OK, I've read several times now people asking about modular, effect-based magic. The Crafty guys seem to be really focusing on spell-based magic, which they should (consistency, overall robustness, and all that), but that doesn't mean that we cannot develop a fan-based framework for modular magic that we could use instead or maybe in conjunction with regular sorcery.
Well, that would be my first point already. I'm not thinking complete, out-of-the-box effect-based magic. I'm rather leaning toward something like what Jim Butcher describes in the Dresden Files and is more or less well captured by the FATE system. Or let me put it that way: the FATE system handles Evocation magic quite well; while the Thaumaturgy side is treated rather sloppily (in my humble opinion at least) and which Mastercraft does waaaay better. So that's my starting concept: regular magic, aka Thaumaturgy, handled with the standard Fantasy Craft way, under the Spellcasting skill, spell points, limited known spells, all of that (maybe just a few adjustments); then modular, short-term magic, aka Evocation, handled with a parallel system. How do they interact? That's one of the points that need to be discussed in details.
Anyway, let's start somewhere. I use Butcher's idea of Evocation as a reference (without the whole element-based kind of thing), but we can expand it if it doesn't cause further trouble. So basically, Evocation is used instantly to attack or defend. If it fails, no effect. If it fails badly (critical failure!) then there's a chance for a real backlash and other bad stuff. But if it succeeds, you either inflict a lot of damage or protect yourself against some. The evocations themselves are not spells as in the FC sense, since they can by and large be modified by the caster when they are used. Of course, the ones he uses most often are easier to cast (something to take into account). But starting with any spell:
- You need to define what kind of energy (damage) you want to use or against which you would like protection.
- You need to define your target(s), range, area, all these space-based effect. This might or might not trigger a save from the target(s).
- Most of the time, the effect is instant, but you may want it to linger for a few rounds (for defense mostly).
- This sums up to a certain "evocation difficulty"; obviously you must beat it with a skill check to make it happen. You must also spend spell points. Very demanding spells could increase the error range of the check.
- And finally casting time. Most of the time, it should be instant, but you might be able to focus a little better to achieve greater effect (or reduce error range?).
Don't know if I covered it all, but it should be a start. I believe we can also add effects that inflict a condition on the target(s). Like this, it starts to look really really like FC's system to build NPCs' attacks. That's not involuntary. There's some great crunch here that could certainly be re-exploited in another framework.
So what do we need to design if we want something that works like this?
- A new skill, similar to Spellcasting, that would govern this kind of magick.
- A standard cumulative difficulty for inflicted damage type and amount, condition, area, save DC, damage resistance, and duration. This difficulty must be beaten by the skill check.
- A spell point cost based on difficulty. Possibly also, an error range increase based on difficulty.
- A way to reduce error range by focusing somehow.
- A way for the caster to suffer side effects in exchange for increased power.
- And of course, all the character options behind this crunch. New class maybe? New feats certainly. New Origins.
- Check how all of this interacts with existing rules/options, and particularly regular sorcery/thaumaturgy.
Sounds fun, doesn't it? Thoughts?