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A system of Magic/Spell Creation

7 posts in this topic

In a sandbox fantasy game I've wanted to include a system of spell making which allows the player to create new spells. I felt things like effect/duration sliders seemed to take one out of the experience alittle so I had the follow idea.

Spells are made up of runes, these runes can be found around the world and when combined in a certain order create a new spell. Each rune has a property of a spell attached to it and runes come under three (iterative) categories.

The core element of the spell, what it does, be it light things on fire, heal, put them to sleep.

How the spell is delivered, does it shot out as a fireball, rain down from the heavens, etc.

Makes the spell last longer, increases the potency of the effect.

All spells need an effect and most need an execution. The effects are further split into the six [b]Arts [/b]of magic which a player invests their points into, Arcane, Dark, Elemental, Mystical, Primal, Spiritual. So I'm trying to think of runes mostly for effects and which art they fall under, so I was hoping you guys could give me some ideas.


[b]Arcane (Magic of time and space)[/b]
Warp: Target instantly travels to a nearby location.
Teleport: Target can be moved to a location chosen on the map.
Portal: Has two functions, sets a location for a portal or creates a portal linking to a previously set location.

[b]Dark ([/b][b]Magic of death and evil)[/b]
Raise Undead: Creates a servile undead creature (may have many sub varieties like Raise Zombie, Raise Skeleton).
Necromancy: Cast on a corpse creates a subservient spirit that can directly aid or bestow information.
Health Drain: Targets health is transferred to the caster.
Mana Drain: Targets mana is transferred to the caster.
Curse: Target becomes hindered/debuffed in some way.
Summoning: Summons a demonic creature to fight for the caster (again may have varieties of demons).

[b]Elemental (Magic of Fire, Ice and Thunder) [/b][i]Maybe earth, water and wind too.[/i]
Fire: Creates damaging flames.
Cold: Creates damaging ice.
Lightning: Creates damaging electricity.

[b]Mystic (Magic of the Mind)[/b]
Sleep: Target falls asleep until awoken.
Berserk: Target will turn on foe in a frenzied attack, but will turn on the caster once finished with them.
Peace: Target loses its aggressive tendencies for the time being.
Charm: Target instantly likes you and will be more responsive in conversation and such, but may become angry when effect wears off.
Control: Target is at the casters command and will act as an obedient ally as long as the effect lasts.
Paralyze: Target can't move until effects wear off.
Phantasm: A ghostly duplicate of the target is created who will help the caster.

[b]Primal (Magic of the Wild)[/b]
Entangle: Creates entangling thorny growth.
Ambrosia: Creates a small bush of healing fruit.
Swarm: A magical swarm of insects chases after enemies of the caster.
Shape-shift: Caster/Target becomes a half man(woman) half animal creature (varieties may include wolf, bear, panther and possibly rat, hawk, shark and others).
Polymorph: Caster chooses an initial 'animal' target which is unaffected, the next target of the spell is transformed into that animal for a time.

[b]Spiritual (Magic of the Gods)[/b]
Heal: Target recovers health.
Bless: Target becomes enhanced/buffed.
Exorcism: Undead/Demon targets are harmed/debuffed.

No Rune: Effect occurs to an adjacent target or caster themselves. (e.g. Healing hand type spell, melee shock)
Projectile: Effect travels a direct path until it collides with a target. (e.g. bolt of fire)
Instant: Effect occurs instantaneously on the target in the casters sights. (e.g. freezing a target on the spot)
Falling: Effect falls from the sky towards a target. (e.g. a rain of fire)
Wave: Effect spreads out as it travels (shotgun effect).
Beam: Effect travels along a direct path passing through targets till it reaches the extent of its range (e.g. dragon breath/flamethrower).
Pillar: Effect forms a column rising to the sky.
Wall: Effect forms a horizontal wall.
Aura: Effect all within a proximity to caster.
Resist: Target becomes protected from effect.
Imbue: Targets items will produce the effect (e.g. sword with electricity, arrows have an ice effect).

Empower: Effect is more potent.
Constance: Effects duration is extended.
Blast: Effect spreads over an area from where it connects on target.
Multiple: Spell happens several times (e.g. volley of ice shards)
Seek: Spell will veer towards its target.
Infect: The effect will spread to others nearby.

So yes, some are more filled out than others so any ideas for spell effects would be great. Edited by All Names Taken

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Your lists contain a lot of incompatibilities and silly or unintended implied spells which you do not appear to deal with adequately.
For example, the "Ambrosia" effect, far from being a nice and flavorful mass healing spell, can become:[list]
[*]a brutal turn-to-wood attack (instantly lethal?) with "Imbue" execution (and optionally the "Infect" enhancement to lignify multiple people) [*]a dangerous bombardment of bushes with Falling and Multiple [*]a straightforward (but even sillier) attack with Projectile and Seek [*]completely useless with the Instant execution (the bush disappears before anyone can pick the healing fruit).[/list]

I think three approaches could give more reasonable results:[list=1]
[*]Expand your combinations of spell attributes into gigantic tables and think hard of each entry, which could be forbidden (with or without sarcastic remarks for attempting something stupid), a specific ad-hoc spell (possibly adjusted to make sense or nerfed or enhanced relative to the obvious expectations), or sometimes a spell built from reusable components. More or less the Nethack approach: "the dev team thinks of everything".
[*]Design a set of sensible and balanced spells, then assign rune combinations to them in the role of magic formulas or component lists. A meaningful rune language could let the players guess spells before they are officially taught to them and collect runes with an idea of their purpose, which should be fun (but not a spell customization system).
[*]Design spells with customization facets that make sense, without allowing arbitrary runes. For example the Ambrosia bush can be altered to become a bigger bush, a hedge (wall) of any length, multiple bushes or hedges; it can have any duration (including permanent), but it cannot be instantaneous and short durations suck; it can bear more, or more potent, healing fruit; it can be generalized to a bush of magical fruit that do something other than healing; and its power, which should be the starting point to determine its cost, is measured by the aggregate amount of healing it provides, which translates to counting fruit.
[/list] Edited by LorenzoGatti

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Sorry yes, certain combinations will be forbidden (or possibly result in a 'magical backlash' when one attempts to create them).

[quote name='Krohm' timestamp='1355300667' post='5009750']
What is the product of necromancy, wall, multiple? I have difficulty understanding what configurations are valid.

Good point (and apologies if this was a repetitive topic.

[quote name='LorenzoGatti' timestamp='1355302981' post='5009754'][list]
[*]a brutal turn-to-wood attack (instantly lethal?) with "Imbue" execution (and optionally the "Infect" enhancement to lignify multiple people)

Actually that one would just turn their weapon into a bush, bushes grow where arrows land maybe? :P ... okay yeah that one probably will be an invalid combination.

[*]a dangerous bombardment of bushes with Falling and Multiple

Although amusing I imagine it more creating projectiles of green energy that fall to the ground where bushes than grow.

[*]a straightforward (but even sillier) attack with Projectile and Seek

Ditto, green energy flies out and if it hits a valid target (say, ground) it grows a bush. Oops, missed the seek part, yeah thats would be another spell that just doesn't combine.

[*]completely useless with the Instant execution (the bush disappears before anyone can pick the healing fruit).

Supposedly, depending how quickly the 'bush' lasts. Or it can be cast towards an ally who collects the fruit.

But yes I admit my post was abit slap-dash and the system in mind is very much just rough on paper and some spell ideas will likely be cut. As mentioned a table of valid combinations is planned but I was hoping to collect a few more ideas on spell effects to build such a table and determine the visual of spells (as obviously I have very different visuals from what others take from my post). Edited by All Names Taken

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[quote name='Krohm' timestamp='1355300667' post='5009750']
basic problem: they are too high level to produce any consistent/predictable behavior.
FYI, "spell systems" are already there and are industry standard to a certain degree. They're called scripting languages and they are used to script weapons or spells.
+1, this is a good summary.

Study some of the spell systems available, even if there's the illusion of a generic system, most spells are more or less hardcoded and as player you need to find the correct [i]rune[/i] combination to cast the spell.

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The problem with spell creation systems is balance and scope. If your game has AI, then it becomes increasingly difficult to program AI to procedurally create spells. Limited combinations is fine, but this is not a reliable way to safe guard against overpowered spells. My advice? Download morrowind (buy it, don't pirate), try the spell creation system and abuse it. Also, check out Ars Magicka, they have a table top magic making system that actually works.

All in all, good luck. There is no one rule that says something cannot work. Give it your best shot, find the flaws, and morph your game accordingly.

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Ars Magica has a rather informal spell creation system, good for creative players who want to have fun figuring out and discussing whether an effect fits a certain combination of Forms and Techniques; it can only help indirectly, by providing a sound but almost trivial basic theory of magic.
Third and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, with its rather tight ontology and its attention to power level and loopholes, is a much more useful inspiration for spells in a computer game.

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Topia Online lets users script their own spells/abilities with Javascript. Here is an example:

Of course, all of the functions/properties are only executed if the caster has the neccessary magic power and reagents. We've balanced this by adding costs to invoking any of the skills and powers.

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