Tuesday, July 18, 2017

12 Magic Systems

My inability to settle and properly design a magic system for my modern OSR stuff has made my mind go wild at the thoughts of alternate ideas for magic beyond the spell slot vancian magic. Here's 12 of them, all of which at one point crossed my mind as an interesting idea in the past.

Sorcerer, ripping through the Threshold. From [2]
Magic Systems
[1] Magic is called High Arcanism and its practitioners are named Wizard and Mage. It requires physical energy, equal to and excess of the change and action it does. Mages pay for this energy cost with their own body, causing their stores of fat and muscle to be burned to create the energy they need. Mages tend to be pale, and take cold damage from hypothermia if they cast spells too often; the heat used up as cost for the spell. With a special ritual, all the life force can be drawn out from a tree into one branch to create a wand or staff, giving a battery of power. The life force of humans and other living things can also be drawn out into their skulls or shrunken heads.

Your Wizard tower is probably hooked up to a wind or water wheel, powering some endless arcane experiment or process. You would need a lightning strike to convert lead into gold. Your summoned creatures only have a set store of energy they can use once created, and ancient summons of yonder years stand in absolute stillness, conserving every last drop of energy they can for decades like statues, until opportunity arrises.

[2] Magic is a black art and called Sorcery. It's practitioners are Sorcerers. You have a direct link with the Netherrealm, a black world beneath and behind the real world. When souls die, their morality, happiness, and love is sent upwards to the heavens and everything left over it sent down to the black realm, where spirit beasts feast upon them. To be inducted as a Sorcerer, one must have had a near death experience. Being buried alive is a common method for young apprentices.

Sorcerers can press the link between them and the Nether to bring forth its elements; smokeless fire that burns flesh but not wood, endless echoing words that draw panic to all that hear them, glowing symbols that control the minds of those who look upon them and of course the spirit beasts themselves. Every time a Sorcerer uses this power they must roll and avoid rolling under the number of spent Threshold points. Rolling poorly allows for unintended Netherrealm elements to slip into our world, and rolling really poorly sucks the Sorcerer there, trapped for a set period of time.

[3] Magic is the power of life and nature, the Arts of the Woad. It's practitioners are called Druid if male and Witch if female. Practitioners may not use metal tools or weaponry, as it is considered offensive to nature. To press this magic requires knowledge of woods, herbs, and animal bones, the brewing of potions, and the rites of blood sacrifice. Most practitioners have several bewitched people to aid them in the collection and performance of their rites.

Witches and Druids can subtly control fate through ritual involving the elements and stars. Wild animals can be befriended and farm animals driven to a frothing rage with the proper spells. Brewing potions to cure most aliments as well as poison anything, even the land or air, is possible. Blood sacrifice is the arts of healing and regeneration, or even raising the dead, and it important to create more lasting boons and curses, the blood the price to work such force.

[4] Magic is just D&D Magic and its practitioners are called Magic Users. However you need to sleep to prepare spells; ½ hour for a first level spell, 1 hours for a 2nd level spell, 2 hours for a 3rd and so on. Magic Users prepare spells in their dreams, and the moment they go to sleep they lose all the spells they had prepared from the following day.

Copious use of stimulants to stay awake or depressants to stay asleep for as long as possible are key to any magic user's career. The more powerful magic users hibernate for days, weeks, months, even centuries at a time to create incredible magic. The Sleep spell is the most fearsome of all and if it even exists it is surely one of the most highly guarded spells to ever be created.

[5] Magic is Shamanism and its practitioners are called Shaman or Dreamer. Every spirit of nature is a 100% unique element of nature, but are extremely specific. Thundercloud that scares the birds and Fresh blood on pure white snow are two examples of nature spirit. Each human being soul is also a spirit, which is taking a break from being a spirit to being alive. Humans that live too long go senile and mindless, and spirits who stay dead too long become maleficent and arrogant. Killing elderly immortal humans and forcing ancient spirits into the bodies of babies are both considered righteous actions to keep the balance.

Shamans choose a spirit animal and can, while sleeping, invade the dreams of other people. Shamans can also meditate to speak to spirits, and ask for favors relating to the spirits domain. Shamans will either offer their spirit animal to serve them for a while (disabling their dream abilities), offer the sacrifice of food or wealth, or perform some other function. If you learn the true name (their spirit name) of a living person, you can instead force them to obey your wishes in the same way you can bribe a spirit, but a living person has no way to resist. Discovering your own spirit name gives you supernatural powers over your elements and domains of nature, but is perilous as another shaman could invade your dreams and find out your name to control you.

[6] Magic is just tricks, highly skilled actions done so well to be beyond what most people would be considered possible. It's practitioners are just called Magicians or Tricksters. This magic is blatently supernatural and impossible, but with enough practice it is so. All magicians are themed after real world stage magicians, except with tricks being real.

Tricksters can be cut into pieces without harm, putting themselves back together. They can make small objects disappear from their person or appear on another person, and conjure forth common objects and animals that could fit through the brim of their hat or sleeve. The less the 'audience' or enemies believe it is possible for them to do this, the harder it gets.

[7] Magic is bribing the invisible cogs of the universe. It's practitioners are called supplicants, judges, or sometimes don't have a name. Everybody has an invisible force watching them, imps that catalog every sin and tiny angels that record every good deed and grace. All are filed to the central office of heaven, which merits out punishments and blessings in the afterlife. Not only this, but invisible creatures of fate, logic, reason, nature, and all others also exist to keep things in check.

Magic is bribing, dominating, and finding the loopholes of how everything works and getting these cogs of the machine to exploit it. For example if you sneak a single coin out of a bag that has 30 coins without a recorder spirit noticing, then when you open the bag it will have 30 coins, plus the one you stole in your pocket. Magic scrolls are just warrants that allow sudden and spectacular change, only given to angels but can be stolen or bribed as the workers of the cosmic office are very unhappy with the difficulty of their job and poor pay.

[8] Magic is 100% genetic and only subhuman freaks can perform it. It's practitioners are usually just called Freaks, or more politely Hermits. Due to the result of breeding humans with demons, fairies, unicorns, dragons, ogres, or some other magical creature the resulting child appears human with some spooky features and a air of unease.

Casting spells and doing magic puts the hermit at risk of becoming more and more like their unnatural parent. Doing too much will cause a minor permanent feature, like a tail or unnatural eyes, to sprout. If continued the freak will morph in a half human half monster being and be an outcast, unable to ever be accepted in society again and lose almost all of their sanity as their mind splits.

[9] Magic is a balance of two cosmic forces; Yapu and Tapu. It's practitioners are called Witchdoctors. Yapu is the positive force of the sun, creation, sex, and food. Tapu is the negative force of the moon, destruction, isolation, and war. All sickness in the body and mind is caused by an imbalance of these two forces. Every living thing has a balance of the forces when healthy, but stretching one or the other far enough will create interesting effects despite negative repercussions in the unbalanced one.

Witchdoctors can prescribe fasting, isolation, and war dances to the warriors of the tribe to make them extremely fearsome in battle, but they will sleep during the day and be miserable. They can also ask people to refrain from negative thoughts and night-related activities to make them have hands and songs that heal, but they will be unable to take anything seriously or be able to defend themselves. Yapu and Tapu amulets can provide these bonuses with more control, allowing the wearer to be imbued with the primal force within his or her amulet when needed instead of changing their lifestyle.

[10] Magic is artifice, the creation of magic items. It's practitioners are called Enchanters or Artificers. There are no such thing as active or cast 'spells', but merely items with magic powers. The ability to craft these items is an expensive but doable skill for anyone with the intelligence to understand the proper methods of creating and maintaining these items.

Instead of spells per day, you bring along magic items to your adventure. Items crafted by novice artificers have limits uses and restrictions; magic boots that allow the wearer to jump to the top of a house but come undone after 1d6 uses, the leather snapping from the strain. Magic soaps that are so slippery can be put on the ground as a trap, but once used it is impossible to pick it back up again. Greater Artificers can actually create permanent items, but have to be fed with gold, blood, or contain the spirit of powerful beings.

[11] Magic is incantation of words of power, the living and breathing form of divinity. It's practitioners are called Orators or Speakers. Each spoken word of spell sentence forms together to create a powerful magical effect. Those who learn magic go through years of taking vows of silence, abandoning normal speaking to further immerse themselves in the chants and structure of the words of power. Normal people who learn the words and speak them often unleash unintentional magical effects and greatly harm themselves doing it, as they do not have the training or innate power to speak magic.

You must speak words together in order to create magic. The first word of every sentence is usually the force or action the magic is trying to accomplish, and on its own it can only create a tiny spurt of magic. Additional words add effects, range, context, adjectives, and additional elements to the cast spell. The maximum number of words you can speak in a magic sentence is your level. For example, speaking the words for 'Fire', 'Sphere', and 'Distance' will launch a fireball.

[12] Magic is the art of the human body, perfected. It's practitioners are called Disciples or Monks. Magic is inherently a part of life, and to master ones own physical shell for the soul is to master the magic of this shell. Most live in secluded communes, harsh dojos, or as traveling ascetic. All of whom are greatly respected by locals due to their harsh living and discipline.

Monks, beyond being incredibly physically strong and fast, have eliminated many of the human weaknesses. Their supernatural abilities are even more incredible; by channeling the heat within themselves some can breath fire. Others can inhale and exhale a dust devil or great gust of wind. Their eyes can see through thin fabrics if they so desire, and some can heal others by touching them. Each tradition has different abilities they nurture in their spiritual seekers.

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