Thursday, December 13, 2007

Magic System

I'm going to be up-front about this: Much of my magic system is poached from the popular Wheel of Time series by the late Robert Jordan. I won't be giving the same treatment to gender as he does, nor will I be recreating the culture surrounding channeling, but I am stealing the basic idea. Interspersed around Jordan's ideas are my own, so if you get confused because you've read his work, that's why.

Magic is channeled by taking the raw elements themselves and weaving them together in various ways to produce various effects. The elements are the five classical elements: Fire, Earth, Air, Water and Spirit.

Fire also represents light, heat, and power. Earth represents firmness and stability. Air represents change, Water fluidity and receptiveness, and Spirit is sort of a meta-element, thought it also involves animation. Each of the elements also relates to the physical (or metaphysical) aspects of the element, weaving fire can bring light, but it can also create or manipulate fire itself.

These elements can be woven together: Fire to create light, and Air to change (invert, in this case) the light makes invisibility. At some point in the future, I'll be building a list of common weaves as examples.

Though magic is drawn from the world itself, the process has no appreciable effect on the world around the characters. Not even the greatest wizards of the ancient age were able to draw enough elemental power at once to note any negative effects. It should be noted that such experiments were limited in scale, out of fear of possible negative consequences.

It would serve for novice wizards to learn some simple weaves, and simply use them. Adjusting weaves "on the fly" to create unique effects is difficult and dangerous, and could possibly kill the wizard. The lure of power is great, however, and sometimes a wizard cannot prevent him or herself from drawing in too much power at once.

A powerful wizard can shield his opponents: This is not defensive, as it might sound, but rather offensive. A shield of this sort prevents a wizard from taking control of the elements around him. In game terms, this means a sufficiently powerful wizard can shut down his opponents. I strongly recommend that all wizards provide themselves some sort of mundane option, in case this happens. However, as magic is rare, it is reasonably unlikely to happen, at least at first.

Warning: Crunchiness Ahead

This crunchiness is all related to the Hero System. If you're interested in adopting this material to another system, feel free, but this section probably won't help much.

Elemental Affinities
People suited to magic are stronger in some elements than in others. The five classical elements are bought on scales of up to ten, though this cap represents the extreme end of human ability: Most of the greatest wizards did not have an affinity reach that level.

Affinities are bought on an increasing scale, in this way: The first level of affinity costs 1 point. The second costs 2 points, in addition to the first, for a total of three. Each level is bought in this way, so to reach a 10th level affinity in one element costs a total of 55 points (A little simple math shows that full points in all elements costs 275 points: 125 points more than a starting character with full disadvantages gets).

An affinity does not represent training: It represents raw power. Now, as training increases, so does the character's ability to draw more power, but the last few levels of affinity are difficult to attain (Well, the point values aren't actually very high, but the GM should stress balance).

is represented by a skill, which is a standard (3/2) ego-based skill. As with affinities, there exists one with each element. Now things get really crunchy.

Each level of affinity ups the maximum Active Cost of a power channeled by 10 points. So a first level affinity in an element could not produce more than 10 points of active cost of any power. The Real Cost limit is decided by the skill-roll. Each level of affinity (Active Points / 10) used is a -1 on the roll, which is a control-roll, and the number of points the roll is made by increases the real-cost cap by 10 points.

Example, because if you understood that, I'd be impressed.

Rhea has affinity 5 in Fire, and affinity 3 in the other four elements (total cost to character, 39 points). Looking at a single element weave, and at fire, Rhea could channel up to 50 points worth of active cost.

Looking at her skill-roll, she has Ego 18, and the basic skill level, which is 13- (the minus sign after the 13, for those not in the know, means thirteen or less). She spent a few points on her control skill, raising the skill level to a respectable 16-.

If she wants to channel 50 points worth of active cost, this will reduce her skill roll by -5, meaning that she'll succeed on an 11-. That's about as close to a 50/50 shot as the Hero system gets, so this is probably unwise, but we'll do it anyway.

If she rolls a 12 or higher, she fails. It happens. Channeling near your limit is extremely difficult. The character still looses endurance (1 END/5 AP = 10END -- ouch).

If she rolls an 11 or lower, she succeeds. On an 11 exactly, she gets a maximum of 10 points of real cost to play with, which means she'll need a total of -4 in limitations on the power: Probably impossible. BUT, this doesn't mean that the power necessarily fizzles. If stuck for points, the character can reduce the number of Active Points in the final power. Let's say she reduces the Active Points to 20, requiring only a total of -1 in limitations. However, the character actively drew 50 Active Points worth of power, and must pay full END cost for those points. The rest of the points are simply unused.

It gets better, though, as rolling an 8 gives the character 30 points of real cost to play with, and a 7 gives 40 points. So the secret is to balance your affinities with your skills.

Note: A character does not have to channel at his or her limit. In fact, it is recommended that you don't, except in dire circumstances. The less power you channel, the easier it is to make your skill rolls. If the above character had only tried to channel 30 Active Points, she would only have been at a -3 on her skill roll, and would have broken even (no limitations required) on a roll of 10-. Still a little less than 50/50, but magic is hard.

It's okay if you didn't follow. The blog format doesn't do much to help this along, and I'll be formatting this into a google spreadsheet and linking it to the blog. I just didn't want people to think I wasn't working.

Next Time: Who knows? Maybe something about dwarves, or politics. If anybody IS reading, feel free to comment and let me know what you want to see next.


lordvreeg said...

OK, well, i saw on the CBG that your blogging this now, so I'll try to check on it.
I like the elemental affinities far more that I like any Vancian systems, but how do you account for nectromantic spells, or item creation spells, or spells that affect animals? Or did I just miss that.

Martin.Pale said...


Good questions. Spirit can be used to influence the spirit of creatures. Item creation depends entirely on what you want the item to do. For example, if you wanted to create a sword completely with magic, you'd probably need earth magic to shape the metal, and fire and water magic to temper it.

Necromancy is tricky, but air also represents inversion. Spirit can be used to animate objects. The inversion of animation is necromancy (at least as I see it). Thanks for the comment!

Bakatare said...

...Whoa. I have no idea what you just said.

I've told you I've never played Heros, right? So some time, you're going to have to sit me down and explain all the rules. Because otherwise, I don't think I'll ever quite understand all these numbers and points. It's MADNESS!

On the other hand, the general idea behind the use of magic is interesting. And I'm not just saying that because Robert Jordon is a god. But you say that the mental defenses are useless against magic and vice-versa, right? But the magic users obviously need the use of the brain to weave (especially since it can be so dangerous). So what stops the mental baddies from just preventing the wizards from casting?

Martin.Pale said...


It's sort of a meta-argument. It's kinda tricky, but think of it this way:

Magic that interacts with magic directly does not work on mental powers. You can't unweave a mental power, for example.

Mental defenses do not work against magical effects. If you tie up the mentalist's brain with magic, he's stuck. The kinds of things you'd defend against aren't the same.

Mental effects work on magic users just as magical effects work on mentalists. Without some form of proper defense, you're in trouble if they target your mind directly.

Now, it should be noted that if you're not, say, familiar with the aumani, you would likely assume that they would have their defenses in place.

Is it possible to create a mental power that blocks magical effects, or vice versa? Possibly. War teaches us many things about our enemies and how to counter them. It will, for the time being, suffice to say that no PC would know how.

Bakatare said...

Ow, I think I see where I misunderstood you. Basically, mental shields are no use against magic attacks, and magic shields are no use against mental ones. But if you manage to attack first, you can, for example, try to melt their brain, making them unable to attack?

The best defense is a good offense, you know.

Martin.Pale said...


Yes, in theory, if you even thought that they would be unprotected, or could manage to pull up and control the ridiculous amounts of power required to crush someone's mind.

I suppose.