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Landfish

Magic Alternatives?

60 posts in this topic

What are the *MOST ORIGINAL* magic systems you have seen or imagined? I''m especially interested in systems that don''t limit spells with numbers, but rather create a balance that discourages spell overuse. Anyone?
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Well, one magic system I like is the one used in the CRPGs Natuk and Nahlakh ( http://www.proudft.com for SW versions). In those systems, every attempt to cast a spell takes strength and makes spellcasting more difficult, until in the end of a long battle the wizards/clerics are usually only capable of casting very simple spells. Failing in casting usually took even more strength (and once the strength was gone, it would start draining HPs). In those games, magic was also fairly weak compared to, say, FFs or AD&D games (at least, the gold box games - I haven''t played BG) and was meant more to support the fighters and weaken the enemy before contact. IMO it''s far better than mana-based systems.
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Personally, I prefer Betrayel at Krondor. Every spell you take drains your HP. Of course, this would take away the spell Heal, but sometimes you just have to compromise.
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I experimented once with that in a table-top rpg. My reason was that you were channelling the natural forces of the world through your own body... which had the added bonus of driving your character slowly insane.


It'' interesting that these systems *technically* let the player cast spells whenever he wants... but you''d be amazed how out of their way they will go to avoid using spells if thier sanity depends on it.
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I like the systems where magic is used the other spells go down..like you have to exercise those.
so you have to keep using real attacks not just magic
real attacks to keep yoru hp up...
and spells you have to exercise too.
of course most people would probably only do magic..and little hp..but make hp need to be exercised more.
sound good?
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Uh, say again? No offense, but I couldn''t understand that, and I''m a native speaker in english... Can you be a little clearer?
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I have been thinking this a little recently. Personally, I have been working to create a spell system that really encourages strategy and discovery. I think part of the problem with modern *fantasy* magic systems (disclaimer: there are bound to be exceptions, but this is in general) is that they lack a sense of mystery concerning magic. The sense of awe and mystery has left because magic systems explain and/or quantify everything (which is what computers are good at). In ancient times magic was a very strange and mysterious force that was to be feared and wasn''t completely understandable even to the magician!

I am considering using a system where there is a magical language that has to be put together piece by piece in order to create a spell. This way the player is not limited to a certain number of spells. The players could experiment with combining the pieces to create new spells and slowly discover the mysterious language of magic. Part of the effect of having a combination spell system is that a player needs time to cast a spell and also needs a clear head to remember how to create the spell (just like a real mage).

This system then, of course leaves the question of how do you control the level and complexity of spells being cast? One way is to assign a cost to each piece (or use some other formula to calculate the cost of a spell) and somehow subtract that cost from what a user is currently able to spend to cast a spell. The resource spent could be manna or health or strength or gold, etc. Another way is for a player to be required to have a necessary rune (or other item) to cast a piece of the spell. This way you can control how powerful of spell pieces that the player has by what runes they have. An idea I am still toying around with is to allow the players to cast any spell they want or know or, but they have a spell handling skill that determines the successfulness of casting spells. More complex spells cost more manna and have a tendency to backfire with creative results (not just the standard “The spell backfired and fizzled out or hit you instead” but rather “you just alerted all orcs within a square mile to your presence”, etc.). Of course there’s always the negative consequence of casting a spell, such as magic causes the mage to go crazy, blind, or even magic is an evil force that draws the attention of evil (think of the one ring from Tolkien).

Hope this helps give you some more ideas. I suggest going to a store that sells table-top RPG’s and thumbing through a few books to see how they handle magic, they sometimes can give good inspiration.

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Hmm.. how about sacrifices? Like reagents, only they could be a bit more bulky and rare (or common).

For example, food, animals, or (!) people.

THAT would be interesting.
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I know a guy who used the language thing in his mush. He literally designed a language that allowed the players to manipulate the Mush itself through a layer, then gave them one or two commands, but didn''t tell them what the commands would do!

When there was a syntax error, he had it generate gross consequences. Very good deterrent to magic overuse...

So here''s some food for thought: Sunraith is right, and I know why magic isn''t mysterious anymore. In the cases of most mythology, magic was RARE, UNQUANTIFED, and ALL POWERFUL! But if you have players using magic, it can''t be all powerful, cause that interrupts balance right?

Ideally, magic would be all powerful and impossible to come by. You could implement that pretty well in a single player, but never want to risk it in MMORGP. Unless, you institute countermagic, something i''ve rearely seen in games.
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What do you mean by countermagic, Landfish? A spell with opposite effect? Or an object to defeat those posessing such magic {like silver for werewolves, stakes for vampires,etc?}
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I know countermagick from White Wolf''s Mage: The Ascension; table-top RPG. In that system magic was completely open-ended (sadly, it can never be implemented in a computer game). But you could perform countermagick; if you had at least one point in each sphere of reality being affected by the opponant mage, you would see it coming (much as a martial artist can predict the moves of someone using a style that they know), and attempt to counter it.

There are many ways you could implement counter magick, but what it needs to do is allow for balance. Make it so that a moderately powerful magician of certain type can overcome a superior magician of another type.

Hence, you could make magic rare and all powerful, because if you needed to take out a god-like mage, you could go off and find the countermagick or something. It''s difficult to explain, because the M:TA system falls apart if you realy on controlled situations.
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I kinda like the Shadowrun approach to drain.

Whenever you use magic you take energy from some other plane(world, whatever) and form it into a pattern, channelling it through your body.

When u use more powerful spells more energy has to flow through your body, this means that magic has two nasty ends.

Concentrate too hard and you´ll get a nosebleed but trying to fry your enemies with a maxxed out lightning inferno will probably burn your hands to crisp in the process.



I´d also suggest using something different than fixed, predefined spells. Magic should be partially uncontrollable and definitely largely unresearched.
Let things go wrong from time to time.


PS: read Earnest Adams´ article on magic somewhere at

www.gamasutra.com
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Nazrix, I couldn''t have put it better than that post did. Everybody, if you can''t understand what I''m saying, READ THAT ARTICLE! Hell, read it if you do understand!

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Heh - Cool article

Just imagine - a starting party in D&D.

Fighter swings at the goblin - 1point of damage.
Wizard starts casting fireball.
Thief stabs at goblin - 2 points of damage.
Wizard - "ahhh, guys?"
Fighter swings at goblin - misses - "Yeah, what?"
Wizard (straining) - "We, ahhh, we might have a prob-"
- Huge ball of fire erupts from the ground, enveloping thief, fighter and goblin. Eventually burns out leaving nothing but charred corpses -
Wizard - "Never mind"



Regards,
WhiteWolf
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I gotta blatantly plug what i think are the two best magic systems around.
1.)SHADOWRUN, everytime you cast a spell it tires you out unless you make a successful test against it. BUT, as you increase the spell power, the drain becomes larger and harder to handle, to the point where you can pretty much just fall to the ground asleep(not good in the middle of a street brawl, lemme tell ya'').
and
2.)Wheel of Time, overlooked, but the way its done is interesting. None of this, magic is everywhere, it is a single force of power. Nahh, none of that, magic is woven(cast), using the 5 types of it(Spirit, Fire,Air,Earth,Water), the way you weave it and in what quantities determines what happens. BUT(gotta love the catches), the genders can''t draw from the same "type" of magic, Females have a generally more passive and seducing type, where to cast, they have to learn to surrender to the ''magic'' but if they begin to love weaving too much, they will draw TOO MUCH and burn them selves out(can''t cast anymore), or simply burn themselves into a toasty pillar.
Males, on the other hand, have the more aggressive and dominating side of the ''magic'', they have to fight every second they hold it or it will destroy them. Also, males go crazy from continual use of it.
Anyway, just answering the question


-Run_The_Shadows
-Run_The_Shadows@excite.com
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Thinking about wands, amulets, etc. these items could be created by casting a spell "through" an inert object.

For example:

If you get a stick or staff off the ground, you could cast, say, a fire spell through it. The stick would have a capacitance affect and make the spell stronger each time you use it. Different materials could work better with different spells. Perhaps some materials could even affect how the spell works. If you cast a fire spell through a diamond, the fire would be invisible and perhaps hotter and the enemy would walk right into it.

If you want to get complex, you could allow the user to create their own amulets by combining materials. Maybe it they buy a diamond from a store(invisible,hot fire), put it in a gold bracket (good magic conductor), and attach that to a stick(good magic capacitance), you could have a powerfull weapon. But you''d still have to practice with it before the staff became a good conductor of magic for that spell.

Also, working that way, you''d have to watch what you use for what. The diamond would be expensive and if you use it with the wood, it might be less usefull for other spells that don''t combine well with wood. If you dissasemble your staff to use the diamond for something else, the staff would loose it''s magical properties.

E:cb woof!
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quote:
Original post by Run_The_Shadows

2.)Wheel of Time, overlooked, but the way its done is interesting. None of this, magic is everywhere, it is a single force of power. Nahh, none of that, magic is woven(cast), using the 5 types of it(Spirit, Fire,Air,Earth,Water), the way you weave it and in what quantities determines what happens. BUT(gotta love the catches), the genders can't draw from the same "type" of magic, Females have a generally more passive and seducing type, where to cast, they have to learn to surrender to the 'magic' but if they begin to love weaving too much, they will draw TOO MUCH and burn them selves out(can't cast anymore), or simply burn themselves into a toasty pillar.
Males, on the other hand, have the more aggressive and dominating side of the 'magic', they have to fight every second they hold it or it will destroy them. Also, males go crazy from continual use of it.
Anyway, just answering the question



A few (thousand ) questions: How does that system work into the game? I haven't played WoT yet, so I'm curious. Is it just part of the back story or maybe a plot device? Or does it actually have an effect on the player? Also, can your character go crazy from using too much magic? How would they do that? And if you lost the magic powers, wouldn't that make the game virtually unprogresible? (I'm guessing that use of magic is probably neccasary to complete the game)


quote:
Original post by dog135

Thinking about wands, amulets, etc. these items could be created by casting a spell "through" an inert object.




Heh, thats how I was thinking of making the magic work in my own game. (Except for I hadn't really thought of how the material would effect the magic -- thats a really interesting idea)

--TheGoop

Edited by - TheGoop on May 30, 2000 1:39:13 PM
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I don''t understand why would someone get ''tired'' because of casting a spell?
In most games the hero finds books of magic,wands,scrolls and other stuff that give him the ability to cast different spells.So his magic power depends on the item he holds or he has read,and not directly on his body resources.After all the spell uses mostly mental powers and not physical.
I also agree that there should be mystery on magic powers.
I hate it when the hero just holds a book and he instantly posseses a spell.There should be some difficulty for someone to cast a spell and it should get easier to use by time.I mean when you gain a spell''s knowledge from a book,the first time you cast it the effects should not be outstanding due to lack of experience and/or training on this specific spell.The more times you use it the most effective it will be.
Also,about the casting limitations,i believe they should only affect your magic stamina(mana usually) and not your physical strength.
And finally,i may be wrong...
After all it is just my opinion
Voodoo4
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VooDoo4, that''s one reason I like my idea. When you try to cast a spell without a wand/staff/whatever the effect would be quite insignificant. A fire spell without using a wand would only do maybe 1 point of damage. Only through using the spell over and over can it become more powerfull.

I also think your "mana" level should be specific to the spell, not just over all. Although you should have an overall "learning curve" which increases the more spells you''re good at. With a higher "learning curve" you could start off a little more powerfull with a new spell and become more powerfull with it the more you use it. It''d be fun tieing in all the variables needed for a good magic program.

damage=learningCurve*spell.spellMana*currentWand.wandStrength(spell)

Or something like that.

Kind of makes me wish I was into RPGs. But I''m not. I''ll never use my ideas in a game so I''d be honored if someone else would.

E:cb woof!
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AAAAAAAAAHHHH! So much to write!

1. "Drain" occurs because forcing reality to bend by channeling mana through your body is EXTREMELY MENTALLY FATIGUING (in Shadowrun). R_T_S was a little bit off the mark when he said "fall asleep." I think he meant "fall unconcious." Does that make more sense? If you were playing in one of my games, you might also "fall insane."

2.About books, I have a badass Idea. What if finding the book simply gave the PLAYER access to reading it. They read the (cryptic) instructions, and must then literally read and understand them to cast the spell, thus involving the player in the magical process! Then you can make books very rare, shared and protected by certain magical guilds! So neat!

3. I want to correct myself before anyone else does. As much as I agree with the above-linked aritcle, there are many forms of magic that are RIGIDLY SCIENTIFIC, and quantified. Both Hermetic and Alchemical magic use numbers, tables, charts and all variety of mathematical forumlas in addition to mysticism to "achieve" the desired "results". It would certainly not be hard to implement these into a game system. Doing it WELL in the other hand...

4. That WoT system sounds pretty cool (just make sure no protesters mistake it for WTO! =p)And believe it or not, I have not problem with the gender bias. It has archetypal signifigance (Anima and Animus) which is VERY closely tied to magic (Jung did study alchemy, after all.) I will look into that game.

5. White Wolf, I hope you weren''t putting that scenario forth to discourage that idea. I thought that scene was GREAT, and if it ever happened in a game I was playing (tabletop or CRPG) I would be thoroughly entertained. Meanwhile, the important thing to recognize in lew of the article is this: What will the scene play like the NEXT time that mage wants to cast a fireball? Very different. You could completely remove the Manapoint limitation system on a power that scary to use. Also, mages are not likely to be that clueless about their mystical powers, but if they are, they should be made to suffer for it.

5. Dog, have you ever considered inverting your system? Rather than casting spells through items to make them magic, how about needing the item to channel the energy of the universe, and therefor alter it (see drain above). By that token, the truly powerful magicians would be the ones who channel magic the Shadowrun way, by being magic items themselves.

6. I really have a neat and original idea about magic systems, but I will have to wait till another day. This reply is long enough already.
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An idea for a magic system:

Magic is split up into various areas/spheres/fields. Each area has its own magical vocabulary that must be learned before you can use that area. This vocabulary could be in the form of runes or words, but either way the player will have to find a source to teach it to him (a book or teacher). Words in each vocabulary would probably be learned as a set, but they do not have to. It is the player’s responsibility to learn the new vocabularies, though the game may provide an interface where the player can assemble runes/words that they had previously written down.

The runes/words in each vocabulary would have set meanings. Results of the spell cast should be based on the rune/word used and its position in the syntax; every combination of words does not need to be assigned a meaning, just the components. For example: a rune meaning ‘cause’ followed by one meaning ‘blast of fire’ followed by one meaning ‘tree’. The program will recognize that the ‘cause’ verb needs two more words following it, the first an effect and the second an object (it may help to think of verbs as functions taking arguments). ‘blast of fire’ causes the object to take damage equal to some formula and to make the screen glow red. ‘tree’ in a text based game is an object in the room, in a graphical game it will likely be replaced with a click on the target.

If the player puts words together in a nonsensical way, the game should produce a random effect based on the words (and therefore areas) used.

Finally, every time the player uses runes/words from a certain area two things happen, the first is that he temporarily loses some mana in that area (more mana in an area can be gained through continued use). The second is that he permanently experiences some secondary effect (which is either positive or negative depending on the area) – the loss of agility, added vigor, or senility are examples. Helpful, golden-rule-touting areas should give positive effects; destructive areas should be similarly destructive to the player. Both of these effects should be proportionate to the magnitude of the spell cast. The player should be able to control this with additional words such as ‘small’ or ‘gargantuan’.
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Landfish,

First let me see say that it is annoying seeing that an addition has been made to the game design forum, only to find that the only new posts are in your threads. But then, hey - I post in your threads, so I shouldn''t be annoyed
Second - My little scenario was agreeing with the article. Magic should be dangerous and mystical. Remember that magicians were traditionally regarded with fear and loathing in the eyes of the general populace. Parties should think twice about travelling with a mage.
The scenario was a demonstration of what could happen if the magician rolled a 1 on a d20 for success of the spell, then a 1 on the d20 to see the outcome of the failure "You lose control of the spell" looks a darn sight more dangerous and dramatic than "Your spell fizzles and dies".

Regards,
WhiteWolf
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I''m working on a deterministic magic system, using some sort of rune language, with rudimentary grammar and different runes available from different sources. I think this would be really fun and empowering for a magic user in my game, but I think it actually removes the mystery and wonder which is nice to have. Perhaps however, if the system is versatile and powerful enough, you could create spells so complex that even other magic users see it and think "hey, how on earth did you do that??"

Just as a side point: I have no idea how well the magic system is described in the Wheel of Time game, but there is a lot of detail in the books the game is based on. In fact, the magic is pretty much the central theme. Shame the series deteriorates into a sad soap opera the more books you read...
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The rune thing -

in shadowrun creating magic is forming energy along very complex and multidimensional patterns, every type of magic having it´s own colors and flavours (some creature can "smell" magic for instance"), making it possible to recognize the signature of the caster in an enchantment.

How about extending the rune system so far as to let each player put his/her spells together from a large library of spell components (ex: Offence, Defensive; physical or mental, area of effect, duration, power level, manifestation....)
As you increase in level or find new books you can add new components.

Or make them all available but don´t label them yet. Make them look somewhat alike ("this looks like a bigger version of the physical component of my fireball, i´ll just try and put this into the frame for my area effect sleeping spell ....
(sizzle, magician looks at his hands, puzzled, sudden eruption of fire all over, 10x10m area of forest+magician burnt to ashes)

This would require some kind of graphical representation..

Then the player could also learn finished spells and try to dissect them.

And never let a spellcast be perfect. Make a "to hit" variable and the more precise the caster hits the spell, the more it looks like what he intenden. Increasing difficulty with level, of course (that´s why those high-level demon summonings often tend to go critically wrong)


And (Shadowrun) don´t just let them fall unconscious, but do them physical damage as well.
If you take control over another creature channelling the energy through your head you might get a nosebleed.
Unleash an unpractised level 20 electricity attack on your foes expect your hands to be turned into something thats between medium and well done.





"Always geek the mage first"
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