Magic Words: A New System for Magic in Elf Games

I am hacking magic in my upcoming weird elf game so it is more dynamic, weird, risky, and less…mundane. the current idea is to take the GLOG magic system, combine it with a series of Magic Words drawn from various sources, and turn it loose on the world.

if you want to skip the boring game stuff and just make up your own spells, click the picture to generate your own!

Copyright Fred Gettings

the GLOG: a Brief Background for People Living Under Rocks

For those not familiar, the Goblin Laws of Gaming made by Arnold K are a loose collection of incomplete suggestions that one can use to run a tabletop RPG. It is wonderful, and has become the pet project of any would be designer or blogger.

While the GLOG does a lot of things I like, the chief thing that stands out to me is the magic system. In favor of level based spells, GLOG casters get Magic Dice (a D6) for every level of a casting class they have, and spend these dice to power spells. You lose the die on a 4-6, But keep it on a 1-3, so theres a 50% chance you keep the die. Each spell in the GLOG uses the total dice spent or the sum of the roll for how the spell works. It’s an elegant system with a lot of space to make fun spells. you can find the full rules here.

Further, rolling doubles leads to a mishap, and rolling triples leads to a doom, which are customized to each class. Magic is dangerous and blowing it all at once even more so – mishaps are set backs, but a doom is a terrible price to pay. The third doom you suffer is usually some horrific fate beyond death. It also uses spell slots and such, and is worth a read on it’s own. But I want to simplify it down a bit for my system.

Words of Magic

Here is how I used the GLOG to make my system.

  • You gain Magic Dice from various sources, such as class features or bargains with gods. You spend these dice on spells you cast, and lose them on a 1-3 like normal.
  • There are no spell slots.
  • Mishaps and dooms are determined by the spell cast, so if you were cast Charm Person, a mishap might be charming yourself, where a doom would be making you permanently compelled to follow the commands of the first person to give you an order.
  • But here is the real meat of this system. there are no set list of spells. Gone are the lists of 200+ spells to find in the world, and gone is the dividing line between divine and arcane – all magic is inherited related to faith and spirituality.
  • Anyone who practices magic studies the Words – the platonic, perfected form of some idea or concept. There are some Words that are fairly common among practitioners, such as Fire, Blade, or Reflect. but many are hidden or given only as a blessing, requiring one to devote themselves to a power. Worship Sem the Lord of Change, and he may entrust you with the secret of Becoming.
  • spell casters combine two Words to produce spells. Once combined, casting these spells is as simple as investing the magic dice for it. A character can have as many spells combined as 2+their level, and they can move them to scrolls or books with an hour of work. Note that says move, not copy.
  • Wands, Staves, and other implements might provide their owners with access to a Word or a few as well, or in some rare cases, even empower certain words so they always add a free die when casting a spell with a certain Word. For example, a wand of Fire would automatically add a Die when you use it to cast a spell with Fire in the spell, so you can spend 1 of your own and get 2 total.
  • If a cast wishes to combine two on the fly, they can do so at a cost. Any dice used on such a spell are lost on a 1-5, and and any mishaps are automatically made into dooms.
  • Words can be cast on their own for very minor effects, like what you might see written as a GLOG cantrip. For example, you could cast Light to create a very weak candlelight, but it still takes a magic die to do so. These effects would be very questionably useful in a fight.

Examples

I generated these with the generator found here. some of them are less useful than others, but that’s show business, baby.

Project Paper – You conjure for blasts of paper outward from your self, cutting and annoying anyone in the area. Deal [die] damage to [sum] targets, and vision is obscured around you as the papers swirl around you. These papers can be used as mundane paper if picked up.

Cranial Freedom – you rest your skull from your body, allowing it to move about on its own. For up to [sum] minutes, your skull can move at a speed of 30’, hovering above the ground and able to float gently up or down. At the end of the time, it scurries back to you and restores itself. If unable to do so, you instantly die.

You can sense through it, and It can deliver a bite attack for 1d4 damage. This deals horrifying levels of pain for the moment before it detaches, and leaves your body vulnerable, especially your brain and neck stem. you can still move your body but have no senses except touch. Any attacks against your body have advantage and automatically deal max damage.

River Zone – An area is flooded as a magical stream of moving currents appear there. Determine the direction the river moves, and all moveable objects and targets are moved by 30’ unless they save against spells/pass a strength saving throw. The size of the area is determined by the total dice used to cast the spell multiplied by the [sum]
1. Feet squared
2. Yards squared
3. 10 feet squared

You can spell your turn keeping the water going and it will keep pushing targets further that direction as it continues to surge that way. The water remains after the spell ends, but stops moving.

Gate Cannon – you open a random gate by your side to a random broken world, which immediately launches an object from it at high speeds. A target within 100x[dice] feet takes [sum] damage. Roll below to determine what the object was:
1. A chunk of twisted metal garbage
2. A dead, albino ratking
3. A flaming sphere of sulfur
4. A torn up piece of beautiful pastoral land
5. A dented gear
6. A glob of silvery, unstable goo
7. Literal trash, tied up in a ripped bag
8. A corpse of a goblin strapped to a broken glass orb, now shattered. He was wearing goggles though

Metal Storm – A blast from above signals your oncoming disaster of pain as shards of iron begin falling form the sky, sharp as blades and needles. Deal 1D8 damage to all targets in an area determined by the total dice used to cast the spell multiplied by the [sum]
1. Feet squared
2. Yards squared
3. 10 feet squared

Targets without helmets or shields automatically take maximum damage. The area becomes rough terrain after the spell ends, and the shards can be collected afterwards to make rough knives.

Bones Generator – By focusing your magic on a living target, you can regrow bones..or grow unwanted extras. You can repair or replace [dice] bones in a target.
If you use this offensively, you deal [sum] damage to a target and make it difficult to move without great pain unless they save against spells/ pass a constitution saving throw. The target is immobilized and unable to act unless they take the damage again every turn.

The bones are permanent but can be removed through magical means or surgery.

I would love to see what you get, so please let me know in the comments!

Notes and Future Plans

Since there are hundreds of Words in the world, they are purely descriptive in use since it would be impossible to try to assign mechanics to each one. Players tell the DM what the spell does at a high level, and the DM then creates the rules using the [die] and [sum] structure found in typical GLOG spells. If a player cannot say what the spell does quickly or tries to create something obviously not in line with the Words used, the other players instead get to choose.

Each spell is unique to it’s caster typically, so the same words can create radically different spells. Magic is the raw stuff of reality and does not always line up perfectly with our perception of it. You’ll just have to deal.

Currently, I have it planned to let players start with 2 random Words for the public pool of Words and 1 of their choice. If they start play in a mystery cult or worshipping some power, they may take a Word from that choice instead.

But enough boring nonmagical words! go make your own spells, and tell me what they do in the comments!

Published by IDDM1DM

Dungeon Master, Educator, father.

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