View Full Version : My World: Magic

2008-07-07, 01:36 AM
I've recently dived back into the campaign setting I'd been working on after some hiatus, and decided to tackle magic in my setting. Now, the current idea is to adapt the ruleset from Dark Heresy for the setting, and so some of the paragraph alludes or mentions those rules. I'm keeping the rules for manifesting Psychic powers, just changing and adapting a few things to a more fantasy direction. The basic concepts of magic within my setting would remain the same, however, even if I was using d20 to play it with. I'm not because my group is bored of d20 after having used it for the past 3-4 years, and like the DH rules enough that they voted I use them for the campaign. You will notice, however, the more I post on My World, that I'm using bits and pieces of other systems as well, most commonly d20.

The most challenging aspect of the adaptation has been coming up with Career trees, but that's another thread for another time. This one is about the Magic, and so without further ado:


Magic in my setting is the echo or residue of the vast cosmic energies used in the forging of Reality and Existence. All magic uses the same basic resolution mechanic. The caster rolls a number of dice (normally d10s) equal to his caster level (1-6, possibly higher), adds relevant bonuses (casting stat mod, bonuses from Talents, etc.), and compares the total to the Threshold of the desired spell. If the total is equal to or higher than the Threshold, the spell is successfully cast. If not, the spell fizzles and dies, as the caster was unable to gather enough mystical energy to achieve the desired effect. If the total is higher than the Threshold, some spells will allow the caster to channel the extra energy into it to increase its effect. This is called Overchannel.

Magic is divided into three power sources, Arcane, Innate, and Divine. Arcane and Innate are actually the same source of power, but two very different methods of approaching and controlling it. Divine is, of course, power granted directly from the gods.

Arcane Magic: This is magical power harnessed and controlled through ancient and difficult rituals, chanting, diagrams, and symbols. Arcane practitioners use words and letters of power, from an ancient language whose origins are unknown, to directly control magic. This approach to magic requires a great investment of time and energy, diligence and study, but is the safest and most reliable form of magic. It is the only type of magic that is able to permanently imbue objects with magical effects. It is also the only type of magic that can be written down. Arcane magic and those who study it are responsible for the most powerful effects magic has ever produced, as the symbols and words of Arcane magic insulate the caster against the great energies they wield, and allow them to safely channel more energy than otherwise possible.

Arcane casters prepare their spells ahead of time, if they can at all help it. Preparing a spell burns it into the caster's memory and subconscious, making success a virtual guarantee, and practically eliminating the dangers from Wild Magic. If an Arcane caster attempts to cast a spell he has not prepared (though he must know it to begin with), he is at far greater risk for failure or catastrophe than other casters, because his method of harnessing mystical energy relies on absolute perfection in application and execution. To cast a spell without preperation, the caster must succeed on a Spellcraft check, the difficulty increasing the more powerful the desired spell is. If he fails he must still roll the power dice, but Wild magic is automatically triggered.

Arcane Magic is divided into six circles of mastery, depending on the difficulty of the spell and how much power it requires, with two exception groups. The first is Cantrips, basic spells taught to apprentices while they are still learning the intricacies of the Arcane language. Their effects are very minor to reduce potential risk. The second exception is Pinnacle spells. These are the spells discovered by the mightiest Archmages in history, incredibly powerful and very rare. Even the most influential Wizard guilds in the world only have a few in their libraries, as those who discover the spells are generally loathe to share them with others, whether from greed or fear of misuse.

The idea here is to port most of the spells from D&D 3.5 over for their use, as that spell list fits my vision of the Arcane caster the best, though there will certainly be plenty of alterations, cuts, and additions. I also intend to keep the schools from D&D, though these will largely be academic qualifiers and their effect on the magic itself will be minimal.

Innate Magic: Innate magic covers nearly every source and method of casting spells that is not Arcane or Divine in origin, and is thus the most common kind of magic by far. An Innate caster is able to harness magical energy from the world around him, shape it, and direct it through will alone. No chanting or symbols are needed, unlike Arcane magic, and no deity must grant the power. Innate magic users run the gamut, are found in all walks of life, and many people channel magical energy in this way without fully realizing it. Innate magic lacks the insular components and structure of Arcane magic, and is not capable of quite as powerful effects. It is more dangerous than a properly prepared Arcane spell, but less than one cast spontaneously.

Innate casters have no need to prepare their spells ahead of time, they merely choose the desired effect and attempt to gather enough energy to achieve it. Innate magic can trigger Wild Magic effects, but not often. Innate magic, as it's name implies, has no classifications within the game world. A spell cast by an Innate magic user is quantified only by it's effects, and has no 'Circle' or 'School'. For game purposes, I intend to use a Seed-based system, similar to the rules for Epic spells, though I have not pinned the exact system yet.

Divine Magic: This category represents power granted directly from a deity to the caster. It is the power of the gods given to mortal hands to further their agendas. A Divine caster is the most restricted of magic users, for he must maintain a high standing in the eyes of his patron, the more power he is granted the higher that standard goes. Should such a follower slip up, as mortals are wont to do, he must atone before his deity will again grant him such power.

Divine casters do not prepare their spells ahead of time, though they must pray at the prescribed time of day (according to the dogma of their chosen god) to receive their power. Actually casting a Divine spell usually involves a prescribed prayer or verse of holy text be recited, and usually requires the faithful to hold or touch an object or symbol considered sacred to that deity, which is why most priests carry such symbols around their necks. Exceptions can be made for exceptional circumstances, but beware, some gods are fickle. Sometimes, for the most powerful spells, a material sacrifice must be made. The power of the spell consumes the material as it is cast, just like Arcane magic.

Divine magic tends to mostly strengthen allies, weaken enemies, and heal fallen comrades. Spells that directly attack opponents are uncommon. See Mantles of Faith for further information on the restrictions of Divine casters. Divine magic never triggers Wild Magic effects. Divine spells, like Innate, are not divided or classified within the game world. For rules purposes, they will be divided into six groups, based on the power, and the faithfulness, required to be granted the spell. I will also be including a 'wild magic' type mechanic, representing how fickle the gods are in my setting. Currrently I'm just ripping Wrath of the Gods out of WFRP, with a few minor alterations.

Wild Magic: Magic is the left over energies from the creation of reality, and exists in a state of near limitless potential. As such, it tends to be chaotic and shifting, a nebulous force that resists being shaped and used. Sometimes an Arcane or Innate caster will attempt to tap into this energy, only to find it seemingly fighting back, swirling and eddying about them unpredictably. When an Innate caster rolls a natural 9 on any of his power dice when attempting to cast a spell, he may trigger a Wild Magic effect. Arcane casters do not run this risk unless casting an unprepared spell, in which case Wild Magic triggers not only on natural 9s but also if he Overchannels the spell by more than 5 points, and if he fails his Spellcraft check, but still beats the Threshold of the spell on his power dice. Divine magic does not trigger Wild magic effects.

If the caster fails a subsequent Concentration check then a Wild magic effect occurs. Roll a d100 and consult the Wild Magic table for the effect. Some allow further saves, some do not. Most effects on this table are fairly benign, though annoying and disruptive. Should the d100 result be 90 or above, then the magic has gone truly Wild, and the caster has triggered a Magic Storm. Roll a d100 again and consult the Magic Storm table. These effects are almost universally bad, and range from a shifting in the flow of magic (increasing or decreasing the effects of all spells in the area), to nullifying all attempted magic, to vast amounts of magical energy being released in a cataclysmic and uncontrolled explosion. Tables are nearly finished.

Mantles of Faith: (Quick explanation: I desired a mechanical representation of the difficulty of maintaining a proper standing with your chosen deity, so I stole used Fax Celestis' Mantle of Faith feature from his How-It-Should-Be Paladin (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=33551) fix. Great stuff Fax, thanks for the ideas.)

Every time a Divine caster increases his caster level, including the first time, he must take on a Mantle of Faith, which is a specific vow of behavior. As long as the caster maintains these vows, their patron will continue to grant them power (barring any extreme actions against the interests of the deity). Should the caster break one or more vows, his Divine caster level decreases to equal the number of unbroken Mantles he has, all the way down to zero. He must then atone to regain his standing and his power.

(I'm pretty much taking them as written, with some alterations, additions, and subtractions that have not been finalized yet, so I'll probably update this post later with the completed list.)

So, what do you think, playgrounders? Likes? Dislikes? Ideas, suggestions, or questions? I'm posting this to get some feedback, so please feel free to speak your mind.

2008-07-07, 07:03 PM
I LOVE THE IDEA Could you post some spells and their threshold level and the wild magic table so I could take a look?

2008-07-07, 07:42 PM
Yay, feedback! Yeah, I'm still working on spell lists and completing the Wild magic tables, but I hope to have them done by this weekend. The spell lists is going to be quite extensive when I'm done, as I intend to adapt most of the arcane spells from D&D 3.5 core+Spell Compendium, at least spell levels 1-6. I'm also keeping the schools, though they'll only apply to Arcane casters. They'll be able to take Talents that make them better at one school or another. Innate and Divine still need work. I'm going to create a basic list for all three so we can get going sooner, and tell my players that if they want to create any other spell effect, they just have to write up the spell, subject to my approval. All the casters will learn new spells by purchasing them off whatever career trees they have access to. Arcane casters will still maintain the D&D 3.5 ability to learn written spells they find if they pass a skill check.

Also coming this weekend, the preliminary sketch of My World: Career Paths!