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[fate 3.0] maneuver magic

animandeg

Retired User
I want to do a fantasy game with the Fate rules, using fairly common magic. I tried a Google search for pre-existing magic rules, pretty much everything I found uses stunts that let you use your magic skill instead of pretty much any other skill (based on Theory in Practice). That kind of model is easy to implement, powerful, flexible, interesting and absolutely not what I'm looking for.

I have a pretty simple idea of my own. I'm hoping for a little help in fleshing it out. Basically, a "spell" is just a very specific example of a maneuver or declaration, and it can do things that might be out of scope for mundane maneuvers. For example, even in SotC you can put an On Fire aspect on a zone, if you have some kind of heat source and the zone is in any way flammable. But with the right spell, you can make any zone On Fire without needing an open flame and without any regard to how flammable the zone is.

I don't want to make magic some kind of over-powered ability, and I think it would be if players could make up their spell maneuvers on the fly. To balance that, characters will only know a limited number of spells. They have a certain number of spells for each rank in their magic skill, and they can bump that number up using stunts (like learning languages with Academics). And nothing says that they can't use their existing spells in interesting ways, in effect using a spell to set up another kind of maneuver.

I think this idea would model a few D&D spells rather well. For example:

  • Charm Person - tag when using Rapport or other social skills. Or tag for effect and force a choice on the victim.
  • Ray of Enfeeblement - tag to hinder pretty much any physical action taken by the victim.
  • Lightning Bolt - oddly, the caster casts this spell on himself. It gives him the aspect "Able to Throw Lightning Bolts". Once it is in place, he invokes it using his most appropriate mundane attack skill (Weapons or Guns). There can be a stunt that lets a caster use his magic skill instead of a mundane attack skill when invoking direct damage spell aspects.

Because the magician will be able to cast only a limited number of spells, I figure magic skills should also have some mundane trappings. Example:

  • Witchcraft is (in this example) the study of life energy. It takes on the mundane healing trappings from science, along with knowledge relating to herb lore, biology, botany and genetic engineering. Spells relate to life in some way, and include a variety of buffs and curses, as well spells related to healing and shape changing. Witches with Leadership often use fantastic creatures or undead as minions.
  • Elementalism is the study of energy (Fire) and non-living matter (Earth, Water and Air). It takes many trappings from Engineering. Making a fire, digging an irrigation ditch, building a windmill or designing a wall with an arch are as much a part of elementalism as throwing fireballs. Spells relate to manipulating air, earth, fire and water. For the purposes of this game, a living tree is not considered Earth (because life is in the domain of witchcraft), but dead wood is considered Earth. So is metal.
  • I kind of want to work Mysteries into this frame work, but I'm not satisfied with it yet.

So my questions:

1) How many spell casting skills would you recommend? I kind of like the idea of four, just so mage characters can't have all four at Great or better (because of the skill pyramid).
2) How many spells should a caster have? Someone with a magic skill at Average has to be able to do something, so it should be on a per skill rank basis.
3) Any advice on setting difficulty levels for spell rolls?
4) Does the idea suck? I haven't done much house-ruling or world-building in the past, so I figure this idea is almost destined to suck.
 

Baz King

Role + Play + Game
Validated User
Let me give this one some thought.
On first look I'd say you may have hit on a very nice magic system!
I'm gonna take my time on this, so will post later.
 

Shawn Conard

Registered User
Validated User
1) How many spell casting skills would you recommend? I kind of like the idea of four, just so mage characters can't have all four at Great or better (because of the skill pyramid).
2) How many spells should a caster have? Someone with a magic skill at Average has to be able to do something, so it should be on a per skill rank basis.
3) Any advice on setting difficulty levels for spell rolls?
4) Does the idea suck? I haven't done much house-ruling or world-building in the past, so I figure this idea is almost destined to suck.
1) I'd strongly consider one (Mysteries) and then forcing spellcasters to choose one of the four disciplines. If you wanted, you could then add a stunt that granted access (at Mysteries-2 or something) to another discipline, with a further stunt that granted access to everything else. Keeps it simple.

2) Depends how flexible the spells are, and when you have to choose them (character creation, start of each session, on the fly, etc.). Having some rules for on the fly cantrips takes a lot of weight off, as only the really major stuff needs to be represented by an actual spell. Maybe one spell per rank would work, with a stunt that grants bonus spells.

It's worth checking out the gadget rules (both for having gadgets and for creating them during play) and thinking about that in terms of spells. If people had time, could they research a particular spell that they wouldn't normally have access to?

3) Mediocre? Whatever the other guy rolled to defend? Maybe requiring spin in order to make the aspect sticky. I don't see why spells should be different from anything else, especially when a machine gun and a fist do the same damage in this game.

4) Not at all. I did something similar with my Iron Kingdoms SotC game: Spells cost a fate point, but let you make a single attack, block, or maneuver using Mysteries. They are useful in any type of conflict, and pretty much anything can be justified with "it's magic". Oh, and spellcasters have to take an aspect describing their style of magic. That last bit is important, because it lets them get a bonus to really appropriate spells (by invoking that aspect) and shuts down really inappropriate spells (with a compel) without actually adding much complexity.

As for the fate point... I'm iffy about that. It's there to balance the fact that magic can do pretty much anything and because, on reflection, the Iron Kingdoms isn't really a high magic world despite magic being everywhere. Mostly, people use a lot of weird science. Very few people actually directly cast spells.

And frankly, I like the way you handle attack spells better than the way I did. Placing a "I'm now armed--with MAGIC!!!" aspect on yourself is way better than spending a fate point every damn time you shoot lighting. I'll still allow the attack option (handy if your Mysteries is much higher than your other weapon skills), but I think I'll encourage your idea.
 

Uruush

Registered User
Validated User
Not exactly what you're looking for, but you can find the beginnings of my take on a FATE 3.0 way to handle magic here

Scroll down to "(Type) Sorcery - Fire/Water/Earth/Air/Soul" and below and you might see something that helps shape your own preferences.

For FATE, my approach seems complicated to me, and I'd be disinclined to drift it further towards a D&D model. Still seriously in flux on this.

Cheers. :)
 

SquidFisher

Unregenerate Deviant
Nice ideas here. As far as the 'magic is the god-damned swiss army knife of special abilities' argument goes, the magic-Aspect thing is great but also bear in mind that most Skills as defined in SotC have a fairly clear balliwick; no reason the same shouldn't hold true for magic Skills as well. For example, a 'Necromancy' Skill might allow you, without Stunts, to perceive and conjure up ghosts, lay down lingering curses on people in the same zone or animate one shift per Skill level worth of shambling undead minions, with three-four Stunts for each of these areas that expands their range and power.
 

mindstalk

Does the math.
Validated User
The most common magic systems I've seen have been "stunt or Fate Point to use magic skill in place of other skills" and "use magic skill to place an Aspect on something, difficulty depending on target size and Aspect duration". Instead of sleep, put Sleepy and try to sneak by. Simple and flexible but low level.

Skill substitution with stunts suggest taking Mysteries at Superb, and five stunts for five skills which can be used at Superb...

One balance is the voice and gestures needed to cast spells, which might interfere with stealth, legality. Also magic, so it can meet magic resistance. Or backlash or drain Fate Points if it fails.
 

Scurve

Bwah.
Nothin' quite like one of these threads to get me working on my SotC magic system again. Anyhow, I'm inclined to agree with SquidFisher on this point -- it should be straightforward and simple, like the skills.
 

Shawn Conard

Registered User
Validated User
The most common magic systems I've seen have been "stunt or Fate Point to use magic skill in place of other skills" and "use magic skill to place an Aspect on something, difficulty depending on target size and Aspect duration". Instead of sleep, put Sleepy and try to sneak by. Simple and flexible but low level.
I suspect this is mostly because that way most of the rules are already written and the amount of new material required is minimized. SquidFisher's solution is superior (and ends up with magic styles that are strongly customized to the world in question) but it's a LOT more work.
 

SquidFisher

Unregenerate Deviant
Less work than one might think, as long as you have a good idea of what you want the limits of the 'FX' Skill to be and bear in mind that Stunts generally provide a buff equivalent to two shifts or plot-hammer level immunity/power in exchange for major Fate Point expenditure (that last usually occuring at the 'top' of any given Stunt tree). So, to expand my Necromancy example above, a selection of Stunts tuned to the ghost-summoning element of it (which is defined, fast and loose, as rolling Necromancy against a difficulty determined by how much of a person's corpse the summoner has on-hand/whether any other Necromancers have tried to fuck with the process, engaging in Necromancy/Resolve conflicts to force recalcitrant spectres to talk and limited in general to being effective for only a few days after a given person's death) might be:

*Ritual Preparation: As long as the character has at least half an hour to enact the proper rites and a suitable supply of ritual components (scented oils, powdered silver, etc. - might require a Resources roll) they may add +2 to any Necromancy rolls undertaken in order to summon ghosts.
**My Voice Echoes Between Worlds: The character can summon ghosts who have been dead for a few weeks as opposed to a few days as a baseline. As normal, they may spend shifts to increase this even further if they wish.
***Ghost-Binding Ceremony: If they can strike a suitable bargain with an individual ghost (be it through role-played negotiation or good old-fashioned conflict) the character can bind it to them as a Companion with three advances. (The GM may wish to whip up a few obvious new ones, such as 'Horrific Appearance' or 'Incorporeal'.) The character may only have one bound ghost at a time, and can release a ghost from its binding whenever they choose.

This is, obviously, a rather crude example whipped up in twenty-odd minutes, but still - infinitely less hassle than building relatively balanced rules from the ground up in other systems.
 

Dr. Halflight

Awaiting June 6th
What if you made the 4 Schools of Magic Aspects? Then you can either give guidelines to how they can be used or specific examples (i.e. Spells). Since a Fate point will have to used, you don't have to worry about X times per day. You can even get some creative compels out of spells backfiring. You could even create a Campaign Aspect for some/all of the Schools IF you wanted some/all magic to be very common (like from what I've heard of Glorantha).
 
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