Which game has your favorite magic system?

aramis erak

Legend
There was one I heard about that I thought was flavorful, but please forgive me if I get details wrong as I never played it. It was one of the WHFRP systems later than whatever was out in the early 90s (the last time I played). Magic was a chaotic and corruptive force. You made a dice pool to see if you succeeded, but you didn't have to roll your maximum dice. This was because any doubles would manifest that chaos, and less dice meant less chance of corruption. I thought that was nifty from how it tied into the lore and from a game perspective. Don't know anything about the actual system though, just that penalty mechanic.
WFRP 2E & Dark Heresy both use that mode.
Both are percentile driven.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
So what I'm curious about is magic systems in other games. How does magic work in the TTRPGs you've played? Which systems do you really like? Which haven't worked for you?


Mage: The Ascension's magic system is simultaneously the worst, and best. The campaigns of Mage I have played have been the most fun and interesting magic use I have had in my entire gaming career. But, I doubt I could recapture that experience unless the GM decided to move back from California.
 



A lot of good suggestions in here.

Personally I'd second Earthdawn.

It was beautifully worked into the world and was something you could discuss in-game without going meta. Even things like levels were in-game magical terms.

I don't know why, but relatively few RPGs bother to do this in any real way. It's mystifying, really. Any RPG could match their world and their magic system, could make their system use terminology and concepts that the characters could use. It's not even hard to do. But the vast majority of magic systems are almost extrinsic to their settings - that very much includes D&D and most variants. Some settings make varying levels of effort to try and make D&D magic not extrinsic, but partly because D&D has been through so many editions, and the settings persist, this isn't very effective. And it's kind of sad, because when the fiction and mechanics align really well, you get something incredibly special. Something many generally-good RPGs don't have!

It's something that still happens to - the magic system seems bolted on to a game, rather than truly being part of the game and setting. Some others are in a middle-ground, where it's partially worked-in, but not really.

Importantly with Earthdawn too, all the adventurers used the magic, which lifted the idiotic burden of "martial vs magic" which D&D and many others have chosen to nigh-eternally torture themselves with, usually achieving nothing but damaging their suspension of disbelief and playability.

And by making it part of the world, you think of stuff, or easy uses for magic, of obvious human things, that most games just neglect because their magic is all about combat or summoning or violence - even though in human history and the imagination magic tends not to be about those things.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
Personally I'd second Earthdawn.
FASA was very good at integrating magic and setting - Shadowrun also does this beautifully. All their settings are lovely!

Oddly for a company that started off publishing Traveler adventures, they were never good at math. Shadowrun, Battletech, Crimson Skies - all had lousy math. I think Earthdawn was slightly better at math, but it was fiddly to the point of being unplayable. All IMHO of course!
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
FASA was very good at integrating magic and setting - Shadowrun also does this beautifully. All their settings are lovely!

Oddly for a company that started off publishing Traveler adventures, they were never good at math. Shadowrun, Battletech, Crimson Skies - all had lousy math. I think Earthdawn was slightly better at math, but it was fiddly to the point of being unplayable. All IMHO of course!
Earthdawn was very very swingy; the Step progressions were logical, but strange things happened as your dice got larger. Rolling small dice, you could expect them to explode and get some crazy numbers, but once you were rolling, say, d20+d6, there were lots of moments where you felt decidedly less superheroic, lol.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Shadowdark (and, to a lesser extent, Five Torches Deep)

You don't choose spells on a daily basis; you know all the spells you know. But you have to make an ability check to cast, and if you fail you lose that spell for the day. (In FTD you lose all spells of that level for the day.). Roll a nat 1 and roll on a Mishap table (in addition to normal failure).
 

Aldarc

Legend
Shadowdark (and, to a lesser extent, Five Torches Deep)

You don't choose spells on a daily basis; you know all the spells you know. But you have to make an ability check to cast, and if you fail you lose that spell for the day. (In FTD you lose all spells of that level for the day.). Roll a nat 1 and roll on a Mishap table (in addition to normal failure).
That was one design choice where Shadowdark lost me.
 

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