Created By: Kn9 on May 11, 2011 Last Edited By: hbi2k on August 22, 2014
Troped

Spell Crafting

When a setting lets you make up or cobble together spells or powers.

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hbi2k was here taking over your YKTTW

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.

Examples:

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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.

     Horror 
  • 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.

     Tabletop 
  • 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.
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • May 11, 2011
    Kizor
    I proposed this in the forums a few months back, but it got stuck as a couple of people kept insisting that it was a duplicate trope, and I took the matter to YKTTW.

    You're welcome to it, but I suggest the name I used: Spellcrafting.
  • May 11, 2011
    Scooter007
    The old "MEGS" game system used for the DC Heroes / Blood Of Heroes game is a Type 1 in the last official version.
  • May 11, 2011
    Kn9
    Wild Talents is no. 3, as players are encouraged to create their own powers. With Variable Effect, that can be on the fly, too.
  • May 11, 2011
    yourfriendrick
    GURPS Thaumatology is number 5, IMHO, but I don't know if FUDGE is a number 5 in the same sense.

    The computer game Magicka deserves a mention.

    The card game and computer game series Magic: the Gathering deserves a mention.
  • May 12, 2011
    Arivne
    • 1st and 2nd Edition (Advanced) Dungeons And Dragons. The 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG) had specific rules for magic-users to create new spells, and the 2nd Edition DMG allowed both wizards and priests to create new spells.
  • May 12, 2011
    Shalriek
    The magic system from Two Worlds 2 is an example of type 3
  • May 12, 2011
    Bisected8
    Magicka is as close to 4 as type 3 can get. You cast spells by putting various combinations of elements together and then channeling them into yourself, directly ahead, around you or into your weapon, as well as using preset spells (the titular "Magicka") by entering the relevant combinations and hitting the space bar. The game just teaches you how to cast single element spells and gives you a few basc combinations and leaves you to find the rest on your own (not even bothering to tell you how you can get the "steam" and "ice" elements which are needed for some of the early magicka).
  • May 12, 2011
    Kn9
    I'm not sure if Magic could be an example given how technically you CAN'T create new spells for the game unless you actually work for the company. There are a lot of homemade and joke cards, but they're pretty explicitly not part of the real game and can only be used casually.
  • June 15, 2013
    Shieldage
    Shadowrun is 1 or 2 depending on how you define the creation rules being inside a separate magic sourcebook but advertised in the corebook.
  • June 15, 2013
    Solomontastic
    This is definitely tropeworthy.

    In the Nasuverse, magi generally keep their knowledge and magecraft to themselves, therefor most of the spells you see are homebrewn, somewhat of an in-universe type 5.
  • June 16, 2013
    Koveras
    Compare Item Crafting.
  • June 16, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Hero Games
      • Champions. A character's power or magical spell could be defined as always being the same thing, being defined as a Multipower which allowed multiple powers using the same character points, some kind of Variable Power Pool with limitations as to which powers could be chosen, or the ultimate, a Cosmic Power Pool which allowed the use of any power/spell at will.
      • Fantasy Hero (the fantasy version of Champions). Spells were mostly unchanging once created, but new spells could be created.
  • June 16, 2013
    Astaroth
    In Treasure Of The Rudra, any combination of letters the player can think of can be turned into a mantra and used as a magic spell, though there are certain words, prefixes and suffixes that have set effects. For example, you're expected to take the letters TOU and use them as the basis for a lightning spell, then add prefixes and suffixes like KAA~ or ~NAS to make it more powerful and get the damage:MP ratio you want... but you can also just inscribe the mantra LIGHTNING or THUNDERSTORM and it will create an equally viable lightning spell.
  • June 16, 2013
    Chabal2
    If Level Editors count, Warcraft III has an extremely flexible system for creating custom spells far more intricate than those already present (and on some custom maps, it's possible to do this in-game). Not in the campaign or regular maps though.
  • June 16, 2013
    oztrickster
    Oblivion had the wizard's tower dlc which allowed you to create custom spells using effects from any current spells you knew.
  • June 18, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    Bump.
  • July 14, 2013
    OlafMerchant
    • Morrowind had a pretty solid Do-It-Yourself enchantment and spellcrafting system. You could set the effects, Ao E, damage and so forth, with calculated MP and gold costs for creating the spell. With the proper materials, you could have a pair of regenerating pants, a pair of levitation shoes or an amulet that kills it's wearer with fire.
  • July 15, 2013
    Koveras
    • 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.
  • July 23, 2013
    AgentLetrush
    The Oblivion example is inaccurate. Spell making was in the original game, but only for Mages Guild members.
    • In The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, members of the Mages Guild had access to a Spell Making altar, which let you create custom spells using effects from any spells you knew. The Wizard's Tower DLC made this available to non guild members.
  • July 25, 2013
    StarSword
    Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The 3.5E supplement Lost Empires of Faerun included rules for researching and creating mythals, persistent magical fields that can provide spells and effects to creatures within them or block them from being cast. These works of epic magic are relatively common in elven cities.
  • July 26, 2013
    henke37
    Take this to the logical extreme and you get a Programing Game
  • July 28, 2013
    KingZeal
    • 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.
  • August 18, 2013
    Jono9009
    In Echoes Of Time, Ring Of Fates, and Crystal Chronicles, you can combine any of the 6 base spells in a multitude of combinations by hovering one spell's AOE circle over another's. you can chain the same spell in these spell chains for a more potent version of that spell, and can even combine all of the spell's powered up version for the most devastating attack in the games.
  • August 18, 2013
    Jono9009
    Am I also the only one who noticed that Eternal Darkness is mentioned twice in the examples?
  • August 19, 2013
    Arivne
    Divided the examples by media and merged the Eternal Darkness examples.
  • October 3, 2013
    hbi2k
    The Buffy RPG example should be listed under Tabletop Games.

    I'd suggest Spell Crafting, two words, as a better name.
  • October 4, 2013
    Koveras
    Would non-video game examples count?

    • Spells in the Lyrical Nanoha series are magical programs, so each mage writes their own spell library as they study magic. It is possible to teach others your spells, but it's not a carbon copy then, but the recipient basically reverse engineers the teacher's spell and crafting one with similar effects from their own program snippets. There is even a special organization (of which the title character is a member) whose tasks include experimenting with spells and testing their effects in the field.
  • August 21, 2014
    hbi2k
    Bumping and grabbing this YKTTW.

    I really have no idea how this thing got five hats, since it was in pretty rough shape when I found it. Many of the examples are still pretty light on context, I would appreciate help fleshing them out from folks familiar with the games in question.
  • August 21, 2014
    Dalillama
    • 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.
  • August 22, 2014
    aurora369
    It isn't just Oblivion: Morrowind and Daggerfall also had this feature. It was a regular in The Elder Scrolls series until Skyrim dropped it in favor of flashier magic effects.
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