Bare Bones – RPG Magic Systems – Part 4

In an effort to be constructive rather than just critical, I’m dreaming up some alternatives to the standard “list of spells (gained by level up or purchase) that you can cast with MP” magic system that forms the standard for RPGs. If you want to read the prior systems, check out parts 1-3 (really, someday I’ll make this a link). Okay, time for one last magic system.

System 4: Diminishing Returns

One of my favorite types of magic system (in theory more than in practice, to be honest) is Vancian magic. For those unfamiliar, play the original Final Fantasy (be careful if you grab a remake, some have been switched to MP system). The basic idea is: groups of spells are arranged into levels, each level has a set number of castings between each time the character rests, number of castings per level increases as the character’s power increases (typically by leveling up). It’s an interesting system, but has some heavy limitations, and honestly doesn’t make a ton of sense compared to a general spiritual/magic power stat that can be used as the fuel for all spells.

So, the diminishing returns system seeks to take the parts I like about Vancian magic, and help it make more sense. Each spell is organized into categories, rather than levels. Well, the categories could be based on how powerful the spells are and effectively be levels as a result, or spells could all be in their own category and the following would apply to each spell independently (rather than impacting multiple spells), but that’s neither here nor there. When a spell is cast out of a category, the entire category is slightly reduced in strength. If the category is used regularly, it decreases in power quickly. If the category isn’t used for a while, it slowly comes back up in power, but never quite up to full (and the maximum power still goes down with every casting, just slower than the current power decreases). All categories are reset to full power upon resting.

Unlike the other systems I described, this one is based more around the casting cost of spells rather than the actual casting mechanism. In fact, it could easily be combined with the interesting inputs or building blocks systems. I guess that goes for the style/rating system too… I guess that the systems could be combined to make four relatively full systems in their own right (2+1 and 2+3, 4+1 and 4+3).

Alright, at this point, I’m all tapped on magical systems ideas. Maybe I’ll have some more another time, but for now, this is plenty for me to feel like I’m putting out ideas instead of just looking at other people’s. I hope these are inspiring to someone out there (these are all systems I’d really like to play, not just imagine).

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