Battle Magic

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Lemnoc
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Battle Magic

Postby Lemnoc » Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:10 pm

Page 226 of the new core rules seems to suggest one might run a campaign without Common Magic. Common Magic has always struck me as being very intimate with Glorantha, where the world is alight with magic and is a non-arcane art accessible to everyone. In other settings Common Magic might indeed be less common.

But I wonder how balanced the game is for play without providing players easy access to the famous offensive and defensive Common Magic spells (ie, the Battle Magic). Obviously some magical creatures can’t be struck without some enchantment like Bladesharp—but moreso, I also wonder about even routine combats run without advantage of spells that can help burst through armor and offset numbers.

In the battle example provided, it seems pretty clear the players might have been overwhelmed without weapon enchantments/enhancements. Yes?

I would appreciate some commentary, analysis and even gameplay advice about this. Is there a special caution about keeping magic rare and beyond the casual beginning knowledge of players? I don't want to run campaigns that are lethal by imbalance.
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Dan True
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Dan True » Sat Dec 03, 2011 10:29 pm

It does tend to make sorcery more powerful. Without easy access to countermagic, Sorcery becomes very powerful indeed as a debuffer. Without common magic easily accessible, a Sorcerer rarely needs to buff magnitude, which frres up MP for other stuff, plus some spells become a gamewinner. If your team is hit by a Hinder that cannot be dispelled, that fight is almost over right there.
If the villains of your story uses Sorcery, this then becomes a great not-easily-overcome obstacle. If your players use Sorcery, it can run out of hands quickly if you are nto careful.

Divine magic is inherently powerful, and not affected much by Countermagic, as it generally has a magnitude of 4+ even for starting divine casters. So the only power change to divine magic without common magic, is that the rest of the world will be even more your lessers in magical-power than with common magic.


Overall I think that you can run a game without common magic, but still access to Sorcery and Divine magic (Deus Vult is just that actually). It does however mean that both magic systems should be far less common than in Glorantha, and the avaliability of magic-boosting stuff (like power crystals) should be very, very low..

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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Prime_Evil » Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:49 am

I'm working on a variant where common magic exists but the spell list is closer to the kind of thing that you might expect from medieval folk magic. In my homebrew campaign, this is the kind of magic practiced by the village wise woman - its concerns are focused on the kind of things that are important to a rural community (eg: ensuring the fertility of crops, reducing the dangers of childbirth, protecting yourself against malicious witchcraft, etc).

Unfortunately, the common magic system in the rulebook places a strong emphasis on combat-related spells. This is an artefact from earlier editions of Runequest, but it is easy to address.

My solution has been to tightly control the availability of certain spells. Most of these common magic spells listed in the rulebook exist in my campaign, but many of them are not available to starting characters - they need to be learned during play. I have edited the cultural spell list to reflect these assumptions. Thus, it is far easier for a starting character to pick up a spell that wards off the evil eye or a spell that wins the love of the village beauty than a combat-oriented spell like Bladesharp. The adventurer can always learn Bladesharp later, but it's not something that they are likely to pick up during their adolescence in a feudal society. It's reasonable to allow widespread access to spells countermagic because a fear of hostile magic was common in pre-modern societies. Think in terms of peasant superstition and it becomes obvious which spells should be widespread and which should not - Repair is OK, but Hand of Death is probably rare. (Incidentally, because I am running a campaign with a pseudo-Arthurian flavour, I also rename some of the spells to reflect the setting...Glamour becomes Faerie Glamour, Multimissile becomes Archer's Gift, etc)

If you want to get fancy, you can allow non-human cultures to have access to certain common magic spells that are not widespread in human societies. For example, elven characters might have access to Multimissile and Speedart, while Dwarves might have access to Bludgeon and Fanatacism. Alternatively, you might rule that certain spells can only be taught by certain organisations - for example, what if Bladesharp is a secret technique only taught to members of an order of rangers who guard the borders of the kingdom against the monsters that roam the wilderlands?

I feel that this is a better solution than removing common magic entirely or reducing its availability. It allows common magic to be pervasive without dominating the game. It also accurately reflects the assumptions of fantasy fiction and folklore. Every community should have a hedge wizard or wise woman, but these individuals should not be combat gods!
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Asyme » Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:06 pm

Nice idea. In my present game there's a type of low magic that is more widely available but it's deliberately useless - it's the dregs of spells that have somehow slipped out of the hands of the temples which tend to monopolize spirits, spells and divine magics/summons.

So it's users tend to be charlatans with the occasional wise woman, witch or hedge sorcerer. Most spells tend to sound very Vancian, and deliberately do nothing useful. E.g.:

Hrask's Impertinent Weasel: (a small ghostly rodent appears and gestures rudely at the target before vanishing)

Vladamir's Unpredictable Summons to Nourishment: (either a fork, spoon or blunt table knife appears in front of the caster).

Tophia's Blasphemous Toad (a tiny purple toad appears near the ears of a slumbering target and whispers 'youuurrrrr goooooddddd issss deaddddddd' in tiny burping croaks before vanishing)

Hidden among these are a few fertility spells, the evil eye and so on - but they're rare.
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Prime_Evil » Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:40 pm

I love the whimsical feel of these spells - the influence of Jack Vance is obvious.

I wonder if anybody would be interested in seeing a compilation of new common magic spells?
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Asyme » Mon Dec 05, 2011 11:39 pm

Vance is a wonderful starting point for magic systems - not for the D+D aspects but for the flavour. One of my personal pet peeves about most rpg magic is it takes the majestic and turns it into something like fireball or bladesharp - e.g. a collection of tactical stats.

The first thing I did with the mages in my group is make sure their spirits had names and personalities. One priest has a particularly hostile daemon bound into a tattoo that curses him constantly and laughs at his fumbles (he taunts it in turn). Likewise the death priestess in the group has a major spirit which is a collection of dead cat souls, appearing as a huge shadow like thousands of felines, all dark save for gleaming eyes. Any time she passes a dead cat, the spirit sort of sucks them up and adds it to it's mass.

Same thing with core spells. I made a list of the essentials each temple would teach (such as healing, emotional control, touch damage and ranged damage) and then made variants for each god.

So the damage spell for the aforementioned death god is:

The Parasitic Host (touch - the victim erupts in maggots where the caster touches them. Crits can also cause terror) or the Chattering Teeth of Lord Golgoth (horrible bites appear over the victim)

while the counterpart at the temple of the goddess of intellect and magic is:

Abysmal Forbearance (the merest touch of the caster is equivalbent to a heavy blow) and The Unveiling of the Third Eye (a glowing light/eye appears in the casters head from which a beam smites the target. Victims report suffering a mental attack of chaotic mad visions from their past on crits)

all are pretty much just a few points of damage but give the caster much more 'oomph'. Otherwise they might as well just use a bow....
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby DamonJynx » Tue Dec 06, 2011 4:26 am

Wow. You guys should write this stuff and send it in to Mongoose. Some of that sounds bloody fantastic!
Glory is the reward of valour.

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Dan True
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Dan True » Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:47 am

DamonJynx wrote:Wow. You guys should write this stuff and send it in to Mongoose. Some of that sounds bloody fantastic!
To say the least!
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Prime_Evil » Tue Dec 06, 2011 12:15 pm

Personally, I love Tophia's Blasphemous Toad! I wonder if it could cause problems for users of divine magic?

I've been toying with the idea of doing a magic book since I heard that Legend was going OGL and have started making some notes on the things that I hope to cover. My aim would be to cover some of the fantasy tropes that are currently absent from the system. Although I am currently involved a pseudo-Arthurian setting, I have been working on a swords & sorcery variant with a magic system influenced by the works of Clark Ashton Smith.
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Asyme » Tue Dec 06, 2011 2:14 pm

Thanks :) The low magic stuff was one of those things that was meant to be a joke, but the players loved it and quickly become a way of defining non temple mages. I suspect the toad depends on the god... but I can picture an irate charlatan sicking one of those on a slumbering and actually decent priest/mage in a useless 'ahahhaaaaa!' sort of way.

I'd definitely be interested in a guide to magic for certain types of settings though - for years Runequest had always covered a few setting types well (low fantasy, moorcock and gloranthan) but it would be nice to see more like the eberron conversion, high magic, arthurian and so on. As a starter set a lot of D+D converts are going to want to go down a dungeon and hit things (and scream when they realize it's deadly ;) )

My only real addition to spells is a concentration on flavour. I dislike running a world where all magic is the same. It feels mathematical, like formula that's identical if it comes from a necromancer or a holy priest. Which seems wrong.

What I did with my present game is make a list of 12 or so common spells which all the churches knew. Stuff like healing, detection, warding, damage and the like then adapted them per church.

Using a Legend spell as an example:

Bladesharp (it makes your blade do more damage). I instantly chucked out fireblade, bludgeon and pierce. Basically ever weapon enhancement went into this one spell. Then filtered it by temple and aded flavour and additional effects as plausible. So:

Bladesharp for the temple of Ignecrex, lord of flame, war and final endings is The Pattern of Combustible Wrath. The Caster's eyes begin to bleed (a totally unrelated effect linked to the nature of the god), and any bladed weapon held by them bursts into a deep crimson flame that spirals up and down the blade, flickering unusually slowly, doing random damage per magnitude (fire seems to equal randomness).

Bladesharp for the Temple of Rebellum, Lord of Battles, Storms and the First Snow is The Bleak Covenant. The Air in the room chills noticeably as the spell takes hold to the point of breath suddenly becoming visible (flavour). Hoarfrost creeps down the caster's weapon causing frostbite and shattering the skin of anything it touches. (fixed damage per magnitude). The weapon becomes more vulnerable to breaking while under the effects of the spell, losing 2 hit points, but is capable of freezing small areas of liquid that it touches (minor effect/flavour that seems to suit the nature of the spell and be kind of cool - besides, the god prefers people using heavy armour so they should be blocking with a shield like real warriors....).

Lastly in the hands of a non martial deity:

Bladesharp for the temple of Libarca, goddess of magic, secrets and insanity is the The Agency of Shallow Contagion. A giggle is heard in the air, and the folds of the caster's clothing suddenly seem angular and intertwined. Any weapon they hold turns black and begins to flicker and turn as transparent and insubstantial as the thick black smoke from an incense pyre (flavour - the angular folds are a reference to the goddess' symbol of a labyrinth). While the effect is active, the weapon effectively bends along the angles of reality, ignoring a point of armour for each level of magnitude. The spell is rumoured to be twisted by the priests of the goddess, and has a chance on a critical fumble or success to implant a temporary insanity in the caster or their target (I just stuck that in because I felt the nature of the goddess deserved it).

Now... in all three cases I'm not really sure one is exactly better than another one (the third is probably the weakest in many cases) but I know if there are three priests using their own variants in my party, them shouting 'FOR MY LORD REBELLUM I INVOKE THE BLEAK COVENANT!' while their friends invoke their own versions has to be a good thing. Looking at other gods I can imagine the nature of what stuff is on the blade or its appearance would vary from god to god. The death gods might have wraiths swirl around their blades while the weapons of nature or love gods might drip venom. Main thing is they made the character go 'oooh... I'm unique as is my cult!'.
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DamonJynx
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby DamonJynx » Tue Dec 06, 2011 8:51 pm

Asyme wrote:stuff...
Man, that is very good. I actually think the last one is best due to ignoring armour points per magnitude. Other may very well think differently. Well done. Please share more of this stuff...
Glory is the reward of valour.

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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Mankcam » Tue Dec 06, 2011 10:45 pm

For many years I have GM'd the Gloranthan setting in a manner similar to how Prime_Evil described in his first reply, describing the bulk of Common Magic as being more in the way of cantrips and folk-lore practices. I never allowed any of the beginning PCs to have more than a 1pt Magnitude Spell per every 10 yrs of previous background experience, and I greatly restricted the ones they chose.

I made up a heap of minor cantrips for whatever was necessary, according to the cult and ethnic background of the character. I preferred these low magic spells to have a purely narrative effect, but if game mechanics were necessary these spells had a game mechanic of each level of Magnitude providing either a +/- 10% skill chance, or a +/- 05% skill chance with a +/- 1pt. These appeared to be the baseline measures for most of the other Common Magic spells in the book so I wanted to be consistent.

The most important thing was not only the restricted Magnitude level, but the actual nature of the spells which the common folk (beginning player-characters) had access to; basically I wouldn't allow any kind of battle-orientated magic or anything that had a dramatic use. Essentially the common folk had access to simple folk charms, such as wards to keep pests away from crops; practices to help remain orientated in the wilderness; prayers to enhance mundane skill use such as crafts (eg: cooking prayers, blessings to prevent food spoilage, ensuring accuracy with mapmaking etc); or blessings to enhance skill use for specific reasons (eg: prayers to keep rodents out of the hearth would be a +10% or +20% to Animal Lore rolls, prayers to locate edible plants in the wilderness would provide a +10% or +20% to Plant Lore, etc).

So I kept the power level described in the rule books, but just created tons of minor use abilities out of them. This way the player-characters could strive to learn more useful magic in game play, and the nature of everyone having non-essential magic charms just added so much flavour to the setting.

You can easily restrict access to the more useful or higher-magnitude magic if you don't want them to debuff the setting, but having a whole lot of minor magic really adds flavour, even if you are doing a semi-realistic setting as it gives an in-game effect to many historical cultural folk-practices (although I would restrict these to Magnitude 1 if playing in a semi-historical setting, and rationalize the game mechanic of the folk-practice as providing an emotional, psychological, or spiritual effect).

Yes it would be great to have a compilation of a whole heap of folk techniques which could be examples of Common Magic at low-magnitude, I think that would be a brilliant addition to the rules.

I think Asyme hit the nail on the head in regards to trappings. I think the way to go with all magic is this approach actually, just trim it down to a few basic effects, then provide heaps of different examples using descriptions and trappings, encouraging GMs to make unique variants for their own games. Now that is how magic should be.

By the way, I love some of the descriptions and imagery provided by Asyme's colourful examples, really great stuff!
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Mankcam » Thu Dec 08, 2011 5:17 am

Another way of doing low magic is to give the common folk (and beginning pcs) a choice of religious/mythological figures within the same pantheon to which the characters provide some level of private worship - depending upon the setting, this could range from one patron, through to 1d4 or 1d6 patrons.

So if you are playing Glorantha, for example, you could choose patron gods from the Solar patheon, the Storm pantheon, etc. If you were playing in a semi-historical medieval setting you could choose from a number of saints recognized by The Church. You get the picture.

Then you choose a relevant skill for knowledge of religious or folk practices. Common Magic or Theology would be the likely skills, but perhaps you could even make up a new skill called 'Folk Magic' if it suits the setting better.

In any case, the game mechanic is the same - Mundane skills can have the Folk Magic skill as a complimentary bonus if it is a skill that would be relevant to one of their patron saints.

This way there is no MP expenditure, and no lengthy spellcasting in narrative terms, and it is one dice roll in game terms. This can be useful to describe religious or folk practices in every day mundane skill use.

For example, involving prayers to a saint associated with healing and purity whilst tending to the sick could add a complimentary bonus to First Aid or Medicine. Another example could be regular adherence to puritan beliefs may provide a complimentary bonus to Persistance rolls, etc etc.

The general idea is to involve the 'magical' into the 'mundane', without granting too many overt benefits. As I have previously said, the concept could be presented as a cultural practice that provides emotional or psychological benefits to the player-characters, rather than any actual magical ability.

Just food for thought...
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby Asyme » Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:29 pm

I'll dredge out an example pdf at some point of how I built magic specifically for a cult if that's of interest to anyone. Nowhere near it at the minute though!

And again - I like the cantrip idea but personally still think that shouldn't be anywhere near the rank and file of a world's inhabitants. The solution I use for my game is effectively a duplicate of the Blessings used in Age of Treason. Almost everyone in the world is a member of a church, and the Gods definitely do exist. Therefore everyone can get a few blessings (slight +5% bonuses to skills) at the major festivals each year, relevant to their god. For some it's household stuff, for others it's fighting. These aren't really noticeable, but there's enough of an effect for people to feel the gods are watching them and magic exists.

Above them are low mages, those too weak or too badly disciplined (or occasionally too independent) to be taught by the temples. These people can do minor magic - but it's definitely poor stuff (the cantrips I mentioned earlier). Most are snake oil salesmen and street entertainers, combining magic with bad alchemy, claims of enchanted items and the like.

Once you get above this you start getting into temple magic (which is where I lumped common and divine magic into one group), spirits and summonings (sorcery is a lost skill, allowing me to pull it out of the bag later on).

I guess finding the nature of your world and running with it. I like the flexibility of Runequest in these regards - but still wish the system wasn't based around common magic as a base (old old argument) simply because so few worlds besides Glorantha embrace a similar paradigm.
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby languagegeek » Fri Jan 27, 2012 6:04 am

Asyme wrote:I'll dredge out an example pdf at some point of how I built magic specifically for a cult if that's of interest to anyone. Nowhere near it at the minute though!
Did you ever manage to dredge that pdf? I'm in the midst of flavouring the magic system and would like to see how you did it.
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Re: Battle Magic

Postby alex_greene » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:44 am

I began writing a comment here, but it ballooned on me ... what do you mean, as usual? ... so I reposted it as a Livejournal article here instead.

I'll put some spell suggestions in the "New Common Magic Spells" thread.
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