He’s a Magic Man

May 15, 2017

Oof, magic. The biggest elephant in any Dungeons and Dragons shaped 10×10 room with an orc in it.

The problems with D&D’s traditional magic system are both numerous and arcane (hah!) and there’s no silver bullet to them. The answer, I think, is both complicated and difficult but it starts very simply – we need to make each style of magic mechanically different. The two biggest ones, the ones I’m going to talk about here, are Divine and Arcane magic – the focus of the Accolyte and Arcanist classes and all the classes that spawn from them – clerics, wizards, warlocks, paladins, etc.

The first change, I think, goes into how the spells manifest. Arcane spells in this system are going to be mutable, modifiable, and customizable – a reflection of the experimentation and examination that goes into making Arcane magic work. Divine magic, though, is more rooted in the powers they come from. There is no changing the prayers that summon them, and there is no adjusting the expression of that power.

So, details wise, what does this mean?

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So, we’ve got to talk about combat, the wading into and the rivers of blood. The gritty crush of metal and wood, flesh and bone, rage and focus. Powerful mages firing spells into a melee of warriors and rogues deftly avoiding arrows fired from the rangers and snipers hiding on the edges. The rush of the cleric’s healing saving a brawler’s life before they throw a barbarian into the enemy’s paladin. The fast, brutal way combat must be portrayed.

It’s time to talk about combat economics.

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Dungeons and Dragons has shaped the way that roleplaying has developed. We can’t ignore that. It’s part of the reason that games are inherently simulationist in some fashion; we simulate a character’s abilities in a real-like world (skills, damage, ability scores, etc) rather than their effect on a story or their role in a party. That is, itself, left over from earlier war games that shaped D&D, but it’s something we can’t ignore. While this version of the game is much more about storytelling and engendering a roleplaying environment, it is still a Dungeons and Dragons game and will have a lot more to do with combat than most other things.

Which brings us to skills; how do we make a system that is both more complete than “NonWeapon Proficiencies with Difficulty Number” but isn’t needlessly complex or require tons of bookkeeping?

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