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PbtA Magic School


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With adults I would do these 3 things...
Solid. Very nice.

I don't want to leave the subjects taught at the school to the group as that provides some great variety throughout the genre, so the teacher's "job" would need to be like a secondary job apart from teaching lessons, but that should work alright: Headmistress, librarian, deputy headmaster etc. Or the other way round: you can guess a teacher's subject by their job. After all, I never understood why Mdm. Pomphrey didn't show the student's some healing charms.

For subject's I had an idea on thread over. Sort some magic disciplines into slots like this:

- Basic: This are the foundations taught to every mage.
- Advanced: These are complicated and mages will them learn in time, if and when they become masters.
- Elective: Not all mages will learn these, as they are not too useful, but you will find specialists. They likely make for jobs or professions in your magic society.
- Forbidden: These subjects are restricted. They are either are either considered dangerous to the user or to society. - Lost: This was possible in the old days. Not anymore.

Players might choose one subject based on their playbook. I don't have many playbook moves yet and I might start with a common pool of moves for a first trial. But the following archetypes might work:

- The Scion: You hail from an old noble family of mages. They expect great things from you. Put one subject into Lost. You have an heirloom that can produce a single trick from this subject.
- The Prodigy: You are a rising star. The school is happy to have you, they say. Put a subject into Basic. You have already mastered a hand full of tricks from it.
- The Barbarian: Your people might appear primitive, but they still remember bits and pieces of the Old Ways. Put a subject into Lost. You may try one trick from it's portfolio.
- The Crazy One: They say you are odd. Maybe. Put a subject into Advanced. Choose one trick from this subject. Your personal way to do it is: Gross - Spooky - Laborious - Weird.
- The ???: Your family is not rich, but you are good at what you do. Put a subject into Elective. You already know a trick from it.
- The Refugee: Your life was hard before the school took you in. It's a wonder how you fond magic for yourself. Put a subject into Basic. You have found a from it and you might use it without the tools and ceremony usually required.
- The Product: They made you. Maybe not from scratch; there might be a normal kid underneath. But those people had a plan. Place a subject into Forbidden. You know one trick from it.
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I would suggest adding a subject set called mundane for all those common everyday subjects, never know when history or geography will be useful but give every student a mundane focus.

And the following archetypes

The Studious your focus on study has given you a wide base, place a study in basic and take a trick from it and any other basic study.

The Distracted something is distracting you from academia, place a subject in elective , you gain ???? in it, but it is considered a game/sport - homemaking - hobbycraft - side hustle - fad/fashion

Edit: quick addition

Beacuse of what basic subjects are they should be a little more common then other subjects so.

Each person at the table before choosing archetypes must place a subject in basic, after choosing archetype each student chooses one basic study to gain one trick in, they must have no more then 1 trick in this subject already.
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I would suggest adding a subject set called mundane for all those common everyday subjects, never know when history or geography will be useful but give every student a mundane focus.
That's actually a good point, and yes, every installment of the trope that I can think of has them indeed. It's also easily done, as they don't require the same level of preplay planning as the magic subjects. There can be other minor things like broom stick riding, too.

And the following archetypes
OK. Can you name a characters from fiction that would have these? I think that is very important. The second one reminds me of the attitude of certain character I know. In that case, I would call the playbook The Princess.


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Yeah that exactly what I mean topics that are simple every day topics that students would learn but not worth making full subjects.

On the archetypes

The Studious is Hermiony Granger pure and simple but also a basic student trope of that student who would rather be studying then being pulled on adventures. None magical school example is early season Willow.

The distracted I don't know any by name and too be honest they are usually a side character but it meant to be the jock, the I'm going to be a designer when I grow up, horse obsessed girl and I'm an artist types. This one comes from my memories of saved by the bell, clueless and lizzy Mcguire
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The Studious is Hermiony Granger
I would have put her as Prodigy, but yeah, let's call it Studious. That provides a little bit more thematic space and would also fit Akoja from Mother of Learning. In the same way I'll fold your Distracted idea into ???, so I get a playbook for both, the Weaslies and Taiven (from Mother of Learning). Call it The Pragmatic, maybe.


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I was kind of expecting that but mechanically and name wise The Prodigy brings to mind a specialist who doesn't necessarily work hard, Where as Hermione is more "I work hard (even if it is off screen/page) And I know a lot about everything" type. Now Honestly I think both bring something different to the table enough so that both can exist at the same table let alone the same system.


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Alright. I have made a first draft for a bunch of subjects. They should be evocative as in "How would a society that could do this function?". They should be distinct. They should build on stuff that players likely know. Suggestions welcome.

Spoiler: Show
Augury is perceiving signs and tells, stretching into Holmes-ian deduction and prophecy. It might allow for perceiving supernatural influences as appropriate. If Augury is basic, your mages will be a hyper-aware bunch.

This subject allows for machines that run on magic and machines that manipulate magic. It might look futuristic or steampunk, depending on your preferences. Glowing crystals optional. If this subject is Basic, your society is likely industrialized in a magic way.

This subject is about the manipulation of living beings and matter. Basic uses allow for strengthening and weakening of organisms, healing, rapid growth, while advanced biokinesis might create completely new beings. If Biokinesis is basic, your population may have split into various appearances.

Cantrips are everyday useful magic, like making light, cleaning things, animating a knife to chop the vegetables, stopping things from falling or throwing stuff around. It might include simple healing spells, if not provided by other subjects.

Combat Magic
Depending on your setting, this subject might include some of the following it your own making:
Basic offensive and defensive spells, if other subjects don't provide them.
Use of magely weapons and dueling.
Fighting certain foes or monsters.
Field tactics or artillery spells.
If your world is very combative, you might choose several elements as single subjects.

This subjects teaches information gathering with certain magic tools. Determine the kinds of tools and results for your world, e.g.:
Tarot cards and tea leaves for vague metaphors.
Various instruments for arcane measurements.
Laptops for looking at faraway places.

Choose whether there is a fixed list of magic elements or anything goes. Mages will have affinities for one, sometimes a few elements. They can bend, move and maybe create their elements. If Elements are Basic other magic will likely have elemental associations.

This subject enchants objects with magic. It might require inscribing runes, special materials or procedures. The most basic trick is making a thing better at what it usually does, but flying carpets are a classic. If Enchanting is Basic, other magic likely requires implements.

This subject, though believers likely wouldn't call it that, relies on certain higher entities for certain protective and restorative effects. If Faith is Basic, your mages are clergy.

This subject teaches teleports, portals, extra-dimensional spaces and similar craziness. Low level uses might include bags that are bigger on the inside or farsight. If Gating is Basic, mage society is likely delocalized.

This subject might be about flamboyant circus tricks or hiding in shadows depending on the outlook of your mages. It might extend to manipulating memories, entering dreams or similar effects. If Illusions are Basic, mages might philosophize a lot about reality and perceptions.

This subject may provide any or all of the following: Perfect recollection, fast learning, commanding the weak of mind, mental communication. If Mentalism is basic, script might play less of a role in your culture, and other magic likely requires various forms of meditation.

This subject might include any or all of the following: Talking to the spirits of the dead, channeling the ancestors, creating zombies, manipulating souls, bringing the dead back to life, healing injuries and illness, firing negative energy or poison.

Imbibing or smearing a thing with a magic elixir can provide various transformative and magic effects for a little while. Determine what a typical mage uses in terms of tools and ingredients. If Potions is Basic other magic will likely require consumables.

Raw Magic
Formless, raw or unstructured magic is either less efficient or harder to control than other magic, and therefore probably requires lots of training and meditation. It allows for sensing and dispelling other magic and is harder to counter itself. Powerful uses might allow for supercharging other spells.

Shifting is the art of taking on another form. If Shifting is Basic, a mage likely only has a single alternate form or series of forms. Advanced usage is more flexible. Shifters likely heal faster and can use abilities of their alternate forms without transformation, like having a dog's sense of smell in human form.

This subject teaches the theory behind structured magic. It might be helpful in devising or adapting new spells, understanding foreign magic systems, or programming spells with triggers and conditions. If Spellforms is Basic, other magic likely has linguistic or mathematical elements.

There is at least one kind of supernatural creature in the world, like angels, spirits, demons, fairies, or cryptids. This subject teaches their kinds and rules, and ways to guard against them. It might include their language, making contracts, taming them, or using their body parts as appropriate.

Another thing, I'm struggling with: Grades. Needing at least decent grades is a great motivator I think. But how would that work? Rolling would be utterly random and boring and not driving the story. What would be required is: 'Because we needed to stake out Professor Snape, I couldn't finish my history homework.' And stuff like that. This sounds like assignements and upcoming tests are a GM move. Or maybe a teacher character move. But I think that needs a little bit more framework still.


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a basic grades system is simple but need you to change what Suffering from heartache does.

Suffering from Heartache, -2 to heart, To ease heartache, indulge yourself.
Suffering from bad Grades, -2 to learning, to ease Bad Grades, Do some extra credit

But I don't think this is the best solution but I don't have a better one at hand.


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Making it a condition might be good. I was thinking of adding at least one more stat regardless, because I'd like something like Read a Person.

One question I'd like: What are you afraid of? The way the moves and conditions are currently structured, fear is in the fruitful void. You only have a move to overcome fear, not a condition for it. So the assumption is every one is afraid of something and learning what that is is good.

Not yet sure what to call that stat, but something like being stressed out, would be good to hurt it. Although I don't really like the name Stress either.


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Cool is the first word that comes to mind as Cool is the stat of the social butterfly and party goer and getting stressed involves losing your Cool.

Just that word sounds a bit modern to my ear even though it has been around since the 1930's.

But looking at this list


The one that looks the most out of place would be learning, As everything else you can lose, especially due to fear.
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