Jump to content

Essential Spells


assault
 Share

Recommended Posts

 

I am currently working on a magic system and am a bit stuck on my list of common spells. So naturally I am going to pick the collective brains here.

 

So I am asking what people consider to be the essential basic spells a magic system needs.

 

This will not be DnD, so no fireball or lighting bolt type spells are needed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, assault said:

This will not be DnD, so no fireball or lighting bolt type spells are needed.

And that brings up the question what is the basis for your magic system?  Is it highly formalized with schools and professional wizards?  Is it based in nature, where communing with a rock is a meaningful experience?  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Think of the nature of how people will use the magic. As with any tool,  there will be the offensive,  def8, and utilian functions.  Under offensive,  we can get things like bolt,  strike, missile,  etc. With the offensive,  there's wall, armor,  shield,  etc.  Utility shall have uses along the lines of heal, holes,  visions, grabbing,  traveling,  etc.  Instead of thinking individual spells,  attempt to think of how to spell fits into the larger picture than go from there to generate the spell. Also,  just because a spell is in one category doesn't mean that it is locked there. Walls (example) can provide defense and security as well as make transit easier (last two utility).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The essential spells would be a product of the culture they arose from. But in general, magic is a tool, the question is what jobs are those tools for, and answering that will give you your spells. For instants, a culture from a desert area would prioritize finding water, enhancing of plant growth or harvest, and/or increasing one’s ability to go without food or water for days, and or keeping cool in a hot climate. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, the HERO books generally classify power sets into Attack, Defense, Movement, Information, and Miscellaneous. That's not a bad place to start for designing spell sets for spellcasters who, presumably, are meant to include PC adventurers.

 

You can also consider the fundamental applications of magic in RL beliefs:

* Luck and prosperity;

* Healing and exorcism;

* Curses (any magic to inflict harm on others);

* Dominating the wills of others (could be considered a subclass of curses);

* Divination and detection;

* Transcendental experiences;

* Commanding the powers of nature.

 

For further explanation, see The Ultimate Mystic.

 

Though not every style of magic includes all these functions. For instance, the Evil Eye (probably the most widespread RL magical belief) only does curses, while divinations\ systems of course only do divination. At the other extreme, European Grimoire Magic can summon a demon for nearly any purpose -- but it's limited by the need for long and complex rituals.

 

So before you write spells, maybe work out what role you want magic to play in the setting, which in turn will influence the mechanisms of spellcasting and what characters can do.

 

Dean Shomshak

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dean has good points, but I tend to approach it from the Scott angle:

 

Magic is another tool.

 

Why did we develop tools?  Start there.

 

Fiert for hunting, most likely, then to defend against others of our ilk who were armed with hunting tools.

 

Then to help provide safety and security.  Eventually to restore and then after to maintain health, and then as our societies became larger and more complex, to preserve food, increase protection, and enhance prosperity.  We probably start with wards of protection and warp those into curses for our enemies.  As everything else, they get more complex as time goes by.

 

But we still have to take care of ourselves.

To that end:

 

Snare: magical means of catching tasty game.

 

Fire: means of starting fires to cook game, stay warm, and frighten large animals

 

Bait: magical way to draw game towards capture.

 

Spear: for taking game on the hoof.

 

Stealth spells of various stripe, all for hunting originally, now for whatever needs be.

 

Barriers: defend against weather, large predators, and other folks with spears (or magic).

 

 

Dowsing: locating water where there seems to be none.

 

Spring: summoning water from dowsed sources without all the digging.  Eventually it can grow to spells for creating water seemingly from thin air.

 

Sometime in the middle,of all this, we will have devised spells,to increase the chance of rain or to chase excessive rains away.

 

 

Heal self.  Starts simple and gets better and more powerful as we gain the luxury of study time.

 

Heal others. Same as above.

 

Various new things that could be used as attacks come along, leading to a need to see them coming:

 

Detect magic.

 

Once we can detect things (water, magic). Why shouldn't we look for the good stuff?  Detect precious items and materials, potential mates, etc.

 

Now we are very social, having become a thousand tribes, and we still either want to breed or at least spy on potential spear wielders, so we get translation spells, etc.

 

As we begin to travel, ways to preserve and transport sufficient food is reasonable- magic for that.  

 

Ways to keep our wagons rolling, our mules strong, and our ships afloat would really come into their own, as would ways to do the opposite for our rivals (because humans are like that).

 

Ultimately, its like Scott said:  magic is a tool.  If it is something that has always been available, it makes sense that the ways it was used developed along similar lines.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A bit more detail: 

 

Everyone uses magic all the time, so it mostly cancels out and is mechanically absorbed into physics.

 

What matters on a game level are the exceptions.

 

"Strategically", in periods of conflict, magic functions like an intelligence service. Typically, it is used for information gathering, with the occasional digression into subversion, assassination and so on.

That's easy enough.

The hard part is PC level magic.

To some degree, they can do the strategic level stuff, although they aren't necessarily the most powerful practitioners at that level.

 

They can do wards, dispels and curses, obviously. A bit of mind domination is fine. Detection as an immediate effect of broader scrying and precognition/prophecy.

 

Beyond that though...

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, DShomshak said:

You can also consider the fundamental applications of magic in RL beliefs:

* Luck and prosperity;

* Healing and exorcism;

* Curses (any magic to inflict harm on others);

* Dominating the wills of others (could be considered a subclass of curses);

* Divination and detection;

* Transcendental experiences;

* Commanding the powers of nature.

 

This is a pretty good summary of where I am trying to go overall.

 

I am currently trying to nail things down at a what PCs can do on an immediate tactical level.

 

I don't want to go all DnD, but I want magic to be relevant enough to be interesting for the PCs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1) When I think of magic in general, I think of creating small and useful things. Sort of like a sleight of hand but real:

bottle of water or liquor

food

small flame

a coil of rope

shirt

pants

hat

coin

bandages

knife

bird

cat

telescope

 

2) Disappearing similar small objects

 

3) Small effects on the magic user's person:

slightly better running/swimming/STR/DEX/CON/etc.

more charming to animals/people

momentary levitation

cleaning or dirtying his clothes

mending his clothes or gear

aura of fear/menace/power which deters or impresses others

 

4) A magic skill for one time powers like you see for some D&D cantrips like Thaumaturgy, Prestidigitation, or Druidcraft.

Your voice booms up to three times as loud as normal

You cause flames to flicker, brighten, dim, or change color

You cause harmless tremors in the ground

You create an Instantaneous sound that originates from a point of your choice within range, such as a rumble of thunder, the cry of a raven, or ominous whispers.

You instantaneously cause an unlocked door or window to fly open or slam shut.

You alter the Appearance of your eyes

You create an Instantaneous, harmless sensory Effect, such as a shower of sparks, a puff of wind, faint musical notes, or an odd odor.

You instantaneously light or snuff out a Candle, a torch, or a small campfire.

You chill, warm, or flavor up to 1 cubic foot of nonliving material

You make a color, a small mark, or a Symbol appear on an object or a surface

Your moving finger leaves an afterimage so that you can draw very temporary writing or pictures in the air.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You say fireball is not necessary, and I know that D&D has some very specific ideas about what a fireball spell is, but honestly, I tend to encounter a more apt form of what I would call a "fireball" spell generally featured in a *lot* of fantasy. That being the depiction of a mage who holds out a clenched fist or spreads out their fingers and suddenly those fists are wreathed in flame or their spread fingers are cupping a hovering ball of fire, then they either punch the air towards their target or vaguely flick their open hand towards their target, and the ball of fire is sent flying into the opponent.

 

Rather than exploding and taking out a room grenade flamethrower style, these common fireballs tend to simply "punch" the target, along with a little bit of damage from the fire itself, but only enough fire to cause a problem for extremely flammable targets. Otherwise, the main point of the spells is just to produce a very hard punch at a long range.

 

That seems like a fairly believable spell for all sorts of magic-users to learn and teach their apprentices as the most basic form of attack, even if only for self-defence. You're an academic who doesn't want to get into melee with your enemies, so you learn how casting an element at your enemies works, and of course everybody picks the element that is the most easy to learn how to cast.

 

Basically just a Blast with Energy Damage and No Endurance Cost.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/23/2021 at 1:57 PM, assault said:

A bit more detail: 

 

Everyone uses magic all the time, so it mostly cancels out and is mechanically absorbed into physics.

 

What matters on a game level are the exceptions.

 

"Strategically", in periods of conflict, magic functions like an intelligence service. Typically, it is used for information gathering, with the occasional digression into subversion, assassination and so on.

That's easy enough.

The hard part is PC level magic.

To some degree, they can do the strategic level stuff, although they aren't necessarily the most powerful practitioners at that level.

 

They can do wards, dispels and curses, obviously. A bit of mind domination is fine. Detection as an immediate effect of broader scrying and precognition/prophecy.

 

Beyond that though...

 

 

Obfuscation and concealment spells seem like essentials here.  Ditto setting out false trails, and traps coupled to those.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 7/23/2021 at 1:57 PM, assault said:

A bit more detail: 

 

Everyone uses magic all the time, so it mostly cancels out and is mechanically absorbed into physics.

 

What matters on a game level are the exceptions.

 

"Strategically", in periods of conflict, magic functions like an intelligence service. Typically, it is used for information gathering, with the occasional digression into subversion, assassination and so on.

That's easy enough.

The hard part is PC level magic.

To some degree, they can do the strategic level stuff, although they aren't necessarily the most powerful practitioners at that level.

 

They can do wards, dispels and curses, obviously. A bit of mind domination is fine. Detection as an immediate effect of broader scrying and precognition/prophecy.

 

Beyond that though...

 

 

This sounds quite a bit like Deryni magic , which tends to be based more on mental/sense powers (truth-reading, mind scanning, scrying, long-range communications, mental shields, banish fatigue, healing), with some ceremonial/ritualistic magic including wards, and more complicated effects. Additionally, certain practitioners can channel magic for a duel arcane, which usually involves a series of attacks and parries within a protective ward (to protect onlookers), often with the images of mystical creatures representing the spells.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I always look to the setting to define the limitations and shape the spells. It sounds like magic is fairly easy but requires either some skill, some training or some "spark" to allow you to use it at beyond minor levels. It does not sounds like there are any severe side effects but it also does not sound so powerful that everyone wants to be a mage instead of a sword swinger. But that can still mean very powerful transportation spells or mundane spells that eliminate the need for basic manual tasks exist.

 

If all of that is right, then from there I look to the culture. Is magic revered? Scorned? Tolerated or ignored? Do mages need to disguise their nature or physically protect themselves more? Do they inspire fear or respect? All of that shapes the spells that would evolve.

 

Beyond that, magic is like any other advancement, it will naturally move to fill the greatest needs. Does accomplishing the typical goals of the campaign require spells that smash things or spells that cure poisons common in the environment? Is seafaring common or no longer needed? The needs of the rich or powerful often dictate the direction of research so perhaps castle and fortification building led to a mastery of stone manipulation as a popular school of magic. Or fashion has led to magic cloth that resists attacks and spells that make your clothes attack you. 

 

The possibilities are really quite enormous and for me it is very easy to get lost in the details. Just pick a thread and follow it until you can see the whole cloth.

 

- E

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, eepjr24 said:

But that can still mean very powerful transportation spells or mundane spells that eliminate the need for basic manual tasks exist.

 

If all of that is right, then from there I look to the culture. Is magic revered?

 

Magic is part of everyday life. It's more common than wearing pants. In fact, its use preceded the invention of pants.

It hasn't eliminated much of anything. You simply don't do anything without magic to help you, or hinder your rivals/enemies when applicable.

As far as transportation goes - everyone tries to call up or pray for favourable weather, winds, etc, but it doesn't always happen. The most extreme cases are flying through the summoning of spirits (who can be dismissed, potentially resulting in nasty/fatal consequences!) or shapeshifting (considered evil).

The first example is extremely powerful and showy magic. The second involves rituals involving wearing the skin of an example of the species you are trying to adopt, but has side effects like potentially taking on the attributes of the species (lycanthropy, etc.), as well as the squick factor involved in adopting another human form. (Flaying alive, etc.)

Illusionary/cosmetic transformations are possible in some cases. I haven't worked out the details.

 

The very most powerful magic (invisibility, etc) are associated with artifacts, which may be morally perilous, and in any case are likely to make you a big fat target.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

More than one poster has mentioned research, choice or incentives in developing magic, as if magic were something that people invented and could shape as they chose. That is not a necessary assumption. IRL people have often believed that magic was ordained by gods or spirits, a legacy of wise ancients to which nothing can be added (though some secrets may be lost and rediscovered), or otherwise not something in which people have any choice -- any more than people have a choice in how gravity works or how the sun crosses the sky.

 

Either option -- external "given" or culturally developed art -- has its utilities for a setting. B ut it is not a trivial design choice.

 

Dean Shomshak

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...