September 17, 2018 0 comments

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More Flexible Spell System


One of the features i hated about the TableMaster-Like rpgs was the usage of rigid spell-lists (with HARP being the exception).

Also those rigid structures make balance spell-casters vs non-spell-casters very problematic.

I would like to propose a number of measures that i feel will allow you to balance the system more.

1 - Introduce the magical concept of Complexity vs Magnitude: this is currently represented in part by the Spell Level in the Spell List and the Weave Level
(which usually summs up the quadratic spell-caster problem)
1a - do away with levels within a spell list but assign difficulties to each spell instead (representing Complexity) for the spell casting roll.
1b - assign each spell an individual base Weave Level (ie. MP Cost, initial Magnitude)
1c - do away with character dependent spell stats (like 1round/level) and make them Weave Options (ie, added MP Cost, additional Magnitude) instead
1d - give existing Weave Options more detailed MP Costs

2 - remove the spell list skill ranks to weave level restriction, any skill bonus should allow the caster to attempt to cast the thematically grouped spells from the represented list (aligned with 1a)

3 - make Magic Points a development skill similar to Body (you might have to adjust overall MP/Costs for scale)

Hello Alfred, and welcome to the forums first of all!

The mechanics you propose seems very interesting. It also strays a lot away from the original concept of the *master games - which may be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on what you’re aiming at.

Personally (but I might eventually say we the authors at The Fellowship) didn’t ever liked the HARP magic system too much. This is why we started from the original *master game as a basis to develop VsD. To be true we’re not even completely satisfied and convinced of the Spell Warping rules. I (and this is mandatory a "personally") always liked the simplicity of the *master games spell lists so much - you simply had to look upon your level vs. the spell list ranks to know what spells did you know and could cast.

Of course there were downsides of the ordered spell lists approach: most notably the proliferation of hundreds of spell lists, the infamous "holes" in lots of utility lists and the replication of the same spell in the same list for scaling purposes and across different lists for filling in the blanks. We thought that adding spell warping options to VsD could have made for a more flexible, yet simple to catch magic system. This has still proven true in our playtests to some extent, but we have mixed feelings about it actually. I myself am not a big fan of spell warping, I’d rather have preferred a Spell Mastery skill like approach to spell scaling.

Your proposed rules, if I understood it correctly (but please feel free to correct me), should have the advantage of not requiring spell warping and a lot less Spell Lores - even to the extent of having separate spell casting skills and no fixed spell lists at all. This would make a great variant magic system for improvised magic, a-la Ars Magica, or The Riddle of Steel, or the Art Magic from Burning Wheel. In my opinion however, this would also flavour the game a totally different flavour, making it something radically different, at least in the magic & spellcasting department, from what we intended it to be. Still, as it is a very wide topic and with lots of implication, and furthermore nothing is written down in stone as of now, I exort you to further elaborate on it, maybe adding some examples of how you could model effects similar to VsD spells with your proposed system; this will help a lot!

Thank you for your contribution and once again welcome to the forums!

For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!

hmm ... where should i start?

Lets pretend that LoTR/TOR (Ea) is the implied setting, then an implied split along spell lists nor realms (Essence/Channeling) isnt all that flavorful.

Lets further pretend there are the following spell domains regardless of from where the energies come from:

  • AIR, STORM, AND NATURE: Spells pertaining to weather, storms, clouds, fogs, wind, rivers, streams, and nature in general.
  • DARK RITES AND CURSES: Sauron’s minions often specialize in evil magical practices.
  • DECEPTIONS AND GUISES: Spells pertaining to stealth and delusion.
  • DESTRUCTION AND ENFEEBLEMENT: Spells to weaken people and destroy things.
  • ENCHANTMENT: Spells used for enchanting and enhancing items and structures.
  • OF THE BODY: Spells to refresh and strengthen the body (eg. healing)
  • OF THE ELEMENTS: Spells pertaining to the various aspects of the four elements of air, fire, earth and water.
  • OF THE MIND: Spells pertaining to the control and manipulation of the mind.
  • SECRET FIRE: Spells that manifest the power of goodness and freedom, the powers channeled from the gods.
  • THOUGHT, SPEECH, AND PERCEPTION: Spells pertaining to communication and perception.

In Ea there are basically the following forms of magic displayed:

  • SORCERY: Human or Sauron magic, draws to some extent from the disseminated power of Morgoth, no matter whether a spell of Sorcery is of good or evil origin (eg. Wizardry, Necromancy, Artificing).
  • ART: Art represents the little formalized, often spontaneous form of true magic (eg. Songs of the Elves, Runes of the Dwarves, or Light of the Wise).

Then ruleswise, there are the following types of spells:

  • CANTRIP: Of uncomplex, somewhat subconscious and often utilitarian nature (eg. Ignite) without much power or impact.
  • SPELL: Our standard (spell-list) spell which can be cast during combat with or without preparation.
  • FORMULA: Heavy vocalized magic as read from a Scroll or sung in a Song, but requiring some extra time.
  • RITUAL: Specially formulated type of magic with elaborate prerequisites, usually not castable during combat.

You may now begin to see a pattern here: no curse for art, no secret fire for sorcery, elven songs being formulae or rituals, etc ...


Yep, I got the general idea and it's quite intriguing.

This could work very well for an implied setting aiming at philologically recreating  Middle Earth - which is not exactly what the "standard" goal of VsD is, being it instead encompass a wider genre of high fantasy based on Tolkien but also other authors.

Of course reworking the magic system as you suggest would be an enormous amount of work as of now, with over 30 Spell Lores and 300+ spells already penned, and so far I fear is could be out of the scope and goal of the Full Rules and the Kickstarter; yet those guidelines could well be expanded in complete rules for a fan-based first and then a OGL-licensed supplement when the Open00 license will be released.

If you'd ever want to write those rules down and maybe playtest them with a group and then again grace us with the results of both it will be awesome! We are always open to this kind of contribution and feedback!

For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!

Oh there will be a ogl-like licence, nice.

Do you have or use some kind of spell (de-)construction? For building spells on a green-field basis?

Like i would want to define Spell X, i would use Base Y and add Option Z ...?


Not really, I'm afraid.

We laid down some rules and guidelines when we started writing the Spell Lores, but then made quite a few changes to many spells during the playtest, so they don't really apply anymore.

But that's a great idea! I don't know if we'll be able to include it in the rules, but we'll try to do at least a blog post about it.

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.