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Brainstorming: Fantasy: Changing Magic

Dave G

First Post
I'm working on a fantasy world that's been percolating in my brain for some time... and after a long-time game group I recently joined tried it's best to self-destruct today, it looks like the game rising from the ashes will be mine to run. Since I sort of vowed to myself that the next game I run is going to be in the world of Anexxia (ask your doctor about it today ;)) I need to start getting ideas on paper about this in as quick a fashion as I can. It will be D&D 3/3.5
Backstory/Nature of Magic: In ages past, the Gods gave the power of magic to the peoples of Anexxia through the form of a mysterious artifact known as the Crystal of Creation. 500 years ago, the dark god Kor attempted to steal the magical energy from the Crystal. In doing so he inadvertently became a conduit, releasing the magic in a torrent of uncontrollable energy into the land. Magic, when held in check by the Crystal, was stable and wondrous, but now it floods the land and peoples of Anexxia with raw unshaped power. Innate ability to summon arcane and divine magic became increasingly more common. The magic changed the environment as well, through strange and sometimes deadly mutations in the plants, animals and peoples who live there. Weather is also changed by the sudden influx of energy. Unpredictable maelstroms sweep across the land, seemingly at random, tearing down buildings and ravaging people … eventually these storms came to be known as Destiny Storms. Fueled by magic and chaos, Destiny Storms sweep across the face of the world. If a person is caught up in one, they are more likely to come out with an awakened sense of destiny to serve, whether for good or for evil. There are parts of the land with no magic, and others where it is so saturated that even the most minor of trickeries can destroy a village. It is rarely 100% safe to cast a spell or miracle, and those who can do it without fear are some of the most feared individuals of all. However, the magical emanations have been pushed back from major population centers and the number of mutations has gradually tapered off from the efforts of several organizations of druids, clerics, wizards and sorcerers.
So before the world is ready to run it looks like I have several essential things to work out, let me know of any that I miss, or if you have thoughts on those I have included:

1. System to determine successful casting of spells. Base Casting Bonus? (Similar to BAB?)

2. How to handle wild magic/dead magic

3. Mutations
a. Starting character mutations. Not all mutations are beneficial, and there should be negative mutations too, but how to maintain game balance for starting characters with mutations. (i.e. ‘my skin is blue, but Joe has a 3rd eye and gets a bonus to spot’, or inversely ‘Sally has infravision as a mutation and I randomly got one eye, this blows!’)
b. Continuous/repeated exposure mutations. Higher extremity of mutation, but what about non-powerusers? Should allowed degree of mutation extremity be based upon character level? When are mutation checks called for? Crits/Botches? Hmmm…
c. Is being normal an asset of some sort? What does it gain? Social benefit? Can players choose this in some way (feat?)

4. Keeping power using classes as desirable as non power using classes

I’m sure I’ll think of much more to add to this, but I’m running on fumes, just wanted to get some of these ideas out there before I sleep.
Any thoughts based on what I have so far? Thanks!

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Staff member
I've been thinking about this kind of stuff for my own campaign WIP.

For ideas, you might consider looking at the Fatigue system found in Unearthed Arcana and Spellfire (feat & PrCl) from Forgotten Realms.

The former lets casters shape raw magic into spells, but it makes them tired. The latter lets casters absorb energy from spells targeted at them to power an energy-bolt power or healing.

As for wild magic/dead magic, look at the 2Ed & 3Ed versions. Have surges work kind of like Metamagic Maximization or Expansion or some such (possibly even having a randomly determined metamagic feat applied to the spell...a die roll a Wild Mage PrCl could attempt to influence).

I'd consider using Ley Lines in such a world, possibly similar to the ones in RIFTS and other RPGs. On or near such a ley line, your magic power increases...and at a Nexus where 2 or more meet, it increases greatly. Away from such an area, perhaps magic is virtually impossible, or incredibly difficult to control.

A lot of these different rolls mentioned above could be handled with Spellcraft checks with situational, ability, or class-based modifiers.

Perhaps tapping into the power forever changes the ones who shape it...the semi-sentient mana changes the wielders in some way. Terry Brooks does something like this with his Shadowen in Shannara. Perhaps the downside to magic use is enough to keep non-using classes viable.

3.X already has a nice "mutations" ruleset in the form of Geomancer "Drift." Just change the details.


First Post
nice background story Dave

anyway, for level of magic and randomness of spells, you could check GURPS (area gives you what in DnD3.5 would be meta-magic effects, and you always have the chance to blow your spell, but nothing happens (fumble excepted), not a different effect)
for the difference of effect, I'm pretty sure there is sth like this in the DMG

for the mutations, you can use the D20 Modern mutation points system which is pretty balance... as long as you remember that other races are not that common in it, hence the high price of Darkvision for example.



First Post
Dave G said:
1. System to determine successful casting of spells. Base Casting Bonus? (Similar to BAB?)

If you are going this route, I would suggest a CL check (BCB) but I would also implement the recharge rules from Unearthed Arcana or some other method to remove the per day limits on spell casting. Spells are more powerful than weapons and so generally work (at least to some extent) while weapons can be swung all day but require a role to use. If you make it likely that spells will fail, you need to remove the limit on use. If it won't be likely to fail (ie DCs are low) then there is really no point in using BCB at all.

Dave G said:
2. How to handle wild magic/dead magic

These are really a plot device not a standard part of a system. If they are so common that a spellcaster can never trust his or her powers then again you need to compensate them with something (better weapons training / more skills). If the are rare enough that most spellcasters won't encounter them, then have them do whatever random things you want.

Dave G said:
3. Mutations

I think the dragonmarks from Eberron and the bloodlines from Dragon have this right: make it a feat (or for negative ones a flaw). If the character wants darkvision as a result of a 3rd eye, then a feat. Perhaps there are advanced feats that he could use to eventually gain true seeing. If he wants a penalty (-4 to gaze attacks, double duration of dazzle or blindness) then it would be a flaw. The same mutation could in theory be both a boon and a penalty.

Dave G said:
4. Keeping power using classes as desirable as non power using classes

This is a matter of what I was talking about above. A few rules to keep in mind:

** Randomness favors the DM (bad guy). If a player has to roll for something for his character's action to succeed he stands more to loose than an equivalent NPC or monster because over the life of character, he will roll far more often and at least 1 in 20 times, he will fail.

** Randomness is rarely fun. One of the best things about Eberron is that the dragonmarks are random in the game world but not random in the game. A player chooses the path for his character even if the character has no control over the circumstance. Mutations should be the same way.

** A variable resource should (generally) not be a finite resource. Take the weapon / spell comparison above.

A wizard casts fireball: he knows it will work. He knows that something will get damaged. He knows about how much damage. He knows that (Evasion aside) everything in the fireball will take some damage. This knowledge makes it worth casting the spell instead shooting his crossbow.

A fighter swings his sword. He doesn't know if he will hit but he knows that if he misses he can swing again next round.

(note, this issue is the reason that SR is so utterly lame. It takes what is balanced out to be a dependable resource and removes that dependability without giving the caster anything in return. at least with energy resistance you have a hope of dealing enough damage to overcome it or bypassing it by using a different type. with SR your spell either works or it doesn't and you loose the spell either way)

Honestly, with the current rules as they stand, Warlock is perhaps the best option for reflecting what you're going for but using sorcerer and wizard with the recharge system could work as well.



First Post
True20 has a magic system which is based on a casting bonus/fatigue check which sounds like what you want. It would be difficult to use just the magic system without the rest of the True20 system unless you're prepared to basically write your own system using True20's as a basis.

Gamma World d20 has quite a few 'magic' systems as well as stuff on mutations.

Kmart Kommando

First Post
well, I tried to post my Arcanist that I use for Iron Heroes, but the formatting is terrible and I don't have an hour to redo it in this post. :\
this is from the file I posted for my players.
It has plenty to do every round, whether it's a spell or not.
I had to leave out the progression, it just looks like a pile of numbers. :uhoh:
I'll attach the file, but it's unlikely anyone would want to click on an unknown source..


Hit Die: 1d4+2
Skill Groups: Acedemia, Mysticism, Social, Theatrics
Skill Points at 1st level: (8 + Int mod) x4
Skill Points/level: 8+ Int mod
Weapons and Armor: Simple Weapons, no Armor
--deleted table-- 20 level progression
Spellcasting: You can use 3 of the Rites and create effects from their tables as you choose. See below for procedures.
Mana Pool: Total mana that can be held at any one time. 10 + Arcanist Class Level.
Arcane Focus: same as Psionic Focus in all ways.
Aspect of Power: as per the IH PHB, pg 69-70, choose a new one each time. You must maintain Arcane Focus and have at least 1 token in your Mana Pool to use any Aspect of Power.
New Ritual: You learn a new ritual.
Favored Ritual: Choose a Rite that you know, you gain +2 on all channeling checks for that Rite. You must choose a different Rite each time you gain this ability.
Greater Aspect of Power: as per IH PHB, pg 70, choose an Aspect you know to upgrade, or choose a new Aspect of Power to add to your abilities.
Ritual Mastery: You may cast from any of the 18 Rites.

Casting Spells:
Many of these steps are best done beforehand, with a general idea of what kinds of spells you want to cast.

Step 1: Choose the spell type. One of the Rites that you know.

Step 2: Choose the Order of Power you wish to channel.
This determines the channeling DC, and the maximum power you can use to build the spell

--deleted table--
Step 3: Channel the Spell.
1d20 + Arcanist Class Level + Int Modifier + Misc Mods.
a few of the misc modifiers:
cast as move action -5
cast as standard action +0
cast as fullround action +5
scarification: +1 per 1d4 self-inflicted
per spell cast in the last hour -1
Favored Ritual class ability +2

Results of the Channeling Check: If your Channeling Check meets or exceeds the DC, you gain 1 Mana Token. For each 2 points above the DC, you gain 1 more Mana Token, up to the limit of the order you chose in step 2. If you don't have enough Mana Tokens to do what you want to, you can spend more actions to make more checks and gain more Mana Tokens.

Step 4: Cast the spell. Once you have enough Mana Tokens, you use the tables in the IH Players Companion, pg 57-98, to assign effects to your spell. Casting the spell happens in the same action as the last one you used to channel the spell.
Casting Defensively: A Standard Action or Fullround Action spell provokes an AoO, but you can cast defensively with a Concentration check equal to the Channeling Check + 5.

After the spell is cast: Save DC = 10 + (The Lowest Order used to gain Tokens) + (1/3 Arcanist Class Level, round down) + CHA modifier

Example Spells:

3rd level Arcanist wants to blast a single target at short range..
step 1: choose Rite of Flame
step 2: choose 2nd Order
step 3: channeling DC 10, check is 1d20 + 3 + 3 (16 Int) + 5 (using fullround action) -1 (used 1 spell within the past hour) = 1d20 +10 average roll is 20, yielding 6 Mana tokens.
step 4: choose 30ft range (2 tokens), 1 creature (1 token), 5d6 damage (2 tokens)
with 1 token left over, he decides to add it to the target, making it 3 squares (2 tokens), to hit two enemies instead.
Save DC: 10 + 2 (2nd Order) + 2 (14 Cha) + 1(1/3 Arcanist Class level) = 15 reflex for half or 5d6 fire damage

5th level Arcanist needs to escape the city guard persuing him..
step 1: choose Rite of Travel
step 2: choose 3rd Order
step 3: channeling DC 15, check is 1d20 + 5 + 3 (16 Int) + 0 (standard action) +0 (first spell today) = 1d20 +8 rolls an 9, + 8 = 17, yielding 2 Tokens. figuring that isn't enough, he keeps moving (move action) as the guards get closer, makes another check (same bonus, nothing has changed yet) the next round. rolls better this time, a 16 + 8 = 24, yielding 6 more tokens, for a total of 8. Allocating 3 Tokens to gain a Flight effect, 2 more to get up to Levitation, Personal spell (0 tokens), duration 10 minutes (3 tokens). He then effortlessly climbs 20 ft up a sheer wall onto a roof (move action) and then uses the remaining time on the spell to jump from rooftop to rooftop to avoid the guards.
(Though, he probably could have put them to sleep or spooked them into panicking more easily)


  • Improved Revised Arcanist.rtf
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