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Anyone else using freeform magic?


rsanford

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Anyone else using freeform magic in your Magic World game? If so what rules are you using? What GM challenges have cropped up?

As for me we use our own house rules The Second Way which is a take off of deep magic. My biggest challenge so far are the player's creative use of magic to solve problems in general and the availability of gate spells in particular. 

Check out our homebrew rules for freeform magic in BRP ->

No reason for Ars Magica players to have all the fun!

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My group has stuck with Deep Magic as written (for the most part).

My biggest obstacle as a Chronicler has been permanency. 

One of my players figured if he used Flesh and Alteration he could heal wounds. Fine. But then tried Spirit and Summon to cause a resurrection effect.

Now they have a Raise Dead machine so I nipped it and said it costs a permanent point of POW. That stung a little (as it should), but now he is wondering if he could enchant an item with a spell and sacrifice the POW to make it permanent. The other players have started referring to his character as "god". 

Have some work to do with this...

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Yeah I like the fact that wizards can provide healing though like you raising the dead cost a POW.

What I as GM have to get over is how frequently the party can escape traps by gating to safety. In one game the party was sentenced to life in prison and they escaped all the same day.

Check out our homebrew rules for freeform magic in BRP ->

No reason for Ars Magica players to have all the fun!

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In a world populated by sorcerers it only makes sense to create items that radiate an anti magic zone. Or materials that suppress magic. 

This is an old problem with castles. What good is a fortification if a single mage can collapse it with a MP or two and a wave of his hand? 

 

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Yea that would make it easier. In my game magic wielding people outside demon summoning sorcerers can be counted on your toes and fingers. Right now my guys are getting away with murder using magic. I can't wait till they run into sorcerers.

 

Check out our homebrew rules for freeform magic in BRP ->

No reason for Ars Magica players to have all the fun!

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I read, I think in The Magic Book, that temples can be protected by conditional spells that are triggered by certain actions. Such as if someone casts a spell at a door it fires a retribution spell at the caster. These spells must be refreshed by the priests every day. Can definitely see a king/prince/lord requiring or paying priests to do the same around a prison, the city gates, ect. Sorry. Not exactly on topic.

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No I see your point. I think I am going to let the sorcerers (demon summoners really) have access to Mongoose's Stormbringer Runemagic.  Then I can write a rune on a wall that prevents gates and such...

Check out our homebrew rules for freeform magic in BRP ->

No reason for Ars Magica players to have all the fun!

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  • 2 weeks later...

One of the magic systems I use is the Maelstrom magick system. It is elegant, freeform and subtle, and encourages strategic and situational thinking by the mage player. It is particularly good for low-magic settings. 

The Maelstrom magic system

 

There are no specific spells, just one generic Magic skill. Magic is situational and based on probability of an event occurring. When a mage wishes to cast a spell, the referee gives it a level of difficulty:

 

1. Probable. Things which might happen normally eg, a person tripping

2. Unlikely. Thing which could happen by accident but which are unlikely

3. Highly unlikely.

4. Wildly improbable. eg, crazy physical feats or strokes of incredible luck

5. Impossible in nature. eg, flying people, talking to dead men etc.

 

The mage rolls against his Magic skill - (10% x grade of spell) If he fails he can't remember the incantation and there is no effect. If he succeeds he makes a POW x5 roll for each grade of the spell. For each one that succeeds he loses 1D6 Magic Points; for each one that fails he loses 1 Magic Point. If all succeed the spell works.

 

That's the basics. This system works well in Hârn or any low-power or historical game for a number of reasons:

 

1. It is subtle. Did magic *really* happen or was it just a freak of nature/the will of the gods? Spell effects tend to be more 'natural-looking'.

2. It encourages tactical use of spells, and the same spells may vary in their difficulty depending on circumstances. A freak wave washing away your enemies would be Impossible (or at least Wildly Improbable) in the desert, but might be merely Unlikely on a rocky promontory by a stormy ocean.

 

You can vary the system by how expensive magic is to cast. There are also specialist mages who study a particular realm of influence (eg. fire magic) for whom the difficulty grade is reduced by one when casting spells related to their specialty. It is great little system which encourages cleverness, inventiveness and roleplaying (or at least tactics and positioning) from mage players.

 

* Actually it *is* being reprinted; there's a pdf available at Maelstrom - Arion Games | Maelstrom | RPGNow.com)

 

 

 

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On 1/8/2016 at 7:04 AM, rsanford said:

No I see your point. I think I am going to let the sorcerers (demon summoners really) have access to Mongoose's Stormbringer Runemagic.  Then I can write a rune on a wall that prevents gates and such...

I think a lot of rune magic involves a permanent investment of POW, which makes sense to me for any long-lasting effects. (In general I like the idea of sacrificing POW to maintain a long-lasting spell; the spell caster gets the POW back when the spell ceases and is also aware of the spell's end, via 'spooky action at a distance'). However it could be tricky persuading most sorcerers to part with their POW even temporarily to put protective runes on the average tower dungeon. Of course the common-ness of magic and the availability of POW gains in your campaign might assuage this. In my Nehwon campaign, magic is quite uncommon and sorcerers are feared.

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  • 3 months later...
On 1/7/2016 at 2:53 PM, tooley1chris said:

My group has stuck with Deep Magic as written (for the most part).

My biggest obstacle as a Chronicler has been permanency. 

One of my players figured if he used Flesh and Alteration he could heal wounds. Fine. But then tried Spirit and Summon to cause a resurrection effect.

Now they have a Raise Dead machine so I nipped it and said it costs a permanent point of POW. That stung a little (as it should), but now he is wondering if he could enchant an item with a spell and sacrifice the POW to make it permanent. The other players have started referring to his character as "god". 

Have some work to do with this...

Say something like, he can enchant the item and sacrifice the POW but every time it is used, it takes another point in order to properly bring the person back to life. If he complains, point out how he is trying to god mod the game and that you have to place limiters so that your story can survive. 

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  • 10 months later...
On 1/17/2016 at 8:48 PM, Questbird said:

One of the magic systems I use is the Maelstrom magick system. It is elegant, freeform and subtle, and encourages strategic and situational thinking by the mage player. It is particularly good for low-magic settings. 

 

I remember this one from when I was doing research on HARN!  It is perfection for my Sorcery idea!  I even have that thread bookmarked and then completely forgot it existed!

Thank you

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  • 3 years later...
On 1/17/2016 at 6:48 PM, Questbird said:

One of the magic systems I use is the Maelstrom magick system. It is elegant, freeform and subtle, and encourages strategic and situational thinking by the mage player. It is particularly good for low-magic settings. 

 
Can you share what other magic systems you use?  I am currently homebrewing a BRP game, and I really want to avoid DnD style magic.

 

Love, Luck and Courage -

Bugsy

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One thing that I tend to do is to allow spells to be treated more like keywords when Adventurers become more powerful.

So, if they have mastered the Water Rune and have an ability of Mastery of Water Rune, they could use the Float spell as a keyword and do more with it, in a narrative fashion. So, for example, they could float a ship without having to count its size and how many points of Float would be needed. 

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 

www.soltakss.com/index.html

Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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Free form is cool but I have always been concerned that Malstrom’s magic is to weak and limited. Deep magic is cool though. The Second Way magic, on the other hand, is on the verge of being game breaking.

Check out our homebrew rules for freeform magic in BRP ->

No reason for Ars Magica players to have all the fun!

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14 hours ago, MrB_Douglass said:

 

 

In my Lankhmar low-magic campaign I use a combination of Maelstrom freeform magick and Rolemaster Spell Law, where each list of spells is counted as a skill.

 

The Spell Law spells are generally less powerful than the D&D ones. Between Spell Law and the Maelstrom system I can accommodate a wide diversity of spell casters. In fact no two are alike, which is as I like it.

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9 hours ago, rsanford said:

Free form is cool but I have always been concerned that Malstrom’s magic is to weak and limited. Deep magic is cool though. The Second Way magic, on the other hand, is on the verge of being game breaking.

 

If you want subtle magic, the Maelstrom system is excellent. It's hard for outsiders to tell if an effect is the result of magick, or a freak of nature. It's also great because it is situational and makes the spell caster think about their situation and timing. A spell to kill all of your enemies with lightning bolts is easier to cast on top of a tor in the middle of a howling storm than in a cellar underground. As for power level, there are many natural effects which can be very powerful. The Maelstrom system is all about modifying the likelihood of things occurring. Only 'impossible' things are hard (but not impossible) to magick into existence.

 

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  • 11 months later...

I actually think the Dreaming skill from CoC’s Dreamlands would make a great freeform magic system. It limits you to current magic points for immediate uses, so to create a sword that does 1d8+1 would cost 9MPs, as the cost is the most important attribute. You are also limited to the skill level in Dreaming for extended uses (so if you have 50 in the skill, to gate 4 people may require all of their SIZ in MPs; hence an extended attempt over days; and you might not have the skill); and to go beyond that level requires POW to double it. To make an effect permanent requires POW too.

As for bringing back the dead, one can create a being, like a beautiful woman of App 18, but to create the living requires double (so such a beautiful woman would be 36), and frankly all you are likely to get is an automaton with little true Int etc. Since only APP is paid for. So a more rounded being may require you to spend 1 MP per 1 stat, doubled, and POW for permanency. Expensive. But to truly bring back the dead?

I would argue that the most important attribute, LIFE itself, is beyond a quantitative value. Such is the mystery of life. And so while one might create a semblance of life above, it would not be true life. More of a living, breathing simulacrum…and since it comes from the caster, it will be limited by their own knowledge. A kind of magical projection or fiction born of the caster’s mind. Hence, a mage perhaps cannot truly create a being that would surprise them with insights. (Though you might rule it can, for good or ill, as it comes from the caster’s unconscious.) Perhaps, in fact, they also cannot create a being with more Int and Pow than they themselves have. (Makes sense to me.) Plus to create a being doesn’t guarantee control of that being, it seems to me. That might require an additional effect. So bringing back the true being that was gone? I think this is only for the gods. That semblance of life, that looks like your friend, that you believe is returned, is but the fiction of your friend now reanimating their body. You’ve filled their corpse with the breath of a dream. But it is not them. (There is no PC there; only an NPC.)
 

But for other uses, I think Dreaming could be a remarkably flexible magic system. To put someone to sleep, the MPs might be 1 per round, and a POW vs POW roll. Or maybe it’s the target’s POW, since their will must be overcome in MPs first, prior to the POW vs POW roll. That would make such magic that overcomes wills costly, and more suited to rituals/extended uses rather than in-the-moment. Hurl a fireball, yes. Sway a mind, not easy.
 

To transform someone might require the spending of MPs equal to their POW, and the spending of the new form’s SIZ, plus any POW if permanent, and a POW vs POW roll (clarification: the POW vs POW happens only if the Dreaming skill roll succeeds; you could spend a lot of  MPs and POW in order to simply have a chance of affecting someone, and fail…which seems to give the system necessary and costly limits when it comes to impacting a being’s will or true form). So all MP and POW expenditure is done first, then the skill roll, then the POW vs POW if relevant.

It would need work as a magic system. But the base idea of Dreaming has always struck me as very neat, built as it is around the most important attribute and POW investments for permanency, as well as a skill that places limits too. One might call it ‘the Art’.

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Example: If a player wants to put the 3 guards to sleep, well, it simply can’t be done in the moment if the guards have a combined POW of, let’s say, 33. The player will need to spend 33 magic points over 2 or more days, assuming they have a skill higher than 33 (otherwise they must sacrifice POW to double the limit), then they must roll the skill (a failure means all MPs and any POW are lost), and then if successful in the skill roll they must still overcome each guard in a POW vs POW roll. Not easy. This makes such magic more the stuff of rituals.

Creating a key for the lock seems much easier, but I would argue they don’t know consciously or unconsciously what the key should be, so without knowledge of the real key, they cannot match it. But if they could view it…

Gating from prison would require the SIZ in MP of all who are to be gated. (And if iron metal interfered with magic, a prison might prevent such things anyway.) And of course the caster must have knowledge of where they are going. If one thinks of the magic as a kind of reality-altering dreaming, then there are limits based on the caster’s knowledge or experience. It’s less of a wish made manifest by the world and more of an imposed intention, with all the limits that may imply. For example, if a caster has never tasted a certain dish, they perhaps can create something that looks exactly like it (if they saw it once at the court of the king), but it might taste utterly bizarre. If they haven’t experience to draw one, the magic might be strangely flawed. Even if all rolls were successful. To go beyond a compelling illusion requires true understanding born of experience. So the caster can never gate to a new place; they can only return to the old. And if the old place has changed beyond the caster’s present memory? Well, then, one had better choose a stable landmark, or risk gating into a prison born of memory itself. (Fumble?)

Edit: Bending the bars with a force of STR 18 would cost 18. (Assuming one doesn’t make metal or iron a mage’s bugbear, preventing any magic on or beyond the metal itself.) But that still leaves the guards to contend with…

For a more high-magic setting, the issue is MPs. So if a PC might store MPs up to their skill in Dreaming/the Art into a staff, which solves that issue. Want a D20 damage fireball? Spend 20 MP. But it still might be dodged… And later you’ll need to replenish the staff. Want to fly 40ft into the air? 40 MPs.

I think the watchword is ‘quantify’: not ‘fly’, but ‘fly how high and for how long?’ The effect must be determined concretely. A ‘love spell’ is quantified solely by overcoming POW; it isn’t that true love itself was quantified and created. (‘Tis but a fiction, a dream, imposed.) 

It would seem the above makes magic flexible AND constrained, yet reflective of the tropes of magic (extended effort etc). 
 

You guys have a wealth of experience, so if the above is workable or breakable, you’d know it better than I!

Edited by Nikoli
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