View Full Version : Freeform magic systems

February 25th, 2008, 17:05
Does anyone have a good list or a site that lists game systems with freeform magic systems?

I am more going for modern than fantasy but realize a lot of the work would probably already be done for fantasy genres. I would be willing to strip out said system and apply it to a modern setting.

I have played and GM'd Mage:The Ascension and loved the freeform aspect of it. I liked the paradox system and having to keep magic coincidental to avoid notice. I am currently investigating the newest incarnation Mage:The Awakening which changes the background a bit and from what I can read decided to go with a spell list heavy system with freeform magic possible but not as powerful. I am still investigating this.

I have also played Talislanta and I like its system of defined effects and the more effect you place into a spell the harder it is to cast but its still freeform to a decent amount (at least 4th edition was).

I have read a bit about Ars Magica and it seems very similar to the Mage system and the wiki explains it helped influence it. I am researching some more about this and I like the technique + form system.

I haven't looked into the indie games yet, I still want my combats to be tactical with a little crunch but am looking for a non-vancian free form magic system set in the modern age if possible. Anyone have any other ideas?

February 25th, 2008, 17:45
I'm not entirely sure what you mean by freeform, but have you taken a look at HARP'? Take a look at HARPs "College of Magic" which has a very nicely detailed fully scalable system that is easily expandable.

Perhaps these reviews would be helpful:
Review 1 (http://www.enworld.org/reviews.php?do=review&reviewid=2695260)
Review 2 (http://www.enworld.org/reviews.php?do=review&reviewid=2543473)

February 25th, 2008, 18:17
By freeform I mean that the spell is determined on-the-fly with the rules system usually governing what is possible within the system. That college of magic PDF from what I can surmise is pretty opened ended with creating the spells but I don't know the magic system of HARP to know how the magic system is used in play.

Basically in a system like Mage or Ars Magica (from what I can gather) the rules tell you your limits in certain areas of magic but you are free to mix and match the effect you create at the time of casting. This obviously is a little ambiguous but can lead to great versatility as well as role playing.

Also in the above two systems making the magic seem coincidental in the eyes of "normals" make it easier to cast and also make the players have to come up with interesting ways to describe the spell.

The classic example in a modern Mage setting is instead of throwing a fireball in an urban street fight, the mage causes a gas main explosion underneath the street. Same effect but would be plausible to the mundane types. Although if the same effect starts occurring more frequently you get penalties as it becomes more fantastical and suffer greater risk for magical backlash.

February 25th, 2008, 18:36
Ok, then I think the HARP system also might do what you're looking for. Spells, when cast, can be scaled with different effects. The spell itself will determine what scaling options are available, but when you cast it you can choose it's exact effects. How it is scaled determines it's cost to cast and it's power level.

I really can't tell you much more then that. I'm an RM guy who's familiar with the HARP system but never actually played it :-) But I would say it matches what you're looking for and would be worthy of further consideration.

February 25th, 2008, 20:09
You've already mentioned Mage.

Eden Studios' WitchCraft is another. I think it's still free on PDF from DriveThruRPG.com

February 26th, 2008, 00:54
Ars Magica really has one of the best magic systems of any RPG that I have ever played (and I have played a ton). The formulaic vs. spontaneous is very well done. I have seen some other systems that use a similar Verb + Noun system but I can’t remember the name. Sadly, playing Ars online would loose a little something because you could not see the hand gestures, yet alone the vigorous gestures, though you could still do the booming voice bonus.

In face to face games you could easily tell when the player running the mage character was serious because they would often jump up wave their arms and yell. It sounds silly, but the hand gestures added a ton to the game. I don’t remember all of them right now but I still can do Creo Animal because of the House Bjornaer mage I ran for a long time.

February 26th, 2008, 01:47
Oh yes. Finally Arm gets some much deserved love. :)

... do not forget the list of possible focuses (foci?) That made 3rd ed wizards look like an explosion in a jewlery shop. :)

February 26th, 2008, 03:32
I presume you know Joshuha, that 4th ed of Ars is a free download. You can get it here: http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=AG0204

I mostly played 3rd and some 4th myself.

February 26th, 2008, 09:30
I got to admitt that out of 3rd and 4th I find more love for the third, mostly because of the much moodier art and the darker overall feel of it. 4th Ed felt a bit... I don't know... Plastic? As for 5th the system updates are incredible, some of the background fluff doubly so. But the art is ... downright ugly and mood-breaking.