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Magic System: Theory

Started by aghori, October 18, 2003, 09:22:01 AM

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I am trying to give shape to my game's magic system, its the last aspect of the game I need to cover. Please provide feedback about the following ideas (by the way, I will release the game as GNU Free Documentation, and after the base rules are solid enough I would like to setup a collaborative project to expand it, sort of a RPG-Linux.. but thats another topic).

Raw Magic energy is gathered from the universal energy by a character with magic skills, he transmutes the raw energy into a specific purpose energy and then can throw the energy to a target, or hold it, store it into an object, and other tricks. The transmuted magical energy is sort of like a magic object like any other (but inmaterial), so there is flexibility in how to handle it. We could call this magic energy a magic sphere although names of common world objects as symbols would be also nice. They could classified by type of power, type of effect, or a combination of both; but in any case they are described at the game manual like a magical object, and not like an action(D&D spells).

Now, gathering the energy doesn't happen automatically, its part of the mechanics; the character first selects the type of magic sphere, it will have a raw magic energy cost, then he must roll the cost of the sphere much like rolling damage, if he doesn't reach the cost he can continue the following round carrying the result, with a maximum of three rounds.  More powerful magic would require rituals, where the raw energy is not gathered in combat rounds but in hours, days, weeks, etc; always with a time limit to gather the neccesary points.

Tharghen the barbarian shaman-warrior has access to many types of thunder spheres. His fellows are fighting the dreadful Serpent-king, he decides to give shape to a Star-Thunder Sphere with a cost of 12, he rolls his skill action points with a result of 6, at the second round he rolls a 1, he still needs 5 points and takes the risk, at third round he gets a 7, so he can pay the cost (6+1+7=14 > 12). At fourth round he imbues his spear with the Star-Thunder Sphere and throws it to the Serpent-King, then...

Tomas HVM

Quote from: aghori... he transmutes the raw energy into a specific purpose energy and then can throw the energy to a target, or hold it, store it into an object ...
The problem with this, and with virtually any other explanation of magic, is that it sounds like you're describing some kind of power plant.

The translation of magic into game stats has the same problem, as the Star-Thunder Sphere with a cost of 12, really don't have much "magic" in it.

Your explanation of magic resembles many others, your example is traditional, and you do not tell me how to make magic magical in my game...

- so what makes your way of doing magic something everybody will yearn to use?

- and how do you propose to make the use of it a truly magical gaming experience?

I'm sorry to sound so negative, but you have come across one of the most problematic fields in fantasy roleplaying games. I sincerely hope you can come up with good answers to my questions, because I have failed myself, in answering them.

And some more questions:

- is it possible that you are trying, like most of us old gamesmiths with fantasy games; to make magic belonging to a fantasybook, and thus making magic not at all suited for a fantasygame?

- is it possible to think of some way to handle magic in a game, different from the way we have seen until now, a way that preserves the mystery in it, and makes it a magical experience?

- is it possible to consider magic a real part of our world, and thus write on it with more respect and awe, trying to imbue our players with the same attitude?

- is it possible to convince our players magic is for real, to shake their belief in an orderly universe, and thus make them open for a philosophical/mystical approach to the theme?

- is it possible to frighten players with magic?
Tomas HVM
writer, storyteller, games designer

Mike Holmes

This topic has been covered extensively several times before, Thomas. I'd try to give you some links, but the problem is that the term Magic is present in all sorts of threads. Can somebody with better search fu than I come up with some of the old threads on things like how to make magic seem "magical"?

Aghori, as I'm wont to do, I'm going to ask what it is that you're looking for. You've laid out a coherent philosophy for a magic system, but asked no questions about it. What sort of feedback do you need (did Tomas hit it)? If you want mechanical details, then we'll need to know more about the system. In any case, knowing more about the game might help some. What's it about? What kind of characters do you play? What do they do? Sans context, you'll tend to get comments that don't pertain to your particular dillemas.

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