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    sigh Magic Systems Ugh

    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?

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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).

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by BlizzardSucks80 View Post
    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.
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.
    I apologise if I come across daft. I'm a bit like that. I also like a good argument, so please don't take offence if I'm somewhat...forthright.

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by BlizzardSucks80 View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.)
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    @Jormengard: Can you read german and maybe know the Splittermond system?

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    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".

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    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?

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    Earthdawn: This and this 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.
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    @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.
    Last edited by Jormengand; 2018-01-13 at 12:15 PM.
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    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".

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlizzardSucks80 View Post
    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.

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    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.

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    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?
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.
    Low Fantasy Gaming RPG - Free PDF at the link: https://lowfantasygaming.com/
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    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    So...

    What works, and what doesn't?
    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.

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    tongue Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by Lvl 2 Expert View Post
    - 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.
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    killing and eating a bag of rats is probably kosher.
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    Default Re: Magic Systems suggestions

    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,

    Spoiler: Pendragon "Magic system"
    Show
    Quote Originally Posted by MAGIC
    :
    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


    Chaosium's old Stormbringer! 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

    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

    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 [I]Call of Cthullu). You can get a free Quick start PDF of the latest version of RuneQuest here.

    "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.

    “Cast a spell, weave it well of dust and dew and night and you."

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    by Poul Anderson
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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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.

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    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    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

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by JenBurdoo View Post
    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.
    My D&D 5th ed. Druid Handbook

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    Default Re: Magic Systems Ugh

    Quote Originally Posted by Goaty14 View Post
    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.
    The ultimate OOTS cookie cutter nameless soldier is the hobgoblin.

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