Spell Crafting YKTTW Discussion

Spell Crafting
When a setting lets you make up or cobble together spells or powers.
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(permanent link) added: 2011-05-11 12:54:14 sponsor: Kn9 edited by: hbi2k (last reply: 2014-08-22 12:06:12)

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Most games give the player a list of pre-existing spells to choose between. Others give the player the option to customize their spell selection, up to and including creating entirely new spells from scratch.

The more options such a system gives the player, the more open it is to Loophole Abuse. Such systems are most common in tabletop RPGs where a human Game Master is present to prevent players from creating Game Breakers. It occasionally pops up in single-player Wide Open Sandbox RPGs as well.

Compare Item Crafting and Design It Yourself Equipment.


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     Action RPG 
  • Nox allows wizards and conjurers to create custom traps (stationary ones for the former, living summons for the latter) with up to three spell effects that they already know. Once a trap is triggered by a enemy's proximity, all three spells are unleashed at once. On the downside, creating a trap requires enough mana to power all three spells, which is expended at once, without a chance to regenerate—if you don't have that much, you can't create that trap.

  • Eternal Darkness has a Rune System. Essentially, all you need are three types of Runes (Spell, Target, Alignment) and you can mix and match them into whatever spell you want to create. Medallions called Circles of Power have a number of slots you can use to mix and match, from 3 to 5 to 7. If you have the right runes you can cast a spell even if it's not on your list, though there are only a certain number of valid combinations.

  • While Dungeons & Dragons games, post 2nd edition at least, tend to have very thorough options in the core rules, the Dungeon Master's Guide carries extensive information on making new magic and items.
  • The first supplement of REIGN includes an exhaustive guide on how to create new magic spells and schools, and encourages players and Game Masters to make their own.
  • Ars Magica may be the Trope Maker, or at least Trope Codifier, for freeform magic in games. Spells use pseudo-Latin "power words" to create spell effects on the fly.
  • Mage: The Awakening and Mage: The Ascension: If you've got the power and the skill, you can do it.
  • FUDGE, admittedly a tool-kit game, includes numerous complete magic systems, most of which are rather loose on their own.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplaying game, witches and other magic-users expressly create their own spells ahead of time by "researching" them, then building them from the ground up via a checklist.
  • GURPS offers several varieties of magic that work this way, with differing rules about creating spells. Notable forms include Ritual Path Magic, which assigns various types of effects to Paths of magic each of which is bought as a skill, and Syntactic Magic, where Nouns and Verbs are magical skills, and spells are built out of combinations of them.
  • For a sufficiently broad definition of "spells": Cards Against Humanity includes blank black and white cards. A common House Rule allows any player who draws one to fill it in with whatever they wish. The new card then becomes a permanent part of the set.

     Western RPG 
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion grants the ability to create custom spells to players who progress to a certain point in the Mages' Guild quest line or purchase the Wizard's Tower Downloadable Content. The player chooses a spell's range (self, touch, or ranged), area of effect (single-target or Splash Damage), duration, and effects, and the game automatically assigns a Magicka cost depending on how powerful the spell is, theoretically maintaining game balance. In practice, it is hilariously easy to design game-breakingly powerful spells by combining synergistic effects such as Weakness to Fire + Fire Damage, or assigning a one-second duration to spells that increase the Persuasion skill (which only works in dialogue, which pauses the game clock). The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind had similar features.
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