Monday, October 4, 2010

Practicing Arcane Magic

In my addled mind I can picture the typical arcane spell caster.  He is not a young man, but he is not ancient either.  He has wrinkles around his eyes since he has had to spend a lot of time in in poor light studying.  His movements and words are precise as he has learned the consequence of an improper gesture or phrase.  He may be keenly perceptive or almost absent minded except where it concerns his area of study, whether it be the forces of reality, the natural world or the arena of the mind.  His power is not granted to him, it comes from his will to understand and his ability to hold onto his mind in this understanding.  He may be a good humored fellow, but he won't joke about magic.  Magic is serious business.

I like to think there's a reason that powerful mages don't often run roughshod over the world - it's because magic is dangerous stuff and if they don't eventually screw it up (consider the primary cause of mass wasting in mountain chains is not erosion...) they usually go crazy.  Giving up on Vancian magic does not mean that you have to neuter the magic of a spell system.  Yes a lot of this relies on the campaign setting, however in the rules I wanted to make sure that there was some reflection of this - so there is always a dice roll for casting a spell.  Along with a dice roll comes a critical hit/fumble table as well.

Also a personal peeve of mine;
Whenever I have someone look at Beacon (or Microlite) one of the first comments is "I don't like that magic uses up your hit points.  I think that will make players not want to cast spells."

I just don't understand this comment because having a fixed number of daily spell slots will also make players not want to use spells (especially once they have used all their daily slots up).  Here's a clip from a email I sent to doubtful friend of mine (who shall remain nameless for now!)
Figure that you are a mage with a STR of 13 and you get a 4 on your <hp> roll so you have 17 Hp which is pretty average.  A first level spell costs 3hp to cast and cantrips like the light spell cost 1 so at level 1 out the gate you can cast light 3 times, magic missile and 2 sleep spells (1+1+1+3+3+3=12) and still have 5hp left over before you pass out.  If you get to 0hp you still have 13 STR before you die.  If there was a real emergency you still can cast one first level and one cantrip and let the heavy carry you back to town and you get all your HP back after a good 8 hour rest.

That's way better than old school d&d where you would have one sleep spell per day*.
A Beacon mage will generally have more spells available to cast than their d&d counterpart, as well as be more useful when not spell casting due to the more flexible skill system.  Some of those spell might not work,  there's a small chance they may work at double or even triple levels of power or they might even backfire and scorch your MIND.

SO you get more spells my apprentice - but they will come at a price!  Mu-hahah<cough>haha

*and probably 2 HP --- in your face!


  1. I concur completely, for what it is worth, and strongly agree with using HPs to fuel spells. I believe that most of the people that I personally have found that don't like it are the ones that equate HPs with physical health as opposed to scrapes, winded, rocked, etc.

    "I Hit!", to me isn't actually putting steel to flesh. I may have to modify the wording for this in my future M20 release.

    Again, thanks for sharing your incites,

  2. I love the m20 magic system, for just the reasons you list. And for similar reasons, I also have that 5% chance of a spectacular backfire every time a spell gets used. In fact, I like backfires so much I've made spells a little cheaper (2 hp per level, min 1 hp) to encourage their use (also because I run a high-magic world). I've also taken a leaf from Zak, of Playing D&D With Porn Stars, by allowing casters to use spells above the level they could normally access, but with a 50% chance of a backfire, a rule I also use for experimental spells that the PCs create themselves.

  3. I used a couple novel magic systems in my old home-brew and they worked pretty well. I am trying to keep magic very d&d like so that the compatibility with 3rd party materials is high but experimental spells or alternate spell mechanics is something I would like to figure out how to include without making the core rules bloat. Maybe I'll add this in a companion setting book.