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RMS

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First, I really do like the magic systems in the new book for general/generic RPGs. They're a good basis and a good fit for most games I've seen. However like most RPG magic systems out there, they fail to do what I really want to see in a magic system. There are a couple of things that I really like to see in magic systems: personal cost and unpredictability. I can live with one or the other, but almost all RPG magic systems lack both...and I'd really appreciate some of both.

The original RQ divine magic system had a wonderful system of a person trading off part of their soul (permanent POW stat points) in exchange for magic from an otherworld creature. I was sad to see this system missing from the new book and hope it shows up in the magic book. It did a great job of demonstrating the PC giving up something permanent and tangible in exchange for magical powers. The lack of unpredictability here was always fine for me considering the cost of the magic and that it was divinely granted.

A different tact on the cost of magic was in Corum. As a character cast magic, they gained points in a chaos skill/stat. The player rolled against it on d100 and if they "succeeded", the character was warped by the magic in some way. I never have actually played the game and haven't read it since I first received it so don't know how well it worked, but I love the concept.

What other options are there for giving a tangible cost to magic that's reflected in the mechanics? I want something more than power points that are simply regained by resting a bit. Am I the only one interested in such an approach?

Edited by RMS
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The second issue is one that I haven't seen in any games. Standard magic/sorcery systems should reward character skill with greater control over the magics they release. A lesser success should still achieve most of what the character wants, but either not exactly or not at the exact cost they expected. Failures may well give the character exactly what they want, but at a terrible cost, or fail utterly while still costing the character dearly. (I hate the concept of failed spells only resulting in a singe power point lost.)

Here's a first take using the Magic rules as written. The player determines the spell and nominal power point cost per the BRP rules. Then they roll against their skill applying the following results:

Critical Success: the spell costs 1d3 PP less than expected.

Special Success: the exact spell with the exact costs goes off.

Success: the spell goes off but at 1 levels more or less than expected and the character pays the price of the final spell.

Failure: the spell goes off at 1d3 levels more or less than expected and the character pays the price of the final spell.

Fumble: the spell goes off at 1d6 levels more or less than expected and the character pays the full price of the final spell.

Note: if the cost of a spell exceeds the character's current PP, then the character trades general HP 2-for-1 for PP. Yes, a fumble (or failure) can kill a character that releases too much power.

The idea is that magic is tough to control, so the skill represents how much control over magical forces the character has not how much of the force they can throw around. Indirectly, a higher skilled character can do more because they have far less chance of killing themselves messing with magic than someone else. Anyhow, it's a first take at what I'm thinking about. Thoughts, ideas, opinions are all welcome.

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How about having a magic fumbles table...?

Or even (modest cough), how about the Magic Fumbles table already in the Wiki?

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Standard magic/sorcery systems should reward character skill with greater control over the magics they release.

Having played around with this sort of thing for ages, I'm currently using a system like this:

Critical: No PP cost, one effect doubled (caster's choice [if damage, it should just be maximized])

Special: No PP cost, normal effect

Success: Normal PP cost, normal effect

Failure: Normal PP cost, half effect [though I'm toying with full effect, double cost]

Fumble: Roll on fumble table (and unless it says otherwise the spell fails and is lost from memory, at normal PP cost)

Modifying the PP cost by another roll would slow down play. Unreliable/unpredictable effects can be dangerous to spell-casters anyway, even without causing damage directly, so that seems a bit severe to me (although I do take a similar approach with excessive PP cost due to fumbles).

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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Or even (modest cough), how about the Magic Fumbles table already in the Wiki?

That table is ok, but its not as flavoursome as the WFRP ones. There are some great RP possibilities caused by even the minor effects on the WFRP tables, especially given the "Burn the heretic/witch" attitude of the setting.

Edited by AikiGhost
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That table is ok, but its not as flavoursome as the WFRP ones. There are some great RP possibilities caused by even the minor effects on the WFRP tables, especially given the "Burn the heretic/witch" attitude of the setting.

Yeah, that table was done for utility not flavour. I don't know WFRP - could you quote a few examples?

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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An interesting idea, which I first heard in a description of a Mercedes Lackey book, is that magic entails a debt to the Powers That Be. Mechanically, every time a magician performs magic he incurs a "burden"; the GM (in the guise of the PTB) can offer to ease the burden in return for some task, anything from "dig this ditch" to "go into this cave and kill the creature within".

For example, someone casts a divination spell, which has a burden of, say, 5 points. Later in the adventure, the character feels a prompting to go to a village along the way and help an old lady draw water from the well ... that forgives one point. Or, perhaps more directly, the divination tells him to kill "beasts" in a cave to find the answer he seeks: that forgives all five points (if he and his companions live), and slays the family of ogres terrorizing a town.

Someone who uses a lot of magic, then, becomes the tool of Fate as much as its master.

Frank

"Welcome to the hottest and fastest-growing hobby of, er, 1977." -- The Laundry RPG
 
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Yeah, that table was done for utility not flavour. I don't know WFRP - could you quote a few examples?

Sure no problem, for minor effects you can get things like "Eyes glow an eerie red for 1d4 hours" (not so good in a hick town or when you're trying to negotiate with suspicious locals) or "all food within 50 yards spoils" quite a problem if your in the desert with your party :D

The greater effects can be anything form a misfire or the loss of casting for a short time right up to insanity points and demons disliking the racket you are making in the ether and deciding to descend on you and tear you a new one.

There are some pretty cool results on there that I can remember off the top of my head.

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An interesting idea, which I first heard in a description of a Mercedes Lackey book, is that magic entails a debt to the Powers That Be. Mechanically, every time a magician performs magic he incurs a "burden"; the GM (in the guise of the PTB) can offer to ease the burden in return for some task, anything from "dig this ditch" to "go into this cave and kill the creature within"..
I think that Mage: the Awakening had the concept of Wizard's twilight. Over time, the accumulated effect of casting spells expelled the mage from the world (IIRC -- I read a friend's copy a while ago). It might be worth checking for mechanics.

Steve

Bathalians, the newest UberVillians!

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Yeah, that table was done for utility not flavour. I don't know WFRP - could you quote a few examples?

Ok so I've gone and dug out my WFRP core book (partially for my own edification and just because I like the curse results charts so much :) )

Ok here we go

Minor Effects

Witchery - Within 10 yards of you, milk curdles, wine goes sour and food spoils.

Rupture - Your nose begins to bleed and will do so till a successful toughness test

Breath of Chaos - A cold and unearthly wind blows through the area

Horriplation - Your hair stands uncontrollably on end for 1d10 minutes

Wyrdlyght - You glow with and eerie light for 1d10 rounds

Unnatural Aura - Animals within 10 yards of you spook and unless controlled with a successful animal handling roll will flee the area

Haunted - Ghostly voices fill the air for the duration f your spell

Aetheric Shock - The magical energy coursing through you causes 1pt of damage regardless of toughness or armour

Mental Block - You channel too much energy, as a result your magic characteristic is reduced by 1 for 1d10 minutes (this would be equivalent of about -30% in BRP)

Whimsy - GM can choose any effect form this chart and apply it or make up a comparable minor effect

Unlucky - Roll on major effects instead

Major Effects

Witch Eyes - Your Pupils turn bright Red, they revert to normal at dawn the following day

Silenced - You cannot speak for 1d10 rounds

Overload - You are stunned for 1 whole round

Craven familiar - A craven demon imp materialises and attacks you next round

Chaos Unseen - You get a glimpse of the realm of Chaos (essentially hell) and gain 1 insanity point, at any point in the future spend 200xp to gain the Dark Lore (Chaos) talent.

Atheric Attack - Energy Burns through you loose 1d10 wounds regardless of toughness or armour

Enfeeblement - Chaotic energy wracks your body reducing your toughness buy 10% for 1d10 minutes

Mindnumb - You channel too much energy your magic characteristic is reduced by 1 point for 24 hours

Daemonic Possession - You are possessed by a daemonic entity for 1 minute. During this time the GM takes control of all your actions after the entity leaves your character has no memory of what happened.

Perverse Delight - The GM can choose any effect from this table or make up a comparable effect

Trick of Fate - Roll on the Catastrophic Effects cart instead

Catastrophic Effects

Wild Magic - You loose control of the magic you are wielding and everyone within 30 yards takes 1 wound point regardless of toughness or armour.

The Withering Eye - You loose 20% toughness for 1d10 hours

Tzeentchs lash - Magical power overwhelms you, you are knocked unconscious for 1d10 minutes

Aetheric Assault - The winds of magic lash ut at you, suffer a critical wound to a random location (1d10 to determine critical value - High values can kill instantly)

Heretical Vision - A daemon prince shows you a vision of pure Chaos - gain 1d10 insanity points (6 is enough to gain a permanent insanity), , at any point in the future spend 100xp to gain the Dark Lore (Chaos) talent.

Mindeaten - Your ability to use magic is burned out of you. Your Magic characteristic is reduced to 0 for each full day that passes increase it back by 1

Uninvited Company - You are attacked by a number of lesser daemons equal to your magic statistic. They appear from the aether within 12 yards of you.

Daemonic Contract - You suffer 1d10 wounds (regardless of toughness or armour) as a two inch chaos rune burns its way onto a random part of your body. Should you ever gain 13 of these your soul will be forfeit to the ruinous powers (13 seems a bit silly, Id probably make it 3)

Called to the void - You are sucked into the realm of chaos and are forever lost. Unless you have a fate point to spend its time to roll up a new character.

Dark inspiration - The GM can choose any effect from this table or make up a comparable effect

Edited by AikiGhost
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Ok so ive gone and dug out my WFRP core book ...

:lol: I see what you mean - they are lots of fun! Thanks!

Britain has been infiltrated by soviet agents to the highest levels. They control the BBC, the main political party leaderships, NHS & local council executives, much of the police, most newspapers and the utility companies. Of course the EU is theirs, through-and-through. And they are among us - a pervasive evil, like Stasi.

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I agree with Aiki, the WFRP tables in the Core Rulesbook (further expounded upon in the Tome of Corruption and Realms of Sorcery) are, indeed, extremely flavorful.

Though, I daresay most of the flavor is to be savored by the GM...

"Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal..."

- H.P. Lovecraft

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The Pact System in Elric is quite neat. Flavor wise I don't think it's too far from Sacking Pow for Divine magic. You sacrifice a variable amount of Pow to your otherworldly patron. That portion of your soul is now theirs, you retain it for the purposes of attribute tests or skills. However it now longer generates you MP. In exchange for a bit of your soul you get the following....

A Pact Skill starting at your Pow+Cha, a Number of Gifts and Hindrances depending on your pact score. Gifts could be increased Attributes, Spells and special abilities. Hindrances could be like Geases or detrimental physical changes. For instance the Kraken would give Water Breathing and spells that are water or fear based. While requiring his initiate to drown a sacrifice to him weekly.

Your Pact skill is used for spellcasting gifted to you via your patron. Some Abilities may also use the skill. If Magmo grants you the ability to breath fire in his name, you may likely be using the pact skill.

As it gets higher you get more gifts and hindrances. When the Pact skill reaches 100% your GM will have a decision to make. A Demon Lord will likely either have you dragged screaming to Hell. Or possibly put at the head of some army of the damned. Less questionable Patrons may let the character be for the most part, although they are quite likely to be sent quests for the good more often than not. If you like the characters can just simply disappear, called to fulfill their debts.

As you might tell, I'm somewhat biased towards this Ruleset. :D

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Another neat Magic Rules set is the Black Magic in Lankhmar. It has variables like How much you hate the target. How well you know them / what kind of link do you have to them. As well as using your own pain to fuel the spell. There's also a corruption chart, a little more limited than the WFB one that charts your physical and spiritual descent.

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  • 1 month later...

The second issue is one that I haven't seen in any games. Standard magic/sorcery systems should reward character skill with greater control over the magics they release. A lesser success should still achieve most of what the character wants, but either not exactly or not at the exact cost they expected. Failures may well give the character exactly what they want, but at a terrible cost, or fail utterly while still costing the character dearly. (I hate the concept of failed spells only resulting in a singe power point lost.)

Here's a first take using the Magic rules as written. The player determines the spell and nominal power point cost per the BRP rules. Then they roll against their skill applying the following results:

Critical Success: the spell costs 1d3 PP less than expected.

Special Success: the exact spell with the exact costs goes off.

Success: the spell goes off but at 1 levels more or less than expected and the character pays the price of the final spell.

Failure: the spell goes off at 1d3 levels more or less than expected and the character pays the price of the final spell.

Fumble: the spell goes off at 1d6 levels more or less than expected and the character pays the full price of the final spell.

Note: if the cost of a spell exceeds the character's current PP, then the character trades general HP 2-for-1 for PP. Yes, a fumble (or failure) can kill a character that releases too much power.

The idea is that magic is tough to control, so the skill represents how much control over magical forces the character has not how much of the force they can throw around. Indirectly, a higher skilled character can do more because they have far less chance of killing themselves messing with magic than someone else. Anyhow, it's a first take at what I'm thinking about. Thoughts, ideas, opinions are all welcome.

OOOO! This is nasty......I like it.

I have always also wanted a variable cost/power type system. My idea would in a nut shell allow small minor spells to be used as a skill that could be mastered quickly with no modification, yet more powerful or manipoulated spells to be more uncertain and costly. This allows practiced spells to be routine but unvariable, but ritualistic or sorcerous power to be much more difficult to control.

Skipper

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No no no... ya all have it wrong!!! :D

A failure is still a failure! And a fumble... well...

You tie that to Sanity. And the magician looses SAN equal to the PP in the spell! >:->

There has to be a reason for all those, um, esoteric magicians hiding in their towers and the periodic "witch" hunts conducted by the peasants!

SDLeary

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