Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Swift d12: Magic System

Publisher's Choice Quality
Stock Art © Rick Hershey
/ Fat Goblin Games
There were some recent questions in the Swift d12 community about magic, so I've decided the magic system would make a good subject for a blog post.

The three class Feats are Savant, Scrapper and Sorcerer, and the latter boosts the Magic secondary ability. Each ability has four skills, and Magic is no exception; the four Magic skills (referred to as "disciplines") are: Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment and Invocation.

Sorcerer Capabilities

Each sorcerer typically has one of the eight spheres (Flame, Wind, Mind, etc) which determines the flavor of their magic, and also provides some additional effects and options. Some sorcerers might have a second sphere, but this will require a special Feat.

Each sorcerer knows two techniques for each point of Magic they have, and one technique for each point in Magic skills. For example a sorcerer with Magic +1 and Invocation +1 would have 3 techniques. These techniques represent the different ways in which each discipline can be used.

Disciplines and Techniques

The disciplines are designed to cover most types of spell, and provide a fair amount of flexibility in terms of what the sorcerer can achieve.

Conjuration allows the sorcerer to create something from nothing. The techniques are Summoning (create creatures), Fabrication (create objects), Warding (create tangible barriers) and Glamor (create intangible effects such as light or darkness).

Divination allows the sorcerer to discover information. The techniques are Scrying (project your senses), Insight (learn secrets), Augury (predict the future) and Dowsing (detection).

Enchantment allows the sorcerer to place spell effects upon existing things. The techniques are Blessing (a positive effect), Compulsion (control something), Curse (a negative effect) and Transmutation (shapechanging).

Invocation allows the sorcerer to simulate non-magical actions without the need for tools, and also covers metamagic. The techniques are Destruction (offensive spells that simulate a Combat skill), Prestidigitation (utility spells that simulate a primary skill or simple action), Counterspell (resisting other spells) and Dispel (undo other spells).

For example, summoning an elemental would require Conjuration/Summoning, while animating a corpse would use Enchantment/Control, mind reading would use Divination/Insight, and so on. Prestidigitation is particularly versatile as it covers almost any action you could normally perform with a primary skill, and removes the need for (generic) tools: you could climb the side of a house if you had a ladder, therefore you can use Prestidigitation to teleport onto the roof; you could open a door if you had some lockpicks (the spell can't simulate something as specific as the right key), therefore you can use Prestidigitation to magically unlock it; you could push someone with a Shove stunt, therefore you can knock them back with Prestidigitation. In short, it's just like performing the normal action, except you do it with magic and add a cool spell description. Of course the character won't be able to achieve the same sort of bonuses as a non-spellcaster specialist, but they'll have a pretty diverse range of capabilities.

Spell Principles

A "spell" is based on a specific sphere, discipline and technique, but also includes four principles, each of which has four possible values:

Area represents how large an area the spell effects, and must be one of Point, Small Area, Medium Area or Large Area. There are also three types of area shape: Beam, Cone and Sphere.

Duration represents how long the spell lasts, and must be one of Instant (lasts until the end of your turn), Seconds (lasts until the end of the round), Minutes (lasts for the remainder of the combat) or Hours (lasts for the rest of day). The duration is intentionally abstract, to avoid bookkeeping.

Range represents how far the spell extends, and must be one of Touch, Short Range, Medium Range or Long Range.

Target represents how many targets the spell affects, and must be one of Single, Double, Triple or Quadruple. Note that a spell which targets more than one individual cannot also cover an area, unless that ability is granted by a specific Feat.

The principles also determine the mana cost, for example a fireball that fills a Small Sphere (+1) and has Medium Range (+2) would cost 3 mana.

Magic Feats

Not all types of spell are covered by this system, but it covers most things, and other options (such as healing) can be accessed by taking special Magic Feats. Similarly, some Feats can expand the functionality of certain techniques - for example the Illusionist Feat allows the sorcerer to create detailed illusions using Conjuration/Glamor.

The Magic Feat list will eventually be expanded so that each sphere has a few specialties of its own.


The Sorcerer Feat grants 10 mana each time it's taken, and mana can be recovered with a successful Concentration check as a normal action, so while sorcerers can run low on mana, they never really run out completely. A particularly effective strategy for spellcasters is to declare a spell as their primary action and a Concentration check as their secondary action, allowing them to refuel while casting.

It's worth noting however that you cannot recover mana from an active spell, so if you cast a buff on someone the mana is committed until the spell expires or you choose to terminate it. Furthermore, if the spell has a duration in Hours, you must wait a few minutes after it ends before you can recover the mana, so buffing up before combat will leave you with less mana to use during the fight.

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