View Full Version : [3.5] Help with an Alternate Magic System [WIP]

2011-12-16, 10:00 AM
Hello brewers, I am hoping a few of you will lend me a hand with an alternate system I have had in the back of my head for a few years.

The idea is to create specific lists for the component of spells, i.e. verbal, somatic, and material/focus. This system will affect some, if not all, metamagic by its very nature.

The first is verbal. The idea is to create a list of single syllable (multiple syllables at higher level, perhaps?) terms that mean specific things. I have a couple of ideas how to go about it. For example: ign for fire, Aer for wind, etc.

Those two examples might be the only way to verbally add that element to the spell, or perhaps they are requisites for more powerful verbals, e.g. you need to have ign and X levels of caster to take ignis, which is a more powerful fire verbal component.

Syllables would have to be created for the elements, as well as range, area, duration, etc.

The same idea is applied to the other two components, somatic and materials.

Each component, regardless of which 3 it hails from, would require some basic rules, like what it can do by itself. The level of the caster should influence this somehow. An example: Ign by itself can create a flame for as long as the caster concentrates. That flame can grow as far as 5ft. per caster level (with a limit assuming we plan to use ignis later on as part of the system), or fill an equivalent amount of squares and would deal damage equal to the caster level each turn something is in contact with it, granting a ref save for 1/2.

Casters would effectively have "slots" to fill. A 1st level caster would have for the sake of hypothesis 3 slots, which would allow him to determine from his known verbal, somatic, and material to create an effect.

Assuming we do not specify a restriction on the slots (i.e. a 1st level caster has 1 verbal, 1 somatic, and 1 material slot, rather than just 3 slots) he could conceivably use 3 different fire effects (cannot be ign 3 times, components will not stack with themselves) to create a large raging fire before him, but it would have to be in contact with the square of the caster, cannot target someone/something specific, will last only for concentration, etc.

I should note that in the material components area, I wish to minimize the number of "components". A spell component pouch always feels like a super magical bag of almost everything I will ever need to cast a spell and I never have to pay for anything again.

Please hit me up with your ideas and suggestions, I will hopefully be writing this out over the next few weeks if you can help me steer this in the right direction.

2011-12-16, 02:20 PM
Reserved for actual system

2011-12-17, 02:23 AM
This sounds absolutely fantastic. So much fun to be had. Let me try to get my ideas out here...

First things first, my suggestion would be to have the different components all represent different aspects. For instance, perhaps verbal components tend to guide what the basic effect of the spell would be, so you could mix and match different verbal components to get different effects (the elements are easy ones, different types of glamour are, of course, always appreciated, &c). Somatic components control area, range, target and the like. Material components would control intensity.

But, there's always other components to consider, such as a focus, which I would consider to be something that always specifically allows a character to perform more efficiently and powerfully, but only in certain veins of magic, a la the Dresden Files way, where he has a blasting rod that specifically allows him to use fire magic with more finesse. XP is also a valid component, but I would suggest XP work by emulating one of the other slots, allowing a character to burn XP when they need a boost. Not sure any other components are popping to mind at the moment.

Now, specifics: the easiest way I can think of to have the verbal and somatic components to work would be that a verbal component by itself does one thing, and adding somatic components to it allow you to change something related to the specifics of the verbal. So, Ign alone shoots a line of fire for as long as the caster can concentrate, but throwing in some movements could warp that into a orb, maybe just a single target, a cone, or the like. More complex movements might allow you to split the fire, or other fun stuff like that. But, if you wanted something a little different, maybe you throw Ign and Ele together, creating a stream of electrified fire, which can then be modified as normal. Some mixes would be weird, but that could be figured out later.

Material components would be, like I said, for effectiveness. Like, the Ign by itself only really deals an amount equal to your caster level every round. Burn up a match while you cast the spell will make it 1d4 per caster level. Holding a piece of coal and burning it as a component boosts it up to 1d6, while burning through some gasoline boosts it even higher. Maybe something really impressive, like a red dragon's scale, would maximize it or something.

My suggestion for material components would be to separate the components into designations, something like Least, Lesser, Minor, Moderate, and Major, maybe add a Unique or something like that at the end. Then, specify what each component does for every individual combination of verbal components (meaning, depending on how many you allow, it could be a very long list).

Least components are something easy to obtain, like a match; something you could realistically carry a lot of, but that do provide a benefit. Going further up, the materials would slowly become things that are less easy to find, either because they're just rarer, or because they're more expensive, or maybe dangerous to use? If the component is gasoline, maybe it can explode on you if you don't pace yourself? Something like that.

In the same vein, I would say that anything that is Metamagic related actually be a material component, and that it have specific sort of relations. You want to maximize your fire spell? Go get a red dragon scale. Just enlarge it? Got any fire salts back their, Bernie? And so on.

Foci would be slightly different, but I would essentially make them items you need to craft (or possibly get a hold of, since I assume some people could use other, special foci), but which more or less add a free slot or two (or three) to your spellcasting in certain ways. So, going with a blasting rod, maybe it adds two additional slots to use, for no extra cost, but only when using fire magic. A more general focus might be a staff, which just gives you one extra slot, but to almost anything you could use. Frees up your attention to make the spell more detailed.

Finally, XP acts similarly to a Focus, but it isn't a material object, and therefore can be used whenever. It's a significant cost, being literally your experiences, but when you're out of options... well, you use what you've got. Maybe make it some kind of simple exchange? 500 XP for an additional slot, 700 more for slot number two, or something like that? Hell, maybe just 500 per slot.

I'm sure other components exist, but those are what I came up with on the fly. I love this idea, and I'd love for it to go somewhere. Good luck.

2011-12-17, 08:55 AM
Here are some of my ideas.

Basically each verbal or somatic component could be used to cast a basic spell, apply an attribute to a another spell, or create an obect.

For example, Ign as a spell casts a (non-fire) attack spell like fireball, as metamagic it add adds fire damage, and as and object it create a throwable grenade. Cyr is used as a (noncold) cone attack spell, add cold damage, or create a thin sheet of matter.

Depending on the order and what arcticle is used, the caster gets different effects.
Ign: Fire a bead of energy that explodes and deals a small amount damage to all within 20-ft. radius
Ign Ign: Fire a bead of energy that explodes and deales fire damage to all within the radius
Ign a-Ign: Create a throwable grenade that deals l
Cryo Ign: Fire a bead of energy that explodes and deales cold damage to all within the radius
Ign Cryo: Create a conic blast of fire damage.
Ign a-Cryo: Create a thin sheet of fiery terrian.

2011-12-17, 01:46 PM
This is a basic list I compiled of terms that have to be made into components, regardless if they are verbal, somatic or material (or overlap in a few, as many will).

Remember, many of these will probably be rolled into others, this is just a beginning. The dots show a step down, meaning that as of right now they belong to the word above them.

The word "base" in parenthesis indicates that particular option will probably be root for that component tree. Any other information in parenthesis is basic information meant as guidelines to what that component is.

I also added some words in the element table. As of this writing, there are four words, each one a prerequisite to the words after, and have a level requisite as well.

Casting Time
Full Round (base)
Standard action (Base)
Move action (costs 2 slots)
Swift action (costs 3 slots)
Immediate action (costs 1-3, some specific effects eg. Feather fall, drop its cost)

Personal/ Touch (base)

Ray/Touch Attack (Base)
Multiple Targets
1 Target/5 levels
1 Target/4 levels
1 Target/3 levels
1 target/2 levels
1 target/level

Concentration (base)
Rounds per level
Minutes per level
10 minutes per level
Hour per level
Day per level
Year per level

Saving Throw
Half/Partial (base)

Spell resistance
Yes (base)

Fire = Ign
Light (Can duplicate a light effect one step lower)
Ice = Frig
Lightning = Ful
Light (Can duplicate a light effect one step lower)
Acid = Aci
Sonic = Son
Force = Vis
Light = luc
Positive = Bon
Light (Can duplicate a light effect one step lower)
Rebuke Undead
Negative = Mal
Bolster Undead
Command Undead
Negative level
Law = Jus
Chaos = Irr

Action (full round, standard, etc)
creature type
Movement Speed
Roll (a specific die roll)
Characteristics (class or creature features)
Miss chance
Spell Resistance


Buff (abilities, skills, attacks, etc)
Illusion (Shadow)

Status Effects
Befuddle (Illusion effect: Figment, glamer, Pattern, phantasm)
Invisible (not just visual, a spell of silence would include an invisible component)

2011-12-19, 09:40 PM
You might want to reformat your list of components using {list} tags (using [ instead of {).

On substance, it looks interesting, though I agree you might need to roll some of these up. If I might suggest, something like a Context-Free Grammar (http://cs.union.edu/~striegnk/courses/nlp-with-prolog/html/node37.html) might prove useful in deciding how to combing the various (or at least verbal) components. It allows for creating relatively few rules which result in a wide range of outcomes.

SINGLE -> touch attack (ici), orb (bal), ray (dar)
MULTIPLE -> cone (wai), burst (bom), aura (glo), wall (bric)
AMOUNT -> d6 + caster level (les) maximum +#, d6/2 caster levels (hal), d6/level (mar)
# -> any number (5=cin, 10=dec, 20=vin)
TYPE -> fire (ign), cold (frig), acid (aci), electricity (ful), sonic (son), force (vid)
ALIGNMENT -> good (bon), evil (mal), lawful (jus), chaotic (ran)
CREATURE_TYPE -> undead (zom)

ballesdecaci -> orb deal 1d6+caster level (max 10) acid damage
waihalcinzom -> cone deals d6/2 caster levels (max 5d6) fire damage to undead

2011-12-20, 11:36 AM
First off, thank you all for your replies, that should have been the first thing I posted back to this thread. My apologies.

@Domriso: I love the idea of how items work, as of right now that is on the top of the list of how items work. Your suggestions on materials are pretty solid too.

@Orzel: While I like the concept, I feel like most players would get lost trying to set this up right. They create a wall of cold, when they meant to make a ray of fire. I can see midgame everything slowing down while the dm and the player try to figure out what a spell actually did because the incantation was wrong (don't misunderstand: that is part of what I want, just not to a large extent). But I will extrapolate a few feats.

@playswithfire: it took me a moment to figure out what you meant, and i still have not gone over the link you sent, but once I figured out your examples, I was really intrigued. I think waihalcinzom is supposed to be waihalcinignzom however. If I am wrong, please explain to me why, I want to make sure I get how this works.

2011-12-20, 02:36 PM
Have you looked at Words of Power (http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateMagic/ultimateMagicWordsOfPower.html) from Ultimate Magic (for Pathfinder)?

I don't know if its close to what you want, but it seems similar.

2011-12-20, 04:55 PM
So this is a quick write up and an example of how this may work, based on your suggestions.

There are verbal, somatic, and material/foci slots. Permanent items (e.g. staves) grant extra slots. The most common way to gain extra slots is by granting the spell restriction(s).

The spell syntax (drawn from all types of components, some rolled into each other) would look somewhat like this:
Casting time (predetermined by the highest casting time among components, can be modified) + Target(s) + Range (predetermined by target component, can be modified) + Duration (predetermined by components, can be modified) + Saving Throw (Type predetermined by Effect components, can be modified) + Spell Resistance (predetermined by components) + Effects (which includes the effect itself eg debuffing or summon + what it actually targets eg str or nothing + Elements if applicable eg negative or fire + the type if applicable eg profane + Status effects if applicable eg fatigue + type of die rolled, if applicable)
For example: Somari wishes to help her allies by weakening her foes. She places together the components (Verbal + Somatic + Material) for a spell that will bring her god's wrath upon a specific enemy, taking his arms ability to hold his weapon.
She points an index finger at him {choosing a somatic component: Ray, which has a base medium range} this fills in the Target and Range, and uses up one of her somatic slots.
She mutters: Soma Mal Pond {choosing the verbal components: Physical Ability, Negative energy, Damage} this fills in the Effects of the spell, the Duration (instantaneous duration from the damage component), what Saving Throw (Fortitude, from the negative energy component), and Spell resistance (yes, from the negative energy component). The Damage component will also specify the base damage, which against abilities is 1d6.
In her other hand she hold her prayer book. {choosing a material (foci) component} this uses up one of her material slots. The benefit here is up for grabs, potentially an extra slot of some type. it could also work like a cleric's holy symbol, required for casting without actually gaining a benefit from it.

2011-12-20, 06:24 PM
@playswithfire: it took me a moment to figure out what you meant, and i still have not gone over the link you sent, but once I figured out your examples, I was really intrigued. I think waihalcinzom is supposed to be waihalcinignzom however. If I am wrong, please explain to me why, I want to make sure I get how this works.

You're right. I forgot to include the fire component. A CFG probably isn't necessary, but I thought it might be useful and a well crafted one can ensure that all the somatic components have reasonable syllables (and the number of syllables could potentially factor in to the level of the spell/casting time).

2011-12-22, 02:03 PM
This is a cleaner breakdown of the previous example.

Somari, warrior priestess of the Valaya tribes, wishes to help her allies by weakening the foes before her. She will first places together the components (Verbal + Somatic + Material) for a spell that will bring her god's wrath upon a specific enemy, taking his arms ability to hold his weapon.

She points an index finger at her enemy, her prayer book in the other hand and mutters "Soma Mal Pond", releasing a crackling bolt of black energy across the battlefield. Upon contact with her enemy, his body seems to wither, his armor looking a bit large for him as his muscles atrophy.


Points index finger: somatic component: Ray. Has the following bases: medium range.

She mutters:
Soma: verbal component: Physical Ability. It determines what the spell actually targets (not who it targets). She determines at the moment of casting (or preparing, depending on class) if it will affect Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.
Mal: verbal component: Negative Energy. Has the following bases: Fortitude save, spell resistance applicable, when used against ability scores 1d4.
Pond: verbal component: Damage. Has the following bases: Instantaneous duration, increase damage die by one step.

She hold a prayer book: material (foci) component. this uses up one of her material slots. As a divine caster, she must have a Divine Focus; either a holy symbol or a prayer book. Choosing the prayer book is not a bad choice, especially at lower levels, since it grants a +1 caster level. The drawback of the book is that it must be held in hand, thus preventing Somari from using some somatic components that require both hands.

In this particular case, the prayer book would allow her spell to travel further (medium range being 100 ft + 10 ft per caster level).

You will notice she uses 5 slots to create this spell. There are more verbal slots than anything else since I believe I want to keep the somatic components simple (as the example) and do not have a concrete idea, just a direction in which to take the material components.

Also I do not state what the DC of the spell is, since i am not sure how it will be determined. When I was thinking of the example, I figured she was perhaps level 3 with a 16 Wisdom and used the current crude formula for DC of 10 + Relevant Ability Modifier + 1/2 the amount of slots used for the spell, rounding up. In this case the DC would be 16, which seems to hold correctly to the level.

Since I am not sure whether this will have some type of spell points/mana system, or how many slots a caster would have available to them as they level up, the formula is likely to change to somehow reflect that. If it does use mana, the amount spent will most likely factor in the DC.

The following is an example of a completed component:

Negative energy
Elemental, Effect Component
Verbal component: Mal.
Material component: blood drawn from the caster (1d4 damage). More powerful material components exist.
The power of the negative energy is released when you call upon this component. It can be used to grant one of the following effects:
Inflict damage. Base 1d8 + 1 per caster level.
When used against Ability scores. Base 1d4.
Negative levels. Base 1d3.

2011-12-22, 02:08 PM
@ Jeraa: Those are pretty cool, but I am trying to build something even more flexible, which at the same time can allow a player to literally mimic what his or her caster would do and say to create the spell. Or instead can simply say "I cast blank spell with these slots, these are the results".

@playswithfire: I will keep the CFG in the back of my head as I continue, my example above was built based on your example of CFG, and I also have decided to integrate restrictions somehow, which I thought was a fantastic idea. I do however, have to make it more complex (see the two examples on the post right above this one) your examples only deal damage, and spells have too many different outcomes.

2012-01-16, 03:01 PM
Hey this system seems like it could be really cool! Has any more progress been made?

2012-01-17, 06:12 PM
Hey DerTollUdo, I am sorry, holidays are a crazy time for me. I have an update.

This is the base of every spell from now on, so its an easy start point that answers all the base questions:

Casting time: Full Round Action
Range: Touch
Area: N A
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Half/ Partial
Spell Resistance: Yes

This is a more complete list of spell components. Each should have a verbal component, many are followed by a somatic component, and last but not least, few (if any) have material components at this moment.

Casting Time
Full Round (base)
Standard action = Brevi. Palm down, wide horizontal hand wave, back to front (not side to side)
Move action (costs 2 slots) = Brev (Prerequisite Brevi, caster level 9). Clap both hands together (Prerequisite Standard action Somatic component, caster level 6).
Swift action (costs 3 slots) = Bre (Prerequisite Brev, caster level 12). Clench fist (Prerequisite Move action Somatic component, caster level 9).
Immediate action = Br (Prerequisite Bre, caster level 15, costs 4 Verbal slots), snap fingers (Prerequisite Swift action Somatic component, caster level 12, costs 4 Somatic slots), deal 1d4 points of mental damage to self (cost 2 material slots)

Touch (base)
Short = Parvus
Medium = Dimi
Long = Longus

No Base
Ray = Cala. Point index finger at target.
Chain (1 target per caster level) = Catena. Point index finger at first target with one hand, while the other points at last target.
Cone = Tubin. Arms outstretched in cone shape.
Cylinder = Cylindrus. Arms together creating a circle with body.
Line = Funis. Arms outstretched, creating a clean line.
Sphere = Orbis. Hands cupped together in constant circular motion (as if an unwieldy balloon was held) until one hand is outstretched, releasing the effect gently or until both hands are pushed forward, releasing the effect violently (caster's option).

All Area spells, excluding Chain, fall under one of the following categories:
Burst = if the duration is instantaneous.
Emanation= if the duration is concentration or longer.
And can be changed to/with:
Spread = Emanio.

Instantaneous (base)
Concentration = Defigo., Hold both hands clasped together (fingers not intertwined) for the remainder of the spell. This component does not cost any slot as long as the spell is not directly offensive (follow Sanctuary spell rules).
Rounds per level = Ocius. Run outstreched index and middle fingers across opposite arm from elbow to wrist.
Minutes per level = Minutum. Palm facing forward, one clockwise circle starting at the top above your head, bottom of circle at your pelvis.
10 minutes per level = Quam. Palm facing forward, two clockwise circles starting at the top above your head, bottom of circles at your pelvis.
Hour per level = Hora. Holding an imaginary hourglass before you from the top and bottom, turn it over.
Day per level = Dies. Palm down, one counterclockwise circle above your head starting above your forehead.
Year per level = Annu. With left arm outstretched to the side, parallel to the floor, the right hand begins to trace a line starting at the left hand, across the chest, finishing with the right arm outstretched parallel to the floor as well.
Permanent = Prop. With both arms stretched out to the side, fold both elbows in and bring hands palm to palm, fingertips skyward.

Saving Throw
Half/Partial (base)
Negates = Infitia
Disbelief = Uncredo
None = Haud

Spell resistance
Yes (base)
No = Phasma

2012-01-17, 06:36 PM
I don't have any direct suggestions, just a few resources that may be of use as a basis for ideas:
a system for handling metamagic with special components instead; you don't want too many, but you could perhaps picka few of the best ones and just use those for a lot of spells.

As for determining dcs/balancing stuffs; while epic magic can be abused; the dc numbers and modifiers used for epic magic stuff conform pretty closely to the ingame spells; so they could be used with some tweaking to get a good sense of what numbers things should be.

The verbal part of your system reminds me of the spell system from dungeon master; easy enough to google, though i didnt' see any systems which contained the explanation of what each symbol (and its associated syllable) meant; i could only find spell lists.

2012-01-22, 03:00 PM

Immediate action = Br (Prerequisite Bre, caster level 15, costs 4 Verbal slots), snap fingers (Prerequisite Swift action Somatic component, caster level 12, costs 4 Somatic slots), deal 1d4 points of mental damage to self (cost 2 material slots)

Uhh, why is there mental damage to self? Seems rather random.

Otherwise this is a very cool, and very well made, new system. The only things missing are what spells actually do (since so far we just have how to cast them), and how each class would incorporate it/use it instead.

Or if it is meant to be it's own unique class, what kind of caster? I get the strong impression of an infinite caster like the warlock.

2012-01-26, 06:05 PM
The mental damage is supposed to be for a feather fall effect and such emergencies. Because of the nature of the system, I felt ability damage was the only way to reliably stop people from making ultra cheese with the immediate action casting.

It is meant to be what you want it to be. From a design point, it can completely replace all magic in a game.

You can tone it down by making it specific to one class, or create a base or prestige class. Once I finish this, I may do some adaptations and write ups as well.

2012-01-29, 04:05 PM
It already takes 8 slots, 4 verbal 4 somatic. Not knowing the end result of how many slots people will be getting, but assuming somewhere near 15-20 per round at higher levels, or something like that, you could throw only about 3-4 of these. And that is excluding adding some kind of damage or any other aspect of the spell outside of casting time. I think the mental damage is wrong and unnecessary...

2012-02-01, 10:55 AM
Agreed, but then the earliest anyone could cast feather fall would be level 12?

I don't see to many players happy about that.

2012-02-01, 11:47 PM
Well, the way you have it they can't cast it without hurting their mental stats. If I had to choose, I would choose the falling damage.