• Resources are back! Use the menu in the main navbar. If you own a resource, please check it for formatting, icons, etc.

What Does Your Magic Look Like

doctorbadwolf

Adventurer
Recently, one of the fellow players in my only game I don’t DM ran a one-shot involving a ride on a magical giant flying squirrel and his old man caretaker.

In the setup for that, he asked us questions to set the scene and lead in to the adventure. Things like, “what is your ritual at the end of the day?” And “What is your speaking stones conversation with your family like, what do you tell them? What is that relationship like?”

For my character, the pre-sleep ritual involves some simple alchemy, and he asked me what that looks like, what tools I’m using, what I’m making, etc.

Then he asked if I’d planned on scribing a spell into my spellbook, bc I’d mentioned that previously, and I said that was the plan, so he asked me how I arrange my space and where I keep my materials and all that.

Then, he asked the really interesting question.

“What does your spell inscription actually look like?”

I was delighted! I explained that my spells look like code and equations and diagrams, with instructions, similar to what an inventor might take in to the patent office in a movie. Like a mix of schematic, hermetic diagram, calculus work, and instruction manual form something very complex and advanced.

Then as we progressed he came back to me and asked what it looks like when I focus my thoughts and bend my will toward magical study, and as a Bladesinger I was inspired to describe it in terms of how my actual magic looks from my perspective.

My Bladesong isn’t magical shielding, it’s an Augmented Reality overlay showing me a dynamic layout of all creatures and moving objects, with boundaries and such for obstacles and annotations of size and distance, and intersecting lines as these many circles move, intersect, and change in various ways. I dodge an arrow because I can see the opportunity for a shot against me before the arrow is loosed, and I step to the side, shifting my angle of approach to my next target.

In rituals, I create, piece by piece, the most basic representation of this moving diagram in my mind. An encompassing circle, containing a small central circle, which is flanked by three other circles, and 3 lines which run perpendicular but don’t intersect within the circle. From there, I build the rest of the ritual geometry.

And now I wonder, what does your magic look like?
 

Imaculata

Explorer
As a DM I often ask my players to describe their own spells. For example, when one of my players casted the Many Jaws spell, I asked him: "What do the jaws look like?". He them described them as looking like piranhas flying through the air. I then also asked him: "And are you summoning it from a nearby source of water?", and he described them as being summoned from a nearby river.

In my experience players love adding their own flavor to the look of a spell. They love describing what kind of gestures and incantations their character makes too.
 
Last edited:

Nevvur

Explorer
Not that my players lack for creativity, but if they're imagining such things at the table, they haven't shared. Could be worth my while to chat with them about it. The closest thing that's come up at this time is our e-blaster warlock, who uses a bow to shoot force arrows from an ethereal string. Mechanically, it's just a staff focus and eldritch blast, but it jives well with his demon hunter concept.

There's only one spellcaster PC I've played whose magic I really went into detail with. Oath of the Ancients Paladin. His magic was not sourced from within, but through his relationship with an archfey. Thematically closer to a warlock. I was joining a campaign in progress, the DM started me at level 8 with mithril plate. Covered in etchings of trees, ivy, etc. We said it was a gift from his 'patron,' and it reacted to the paladin's magic use. The etchings would writhe and twist anytime he invoked magic, with specific spells having more unique effects. His sword burst forth small showers of golden leaves when he used smite. That sort of thing.

His 'inner world' while casting amounted to getting spiritually laid by his hawt archfey patron. Immensely pleasurable. When he fought, it was with an expression of unbridled joy.
 

Richards

Adventurer
Nothing quite so involved with my players, but my son once ran a human wizard with a parrot familiar. His magic missiles took the shape of the parrot's claws striking the wizard's enemies.

Johnathan
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
If you want to "play wizard" you just tell your dm that your character does something super cool. If you want to be a wizard, you begin by going to your component shelf and acquiring some bones.
component_shelf_small.jpg

Haha, I joke! Everyone knows you don't actually need the bones to record your spells! But they are comforting, so keep a few with you anyhow.

To scribe the spells, you need to begin with the formula appropriate to your casting system. I use Reticulata notation, so I use the Reticulata Formula: Script = %targets not self?% (school) |casting time| [requirements] !prime resonance (based on elemental effect, or school again if not distinct; and note that elemental mixtures are the reverse of compounds)! /balance A/ \balance B\ :range: #area of effect# <attack, save> {duration} &targets self?&

Then I consult my aspect chart:

aspects.JPG

And from there, I consult the appropriate tables and equations to determine the proper symbol for each aspect. What you might call Mage Armor, I call Abjurer's Armor as a useful mnemonic (since the resonant value is "j" and I enjoy alliteration).

linear.JPG

It is then a fairly straightforward matter to map the linear script on to a hexagram (around the outside, then in around the center).

abjurers armor.JPG


And you're done. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. All you had to do was dedicate your life to understanding the fundamental properties of the multiverse.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I am all for this as both player and DM. I often ask for descriptions, especially the first time something comes up like a new spell, or when something awesome happens. Note that I do this for martial characters as well, given them a chance to pose and give a description of their chain of moves.

Recently had my halfling bard hit 7th and get polymorph. He was legitimately the worst in the party when it comes to melee, dishing it out or taking it, but he was fearless (inspired from the halfling racial feature) he'd get into it often, with the rest of the party bailing him out without looking like they were doing so to save his feelings. Most of his spells were crowd control, he really wasn't a big damage dealer. Also, he had a thing that Hospitality was Sacred, part of his halfling upbringing. When NPCs offered us food or drink and others were worried about poison, he always accepted.

Well, as you expect from that run up, a powerful enemy posing as an ally tried to poison us. My halfling was okay, and started stalking toward them to do (minuscule) bodily harm. But while heading there he was intoning these really discordant notes. But with each step, it was like reality itself was changing to make those notes into a melody, twisting into a local new shape where this was beautiful but powerful music. By the time he finished stalking over, the music was triumphant and the twists of reality had turned him from a three and a half foot tall pipsqueak to a gargantuan size Giant Ape who then proceeded to Hulk Smash!

And that was the party's introduction to my polymorph spell.
 

Adamant

Explorer
The closest I have gotten to this is with my kobold sorcerer Ixen. He's pretty detailed in general, having been kicked out of his home during the famine referenced in the AL documentation for volo's guide. He has wings that unfortunately don't work until 14th level, but the main thing is whenever he uses magic you can see fire in his eyes, and really powerful spells(highest slot available OR 6th level and higher once I get them) make him burst into illusory flames for a brief period. It makes it really hard to hide and use spells, but practically speaking using a spell would give me away anyway. Other than that, AL doesn't really have that many descriptive players, although there are some funny ones.
 

Satyrn

Villager
I don't have an answer.

I'm at a point in the cycle of my gaming where the default flavor of the game is good enough and I just don't care to flesh it out, even if the default favor is non-existent.

But still, your Bladesong description is awesome!
 
Last edited:

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
[MENTION=6912801]BlivetWidget[/MENTION] Have you thought of putting together these for all the PHB spells and selling as PDF in DMs Guild?

These would make great handouts.

It is then a fairly straightforward matter to map the linear script on to a hexagram (around the outside, then in around the center).

View attachment 107436


And you're done. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. All you had to do was dedicate your life to understanding the fundamental properties of the multiverse.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
And now I wonder, what does your magic look like?
Depends on the game, campaign, character and group. Sometimes I don’t bother thinking about it because it won’t matter to anyone.

Other times I really get into it, and all of the magic a PC has goes through a certain lens. Whatever doesn’t fit, doesn’t get used, regardless of whether it’s “optimal” or not.
 
Last edited:

BlivetWidget

Explorer
@BlivetWidget Have you thought of putting together these for all the PHB spells and selling as PDF in DMs Guild?

These would make great handouts.

Thanks! It's not entirely out of the question, but it would require a different approach to what I'm doing now to be any kind of sensible for that number of spells. I automated the generation of linear spellscript (which is all I generally use), but I currently use PowerPoint with shapes and textboxes to get the 2D forms. Most automated ways of working with text don't support working with text boxes, unfortunately. I could potentially teach myself some pyautogui to get it done. But I think the most familiar approach would just be to use Pillow, though I would likely need to do a bit of fiddling to figure out exactly where all the rotated text bits go to line them up with the hexagram. Certainly doable in a day if I put my mind to it, I think.

But I'm not sure there would really be much demand for this level of intricacy. I think most people are less interested in a treatise on "fantasy chemistry" (currently I have about 25 pages of theory and diagrams to explain the system, though it could perhaps be distilled down to maybe 5 essential charts) and they would prefer to simply be told that a handful of completely random glyphs represent incredible arcane powers beyond their understanding.

In other words, I think most people are more interested in the "art" of playing wizard than the "science" of thinking like one.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I had a wizard who is old enough to not remember his real name He is called Master of Faerries (over a couple thousand) from an age in which there was a great purge and all the wizards hunted down, he has a background of being hunted by a vengeful rival but he knows not whom and it could be just mild paranoia left over from the earlier times.

His magic is described universally as little faerie spirits doing it for him. In fact many things he does including his great constitution is because faeries help him. They reabsorb into him or dive in front of attacks or help him move when he is fatigued. He does a spell to create a campsite they flamboyantly do it but only for a price they love fairy dust aka residuum ... he casts a spell "cloud of daggers" and it is they who stab the beast with their steely knives.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
As a DM I often ask my players to describe their own spells. For example, when of my players casted the Many Jaws spell, I asked him: "What do the jaws look like?". He them described them as looking like piranhas flying through the air. I then also asked him: "And are you summoning it from a nearby source of water?", and he described them as being summoned from a nearby river.

In my experience players love adding their own flavor to the look of a spell. They love describing what kind of gestures and incantations their character makes too.
This. This is excellent DMing, and a great tool for DMs. DMs do almost all of the narrative descriptions because they are the ones running the game world. But by doing this, it can often inspire players to feel like they are also contributing to the world (without having any mechanical impact to how the DM wants to run their games), and can help players get into the game better, rather than just waiting for the DM to describe everything themselves. Which needless to say can be a trap to a less than good session, especially if the DM has a creativity block going on at the moment.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
long before Bladesingers came out I had a wizard inspired by the whirling dervishes who was a Wind Dancer ie he was air themed and would 'dance' to cast spells. Things like shield was interpreted as the wind stirring around his body and obscuring mist was caused by kinking up dust from his dance. Featherfall and Flight were done by generating whirlwinds (still spinning) which I'd combine with lightning bolts from the static generated from the spin.
 

Imaculata

Explorer
Haha, I joke! Everyone knows you don't actually need the bones to record your spells! But they are comforting, so keep a few with you anyhow.

To scribe the spells, you need to begin with the formula appropriate to your casting system. I use Reticulata notation, so I use the Reticulata Formula: Script = %targets not self?% (school) |casting time| [requirements] !prime resonance (based on elemental effect, or school again if not distinct; and note that elemental mixtures are the reverse of compounds)! /balance A/ \balance B\ :range: #area of effect# <attack, save> {duration} &targets self?&

Then I consult my aspect chart:

And from there, I consult the appropriate tables and equations to determine the proper symbol for each aspect. What you might call Mage Armor, I call Abjurer's Armor as a useful mnemonic (since the resonant value is "j" and I enjoy alliteration).


It is then a fairly straightforward matter to map the linear script on to a hexagram (around the outside, then in around the center).

And you're done. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. All you had to do was dedicate your life to understanding the fundamental properties of the multiverse.

I didn't know you played 3rd edition too.

This. This is excellent DMing, and a great tool for DMs. DMs do almost all of the narrative descriptions because they are the ones running the game world. But by doing this, it can often inspire players to feel like they are also contributing to the world (without having any mechanical impact to how the DM wants to run their games), and can help players get into the game better, rather than just waiting for the DM to describe everything themselves. Which needless to say can be a trap to a less than good session, especially if the DM has a creativity block going on at the moment.
Thanks. In fact, this came up again in last night's session. One of my players plays a Druid, and he summoned an Earth Monolyth (which is basically a gargantuan elemental). I asked him to describe what it looks like, and he described it as a gigantic stone wolf. See, I would never have thought of that myself, but it gave a lot of extra flavor to the battle.
 
Last edited:

BlivetWidget

Explorer
@BlivetWidget Have you thought of putting together these for all the PHB spells and selling as PDF in DMs Guild?

These would make great handouts.
As soon as I started thinking of algorithmic solutions to the massive quantity of spells, I should have known you had me hooked (I can't resist a fun coding project). For anyone considering a similar project, I ended up just using the Python keyboard module. Everything else produced sub-par results. But by taking control of the keyboard, I can open up powerpoint directly and just duplicate slides and edit text boxes at ridiculous speeds. You just have to lay out your slide so the text boxes are in the right order (okay, you don't have to, but it saves you a lot of effort).

So here is what I'm picturing for each handout. There are three levels of difficulty.
Easy: use it as is, so you can read the spell name.
Medium: cut off the spell name, and use the Chart of Elemental Cyclicity to translate the first line (which is just the spell name transliterated into script) back into English.
Hard: don't hand out the Chart of Elemental Cyclicity, and just give charts explaining the hexagram. Now to figure out the spell, you have to look at the hexagram and back the spell out from its properties like level, school, range, casting time, etc.

Example below. I figure maybe there should also be versions with no background? Having never done anything DMs Guild related, I'll have to figure that system out myself. What sort of price would you feel is appropriate? Something in the dollar zone? Though this is the end result of uncountable hours of work developing and refining the system, it wasn't done with any commercial aims in mind.

spell_scroll_example.jpg
 

BlivetWidget

Explorer
PS - I've managed to navigate the dmsguild submittal process and uploaded the pack of them. I did all the PHB and XGE wizard spells, so 292 by my count! There are detailed instructions for the three levels of arcana enthusiasm, as well as the 292 spell scrolls both with and without a parchment background (in case you want to save toner for a hardcopy handout). The wife convinced me to put it in the $4.99 zone (for a 292 handouts, non-setting specific, reusable and with 3 different ways to use it), but price point thoughts are welcome as well.

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/282310/Wizard-Spell-Scrolls-Handouts-PHB-XGE
 
Last edited:

doctorbadwolf

Adventurer
I ran an introductory adventure (about halfway done, gonna play again soon) for my coworker, his wife, and had my wife as a ringer.

I asked him what his wizard's magic looks like, and he described his beard burning and smoldering, his staff end glowing with an inner fire at the top, and his Mage Armor is a heat shimmer like in the desert or a hot road, and his shield spell is a sheet of flame that forces attacks back.

Pretty rad for a guy who has never played any kind of RPG before.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I ran an introductory adventure (about halfway done, gonna play again soon) for my coworker, his wife, and had my wife as a ringer.

I asked him what his wizard's magic looks like, and he described his beard burning and smoldering, his staff end glowing with an inner fire at the top, and his Mage Armor is a heat shimmer like in the desert or a hot road, and his shield spell is a sheet of flame that forces attacks back.

Pretty rad for a guy who has never played any kind of RPG before.
Scary part: he’s running an Ice Mage...

(All that other stuff is an illusion. ;) )
 

Advertisement

Top