open field and then leg it, you should be fine...

Pleh
2018-01-14, 03:05 PM
Let me add that when I hear "volatile magic," I tend to think that as a degree more dangerous than merely, "risky magic."

Just the way my brain works, but if your "volatile magic" is only a tiny bit more dangerous than a totally safe alternative, I wouldn't think of it as volatile. I tend to reserve that description for something that could have irreparable effects.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-14, 03:22 PM
Yep! In DBD, it's not riskier to cast spells faster, but stronger-for-their-level spells have bigger drawbacks - Wildfire is the poster-kid for Volatile because it can fry a small army, but possibly also you if you're not careful. Of course, if you cast it at maximum range in an open field and then leg it, you should be fine...

I like this. It doesn't make everything the mage do risky, but adds the element of calculated risk, which I think appeals to both PEW-PEW-PEW Sorcerers and Batman wizards.

Does this system have a write up or a preview anywhere?

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 04:18 PM
I like this. It doesn't make everything the mage do risky, but adds the element of calculated risk, which I think appeals to both PEW-PEW-PEW Sorcerers and Batman wizards.

Does this system have a write up or a preview anywhere?

Not yet, sorry! Watch my posts for more information. Or, if people like, I can make a dedicated discussion thread for interested people to discuss DBD's development. I expect that DBD will take another week of dedicated-ish work, which might translate to quadruple that or even more - for a start, I simply can't emotionally bring myself to work on one thing that long, and second I have a bunch of other stuff going on right now: I need to appeal a decision to kick me out of my home and other fun stuff. I'm trying to make DBD as quickly as I can: for now, I can just provide sneak peeks like the ones earlier in this thread of Arcane Bolt and Wildfire.

Honest Tiefling
2018-01-14, 04:21 PM
I wouldn't mind a different thread for that. I'd be interested in seeing it if there is an English translation.

Back on topic, how do people feel about elemental themed mages, like Airbender or the like? It's something that often gets used (even in the superhero genre), but I've rarely seen in DnD.

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 05:00 PM
DBD is in English. Splittermond, which is somewhat similar, is in German. There's a DBD thread (www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?547544-Dishonour-Before-Death) now, by the way.

Psikerlord
2018-01-14, 05:44 PM
I'm very wary of this idea of random, eternal shots-in-the-foot for doing your day job. Sure, if you accept that your magic is dangerous by choosing a type of magic that's dangerous, you should maybe have a chance to accidentally hit yourself with the spell if you're both careless and unlucky, or you should pay in hit points to cast the spells, but... say in D&D, if you're facing a 5% chance of losing a constitution point every time you cast a 9th-level spell, 4% for an 8th, 3% for a 7th, 2% for a 6th, 1% for a 5th and none for anything below, then with a decent charisma a sorcerer can expect to take 0.13 points of CON loss at level 10, 0.1625 at level 11, 0.455 at level 12, 0.5525 at 13, 0.6175 at level 14, all the way up to 4.65 at level 20, which is going to make him very very frail indeed just for doing his day job, through no fault of his own. I'm not a fan of permanent stat loss, honestly.

What about the risk mechanic used in Dragon WArriors for mystics - from memory, every time you use a power, roll d20 and get 13 or higher (add your level, substract spell level). If you fail this roll, no more spells for that day. Might that work for you (or something similar)?

Psikerlord
2018-01-14, 05:46 PM
Not all powerful assets are powerful enough to conquer the world. Maybe volatile magic is enough stronger than other magic types to make up for the drawback (or the drawback is no worse than the others anyway). Particularly, Volatile mages are the most likely to take on a dragon with ten times their effective XP and come out okay, because they might just get that lucky. And hey, some people like that.

Plus, it's like a flamer. It's good, it's powerful, but it carries a risk of burning something you didn't mean to and you'll have a bad day if someone hits the tank. That never stopped people using flamers, though.

Volatile magic is nothing if not exciting.

dps
2018-01-14, 05:50 PM
I don't like this, because while everyone else is getting better with time/experience, casters are getting worse (less able to do their thing). Edit: and randomly so. If you don't want people casting high power spells, don't include them at all or reserve them for set rituals/NPCs.

Well, you have to balance it with how the rest of your system works. What I'd be going for is a system where everybody gets more powerful up to a point, but beyond that, there are diminishing returns, so players would have an incentive to retire their higher level characters.

Jormengand
2018-01-14, 05:50 PM
What about the risk mechanic used in Dragon WArriors for mystics - from memory, every time you use a power, roll d20 and get 13 or higher (add your level, substract spell level). If you fail this roll, no more spells for that day. Might that work for you (or something similar)?

Ugh, being potentially stuck at one spell for the whole day? Plus, I don't know how the levels in Dragon Warriors work, but having a 2/3ish chance not to be able to cast more spells if you use a strong one? No, you're not a proper mage if you run out so easy. Hells, in 3.5 even adepts don't have to deal with running out so easy beyond low levels, and they have "Not a proper mage" written all over them. And I still don't like how low-level 3.5 mages run out of spells so fast.

If you're a mage who actually uses magic as the primary thing you do, it shouldn't carry such a risk that you never use it or be so limited that you're firing crossbows 90% of the time to conserve spells.

Dr_Dinosaur
2018-01-14, 08:29 PM
I haven't gotten far enough in my own system development to run into major breakdowns (just a matter of time).

I'm coming from a primarily 3.5 perspective, but I knew from the start that Spellcasting has to go out the window.

I'm intrigued by the concept of The Weave and have been building a Magic system more in tune with that premise. Threads of magic run everywhere and "spellcasting" is often just a matter of seeing the strands and plucking at them to shake the fabric of the space/time/magic continuum.

As for mechanics, I wanted to step out of the D&D standard of having prescripted spells. I would describe what I would like to do as being more GURPS-esque and mechanically constructed similar to the Warlock's Eldritch Blast with essences. Spells mechanically have a few components: Shape, Range, Aspect. Aspect of Fire into a Range of Spreading with a Shape of Cone basically replicates a Burning Hands spell. As you get more powerful, you get more complex shapes, larger range, and faster casting.

Run out of time this morning. I might add more later if people are interested.

That pretty much sounds like Spheres of Power

Jormengand
2018-01-15, 05:31 AM
That pretty much sounds like Spheres of Power

It was only ever a matter of time.

noob
2018-01-15, 05:53 AM
Spheres of power needs a bigger talent list for each sphere.
I mean: you could have burst shapes and aoe options on the life sphere or other stuff like that.

Theoboldi
2018-01-15, 07:11 AM
I've always toyed with the idea of, in more heavily narrative systems, to make magic a matter of fluff. A wizard would mechanically have the same skills as a mundane character, but describe the details of his actions differently. A successful persuasion roll might have been a weak mind control spell, instead of using their contacts skill to gather information they might have utilized divination magic, and instead of firing a ranged weapon they threw a lightning bolt.

Has anyone here ever tried a model like this? I admit it would likely not be for everyone, and maybe not even enjoyable for myself, but I still wonder if someone has experience with it.

Florian
2018-01-15, 07:42 AM
Has anyone here ever tried a model like this? I admit it would likely not be for everyone, and maybe not even enjoyable for myself, but I still wonder if someone has experience with it.

That's basically how FATE works. The skill pyramid and stunt mechanic is robust enough that you can use "stealth" to be a lot of things, from actual sneaking around to an invisibility spell, or that buying the area damage stunt for the a combat skill can be a fireball, flurry of magic arrows as well as a cleaving frenzied berserker.

People coming from more "traditional" system just tend to ask the wrong question, because "how powerful is a fireball" or "how deadly is that gun" are dependent on the skill, not the thing.

Theoboldi
2018-01-15, 12:38 PM
That's basically how FATE works. The skill pyramid and stunt mechanic is robust enough that you can use "stealth" to be a lot of things, from actual sneaking around to an invisibility spell, or that buying the area damage stunt for the a combat skill can be a fireball, flurry of magic arrows as well as a cleaving frenzied berserker.

People coming from more "traditional" system just tend to ask the wrong question, because "how powerful is a fireball" or "how deadly is that gun" are dependent on the skill, not the thing.

Interesting. I actually did think mainly of FATE when asking that question, as I've read the system before and been thinking about using it for a game of my own. However, I refrained from attempting the idea so far because the game itself does suggest using a more traditional approach to magic systems where Lore or something equivalent becomes the magic stat.

I'm glad to hear it works, though. In practise, are there any pitfalls to watch out for, beyond players (and GMs) from certain backgounds coming in with wrong expectations?

Florian
2018-01-15, 01:09 PM
Interesting. I actually did think mainly of FATE when asking that question, as I've read the system before and been thinking about using it for a game of my own. However, I refrained from attempting the idea so far because the game itself does suggest using a more traditional approach to magic systems where Lore or something equivalent becomes the magic stat.

I'm glad to hear it works, though. In practise, are there any pitfalls to watch out for, beyond players (and GMs) from certain backgounds coming in with wrong expectations?

Puh.

Shared knowledge of theme, mood and setting is important. The overall group must be on the same level, else it stops working.

See, I was player in a group that played a game based on the "Twenty Palaces" series, that's why we were in agreement that we could skip defaulting to "Lore" because that wouldn't fit the setting. So it was easy to use "Physique" for the "Golem Flesh" spell and "Stealth" for the "Ghost Knife", and so on.
We also stayed with a low pyramid (+4) because we felt that that could manage both, the "gritty" as well as the "magic results", but we gave two extra refresh and stunts each because we wanted to model the fast pace of the stories.

Urist Mcmage
2018-01-15, 04:59 PM
As far as I see it, it is not really possible to have a balanced system of magic and still have it be something usable regularly. Magical characters are pretty much always more powerful than non-magic users. In the homebrew system I am working on, I created a number of types of magic. In pretty much all of them, I designed them so that magic is situational, risky, and not something that you want to use as your go-to solution. As for advice, I would say that don't try to use modern fantasy as a inspiration for a magic system. Instead, steal ideas from old folklore, mediaval occultism (the The Key of Solomon is great for this) and pagan mysticism. What all of these have in common is that the magic they describe is primarily passive, defensive and/or subtle. There is no teleporting, no fireballs, and most magic often the form of enchanted items. One idea that I threw around for a while was using a variant of the Rule of Three (basically the idea that when magic is used aggresively, it will come back to bite you three times as hard. hoped this helped

Mr Beer
2018-01-15, 05:54 PM
There are numerous traditional ways to dial back power, usual solution is to pick the ones you want:

One way to go is niche protection. Pick a niche that other people can't do, that's what wizards can do. But they can't duplicate every other role as well. That's a key reason that D&D wizards aren't supposed to be able to fight or heal (not that this prevents wizard overpower) so consider that.

Another is colleges. Wizards can be elementalists or necromancers or summoners or nature magic but not every damn thing all in one go.

Then there is resourcing. Wizards can do cool stuff but each (or just non-trivial) spells costs x 'magic points' and once you run out you start burning HP or collapse or whatever.

Also there's Magic Is Dangerous, so checking out any Warhammer system should provide ideas here or Cthulhu. Some kind of corruption or critical failure mechanic.

Finally there are limitations, things spells just never work for or at least not for PC spell casters. Time manipulation is probably top here, reality bending Wish-type magic and teleportation; total protection spells; auto-kill spells. Whatever you really don't want for PCs.

JoeJ
2018-01-16, 01:05 AM
One of the easiest ways to control magic is slow it down. Instead of firing off spell like a comic book wizard, require all spell casting to be done through elaborate rituals, requiring significant preparation of materials and location and taking anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours to complete. (Path/Book magic in GURPS Thaumatology is an example of this.)

Mr Beer
2018-01-16, 05:35 PM
One of the easiest ways to control magic is slow it down. Instead of firing off spell like a comic book wizard, require all spell casting to be done through elaborate rituals, requiring significant preparation of materials and location and taking anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours to complete. (Path/Book magic in GURPS Thaumatology is an example of this.)

Yes this.

Path/Book is powerful but you need to prepare it. Not much use in combat, but if you knew combat was coming, you probably prepared something - hope your intel was on point because otherwise you're screwed.

Then you can allow combat casting at some massive penalty/additional expense or allow wizards to learn a limited number of scaled down spells or have magic which allow exactly one spell to be sped up to combat speed. Or whatever.

2018-01-16, 07:28 PM
I like the idea of paranoia rpg mutant powers for a very wild and powerful magic.

You get a power spell, you can do it as much as you like but every time you cast you roll a d20 if it's too low the spell backfires if it's too high the spell is too powerful.

So an ice spell with low rolls may attack an ally or something and with too high rolls may freeze the entire room.

It makes magic interesting, risk, tricky and unreliable, it also makes magic something people can fear and solve many plot holes like "Why don't mages just conjure up food and water to solve hunger and poverty?" Well if the miscast the food may try to eat the people they are trying to help ^^

rs2excelsior
2018-01-16, 07:50 PM
I like the idea of paranoia rpg mutant powers for a very wild and powerful magic.

You get a power spell, you can do it as much as you like but every time you cast you roll a d20 if it's too low the spell backfires if it's too high the spell is too powerful.

So an ice spell with low rolls may attack an ally or something and with too high rolls may freexe the entire room.

It makes magic interesting, risk, tricky and unreliable, it also makes magic something people can fear and solve many plot holes like "Why don't mages just conjure up food and water to solve hunger and poverty?" Well if the miscast the food may try to eat the people they are trying to help ^^

I rather like this idea for "wild magic" as well... except the low roll accidentally targeting an ally. That entire concept of "lol, you accidentally hit your friend 5% of the time because apparently you're an utter moron instead of a skilled adventurer" needs to die in a fire. That's one of the reasons I hate crit fail mechanics with a burning passion. Have the spell fizzle, have it backlash on the mage, have the energy type change to the opposite... but watching your ice bolt curve and hit the party barbarian--not only wasting your action, wasting your action to specifically harm only your party--for no reason just isn't fun for anyone involved. Hell, even a blast of cold that freezes the entire room when you cast too powerfully is better in some ways, because it actually makes sense (and you're likely damaging enemies as well as allies).

Sorry for the mini-rant, this is something I feel strongly about.

2018-01-16, 07:55 PM
I rather like this idea for "wild magic" as well... except the low roll accidentally targeting an ally. That entire concept of "lol, you accidentally hit your friend 5% of the time because apparently you're an utter moron instead of a skilled adventurer" needs to die in a fire. That's one of the reasons I hate crit fail mechanics with a burning passion. Have the spell fizzle, have it backlash on the mage, have the energy type change to the opposite... but watching your ice bolt curve and hit the party barbarian--not only wasting your action, wasting your action to specifically harm only your party--for no reason just isn't fun for anyone involved. Hell, even a blast of cold that freezes the entire room when you cast too powerfully is better in some ways, because it actually makes sense (and you're likely damaging enemies as well as allies).

Sorry for the mini-rant, this is something I feel strongly about.

I did say something ;)

But yeah it needs to fail in the worst way possible, say you are using an ice spell against a fire elemental, maybe you fail to bring order to the energies you conjure form the chaos realms and they decide to be fire instead healing or empowering the elemental.

Maybe you are casting an invisibility spell for stealth and you fail and it goes the opposite way calling attention of everyone around you to the caster...

Fun stuff like that, for the DM at least ^^

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-16, 08:07 PM
I rather like this idea for "wild magic" as well... except the low roll accidentally targeting an ally. That entire concept of "lol, you accidentally hit your friend 5% of the time because apparently you're an utter moron instead of a skilled adventurer" needs to die in a fire. That's one of the reasons I hate crit fail mechanics with a burning passion. Have the spell fizzle, have it backlash on the mage, have the energy type change to the opposite... but watching your ice bolt curve and hit the party barbarian--not only wasting your action, wasting your action to specifically harm only your party--for no reason just isn't fun for anyone involved. Hell, even a blast of cold that freezes the entire room when you cast too powerfully is better in some ways, because it actually makes sense (and you're likely damaging enemies as well as allies).

Sorry for the mini-rant, this is something I feel strongly about.

I fully agree.

Auto-fail and crit-fail mechanisms need to be very carefully set up to avoid being "suck for the sake of suck".

hifidelity2
2018-01-18, 04:23 AM
One of the easiest ways to control magic is slow it down. Instead of firing off spell like a comic book wizard, require all spell casting to be done through elaborate rituals, requiring significant preparation of materials and location and taking anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours to complete. (Path/Book magic in GURPS Thaumatology is an example of this.)

I agree

I play GURPs and have used this by increasing the casting time (or make the world a low manor world). I also use the “unlimited Manor” rules
Here the spell caster gets a pool of manor which they recover slowly over time. That way they can do a few lower level spells (esp if they know them high enough for them to be free) but if they want to fire off larger ones they can (assuming they know the spell) but they will run out of manor for some time to come

The rules also allow you to “overcast” - i.e. exceed your manor level but have a nice table of mishaps if you do


Another way is like RuneQuest – all PC’s have some magic its generally low powered but useful. A PC can become a better spell caster (Shaman, Priest etc) but that is done over time via gameplay. Big effects are rare and need a lot of time / support from others

Quertus
2018-01-18, 04:47 PM
How about you guys? Have you been met with similar frustrations when designing your own tabletop systems?

Have I ever met failure by throwing up my hands and saying it can't be done, while designing something? Not a terribly interesting question, IMO, as my answer would be, "only if it actually can't be done". Like, say, designing a human social interaction and persuasion system that both captures all the nuance of real humans, while simultaneously being playable by humans.

But I do encounter setbacks, unintended consequences, and balance issues all the time. That's what testing is for.


This kind of approach tends to not actually work, in my experience.

Shadowrun has ... what's it called again, Drain? A feedback function that can potentially kill you. Only it never does, cause you can too easily manage it, and it's essentially a non-issue. (later versions of the game may have improved on this, I couldn't know - but it's doubtful).

The various Warhammer systems have chaos tables to roll on - but they, too, are essentially irrelevant because there are too many get-out-of-jail-free cards - fate, modifiers, rerolls and so on.

So you wind up with a system where, either mages don't get played because they tend to explode - or there is a limiting factor that doesn't work.

The second is actually worse, because it will invariably be used as an argument why mages should be super powerful: Oh, but it's a trade-off ... I run the risk of exploding. Which basically just isn't the case.

Um... Have you not read all the "and then the mage / psycher summoned a demon, which ate / ****ed the party" stories? This is a very real issue in Warhammer - the internet has spoken. (and my personal experience happens to agree with the internet)

As for Shadowrun - my first mage ended his first fight unconscious. But, barring shenanigans, a starting mage can't cast spells powerful enough to deal physical damage, so you have to learn the system before you can kill yourself. And only great risk-takers (or people like those on whom I based my signature character, for whom this account is named) would intentionally set themselves up to die.


Magical characters are pretty much always more powerful than non-magic users.

I can only assume you haven't played Rifts. Or low-level 2e or earlier D&D. Or any of the other systems where magic is just straight up weaker.

Tinkerer
2018-01-18, 05:06 PM
Um... Have you not read all the "and then the mage / psycher summoned a demon, which ate / ****ed the party" stories? This is a very real issue in Warhammer - the internet has spoken. (and my personal experience happens to agree with the internet)

Uhh, you put an extra "/" in there. It should read "and then the mage / psycher summoned a demon, which ate-****ed the party" :smalltongue:


I rather like this idea for "wild magic" as well... except the low roll accidentally targeting an ally. That entire concept of "lol, you accidentally hit your friend 5% of the time because apparently you're an utter moron instead of a skilled adventurer" needs to die in a fire. That's one of the reasons I hate crit fail mechanics with a burning passion. Have the spell fizzle, have it backlash on the mage, have the energy type change to the opposite... but watching your ice bolt curve and hit the party barbarian--not only wasting your action, wasting your action to specifically harm only your party--for no reason just isn't fun for anyone involved.

Unless of course you're firing the spell into melee. Then you can suck it up Buttercup, you knew the risks. But yeah I'm tired of GM's being really bad at implementing crit fail mechanics and turning it into a slapstick sketch. I use crit fails but I always try and make sure that the players seem competent while resolving them.

Quertus
2018-01-18, 06:14 PM
Uhh, you put an extra "/" in there. It should read "and then the mage / psycher summoned a demon, which ate-****ed the party" :smalltongue:

Hahaha, yes, I suppose, if it's a demon of Slanesh. Or a reaver.

Cluedrew
2018-01-19, 08:39 AM
Have I ever met failure by throwing up my hands and saying it can't be done, while designing something? Not a terribly interesting question, IMO, as my answer would be, "only if it actually can't be done". Like, say, designing a human social interaction and persuasion system that both captures all the nuance of real humans, while simultaneously being playable by humans.Social interactions are probably at the top of the list of things people haven't really gotten down. However I don't think it can't be done, ... actually we already have a ~40 page thread on this topic, so I will skip it for now.

On magic systems, I think the most important thing is to nail down exactly what magic users do and how they fit into the setting. And it is completely fine if the answer is "everything" and "rulers" but if you get "everything" and "hermits in the hills" you had better make sure there is some reason for why they are up there away from people. More likely, I would try to pick some set of magical skills that work with but do not replace the physical or social skills other people have, or a couple such sets if you want more variety, but each set of skills a magic user can get shouldn't be bigger than one a muggle can get, just different.

Other balances can occur, but I'm not sure if I have ever seen them quite work as well.

EldritchWeaver
2018-01-22, 05:22 AM
Spheres of power needs a bigger talent list for each sphere.
I mean: you could have burst shapes and aoe options on the life sphere or other stuff like that.

To some extent, look at the new handbooks. They include new talents. Note that each sphere is supposed to be somewhat distinctive to each other, so your concept is contrary to this overall design goal. But you can employ spellcrafting to fill those gaps, if you wish to.

Davrix
2018-01-22, 06:11 AM
Something I would tag into your setting then is that Magic either makes you go insane / corrupts the land like Darksun and outlawed or something along those lines because just taking it from a player perspective if the DM told me there was no magic options and then all we would run into is spell casters willy nilly I would defiantly feel like I'm missing out on something.

So there really is nothing wrong with wanting to limit it at the start and maybe later you can add it in when the rest of the system is built. Just make sure you present it in a way that players don't feel like "The Dm wont let me have fun toys moment."

noob
2018-01-22, 07:26 AM
To some extent, look at the new handbooks. They include new talents. Note that each sphere is supposed to be somewhat distinctive to each other, so your concept is contrary to this overall design goal. But you can employ spellcrafting to fill those gaps, if you wish to.

But that prevents me from doing a lot of concepts that use healing that does not discriminate between opponents and allies and have aoe.(for example I can not do the warcraft 3 alchemist who can throw waves that heals foes and allies alike nor the equivalent of some dnd 3.5 warlocks who gets to heal with their eldritch blast)
There is many other concepts which would be very hard to do without additional talents.
There is way too much few talents in my opinion.

Pleh
2018-01-22, 09:17 AM
But that prevents me from doing a lot of concepts that use healing that does not discriminate between opponents and allies and have aoe.(for example I can not do the warcraft 3 alchemist who can throw waves that heals foes and allies alike nor the equivalent of some dnd 3.5 warlocks who gets to heal with their eldritch blast)
There is many other concepts which would be very hard to do without additional talents.
There is way too much few talents in my opinion.

A system that can do anything can't also have a unique flavor or structure. You have to draw some lines of limitation somewhere, or you begin to revert back to freeform roleplaying. There's nothing wrong with Freeform or Generic RPG, but there are reasons why it isn't the more popular tool among gamers.

Spheres of Power seems really well constructed to me. The fact that it doesn't produce every possible concept only means that it is focused on a style of play, which enables it to do that style better. The fact that it doesn't support your concepts is merely inconvenient, not a flaw.

EldritchWeaver
2018-01-22, 10:43 AM
But that prevents me from doing a lot of concepts that use healing that does not discriminate between opponents and allies and have aoe.(for example I can not do the warcraft 3 alchemist who can throw waves that heals foes and allies alike nor the equivalent of some dnd 3.5 warlocks who gets to heal with their eldritch blast)
There is many other concepts which would be very hard to do without additional talents.
There is way too much few talents in my opinion.

I think Fate HB has currently a talent which doesn't discriminate between allies and enemies, but I can't quite recall if it heals or damages. Otherwise, Channel Energy does already what you want and SoP classes can get access to it. Reach Healing is already possible (Ranged Healing or the Fount of Mercy feat), but it's not infinite.

Lapak
2018-01-22, 12:00 PM
One of the easiest ways to control magic is slow it down. Instead of firing off spell like a comic book wizard, require all spell casting to be done through elaborate rituals, requiring significant preparation of materials and location and taking anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours to complete. (Path/Book magic in GURPS Thaumatology is an example of this.)
This combined with limiting the duration of spells - essentially preventing casters from abusing the action economy - has enough of an impact to go a long way towards balancing even D&D 3.x magic.

- Change things so that all spells take at least one round to cast, multiple rounds for higher level spells

- remove all spells and metamagic that change this (Quicken, Celerity, Foresight, Time Stop, Contingency, etc.)

- no spells have a duration longer than “concentration,” which is reduced to a swift action. They can hold one spell up at a time, more if they are willing to burn their other actions for it.

- items which replicate spell effects follow all of these rules

It’s not perfect, but it goes a surprisingly long way. Casters can still do things that can’t be done otherwise, and they can end encounters with a spell if you let them. But they will be vulnerable for a round or two before it happens and they can’t put up a bastion of magic to make themselves invulnerable at the same time.

EldritchWeaver
2018-01-22, 12:29 PM
- Change things so that all spells take at least one round to cast, multiple rounds for higher level spells

I disagree with "multiple rounds". Considering that fights do not last long, this means you might get out at best one high level spell. In the mean time, you have to avoid being interrupted by damage. Any enemy noticing that a caster isn't finished casting by them time they have initiative will target the caster. Effectively, there won't be any high level spells in combat. Note that blaster spells aren't the problem. It is gate or planar binding. The latter taking already 10 minutes to cast, so not affected at all by this ruling.


- no spells have a duration longer than “concentration,” which is reduced to a swift action. They can hold one spell up at a time, more if they are willing to burn their other actions for it.

That is heavy. In particular, since you can't turn standard or move actions into swift actions. But you could change this. Still, basically this rule will make Mass versions of spells far more worthwhile, since you need to keep actions to invest in buff spells. Spells like Fly are nerfed hard. It is no longer possible to cast the spell on all party members, which means you either don't use it or split the party. Or get more wizards. Actually, Leadership is very powerful in this scenario. Keep your personal wizard cohort who supplies you with spells.

That being said, using concentration as base duration isn't bad, but you need a way to obviate this. Which means that you need a separate resource to pay for the good stuff. So something like spell points in addition to spell slots. If you do away with spell slots and use only spell knowns, you are close to Spheres of Power. As close you can be keeping the vancian spells.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-01-22, 12:44 PM
I disagree with "multiple rounds". Considering that fights do not last long, this means you might get out at best one high level spell. In the mean time, you have to avoid being interrupted by damage. Any enemy noticing that a caster isn't finished casting by them time they have initiative will target the caster. Effectively, there won't be any high level spells in combat. Note that blaster spells aren't the problem. It is gate or planar binding. The latter taking already 10 minutes to cast, so not affected at all by this ruling.


And spending multiple rounds saying something like "I keep casting, 3 more to go" is horribly boring (at least to me). Especially when rounds take as long as they do in 3e, and most fights are over within a couple anyway.

Lapak
2018-01-22, 01:45 PM
I disagree with "multiple rounds". Considering that fights do not last long, this means you might get out at best one high level spell. In the mean time, you have to avoid being interrupted by damage. Any enemy noticing that a caster isn't finished casting by them time they have initiative will target the caster. Effectively, there won't be any high level spells in combat. Note that blaster spells aren't the problem. It is gate or planar binding. The latter taking already 10 minutes to cast, so not affected at all by this ruling.Indeed, that’s the point. You need someone to run interference if you expect to get off a world-breaking spell in combat - if you want to keep encounter-breaking spells in the lists, and want to maintain relevance for non-casters, you have to give them a chance to be interrupted. The point here is to make the casters a little more ally-reliant. (Note that *groups* of casters remain pretty potent, if you have a designated offensive caster and a few playing defense.)

As for Planar Binding et. al., they too would need to be adjusted under the category of ‘action economy breaking,’ but if you have to burn your Swift actions to maintain the binding agreement it’s still probably a better deal than most of the things you can do with the action.

Gate’s a ninth-level, and at point you’re braking the game already, so it might pass.

That is heavy. In particular, since you can't turn standard or move actions into swift actions. But you could change this. Still, basically this rule will make Mass versions of spells far more worthwhile, since you need to keep actions to invest in buff spells. Spells like Fly are nerfed hard. It is no longer possible to cast the spell on all party members, which means you either don't use it or split the party. Or get more wizards. Actually, Leadership is very powerful in this scenario. Keep your personal wizard cohort who supplies you with spells.

That being said, using concentration as base duration isn't bad, but you need a way to obviate this. Which means that you need a separate resource to pay for the good stuff. So something like spell points in addition to spell slots. If you do away with spell slots and use only spell knowns, you are close to Spheres of Power. As close you can be keeping the vancian spells.I don’t agree on the need to obviate this when it’s kind of the whole point. I’m not saying everyone should play this way; I’m saying it’s one way to address the power imblance.

The question of ‘how fun is it to stand there and say “I continue casting,” on the other hand, is a valid one and a big reason why this would not work at many tables. The multi-round question is definitely something I feel less strongly about than the one-round-minimum - particularly with the duration business cutting down on the pre-loading of magical might that makes casters such a tough nut to crack in the first place.

Thrawn4
2018-01-22, 04:30 PM
The question of ‘how fun is it to stand there and say “I continue casting,” on the other hand, is a valid one and a big reason why this would not work at many tables. The multi-round question is definitely something I feel less strongly about than the one-round-minimum - particularly with the duration business cutting down on the pre-loading of magical might that makes casters such a tough nut to crack in the first place.

There are easy ways to fix that.
1. Every caster needs a certain number of succesful rolls, so they can make meaningful roles every turn. They may even have the option to decide whether they gather more power or whether they use the spellpower they have already collected.
2. Small breaks in between are allowed, so they may take short actions to defend themselves or even attack a fleeing foe.

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-22, 04:38 PM
There are easy ways to fix that.
1. Every caster needs a certain number of succesful rolls, so they can make meaningful roles every turn. They may even have the option to decide whether they gather more power or whether they use the spellpower they have already collected.
2. Small breaks in between are allowed, so they may take short actions to defend themselves or even attack a fleeing foe.

Brainstorming... casting can be one-handed or two-handed.

Two-handed spells are effectively rituals because you can't defend yourself or anything else, you need an assistant (or multiple) if anything comes up.

One handed spells, the caster can have one long-duration casting building up on one hand, leaving the other hand free to use a shield or a weapon or cast "instant" spells.

Lapak
2018-01-22, 04:52 PM
There are easy ways to fix that.
1. Every caster needs a certain number of succesful rolls, so they can make meaningful roles every turn. They may even have the option to decide whether they gather more power or whether they use the spellpower they have already collected.

Now that’s interesting. You safely can accumulate X levels of spell-power per round of casting, and when your turn comes up you can discharge it with a prepped spell of up to X level or keep going.

That opens some doors to wander further from the D&D baseline: higher level casters accumulate power faster, maybe roll a check to accumulate faster than you normally do and risk it blowing up in your face...

SleeplessWriter
2018-01-22, 05:01 PM
Brainstorming... casting can be one-handed or two-handed.

Two-handed spells are effectively rituals because you can't defend yourself or anything else, you need an assistant (or multiple) if anything comes up.

One handed spells, the caster can have one long-duration casting building up on one hand, leaving the other hand free to use a shield or a weapon or cast "instant" spells.

I wonder what a species with multiple arms would be like with that sort of magic system.Probably overpowered, so you'd most likely want to limit that to monsters and npcs. Could be cool if it was balanced right, though. Such as making it more and more difficult for each spell and each hand being cast or used,
respectively.
A four-armed caster could cast with all its hands, taking a -4 penalty to all their spells, and three different spells (or the same spell on two different hands) at the same time, taking an additional -3.
I would probably throw in a concentration check to maintain all those spells, too. With the same penalties, plus another penalty for trying to concentrate on casting in the heat of battle.

DavidSh
2018-01-22, 05:46 PM
I have seen video games (specifically, the At Tonelico and At Nosurge games), where one character sings a magical song, that either builds up exponentially to a catastrophic release, or maintains an increasing buff, while another character (the fighter) blocks enemy attacks. For low level enemies, the fighter can usually finish them off himself. For high level enemies, the fighter is just acting as a shield. I don't know how well it would work as a table-top mechanic.

Cluedrew
2018-01-22, 06:07 PM
I wonder what a species with multiple arms would be like with that sort of magic system.You know I think the one-/two-handed think was a metaphor, but this idea at least amuses me. (Maybe it would be referred to as two-/four- handed casting among those casters.) It also occurs to me that this gives another access on which you could adjust casters. You could have non-specialist who could only cast one-handed spells, had to cast one-handed spells as two-handed, both or only have access to the instant spells (if those are different spells). Suddenly you have half and quarter casters that, minus that one limit, could have exactly the same spell rules/tables/lists as a normal caster.

My main strategy in creating my magic system has two parts. One is to not to break it out into a subsystem, not really. It works off a slightly modified corner of the skill system and so should not spiral out of control any more than the rest of it. Second is to have magic just do different things than non-magic actions, making them non-comparable. Which hopefully makes them both interesting and solves balance in that you don't have a measure to show imbalance. That is the idea at least, system is still very much in development.

lightningcat
2018-01-23, 11:23 PM
Kind of suprised that no one has mentioned the Mage games. While I have not got to play nWoD Mage, oWoD is one of my favorite magic systems. It has an inbuilt risk to use it, which limits how often you want to do magic. It has a great deal of versitility, based on the character's spheres and paradim. It can accomplish the same basic end result through multiple methods. It can improve on the character's abilities, it rarely replaces doing something in a mundane way (at least in my experience). While it does occasionally have the problem of spending multiple actions to cast the spell, the effects were typically worth it. I will not say that it is a perfect system, but it breaks away from the d20 mentality. It also have very swingy effectiveness and risks based on the storyteller and how good the player is at BSing his way along.