March 14, 2011

Magic System Idea

For some reason I got started thinking about magic systems today.  Here’s the germ of an idea, inspired in part by the Pendragon magic system:

First, magic-capable characters have a pool of Power dice.  This is what is used to cast spells.  If you’re out of Power dice, you can’t cast spells until you somehow regain your dice. Let’s say your Power dice are all d6’s.

Second, spells where the effect has to be quantified are cast by rolling a chosen number of Power dice to generate an Effect Rating.  This gives spellcasters great flexibility and the tactical challenge of managing their Power as a resource. 

For example, you could pop off quite a number of 1d6-power spells and call them Fire Darts; or you could save your energies, and throw an 8d6 Fire Storm to take down a single BBEG or a large number of enemy cannon fodder.

Spells where the results need not be quantified are cast simply by spending a required number of dice from your pool. No Effect Rating is needed.  For example, if you want a spell to turn yourself invisible you just pay the needed dice, say two dice.

The Effect Rating of a cast spell will also be the sum needed to dispel or counter it.  For example, a king is cursed by an evil sorceress to assume a beast’s shape; the spell was cast with an Effect Rating of 47.  To undo the curse will require that our heroes cast a dispel with an Effect Rating of 48 or higher.

This simple system can be made more interesting by throwing in another simple mechanic: a limitation on the number of dice any spellcaster can roll at any one time.  The nature and effects of the limitation are up to you, there are a lot of possibilities here:

- Maximum number of dice that may be rolled at any one time is based on skill.  A sorcerer may have a lot of raw power, but not enough skill to channel it effectively.

- A spellcasting character may have several different disciplines of magic under his belt, each rated at a different number of dice.

- Perhaps casting a spell using more dice than one’s skill limit has potentially harmful effects, e.g. fatigue, injury, even death or worse. You could play it safe, or intentionally break your limits to achieve an epic result, with an attached heroic cost.

- This dice pooling mechanic easily allows for the addition of group-casting mechanics in your magic system.

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