Magic Options and different rule systems

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There is a thread floating around on 3PP settings but I thought it might be a good idea to come up with something similar for Magic Systems.

Lets face it Vancian Magic is not loved by all and plenty of folks try their hands at alternatives. Also from a World building perspective having access to different sets of Magic rules can open up a lot of new options. Need a world where magic is dangerous and time consuming – Turn to True Sorcery for you Magic. World with no divine spellcasting – Mosaic Magic gives you Arcane Healers. A world where magic has a more primitive less developed feel - try Words of Power.

So here is a list and summary of the different systems I know of. If you know of any others and want to contribute feel free to add to it. Or if you have any questions about the systems you see on this thread feel free to ask about them.

Core System; Slot system of Prepared fire–and-forget spells. Alternatively you have the Sorcerer with limited Spells Known and burns off slots as needed

Words of Power – Ultimate Magic; Still Slot based but instead of getting spells from a pre-made list spells are Made using Words. Offers some creativity but less volume of spells. I can think of only one 3PP supplement that has added to the list of words (John Brazer Enterprises “10 Undead Spell Words”)

3.5 Spell Point System – Unearthed Arcana: Adapted from the Psionic Power Point system. Spells Prepared and Spells Known from the Core rules remain but instead of Fire-and-forget you cast by expending Spell Points. Offers added flexibility on what you cast during a day. Also Caps spell damage at the level you gain the spell unless you Augment it. (EX: Fireball for a Wizard is locked at 5d6 damage and costs 5 Spell Points. For every extra d6 of damage you want you must add 1 Spell Point up to a maximum damage of 10d6.)

World of Warcraft – Sword and Sorcery ; Spells castable per day is still Slot based. Spell Prepared per day is based on your Caster Attribute and increased depending on your Ranks in Spellcraft. Wizard with 18 Int Prepares 7 Spells of each Spell level. He can prep 1 more for every 4 Ranks of Spellcraft. Spell remain in memory and he burns spell slots as needed.

Mosaic Mage - Super Genius Games; Still Slot based Fire-and-forget however the spells are divided by Color instead of school. Each Color gets different available spells based on subschools and descriptors (EX: White Mages can cast Conjuration (Healing) Spells, Red Mages can cast Evocation (Fire) spells, etc….) No Spellbooks, Mosaic mage has access to all spells in his Color but other than that works just like a Prepared Caster Wizard. This system means wizards have every spell in the game spread across 5 colors of magic. White Mages can do your Healing, Yellow Mages do your Buffing, Red Mages do your Blasting, etc…

House Rules Spell Points - Super Genius Games; Slightly different from the 3.5 spell point system particularly on Costs. No Spell Preparation. Wizard can cast anything in his spellbook as needed just by spending points. Sorcerers and the like still locked into Spells Known list. However the more you cast the same spell in a day the more costly it becomes. Prepared Casters increase the cost by it’s spell level, Spontaneous increase it by 1. (Wizard casts Fireball – First casting = 4 points, 2nd=7 points, 3rd = 10 points, etc… Sorcerer casts Fireball – First casting = 4 points, 2nd = 5 points, 3rd = 6 points, etc…)

True Sorcery – Green Ronin; Skill based casting system. Spellcasters learn Lores. Each Lore has a Basic effect. Spellcasters modify that basic effect to create spells. The more they change it the higher the DC to successfully cast the spell and the long it takes to cast. Extremely flexible system but complex to deal with at the table, powerful spells can take several rounds to cast. The most powerful spells are rituals that take days to perform.

Miracles & Wonders – Adamant Press; Exclusively for Divine Spell casting. Spellcasting comes down to Asking God for a Favor. Divine Spellcasters must balance Grace and Hubris (or Malefice and Weakness for Evil priests) Grace makes it easier to call for more powerful Miracles but gather up too much Hubris and your Gods says “enough is enough, you need to learn not to call on me for every little thing”. System needs a good relationship between Player and DM as it requires a lot of on the spot interpretations, in the right campaign with a good DM it’s a very flexible and creative system.

Elements of Magic – EN Publishing; Spell Point Lore system. Similar to the True 20 system but Spell point based instead of skill based. Wizards learn different Spell Lists. Each List has a basic effect for 0 Spell Points (IE: A cantrip) and you modify that to create spells. The more powerful the spell the more Magic Points it costs. Spells take 2 full rounds to cast unless it is a Signature Spell from your personal Spellbook which can be cast as a Standard action. You can mix spell lists to create more complex spells, though GM has Veto if he decides the different effects don’t fit. Spell Power is limited by the amount of points you put in so High Damage spells need more power. Very Flexible, rewards creativity and retains elements such as Personal Spellbooks. Base version means Mages have all forms of magic including healing available to them. Supplement book (Lyceian Arcana) adds concepts of Magic traditions and other world building ideas that restrict who can gain access to which spell lists.

Hi there!

I released Words of Power Unleashed months ago to gauge the market. There really wasn't much demand, so I didn't move forward with a whole series of products. Still, it's there and offers another 17 words for $1.25.

Words of Power came across as very clunky because it attempted to make itself work for so many classes, so I created the Ethermancer Base Class using a system that somewhat resembles Words of Power, but flows significantly better, particularly in the multiple words department. The end result is a warlock with a rapidly replenishing power point pool.


Interjection Games wrote:

Hi there!

I released Words of Power Unleashed months ago to gauge the market. There really wasn't much demand, so I didn't move forward with a whole series of products. Still, it's there and offers another 17 words for $1.25.

Words of Power came across as very clunky because it attempted to make itself work for so many classes, so I created the Ethermancer Base Class using a system that somewhat resembles Words of Power, but flows significantly better, particularly in the multiple words department. The end result is a warlock with a rapidly replenishing power point pool.


Both of those look pretty interesting to me, and I knew nothing about them, so the thread is paying off for me already. Think I'll pick those up next time I do a Drivethru RPG order.

Very good, mate. If you hold off, I'm going to put together a special 40% off Christmas bundle for my base classes as soon as the gadgeteer rolls off the line. It's in the final balancing phase (in which I throw darts at a wall to determine point costs!) right now, but still has its second spellbook to go because I'm a masochist like that.

Words of Power isn't a bad system, it's just got a very rough treatment in Ultimate Magic. Once you decipher it, it's got a lot of potential...but really it's a pale shadow of Ars Magica's system.

Ahhh, Ars Magica. It is the one magic system to rule them all and in the Aristotlian Physics and Medieval Paradigm bind them. I can generate any effect you want within the limits of Magic, and those are clearly defined. I can generate effects in multiple methods. The only effects it doesn't handle well are time-related ones, raising the dead, and wish, but even those could be a approximated using different forms if you wanted to ignore the limits. It has rune systems, hedge magic, witches, integration of new traditions, research of new spells, non-violent magical dueling, magic item construction, benefits of shapes and materials, mystery initiations, supernatural creature's Ars mother-REDACTED Magica, and it is the undisputed paragon of magic systems, the inspiration for Words of Power, the source for Mage: The Awakening, the hoary forebearer of Mage: The Ascension. Do not believe the heretical review on the corebook page-- this is a system for everyone, they just don't know it yet.

There was even an attempt at a d20 conversion, called The Black Monks of Glastonbury. While it was done by the line editor, it's not quite the same. I prefer the original system.

In PFRPG options not listed, there are:

Incantations in Theory and Practice, which is ritual magic for anyone, from the fine folks at Zombie Sky Press. These are the pages you should have in your core book, printed, stuffed in the back. There's an expansion on these rules in Deep Magic, but you want this PDF because it's priced for less than it's worth and it gives you both a handful of incantations, and just about everything you'd want to make more. (I say almost because there were some expansions I wrote for Deep Magic)

Covenant Magic, which is your missing creature-binding ruleset. Purple Duck Games has a great PDF which I'd heartily recommend.

The Deluxe Guide to Fiend Summoning and Faustian Bargains from Necromancers of the Northwest looks good, but at $17.99, it's beyond my price range for a PDF without knowing at least the table of contents.

And it's not out yet, but it's in layout, and it'll be positively mind-blowingly awesome (cue reverberating movie trailer voice, nimbus of all encompassing power): Deep Magic. Just go look at the kickstarter's final list of material and authors.


I am a huge fan of DSP's psionics, which can be thought of as an alternate form of magic. Very well done, balanced, and cool.

Also, SGG's Spell Points books. They are perfect, and make Pf SO much better!

I had forgotten one. With how little the core magic system has changed over the years it's probably still useable with some tweaks and with WoTC finally getting onside with PDF sales like Drivethru RPG it's available again

2nd Edition D&D Spell Point System - PO:SPells and Magic; Spell point system that still used spell preparation, then Spell Points to cast as needed. Notable because it has several interesting options later Spell point systems didn't. Spell could be prepared as either Fixed Magic or Free Magic. A Fixed Magic was a standard spell prepared as normal. A Free Magic however could be used for any spell of that Spell level in your spellbook but the Spell Point Cost was much higher. It also allowed you to Cast spells at greater power by increasing the Spell Point cost or you could reduce the cost by reducing the power, increasing the casting time or by putting restrictions on how the spell worked (EX: A Magic missile that can only be cast if you first touch the target with your bare hand)

Lastly they also added a variety of Optional Magic systems to go along with it.
Arcane Casters could use
-Channelling: The Wizard draws energy from outside to cast his magic resulting in stress and fatigue when he casts powerful spells.

-Witchcraft: The Wizard gets his power from otherworldly pacts. Spell Points can only be restored by calling up his Patron and convincing it to "refuel the tank"

-Defilers and Preservers: everyone one's favorite. The power for magic comes from the land, you can take it gently or you can rip it out by force leaving the land barren and worthless.

-Alienists and Summoners: Magic comes from strange otherworldly beings and spells can drive you mad.

Divine Casters had their own set as well
-Channelling: same as with arcane casters
-Ritual: Priests need to perform prayers and offerings to gather spell points to cast their spells
-Conditional Magic: Casting spells becomes easier or harder depending on conditions imposed by your deity.
-Druidic Magic: Same as the Preserver Defiler system except no defiling allowed.

It's one of the older Options out there but it had a lot of good things going for it and the optional sub-systems that it had made for some very good world building tools.

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