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Magic for My New Fantasy Setting - Seeking Opinions

JohnSnow

Adventurer
I know this is less-developed than the typical topic here, but I thought I'd solicit some feedback.

I'm working on designing my first fantasy setting for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition (mostly for my own use for now), and I'm really thinking about how I want to handle magic and spells.

However, I did always like the "Tradition" concepts that @RangerWickett played with back in his "Elements of Magic" days, but I'm not totally sold on the value of maintaining the classic arcane/divine division. But I know it's baked in to D&D, so designing a world for that system is typically more trouble than it's worth.

I really like the idea of building a fantasy world that is unconstrained by the classic D&D tropes. I don't have to have 12 playable races, or split magic into arcane and divine if I don't want to. That's freeing in a way I hadn't even really realized I was being constrained. Sp I'm reaching out to the forums to see what you guys have done. Does anyone here use Savage Worlds (or another non- "D&D-trope-based" system) for fantasy? And if so, does your world still have a D&D-style arcane/divine split? Or do you do it differently? Does anyone think that there's a real value in that split? I'd like to know.

The floor is open! Thanks!
 

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bulletmeat

Explorer
In the AGE style games there is only the mage class that casts spells w/no real origin. I've thought of settings where the gods died and their 'secrets' of magic that leaked form their mythological brains soaked into the world. Some individuals absorb this and become mages.
For a D&D clone I replaced clerics w/Moon Mages. The goddess of Magic sat on the third moon of this world. During the great war against the creatures of the chaos from the void her throne was destroyed and pieces of her moon rained down on the world. People intuned to the moon rock (I used pearls) learned to use the power. Instead of turning undead, they turned aberrations that were constantly attacking the world.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I really like the magic system in Swords if the Serpentine. It's all based on spheres, and you pick whatever spheres fit your character concept (one sphere per rank in sorcery). Very flexible. There's an associated corruption mechanic, which isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I've always been a big fan of systems that make magic more potent but with significant built-in risks.
 

JohnSnow

Adventurer
For a D&D clone I replaced clerics w/Moon Mages. The goddess of Magic sat on the third moon of this world. During the great war against the creatures of the chaos from the void her throne was destroyed and pieces of her moon rained down on the world. People intuned to the moon rock (I used pearls) learned to use the power. Instead of turning undead, they turned aberrations that were constantly attacking the world.
Interesting take on how to handle it in a D&D-system. I seem to recall Dragonlance having a similar distinction with its Orders of Wizardy, but I might be misremembering.
 

bulletmeat

Explorer
In DL the moons each represented the 3 gods of magic. DL has always been a big influence in my home worlds, for better or for worse. My first game product ever was a Taladas adventure.
 

In 5e I've mostly stuck to the magic system as written, though in 4e I homebrewed a more modular, class free character creation system where I used Magic the Gathering as inspiration. To cast spells you needed mana, and to get mana you needed to explore areas and attune to the local energies.

I had some under the hood guidelines for spells, but basically everything the PCs learned was custom built as they worked their way through a sandbox.

It took more free time then I could afford now, but it was really gratifying as an experience of world building. Some of the magic ended up being delightfully weird. Like a defiler-esque mage inspired by credit default swaps who borrowed mana from the future, or river mages who basically built hydroelectric dams to harness mana passively, or a whole spellcasting tradition that was half Pokemon trainer, half Final X summoner.
 

Blue Orange

Explorer
In 5e I've mostly stuck to the magic system as written, though in 4e I homebrewed a more modular, class free character creation system where I used Magic the Gathering as inspiration. To cast spells you needed mana, and to get mana you needed to explore areas and attune to the local energies.

I had some under the hood guidelines for spells, but basically everything the PCs learned was custom built as they worked their way through a sandbox.

It took more free time then I could afford now, but it was really gratifying as an experience of world building. Some of the magic ended up being delightfully weird. Like a defiler-esque mage inspired by credit default swaps who borrowed mana from the future, or river mages who basically built hydroelectric dams to harness mana passively, or a whole spellcasting tradition that was half Pokemon trainer, half Final X summoner.

LOL. That's brilliant. It does make sense if magic was real people would try to harness it on a larger scale.

Remembering the demonic 'investments' from White Wolf, I'm now starting to wonder if higher-ranking devils had 'index funds' composed of all the souls of the infernalists their minions had bought.

You could also have 'stock' and 'bond' magic, where one is more powerful but also more risky, or a whole variety of magics where the return is proportional to the risk.

You can find resortings of the standard D&D spells into Magic colors if you google around a little.
 

dbm

Explorer
Does anyone here use Savage Worlds (or another non- "D&D-trope-based" system) for fantasy? And if so, does your world still have a D&D-style arcane/divine split? Or do you do it differently? Does anyone think that there's a real value in that split? I'd like to know.
I’ve played many different non-D&D fantasy RPGs and campaigns over the years. One of the great things about magic is there is no way to ‘fact check’ how it works, and so when you are creating a campaign world you can have magic work however best suits your needs! D&D began with very differentiated classes of characters, so it made sense to have magic-users and clerics have very different powers. The ideas of ‘good magic’ and ‘bad magic’ are pretty entrenched in real-world belief systems, though since no one actually goes around in reality casting Cure Wounds or Fireball it’s all moot from that perspective.

So, if you are creating a campaign world where you want magic to have a specific feel and promote a certain way for the world to function / look then I suggest you approach your system decisions from that perspective. In Harry Potter magic is learned, though someone needs to have talent. An individual might be better at spells, or potions, or so on, but they are all still using the same ‘kind’ of magic as far as I understand it (watched the films, haven’t read the books). Wizard of Earthsea is another good example of this, where there are different facets of magic that can be learned but all the Wizards of Roke are members of the same magical tradition covering both healing and destructive arts (and more besides).

I’m a fan of Savage Worlds, and their magic system is fairly light-weight at its core but you can add in tonnes of detail and flavour as you want to. The base question here is whether you want to have separate Arcane Backgrounds available? For people not familiar, in SW these are different sources of power, and in the core book there are five presented. They govern four or five key things: starting number of powers, starting number of power points, what happens on a crit fail, what special Edges you have available to you and sometimes they have mandatory ‘trappings‘ that need to be applied to your abilities. Many of the developed settings flesh out these backgrounds further, or add completely new ones. If you want your world to have several magical traditions then Arcane Backgrounds are a good way of implementing this, along with related Edges that are restricted to specific Backgrounds.

When I’m not playing D&D (or a game derived from it) then I rarely find the Arcane / Divine split so hard-coded in, and the games tend to run fine as long as they are supporting what the GM and game-world needs. There are lots of other ways to classify magic, like in Ars Magica with verb / noun system of magic (Fireball would be a Creo Ignem spell there). GURPS base magic system is a highly scholastic system (e.g. before you learn to cast fireball you need to learn to both create fire and control fire which are separate spells in their own right). Some system give every defined class their own set of powers and spells without grouping them under an arcane / divine grouping; Dragon Warriors had sorcerors, mystics, elementalists and warlocks each with their own list of powers but all, ultimately, just using ‘magic’ to fuel these powers.

They were all good at what they were doing and produced fun (and different) magic to play.
 


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