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5E Earthsea Magic in D&D

opacitizen

Explorer
While I love Earthsea and its magic, I don't think it's a good match with D&D 5e (which I also like, mind you.)

If I had to come up with a quick and dirty implementation, I'd simply say that
  • the true name of things and entities that don't have a stat block (a pebble, a single blade of grass, a cup, a cloud, etc) is "included" in knowing the (official D&D 5e) spells that affect them. If you mend a broken shelf with Mending, you used the true name of the shelf, and that's it
  • not knowing the true name of statted things and entities but trying to affect them with spells works as per the official D&D rules
  • knowing the true name of statted things gives you an advantage on any roll you're required to cast OR a disadvantage to their save, OR maximum damage / healing / duration rolls etc, noting that learning the true name of a statted thing is the equivalent of gaining and possessing a magic item.
And that's it. Anything deeper than this, I'd go look for a different system more suited for Earthsea's world and magic.
 

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Mercurius

Legend
Is this just curiosity or are you trying to play games in the world of Earthsea or just recreate some of the flavor? Are you looking for simple solutions that get you close (your naming convention & UA Onomancy) or more extensive that really try to emulate the magic in the books (custom magic system)?

Just curiosity. Earthsea is one of my favorite worlds and story cycles, and I've always loved the idea of a campaign setting for it, but I don't plan on running games in Earthsea at this point. I'm mostly just interested in what an Earthsea-like magic system would look like.
 

dave2008

Legend
Just curiosity. Earthsea is one of my favorite worlds and story cycles, and I've always loved the idea of a campaign setting for it, but I don't plan on running games in Earthsea at this point. I'm mostly just interested in what an Earthsea-like magic system would look like.
That is what I thought, but I want to make sure. I wish I could help, but I am really not familiar with the Earthsea system of magic (other than what I've read on wikipedia). I think it seems very doable it depends on how close to the source material you want to get.
 

Mercurius

Legend
That is what I thought, but I want to make sure. I wish I could help, but I am really not familiar with the Earthsea system of magic (other than what I've read on wikipedia). I think it seems very doable it depends on how close to the source material you want to get.

No worries - it mostly just a moderate curiosity, not a deep yearning ;)
 

Aldarc

Legend
I wasn't asking for agreement, I was asking for an explanation ;) I am not familiar with Archipelago, so if you care to explain, what else beside the magic system do you think would need to be changed?
D&D is great for playing certain types of games, particularly epic high fantasy and sword & sorcery, but it is not always appropriate for other types of stories or games. I would put Earthsea in that latter category. I think that D&Ding your way through Earthsea does a huge disservice to Ursula LeGuin's work, almost like murder hoboing your way across Narnia or a tap-dancing elephant in a fine china shop. How D&D expects you to solve problems is a far cry from how characters in Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea stories solve problems.

Also, the whole point of the OP was they want to adapt it to 5e, so saying use another system isn't helpful. They don't want to play Earthsea, they want to play D&D 5e Earthsea.
On the contrary, I would say that using another system is helpful, because the amount of work to create a magic system like Earthsea's for 5e is not IMHO does neither 5e nor Earthsea any favors. And there are other systems out there that are more conducive to the purposes of playing an Earthsea-type game.
 

dave2008

Legend
D&D is great for playing certain types of games, particularly epic high fantasy and sword & sorcery, but it is not always appropriate for other types of stories or games. I would put Earthsea in that latter category. I think that D&Ding your way through Earthsea does a huge disservice to Ursula LeGuin's work, almost like murder hoboing your way across Narnia or a tap-dancing elephant in a fine china shop. How D&D expects you to solve problems is a far cry from how characters in Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea stories solve problems.

On the contrary, I would say that using another system is helpful, because the amount of work to create a magic system like Earthsea's for 5e is not IMHO does neither 5e nor Earthsea any favors. And there are other systems out there that are more conducive to the purposes of playing an Earthsea-type game.
All fair points, but in post #22 the OP said: "...but I don't plan on running games in Earthsea at this point. I'm mostly just interested in what an Earthsea-like magic system would look like."

So the point is specifically how would you create an Earthsea-like magic system in 5e. Not, how would you create Earthsea for 5e. So playing something else, just isn't helpful. Looking at other systems for how they do magic could be helpful, but not a whole bunch.
 
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dave2008

Legend
No worries - it mostly just a moderate curiosity, not a deep yearning ;)
OK, I don't know a lot about Earthsea magic, but I might be able to help you get started. A couple of things to clarify:
  1. Will this be the only type of magic, or should it sit along side typical D&D magic? This choice is really important.
  2. Are you looking for a completely new magic system or a revision / augmentation of an existing D&D sysyem?
  3. What are, in your opinion, the defining characteristics of Earthsea magic?
 

Voadam

Hero
Honestly, you can just rule that in order to work magic at all, you need to now the True Names etc; by this logic, what separates a member rod the Wizard (or sorcerer or cleric or whatever) class from the Fighter etc. class is that the Wizard understands and knows how to manipulate True Names. Bam, done, with no new mechanics to learn.

I have played in an AD&D game where the planar Isle of Roke was where a concentration of ultrapowerful archmages ran a wizards college. It worked well as a flavor element to magic in D&D in my experience.
 

nyvinter

Explorer
The take on magic in Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is using Le Guin's Earthsea as an inspiration. That's what I'd use — and possibly update it by stealing small bits from Black Hack to make it more uniform in rules. Anyway, I feel that would be far closer to the feel with less effort than a 5e version would require.
 

dave2008

Legend
The take on magic in Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is using Le Guin's Earthsea as an inspiration. That's what I'd use — and possibly update it by stealing small bits from Black Hack to make it more uniform in rules. Anyway, I feel that would be far closer to the feel with less effort than a 5e version would require.
The OP isn't asking for a 5e version of Earthsea, he/she wants to import an Earthsea-like magic system to 5e, see post #22. Big difference.
 

nyvinter

Explorer
Yeah, and I think the change is so substantial that you need to remake the whole spell system from scratch as 5e isn't made to run that kind of magic. Earthsea isn't about instant fireballs. But if one want to do this anyway, BtW is a good place to get inspiration considering that it is a retroclone.
 

dave2008

Legend
Yeah, and I think the change is so substantial that you need to remake the whole spell system from scratch as 5e isn't made to run that kind of magic.
I think that is the point, but you would have to ask @Mercurius
Earthsea isn't about instant fireballs.
D&D doesn't have to be either. Heck, I run a magic-less adventure or two every edition and it works great. So if the OP wanted to run Earthsea I would start by stripping out all the magic classes and then add magic back in that fits the Earthsea model. I kinda get the suspicion that this is where this project is heading.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
While I love Earthsea and its magic, I don't think it's a good match with D&D 5e (which I also like, mind you.)

If I had to come up with a quick and dirty implementation, I'd simply say that
  • the true name of things and entities that don't have a stat block (a pebble, a single blade of grass, a cup, a cloud, etc) is "included" in knowing the (official D&D 5e) spells that affect them. If you mend a broken shelf with Mending, you used the true name of the shelf, and that's it
  • not knowing the true name of statted things and entities but trying to affect them with spells works as per the official D&D rules
  • knowing the true name of statted things gives you an advantage on any roll you're required to cast OR a disadvantage to their save, OR maximum damage / healing / duration rolls etc, noting that learning the true name of a statted thing is the equivalent of gaining and possessing a magic item.
And that's it. Anything deeper than this, I'd go look for a different system more suited for Earthsea's world and magic.

Yeah Im thinking that the interesting part of Earthsea’s magic came from le Guins prose rather than being inherent to the ‘magic system’. As represented by Sparrowhawk learning True Names was the challenge but once learned he gained access to the relevant ‘lore’ including its restrictions. The only major issue is that Earthsea magic has a cost which could be modelled as fatigue or major backlash (you get hunted by a evil shadow)

I wonder if then if the Sage Background with its Research feature is pretty much all thats really required. Just play it that the spellcaster needs to actively research to learn true names, then select story appropriate spells
 
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Aldarc

Legend
The OP isn't asking for a 5e version of Earthsea, he/she wants to import an Earthsea-like magic system to 5e, see post #22. Big difference.
I think that is the point, but you would have to ask @Mercurius
D&D doesn't have to be either. Heck, I run a magic-less adventure or two every edition and it works great. So if the OP wanted to run Earthsea I would start by stripping out all the magic classes and then add magic back in that fits the Earthsea model. I kinda get the suspicion that this is where this project is heading.
The magic of Earthsea is a poignant point about the setting itself. Stripping the magic of Earthsea and putting it in D&D is about like strip-mining a colonized country and pumping those resources back into the colonizing country. Regardless of whether the OP wants Earthsea-style magic in D&D rather than to play Earthsea itself, D&D seems antithetical to the spirit of magic in the source material.
 

dave2008

Legend
The magic of Earthsea is a poignant point about the setting itself. Stripping the magic of Earthsea and putting it in D&D is about like strip-mining a colonized country and pumping those resources back into the colonizing country. Regardless of whether the OP wants Earthsea-style magic in D&D rather than to play Earthsea itself, D&D seems antithetical to the spirit of magic in the source material.
I disagree. My D&D isn't antithetical to anything - it is what I want it to be.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I disagree. My D&D isn't antithetical to anything - it is what I want it to be.
Do you not think that it's possible, if not likely, that what you want your D&D to be is antithetical to something else? And at what point does your desire to make D&D anything you want it to be strip D&D of its own identity in relation to other things?
 

dave2008

Legend
Do you not think that it's possible, if not likely, that what you want your D&D to be is antithetical to something else?
Sure, but then again I can always change what I want my D&D to be.
And at what point does your desire to make D&D anything you want it to be strip D&D of its own identity in relation to other things?
No idea and really not relevant to the most important thing - enjoying the game I play with me friends. D&D needs no identity outside what it is to me and my group(s). Its relation to other things isn't really important to us and has no effect on our enjoyment of playing the game.

This is not a comparative analysis of a work of literature or mathematics proof. It is a game - no need to over think it. If the OP wants to bring Earthsea magic to his/her D&D, I say go for it. In fact, I think that homebrew mentality is the true spirit of D&D, if there is such a thing.
 




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