Player-Controlled Magic [or, "Sorcerers vs. Wizards"]


I'm totally keeping this pink 'P' avatar.
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The system I started toying with six months ago is approaching the point of play test (for the basic rules, at least). My goal is to create an intuitive magic system that allows players to create any kind of magical character with whatever flavor they choose.

Here's what I have so far.

1.) Magical abilities (magicians, sorcerers, warlocks, etc.)

In this system, magic is organized into schools. Each school may only be used if the character has purchased ranks in the magician trait. These characters wield innate magic.

Each school does not list specific attacks, but rather has three controlling elements that govern use. Increasing the potency of one of these controlling elements costs 1 Power (a regenerative resource that reduces stamina, or "hit points") per element per level.

The controlling elements are CONJURING (creating or initiating a magical ability), CONTROLLING (which covers an attempt to attain a specific result), and SHAPING (which is the catch-all element allowing a character to add specifics).

For example, take the Elemental School.

Here's the breakdown:

Conjuring: For 1 point/level, a character may conjure a simple flame or increased the intensity of an existing flame. Thus, if a character wishes to turn a campfire into a forest fire, they can spend 4 power to bump up the intensity to 5, which (in the environmental hazards rules) is a "roaring blaze." They may also use this ability to lessen the intensity of a fire.

Controlling: For 1 point/distance level (the system does NOT use feet or yards, but rather abstract levels of distance such as adjacent, close, near, far, etc.) a character may move an element.

Shaping: For 1 point/specific manifestation, a character may shape an element. Say a wizard wishes to shape fire into the form of a hawk (heh, "Firehawk" would be an awesome band name) so that it will harass an enemy without requiring concentration. This would be 1 Power, plus 1 Power for every minute or combat round they wish the "firehawk" to exist.

Specifics include giving the element the nature of a living creature (able to follow simple, limited commands and granting it autonomy), crafting it into an object, or making it take any shape the caster desires.

This allows innately magical characters to summon a sword made of fire, call up a wall of stone, or perform any other magical ability that the player may specifically alter to suit their needs.

2.) Spells

Magicians with innate powers wield raw, mutable magic. Some casters and supernatural creatures, however, may (through an expensive and time-consuming process) create spells using magic they know to attain specific results while overall lowering the casting time and cost of magic. This allows characters to create signature moves and also allows characters to take a studious approach to magic. Mundane characters may also use spells at increased cost and time.

Key is what is required to use a spell. It is a focus or reagent. When a character that is not innately magical uses a reagent, it is consumed regardless of whether or not the spell succeeds.

Cost is how much Power must be spent to use the spell. Magic should be draining, and those without reserves of magical power (i.e. those without the magician trait) must take points directly from stamina or health. Spells cost less than using magic abilities, but can only be used to gain specific results.

Schools is a list of what Schools are used in the spell.


Firehawk: Conjure a hawk made of fire to harass and burn enemies for 3 combat rounds. (Cost: 2, Key: a hawk feather dipped in oil, Schools: Elemental, Wild)
Telekinesis: Use invisible force to manipulate small or light objects. (Cost: 2, Key: a clear piece of quartz, Schools: Force)
Find Direction: Catch a sparrow and release it. It flies in the direction of your most immediate goal before dying. (Yeah, magic is fucked-up in my game.) (Cost: 1, Key: a willingly captured sparrow, Schools: Divination, Wild)
Minor Creation: Turn raw materials into a usable object of fine quality instantly when rolling the relevant crafting skill. (Cost: 3, Key: precious stones and metal equal to the value of the item, Schools: Fabrication, Elemental)

I'm fairly proud of this, but if anyone here wants to nitpick and murder my darlings, feel free to do so. I am not at all offended by constructive criticism.

John Out West

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Validated User
I can see it definitely having potential, but the form its in now is too rough to tell. I couldn't imagine being able to use this without the presence of a GM.

In trying to make something, I would make:
Evoke Fireball (School, 1p), Range Far (Control 4p), Explosive Range Near (Control 3p), Scorched Earth Continuous Damage. (Shaping 1+1/m) Schools: Evocation
So in this case I just made a fireball that can hit enemies far away, will explode to hit everyone near the initial impact zone, and will scorch the earth to deal continuous fire damage to anyone inside that area, at the cost of about 10pts.

Now the problem is whats left unknown. How much damage would I deal? Was making it an explosive range something I could even do? Who decides what the Key of the spell would be and how? Can the defenders block or save from the attack? How do they block or save? How much is a point/how many points do I get? What are all the things I can do with Shaping? What are all the common elements?
Giving me a way to answer these questions is going to be a good start.

Now I'm interested in magic theory so I'll spend some time on that. (For my own pleasure) From what I know there are 10 schools of magic I refer to as Acdet Neilc, or the anagram "Canceled It." Each either create or manipulate something:
Abjuration: Creation of Defense
Conjuration: Manipulation of Space & Position
Divination: Creation of Knowledge or Information
Evocation: Creation of Offense
Transmutation: Manipulation of Matter & Form
Necromancy: Manipulation of Life & Death
Enchantment: Manipulation of Minds
Illusion: Manipulation of Senses
Lazuration: Creation of Life
Chronomancy: Manipulation of Time

Of the three Elements, CONTROLLING seems pretty much done, or close to it. I would bang that out in 10 minutes in its own neat section as your first finished paragraph (I'm assuming what you have above is all you have so far). SHAPING feels like its an Augment of the original CONJURING using a second School of magic, and that is how I would frame it.

Example: Create a (Abjuration) Wall that is (Close) high and (Far) long, that can also: Become harder to climb (Abjuration), Moves to block enemies (Conjuration), Warn me that someone is trying to pass (Divination), Burns trespassers (Evocation), Create a passage to allow allies through (Transmutation), Heal itself (Necromancy), Causes onlookers to ignore it (Enchantment), Appears completely invisible (Illusion), Births defensive spiders reactivity (Lazuration), Slows down time for trespassers (Chronomancy).

Honestly, I would merge Shaping & Conjuring together, and just rename them EFFECTS, as thats all it is. I wouldn't limit how many effects players could put into a spell (The point limitation already does that), but i would allow them to use as many effects in a single spell as they want, with each one having a potential CONTROL after it.

For example: I Grow Natural Weapons (Transmutation Effect) to Self (Control) and Appear As a Dragon (Illusion Effect) at Self (control) and Cause Fear (Enchanting Effect) to those Near (Control).

I would also list all of the Schools you intend to use, and give specifics on what characters can do and what that would cost in points, as damage or resisting damage each have a clear indicator of Potency, but Conjuration, Chronomancy, Lazuration, Transmuation, Divination, Illustion, Enchantment, etc would need some guidelines, or else i'm transforming into an adult dragon every single encounter.

I would also like to note that this kind of system would be perfect for a Spellcasting System that doesn't require mana or spellslots, but rather uses Points to determine a Difficulty Check that must be passed by the spellcaster to correctly perform it. Complex Spells = Greater Risk, Easy Spells / Signature Spells = Sure Thing.

I look forward to reading the next draft.


I'm totally keeping this pink 'P' avatar.
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Hands down some of the best info I've gotten so far. Thank you so much, man.

Heard on merging Shaping & Conjuring. Those are just exposition. I'm not married to them, and they can easily be combined. My goal is to give players the ability to create something that they can own.

Here's a list of all the Schools. Elemental, Force, Warding, Fabrication, Transmogrification, Necromancy, Vital ("life magic"), Wild, Illusion, and Enchantment (or "mind magic"). There are other schools that can only be accessed by taking the Forbidden Knowledge trait: Demonology, Supernal ("angel magic"), Oneiromancy, Primordial, and Alien ("Cthulhu magic").

As for complexity of spells and risk, a character may only pay up to their SOUL (which is the ONLY attribute in the game, yes I went with skill only system) cost in Power before they must roll their magic trait against their Willpower. The level of their success or failure determines if they become "tainted". For example, a character who botches a "taint roll" (sounds like some sushi I'd never like to eat, thinking of changing it to "Corruption") when using Divination may be compelled to blurt out closely guarded secrets at random for a week. Those who extend themselves farther using Elemental magic may straight up randomly catch fire.

I'm running a playtest with a few friends right now, and my buddy's Necromancer is constantly being visited by dead relatives, causing him to roll Willpower to avoid being fatigued.

Also, Google tells me that "lazuration" is not a word. :D
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