Magic systems, revisited

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I’ve been thinking a lot about different magical systems in RPGs.

I don’t particularly care for the Vancian fire-and-forget thing. I’m also not a huge fan of uses per day. I don’t have an issue with there being limits on magic use, but an absolute and regular limit seems very artificial to me.

Though some people like it, I think that damage based systems like Shadowrun (where you burn health for magical power) are just not fun. I don’t have a problem with it being a las resort option (that’s cool and evocative), but if the only way for me to use magic is to be a masochist… well… I won’t use it.

I’m also not a fan of mana point systems. I hate bookkeeping.

I’ve already discussed the possibility of making magic completely skill-based. I think this is better, but it still has some issues. The problems with this? For one, it begs to be min-maxed. A wizard with the right magic item will be a much better caster than an otherwise-better wizard. For another, well, it involves a lot of extra dice rolling.

That said, it might be the best option I can come up with…

I have, however, been musing on the idea of Reserve Feats as presented in the Complete Mage. I’m wondering how a system would look that expanded upon that. You could have spells that could be used at two (or more) different levels: a simple version that the wizard could use near-continuously and a more powerful version that taps into the wizard’s power store in some way.

Since I don’t want to use mana for this, I think I’d hybridize this with a skill-based system. You can cast the spell at the lower level without making a roll (cutting down on unnecessary die-rolling). If you want to cast the spell in a more powerful way, you need to roll… and this roll, maybe, could get progressively more difficult depending upon how many you’ve made since resting. If you succeed on the roll, great. If you fail… maybe you have a choice: either the spell fails or something bad happens (you take damage, you take an additional casting penalty for the rest of the day, the spell misfires, or whatever).



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