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RPG Magic System Types

A place to share your rules-lite RPG ideas and designs.

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RPG Magic System Types

Post by quaffeine »

Hey Microliters,

As part of a little project I'm working on, I'm trying to identify the different types of magic systems on RPGs that I've used or encountered. Not the specifics of how they work (yet), but just at a high level what types of mechanics are around.

For example, consider the "four by five" system that appears throughout the Compendium. To me, this is a combination of Skill-Based (the words that are learned through advancement) and Composition-Based (action plus realm). Meanwhile The Original Game is of course Preparation-Based, while as I understand it Whitehack uses a great Resource Usage-Based system.

Please let me know if there are any other basic mechanics I'm missing! I'm sure there are some!! Please!!!

  • Attribute Test-Based: Attribute test to succeed, failure brings stacking penalty. Optionally some catastrophic failure prevents further attempts.
  • Composition-Based: The wielder must combine two or more things in order to work the magic.
  • Feat-Based: Magic is gained through advancement, and is available for a set number of uses per day.
  • Inventory-Based: Casters must have a certain item(s) on their person and/or attuned in some way in order to work magic.
  • Preparation-Based: Wielders must "prepare" magic in advance, which once discharged cannot be used until it is prepared again.
  • Resource-Based: PCs have some resource such as "magic points" that they expend to work magic. It may be alternately be a physical resource that is consumed in the working. There may be a single resource, or multiple that must be combined in specific ways.
  • Resource Die-Based: PCs start with a usage die representing their magical capacity. Once it's demoted and emptied, they must replenish it in order to work more.
  • Ritual-Based: PCs work magic through a long, difficult ceremony. It may be aided by additional individuals, and suffer if it is disrupted in any way.
  • Skill-Based: The use of magic is a discrete skill or attribute that can improve with advancement and is tested in order to work magic. Failure may or may not risk depletion.
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Re: RPG Magic System Types

Post by squirewaldo »


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