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D&D 3E
Reworking magic in 3.5 (Part 1 of my Home Rules) 
25th-May-2009 06:48 am
Jesus Christ this is funny
Hey there,

New to this community and I have got the DM itch real bad. I used to DM back in the 2nd edition days and had a really good grasp on it. I didn't need any of the books. Then 3rd came out, I went to college and D and D died for a bit.

I moved a few months back and have went from a regular gaming group to nothing so I am once again taking up the DM mantle so I can get some of my friends around here to play.

As such, coming from my first successful and long term stint as a PC, (we got to level 15 after 5 months of Friday night D and D) I was able to ascertain some things I wanted to do for my campaign. I will be releasing these in parts and hope that I can get some feedback on them, seeing as how I am a natural DM it is hard for me to criticize my own points.

1. We were not allowed to use Wizards or Sorcerers as characters because the world we were set in was trying to outlaw magic and there was a magic user holocaust, (That it is way easier DM without having to take into account the massive amounts of tinkering an arcane spell user can do to your game). Because of this I thought, well how can we balance out the magic system. I thought about it and came up with some ideas. In my game, I wanted every character to be available. People like customization and lots of choices, even if they know they might not use them, see Salad Bars, map editors for pc strategy games, etc... So I have developed a new spell book and and getting rid of the "spell level" chart in the player's handbook. Instead magic will be more like an economic system. You spend mana, and keep somatic elements, to cast spells. (More Below cut)

2. Upper Level economics and the gold standard is a very shaky proposition. As characters become ludicrously wealthy, their motivation for adventuring for payment becomes less and less important. Our DM introduced an economics system that I helped to spurn along out of necessity and his wanting to get our upkeep(buying new items, seeing lovers, pit fighting, bar fights, etc.) part of the adventure over with. As such I will be putting out my house rules for improved economics and money standard as well in another post.

3. The world map I am going to be using is going to be a map of earth. The geography will be the same and the time period will be around 950 CE. The thing will be that due to magic technology and innovation is ahead of its time. Populations are going to me metropolitan than rural with almost modern sized populations in cities. This will allow for the wilderness feel of most adventures but will allow for the large amount race specification and kingdom army sizes. As such it will effect game play in three ways. I will be using real religions for characters to choose from, and there will be a lot more PC races to choose from. I will go into my setting and how race, religion, and geographic location can affect your character.

Anyway here is my 3.5 spellbook, in progress:

Each spell is part of a school of magic. Each school has a certain number of spells per school to be learned. I did this to keep it simple and to allow for PC's to experiment with new spells if they can think of new ones. It adds an almost scientific element to spell casting.

Here are the schools of magic.
Magic Schools:

Earth: Explores the mysteries of the earth and secret powers of working with the ground.

Fire: Explores the fiery nature of THe element and how it reflects rage

Water:Expanding knowledge on water and the seas

Air:Learning the secrets of mastering the atmospher

Death: Taking from the powerful force of mortality and learning to shape and bend it to your will.

Light/Good: Learning how to use benevolence to heal and to smite evil and to bless.

Nature: Learning how to control the natural living forces of the wilderness

Time/Mind: Learning how to bend the very fabric of reality without interfering with the basic elements of existence.

To learn new spells Magic users need to spend time at a Mage Guild in between adventures.

Made guilds operate as a mix of a technical school and a hotel. They are on most major university campuses but don't have to be. Can be a privately owned mercenary trainer. Can serve as the school of magic that wizards and sorcerers from prep schools train at, students don't live in the guild are in with the rest of the student body. Also a place where traveling spell users hold up to learn new spells. Pay a rent fee per night to use the materials and practice facilities. Much more expensive then a hotel. The more expensive and associated with a more prestigious university, the higher level of spells can be learned there.

Some spells however can be learned from ascertaining artifacts or magical scrolls while adventuring.

A New feature will be mana cost, spell level learned, and class allowed. Certain Spells will cost actions or entire turns to complete based on their level.

Mana points are rejuvenated through mana potions or through 8 hours of rest. Half for 4 hours of rest.

Non magic using characters can invoke spells on a successful wisdom check only if they are written on a scroll or are using a magical item, in a language understood, a level appropriate spell, and do not cost over ten mana.

Characters can upgrade the spells they do know by using Spell Power Points. When a character gains a level, they get a random or set (based on class) number of spell points to use on upgrading the spells they have. A hero can only up the spell up to its max level or to the numerical level or the hero using it. Example: A 4th level magic missle would not be usable by a 3rd level cleric.

Spell power points per level:


Socerer:d6 or 3 (D8 at level 10)

Wizard:d4 (minimum of2)

Cleric:d3 or 2

Druid: d3

Ranger: 1

Paladin: 1

Bard: 1

Charecters also gain mana to their mana pool based on their class per level:

Wizard:d12 (2d10 once they reach level 25)

Socerer: d8 (d10 once they reach level 20)

Cleric:d6 (d8 once they reach level 20)

Druid: d6 (d8 once they reach level 20)

Ranger:D4 (D6 once they reach level 25)

Paladin:D4 (d6 once they reach level 25)

Bard: D3 (d6 once they reach level 16)

Charecter's starting mana points based on starting class:

Wizard: 20


Cleric: 12

Druid: 15


Paladin: 5

Bard: 6

Magic Speciality: At level 10 wizards/sorcerers can select a magic speciality prestige class which gives them bonuses with that kind of magic based on the school of that magic. They gain -2 to mana costs on spells of their chosen school. They also lose the ability to use magic from their diametrically opposed magic school. Damage and negative effects from schools opposed to the caster are double effectiveness.

Earth: GeoMancer

Fire: PyroMancer

Death: Necromancer

Light(good): photoMancer (alignment restrictions)

Nature: Change to a druid or Biomancer

Water: hydromancer

Air: HelioMancer

Time/Mind: ChronoMancer

Here are the list of Diametrically opposed schools.

Light Death
Fire Water
Air Earth
Nature Mind

Here is a list of friendly schools for each school of magic. Certain bonuses and specializations will apply based on DM discrecion.

School: Allies:
Light :Nature, Earth, Water
Air :Mind, Nature, Water
Nature :Earth, Light, Death
Death :Earth, Nature, Fire
Water :Air, Mind, Light
Fire :Earth, Death, Mind
Nature :Light, Death, Earth
Mind :Air, Water, Fire

Here are spells as listed by school: (I am currently filling out their profiles in the "breakdown" of each schools spells". Also you might notice that some spells cross schools. They can be called upon from either school.

Light Magic:

Cure light wounds
Magic Missile
Destroy undead
Summon Elemental:Light
Holy Light
Remove Posion
Magic grenade:(Holy)
Holy strike
Holy Smite
Holy Site
Cure Serious Wounds
Summon Celestial

Death Magic:

Summon Elemental: Death
Raise UnDead
Control undead
Magic grenade:Death
Circle of death
Posion strike
Unholy Smite
Summond Fiend

Air Magic:
Lightning bolt
Summon Elemental
Gust of Wind
Ice Wall
Chain Lightning
Sonic boom
Magic grenade:
cold strike
Fleet of Sail
Snow storm

Earth Magic:
Spitting earth
Summon Elemental:Earth
Stone Skin
Steel Skin
Earth Wall
Flesh to stone
Magic grenade:Earth
Earth Strike
Heal Metal
Heal Stone
Meteor Storm

Fire Magic:
Summon Elemental: Fire
Fire Trap
Magic grenade:Fire
Burning hands
Magic lantern
Flame strike
Fire Storm
Blood rage
Fire Cube

Water Magic:
Ice Bolt
Summon Elemental:Water
Ice Wall
Chain Lightning
Water Wall
Magic grenade:Water
Freezing hands
Frost Hammer
Summon Tentacles
Wet Strike
Scuttle Boat
Fleet of Sail
Sleet storm
Water breathing
Water Walk

Nature Magic:
Summon Elemental:Nature
Summon Creature
Remove Posion
Flesh to stone
Animal Allies
Calm animals
Magic grenade:
Talk to animals/plants
Control plants
Posion strike
Spider climb
Water breathing
Entagling web
Summon Fey

Mind Magic:
Summon Elemental: Mind
Feather Fall
Stop Time
Magic Resistance field
Fist of Wrath
Mind Control
Magic grenade: Mind
Plane shift
Reveal traps
Powerful strike
Mage Armor
Decipher script
Pied Pipers tune
Spell mirror
Sommon extraplanar creature.

And then there are spells that do not fall into any magic school and are most of the time seen in potion form.

Misc Magic:
Dispel Magic
Shield (melee or ranged)
Bull Strength
Cat's Grace
Dimensional Anchor
Raise Construct
Owl's wisdom
Conjure food
Intellegence boost
bear's constitution
Gold Tongue

And below is an example of how spells are going to be structured. Taken from the my unfinished first book of Light Magic. Most spells require one spell power point to increase the spell by one level unless otherwise noted.

Light Magic
Each spells goes by which class can use it, (everbody means all magic users), the level they need to do and how the spell works and it somatic components. Then the cost in mana and the upgrades to it.

Magic Missle: Everybody, level 1, Must motion missle towards target using a hand or magical impliment (instruement for bard ex.) Sends 2d4 damage at select creature, hero, or object, Range 8 squares. Effects one square area. (2 mana)

Upgrades max= 10 levels

2nd Level:3d4 (3mana)

3rd level:4d4 (4mana)

4th level:5d4 (5mana)

5th level:6d4 (6mana)

6th level:7d4 (7mana)

7th level:8d4 (needs two power points) (8mana)

8th level:9d4 (needs two power points) (9mana)

9th Level:10d4 (needs two power points) (10mana)

10th level: 12d4+5 (needs three power points)(11mana)

Bless: Cleric, Paladin, Bard, Level 1, Must lay hands on target creature/Hero. Target creature gains +2 to damage rolls for d4 turns. (2 mana)

Upgrades Max=4

2nd level: +3 for d4 rounds (4mana)

3rd level: +3 for d6 rounds (5 mana)

4th level: +5 for d6 rounds (7 mana) (requires two power points)

Destroy undead: Cleric Level 2, Paladin level 4, Wizard/Socerer 8. Caster must use magical impliment and point it at target undead. Send magic dart at target undead creature and deals 1d6+2 damage to it. Range 10 squares, effects one square area (3mana)

Upgrades max=3

2nd level: 1d6+3 damage, 2squares of damage (5mana)

3rd level:2d6 damage, 4 squares of damage (7mana)

Summon Elemental : Light; Cleric Level 5, Paladin Level 12. Caster must use their holy relic and spend 1 turn saying magic words while hold holy relic in the air. Elemental comes into square next to hero. Elemental stats= Air Elemental Medium, special abilities, :Bless lvl 1. Magic missile lvl 1. can use each spell twice. Stays on the plane summoned to for 2d4 rounds. (6 mana)

Upgrade max= 3
2nd Level: 3d4 rounds with medium elemental (requires 2 power points) (8 mana)
3rd level: 3d4 rounds with large elemental (requires 4 power points) (10 mana)

Holy Light: Cleric 4; Paladin Level 10: Caster must raise holy relic up in the air and invoke their gods name loudly. Can not be done silently. Caster illuminates a designated 6x6 section of board with holy light for 1d6 turns. All fiendish, undead, or evil aligned creatures in that section receive 1d4+5 light damage and have to take a fortitude save or else they flee from the battle.

So that is what I have so far. It makes magic users tend to bring a lot of potions of mana regeneration. It also allows casters to customize their magic based on how they want it to go.
25th-May-2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
i'm all for changing the magic system, tell me how this plays out.
26th-May-2009 02:59 am (UTC)
or you could just switch to gurps.

or play the new foxnews roleplaying game. i hear the spells there are always fair and balanced.
26th-May-2009 02:42 pm (UTC)
25th-May-2009 07:00 pm (UTC)
I'm confused, it's easier to DM by taking on a bear of remodeling the game system?
25th-May-2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
I find that when I am making up my own adventures that magic use tends to throw the balance of power off. By completely reinventing it, which has been not that hard, I can have more control on how spells work and am not hindered when a PC uses a spell that works too well or gets too high in level to make a game challenging anymore.

That and I hate how spells work.
25th-May-2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
Meh, fair enough
26th-May-2009 01:50 am (UTC)
Blame Canada Jack Vance. ;-)
26th-May-2009 01:53 am (UTC)
...It is way easier [to] DM without having to take into account the massive amounts of tinkering an arcane spell user can do to your game). Because of this I thought, well how can we balance out the magic system.

FWIW, my friend crazy__sunshine tried to do this (to make the sorcerer/wizard spell list less insane) and ended up with fundamentally the same kind of system. I don't think his goals were as far-reaching as yours, though.

Anyway, the system *should* be balanced as long as the PCs are using the same system and operating by the same rules as the NPCs. (Right? Right???)
26th-May-2009 03:42 am (UTC)
I primarily wanted a different flavor - replacing the standard spell list let me add an air of unfamiliarity and exploration (dare I say "magic?") to the magic system. I wanted a more Vancian feel, one in which the players never quite knew what the limits of magic were, and in which characters might well go on a quest specifically to learn new and powerful magics. None of my players were as interested in exploring the new spell list as I was, though, so my efforts ended up being largely self-serving. Ah, well; I had fun doing it. The spell list stands, and provides me with a modicum of control over what kind of magic is available. But in the end, my efforts to balance the game (without working myself to death) ended up producing something very, very similar to core D&D.

Harryxmanback: don't be surprised if your players choose to avoid arcane casters altogether rather than figure out your new magic system. And when your players break your planning with magic (as they're sure to do in any system), remain flexible. Make things harder on the fly. The BBEG the players just one-shotted was only a Simulacrum. The villain has an artifact that keeps him Mind Blanked - no scry-n-fry. Turns out there are two dragons. Et cetera.

Honestly the presence of so many high-level dungeon-crawl type challenges in the core rules has me baffled. A 17th-level wizard can create a gate between worlds and control the passage of time. Why he'd be mucking about in a dungeon is beyond me. So what if he can knock down all the walls in the dungeon with one spell and bypass all my carefully-laid traps? Is he too powerful? Or am I providing an insufficient challenge? The characters worked hard to earn their game-breaking powers. I think I owe them an opportunity to use them.
26th-May-2009 01:29 pm (UTC)
This is very interesting because I run a low magic campaign where spell caster classes are basically the only people who use magic or magic items.

I haven't put any extra limitations on these classes but I do make them follow the rules of spell casting and gather the ingredients for their spells.

I've noticed the casters are always holding back and conserving their spells because they have limited resources on which to draw. However, if I introduced a mana concept that could be renewed like health I think they would be casting spells like crazy.
4th-Aug-2009 08:12 pm (UTC)
Likewise - I've been a DM for 30+ years (most of that in 1st edition; only switched to 3.x a couple of years ago) and I've never had a serious problem with high level spells or spellcasters. In fact, not even much in the way of minor problems either.

I don't doubt that lots of campaigns do have genuine difficulties, because the "overpowered wizard" discussion seems to come up so often, but I have no personal experience with it. Wish I could say why.
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