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D&D 5E D&D Magic the Gathering alternate magic system

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I was hoping to retainer magic cards as spells rather than using another system, but I'm having a hard time finding a concise list as there's so many damn magic cards now.
If you’re going that way, I would probably start with a single set like Alpha/Beta/Unlimited or a core set and just make the spells from that.
I'm thinking that most spells need to be found in instants, interrupts and sorceries. But even these have a super heavy focus on creatures and summons.
Yeah, you could stick with instants and sorceries (interrupts haven’t been a thing for a long time, all the original interrupts have long been errata’d to instants), and have artifacts be magic items, creatures be monsters, etc. Not exactly sure what you’d want to do about enchantments.

EDIT: The difference could be casting time and duration. Instants have a 1-action or reaction cast time and instantaneous duration, Sorceries have cast times in minutes and instantaneous duration, enchantments have cast times in minutes and durations that last a longer time.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
@CubicsRube, I had a similar idea. My "solution" was actually to look for another system. This is not to say that it can't be done in 5e D&D, because I think that it can, but, rather, I personally preferred looking to something similar enough to D&D where this would more lucrative or where the pre-existing magic system made it somewhat easier.

In particular, I checked out Shadow of the Demon Lord, which groups its spells into more thematically similar magical traditions: e.g., Time, Fire, Primal, Death, etc. It was easier for me to then look at those thematic traditions and group them together in ways that corresponded more approximately to the Magic Color. Similarly one could do this with the AGE System, which also has more thematic magic traditions.

However, there are several options that I would consider when attempting this for 5e.

(i) Color-Themed Spell Lists: Instead of class-based spell-lists, take the existing spells and create Color-specific spell lists that are shared between classes. So (hypothetically) a Red/Black Cleric may have access to the Red/Black spell lists much as a Red/Black Wizard would. This means that classes should approach shared spell lists differently and do different things and balanced around that conceit. Or maybe a Cleric can only devote themselves to one color, while a Wizard can utilize two colors. The classes would presumably be about how you approach magic (e.g., study, innate, pacts, ideological devotion, etc.) and the spell lists define the Color.

(ii) Class-Tied Colors: Class X is tied to Color 3. This is to say, one could take the approach that certain classes are inherently about certain colors: Wizards are Blue, Warlocks are Black, Clerics are White, Sorcerers/Bards are Red, Druids are Green, etc. This could even tie in with the color-themed spell lists above.

(iii) Color-Appropriate Subclasses: Instead of adjusting the spell lists too drastically, one could instead create Color-appropriate subclasses for each class: e.g., Red Wizard, White Wizard, Red Cleric, Blue Cleric, Green Barbarian, Blue Barbarian, etc. Additional spells and abilities that are appropriate to those class/color combinations could then be doled out. This requires less work than the above.

(iv) Layered On Top: Use something like the Piety system from the Theros book and just add it on top to characters. But instead of "Piety," the characters may have Color Affinities that they are playing into. They may get additional spells, rituals, or benefits from playing into these Color Affinities and those Affinities may change.


From what I gather, the actual sense of being a planeswalker isn't so much now about being a powerful wizard, but by simply being a person who has the planeswalking "spark."
Personally, instead of doing a MtG/D&D fusion, I decided to look at a way to do MtG roleplaying in different fantasy RPGs. Eventually, I decided on my usual go-to with HERO. Fantasy HERO proved to be up to the task.* I had worked out a bunch of stuff, including some trickier things like making Slivers work properly, but eventually abandoned the project due to a lack of player interest.


* I imagine that any toolbox or quasi-toolbox RPG system- GURPS, M&M, etc.- would do just fine in the hands of a GM reasoably familiar with them.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It also might be roughly the same amount of work to build a pbta game designed for this purpose, if you like the gameplay of those games and are interested in a somewhat looser system of magic. I don’t think pbta would do a spell for every magic card well at all. It would do better with a system where each move represents a type of spell, and perhaps you’d use the colors as your stats.
 


CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
I wonder if using the Warlock spell progression, but the Wizard spell list might fit to represent Magic's casting system. Pacts/Patrons might be the mana sources, with Invocation options to add extra colors.

It would restructure the potency of magic in the game, but I wonder if you could directly map the mana pips (and the cards) to spell levels. Something similar might be doable with the power/toughness/damage (maybe each point being one or more 1d6 or 1d8).

Perhaps:

Mana/Power/Toughnessdice
11
22-3
34-6
47-9
510-12
613-15
716-18
8++3 dice/point
Yeah this is where I'm thinking about going with it. Using the mana requirements as a rough guide for spell level and adjust from there.

For damage spells I would probably use the DMG guidance.

After looking through some cards last night, definitely a fair amount of restructuring is necessary to fit a D&D style character in a party rather than a planeswalker at a distance summoning minions to fight for them.
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
If you’re going that way, I would probably start with a single set like Alpha/Beta/Unlimited or a core set and just make the spells from that.

Yeah, you could stick with instants and sorceries (interrupts haven’t been a thing for a long time, all the original interrupts have long been errata’d to instants), and have artifacts be magic items, creatures be monsters, etc. Not exactly sure what you’d want to do about enchantments.

EDIT: The difference could be casting time and duration. Instants have a 1-action or reaction cast time and instantaneous duration, Sorceries have cast times in minutes and instantaneous duration, enchantments have cast times in minutes and durations that last a longer time.
I haven't played magic since the 90's so I must be showing my age!

I had a look through some popular cards last night and yes looking at a lot of instants I think they could be reflavoured to bonus action or reaction spells.

Most creature enchantments with retweaking for D&D's math could work as ally buffs or enemy debuffs, and I think i'll continue on that angle.

I think i'd most likely keep summons largely restricted to green magic. Otherwise certain creatures might take place of a "1 round summon" like a Serra Angel appearing for a single round, etc.

So far I'm thinking of keeping a focus on the core concepts of the colours:
  • White Magic (WIS based) - Buffs, healing, abjuration style spells
  • Green Magic (WIS based) - Druid style spells, summoned creatures and the like
  • Blue Magic (CHA based) - Illusion, enchantments, counterspells, etc
  • Red Magic (INT based) - Damage spells obviously, but also chaos effects
  • Black Magic (INT based) - Debuffs and necromantic/life transfer effects
I found a list of cards that I can start re purposing and hopefully put a draft up by the weekend.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I'd go for the KISS solution:

  • I'd rearrange the spells into 6 spell lists, one for each color and a 'colorless' that is open to anyone (which would only have a few spells in it - mostly the spells that are accessible to every class). Well, in reality I'd tell the players that the spells are broken down this way and then I'd assign them to the colors as it became relevant.
  • I'd give Cleric access to White, Druid access to Green, Wizard access to Blue, Sorcerer access to Black and Bard access to White.
  • I'd make 3 subclass options for each class. One would be focused on pure spellcasting within your color. The other two would each focus on granting you some access to one of your adjacent colors. I'd actually build these when they became relevant, too.

That is it.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
  • White Magic (WIS based) - Buffs, healing, abjuration style spells
  • Green Magic (WIS based) - Druid style spells, summoned creatures and the like
  • Blue Magic (CHA based) - Illusion, enchantments, counterspells, etc
  • Red Magic (INT based) - Damage spells obviously, but also chaos effects
  • Black Magic (INT based) - Debuffs and necromantic/life transfer effects
Blue should be INT based. Blue is the color of logic, thought, intellect, etc. Red could probably be CHA based, as the color of passion, emotion, and impulse. Black could be CHA based, for the same reason warlocks are - making deals with powerful dark forces and such. In fact, the colors line up pretty nicely with the D&D caster types.

White: Cleric
Blue: Wizard
Black: Warlock
Red: Sorcerer
Green: Druid
 

CubicsRube

Adventurer
Supporter
Blue should be INT based. Blue is the color of logic, thought, intellect, etc. Red could probably be CHA based, as the color of passion, emotion, and impulse. Black could be CHA based, for the same reason warlocks are - making deals with powerful dark forces and such. In fact, the colors line up pretty nicely with the D&D caster types.

White: Cleric
Blue: Wizard
Black: Warlock
Red: Sorcerer
Green: Druid
You're right.
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
Blue should be INT based. Blue is the color of logic, thought, intellect, etc. Red could probably be CHA based, as the color of passion, emotion, and impulse. Black could be CHA based, for the same reason warlocks are - making deals with powerful dark forces and such. In fact, the colors line up pretty nicely with the D&D caster types.

White: Cleric
Blue: Wizard
Black: Warlock
Red: Sorcerer
Green: Druid
Three of those also map to Alignments, however.
I'd go Black: Intellect and Charisma, with Intellect dominant if Evil. Pragmatic to the Core.
Blue: Intellect all the way, disregarding almost everything else.
White: Charisma and Wisdom. Zealots are part of Law, Good is wise.
Green: Wisdom with closeness to Nature.
Red: Charisma, as force of personality dominates Chaos.
 

cbwjm

Hero
I'd just let the player choose which ability to use for casting their spells. If you look back through the history of magic and the various cards they've created they've had wizards for each colour, priests for each colour, paladins for each colour, etc. I think it works better to allow all of these archetypes for each colour and just let them choose based on what kind of caster they want to be, perhaps following the spellcasting ability for each class as normal.
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I meant to say this earlier but I didn’t: one of the reasons I looked outside of D&D for MtG roleplaying is D&D’s class system. Planeswalker magic doesn’t neatly map onto distinct classes. While some effects are more common in certain colors than others, all colors can do direct damage. All can heal. All can ward. All can summon. (Few effect types are actually void in certain colors- poison is probably still one, I’d imagine.)

Hell, summoning is such a huge part of every color in MtG that it REALLY doesn’t mesh well with D&D’s system.

And that doesn’t get into resource destruction. Whether it’s discard, land destruction or board clearing, MtG has a lot of powerful resets. Many of them are purely offensive, but probably just as many are akin to a Queen sacrifice- harmful to the one taking the action, but necessary to win.

Besides that, nothing in MtG limits you to a single color beyond deck efficiency. If you can make a rainbow deck work- and I have- you can play it. Shoehorning that into a class system is going to be awkward at best.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
While some effects are more common in certain colors than others, all colors can do direct damage. All can heal. All can ward.
I don’t think you’re wrong to want to use another system to emulate MTG magic, and your reasoning is perfectly valid, but this bit... Isn’t really true. There are a lot of effects that show up in every color, yes, but there are also a lot of effects that don’t, direct damage and life gain among them. Blue and red don’t have life gain and white and blue don’t have direct damage, outside of a few much older cards that wouldn’t get printed under the current design paradigm. Counterspells basically only show up in blue with a few rare exceptions, likewise for unconditional creature destruction in black. Red and black can’t destroy enchantments, and black can’t destroy artifacts. There are a lot of restrictions around which colors can do what.
All can summon.
Obviously, as it’s a core mechanic of the game, though notably the colors do so at different densities - white gets the most creatures, followed by green (green gets the biggest creatures though), then black is the middle of the road, red gets the second-fewest, and blue gets the fewest.
(Few effect types are actually void in certain colors- poison is probably still one, I’d imagine.)
Ironically, poison does actually show up in every color, via Infect. It was the signature mechanic of the New Phyrexians, which appeared in every color. Though I expect if the Phyrexians return, we probably won’t see Infect again because it was massively overpowered and generally not very well-received.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
While I do think summoning spells would be important for an MTG RPG, I don’t think they would necessarily need to be super prominent. Summoning creatures is a big part of the gameplay, but in the novels, comics, etc. it’s not really that much of a thing. It happens - Garruk likes to summon beasts, Leliana raises undead minions, etc. but nothing beyond what you I might expect from a druid or a necromancer in D&D. Players in a game of magic are more comparable to pre-Mending Planeswalkers, who were practically gods, but the post-mending walkers who are the main characters of the storyline don’t really fight with armies of summoned creatures. They’re much more like regular, albeit gifted, Mages who can also Planeswalk.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I don’t think you’re wrong to want to use another system to emulate MTG magic, and your reasoning is perfectly valid, but this bit... Isn’t really true. There are a lot of effects that show up in every color, yes, but there are also a lot of effects that don’t, direct damage and life gain among them. Blue and red don’t have life gain and white and blue don’t have direct damage, outside of a few much older cards that wouldn’t get printed under the current design paradigm. Counterspells basically only show up in blue with a few rare exceptions, likewise for unconditional creature destruction in black. Red and black can’t destroy enchantments, and black can’t destroy artifacts. There are a lot of restrictions around which colors can do what.

Obviously, as it’s a core mechanic of the game, though notably the colors do so at different densities - white gets the most creatures, followed by green (green gets the biggest creatures though), then black is the middle of the road, red gets the second-fewest, and blue gets the fewest.

Ironically, poison does actually show up in every color, via Infect. It was the signature mechanic of the New Phyrexians, which appeared in every color. Though I expect if the Phyrexians return, we probably won’t see Infect again because it was massively overpowered and generally not very well-received.
Well, what drove my design decisions when I was designing my campaign were the cards available at the time. I started with Alpha, but haven’t played or bought any of the new cards in years, so of course my perception of the game is going to be different than what’s going on now.
 

cbwjm

Hero
I have thought that savage worlds would do a magic campaign fairly well, the magic system uses trappings to modify magical effects. This means that a summon spell could have the trappings of "beast" for Garruk, "fire elemental" for Chandra, and "zombie" for Liliana.

I still wish I had the inquest gamer magazine (I think) that had conversion ideas for mtg to DnD. This would have been in the late 90s that it came out. Well and truly gone now.

At any rate, the new summon spells combine well with the conjuration spells for planeswalkers. I also tend to go off the more recent stories for ideas rather than focusing on the cards for the basic abilities of a mtg character. They're still great for ideas for monsters & NPCs and other spell ideas, but otherwise I think we have enough spell effects to start us off.

I've found some more ideas I had for a MtG planeswalker game. I had some planeswalker feats, more boons really since you had to be a planeswalker to get them, which tacked on coloured magic to any character. At its most basic it was the magic initiate feat and then a series of other feats that taught more spells and provided spell slots specifically for these spells separate from any other form of spellcasting. Never trialled it though. It could just be some innate spells useable a few times a day and allow them to choose more as they level
 

Aelryinth

Explorer
Another way of looking at the standard Classes are that they are what allows you to wield Gold Magical effects, as they cross colors, and are a signature of a planeswalker. Restricting others to single colors, specific combos (Ravnica guilds) or bordering/allied colors (certain other organizations) is also a possibility.
 

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