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This text is 1997 Jonathan Tweet, and was first posted to the (then) Everway Discussion List.


Here's yet another idea for how to provide more structure to EVERWAY's magic system. (Why do I come back to this topic? Mostly because I need to nail down what the top-level mages of Rose Peak can do so I can frame the actions of the heroes accordingly. If I'm going to lay a lot of groundwork as to what these mages can do, I'd like it to be work I can re-use. Being able to re-use the groundwork for mages everywhere in my campaigns would make it worth doing a lot of work.)

The format is simple: Define, say, two hundred representative spells and rank each by element and level. Now let a mage cast any spell if their Magic and element both at least match the spell's level.

A "mature" mage (one whose Magic score equals their highest element) would simply be able to cast spells according to their element scores. "I've got 3-Water, so I can cast level 1, 2, or 3 Water spells."

Now give the mage a specialty. Let's say "Spirits." A mage can cast +1 level spells when the spells touch on their specialty. "I've got 3-Water, so I can cast level 3 Water spells, or level 4 Water spells that deal with spirits."

Let the player invent one new spell within their specialty for each level of Magic the mage can cast. A 5-Magic mage would have six new spells, one for each level 1 through 6.

Now define in general terms what it means to cast "max" spells (at the limit of the mage's ability), "sub" spells (1 level lower), and "min" spells (more than 1 level lower). For example, off the top of my head:

  • Max: Draining. Fair chance of backfire in stressful circumstances, plus always a chance of an unexpected result (that is, draw a fortune card).

  • Sub: Tiring if repeated. Some chance of backfire in stressful circumstances.

  • Min: Only unpredictable or tiring in exceptional circumstances.

Comments:

Even gamemasters who want their players to invent their own systems could use this format as a guideline. Player could use it to get a feel for what their mages are supposed to be able to do, and gamemasters could use it for adjudicated, say, whether the border town probably does or does not have a mage capable of ousting the disease spirit that has latched onto an ailing hero.

The system rewards better rounded mages since more even element scores means a greater range of spells. (The system will still, however, favor the specialist, since each jump in a level represents at least a doubling in power. Better to be twice as powerful in what you intend to do a lot and half as powerful in something you don't intend to do often.)

Assume that these spells aren't the only spells mages learn, but they represent a standard range of training and ability. Mages would be able to do ad hoc, unusual spells for unusual situations, though probably with a max of -1 level (to represent lack of familiarity with the feat attempted).

By differentiating among top-level and sub-level spells, the player and GM have a better idea of how much magic a mage can cast (that is, for which spells are likely to drain the mage). The mage has an incentive to use sub or min spells if they can get away with it, since they're more predictable. This pattern makes using max spells more exciting, as they're reserved for when they're needed.

Does this mean that you have to carry around a spell list for the hundred or so spells your mage can cast? No. I've seen a system like this work before (spontaneous magic in Ars Magica). It does mean that a player unfamiliar with magic will need to refer to the spell lists from time to time, but once you know the max you can do, it's easy to reverse engineer down to sub and min levels.

- Jonathan

========================================================================= Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997 21:43:07 -0400 Reply-To: Everway Discussion List <EVERWAY-L@ORACLE.WIZARDS.COM> Sender: Everway Discussion List <EVERWAY-L@ORACLE.WIZARDS.COM> From: Rich Collins <rigerco@MINDSPRING.COM> Subject: Re: Magic System Format

At 11:28 AM 7/14/97 -0400, you wrote:

>The format is simple: Define, say, two hundred representative spells and rank >each by element and level. Now let a mage cast any spell if their Magic and >element both at least match the spell's level. >

The fist questions that come to me are...

1) what is the element & magic score of the top mage in Rose Peak? 2) would magic/spells still be rated on a 1-10 scale? 3) how would a character beginning the game on the 20 pt system learn those better spell levels? If we're still tied to the no element increase system, doesn't this also mean that the mage will never get better?

It's the classic bill of rights situation. Give the vague outline and people want details. Give details and people question the fine lines.

I've been thinking that there is a way to co opt the ars magic system into Everway (and dumping the latin while we're at it!). It would work something like taking the game's descriptors for the elements and using them to build a spell effect. The strength of the spell would be the total of the elements used. Different schools would train in the use of certain elemental combination styles.

Obviously, I haven't thought this through all the way. I'll leave it for the public square to dissemble.

-rich ========================================================================= Date: Tue, 15 Jul 1997 11:27:53 -0400 Reply-To: Everway Discussion List <EVERWAY-L@ORACLE.WIZARDS.COM> Sender: Everway Discussion List <EVERWAY-L@ORACLE.WIZARDS.COM> From: Jonathan Tweet <JoT?@AOL.COM> Subject: Re: Magic System Floormat

Rich-

>>>The fist questions that come to me are...

%div >1) what is the element & magic score of the top mage in Rose Peak? apply=div%<

I'd say the biggest in-house mages are 6, and there are a few of them, probably at least one in each of the three schools (Light, Wind, and Rain). There's a 7 loosely associated with Rose Peak, but he or she is usually off doing whatever it is that keeps legendary mages interested in life. (The Playing Guide puts 6 at "best in a realm," 7 at "best in a continent," and 8 at "best on a sphere.")

Assume element scores are 6 in one element and 2s, 3s, and even 4s in others. (Four is higher than a beginning PC can have with 6 Magic/6 element, but figure that these folks have figured out some way of boosting their abilities.)

%div >2) would magic/spells still be rated on a 1-10 scale? apply=div%<

As-is in EVERWAY.

>>>3) how would a character beginning the game on the 20 pt system learn those better spell levels? If we're still tied to the no element increase system, doesn't this also mean that the mage will never get better?<<<

As-is in EVERWAY. It's not "no element increase," it's "no standard, default, wide road with clear markers to element increase."

>>>It's the classic bill of rights situation. Give the vague outline and people want details. Give details and people question the fine lines.<<<

Tell me about it.

>>>I've been thinking that there is a way to co opt the ars magic system into Everway (and dumping the latin while we're at it!). It would work something like taking the game's descriptors for the elements and using them to build a spell effect. The strength of the spell would be the total of the elements used. Different schools would train in the use of certain elemental combination styles.<<<

If it worked, I'd be happy with that. As I've hinted before, in some ways any magic system short of ArM?'s is a compromise.

-Jonathan ========================================================================= Date: Wed, 30 Jul 1997 11:25:24 -0400 Reply-To: Everway Discussion List <EVERWAY-L@ORACLE.WIZARDS.COM> Sender: Everway Discussion List <EVERWAY-L@ORACLE.WIZARDS.COM> From: Jonathan Tweet <JoT?@AOL.COM> Subject: Re: Our Magic-like Magic System

Jean-Sebastien Dube, et al-

It doesn't seem impossible that one could mimic ArM? pretty closely, with each spell requiring a technique element (what you're doing) and a form element (what you do it to).

For techniques-- Air: control Water: accept Fire: change Earth: sustain

For forms in the inanimate world, everything's made up of the four elements, so that's a cinch. For the animate world, you've got-- Air: mind Water: spirit Fire: spark Earth: flesh (Consider "spark" to be the animating energy. A "sleep" spell would drain the spark. A "berserk" spell would boost it.)

You probably want spell power to run off the average or sum of the two elements involved, with one's Magic score as an upper limit.

-Jonathan

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