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Author Topic: [Arcana] Magic System, Lightly Structured Form  (Read 919 times)
MacLeod
Member

Posts: 216


« on: April 23, 2010, 08:17:52 PM »

I have been pondering lately how a game strictly based on mages/wizards/sorcerers or whatever would work. I know that a few RPGs of such variety already exist; Mage, Ars Magica and Sorcerer. Perhaps there are others folks could tell me of?

In any event, I've taken it upon myself to fiddle around with some ideas on my own approach to the idea. I draw inspiration from aforementioned games plus Magic the Gathering and Talislanta. While I like the idea of completely free form magic, I think a loose structure would go a long way to making the game mechanically/tactically interesting.

Okay, so an Arcanist's Magic Style is composed of two broad categories; Methods and Realms.

Methods represent training and natural ability with specific applications of magic. They are; Offensive, Defensive, Maneuver, Control and Summon.

Quote
The Offensive Method is subdivided into three Forms; Hard, Soft and Area. The Hard Form represents solid attacks such as earthen spikes. The Soft Form represents spiritual, mental and similarly intangible attacks. The Area Form represents attacks that cannot be dodged or shielded against, instead one must rely on his Aura to overpower them.
The Defensive Method is subdivided into three Forms; Shield, Barrier and Aura. The Shield Form protects against physical (Hard) attacks but is weak against Soft and Area attacks. Barrier protects against Soft attacks but is weak against Hard attacks. Aura protects against Area attacks but is weak against Hard attacks.
The Maneuver Method is subdivided into three Forms; Flight, Surface and Liquid. The Flight Form allows flight (!) utilizing different approaches. Surface allows movement to be sped up in certain conditions, also allows one to meld with specific substances. Liquid allows movement to be sped up in liquid and also allows the user to augment his body with certain aspects based on the Realm used.
The Summon Method is subdivided into three Forms; Banish, Creature and Object. The Banish Form allows Arcanists to remove summoned creatures. The Creature Form allows Arcansists to summon living beings. The Object Form allows Arcanists to bring certain objects into existence for a limited amount of time, the more complex the littler the duration.
The Control Method is subdivided into four Forms; Enchantment, Shape, Transmutation and Unique. The Enchantment Form allows the Arcanist to imbue people, places and things with certain aspects. The Shape Form allows the Arcanist to control existing materials at will. The Transmutation Shape allows the Arcanist to shift one material into another. The Unique Form confers special abilities based specifically on a Realm.

Realms represent the location from which the Arcanist is capable of drawing of power and the form of which his spells take on. They are; Air, Animals, Death, Earth, Fate, Fire, Hex, Illusions, Life, Mechanical, Mind, Plants, Shadow and Water.

So, players create their Arcanist by allotting points across Attributes (not spoken of here), Methods and Realms. They then create Spells utilizing the following format; Realm -> Method -> Form -> Spell Level -> Aspects/Effects. Realm and Method rating impact Spell Level. Form and Spell Level impact Effect. All things considered impact Aspects. Aspects are one sentence descriptors of a Spell that can be used in narration. Sometimes they confer minor bonuses if the narration succeeds in pointing out a way the spell grants a special advantage in a specific situation.

What I need help with here... is what Realms to include. I'm not sure about my list. For instance, I was thinking of making Illusions the 'Unique Form' of Mind. Also, I'm not sure about my Methods and Forms quite yet either. I only wrote this up today but I figure a fresh set of eyes will have a positive impact.

Please help! Outside of my lil' questions here, I would most certainly enjoy feedback of any variety.

Thanks in advance!
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~*/\Matthew Miller/\*~
Jeff Russell
Member

Posts: 44


WWW
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2010, 02:39:41 AM »

Hello Matthew,

   Well, here's my two cents. First off, I'm a big fan of the 'modular' approach to magic, and I like any system that combines a few simple elements to create lots of complexity, so I dig your basic system a lot. My only thought is this: is it mechanically necessary to have 'pregenerated' spells? Or could you allow characters to 'free form' applications of their methods and realms? If the latter is possible, I think it would give you magic a more spontaneous, free-form feel while still keeping to the structure established. But I don't know what "flavor" of magic you're going for, maybe you want to reinforce the idea of carefully researched, specific formulae that must be used. Either way I think would work just fine.

Now, for your realms:

Realms represent the location from which the Arcanist is capable of drawing of power and the form of which his spells take on. They are; Air, Animals, Death, Earth, Fate, Fire, Hex, Illusions, Life, Mechanical, Mind, Plants, Shadow and Water.


I'm gonna break down what you have into some categories that make sense to me to help figure out what you have and what might be a good addition:

Elements: Air, Earth, Fire, Water
Abstract forces: Death, Fate, Life
Mental Stuff: Mind, Illusions
Types of Objects: Animals, Plants, Mechanical
Other: Shadow, Hex

What immediately comes to mind is that you don't have a 'light' to oppose 'shadows', other than fire. Also, Hex, while definitely magically flavorful, seems to be hanging out there on its own without any brothers. Maybe you could oppose it with luck? Or just have one realm for luck that includes curses and boons (whoops, I just realized that maybe 'Fate' covers that, my bad!). I think you might be right about making Illusion a subset of mind. Keeping all the realms you have gives you lots of subtle options for combining methods and realms with zounds of individual combinations, but if you wanted to simplify a bit, you could group together some of the related things into larger realms, and leave the specific application to its combination with methods.

By way of a for instance: you collapse together death and life into 'Life' or 'Life Force' for a realm. Offensive uses of that realm would be things that cause death. Defensive would probably include reinforcing life. Maneuver would probably enhance flexibility or cause you to grow wings or what not. Summon might allow you to summon the spirits of the dead or create zombies, and Control could do all kinds of funky things with the body.

I think you'd be able to keep a lot of the flavor of the separate realms, it just would be enacted at a smaller scale (via the forms picked under your methods and such like). On the other hand, you'd have characters more capable of a broad range of magical effects, so you would be less required to be specialized, even though you would still have the ability to specialize.

I hope some of this helps, even if it's only to cause you to say "yuck, that's not what I want, I'll go in the completely opposite direction!"
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
MacLeod
Member

Posts: 216


« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2010, 06:12:40 AM »

This is another tl;dr moment that I seem to be unable to avoid. Please, read my post in chunks while taking breaks if necessary. =) I'm desperate for more comments!

Any thoughts on the Methods? I like them all except for Maneuver... Not too sure about that one quite yet.

This is my thoughts on the Realms... I definitely want to roll Illusions into Mind. I don't know what opposes Shadow... In my opinion, Shadow is a combination of Light and Dark. But I don't have Light or Dark and I'm not sure if it would be worth including them. Hm, maybe I should just drop Shadow. I do know that the final number of Realms needs to be an even number or my brain will explode. =P

The reason I went with pre-generated spells is because of the Aspects. A big inspiration on this game is Magic: The Gathering, wizard duels and all that. Aspects will, if they come out the way I want them to, help build colorful narration for battle... and creative use of spells. For instance, "His Thunder Snake Spell always curves upward and strikes from above so I'll cast Ice Umbrella in response!" GM awards a bonus to his defense. Exploiting an Aspect like this normally only works once but it only takes a few successful strong spells to take down an Arcanist.
Also, Arcanists can use impromptu magic to shape mana itself. This utilizes just the Method rating as opposed to Method + Realm. They are weaker but give the Arcanist utility spells every situation (usually non-combat ones).

Some more info on the setting/game.

In the setting there are four types of characters; Arcanists, Arknights, Sealed Specialists and Voidists. Think of them as the basic classes of the game only because each travels such a different path in training that they have to be separated.

Arcanists are those whom spent 12 years at the Grand Academy of Magical Study (come up with a better name and I'll use it). They often have ability in all five of the Methods while having influence in 4 to 6 Realms. No other character type has this kind of general power.

Arknights spend less time at GAMS and their training is much different. Instead of studying texts and rituals, they undergo physical training meant to draw out the natural disposition of their souls. This means that the Realms that emerge from the sea of their souls will be, in immediate cases, stronger than those of an Arcanist. However, an Arknights training focuses on violence. That is, the ability to create it and suppress it. Arknights cannot summon as they missed out on the 9 years of study that allows such an ability and their Control and Maneuver Methods are weak as well but functional. Because of their training, Arknights have better physical stats and have more time to study non-magical arts.

Sealed Specialists are those that have natural mana seals within their bodies. Because of this their use of magic is limited to the Control and Maneuver Methods. A Sealed Specialist's access to magic is brought on through rigorous training. Their influence on the Realms is more limited than even an Arknights, this means their progression in power is very rigid and they gain very few spells for their efforts. Since the use of magic is so difficult, Sealed Specialists spend much of their 15 year training period learning assorted non-magical skills. They are experts in many fields.

Before a student graduates from GAMS he will be assigned to a team. The team always consists of an Arcanist, an Arknight and a Sealed Specialist to lead them. GAMS also happens to be a mercenary-like organization that assists folks with problems, Void Monsters and any other issue that Mundanes are willing to pay for.

Outside of the magically inclined are Voidists. Voidists cannot use magic because their blood is directly connected to the Void Realm. How this occurs is not known, but the original beings that contained Void Blood were monsters... And so the general public opinion is that Voidists are monsters themselves even if they are kind people. With training, Voidists can learn to create pockets of void and manipulate them. Because of the anti-magic nature of Void, they train themselves to be nigh-invulnerable to magic. For as many organizations exist that seek out Voidists out for recruitment (either to oppose GAMS or just for protection) there are just as many organizations that hunt them down and destroy them. GAMS itself seeks them out under the pretense that they wish to recruit them for special ops. Refusal, it is rumored, is grounds for death.

Using magic in battle is suppose to be a fusion of colorful narratives and tactical decision making.
Magic-users gather a specific amount of ambient mana per round and have a mana cap (based on the strength of their magic) that cannot be exceeded. When a spell is cast, it reduces this mana based on the spell's level. Additionally, every time a spell is cast it puts into play a Mana Burn dice. This represents the draining effect that spells have. Without mana to burn, spells eat the flesh of the caster. So Mana Burn dice destroy your mana gain per round. Some rounds a magic-user might cast three spells and find his mana sources depleted very fast. This is often where Summoned creatures come into play so the magic-user can rest.
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~*/\Matthew Miller/\*~
Jeff Russell
Member

Posts: 44


WWW
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2010, 10:55:12 AM »

Hi Matthew,

   Well, I see what you're doing with the aspects now, and I think that has some cool potential. Reading your post, I like the specific fictional context you've come up with for your system, they seem very tightly integrated, which is neat. I just had one quick concern and one quick thought:

First, the concern: Your class descriptions, while cool and colorful, seem to imply that it's "best" to be an Arcanist. There's some mention of what the Arknights and Sealed Specialists and Voidists are good at, but right now (and this might just be because of the topic thread at hand) it seems like Magic gets the loving system-wise, and that characters who are less good at magic and better at other things will doom their characters to playing with the less developed parts of the game. If you've already figured out a way to give every character type cool stuff to do, my apologies! Just something to think about.

Next, the thought: you mentioned that MTG was a major inspiration (and then the talk of mana and mana burn hammered that home Smiley ) and one game design aspect of MTG that I admire the most is the dynamic and self-balancing resource mechanism that is lands and mana. Since you take up slots in your deck (and thus affect the probability of drawing spells with actual effects) with lands, you have to strike a good balance of 'enough land to make stuff happen' and 'too much to actually get any spells'. Now, before it seems like I'm veering way off topic, my point is that I think a less static mana system might create some real tactical interest. The mana burn die adds some uncertainty, which is cool. But I think the aspect that best transfers from MTG to your system as described is the trade-off between boosting power and availability of spells.

So, perhaps a way to go is to include some sort of 'gather mana' ability that takes the place of casting a spell, but lets you cast a more powerful one later. Either that, or take a step back from the actual spell casting, and make it so that you can replace aspect 'slots' for your character with 'focus power' or 'tap mana' or whatever, which means that your character has learned how to pool his power rather than another specific way to utilize it.

But that's not as colorful as an ice umbrella blocking a thunder snake, so maybe that's not the direction you want to go! Sounds intriguing so far.
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Jeff Russell
Blessings of the Dice Gods - My Game Design Blog and home to my first game, The Book of Threes
Warrior Monk
Member

Posts: 85


« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2010, 10:10:21 AM »

When working with a freeform magic system of my own I had some trouble with the duration of the spells and the range, so I choosed to simplify a lot. Spell duration was instantaneous, so caster should keep a permanent concentration if they wanted to extend the duration of the spell, mostly because I didn't wanted to give the impression that magic was for free in the setting. How are you planing to take on this on your system?
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