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Old 05-04-2019, 05:06 PM   #1
Michael Cule
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Default Personally crafted magic disciplines

Imagine a world in which there are magicians and even colleges and societies of magicians but each talented wannabe mage must find a personal way of doing magic.

They can be taught some things about the universe and even a few tricks that can be shared by anyone but have to find their own 'path', 'way' or 'method'.

Studying magic involves meeting as many mages as you can and then trying to create a way that works for you.

Do you see a way that could be made to work? Mechanically, I mean. I'm thinking that this would be a hodgepodge of just about everything from GURPS Thaumatology but I could be persuaded to use any fairly chunky simulation. Doing it with something as handwavy as HEROQUEST or FATE would tend to remove the feeling of danger I would want for when mages go outside their comfort zone, as they must almost all the time during training.

Actually, now I think of it the magic system out of REIGN could be used for this sort of thing too.

Perhaps the small tricks are 'cantrips' and work the same for anyone with talent. But the more advanced ways, though they can be grouped by family, are always composed rather than learned.

Still just an idea in my head, mostly in the form of warning lectures from senior mages. Elements of THE MAGICIANS and ARS MAGICA among other places.
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Old 05-04-2019, 06:07 PM   #2
William
 
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

Seems like magic would be extremely quirky, individualistic, and frankly quite rare, since if there are a million mages on the world (1 in 7,000 people), there's no way that a bunch of them didn't hit on the same method.

Perhaps every magical spell, power, or trick that you know has to be invented, and you have to be the one doing the inventing. In addition to Magery, I expect quite a lot of the most powerful mages would have Gadgeteering and Quick Gadgeteering for spellcraft.

I would certainly advise ignoring the prerequisite system. To invent even a standard sort of spell for oneself, at most you might use the prerequisite count as a guide to whether a spell was Simple or Average. To allow mages to master a variety of spells I would be fairly generous with the lower difficulty settings; inventing is hard enough already.

A variant would be to use improvisational magic like Path magic, with the inventions being the path skills themselves, researched using Thaumatology as the invention skill. Perhaps the invention is Simple, Average, and Complex, for your first (pick a number) skill levels, and Amazing after that. As soon as they have a path skill they can improvise techniques as normal.

If you want to ignore inventing, then perhaps use magic as powers, with each power requiring an Unusual Background of some GM-fiat amount.

If this is all for the use of players in a particular game, you could instead simply suggest to the players that anyone who wants magic can pick whatever system they like on the supposition that they have to have invented it themselves, and they should know the world is one where there are no standardized schools.
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Old 05-05-2019, 03:36 AM   #3
johndallman
 
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

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Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
Do you see a way that could be made to work? Mechanically, I mean. I'm thinking that this would be a hodgepodge of just about everything from GURPS Thaumatology but I could be persuaded to use any fairly chunky simulation.
I can see several possibilities with GURPS. I'd start by stealing the concept of the mage's sigil from Ars Magica, and saying that every magician has something distinctive about their magic. What that might be is described below.

There are two GURPS systems that use the character design system, Sorcery and Ritual Path Magic. For those, the sigil is a package of Enhancements and Limitations that's individual to each magician. Sorcery requires spells be pre-built, RPM allows workings to be designed on the spot, and the choice of those depends on how much flexibility and complexity your players are comfortable with.

Realm Magic seems just too flexible and powerful for a game where magic has these limitations, or too difficult to run if every magician has his own set of Realms.

Verb-Noun syntactic magic, on the other hand, is fairly easy to limit by limiting each magician's set of nouns (or verbs). There's a character in Roger's WWII game who does Zoroastrian magic, with only three nouns: Light, Fire and Truth, plus a full set of verbs. This is quite limiting, but rewards ingenuity.

Symbol Magic could also work, if symbols are ideographic. Take Ancient Egyptian as an example: every magician could share some basics of the lexicon, but would have different versions of bigger concepts. This could come quite naturally to the players if they're prepared to dig into the ways they think about language and meaning and express those in their characters. Many people have rather quirky ways of dealing with these concepts.

Path/Book does not seem such a great idea for this. There are a limited set of Paths, and being confined to just one would be very limiting.

Magic as Powers makes it easy for everyone to be individual, but doesn't readily make magicians, as opposed to people with abilities.

I think Verb-Noun may be the best idea, if you want characters to be individual, but keep the game mechanics fairly consistent between them.
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Old 05-05-2019, 11:01 AM   #4
William
 
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

I just noticed that you said there are entire college and societies for the learning of magic.

It seems like the individual nature of each person's magic might really be more fluff than anything else. A flexible magic system can still allow for using, say, the Energy realm or the Light rune to cast a simple Light spell, but one magician whistles a jaunty tune and plucks a drop of rainbow down from the sky, while another pulls the air aside, flicks a switch that's there for a moment, and has a light bulb turn on above his head. Mechanically, they both rolled the same thing but they probably could communicate their magical styles.

...styles! Oh hey. GURPS Thaumatology: Magical Styles. You could have a standardized magic system but every person has their own self-designed magical style, of a type you prefer, with a selection of perks and such. They interact as normal, which would mean that it would be advantageous if sometimes difficult for you to learn enough about some particular opponent's style to have an advantage dealing with them. You immediately give a mechanical flavor to the notion that everyone's magic is individualized.
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Old 05-05-2019, 11:54 AM   #5
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

What I'm thinking of is a system where the basics of magic come easy but beyond a certain point you have to undergo some sort of initiation or transformation to progress and that has to be crafted and personal.

And it occurs to me that such stories of personal transformation are not what the average gamer wants to play through. Hmmm.

I don't want it to be mere fluff and chrome but I don't want it to be overly complex and metaphysical.

Hmm. I had best re-read Magical Styles though.

(And to think I posted in ROLEPLAYING IN GENERAL because I didn't want it to be all about GURPS.)
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Old 05-05-2019, 03:06 PM   #6
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
What I'm thinking of is a system where the basics of magic come easy but beyond a certain point you have to undergo some sort of initiation or transformation to progress and that has to be crafted and personal.

And it occurs to me that such stories of personal transformation are not what the average gamer wants to play through. Hmmm.

I don't want it to be mere fluff and chrome but I don't want it to be overly complex and metaphysical.

Hmm. I had best re-read Magical Styles though.

(And to think I posted in ROLEPLAYING IN GENERAL because I didn't want it to be all about GURPS.)
Mage the Ascension (the GURPS version, at least) had "Seekings", quests that PC mages were supposed to complete in order to raise their arete score and progress in magical understanding and power. Theoretically the goal of a seeking was supposed to be symbolic in some way of the mage's essence, and were meant to lead to character growth, not just a higher score on the character sheet. I could see it being very effective with the right GM and group, but I have the feeling that it was ignored a lot in actual play.

A more mechanical approach in GURPS might be to require a magician to invent each new spell, path, realm level, etc., using the invention rules. In that case, magicians would be smart to take Gadgeteer, limited to magic only.
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Old 05-05-2019, 03:45 PM   #7
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

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Originally Posted by Mr_Sandman View Post
Mage the Ascension (the GURPS version, at least) had "Seekings", quests that PC mages were supposed to complete in order to raise their arete score and progress in magical understanding and power. Theoretically the goal of a seeking was supposed to be symbolic in some way of the mage's essence, and were meant to lead to character growth, not just a higher score on the character sheet. I could see it being very effective with the right GM and group, but I have the feeling that it was ignored a lot in actual play.
We played a couple of those. An effective way to do it is to enlist the help of the other players in playing the versions of their characters that appear in the vision-quest. One player didn't realise he was having his seeking until it was over, IIRC.
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Old 05-05-2019, 04:40 PM   #8
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

It could be as simple as every mage has their own quirk or in extreme cases even a disadvantage reflecting how they do magic.
Some have to sing, others rhyme, some use a focus object of some kind, others can only cast at a certain time, etc.
A Noun/Verb system could also be distinctive, especially if there were different ways of preparing and using the symbols and a large lexicon where most mages only know a few.
I have a Ritual Magic system where the colleges are replaced by "Affinities". Its mostly taught as cohesive whole but individuals can invent their own.

The biggest decision is do you want highly varied magic or is it mostly a difference of personality in application?
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Old 05-06-2019, 01:40 PM   #9
Michael Cule
 
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

I'm thinking of 'levels of initiation' or perhaps 'levels of illumination' in a model that's something like the way magi become more individuated in ARS MAGICA.

There you can learn techniques by taking part in mystery cult initiations or you can create new ways of doing things by research that expands the repertoire of Hermetic Magic. Both are difficult: both are risky and might damage you in the process.

One way to make this highly individuated is to say that the top level of magic achievement is to create a new Name for yourself, a Name that is also one of the Words of Magic. That way you become part of the structure of the universe and possibly immortal...

And now this reminds me of the Grandmasters in GURPS CABAL who get to climb up the Tree Of Life and make their way into Heaven to face God.

(They don't seem to be particularly nicer people for the experience though.)

I get the feeling I'm going to have to write the flavour text first to get clear in my mind the sort of story we're going in for here.

Far as I know, no one has ever run a game where a PC becomes a Cabal grandmaster. It would be a very odd game and probably impossible to continue beyond the completion of that quest.
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Old 05-06-2019, 08:29 PM   #10
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Default Re: Personally crafted magic disciplines

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Originally Posted by Michael Cule View Post
Imagine a world in which there are magicians and even colleges and societies of magicians but each talented wannabe mage must find a personal way of doing magic.

They can be taught some things about the universe and even a few tricks that can be shared by anyone but have to find their own 'path', 'way' or 'method'.

Studying magic involves meeting as many mages as you can and then trying to create a way that works for you.
This reminds me of art school, where there were people around to help you learn, but not necessarily to teach you much. So, how about each wizard needing to ideosyncratically combine Thaumatology with some other skill, such as painting, singing, jewelrysmithing, poetry, cooking, butchering, dancing, etc. (as is more or less described in Thaumatology, p 40)? The initiatory rites you describe could give them access to specific Paths (RPM) or Nouns & Verbs, but that access to power alone is insufficient to work magic. To do that, they apply the theoretical knowledge supplied by Thaumatology and the practical discipline of their particular field. You could still use the basics of Verb/Noun or RPM, but have the skills capped the lower of Thaumatology and this complement skill (instead of Magery). Even if they have access to a grimoire written by someone with the same discipline, they will need to figure out how to apply its information to their particular circumstance with a roll against the lower of Thaumatology/other skill.
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