Continuing my thoughts on developing a simplified version of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3 based on the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars system, in this post I will present some suggestions for simplifying the magic system. It is likely that my suggestions for magic will tend to over-power magicians, because that’s exactly what I like in a system…

Introduction

Magic in the simplified WFRP system should be based on strain, rather than magic points, and will use a simplified spell system in which wizards choose three or four ladders of spell types. Each ladder has a first, second and third rank spell, approximately equivalent to the spells in the cards currently available through the WFRP3 set. Spells are cast using a spellcraft skill check, with  difficulty determined by the rank of the spell and the attribute of a target. Spells will have a strain cost, and will incur additional strain from rolling banes. Spell casters also have a talent tree (as in the case of the rogue) but will have to purchase spells using development and experience points.

Spell-casting and strain

All PCs will start with a strain score equal to 8+WP. Strain is incurred through failed combat actions, and can be recovered after battles through discipline checks, and then through rest. When a spell is cast it costs 2+Rank strain; so a rank 1 spell costs 3 strain. Each additional bane rolled on the spell check incurs an additional point of strain; chaos stars incur an additional point of strain + a miscast card. Thus the average level 1 wizard with strain of 12 can safely expect to cast 3 spells in one battle; the 4th spell will carry a risk of being rendered incapable of further action.

If a spell takes a human target, the difficulty of casting the spell is set by the target attribute (usually WP, but this can vary); the spell incurs an additional misfortune die per rank above 1. If the spell has no human target, the difficulty is set by the rank: one misfortune die at rank 1, and then an additional challenge die for every rank above 1.

Spell types and effects

The basic role of spells in WFRP3 is to apply conditions to targets, or to damage them. This is easily represented through revised spell descriptions in simplified warhammer. A simple approach is to set the damage done by a spell at 2+Spell Rank+ Int. Conditions can be more diverse than those described by the cards in WFRP3. For example, a rank 1 spell can apply one misfortune die to checks with one attribute; a rank 2 spell can apply this misfortune die to all physical or all mental actions; a rank 2 spell could alternatively apply one challenge die; and rank 3 spells could apply two challenge dice or a combination of effects. Duration can be the caster’s intelligence, with modifications available from the talent tree. Other enhancement options could be damage modifiers in combat (e.g. +1 dmg per rank), stance dice enhancements, soak and defense modifiers, and other aspects of conditions (manoeuvre restrictions, changes in critical states). These effects will vary according to the ladder down which the spell steps, and don’t necessarily even need to have spell names – every player could make up their own spell names for their particular set of effects.

Table 1 shows an example of the key spell ladders and the effects that might be contained in differing ranks of one ladder.

 

Table 1: Example spell ladders

Class Order Equivalent Effects
Elemental Fury Aqshy Elemental damage attacks
Elemental Body Aqshy Elemental melee enhancements (defenses, damage)
Elemental Mind Aqshy Enhancements to social checks, reckless stance dice, bravery
Celestial luck Celestial Force target rerolls, improve luck, regain fortune points
Celestial movement Celestial Fast movement, flight, teleportation
Illusion Stealth Grey Order Shadows, Hide in plain sight, Invisibility
Shadow Damage Grey Order Conditions affecting int, willpower, control enemy
Shadow Transformation Grey order Fear, disguise, doppelganger
Shadow Body Grey order Defence effects, become insubstantial
Alchemy Gold order Damage machines, transform items, enchant items
Alchemical Enhancement Gold order Improve soak, improve int based checks, improve defence
Necromantic Protection Amethyst Prevent damage; prevent criticals; prevent death
Necromantic Perception Amethyst Detect living/dead; enhance int-based checks; speak with dead
Necromantic Attack Amethyst Cause fear; cause damage
Transformation Amber Change shape (wolf, crow, bear)
Wild Combat Amber Enhance damage; cause damage

 

Each ladder should have its own general spell effects, determined using a willpower check, that last WP in rounds during combat, or WP in minutes out of combat. Spell effects out of combat should last WP in minutes, with an extension to hours by increasing the challenge.

Wizard talent tree

The Wizard talent tree is shown in Figure 1. The extra strain talent can be taken multiple times. This talent tree doesn’t allow any option to increase duration of spells, which may be something that could be changed.

Figure 1: Wizard talent tree

Figure 1: Wizard talent tree

Alternative: spell-less magic

It would be fairly easy to categorize most magical effects in terms of conditions, damage and their equivalents, and to use an entirely spell-free magic system in which magic has a difficulty value and causes strain as the total of number of failures + number of banes. In this case magic would be equivalent to just a different and more interesting range of ways of doing skill checks. It would probably require a simple table of difficulties (comparing, e.g. applying one misfortune die to a single ability score vs. all ability scores vs. granting a target one additional reckless die, or a training die, and so on). This would lead to a very flexible and interesting magic system that gave magicians the ability to directly affect dice pools and character traits in complex and interesting ways. It could be worth a session to try out…

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