All-wizard parties [homebrews]

Alon

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While I work on a traditional (i.e. not-GMless) homebrew optimized for all-wizard parties, I want to ask the gallery what non-Ars Magica existing examples are out there, whether published or homebrew. Do you know of systems that do it? In your opinions, do they succeed? Why or why not?

Some questions I'm especially interested in:

- What are the mechanics used? Is it a D&D-style spell list (and if so, is it Vancian, or 4e, or mana-based, or what?)? Is it a Fate-style system? Is magic treated as just one more skill, or several skills, that you roll against?
- Is there differentiation between different types of casters, like clerics/wizards/druids, or Ars Magica's different magic schools? If so, is it also bundled with other things, like outlook on life or other skills?
- What kind of stories does the system aim to tell? Is it the same kind of quest fantasy as D&D, or the sort of recurring-villain season arcs of Fate, or the school story of Harry Potter, or something else?
- What kind of game world does the system aim at? D&D and Ars Magica are de facto hybrid of High and Late Medieval aesthetics and Early Modern game world size, Fate's core skillset is optimized for modern settings, Call of Cthulhu is Call of Cthulhu, etc. Does an all-wizard system aim at de jure medieval, de facto Early Modern settings, or modern urban fantasy, or Early Medieval Arthuriana, or what?

[I'm asking related questions about D&D and d20 here.]
 

Marc17

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The game I've been running for about the last three yers has been the Gryphon Rock School of Arcane Magic. Pitched as a cross between Harry Potter and Twin Peaks with a dash of True Detective Season1.

-It's Pathfinder and started with the characters as 0-level 14 year olds (if human) and starting school. There were essentially several home-brew "levels" before even becoming 1st level (graduation). Most of this time was spent taking classes, letting time pass, getting introduced to the NPCs and school local. Each quarter, there were various events such as local festivals, school balls, class trips, etc and the player got to choose cards out of three decks: study, socialize, goof off, which gave the nickel and dime XP, introduced them to NPCs, or possibly caused encounters that would reveal something about the school. The cards in each deck were in batches of ten and once down to three, I'd add the next ten. Each deck series had various events that would move the plot forward. Players really enjoyed drawing their cards. Also included another system of Study Points used to learn skills, spells casting, new spells, and research some of the mysteries of the school. These could also be given from the cards.

-Plain Pathfinder classes. Rule of thumb was that their first class had to be an arcane spell caster.

-To start off with, it was a fantasy medieval high school simulation. Developing their characters (and the world) and meeting the NPCs including the teachers. Following advice from a thread here at RPG.net on why the kids wouldn't just get the teachers to solve all their troubles, was to make them distrust all the teachers. All the teachers had something to hide that at first would seem somewhat suspicious. Some teachers were just assholes, some where incompetent, some were sneaking around, and the head master which was a lovable Dumbledore type guy, just did not like conflict and would tell others to resolve their own problems and essentially ignore his dysfunctional teachers so long as the students weren't at risk of harm. Then came the hints that something was not right in the school. The secret rooms revealing research into the chaos gods and their (dark) magic (think Lovecraftian beings) and things sneaking around the school. Eventually, it came to the mid-winter's ball of their junior year when a student was found by one of the PCs (one of the cards they drew), obviously ritually murdered to the chaos gods. They had to tell the teachers but still, it was time for them to do something and they opted to actually tell the Necromancy teacher ("Look, skull ring!") and show him the secret room they had found, risking that he was the one doing it all and would just kill them. They showed him the room and by sheer chance (I did some mental math and literally gave it a 3% chance that the actual teacher doing all this would enter during the time they were there and rolled a 02 on percentile dice.) the Illusion teacher, the highest level teacher at the school walked in on them as they had entered through a secret door in the back that he didn't even know about. Brief fight between the teachers but the Illusion teacher fled. by that time the PCs were 1st or 2nd level. They were considered graduated and became "grad students" which meant they started getting sent on missions by the school. The constant one being to try and track down the Illusion teacher who is one the main antagonists of the campaign.

-Gritty fantasy aiming toward verisimilitude. Base Pathfinder system but I had to come up with lots of spells to do things that people would normally want cast but don't exist because the system is all based on combat with over powered spells that last seconds or minutes. Also encouraged the PC to develop their own spells.
 

mindstalk

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Mage seem like the really obvious ones to look at. Also Unknown Armies.

What do you mean by "all-wizard"? "All have magic", or "all are squishy and bookish like D&D wizards"? The former has varied options such as Exalted, RuneQuest, Nobilis, and maybe Blue Rose (probably viable to have an all-Adept party, and trivial to have all PCs having some Arcana.)

D&D and Ars Magica are de facto hybrid of High and Late Medieval aesthetics and Early Modern game world size
Ars Magica has a default date of 1220. It's very much just High Medieval aesthetics and world size, plus whatever anachronistic attitudes the PC mages of egalitarian women and pagans may bring in... You could have a more far-ranging game, but I think a standard game would see only a slice of Europe, plus maybe Faerie regios.
 

Alon

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I mean more the latter. The first draft of what I'm writing defined magic in a way that was indistinguishable from Early Modern technology, on the "magic = what high-INT characters do" theory, and even my current draft has a lot of magic skills that aren't obviously supernatural. Technically you can have some of the squishy wizards be less squishy, like the scholar-athlete archetype, but that's at the expense of so much other useful stuff and even then you'll probably lose to a fighter if you can't use magic.

I've heard a few things about Unknown Armies but only from Israeli RPG players - when I brought up the system with the New Yorkers I know, they told me that it's 15 years behind the time and nowadays (=around 2015) the cutting edge of indie GMed systems is Fate.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
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Eh. I liked Spirit of the Century, though haven't kept up Fate developments since, but Fudge/Fate always seemed leave a lot of work to get a good complex magic system out, and that it would feel like a weird fit once you did[1]. Though the Dresden Files RPG was the official Fate game after SotC, never looked at it.

I don't know much about Unknown Armies, other than that it has its own weird take on things, but I'm skeptical of "X years behind the time" or "cutting edge" as applied to RPGs.

The one thing I feel confident in is that basically no one uses Vancian magic if not directly drawing on D&D. Everything's spell points or at-will/fatigue checks.

[1] Hell, Ars Magica has some of that, though not Fate at all. A fairly tight skills and Virtue system, even allowing for some neat magical tricks (skills you get from Virtues.) And then a whole Hermetic system bolted on, not even using the same scale for 'skill' numbers...
 

Alon

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The argument, per the New York RPG player, is that Unknown Armies was a stage in the evolution of indie game systems from highly circumscribed like D&D toward giving players more agency to influence their character's abilities, culminating in Fate's loose system of aspects (and increasingly in GM-less story games).
 

The Benj

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I've heard a few things about Unknown Armies but only from Israeli RPG players - when I brought up the system with the New Yorkers I know, they told me that it's 15 years behind the time and nowadays (=around 2015) the cutting edge of indie GMed systems is Fate.
Sounds like they don't know that there was a 3rd Edition just a little while ago.
 

kenco

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Do you know of systems that do it?
Not really, but our play group often runs all-wizard parties in variants of our home-brew 'system'
In your opinions, do they succeed? Why or why not?
Broadly successful, given player expectations.
Why? Because it's a small (3-5 people at a session), stable, cohesive core group, with strong relationships and long playing-together history; because we have some skilful, respectful and mostly calm players and GMs who are invested in getting along and enjoying each other's company. Because everyone knows how the basic system works, and how disputes and communication problems get resolved, and tolerate how we do that.
Why not? When we have problems, it's mostly either 1) recurring clashes of individual style preferences for talking versus acting; or 2) confusion over agency vs railroad: how much latitude do the players have in this particular session? How much is the GM going to more-or-less force.
- What are the mechanics used?
Magic is usually one custom skill per character, sometimes supported by talents/ special circumstance bonuses; but PCs also have access to fairly full suite of non-magic skills, covering the scope of a generic pre-industrial RPG
Sometimes a GM adds a second skill to cover the sensory aspect rather than the motor aspect of doing magic; on one occasion each PC had three skills, each in a different elemental magic
Sometimes devices, locations or one-off consumables are required for or assist specific effects
Magical effects are freeform within the theme established for the individual wizard, usually itself freeform or picked from a list provided by the GM at character generation
This is a very fast-and-loose, judgement and negotiation based game; not a unique and elaborate game engine
The basic engine is 2d6 roll under target + modifiers, with degree of success indicating magnitude/ harm
Magic use is limited by judgement and by the outcomes of dice rolls; sometimes by likely social consequences
- Is there differentiation between different types of casters, like clerics/wizards/druids, or Ars Magica's different magic schools? If so, is it also bundled with other things, like outlook on life or other skills?
Each magical individual/ creature type is more or less unique in and to the world it appears in
Magical effects are freeform within the theme established for the individual wizard/ entity/ phenomenon
The description of how magic works in each game varies, as do details of e.g. how long it takes to cast a spell etc.
It is usually bundled with either a) a personal 'nature' or 'spirit' or 'character'; b) a culture package; c) a school, cult or teacher; d) an elemental or supernatural alliance; e) a magical focus. Generally each game has only one of these ways of distinguishing the wizards: so we don't do a kitchen sink in relation to sources of magic within each given world.
There can be an explicit one depending on what aspect of my character is defining my magical ability in this game e.g. if my character's magic happens to be derived from my background as a Priest of the River God, then I'll generally get given any other 'skills' that such a priest would reasonably have; in another game (where magic is from the demon buddy in my necklace) there might be no connection whatsoever.
A similar explicit linkage can happen with other character traits, such as relationships, social standing, general knowledge, wealth, home base etc; again depending on the nature of the magical enabler.
- What kind of stories does the system aim to tell?
Most like quest fantasy; generally single sessions or short campaigns; a small number of elite good-guy PCs solve a major problem for a third party or community by a mixture of investigating, persuading, rescuing, travelling and trashing custom baddies with a mixture of plain skills and magic; with occasional appearances by allies, followers or pets; tone is generally optimistic, morality clearcut, heroes sympathetic
- What kind of game world does the system aim at?
I'm not sure that the system aims at a particular kind of world. Campaign settings vary, but mostly a) neolithic, bronze age, iron age or early medieval-themed fantasy; diverse historical- or fiction-based settings; or b) non-determinate late medieval/ early modern pseudo-European generally sans gunpowder; or c) epic power-level science fantasy.
 
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