OK, now the biggy and the thing that’s likely to piss people off the most if they’re traditionalists.
I cannot stand Vancian magic. I hate it. I find it unnecessarily limiting and far too specific. I like my magic wild and adaptable. If I have ever had a perfect magic system it has been the one in Mage: The Ascension (Second edition).
On the other hand so much of D&D’s setting is evoked in its magic and in their names and images it’s hard to fully sacrifice that.
I have a secondary idea about a sort of Alchemist/Wizard magic set with pre-prepared devices rather than spells, but that would take a lot more effort and thought to bring into being than I’m willing to devote at this point.
As to Divine and Arcane magic? Really, what’s the difference? It’s just thematic really, a needless complication, so out it goes.
Right then, how would you cast magic?
First you’d need a ‘Spellcaster’ Special trait.
Second you will need appropriate magical skills:
- Abjuration – Protective spells
- Conjuration – Summoning/Creating
- Divination – Seeing, diving, knowing.
- Enchantment – Mind and behaviour affecting spells.
- Evocation – Creating energy effects out of Mana.
- Illusion – Phantasmal and illustory effects.
- Necromancy – The manipulation of the dead and the spirit.
- Transmutation – The conversion of one thing into another.
The investment in terms of special abilities and skills is going to be pretty intense for someone wanting to be a pure magic user, but someone who wants a few tricks to supplement their other skills can easily learn a little bit of magic, just enough to give them an edge or some useful tools and that works pretty well.
The factors involved in spells are:
- Effect: Determined and described by the school it falls under. Minor, moderate and major effects. -0, -5, -10.
- Range: Touch -0, 50 ft, -2, 100 ft, -4, 200 ft -6, and so on.
- Area: Single target -0, 5 ft radius -2, 10 ft radius -4, 15 ft radius -6 and so on.
- Special Effects: Adding an elemental effect or others would also impose a penalty.
They also have to overcome the target’s defences.
Mana Cost comes in when the character tries to offset the penalties that are incurred by reaching further, harder and so on. A character could also offset by spending turns to build up to the casting, perhaps with a maximum of +5 over 5 turns.
Delcan is confronted by a Goblin in chainmail and lashes out with his magic.
Delcan has an Evocation skill of +5 and a +2 stat bonus as well as +1 specialisation in Evocation. That gives him a base of +8 to roll against the Goblin’s defence of 15.
Delcan needs to reach the goblin which is some 30 feet away, doesn’t need to bother with area and gives it an electrical elemental effect. That reduces his score by -3 but metal armour isn’t going to protect against it. Now he only needs to beat 11.
Delcan now has a score of +5 to roll against 11, pretty good odds but if he wants to deal the goblin a deadly blow it’ll take more, so he pumps five mana into the attack giving him a total of +10.
Delcan rolls 15, adds 10 for 25 and does the goblin a total of 14 damage. A hefty wound.