Magic As Maneuvers

Original Post

NOTE: This is starting as a quote from the website. It will hopefully be edited in a more baked explanation.

I want to do a fantasy game with the Fate rules, using fairly common magic. I tried a Google search for pre-existing magic rules, pretty much everything I found uses stunts that let you use your magic skill instead of pretty much any other skill (based on Theory in Practice). That kind of model is easy to implement, powerful, flexible, interesting and absolutely not what I'm looking for.

I have a pretty simple idea of my own. I'm hoping for a little help in fleshing it out. Basically, a "spell" is just a very specific example of a maneuver or declaration, and it can do things that might be out of scope for mundane maneuvers. For example, even in SotC you can put an On Fire aspect on a zone, if you have some kind of heat source and the zone is in any way flammable. But with the right spell, you can make any zone On Fire without needing an open flame and without any regard to how flammable the zone is.

I don't want to make magic some kind of over-powered ability, and I think it would be if players could make up their spell maneuvers on the fly. To balance that, characters will only know a limited number of spells. They have a certain number of spells for each rank in their magic skill, and they can bump that number up using stunts (like learning languages with Academics). And nothing says that they can't use their existing spells in interesting ways, in effect using a spell to set up another kind of maneuver.

I think this idea would model a few D&D spells rather well. For example:

  • Charm Person - tag when using Rapport or other social skills. Or tag for effect and force a choice on the victim.
  • Ray of Enfeeblement - tag to hinder pretty much any physical action taken by the victim.
  • Lightning Bolt - oddly, the caster casts this spell on himself. It gives him the aspect "Able to Throw Lightning Bolts". Once it is in place, he invokes it using his most appropriate mundane attack skill (Weapons or Guns). There can be a stunt that lets a caster use his magic skill instead of a mundane attack skill when invoking direct damage spell aspects.

Because the magician will be able to cast only a limited number of spells, I figure magic skills should also have some mundane trappings. Example:

  • Witchcraft is (in this example) the study of life energy. It takes on the mundane healing trappings from science, along with knowledge relating to herb lore, biology, botany and genetic engineering. Spells relate to life in some way, and include a variety of buffs and curses, as well spells related to healing and shape changing. Witches with Leadership often use fantastic creatures or undead as minions.
  • Elementalism is the study of energy (Fire) and non-living matter (Earth, Water and Air). It takes many trappings from Engineering. Making a fire, digging an irrigation ditch, building a windmill or designing a wall with an arch are as much a part of elementalism as throwing fireballs. Spells relate to manipulating air, earth, fire and water. For the purposes of this game, a living tree is not considered Earth (because life is in the domain of witchcraft), but dead wood is considered Earth. So is metal.
  • I kind of want to work Mysteries into this frame work, but I'm not satisfied with it yet.

So my questions:

  1. How many spell casting skills would you recommend? I kind of like the idea of four, just so mage characters can't have all four at Great or better (because of the skill pyramid).
  2. How many spells should a caster have? Someone with a magic skill at Average has to be able to do something, so it should be on a per skill rank basis.
  3. Any advice on setting difficulty levels for spell rolls?
  4. Does the idea suck? I haven't done much house-ruling or world-building in the past, so I figure this idea is almost destined to suck.

An example stunt chain to support this:

  1. Ritual Preparation: As long as the character has at least half an hour to enact the proper rites and a suitable supply of ritual components (scented oils, powdered silver, etc. - might require a Resources roll) they may add +2 to any Necromancy rolls undertaken in order to summon ghosts.
  2. My Voice Echoes Between Worlds: The character can summon ghosts who have been dead for a few weeks as opposed to a few days as a baseline. As normal, they may spend shifts to increase this even further if they wish.
  3. Ghost-Binding Ceremony: If they can strike a suitable bargain with an individual ghost (be it through role-played negotiation or good old-fashioned conflict) the character can bind it to them as a Companion with three advances. (The GM may wish to whip up a few obvious new ones, such as 'Horrific Appearance' or 'Incorporeal'.) The character may only have one bound ghost at a time, and can release a ghost from its binding whenever they choose.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.