Part 1: Developing a Magic System for RPG


This is a system I have been working on since around July 2009.

Over the past several months I have been working more and more on this magic system for RPG style games.  One of the major things that I have contemplated is that most magic systems do not actually look at the underlying "energies" involved.  These "energies" must interact not only with the Player Character and Non-Player Characters but also the world that they interact with.

What I have developed is basically a system that looks at 4 primary Energy Sources for magic.  These 4 energy sources interact in such a way as to make for 8 different "Planes of Magic".  I represent this best by using an octagon divided into eight pie slices.  Graphically these eight Planes of Magic can be looked at like this:

Planes of Magic

The Four Energy Sources of Magic are:

  1. Life
  2. Death
  3. Terrestrial
  4. Ethereal

Where each of the above Energy Sources intersects or overlaps with other Energy Sources we have what I term "Hybrid/Mix".  The four  "Hybrid/Mix" Energy sources are:

  1. Life - Terrestrial Mix
  2. Death - Terrestrial Mix
  3. Death - Ethereal Mix
  4. Life - Ethereal Mix

Energies that are "directly" across from each other in the above graph can not interact with each other.  They effectively negate each other.  Therefore, a mage that utilizes pure Life Energy can not also practice Death Energy based magic.  However, the pure Life Energy user can practice spells (at high level) in which they "reverse" the flow of the energies.  Thus a Life user that normally would use the "Positive" energy flow to heal, can use the "Negative" energy flow to cause injury.  They are not using Death Energies to inflict the injury they have just reversed the energies that they normally use.  This reversal of energies tho' takes a lot of concentration and effort and can not be achieved at low levels of skill.  Additionally, the reversed energy spells tend to take/use more of the users magical reserves (Mana).  We will discuss this later when we get into more specifics of implementation of this system.


So what are we specifically talking about related to these 8 energy fields?

Starting with the primary energy sources this is what we would have.

Life Energy

The Life Energy source allows the practitioner to call energy from living beings, creatures and monsters, they do not call energy from plant life as plant life is dervied from both Life Energy and Terrestrial Energy sources.  The Life Energy form of magic allows for the mage to invoke mystically rituals that will heal others, cure poisons, stop disease or even at high levels restore life.  Because this is a ritual based magic, interruption of the proper steps may cause serious harm to the individual being helped. 

At low levels of knowledge the fledgling Mage can only provide restorative type spells.  As briefly discussed above, at higher levels of knowledge the Life Mage can with difficulty reverse the spells energy flow and actually cause pain and suffering, damage, poison, disease and even death to the target.

The pure Life Energy Mage is typically called Shaman, Doctor, Cleric, Priest, Faith Healer, etc.


Opposite of Life Energy is

Death Energy

Death Energies flow from dead and decaying things.  Death magic is another highly ritualized based magic.  Interruption of the proper steps have serious consequences to the caster. 

At low levels the Death Mage will be able to re-animate creatures/beings that have recently died.  This is not bringing back to life the creature, it is more like a puppet on strings.  While there are no physical strings between the Death Mage and the re-animated being, there is a "invisible energy string" that connects the two.  Because of this the Death Mage is limited in the number of re-animated creatures he could control at any one time.  However, the Death Mage does not need to verbalize commands in order for the re-animated being to do his bidding.

Other spells that a Death Mage may be able to cast include spells that allow for foretelling future events by extracting the knowledge from multiple deceased beings.  Further they are able to gain "special powers" from the use of the organs from the dead.  They can "integrate" the limbs of the dead into their own body for short periods of time, i.e. add a third arm, leg, hawk eye - distant vision, fish gills - breath underwater, etc.

They are also able to easily inflict pain and suffering, damage, poson or disease and even death on enemies.  At very high levels they can with difficulty reverse the Death Energy and heal others, cure poisons, stop diseases and in some case restore life.

The pure Death Energy mage will typically be called Necromancer, Devil Worshiper, Fortune Teller, Spirtualist, Voodoo Doctor, etc.


Terrestrial Energy

Terrestrial Energy flows from the planet.  Terrestrial Energy does not include plant life as previously stated, plant life is obtained from both Life Energy and Terrestrial Energy.  Users of Terrestrial Energy will typical form tools from the earth that are empowered with special abilities.  Typically these tools will be Jewlery, Shovels, Picks, Axes, Swords, Shields, Amulets and Armor.  Additionally the "tools" might be animated creatures such as Clay, Stone or Iron Golems.  Energy for Terrestrial users comes from the planet itself, therefore as long as they have a firm footing, they can still perform magic.  In fact, many Terrestrial Energy users are know to carry around small clay containers with earth or minerals in them in order to always have access to a little Terrestrial Energy at all times.

While not as ritualistic as Life or Death Energy users, Terrestrial Energy users tend to work with lots of potions, concoctions and mixtures.  In fact many Terrestrial Energy users might pose in "Non-Magical" professions and just happen to have the reputation of making items that do not wear out as fast, are the most colorful, or even a little "enchanted ".  Most Terrestrial Energy users will be involved in  "ore testing and refining, metalworking, production of gunpowder, ink, dyes, paints, cosmetics, leather tanning, ceramics, glass manufacture, preparation of extracts, liquors, etc".  At some point in their lifetime most Terrestrial Energy users will have pursued "The Philosphers Stone" or "Aqua Vitae" the "Water of Life".

Typical names for Terrestrial Energy users are Alchemist, Conjurer, Chemist, Scientist, Tinkerer, Machinist.


Ethereal Energy

The users of Ethereal Energy are working with Time and Space, Reality and Illusionary, and maybe even the "Spirit World".  The use of these energies allow the Ethereal Energy user to form illusions or divine events, make them appear as if they are telekinetic, telepathic or even clairvoyant.  Most Ethereal spells cause no damage, but they will mess with your sanity.  The use of Ethereal Energies tends to be a "Highly Intellectual" pursuit, and these users tend to be the most "egotistical" and "Holier than tho" individuals in a group, if you can even find them in a group.  These individuals tend to drive all around them away with their attitude and demeanor.

Because of the "Highly Intellectual" aspects of Ethereal Energy, simple whispers or thoughts are all that are needed in order to controla nd utilize the flow of energy.  Additionaly, Ethereal Energy users are above the need for a physical companion to assist them and typically will not have a familiar.  Why put up with the need to clean up after a messy creature when it is oh so more efficient to use one's mind.

These individuals may be known as Scholar, Scientist, Theoretician, Mystic, The Initiated, The Elightened One, Illuminati, Freemason.



Many RPG type systems talk about schools of magic.  The schools they talk about are typically divided and segregated according to what I have termed Planes of Magic Energies.  In my system the Schools of Magic are:

  1. Alteration - spells which are used to create objects and/or change the characteristics of a physical object through an enchantment or curse.
  2. Abjuration - spells are used to banish and/or protect.
  3. Evocation - spells which are used to "call forth" and/or "summon".
  4. Divination - spells which are used to learn or extract knowledge.
  5. Psyche - spells are used to alter the mental processes of targets.  Typically you will find illusions, charm, befriend, enrage type spells in this category.

Each "Plane of Magic" may or may not have spells in each of these five "Schools of Magic".  Users of the magical energies may or may not learn spells in all five schools of magic within their plane. 

A quick example for Terrestrial Energy might be the following:

1. Alteration:  Enchant Item (ie. Sword of the Feather: a  2 handed sword that weighs the same as a dagger so no DX penalty, Sword of the Razor +2 to damage) only effects the item and not the user/wearer.

2. Abjuration: Protective Seal (i.e. Amulet of Protection Against Undead), Curse Item (Sword of Healing - damage is done to the user equal to the determined damage amount and the person being attacked is healed by that same amount up to 100% ) 

3. Evocation: Animate Object (i.e. Clay Golem, Iron Golem)

4. Divination: very limited.  Can "sense" the history of an item.  Since "Items" are inanimate and have no memories, you are actually pulling the essence of the owners that lingers on the item.  The more recent, more violent situation that left the "essence" behind, the easier it is to pull.

5. Psyche: Enchant Item (i.e. Love potions)

A quick note.  Enchantment of an Item affects the item only and not the user or wearer.  A Protective Seal or Curse will affect the item, user or wearer.  Therefore, Protective Seals and Curses are what give bonuses to Player Character attributes, not enchanments.


At this point I am going to stop as I think I have given everyone plenty to think about.  In future posts I will start breaking down the Hybrid/Mixed energies and getting into actual spells/rituals that would be appropriate for each Plane and School.

  I am hesitant to give specific spells as i intend to instead provide a framework for Player Characters to "study" and "create" their own spells.  Basically a player during character creation would state to the referree that I am ready to start creating my "Spell Book"/"Research Book" whatever.   At this point he will declare the type of spell he wants to study describing the components needed and the effects expected.  The referree will consult some standardization charts to determine the percentage chance of success and/or failure.  Part of the determinations will also be the time spent dedicated to that study.  Given the time, the # of ingredients, the affect/effect, the amount of affect/effect, the ref will allow for a random dice throw the see if he is successful.  The success rate will be complete failure (very low chance) to partial success (very high chance) to complete success (very small chance).  Based on the level of success will determine the end affect/effects.  Ok, you have "Cure Disease", it will allow you to cure sinus infections only. (just kidding).

Anyway, what I want is to move away from "Standard" spells and allow for players to determine their own fate. There might be a few 'standard spells" that have been researched and shared but most will need to be developed on their own.  Also, for the "standard spells" there is still a chance of "Learning" it, that will change the outcome for the individual Player Character.

For example, "Cure Wounds" the referree will tell the Player generating this character that he was taught a "Cure Wounds" spell in school and he can (randomly determine with a dice roll the number) the amount of damage he can heal with the spell.  That is to say the referree might roll a six side dice and a 20 sided dice.  The six sided dice is a three so the player can heal 3 dice worth of damage.  What type of Dice?  Well the 20 sided dice might be broken up to 1-4= four sided dice, 5-12=six sided dice, 13-14=eight sided dice, 15-16=ten sided dice, 17-19=twelve side dice and a 20=20 sided dice.  Thus a roll of 9 would imply that this Player Characters "Cure Wounds" spell does 3d6 (3-18 points) of health restoration.  If the ref had rolled a 5 and 17, this would determine that the Player Character could do 5d12 (5-60 points) health restoration.  The magic system I am coming up for is the framework for a referree to be able to create a unique spell system for his campaign, world, environment.

This should give you a basic idea of where I am headed so that you can actually branch out and start doing some of your own thing.  Until next time!

End of Part 1