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Magic systems that are fun - Suggestions?

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Magic systems that are fun After playing a lot of different RPGs I'm starting to get tired of all the boring magic systems. It seems that most magic users are only considered multi purpose assault rifles with different buttons for different effects - now where's the creativity and magic in that? In games like Diablo and Neverwinter Nights you get armour and weapons with different random effects which make content creation easier and it also makes it more fun to play since you don't end up getting the same items over and over again. But this is not the case when using magic. I'm currently on the second chapter of Neverwinter Nights and I'm getting bored with the magic - so I started to wonder how much more work it would be to just add a bit more fun into the magic system? You could add a couple of variables that the magic user can change during battle to adjust strength, mana drain and effects. Another simple way to do it would be to create random spells just like any other random item or you could go hog wild and create an immersive magic system that makes it all seem a bit more like magic. This post is really a two-part question: Have you played a CRPG with an innovative magic system? -Please describe the system Do you have any suggestions for a more creative and versatile magic system? -Just adding another way to fire a preset spell (for instance gesture based spell casting) isn’t really good enough unless it adds something else to the mix. I'd like to hear suggestions on interface, implementation and story concepts. When evaluating/commenting a system try to think about the following:
  • Replayability
  • Creative freedom
  • Ease of use
  • Feeling of magic

Resume

This is a short resume of some of the information in this thread. It should give you and overview of some of the topics, but read the whole thread for more in depth discussions. I expect to write a more complete text regarding this thread when I get the time. In the meantime feel free to comment this resume if there's anything you want added, removed or changed. Links from the post David Allen's magic system BIG spells in mmorpg's Fire, Ice, Earth and Lightning

Spell Creation

Fixed spells Every magic user has a set of spells he finds, can choose from or receives when levelling up. The spells are all predefined by the game designers. This is the most basic type of spell system one can have and is perhaps also the most used. Random spells Every magic user has a set of spells he finds, can choose from or receives when levelling up. These spells are generated randomly by the game system using a set of rules. It's basically the same type of system that many RPGs use for generation of random items, but used for spells instead. Grammar skeleton The spell caster has basically a set of sentences where he fills in the blanks (for example by clicking at the sources/targets in turn or by dragging the elements which will fill the blanks onto their position in the sentence). This is a similar system to how actions are performed in many point-and-click adventure games. Grammar A spell is built up using a simple language with strict semantics. This is a similar system to how early adventure games with a text based interface handled actions though it might be implemented as a sequence of button clicks in stead of a text interface. The simplest type of this system has a fixed set of words which each control an aspect of the spell. It can on the other hand be as complex as a complete programming language. Accumulative Spells are built up by different pieces each adding or removing effects from the total effect pool. Adjustable Spells are usually represented as fixed types but might be adjusted with respect to duration, targets, type etc.

Limiting spell count and power

When designing a spell system one must consider ways to limit the amount and power of spells usable by a single person. In some systems magic users need some place to draw their energy from - either an internal or an external source in others they're limited by the number of spells they're able to cast. Counter Each spell has a cost and the spell caster has a counter which represents how much spell power he has. The counter is usually represented by one of these things:
  • Mana - An abstract energy that usually only magic users posses.
  • Stamina - The spell caster is being worn out by using magic (even though this solution is normally just another way of saying "mana" since the stamina isn’t really used for much else).
  • Hitpoints - The spell caster literally drains his life force to be able to use magic.
  • Soulpower - The spell caster gains souls/spiritual power by killing enemies which he can use as power for magic casting.
Preparing The spell caster has to prepare/memorize spells and decide which spells he’s going to use the night before he’s actually using it. Limited number The spell caster can only cast a limited amount of spells per day – this count is usually related to spell level. Binding A spell must be bound to a character or an item to be usable. Draining The spell caster must drain either their spell power or spells from other items or creatures.

Additional

Random ideas that don't fit into any other categories are presented here. Misfire Magic is considered by many as chaotic by nature and might therefore misfire or backfire resulting in anything from the wizard's wand turning into a bouquet of flowers to the end of the world by sudden implosion. Accumulation Each spell thrown within a certain period of time will empower the same or similar spells. Winds of magic Each spell is associated with a certain wind of magic or alignment (hereby referred to as wind). Each spell cast of a certain wind will empower further spells of the same wind but at the same time decrease the power of spells of the opposite wind. Summoning The magic user is basically a summoner and his spells are channeled through a summoned creature. [Edited by - e-u-l-o-g-y on September 13, 2006 1:55:32 AM]

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I have already posted it here, but the thread is similar, so here you go :
http://www.wesnoth.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=10638

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i dont know exactly but here's what i think. D&D pretty much made magic in fantasy settings. Now in one of their books they talk about contingencies for when magic messes up. I say write some (and by this i mean quite extensive) contingencies for when the spell goes awry. i.e. you cast magic missiles or whatever and instead of the desired affect a patch of grass 10'x 10' appears. Or your hat changes or the color of your armor. The only way to be effective as "magical" is to really sit down with some people and toss out some ideas, but you need at least 100 effects to really be "magical"

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Yvanhoe
I'll check out the link.

tldalton1622
That would add something to the mix though just a little. There are still a limited amount of spells designed by the game designers.

What I'm thinking about is another way of thinking about magic systems (or at least a way to make them a bit better). In Mage (by Whitewolf) you can do pretty much everything you're able to imagine, but in DND the only thing you're really able to do is push a button (and that means the pen-and-paper RPG as well). There's nothing magical about "I cast a magic missile". Missfire effects might make it a bit more interesting but it's still the same simple system.

Edit:
I didn't mean to sound negative.. It's a good idea to add some misfire into the mix since magic should/could be chaotic by nature.

[Edited by - e-u-l-o-g-y on September 7, 2006 4:20:13 AM]

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Some time ago I was ranting in this forum about an element-based magic system. The caster would have access to a box of grammar skeletons, such as "Transform X into Y", "Create X", "Destroy X", "Make X transform Y into Z", "Transform X into Y at Z"...

Then, the player would collect symbols from its environment to cast the spell. Water nearby would generate water symbols, earth to earth, air to air, fire to fire (with a waiting time that corresponds to the rarity). Other elements (death, ghost, fury, fear, ...) would also exist.

For exemple, fighting a werewolf, you would have access to air/earth (from the environment), moon/fury/blood (from the werewolf) and fire (from your amulet of fire). Then, you could cast Transform [Fury] into [Fire] at [Blood], because fire/fury are fairly close together the casting would be efficient. If you had chosen to ignite a squid instead, neither water nor slime would provide an efficient transformation into Fire, so you'd have reduced efficiency.

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ToohrVyk
Sounds interesting.. I've also thought about adding the elements from the environment as components for spells. Would you use mana as well as trigger-energy or how would you limit the power of and amount of spells one is able to cast? Do you have any suggestions to interface (I guess this is a simple point and click for the different elements) and would the items be used up/drained?

One thing I was thinking about was to create an alchemist class for this exact purpose. A magic user that might combine, split and in general use the materials around him to perform magic. There would be a mana cost as a sort of triggering mechanism (to kick off the magical reaction) and the components would be used up.

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I also liked the magic in Loom. "Just" casting spell with a musical phrase, but each one had an effect on the evironment. But of course Loom is not a RPG game...

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Yvanhoe
I haven't played loom. In which way did it affect the environment? Was it an additional effect? random? I guess it was still just a matter of pushing a button to cast the spells?

The Fire, Ice, Earth and Lightning thread had some interesting information. I especially liked Fournicolas talk about lines of energy.

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I have played quite a few games with excelent magic skills.

I think it was called "Legends" (in the amiga 500 way long time ago). in this game you learned magic by collecting runes. Then you would activate your spell screen and create spells.

so if you add rune A (lets say heals), rune B (lets say flies forward), rune C (does fire damage) you would get a spell that heals you then launches a small fire ball.
It was even nicer because to create a spell you had to mix runes with ingredients. I really liked it. Adding 10 runes of healing would strengthen healing and etc.
I was planning to use this on my own game so telling you is making me feel jealous already... but whatever, One must learn to share. By the way if you do implement it let me take a peek, please.

Also I played some game recently (forgot the name) where you casted spells by drawing them with the mouse... so twirl with dash would create some fire magic spell. That was also quite nice.

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BloodWarrior
It seems like an interesting system. Adding alot of different runes would give you the possibility of many different combinations. Perhaps the runes could have multiple different effects and were created using a method similar to item creation in diablo. Lets take your example, but by adding spell failure possibility on one of the runes, and perhaps "cannot be combined with X" on another you'd get the same versatility but with a bit more strategy when deciding which runes to use.

I'll let you know if I use this idea ;)

[Edited by - e-u-l-o-g-y on September 7, 2006 7:57:11 AM]

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