|1 person marked this as a favorite.|
Magic shouldn't be just a rote set of incantations, gestures, and rituals designed to consistently and safely produce the same effects with the same ingredients. To me, being a mage should be less about "[yawn] Slay Living, [yawn] Fireball, [yawn] Summon Monster IX, [bored] Power Word Kill, I have trivialized the combat for the day" and more about "holy dog carp u guyz i can totally set teh orc army on fire liek a Christmas tree but it might kill us all! Should I do it anyway TOO LATE!!! i already made the thaumaturgy!! XD"
......All right, maybe that's a little too extreme, but my point is that magic should be:
*Powerful- mages should be rightly feared for their powerful magic.
*Fickle- just because you know how the spell should work doesn't mean it's going to be true. Even your cantrips cause ripples in the Arcane Sea.
*Inherently dangerous. You might not like what happens when you don't account for those ripples.
So how do we make mages the powerful/feared/likely to get screwed over?
Option 1 - It Only Hurts When I Cast
Microlite20 had in its default rules that all spellcasters actually burned their own hit points to power a spell (twice the spell's level + 1). You could do it this way to make magic more of a "Guys, we NEED this, the situation's that bad" thing than "Look what happens when the goblins line up in a fifteen foot cone and I cast Burning Hands! They go '(ANGUISHED SCREAMING IN GOBLIN)'" scenario. (And reward mages who specialize by reducing the cost of spellcasting for their specific school.)
Option 2 - Maybe I Should Visit the Acadamae More Often
You could have a mage make a concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) to cast a spell. If he makes it, the spell goes off without a hitch; if he fails by 5+ or rolls a natural 1, that's when the bad things happen. I'm talking stuff like he burns away some of his life essence (yay, Constitution damage!), accidentally gates in a couple elementals (who might want to bludgeon the mage and his pals to death), the spell has the exact opposite effect, or the mage finds his spellcasting suddenly cut off for a few hours. Be creative, but be fair.
This should not be something easily mitigated by other effects- the Constitution injury can only be healed by time, not magic; the accidentally summoned elementals do not give an experience reward; the mage doesn't go for his stock of wands and scrolls- when he's cut off for 1d8 hours, the flow of mana means he's out of the spellcasting fight for one to eight hours.
Option 3 - Burn ALL the Books
Or you could just make magic dangerous by ripping off a rule from Wheel of Time d20. You gain a mage level, you get 1d6 permanent Insanity points. Once you reach a certain threshold (too lazy to check) and the Fun Stuff (for the DM) happens!
Alternately, you could borrow the class, uh, "feature" the maho-tsukai from Oriental Adventures has (which requires your character to be corrupted by insanity/darkness already). Every time you gain a level, you have to make a Will save to avoid taking another maho-tsukai level (and thus further condemning yourself to whatever tarrasque-filled eternity of agony your character's earning!)