Posts belonging to Category Magic systems

Rituals and Themes

A ritual isn’t just a bunch of steps blended together; it has to have a theme. After all, there’s a certain unity to most rituals, something that binds the individual steps together. You don’t often see a ritual involving invocation of the Five Dread Names of the Forbidden One, a reenactment of the last battle [...]

Rituals: Do We Have to Write the Whole Thing?

Yesterday, I wrote about how to detail out a ritual. But do you really need to know every little element in order to use a social or magical ritual? The answer to that is “It depends”. How much detail is required varies with the purpose of the ritual and, of course, the amount of detail [...]

Creating Rituals Through Symbolism

A well-described ritual can be an excellent tool: it lets storytellers create immersion, and allows RPG players to make their actions sound nifty and their crazy magical schemes just the slightest bit more plausible. But how to go about figuring out what they look like? In my experience, the best way to do so is [...]

Six Ways To Limit Magic Using Rituals

As any GM will tell you, some magic effects are inherently more ‘broken’ than others—capable of messing up the plot, making a few characters all-powerful, or otherwise throwing off the clean laws of metaphysics and making life difficult. Writers and game designers alike dealt with this by turning those kinds of magical effects into rituals, [...]

Uses of Rituals

Magical rituals have been around as long as magic has been a plot device, for a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes they’re plot-vital, keeping magic from taking a form that would be inconvenient for plot, world, or creator’s sanity; sometimes they’re more indirect-expository, created more to say something about the people who perform them than [...]

Nine Ways to Hide the Truth and Get Away With It

One of the common staples of magic systems is the ability to detect lies. It’s so simple, so logical, so useful—but many people shy away from it. Why? Because it makes it hard to bring in mysteries, or conspiracies, or much of anything that requires people to hide the truth.
It doesn’t have to, though. Everything [...]

Ecology for World-Builders: The Creature in the World

Over the last couple of days, I’ve talked about getting ideas for new creatures from relationships with humans that aren’t just opportunities for random monster events. Today I’m going to take the humans out of the equation, focusing instead on creatures’ relationships to the world around them.
Yes, I realize I probably lost half my gamer [...]

Homebrew – Bears Mentioning

Yesterday, I talked homebrew astrology. But what’s the fun in astrology if you don’t have someone to use it?
Inextricably intertwined with my homebrew variant on Exalted astrology are the Arthchwyl, a race of polar bear savants who boast a near-unparalleled gift for divination and understanding of the future.
They began with an image, which rapidly dovetailed [...]

Principles of Elements: A Few More Thoughts

For those parts that I couldn’t fit into yesterday or the day before.
Differentiated elemental magic systems have one major weakness: phenomena that are perfectly balanced between two elements. Consider lightning: is it air or fire? You might think air, because lightning comes from clouds—I can think of several RPGs, both tabletop and video game, that [...]

Principles of Elements: Elements and Character Patterns

Yesterday, I made a case for mixing elements in elemental systems. But I know not everyone’s going to do this, so instead I’ll look into the ramifications of fully differentiated elements.
One major irritation of these systems is the fact that they always seem to result in the same character types: the hot-headed fire-slinging redheads, the [...]