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.
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).
Training 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.