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Removing the "nothing happens" from the equation when it comes to magick.
I freakin' love Unknown Armies. But I have some issues with the system. Don't get me wrong, it's probably the most elegant traditional system out there, but I'm used to focused indie games, and some of the trad trappings get me. So here's my version. Do note that this is just how I intend to run it. There are several ideas here and they're not take it or leave it. If you like one part, just grab that and leave that shitty part where I'm an idiot.
Basically, my ground rule is: "Nothing happens" is the most boring thing in the world. When using the regular system, this isn't much of a problem. If the result of a failure is "Nothing happens", there's simply no roll. If there IS a roll, something bad is gonna happen if you fail it. The UA style of "only roll if you're on fire" fits this well.
But the magick system is worse. If you fail a Magick roll, the spell fizzles. And that's just boring. It's an artifact of gaming. In no book or movie I've ever seen have there been fizzling spells. A wizard simply does magic. Maybe he's too tired, or not good enough to do it, but he rarely tries and fails. And when he does, it's never "Nothing happens". Thats when the shit hits the fan.
I'm also rewriting the rules to do more customization. To me it's really weird that you get to make up your own skills, but your magick isn't unique. I want unique magick. This is partly inspired by the awesome Madness Talents in Don't Rest Your Head. Here's how this goes down:
Ritual magick is the simplest. It just works, period. I you do the ritual, it has the desired effect. No roll neccessary. Of course, the ritual might not really do what it says it does, or that chick isn't really a virgin. That's when things go wrong, and shit starts hitting fans. Improvise catastrophic consequences.
Of course, this makes rituals more powerful, and therefore more rare, more closely guarded and so on. If you find a ritual that works and that does something useful, it's a big thing and you're pretty powerful. If you play this way, don't throw rituals around like snacks. But you probably don't, already.
Each and every adept is unique in his worldview. This is true in the original book, but for some reason, the magick is still organized in schools and spells. Not so in my version. An adept's Magick is not organized in spells, and there's no roll required to do it -- thus no fizzles. You have a general description of the sort of things your magick can do, and when it's time to work some mojo, you simply state what you're trying to achieve. The GM states the cost. I should probably make an example adept now to show you what I mean:
Hank is crazy. Not Jackass-style "I'll shock my testes for laughs" crazy, but real crazy. Adept crazy. Like any adept, his magick is based on a paradox. Hank is obsessed with streets. The paradox is that even though he can find his way better than anyone else in the world, he doesn't recognize actual street names, he can't use a map, and he routinely gets lost just going to get the newspaper. Here's how it works:
Hank can basically bend geography to his will. He can head off in the opposite direction of you and still cut you off at the corner. He can find a Chinese restaurant that's actually in China, right in LA central. Hell, he can even walk in through your kitchen door and come out though the closet door of his enemy. For Hank, this is nothing strange. It's hardly even magick. This is how the geography is. If you ask him "How did you do that?", he'll look puzzled. He doesn't get that your kitchen door didn't ACTUALLY lead to that closet.
But he still needs to get charges, of course. To generate minor charges, he walks around town for a while, obsessively writing down the names of the streets, cross-referencing, drawing maps that don't make any sort of sense to anyone else. What's worse, he doesn't call the streets by the same names as everyone else. If you ask him where's 52nd Avenue, he'll draw a blank, but tell him you're looking for Chewinggum Road and he'll tell you it's right through that there window. To get significant charges, he has to go to a town or city where he hasn't been before and map the place (and save the map). To get a major charge, he has to visit a place where nobody else has been for at least a century.
The Price he pays for this is that when he's not using his powers, he'll usually get lost if he's not with someone else. Since his view of reality is twisted, if he's not bending it to fit his image, it won't correlate. Of course, he'll blame this on not having updated his maps recently. And, of course, regular maps, GPS devices and such are of no use. They're wrong.
0s: 1 minor, no significant
10s: 1 minor, 1 significant
20s: 2 minor, 1 significant
30s: 2 minor, 2 significant
40s: 3 minor, 2 significant
50s: 4 minor, 3 significant
60s: 5 minor, 3 significant
70s: 6 minor, 4 significant
80s: 8 minor, 5 significant
90s: 10 minor, 7 significant
Simon | profile | May 28, 09 | 3:12 pm
You might notice that Hank doesn't have a blast. I mean, seriously. Magick is not like in D&D. We don't need fireballs. At least I don't. But of course you can use magick to hurt people, if it's within your school, so to speak. Hank probably can't really do it, but the chick who can control the shadows could. Possibly there ought to be a rule for it, like how much it'll cost to do hand-to-hand damage and how much it'll cost to do firearms damage. And depending on what it is you're actually doing, it might require a roll of some kind. And if it doesn't, it'll be quite expensive, since it's an automatic hit.
Simon | profile | May 28, 09 | 3:18 pm
I don't really see blast as a "fireball" but more like a guideline for how a magick user can directly harm his enemies. Sure you can see it as a DnD style static effect or you can inject your own elements to give it just as much depth and descriptive flair.
First: nicely drawn concepts.
Mattias | profile | Jun 02, 09 | 2:02 am
The only "problem" I see with this is the fact that it doesn't compute well with the concepts for adept schools in the rules. More specifically, that not all adept schools have the same amount of ease in gaining charges, and the amount of charges for their spells or respectively the power of their magick is analogue and also unequal, (when comparing different schools).
Wratts | profile | Jun 02, 09 | 11:03 am
I partially agree with this article. But I like the idea of spending a charge to get an effect. It works with the internal logic of the game. So, in order to get a ritual to work, you must Spend the Charge. In order to get a spell to work you must Spend the Charge. But I prefer not to make my players roll for the effect after they Spend the Charge. Spend the Charge and it just works. Then we assign "fun" consequences for screwing with reality.