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Sunday, November 10, 2013

CARDS RPG: The Mage

Wow, it's been a long time. So long I'm needing to re-read these mechanics as a write them to make sure that I haven't forgotten how this game was meant to be played. Here's the Mage and hopefully the rest of it will be completed soon. 



Okay, so now we're on to the mage, and this brings up something I've been struggling with: How does magic work in CARDS? There are tons of different magic systems out there and they all have different things they bring to the table. Personally I always find myself torn between magic systems with unique, iconic spells (D&D and Exalted are good examples) and ones that allow a great deal of flexibility and freedom (QMR or Mage for instance). But, I've also got to keep in mind that this system is fairly simple and I should be aware of it's limits. I also don't want spellcasters to be significantly more complex than the other classes. A complex magic system typically means that a mage is either less fun or effective than other classes or, with enough mastery of the system, significantly more effective.

So in the end, I'll probably take my cues from FATE, especially the Dresden Files RPG. Essentially, magic is not significantly different than anything else. A mage can attack, defend, and perform Tasks just like a normal character. If it's possible to achieve the same effects without magic then it's possible to do it with magic and if it's impossible without magic then magic can't be used to get around it (excepting through the use of Tricks). So, if faced with a locked door a mage could play a Clubs card to blast it open, or a Spades to charm the lock, and the target number would be the same as if they were a warrior or trickster. However, without an appropriate Trick the mage cannot simply walk through the door like a ghost.  Mages can typically ignore the need for tools like weapons or lockpicks, but they do have to wave their hands and chant their magic words.

Magic can be used for ranged attacks (see the rules on range here), in the form of magic bolts and so on. If a mage is attempting to keep a spell "running" for longer than a single Task or action in a Struggle then they have to take an action and playing a new card every turn (effectively "repeating" the spell round by round) in a Struggle, or every 15 out-of-games minutes. The new card played becomes the Card Value of the spell for that turn, or for the next 15 minutes. That sounds a bit awkward so let me give an example.

Mike The Mage is in a Struggle. While his friends are attempting to defeat a golem guarding the king's treasure the Royal Guard have been alerting and are trying to break into the treasure room. On his action, Mike gestures and causes the doors to swing shut and seals them with an arcane rune of binding (this is a Clubs action, effectively holding the door closed with brute force) Mike plays a 9 of Clubs, so the guards will have to beat a 9 in order to break down the door, which they fail to do. Next turn Mike wants to keep the spell running to keep them from breaking through, He has to play another card, dropping a 6 of Clubs. This means the guards now have to beat only a 6 when they attempt to break in this turn. 

Magic definitely can not instantly slay, paralyze, knock out, or mind control opponents. Certainly such spells exist but they work using the normal Struggle system for damage. A death spell is not effectively any different from a lightning bolt.

So, that's a lot of words that boil down to "magic works pretty much the same as non-magic, it just looks neater". The real difference comes in the form of Tricks. The Warrior is all about power, when they succeed they succeed impressively. The Trickster is all about reliability, they will succeed more often than not which makes them very good at defense and tackling Tasks. Mages are all about flexibility and expanded options.They can do things in ways other classes cannot and to a degree that is normally impossible, however they don't get much in the way of flat bonuses so their successes to be less impressive. The Mage's two Trick categories are Spells (-; granting a specific special power) or Enhancements (+, altering how an effect is pulled off or who it affects).


Starting Tricks:

*Magic Resistance: When attempting to resist or overcome a magical effect, the Mage gets a +2 bonus to their Card Value.

*Magic Tricks: Remember how I said that magic works the same as non-magic, just looks neater. Well, that's true in most cases, but sometimes the flexibility of magic gives it a distinct advantage. For instance, a mage's fire-bolt could set fire to a house or severely injure an ice-beast, while an archer's arrow would not. When you want to add some kind of advantageous special effect to a magical action then you must discard a card. You can also discard a card to perform minor, but useful, magic tricks (such as lighting every candle in a room as you enter). Minor, but not useful, tricks shouldn't involve any extra cost (making your nose a bit longer or emitting spectral flatulence).

*Magic Dependent: Magic is a powerful tool, but it demands a lot of it's practicioners, meaning that they're generally not as capable without it. When in a situation where you're attempting to deal with a situation without resorting to magic you suffer a -2 penalty to the Card Value of your actions. If your game is going to involve lots of situations where magic can be suppressed or persecuted then this penalty should probably be dropped to -1, or increased to -3 if the opposite is true.

Mage Tricks:

1st Level
 -Evil Eye: A curse of misfortune and grief. The victim suffers countless minor indignities and bad luck and a -1 to all Card Values. This lasts 24 hours and does not need to be maintained. This is a Diamonds action, resisted by Hearts.
or
+Far Spell: By discarding a card when making an attack you can increase your range, suffering no penalty for attacking Far Away targets and attacking targets at a longer range (that you can see and directly target) with Difficulty.

2nd Level
 -Telekinesis: This Trick allows you to do anything that could be done by hand a distance (Close range normally, Far Away it becomes difficult). You can cause a sword to swing, open a door, shove a foe, etc.
or
+Power Up: By taking additional time to build up your magical energy you may unleash spells of immense power. You may play one card per turn (or cards if the action is Difficult), keeping all cards in play until you choose to unleash your spell, adding all the cards together to get the final Card Value. The cards must be of the same suit and it is not possible to "hold" a spell, it must be unleashed as soon as you're done charging up.

 3rd Level
 -Counterspell: Diamonds becomes an appropriate suit for defending yourself against magical attacks, and you may attempt to dispel or break enduring enchantments as a Task.
or
+Focus: Maintaining your spells is easier. Rather than having to repeat the same action turn by turn you may discard a card at the start of your turn to keep the previous card "in play" for another round. This does not require an action.

4th Level
-Flight: You can take flight as a Spades action, flying at roughly the same speed you can run. The card used in your action serves as the maximum Card Value for any physical actions you take while in flight (such as attempting to dodge an attack or swing at someone else). This must be maintained as normal, if the spell lapses (as opposed to being dispelled in some way) then you float gently to the ground.
or
+Barrier: Discarding a Diamond card allows you to play a card to create a barrier. The barrier can be offensive (attacking anyone who passes through it) or defensive (resisting attempts to pass through) using it's Card Value. The barrier can be a simple wall (up to 10 yards or so wide) or a circle or dome (which may be big enough to encompass anyone within Close distance). This spell must be maintained like normal.

5th Level
-Drain Life: By discarding a Hearts and Diamond card before making an attack you may absorb your opponent's life force. For every point of damage inflicted, return a card from the top of your discard pile to the bottom of your deck.
or
+Blast: By discarding a Diamond or a Clubs card you may cause a spell to affect a large area, affecting everyone Close to the original target. This is not selective, all are affected equally.

6th Level
-Projection: As a Diamonds action you may project your senses at a distance (at normal range), ignoring barriers or other physical impediments. Your projection is completely intangible and is usually invisible and inaudible (unless you wish it to be otherwise). This spell may be maintained and if so you may move your projection at a swift walking speed each round.
or
+Chain Spell: You may discard a card to have one of your spells affect a second target (they get to play their own resistance card against your action, assuming it is negative). You may discard additional cards to affect more targets, but you cannot target the same character twice.

7th level
- Charm Item:  enchantment enhances the ordinary function of an otherwise mundane item. Whatever the item's general function, it will perform better: swords will be sharper, bows more accurate, armor is more durable, etc. The wielder of the item receives a bonus to appropriate rolls for the remainder of the scene equal to half the value of the card used in the action (this is a Diamond Action). This cannot be maintained. None weapon charms will typically add a bonus to some related tasks with the approval of the DM (an enchanted pair of boots may add in leaping and running for instance). 
or
+Sympathetic Magic: If you have access to some sort of mystical link to a target (typically this would be ritually prepared blood, hair, etc) then you may target them even if you cannot normally perceive them by discarding a Diamonds card. This transcends normal ranges and may affect anyone on the same world but it is always Difficult.

8th Level
-Teleportation: As a Diamonds action you may disappear and reappear somewhere else. The range is based on the TN set by the DM (generally 2-5 is within combat range (close to Far Away), 6-9 is within a handful of miles, 10+ would be for Teleporting between cities or countries), which may be increased if the Mage cannot see the target or envision it properly. It is possible to take additional willing targets with you so long as they're nearby and you discard a card for each additional character.
or
+Contingent Spell: You may play any card(s) you wish and state the spell they are intended for and a condition that will cause the spell to activate. When the condition is met then the spell will activate without requiring an action. If circumstances would cause the spell to be treated as Difficult then you may supply additional cards from your hand if possible...if not then the spell fails. The contingent spell will remain indefinitely until triggered.

9th Level
-Shapechange: By discarding a Hearts, Clubs and Spades card you may take a Diamonds action to transform into the shape of an animal, monster, or similar other form. The Card Value of your action can be used as the Card Value of any actions or reactions appropriate to the new form. For instance, taking the form of a giant would allow you to apply the Card Value of your spellcasting action to rolls to resist physical injury or feats of strength. Your abilities are limited to physical abilities possessed by the new shape...you might take the form of a demon but this grants you no infernal powers. This must be maintained as normal (obviously without the Focus Trick your new form will be quite unstable).
or
+Persistent Spell: Your spells are irresistible. When an opponent successfully resists a spell you may discard a Diamonds and Spades card in order to have the spell continue to "target" the victim. On the next turn (or 15 minutes of out of game time if you are not in a Struggle) the spell "repeats" at the same Card Value without requiring an action. This continues until the target fails to overcome the spell, the spell is somehow disrupted, or the caster chooses to cancel it. This does not require maintenance, although once the spell succeeds it must be maintained in order to continue functioning.

10th level

-Mage's Eye: The universe opens up to you. As a Diamonds action you may increase the maximum number of cards in your hand by half the Card Value of the action (rounding up). This must be maintained, and if the Card Value drops or the spell ends then you must discard any extra cards.
or

Permanence: By discarding a Diamonds and Hearts card when casting a spell you may choose to make the spell permanent. The action's card(s) are set aside and serve as the Card Value of the spell until it is destroyed or you intentionally cancel the magic (at which point they are discarded). If you attempt to create more than one Permanent enchantment







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