View Full Version : New magic system

2008-02-15, 05:43 AM
We all know the vancian system generally sucks and is incapable to accurately reflect the vast majority of settings and their magic. Also, the vancian system focuses on single ability score mages which is bad because we have munchkins trying to buff the hell out of that single ability and also there is no much difference between a very talented (high ability score) individual and a mage of middling talent-both the mage with initial intelligence 18 and the mage with initial intelligence 14 get to cast the same number of 9th level spells which is also bad. Finally, we have DnD magic reflecting more and more MMORPG magic, especially with where 4th edition is headed, while moving away from fantasy magic (BAD). So, here's a homebrew system that doesn't have the above problems:

Power: Magical strength. Lifting a feather is a low power spell. Moving a mountain is a high power spell. Even among very different spell types, power is an immediate comparison and spells that have similar impact in the game are roughly of the same power level. Casting a spell takes up a fixed amount of power to cast each round you cast/sustain it. A spellcaster has Power equal to 1/4 level + willpower modifier. E.g. a 20th level spellcaster with a willpower modifier of 7 could safely cast magic of a total strength of 12 in any given round. E.g. he could cast a single massive power 12 instantaneous spell OR cast two power 6 instantaneous spells OR concentrate on a lasting power 8 spell and cast two power 2 instantaneous spells. You may cast spells with power higher than your own but you take backlash equal to the power difference.

Complexity: A spell's difficulty to cast not in terms of power but in terms of skill and training required. Creating a highly realistic illusion of medium size is more complex than moving a mountain even though moving a mountain is many times harder than making an illusion. More complex spells are not truly more powerful but they are more versatile and utility-oriented. It is possible that a powerful mage could break down a massive gate but could not unlock a common door. It is also possible that he could burn an enemy to ash but he could not control his mind. Each spell has a specific complexity and a spellcaster can cast spells of a complexity equal to his intelligence modifier. Unlike power, casting more than one spell in the same round does not add up the complexity. You can still cast spells that are more complex than you can normally manage but at rapidly increasing requirements in focus and power expenditure-you add the square of the difference to the spell's Power requirement. A mage with an intelligence modifier of 3 that wants to cast a Power 4, Complexity 3 spell will spend 4 Power. If the spell is Complexity 4, he will spend 5 Power. If the spell is complexity 5 he will spend 8 power. If the spell is complexity 6, he has to spend 13 power, making the spell uncastable with safety.

Talent: There are many paths of magic. Two mages equally strong and equally learned (same willpower/intelligence modifiers) may find that they have different skills. E.g. one may be accomplished in Elementalism and Warding while the other may be accomplished in Illusion and Conjuration. They may even find that one of them has great talent in many paths while the other is only adept in one path. Just like with mundane skills with skill points coming from intelligence, a spellcaster has magical skills with talents coming from charisma. At each level a spellcaster gains as many talent points as his charisma modifier plus class bonuses (if any). Talents are increased just like skills. Talents work like skills only instead of d20 you use d6. Mechanics-wise, a spell's talent level indicates the character level one expects to have it available, assuming he increased that talent at every level. E.g. a talent 20 elementalism spell requires a talented level 20 elementalist. Flavor-wise, the talent requires represents neither raw magical strength nor the complexity of the magic. It represents the affinity one has with that magic. E.g. igniting a massive fire and making a small fire burn forevermore both require the same amount of power and are, essentially, the same action (lighting a fire) so they have the same complexity. But making a small fire burn forevermore requires much higher affinity with elementalism than making a pretty large but normal fire. Similarly, summoning a legion of small elementals requires the same total power as summoning an elder elemental and is the same act (summoning an elemental) so it has the same complexity. But summoning the elder elemental requires much more talent. You may attempt a spell requiring more talent than you have. Roll Talent+d6 vs the talent DC. If you surpass the DC, you cast the spell. If you do not, the spell fails. If you cast the spell normally, you take backlash equal to the talent difference. If you botch the spell, you take backlash equal to the talent difference or the spell's power, whichever is higher.

Backlash: When you try for magic more powerful than you can manage or requiring greater talent than what you have, you take backlash. Backlash 1 means you take 1d3 damage. Backlash 2 means 3d3 damage. Backlash 3 means 6d3 damage. Backlash 4 means 10d3 damage and so on. Backlash damage is nonlethal but it only heals naturally. In addition, each time you take backlash, your Power decreases by a number of points equal to the Backlash. So, if you take backlash 3, your Power decreases by 3. If the backlash is 3 or less, you make a fortitude save each minute. Success means that you recover 1 point of decreased power. DC is 15 for backlash 1, 20 for backlash 2 and 25 for backlash 3. You keep making fortitude saves until you recover. If the backlash is higher than 3 but less than your total power, you make one fortitude save for every hour you rest until you recover. DC is 15 for backlash 4 and increases by 5 for every 1 backlash thereafter. If at any one round you take backlash equal or higher to your total power, you must make a saving throw DC 20+balach taken or lose your power permanently. This loss can only be recovered if a spellcaster with greater power than yours casts a specific healing spell to help you recover. If you succeed in the save or are healed, you start making fortitude saves as per the long recovery while resting. If you fail your save by more than 10 points, you die instantly. If you both take nonlethal damage due to backlash equal to your max HP and lose all your power, you do not recover from the nonlethal damage until you recover at least 1 point of power.

Multicasting: If one has the power required, it is possible to manage casting several spells simultaneously or in quick succession (in the same round). Handling several incantations and gestures at once is physically difficult though-and magically taxing as well. You can only cast in one round a number of spells equal to your dexterity modifier. In addition, you must still have the power required to cast all of them. Finally, your talent limitations are reduced by the number of spells you cast for that round. E.g. if you have Elementalism 6 and cast 2 element spells, they must be Elementalism 4 spells or lower. Note that the reduction applies to all talents, not just the spell's talent.

Reactive casting: You can cast spells in reaction to any event. You must be aware of the event. You must have a dexterity modifier equal to or higher than whoever caused the event. You can't react to another reaction though you can react to a readied action. The Power for the casting is that of your next round if you react out of turn or of the current round if you react during your turn.

Talent chart:
This is the assortment of the many different paths of magic. Instead of differentiating between schools of magic as in DnD, the categorisation is done depending on what a spell does or with what it can affect. Note that the following list given is generic, out of a need to have enough different skills that a single wizard won't be capable of using all of them to their full extent. Naturally, different settings may have different, fewer or more skills-but the list is given mainly as an example. Note that each skill should have its own set of sub-rules e.g. the rules of conjuration in DnD that have conjured objects always appearing in places that support them and being unaffected by antimagic or the rules of disbelieving illusions.
Elementalism: Spells that manipulate earth, water, fire and air. The most common form of magic.
Summoning: Spells that bring objects, creatures or spirits from faraway places to the spellcaster or bring them into existence.
Illusion: Spells that manipulate the senses. Nothing illusion creates is real-but believing in them can make one act as the caster wishes and those actions can have very real results.
Enchantment: Spells that manipulate emotions and thoughts. Such spells also have no real results-but a target following the planted thoughts or emotions can perform very real actions.
Transmutation: Spells that alter the physical shape, nature, size and material of objects or creatures.
Alteration: Spells that enhance or diminish nonphysical qualities of objects, creatures and the world such as weight, speed, strength, hardness but also gravity or time.
Abjuration: Spells that affect other spells or the nature of magic as it applies in a certain space.
Warding: Spells that create barriers, protections and projections of force.
Void: Spells that diminish matter and energy, deal with negative energy and turn something into nothing.
Divination: Spells that reveal, grant knowledge, give guidance and transmit information.
Restoration: Spells that revert creatures, objects and the world in its natural state, including healing and mending broken things, restoring natural laws and undoing curses and transmutations.
Order: Spells that alter reality, chance and destiny, impose bindings, geasa and impose the mage's will through his word.

2008-02-15, 01:48 PM
These are decidely Interesting. Looking forward to how you're gonna re-build the classes, if at all.

2008-02-15, 01:55 PM
This is a really neat new system. I especially like the new magic categories you've come up with. Is it okay if I use those for my own games?

2008-02-15, 02:04 PM
We all know the vancian system generally sucks

Really? I know no such thing.
But other than that, it seems fairly good, except it might be a bit too complex. Not that complexity is a bad thing, but all those numbers might be a bit of combersome to keep track of in game, especially if you add squares of those numbers. Also, do you plan on making full spell list to this system?

2008-02-15, 08:36 PM
As with everything I am homebrewing, you can use it. For reworking the classes, the system works just as well with a classless system. Noone is going to have max stats in the five different abilities that play a part in spellcasting, even if they all roll 18 because you later allocate ability increases. So, you're going to have different types of caster even with the same class. If someone focuses on willpower (wisdom in DnD), they're going to be able to pull off powerful spells but they'll be pretty slow and their spells will be simple-they'll be blasters. If someone focuses on intelligence, they're going to be pulling off the more complex spells at any level but not always the strongest or more direct-they'll be batmans. If someone focuses on charisma, they're going to learn the largest number of different spells but they won't be able to quickly pull off very strong magic-they'll be theurges.

In terms of numbers, you have spell power instead of spell slots. You got to remember a single number instead of what's memorised in every single spell slot. You also have complexity instead of save DCs (this system assumes same DC for everything) and talent level instead of caster level. It is pretty much the same amount of numbers in the end, even if you take into account backlash and squares-which shouldn't come into play that often.

Now, to make the spells for this, I'm going to need some help. Making twenty or so spells for each talent (at least) and having 12 talents is a pretty large amount of work. It means 240 spells minimum, meaning roughly 40 hours of work if I'm fast. So, during the next few days I'm going to put in a couple of spells per talent so people can see how the new spell structure works then people can propose new spells or make conversions of existing ones.

2008-02-15, 09:38 PM
Ok, spell-Weaving, we cna help you with. >=D

2008-02-15, 10:10 PM
OK, adapting fireball to the new system. Fireball is a very simple (complexity 1) spell of minimum power 3. Because I like versatile magic, I'm going to make spells augmentable. I also suggested that system for the Earthsea d20.


Elementalism [Fire] 4
Power: 3
Complexity: 1 (change to truespeech difficulty equivalent in your system)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Area: 20-ft.-radius spread
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Reflex half
Spell Resistance: Yes

A fireball spell is an explosion of flame that detonates with a low roar and deals 1d6 points of fire damage per talent level (maximum 10d6) to every creature within the area. Unattended objects also take this damage.

The explosion creates almost no pressure. You point your finger and determine the range (distance and height) at which the fireball is to burst. A glowing, pea-sized bead streaks from the pointing digit and, unless it impacts upon a material body or solid barrier prior to attaining the prescribed range, blossoms into the fireball at that point. (An early impact results in an early detonation.) If you attempt to send the bead through a narrow passage, such as through an arrow slit, you must “hit” the opening with a ranged touch attack, or else the bead strikes the barrier and detonates prematurely. The fireball sets fire to combustibles and damages objects in the area. It can melt metals with low melting points, such as lead, gold, copper, silver, and bronze. If the damage caused to an interposing barrier shatters or breaks through it, the fireball may continue beyond the barrier if the area permits; otherwise it stops at the barrier just as any other spell effect does.
Damage Cap: +5 dice max damage per Power increase.
Area Change: Change to 40 ft cone, 120 ft line, 20 ft cube. +1 complexity. Shapeable (cube) 10 for +1 complexity, shapeable (cube) 5 for +2 complexity.
Area increase: +10 ft sphere, +20 ft cone, +60 ft line, +10 ft cube per power increase.
Additional burst: +1 burst per +1 power/complexity, damage overlaps.

So, you want to cast Meteor Swarm. You cast a fireball with 3 additional bursts, each with a radius of 40 ft instead of 20. This means +5 power, +3 complexity. So, Meteor Swarm is a Fireball with power 8, complexity 4 and the right choice of augments. You want to cast firestorm on the oncoming enemy force. You cast fireball, change area to cube, +10 max damage dice, shapeable in 10 ft squares, +20 ft cube size, +1 additional burst. This results in a Power 8, Complexity 4 fireball that gives you two 40-ft cubes shapeable per 10 ft squares (or a total of 32 10-ft squares) that deals a maximum of 20d6 damage.

Elementalism is the simplest of talents-most elemental spells start out at Complexity 1 or 2-but they are pretty high Power spells. As you can see, augments increasing the spell's actual power (area, damage, targets) increase Power. Augments increasing versatility increase the spell's complexity. So, a low intelligence, high willpower caster could deal more damage with fireballs. A high intelligence, low willpower caster deals less damage-but in close quarters he could shape the AoE to exclude his allies and himself or shape the area precisely (5ft shaping) to include the maximum number of enemies.

2008-02-16, 03:33 AM
I saw that. I like your suggestion and lets roll with it.

So.... transmutation would have a higher complexity than power, right? So what about say... Bull's Strength? Complexity 3, Power 1?