Why I like 5th Age Magic
In my previous post, I suggested looking to Dragonlance 5th Age for an alternative point-based magic system. The reasons I like this system are threefold:
1) To me, it feels more like fantasy literature. There isn't a pre-defined list of spells or powers... The mage thinks up the spell effect they desire, spends their mana and attempts to cast the spell (with largers spells being more difficult than lesser spells).
2) A mage can spend more or less of their mana from their spell point pool depending on the situation. As noted, larger spell effects are more difficult to cast. Adding a little illumination to the tip of your staff is easier than blasting a large group of opponents with a blinding light.
3) A mage can make up new spells as needed. Because the mechanic bases points cost on a number of variable parameters, the mage can manipulate those parameters to make a different spell effect each time.
As I stated in the prior post, the point cost and difficulty to cast a spell is determined by 5 parameters. The spell effect must be within the school of magic or sphere of influence to which the cast has access.
The parameters are:
1) Invocation Time
3) Area of Effect (number of opponents or physical size as appropriate)
5) Spell Effect
A Sorcerer (wizard) or Mystic (cleric) has access from 1 to 3 schools of magic / spheres of influence. This directly impacts what kinds of spells can be cast by the magic-user. These are:
Sorcerer Schools -- Aeromancy (air/wind), Cryomancy (cold/ice), Divination (past/future), Electromancy, Enchantment (items), Geomancy (earth/rock), Hydroancy (water), Pyromancy (fire), Spectromancy (light/radiant), Summoning (transport/teleport), Transmutation (change matter)
Mystic Spheres - Animism (plants/animals/nature), Alteration (shape change/physical buffs), Channeling (physical buffs), Healing, Meditation (mental buffs), Mentalism (telepathy/suggestion/charm), Necromancy (corporeal undead), Sensitivity (aura divination), Spiritualism (commune/incorporeal undead)
The parameter cost/difficulty was a scale from 1 to 5 depending on the overall spell effect:
1 - 30 minutes
2 - 20 minutes
3 - 10 minutes
4 - 1 minute
5 - Instant
1 - Personal
2 - Melee
3 - Near Missile
4 - Far Missile
5 - Artillery
Area/Size of Effect (number of opponents / physical size)
1 - Individual
2 - Couple / Small room
3 - Small group (5) / Large room
4 - Large group (10) / Small house
5 - Crowd (25) / Large House
1 - Instant
2 - 1 minute
3 - 15 minutes
4 - 30 minutes
5 - 1 hour
1 - Irritating (+/-1 or 2 damage)
2 - Troublesome (+/-2 or 5 damage)
3 - Hindering (+/-3 or 9 damage)
4 - Impeding (+/-4 or 15 damage)
5 - Painful (+/-5 or 20 damage)
Example spell from the core rule book:
The heroes are being pursued by draconions through the mountains. There is a chasm which offers a means of escape if the heroes can get across. The sorcerer in the party with Geomancy decides to create a bridge of stone for the party to cross. The party doesn't have much time, so the sorcerer chooses a 1 minute invocation. The bridge must be long enough, but doesn't have to be particularly wide, so the GM rules that a "large room" size would suffice and the characters must cross safely, but it must not last long enough for the draconions to untilize so a 1 minute duration is also selected. Lastly, there spell effect is contained within the area parameter and is not intended to help/harm a target so the minimum cost of "1" is assigned by the GM.
Invocation: 4 (1 minute)
Range: 2 (Melee)
Area: 3 (Large room)
Duration: 2 (1 minute)
Effect :1 (no effect aside from area)
Total cost/difficulty: 12
As another example, a we can try to emulate Burning Hands:
Invocation: 5 (Instant)
Range: 2 (Melee)
Area: 3 (Small Group)
Duration: 1 (Instant)
Effect: 2 (Troublesome; 5 damage in DL5A is roughly equivalent to 10 - 15 hp in AD&D)
Total cost/difficulty: 13 *
* In DL5A, you sometimes need to spend extra spell points to overcome an opponents natural/physical resistance to damage. The difficulty stays the same, but the point cost might go up anywhere from 5 to 10 points (or more) depending on the opponent.
The Challenge of Scale
Dragonlance 5th Age is much a less crunchy and less combat oriented system than D&D/AD&D which creates a serious challenge for conversion. Due to its storytelling nature, these point values and effects leave leeway and interpretation for the GM and players for the purposes of the narrative. Spells aren't necessarily intended as a means for combat DPS. Because D&D is so much more crunchy and numbers focussed, a soft storytelling mechanic such as this one is difficult to without leaving it open to potential abuse.
I originally considered this idea for coversion for 3rd Edition or Pathfinder. With this in mind, the numbers I present may not line up quite right with 4th Edition. I'm still trying to make it work for 3.x and keep in mind it's a work in progress, so feel free to help me brainstorm in the comments.
For Invocation time, I considered a small change to allow for more combat options:
1 - 30 minutes
2 - 10 minutes
3 - 1 minute
4 - Full round action
5 - Standard action
Range needs hard numbers for its descriptors:
1 - Personal - Touch
2 - Melee - Close blast / Close burst / Aura
3 - Near Missile - 5 square
4 - Far Missile - 15 squares
5 - Artillery - 30 squares
1 - Single Target
2 - 2 targets or 5' radius or burst/blast 2
3 - 5 targets or 10' radius or burst/blast 4
4 - 10 targets or 15' radius or burst/blast 5
5 - 20 targets or 20' radius or burst/blast 6
* This effect could be a non-square shape (such as the bridge example) as agreed upon by GM/player depending on circumstances (such as the 4e wall rules). Blast effects are always a circular (radius) or square effect depending on which edition is being used (the blasts are smaller than the radius because they gain corner area).
Duration gets some minor tweaks to fit more with the durations in D&D/AD&D.
1 - Instant / 1 round
2 - 1 round per level
3 - 1 minute
4 - 1 minute per level
5 - 1 hour
6 - 1 hour per level
This is probably the most challenging attribute to convert. Beccause Dragonlance 5th Age uses utilize a system with less crunch, and relies on the GM to adjudicate situations based upon the needs of the story, putting hard numbers on the effects presents a bigger chanllenge for D&D/AD&D... but here is my preliminary choice based more upon 2nd/3rd edition numbers. 4th edition's power curve requires a bit more thought from me on this.
1 - Irritating - 1d3 or -1 to hit
2 - Troublesome - 1d6 or -2 to hit
3 - Hindering - 2d6 or -4 to hit
4 - Impeding - 3d6 or blindness level effect
5 - Painful - 4d6 or stun/daze level effect
6 - Crippling - 5d6 or paralization level effect
Now, I haven't gone through all the various condition effects to assign specific costs yet, but I'm thinkg of doing that for a guideline while still allowing the GM to make a judgemet call at the table. Also, if you want to stack effects (such as damage AND a condition effect), I'm considering allowing the mage to pay for the affect twice (or possibly 3 times) to stack different effects such as damage + effect + push-pull-slide. I'm still working out the details on this. Lastly, I'm considering limit the amount one can spend for damage/effect to level + 1. For 4th edition, I think I'd change the damage die 1d8 or 1d10 but have to put some more thought into it.
Lastly, I'm still working out how many spell points a level X mage would have. Something like 5 + stat bonus per level... but again, the power curve needs some thought as lower levels would allow for very few spells where higher levels could be world breaking (somewhat similar to 2nd and 3rd edition magic when you think about it). I'd like a more gradual power gain. Perhaps Level number + stat bonus points after first level. Also, larger spells are more difficult to cast in DL5A. I'd like to add that difficulty mechanic here, but also haven't nailed down the numbers for that yet.
I'd love for people out there to take my conversion ideas and attempt to playtest them. My group is not into being too experimental at this point, so I haven't had the opportunity to see how badly this breaks. With the wrong group of players, it could likely be abused, so you almost have to have a group that is not into hardcore power-gaming.
Let me know your thoughts and ideas, and perhaps I can come up with a Part III to close out this series.