Monday, May 25, 2009

Sword & Shield: Magic

One of my least favorite portions of RPG's is spells, and magic. Part of it stemmed from the way it was handled in D&D. I did not like the fire and forget method of spell casting. I also did not like the rags to riches method of wizards starting out weak and then becoming overly powerful. As stated in an earlier post, Gandalf would be about a 5th or 6th level wizard in a D&D system that goes to level 36.

Contrast that with magic in Metagaming's Wizard. Energy used to cast spells was derived from your Strength stat so you could cast fireball as often long as you had Strength to do so. Problem was, ST was also your Hit Points so if you cast spells you weakened yourself making your character easier to kill.

Magic in D&D is then codified by classes, subdivided by level. This always seemed an awkward and artificial construct to me. Only wizards know this, only clerics know that, only druids learn this...regardless of race. The whole class codification of roles I suppose is part my problem compounded by why are certain spells only available at certain levels? I suppose this makes some sense in limiting characters from having all powerful magic at low levels...but I think it is an artificial constraint...much like the class system is in general.

So as I write my own RPG I have decided to make magic work based on energy from a stat, but you won;t be killed for casting spells. Second, magic spells will be based upon racial divisions of knowledge. Within those racial divisions will be additional divisions perhaps Black magic and white magic for humanity. Green Magic for elves, Red magic for dwarves, etc. It could even be subdivided by "culture" as well but at this point I do not know if that is a necessary contrivance in the rules-or let referees do this as they wish.

Each race then has its own "spell book" of knowledge it has built up in its culture over the ages. Yes there will be some overlap,but there will be many exclusive spells as well. This will foster (I hope) an idea that learning a new spell is something exciting, and players may even seek to teach or steal) spells from each other. My hope is rather than classes defining what spells you learn the referee in each game can make the learning of spells special, unique and exciting in their adventures. Beyond the starting spells a player chooses, there are no more automatic spells gained by players. They will be found as the players adventure in the the world, or if they are able to pay to learn them...but no magic user would ever sell a 4d6 or higher spell...

Since my whole system is d6 based, spells are classifies as being 3d6, 4d6, 5d6 and 6d6. This represents the difficulty in casting a spell. The difficulty is the number of dice rolled to determine if the casting is successful or not. The more powerful the spell, the more difficult it is to cast. While a starting character may only learn 3d6 spells at creation, a character could learn a 6d6 spell at anytime they could find one.

So my system will limit spell casting by three methods: racial knowledge, energy available for the player to cast it, and the difficulty in casting a specific spell.
I believe players will have more flexibility and unique opportunity in casting and discovering spells in this game, and I hope for the referee that provides more opportunities to create a rich world to game in.
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