We continue to discuss how magic functions in the Genesis Roleplaying System. I also like to thank everybody whose already backed the Kickstarter Project. We are off to a get start, but continue to need your help, so please spread the word. If you haven't yet - check it out HERE.

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Magic Part I

Magic and Modifiers
One of the primary design goals in the Genesis Roleplaying System is to greatly reduce modifiers - you know, the +1s and -1s, +2s and -2s. Modifiers are a great tool in game design, but too many is, well, too many.

Personally, as a player, I always love shocking the GM - I remember several times where I made more than one mouth drop when the GM asked me what the AC of my 9th level paladin was - I responded, "40." After pausing the game for several minutes to add the modifiers to prove I came by my AC correctly, we went back to the encounter. I found the main villain struck me with a lot of critical threats that game session.

Another time, my halfling druid/cleric advanced 10 levels without receiving 1 point of damage. You gotta love modifiers.

Spellcasting, in many editions, also have modifiers - centered around combat and about ten other situations - you know the ones, violent motion, casting defensively, so on and so on.

In the Genesis Roleplaying System, with focus on evoking energy to cast your spells, we can eliminate the modifiers. Simply put, once you have the energy in your reserve, you cast your spell - it doesn't matter whether your in combat or on a storm-tossed ship because you have the energy you already need in your reserve.

What about the modifiers?
Well, you do have a few modifiers - but it centers around gathering your energy, not using it. And to keep with our design goal, we kept modifiers to a minimum.

For instance, gathering energy in the Skirmish Area (where are the hacking and slashing takes place), reduce the mana gathered by 1. Furthermore, they do not stack, you just apply the highest penalty.

What is the difference where you apply the modifiers or keep them simple?
To put it frankly, if a Player or Game Master has to pause the action to count up modifiers or crack open a book to remember a modifier for a particular situation, it pulls people from the game and away from the dramatic storytelling. It then becomes a game about modifiers.

Secondly, why are there rules for every situation? The Game Master should rule the roost - why is there a need to have a rule about casting on a rough wagon ride? Is it such a game breaking mechanic they had to insist writing a rule?

If you keep the modifiers low and simple, it is easier for the Game Master to make a judgment call and apply modifiers as he or she see fit - not the rules.

Player: I'm evoking energy.
Game Master: You're on a ship during a violent storm, the ship is being tossed about. Reduce the amount of energy you gather by 2.
Player: But I hail from a fishing village - I've been on ships before when the waves were rough - I'm used to it.
Game Master: Fair enough, but this storm seems unnatural, as if the ancient lich knows of your approach to his island. Reduce the amount of energy by 1 instead.

So why do some games have so many modifiers?
Simple rule in game design - the more rules you have, the more you can break the rules. Feats and backgrounds are a perfect example. Don't like the violent motion modifier - grab a feat or background that eliminates the penalty.

Player: I'm casting spell.
Game Master: You're on a ship during a violent storm, the ship is being tossed about. Make a concentration check DC 20.
Player: But I have the Firm Ground feat, I don't have to make concentration checks to cast a spell while suffering violent motion.
Game Master: Are you sure, I thought it only reduced the DC by 2 or it was 10 + spell level instead of 15. Let me check - what was that page number again?

While I'm not sure if there is a Firm Ground feat (I'm sure there is something similar), we've all had these type of situations around the game table.

That is why dice, especially in roleplaying spellcasting, is limited as a game mechanic - simply applying dozens of bonuses and penalties to a die roll slows the game down - it should be a roleplaying game, not a formula statistics game centered on one type of dice.

Magic and Races
Anyway, let's move on - I mentioned last time I would talk briefly about races and how they interact with magic in the Genesis Roleplaying System.

Design Goals
Where magic was concerned, we wanted the players to feel involved and unique - even when unable to cast magic themselves. What a better way to do this than with two races that, throughout traditional sources, have a mystical association with the otherworld: dwarves and elves.

  • They are skillful miners, metallurgists, and metalworkers.
  • Dwarfs create numerous magical swords, spears, and other artifacts - in legend - the Ring of Odin and possibly Excalibur (a few older sources claim).
  • Associated with Scandinavian and Germanic runic alphabet.
  • And in traditional, old-school roleplaying - they did not cast, what is now termed, arcane magic.

So - we saw this as a bit of a challenge - because there are a few roleplaying traditions we wished to revisit while investigating dwarves in "real world" legends.

After much deliberation - it became obvious. Dwarves, where magic is involved, have the following traits:
  • Cannot cast magic, well - not exactly, they are unable to evoke energy.
  • They are able to cast and etch runes - unique only to them - to aid themselves or allies.
  • Divine the future, with their foresight ability.
  • Lastly, dwarves can forge magical items.

  • Elves closely associate with fairykind.
  • Tied to woodlands.
  • Wise, yet far from being solemn in nature.
  • Possess a keen foresight.
  • Akin to magic - in particular, fairy magic (or glamerye).

Elves were even a greater challenge - Tolkien really breathed a new kind of elf into life - one who is regal and elegant - tall, wise, and far from being care-free. This is where the traditional roleplaying elf came into being.

We did not want to destroy that image because, for one, we are huge Tolkien fans. But we did want to bring in the older traditions of elves and fairies: stealing human babies (changlings) as well as pact magic (from fairy tales and medieval tradition).

So - instead of loading them up with a bunch of spells - so every elf had the same spell - which never made sense - we allowed them instead to alter magic and aid their allies.
  • Elves have their own mana reserve which other magicians can draw from should the elf allow it.
  • Divine the future like dwarves, however elves have the ability to aid others with their fortune-telling.
  • Grant them the ability to cast fairy magic or glamerye.

Thanks for all the support and interest - if you haven't yet, please check out the Genesis Roleplaying System Kickstarter Project. To get this off the ground and into mainstream roleplaying game genre, we do need your help.

We have plenty of reward levels, from $1 and up.

Happy Gaming and feel free to voice your questions or concerns.