Sunday, 19 August 2012

Developing a USR Magic System


When I came up with the USR system, I wanted something that is quick to get onto the table and requires very little rulebook referencing, but also a game that's modular, allowing players to build on the system. As fantasy is one of the most poplar genres for roleplaying, I've been kicking around ideas for a magic system, spurred on by Tabletop Diversions' D&D B/X USR conversion.

Above all, magic rules for USR should be simple and broad, allowing for imagination to take precedent. I've always loved the magic system presented in Barbarians of Lemuria, which has a freeform feel, so that's the kind of system I'd like to emulate.

But before we can get into the nitty-gritty, we need to look at the current rules, and more specifically ability scores. USR has three main attributes: Action, Ego and Wits. Classically, wizards and other such magic users tend to draw their spells from their intelligence, pouring over books for days in a vast library. USR's 'intelligence' equivalent is Wits, so it's possible to base magic off this attribute.

Now we've decided what attribute we're going to use, we need to look at how to go about casting spells. Importantly, advancement in USR does not mean that your initial attributes increase, which actually makes it a little easier when it comes to magic mechanics because we can simply set a target attribute test. Something along the lines of:

Minor Spell - 4+
Advanced Spell - 7+
Major Spell - 10+

Minor Spell: A small incantation with a minor effect. Examples - create a small light, move a 20lb object with your mind, create a pool of water. Minor Spells cannot do damage.

Advanced Spell: A grander spell that is able to inflict a small amount of damage or change the form of an object. Examples - create a 5ft fire, move a 100lb object, turn an object invisible, reinforce a door, dis-spell a harmful enchantment, throw a fireball. Advanced Spells can cause 1d6 damage.

Major Spell: A powerful spell with a large effect. These spells can cause great damage. Examples - curse an enemy, turn the party invisible, create stone skin, disintegrate an enemy, create a huge flood, fly 50 miles. Major Spells cause 5d6 damage or can outright destroy enemies.

Obviously, minors are very easy to cast and majors incredibly difficult. Magic users can use focus equipment to make it easier to cast a spell. A wand or staff gives a +1 to the casting roll. Rarer magical items worth a lot of money will give a +2.

Of course, there's the problem that the wizard could just overuse spells out of combat, constantly rolling until they get a 10, so we need something to prevent that from happening. I like the type of sorcerers that have to do crazy rituals involving sacrifices and paraphernalia, so perhaps the wizard has to meet pre-requisites in order to cast a spell.

Minor Spell Prerequisite: Ability to speak and/or gesticulate with at least one hand.

Advanced Spell Prerequisite: Cutting own hand with a dagger (-2 Hits), two minutes of chanting and incense burning.

Major Spell Prerequisite: Sacrificing a sentient being, ten minutes of chanting and incense burning and cutting own chest with dagger (-5 Hits)

In this way, wizards will have to think about how and when they will use a spell. This is only rough, but I will be making a full magic system available shortly.