A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

A brand new feedback forum for our massively revised draft!
User avatar
Siggi
Flowchart Sensei
Posts: 96
Joined: 05 Jul 2013, 04:14

A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Siggi » 24 Jul 2017, 12:01

Hi there!

My typical pastime includes devising plans for world dominance and drafting home-brewed rules and systems for role-playing games (and also chewing on cocktail receipts but that's another story).

Some time ago I was wondering how to simulate magic as it is depicted in Warhammer Fantasy setting using BoB rules (and S&S rules for that matter). I started with a simulationist approach since the working principles of magic in this world are described quite well. I'm not gonna burden you with a detailed description. Suffice to say that magic is represented by Winds of different colors (there are eight winds exactly, plus the dark magic which is, well, bad). And to cast a spell a wizard needs to channel magic energy of the appropriate wind to form it into a spell.

The resulting system draft was way too heavy than necessary, but I managed to figure out a subsystem that I find quite neat. I'm not sure that it could be employed in other magic systems, particularly, in the system envisioned by Agamemnon and Higgins but I decided to share it with all you, guys, hoping that it may come in handy.

IF YOU WANT TO CUT THE CRAP, START READING FROM HERE

The system requires the use of a pouch and some different colored dice. For the sake of simplicity let's assume that we have the dice of S&S typical colors: red and white. The GM puts exactly 10 dice inside the pouch (assuming that the player would never need more than 10 dice for his roll; otherwise there should be another fixed number of dice inside the pouch, eg 20). The point is that the GM can adjust the level of danger/unpredictability of any given casting attempt by deciding, how many "good" (white) and "bad" (red) dice to put inside.

When a character tries to cast a spell, he takes a number of dice from the pouch. How many dice a character may draw from the pouch is a question subject to discussion. This number may be equal to his "Magic" Ability or be based upon another roll that he'd made before, or it may be not limited at all.

If the character draws only the "good" white dice than everything is fine: he rolls them to cast a spell (beating the spell's req or whatever).

But if he also draws some "bad" red dice than something's not going well. In either case, the character must roll all the dice that he's drawn. And after he rolls the character must decide: whether he would use the successes from the "bad" dice or not. And if he does, something strange may happen. Furthermore, something strange and dangerous happens if he rolls 1s with those "bad" dice.

I understand that this is not really a system – it's rather an idea or a framework. And that's exactly why I'm putting it here: it may give some of you ideas for your own creations. :)
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1116
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Agamemnon » 24 Jul 2017, 13:49

That's a neat take. I dunno if I can use it for the magic system we have planned, but given that the magic system isn't actually connected to anything inherently (like most of the advanced systems, it's modular) one could swap out our intended system easily enough if something else fit what they were trying to do.

If we had sufficient interest/support, one of the expansions we had planned as a future book was a more traditional fantasy overhaul (adding in a way to model non-humans and some other traditional fantasy elements) so that might actually be very handy later if we decide to develop a more "high fantasy" magic system to go along with it -- especially since an elves & dwarves fantasy mixed with our default setting will wind up feeling more Warhammery than Tolkienesq anyway.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
taelor
Journeyman
Posts: 171
Joined: 23 Apr 2015, 05:55

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by taelor » 24 Jul 2017, 16:55

Agamemnon wrote: especially since an elves & dwarves fantasy mixed with our default setting will wind up feeling more Warhammery than Tolkienesq anyway.
Fëanor seemed like a pretty big bastard to me...
GLENDOWER
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
HOTSPUR
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
User avatar
Benedict
Standard Bearer
Posts: 1095
Joined: 23 May 2016, 09:52

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Benedict » 25 Jul 2017, 10:48

There are some downsides tho.
  • You need a pouch.
  • You need two sets of dice. If pools can get to lets say 10, that means 10 "good" and 10 "bad" dice when you cast a 10d spell, correct?
  • Not that easily incorporated in Roll20 or other similar environments. It's mostly a table thing.
That's not that I'm shooting down the idea. I agree with Agamemnon that its pretty neat in the sense that its modular, and I might add pretty original too. :D
taelor wrote:
Agamemnon wrote: especially since an elves & dwarves fantasy mixed with our default setting will wind up feeling more Warhammery than Tolkienesq anyway.
Fëanor seemed like a pretty big bastard to me...
A pretty big twisted Bastard with a vengeance to be exact. :twisted:

Disclaimer: Rant starts here
Personally I really like the Tolkinesque approach on magic and races. What I don't like at all is the way Tolkien's work has been presented in games and film. I feel that they sorely missed the point.

As for Warhammer, imho its the Empire-vs-Chaos thing going on there that really sets it apart from other worlds.

Tbh I kinda dislike the general trend of magic and nonhuman races I see in RPGs and other media for the past years, Tolkien or not. Exceptions can be counted with one hand, but I won't name any as there's no need.

I prefer magic to be closer to what Howard, Leiber, and Tolkien portrayed through their works instead. As for non-human races, I prefer it when my players don't touch em at all. The RPG world is full of short-barrel chested-ale loving-gold greedy-knee chopping dudes and lean-walking on snow-hitting a bullseye in a gale-tree hugging-pointed eared guys to have a need for more. In all honesty, the times where I had a player running a non-human like a non-human were close to nil.

With all this I mean that I prefer it when the supernatural and otherworldly is the province of the GM. At least mostly.
Disclaimer: Rant ends here

Maybe I'm getting old and grumpy, dunno really. :lol:
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
― Touchstone
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1116
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Agamemnon » 25 Jul 2017, 13:18

Benedict wrote:Disclaimer: Rant starts here
Personally I really like the Tolkinesque approach on magic and races. What I don't like at all is the way Tolkien's work has been presented in games and film. I feel that they sorely missed the point.

As for Warhammer, imho its the Empire-vs-Chaos thing going on there that really sets it apart from other worlds.

Tbh I kinda dislike the general trend of magic and nonhuman races I see in RPGs and other media for the past years, Tolkien or not. Exceptions can be counted with one hand, but I won't name any as there's no need.

I prefer magic to be closer to what Howard, Leiber, and Tolkien portrayed through their works instead. As for non-human races, I prefer it when my players don't touch em at all. The RPG world is full of short-barrel chested-ale loving-gold greedy-knee chopping dudes and lean-walking on snow-hitting a bullseye in a gale-tree hugging-pointed eared guys to have a need for more. In all honesty, the times where I had a player running a non-human like a non-human were close to nil.

With all this I mean that I prefer it when the supernatural and otherworldly is the province of the GM. At least mostly.
Disclaimer: Rant ends here

Maybe I'm getting old and grumpy, dunno really. :lol:
Obviously, my tastes tend to be similar otherwise this game wouldn't be designed the way it is. On the other hand, I recognize that my tastes are in the minority and one of the first things people will want to hack into the game will be non-human races, so I might as well plan on giving people a way to do that later. It's not core book material, regardless.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
Benedict
Standard Bearer
Posts: 1095
Joined: 23 May 2016, 09:52

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Benedict » 25 Jul 2017, 13:45

Agamemnon wrote:Obviously, my tastes tend to be similar otherwise this game wouldn't be designed the way it is. On the other hand, I recognize that my tastes are in the minority and one of the first things people will want to hack into the game will be non-human races, so I might as well plan on giving people a way to do that later. It's not core book material, regardless.
My rant was just that. A rant. Needed to get it off my chest. :D

That aside, it was a subtle hint at what I am expecting from Scoundrels' magic system. I prefer it where spells are not just a script waiting to be set off, like most spell-list and/or spell-point systems do. I also prefer it when magic is on the subtle yet powerful end. No flashy shit like fireballs out of thin air or lightning bolts from your fingertips.

Your King demands your help so he can satisfy his lust?

You awaken the dragon, summon the serpent's breath, and change the appearance of your Lord, even if you know that everyone will pay for it dearly.

"Anal nathrach, orth' bhais's bethad, do che'l de'nmha."

youtu.be/_4I_zbi3Sak
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
― Touchstone
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1116
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Agamemnon » 25 Jul 2017, 14:03

I've always loved the ideas of wizards and magic, but I never actually play them because I've never found a system that actually portrayed magic the way I envisioned it. They never quite do it justice. RPG Magic never feels quite magical to me. So, I figure if we've taken all this time and effort to get combat and weapons right, and I've taken all this time to get everything else working just the way I wanted... I might as well go full on with the magic system as well. I have page of notes and ideas where all that is concerned and I think the approach we are taking with it is going to have some unique stuff mixed in there -- or at least unique in the sense that I haven't seen it done by other games.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
Benedict
Standard Bearer
Posts: 1095
Joined: 23 May 2016, 09:52

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Benedict » 25 Jul 2017, 14:07

One of the things you've already presented that caught my attention at once is the Cascading Concept. Atm I'm working on a magic system based around that (Cascade), where the spell is broken down into individual parts that require different Abilities to pull off before you tie (spell casting) all the elements together.

And anxiously waiting for Combat and Magic Chapters.
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
― Touchstone
User avatar
Agamemnon
Grand Master
Posts: 1116
Joined: 05 Jan 2013, 13:59
Contact:

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Agamemnon » 25 Jul 2017, 14:17

Benedict wrote:One of the things you've already presented that caught my attention at once is the Cascading Concept. Atm I'm working on a magic system based around that (Cascade), where the spell is broken down into individual parts that require different Abilities to pull off before you tie (spell casting) all the elements together.

And anxiously waiting for Combat and Magic Chapters.
You and I might be working in the same direction, though I'm not playing with the cascade system as the basis -- I'm playing with melee combat as the basis.
Sword and Scoundrel: On Role-Playing and Fantasy Obscura

Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Collected Sayings of Muad’Dib, the Princess Irulan
User avatar
nemedeus
Scholar
Posts: 446
Joined: 20 Jan 2016, 12:53

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by nemedeus » 25 Jul 2017, 19:54

Siggi wrote: The system requires the use of a pouch and some different colored dice. For the sake of simplicity let's assume that we have the dice of S&S typical colors: red and white. The GM puts exactly 10 dice inside the pouch (assuming that the player would never need more than 10 dice for his roll; otherwise there should be another fixed number of dice inside the pouch, eg 20). The point is that the GM can adjust the level of danger/unpredictability of any given casting attempt by deciding, how many "good" (white) and "bad" (red) dice to put inside.

When a character tries to cast a spell, he takes a number of dice from the pouch. How many dice a character may draw from the pouch is a question subject to discussion. This number may be equal to his "Magic" Ability or be based upon another roll that he'd made before, or it may be not limited at all.

If the character draws only the "good" white dice than everything is fine: he rolls them to cast a spell (beating the spell's req or whatever).

But if he also draws some "bad" red dice than something's not going well. In either case, the character must roll all the dice that he's drawn. And after he rolls the character must decide: whether he would use the successes from the "bad" dice or not. And if he does, something strange may happen. Furthermore, something strange and dangerous happens if he rolls 1s with those "bad" dice.

I understand that this is not really a system – it's rather an idea or a framework. And that's exactly why I'm putting it here: it may give some of you ideas for your own creations. :)
How about this:

A spell has a specific Req that has to be met for the spell to succeed.
Characters can pull as many dice from the bag as they want (up to their Magic stat, whatever it may be). They have to roll ALL the dice they pulled.
Any red die that doesn't roll a success = bad stuff happens. If the spell succeeds with unsuccessful red dice, it's even worse.

Extra hilarity if the pouch is shared between all players. start out with 30 white and 10 red dice (or X red dice where X is the maximum number of dice that can be pulled at once). red dice are always put back into the pouch. white dice can only be added back in by performing special cleansing rituals or after a time...

honestly, gotta say the basic idea you have here is a goldmine, Siggi. There's no limit to the mechanics you can implement with that (one of the reasons i like pool systems so much more than other dice mechanics, incidentally).
"First Rule of War Club: Don't fight in the War Room" - Clint Eastwood, 1920
User avatar
thirtythr33
Editorial Inquisition
Posts: 1244
Joined: 12 Aug 2015, 03:23

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by thirtythr33 » 26 Jul 2017, 12:05

Agamemnon wrote:I've always loved the ideas of wizards and magic, but I never actually play them because I've never found a system that actually portrayed magic the way I envisioned it. They never quite do it justice. RPG Magic never feels quite magical to me.

I've found this mostly has to with the nature of having to codify player rules in RPGs. All the best magic rests on weirdness and mystery, which is destroyed when you write it all out explicitly for a mage player.

These two articles significantly shape my approach to magic. Basically, weird and mysterious magic is good for making problems, and rules heavy or "scientific" magic is good for solving problems.

That's why RPGs usually have a codified magic system; giving players weird and mysterious magic is really difficult.

http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/magi ... ience.html
https://brandonsanderson.com/sandersons-first-law/
Benedict wrote:where the spell is broken down into individual parts that require different Abilities to pull off before you tie (spell casting) all the elements together.
Agamemnon wrote:I'm playing with melee combat as the basis.
It just occurred to me you aren't necessarily limited to having only 2 pools to split between. You might have to split your magic pool between 3 or more factors, and which factors you pass or fail on will dictate the kind of result you get.

In Runequest 6 you have "Shaping points" which you divide between Combine, Duration, Magnitude, Range and Targets. The neat thing is that it has a relatively small number of spells which you can "Shape" with each of those categories to come up with some really diverse effects from the same core spell. Eg, You could use Spirit Resistance on your armor to give yourself long lasting powerful protection, or you could put a weaker and shorter duration version over an entire house. You could do something similar with Dice Pool replacing your Shaping points and replace the "fireballs and lightning" type categories for cool stuff.

Eg you split your dice between Control, Potency, Expedience.
Control Req is set by how complicated the spell is. Your MOF creates complications or backlash, but the spell will still work.
Potency sets the Req for your target to resist, or how large the scope of the spell to be.
Expedience Req is chosen by you and determines if the spell is going to take 1 moment, 1 minute, 1 hour or 1 day.
"O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die."

- Juliet Capulet
User avatar
nemedeus
Scholar
Posts: 446
Joined: 20 Jan 2016, 12:53

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by nemedeus » 26 Jul 2017, 15:17

thirtythr33 wrote: Eg you split your dice between Control, Potency, Expedience.
Control Req is set by how complicated the spell is. Your MOF creates complications or backlash, but the spell will still work.
Potency sets the Req for your target to resist, or how large the scope of the spell to be.
Expedience Req is chosen by you and determines if the spell is going to take 1 moment, 1 minute, 1 hour or 1 day.
I guess i might just as well reiterate my own idea here:

You can use "vectors" (simply descriptive words like "shape"+"iron") to describe what you want your spell/"formula" (FMA inspired "Alchemy") to do.
OPTION A: split your pool for "complexity" Req like with Ranged Combat.
OPTION B: the vectors all cost dice as AC would.

Either way, you use the rest of your pool to put in energy. while i dislike shadowrun, i DO like the way you can decide the power of a spell yourself and then try to match that with your roll, so i tend to option B on that (it's just one step less).
So in other words, you also decide how much juice you want your stuff to have and then you try to "aggregate" that (from your surroundings in case of said "Alchemy" because these guys need intimate Physics knowledge. they just draw out the energy from their surroundings, similar to how Sympathy in Kingkiller chronicle works). And if you don't manage to aggregate it, you take fatigue (which iirc in BoB/SaS is gonna be a big deal just like wounds).

To avoid fireballs and lightning, the "vectors" would preexclude too obvious things, yso instead of so no, you can't just "hurl"+"fire"+"ball", you would have to do complicated crap like "hurl"+"pressurized"+"deoxidized"+"H2O"+"spark" etc etc... just, you know, cause it's supposed to be "sciency" in a way "scientific magic systems" don't tend to be - as in, it should feel like magic done with physics, rather than physics done with magic (eg. "shaping magical energy blah blah").


As for the mystical subtle magic side, i'm not even sure if it's a good idea to have any checks for that!
if we gonna have checks for it anyway, i do think it's imperative though, that, on a MoS0 or lower, the spell itself still succeeds, even without direct complications possibly (depending on the nature of what your wizard is trying to do), but there WILL be consequences later down the line... either with some kind of invisible "doom tracker" or some other things.

I always liked the idea of power at a price, that was talked about extensively on this forum before. it's particularly cool if your wizard can do awesome and amazing things (which is not to say fireballs and lightning, mind you) at any time, but if it's too awesome, he may get an invoice later down that he can't afford to pay, to loan Terry Pratchett's words.
"First Rule of War Club: Don't fight in the War Room" - Clint Eastwood, 1920
User avatar
Benedict
Standard Bearer
Posts: 1095
Joined: 23 May 2016, 09:52

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Benedict » 26 Jul 2017, 15:46

nemedeus wrote:simply descriptive words like "shape"+"iron"
Not unlike the Ars Magica thing. Which is a brilliant concept I might add.
nemedeus wrote:I always liked the idea of power at a price, that was talked about extensively on this forum before. it's particularly cool if your wizard can do awesome and amazing things (which is not to say fireballs and lightning, mind you) at any time, but if it's too awesome, he may get an invoice later down that he can't afford to pay, to loan Terry Pratchett's words.
Ah, the price of Magic. If its one Law (actually two rules) that I really dig and that I desperately tried to incorporate into RPGs is LeGuin's take in the Earthsea novels.
  • You must know the true name of something to affect it
  • You can't get something out of nothing
Especially the 2nd point is really intriguing, and had some thoughts on this with the Major Compication/Minor Complication/Compromise concept in mind. Too bad it's getting axed. :|
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
― Touchstone
User avatar
nemedeus
Scholar
Posts: 446
Joined: 20 Jan 2016, 12:53

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by nemedeus » 26 Jul 2017, 15:56

Benedict wrote: Not unlike the Ars Magica thing. Which is a brilliant concept I might add.
well, yeah, exactly - but taken up to eleven, and styled in a way that feels more "19th century university physics" than... well, "magic is this and that" or whatever "magical nature" ars magica presupposes. like, my idea was that, in-setting, nobody even thinks of it as "magic" (superstitious bumpkins excluded) because it's just an actually established scientific discipline... The idea is, the more physics/chemistry/medicine/biology/whatever you know, the more of those vectors you can play with.
"First Rule of War Club: Don't fight in the War Room" - Clint Eastwood, 1920
User avatar
Siggi
Flowchart Sensei
Posts: 96
Joined: 05 Jul 2013, 04:14

Re: A Curious Mechanic for a Magic System

Post by Siggi » 27 Jul 2017, 06:34

nemedeus wrote:There's no limit to the mechanics you can implement with that (one of the reasons i like pool systems so much more than other dice mechanics, incidentally).
Exactly! This core mechanic may be used to simulate a pulp warhammerish magic, but it also suits as a base for a rally mysterious magic system.

Just imagine. A would-be magician player character is casting his first spell. He rolls a simple Concentration/Attunement/Whatever test, succeeds, and the GM says: "Good. Now you may draw power from the Gloom and shape it into the spell". The player knows that it's just going to be another req3 test and puts his hand into the black leather pouch. He draws several dice from there (provided the GM didn't put a small mousetrap inside :twisted: ) and sees that they're all of different colors. Two green, one red, one black, two white and one yellow. What the hell? "Now roll", says the GM, smiling evilly. "And don't forget to choose which of them you're using. 'Cause otherwise I'll assume that you're using all of them". And the player rolls and chooses three or four dice that rolled successes, without knowing exactly what would happen.

For the player doesn't know that only green dice work as normal (their color representing all 'natural').
That yellow dice count fails for successes and vice versa.
That black dice succeeds only on 6s but this counts as three successes.
That you must include a red die in your roll if you're using a black die, for otherwise something really nasty would happen.
That if you use an odd number of white dice, it would make your spell work the other way round.
That a purple die signifies the presence of an otherworldly creature, and if you use it, you would attract its attention as a (side) effect.

Throughout his troublesome career as a wizard the player will be discovering and learning these rules (sometimes the hard way), but even more would be left unknown, dice of new colors (and shapes!!) would keep popping out of that damnable pouch and the player would be on pinpoints everytime he casts a spell. Because the more he discovers the workings of magic, the more he learns of dangers of the craft (and he would still be dumbfounded by some unexpected stuff not knowing that rolling 6s on a red, a black and a white results in chaos manifestation, that three different colored 1s would ruin the spell even if these dice are not used in a casting attempt, etc).

Yeah, OK, I hear you, guys: such system would be hard to devise and almost impossible to run for a Game Master. But if someone manages to pull such thing off, it may result in an amazing playing experience.
Post Reply