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Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

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quaffeine
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Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by quaffeine »

Does anyone have a favorite magic system from other games that either uses flexible spells (i.e. set effects you can dial up or down as needed) or is completely freeform?

I want to offer an alternative to the typical Vancian-style "spells," whether they run off of spell slots or HP (as in Purest Essence), and I'm not completely satisfied with the options included in the Compendium like Four by Five.

Two things I'd love to see are:

  • Flexible spells that "grow," like in Final Fantasy (video game and its TTRPG) where you get "Fire 1" initially, and can then later learn "Fire 2" and "Fire 3."
  • A mechanic that makes "maxing out" more risky. For example, in D&D a 5th Level mage can cast Fireball once (by spell slot), but using something like spell points or HP they could become an arcane howitzer. I'd still like to allow this, but make the risk increase as you try to do so.

Any suggestions are appreciated, thanks!

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Re: Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by quaffeine »

So here's a couple of interesting ones I came across, notably (but perhaps not surprisingly) both from Black Hack hacks:

1) Usage die

Magic gets a usage die from d12 all the way down to zero and beyond (more on this in a moment). Roll the usage die for each level of the spell cast. Casting beyond a d4 depletion is possible, but there's an increasingly good chance something "very bad" will happen if you risk it. (No Class Hack by Red Kobold Games/Kevin Chenevert, p.24).

2) Flexible spells/spell failure

Lists 43 "generaized" spells that can be cast at "levels of power" ranging from 1 to 5, PCs can cast at up to their Level/2. Cast as much as you want, but each time risks casting attribute (INT/WIS/CHA) damage. (The Knaack Hack by Nathan Knaack, p.18).

Curious if anyone has used systems like this, I kind of like the usage die limitation (cast as much as you want seems OP to me), although the combination of flexible spells and their power levels as a cost in Mana Points also appeals to me.

I will continue the search!

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Re: Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by squirewaldo »

I do rather like the idea of failure in addition to cost.

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Re: Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by squirewaldo »

Also, you may have noticed how I added 'Ritual' as a magical option in Ancient Elements RPG. I particularly dislike the D&D Vancian magic system. It makes no sense at all. Why would you memorize a spell in the morning and then forget it after you use it? I know there is some twisted logic but I cannot think of I single example of such magic being used in traditional societies... probably because they were far too practical to even consider such nonsense.

In traditional societies most magic was based upon ritual. Another big source of magic is the idea of sympathetic magic... thinking so long and hard on something that you make it happen -- with a big Venn Diagram common area for both I suppose. The next big source of magic is offering magic -- making an offer of a cigar, a bit of run, a candle, your first born, etc. to some powerful deity that might respond positively.

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Re: Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by quaffeine »

I did, and I like it as an option to use outside of "encounters" (i.e. combat or other things tracked in rounds). Maybe as an option for Advantage/automatic success if some sort of roll is required, or something that would prevent whatever cost might otherwise be needed.

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Re: Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by squirewaldo »

Have you ever read the Bartimaeus novels? In those books all magic comes from demons. Wizards/Magicians learn how to lure and trap these demons from alternative dimensions and enslave them here. Needless to say the demons do not come voluntarily and take any opportunity they given to destroy their enslaving masters. The tale of Bartimaeus is about a demon who was called by a young somewhat less evil magician. They become friends of sorts, and Bartimaeus does not destroy the young magician when he has the chance.

In this world all magical items are created by embedding an enslaved demon into it in a particularly cruel and horrible manner.

I have thought often about how to create such a magical system, and make it interesting to play.

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Re: Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by quaffeine »

Also some interesting ideas in this supplement for Warrior, Roge & Mage. Still a bit too many spells for my taste, but I like the table that details the progression of magic's effects depending on how much "mustard" the caster puts on it.

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Re: Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by randalls »

squirewaldo wrote:
Sat Jul 30, 2022 1:19 pm

In this world all magical items are created by embedding an enslaved demon into it in a particularly cruel and horrible manner.

I have thought often about how to create such a magical system, and make it interesting to play.

This is somewhat similar to the magic system in Chaosium's first Elric game (Stormbringer published in 1981, I think). A similar system (converted to a D20-like set of rules) is found in the Crimson Blades RPG. The later is mostly open game content under the OGL as I recall.

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Re: Flexible magic/spell systems (for m20 variant)

Post by quaffeine »

squirewaldo wrote:
Sat Jul 30, 2022 1:19 pm

Have you ever read the Bartimaeus novels? In those books all magic comes from demons.

I haven't, but I shall add it to my reading list.

randalls wrote:
Sun Jul 31, 2022 10:38 am

This is somewhat similar to the magic system in Chaosium's first Elric game (Stormbringer published in 1981, I think). A similar system (converted to a D20-like set of rules) is found in the Crimson Blades RPG. The later is mostly open game content under the OGL as I recall.

Interesting, I'd love to see the rules on those... I can't seem to find any OGL documents for it, do you happen to have a link?

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