Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Different Approach to Magic

DISCLAIMER: I'm not sure I would ever do something like this. It's just an idea I'm batting around.

So, I'm still in my gaming funk, unable to settle my mind on a system long enough to get anything done. While I'm in this state I do have the occasional idea, I just can't stay focused long enough to develop it to any degree. Which is where this idea comes in.

I was thinking about some of the references to "formulas" in the First Fantasy Campaign. I'm not entirely sure how Mr. Arneson implemented this idea. Thinking about it led me to the idea that spells aren't cast in the traditional sense. Instead, they are cast from scrolls. Magic-users scribe their spells onto scrolls, to be used later. My premise is that casting takes too long to be done in the context of the game session. The whys are undetermined, but could be that magic is too powerful to be used in more than small, carefully controlled amounts. Whatever. The spell can be released from the scroll in a single round, though, since the spell and magic to power it are crafted into the scroll.

One of the limiting factors would be language. The scrolls would have to be written in one of several specific, and dead, languages. I'm thinking eight languages because it is a decent enough number to work with, and easy enough to randomize. That would give an extra, and more immediate, meaning to the Bonus Languages column under Intelligence.

Potions would get a similar treatment, allowing a different sort of thing. Maybe some spells are better suited, or even restricted, to one medium or another.

Obviously, I don't have the mechanical details very well thought out at this point. This is an idea I like, though, and this doldrum I am in has made it difficult to work up enough enthusiasm to post about anything. So, here it is, an idea in the rough. Hopefully I can put some meat on the bones as the week goes on.


  1. Would you allow Cantrips to be used as memorized spells ( 'small, carefully controlled amounts' )? Then anything 1st level and up either a scroll or potion. The separation between the medium could be who or what it affects. Spells that affect the caster are potions (e.g.Spider Climb, Invisibility, Fly) Spells that affect others scrolls (e.g. Fireball, Knock Hold Person). More powerful spells could require a ritual read from the spellbook (e.g. Wish, Reincarnate).

    Some gray areas-Charm Person could be a potion to make you more charming, a scroll that affects the targets mind or even a potion the target must drink.
    Contingency spells (Featherfall is the only example I can think of right now) could be a potion that once drunk lasts (say a day/level of M-U) and then goes off at will.

    Hope those ideas help with the development, however you choose to make things work.

    1. Thanks for all the ideas. I'm still letting it simmer right now and haven't even considered those points. Thanks for bringing them up. So far, my thoughts are that casters must maintain a spellbook because it contains the necessary workings and recipes to create the scrolls and potions. I'm not trying to completely abandon Vancian magic, just reimagine it with a twist. So, I want to keep spellbooks.