In a previous article, I wrote about some suggestions for fighting styles in The Fantasy Trip. As with fighting styles, there can also be magical styles as well. Magical styles can cover a wide range of game effects, but I want to suggest a use similar to that of fighting styles: something to add color and background flavor, treated much like a talent.
Why Have Magical Styles?
Depending on how deeply you want to use them, magical styles can be used in different ways. Magical styles can be as simple as a roleplaying effect, just used for background and color. Or they can be a series of intricate rules that control what each style does. The important thing to decide is how just what effect you want to have on the game.
In keeping with the spirit of TFT and keeping these styles rules-light, I propose keeping these very simple. This avoids rules bloat, and more importantly it makes things simple enough to enhance the game, and not get in the way of roleplaying. And THAT is ultimately what I think we need to have.
Unlike fighting styles, though, I would suggest that you either use styles for your wizards–or don’t. The reason is campaign or world consistency. A basic question that should be answered is “how do wizards learn magic?” Even if you just use them for color, magical styles help answer that question by forcing you to explain how wizards are taught. Whether it is in some form of school, a hidden cult or from a master/student relationship, fleshing out a magical style forces you to answer some basic details about your world. And that is not a bad thing.
What Are Magical Styles In Game Terms?
So–as with fighting styles, these should be a points costs. These are also not classes! Like fighting styles, these are more like super talents. The player pays the cost at character creation, and gains the benefits and drawbacks of the style. Unlike fighting styles, magical styles should be more for character creation, not adventures in the game. Unless you are playing out the story of how the character gained his wizardly abilities, it is simply better to start the game with a style already selected and worked out.
Like fighting styles, magical styles would have a 0, 1 or 2 attribute point cost. This may seem steep for a beginning character, but is comparable to a 1 or 2 point talent. The key is the higher the cost, the bigger benefit. Advantages can be in the form of dice roll modifiers or effects increases for spells that the style/school specializes in.
Disadvantages can be in the form of penalties that the wizard has in spells or abilities that the style does not specialize in. Another disadvantage can be any oath that the wizard must take to the school itself. All of this can be balanced with a set spell list that the style or school can learn.
For example, a magical style might focus on fire combat. The style might give a damage bonus with the Fireball spell or Fire spell. That might be a 1 pt style. If that same style gave a +2 DX roll on fireball spells–that would be a 2 pt style. The more benefits, the higher the cost.
Another style that gave a +2 DX roll on telepathy spells, but had a -2 on other spells outside that school’s spell list might be a 0 pt cost. The bigger the drawback, the lesser the cost.
I would suggest not allowing styles that cost over 2 pt–that would keep the game balanced and stick to the original task: Have magical styles that add color, and not be be rules heavy.
Also, either PCs or NPCs could have a given magical style–a PC would have to learn that style somewhere, with others teaching her. The important thing is to create the story that goes with the style, to give the players the feeling that they are either encountering or part of something special or uncommon.
And that brings up the final part: roleplaying. As with fighting styles, any magical style that is defined needs to have a way to weave it into the campaign and the story of the character. This is where the real color comes in. For example, all of the various spells a wizard casts are neat, but it’s the back stories about the schools or temples, the ancient masters, the training–THAT is where the color is! Try to do the same for your styles.
<3>Some Magical Styles
So, here are a couple magical styles I am using in my campaign world:
The Brothers of the Dragon
Description: This school specializes in fire combat wizards. It includes men and women, although all are known as “brothers.” The school is heavily engaged in the brewing war with the winter giants and dark elves. The have a reputation as fierce warriors, and work very closely with the armies in Northmearc and Craigard. Even though they are dedicated to the god of Fire, they work closely with the school of the Black Raven, who are dedicated to the god of Air. The are rivals with the Iron Mages and the Path of the Sword wizards, though. The Path wizards they see as sleazy duelists, and believe the Iron Mages–who believe in a all encompassing philosophy–are “just doing it wrong.”
Badge: Silver dragon.
Allies: The Black Raven, the Order of the Oak.
Enemies: The Black School.
Rivals: The Iron Mages, the Path of the Sword, the Order of the White Rose.
Required Talents: Literacy.
Cost: 2 attribute points, or 250 EP.
+1/d damage on school missile spells
+1 damage on STAFF hits.
-1 on roll for required spells
Vow of dedication to the Brotherhood.
Do not marry, but may have relationships.
-1 on rolls for all water spells.
Secret: None. The Brotherhood is pretty open about their intentions and beliefs.
Locations: Heavy in Northmearc, Craigard, Southmoor and Braemar. Not so much in Ealdmearc.
Size: 578 wizards. There are also about 4,000 non-wizards who support the brotherhood in various ways.
The Blue Mirror
Description: This school specializes in telepathy and other forms of mental communication. They have a monopoly on long-range communications between groups on the Isle and guard that trade jealously. The Mirror school formed soon after the younger races arrived on the Isle, filling the need to communicate with the Ealdron as well as the other younger races. As time progressed, the school became codified, with rules for behavior and interaction with other wizards. In the last 200 years, The Blue Mirror has become more involved with kingdom politics, allying themselves more with Southmoor than other kingdoms.
Badge: Blue circle, filled in.
Allies: The Society of the Burning Taper, the Guild of the Blessed Rune, the Order of the Quill, the Silken Knot.
Enemies: The Far Gaze, the Children of the Mist.
Rivals: The Sign of the All-Mother, the Guild of Knowledge.
Required Talents: Literacy.
Cost: 1 attribute point, or 125 EP.
-2 on all skill rolls for telepathy spells.
+1 on martial or combat spells.
Secret: The Blue Mirror school has allied itself with the king of Urre while pretending to serve Southmoor.
Locations: Blue Mirror wizards can be found in all major cities and holdings on the Isle. They will be uncommon elsewhere.
Size: 470 wizards. There are about 1,200 non-wizards who provide support to the Blue Mirror wizards in some form.
Again–as with fighting styles, the key is to include some kind of story with each magical style. Something to explain what the style is and how it came to be. Something that provides story hooks for future adventures.
Remember, though, these rules are optional, and ultimately up to the judgement of the GM. I have tried to show that a number of factors can go into judging the cost of a given style.
What do you think? Do you do anything similar in your campaign worlds? Let me know!