Wednesday, 19 November 2014

P6 Dark Fantasy - Magic Is Limited

Gary Goldman as Combustion Man!

So, to make a Dark Fantasy game, magic can't be the be-all-end-all that it becomes in other games. It comes with costs, extra mechanics, and the chance that it could go tits up at any moment. There's a host of ways I could do it, but I'm going to utilise mechanics from other D20-ish products to ease the amount of work involved - after all, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then outright theft should be, like, way better, right?

I want to strike a balance between making magic a rare, difficult thing, and making it a somewhat viable choice for a PC to specialise in. Its a challenge, sure, but I'm willing to give it a bash.

WFRP is the archetypal "don't fuck with magic" system - its hard to attain, difficult to use, and if you don't use it correctly, you might get anything from a runny nose to exploding into a shower of gore and demons. However, the system relies on a series of die rolls that would be... awkward to transfer to Pathfinder. Some have tried, but it would be a little too weird. Plus, its rather intimately tied to the setting, so unless I want to adventure in the Old World, its a no.

Call of Cthulhu has an interesting variant, inversely tying Magic
Pictured: Average CoC Wizard
to Sanity - the more you know, the less functional you become. While this suits a darker game, I'd prefer the players to find such a system optional, rather than required - similar to Dark Sun's Defiling magic, which is way better and easier, but kills the planet slowly as you use it. The choice to sacrifice sanity of power should be a choice, not hard baked into the system. Makes things a little too grimdark. It does, however, give a starting point for a system... And ties the Insanity system into the game more than just as a penalty to adventuring.

The Black Company RPG has a very unusual system, based off of other Green Ronin products (True Sorcery, for example) which allows for a massive amount of flexibility - it's skill based, you can construct every spell from the ground up, even combine spells, and do just about anything. The problem is, it takes a huge amount of system mastery to get anything apporaching a reasonable useful spell, and recreating classic spells (even ones of limited utility) means bumping the DCs required to cast the spell to some pretty ridiculous levels. Its a really awesome system, but as I'm looking to make things a little easier, its just too much for me.

The Thieves World setting book does have a different, more limited magic system that's compatible with the greater D20 system, and it looks like a pretty good bet for me. It relies on extended spellcasting checks, the local magic levels, and a few other factors. There are ways around the limited nature of the system, but they require preperation, resources and time - all the factors that allow clever players to feel useful, and allow everyone to contribute. Just the way magic should be, in my opinion - a tool for the party, not just one player.

Hopefully, I can tie this into a Sanity/Madness system, or perhaps a Corruption mechanic (Hell, maybe both!), to make magic useful, but dangerous in large amounts. I'll post up the tweaks and hacks for it over the next few weeks, as I get more time to do so.

Next up - Magic Items!

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