Magic System

The unique One Ring rules set invites tinkering and secondary creation. Whilst The One Ring works brilliantly as written, we provide this forum for those who want to make their own home-brewed versions of the rules. Note that none of these should be taken as 'official'.
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Re: Magic System

Post by Stormcrow » Tue Nov 28, 2017 10:32 pm

Glorelendil wrote:
Tue Nov 28, 2017 7:59 pm
Magic would be more like common skills
Yes, I'd say "magic" as Art is performed by common skills just as "non-magic" is. This is why elves have such a hard time figuring out what it means. A "magic rope" is just a rope that has been made to have more virtues than a "non-magic rope." If you make a rope well (with Craft), it is strong, it doesn't fray, and it is light. If you make it VERY well (with Craft), it is all of those things, plus it will loosen when called, be even lighter, and will shimmer in little light. If a hobbit spends time in Lothlorien learning to make rope, he can make "magic rope" too. (Sam missed his opportunity.)

To do this in The One Ring might require a certain number of successes on the dice, or the investment of Hope, or something else. It probably requires a trait, so that those without the trait can't reproduce the results. You can't acquire the trait unless you study with someone who also has the trait. But remember that traits aren't meant to be skills: they let you show off special aspects of your character during adventures, but they don't necessarily define everything you character can do in his off-hours. So don't go giving every elf NPC a Elven Ropemaking specialty; just assume those who know it can do it. Player-characters need the trait, though.

But a trait isn't always necessary. Anyone might be able to do a bit of magic with Song, for instance—Frodo tries it against the trees in the Old Forest. It fails, but that's not to say there's no power there. Sam later uses Song in the Tower of Cirith Ungol and manages to find Frodo. And hobbits can use Stealth in ways we would consider magical.

Magic as Will or Curse works differently, though.

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Robin Smallburrow
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Re: Magic System

Post by Robin Smallburrow » Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:35 am

I second Stormcrow's comments.

A 'spell' is really just a special type of skill, and 'wizards' or 'conjurors' are specialists in doing 'spells', just as warriors are specialists in fighting (which is why I prefer a magic-user to be a class). Certain cultures and races such as elves tend to be better at certain magic (and ways of doing magic) than others, of course, which I have tried to incorporate in my Magic system.

Glorelendil, another system I recall that maybe of interest to check out is the EA one:

Robin S.
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Re: Magic System

Post by Stormcrow » Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:23 pm

Robin Smallburrow wrote:
Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:35 am
A 'spell' is really just a special type of skill, and 'wizards' or 'conjurors' are specialists in doing 'spells', just as warriors are specialists in fighting (which is why I prefer a magic-user to be a class).
Let me note something about this that is important in Tolkien's writing.

When Tolkien uses the word spell, he is hearkening back to its origins meaning "tale." A spell is literally an incantation, words used to produce an effect. When Frodo is in Shelob's lair and he holds up the Phial of Galadriel and says "Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima," that is a spell. Frodo cast a spell. Some other power was working through him, making him say it, but it is nevertheless a spell cast by a hobbit. When Shelob is bearing down on him and calls out the name of Galadriel, that's a spell. These things have potency when you can give them power.

When something is "under a spell," it is under an enchantment. Tolkien gives a particular definition of enchantment in his essay "On Fairy Stories;" the short version is that anyone who can make a Secondary World real is an enchanter. When you read Tolkien's stories, and when you believe in them, even when you simultaneously know they're just fiction, you are enchanted, you are under Tolkien's spell. He told a tale so well, he "cast a spell" so well, that you believe his Art is the real thing. There IS a place called Middle-earth, and you can see it, you can feel it. That is enchantment; that is a spell.

Elves have much more ability to do this than men. When Finrod meets men for the first time and plays music for them, his music is so enchanting that the men actually see visions, even though they do not share a language in common. When the hobbits hear the music of Gildor's party in the Shire, the music is so enchanting that the hobbits can understand the meaning of the song, even though they don't understand the words. When Tom Bombadil (not an elf!) stops telling his stories to the hobbits and sits in silence, the hobbits remain in an enchanted state, continuing to see visions. Finrod and Sauron have an epic song-battle. Luthien's singing destroys the tower of Sauron. All of this is "spell," "tale," "Art." Just as a tale well told becomes real to you, a tale REALLY well told can have real effects in the Primary World.

When adapting Tolkien's magic to a role-playing game, have a care that you don't casually think of the word spell as the D&D formula of hidden energies that you memorize and expend at need.

(Just want to add one final example that occurred to me, and believe it or not it comes from Peter Jackson. Remember in the first film at the unexpected party when Bilbo is telling his adventure with the trolls to hobbit-children? Remember how they're staring at him agape, and he suddenly jumps and pops, and the children jump, startled? They were totally into it. They were enchanted. In the moment Bilbo makes his pop sound, the children are THERE. They're under a spell. If they weren't enchanted, they wouldn't jump at the surprise, because "it's just a story." But it shows that "spells" and "enchantment" are, to Tolkien, not things that only elves or wizards can do, and it shows why the elves don't understand the distinction between magic and art that hobbits and men make. ANYONE can cast a spell and put people and things under an enchantment. Elves are just way better at it than men and hobbits.)

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Re: Magic System

Post by Corvo » Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:15 pm

Interesting topic.
If I had to implement a "magic system" in my games, probably I would simply adapt the system for wondrous artefacts from Rivendell:
use a common skill, and spend a point of Hope to turn an ordinary success in a magical success.
Saruman would probably be a master of personality and vocations skills, Radagast of survival skills, etc

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Re: Magic System

Post by atgxtg » Wed Nov 29, 2017 4:27 pm

Stormcrow wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:16 pm
If you're going to try to put this all in a system, I'd say the first principle is that there is no difference between magic and mundane; it's all a matter of degree. The magic of Art is about subcreation as a reflection of the Creation of Ilúvatar. The magic of Will is about inspiration perception, and domination. The magic of Oaths and Curses is about stature, ownership, and rights.
Yeah, that's why in the books the Elves don't understand what people are talking about when they refer to "magic". Basically, in the books well made items become intrinsically better at accomplishing whatever task they were made for. Plus there is also a bit of items taking on properties from their users. Thus, the sword that once belonged to a great hero gains a bit of power from it.

Spells, it seems, are more a case of the character doing something so skillfully that they can exceed the normal limits for success. I think a fairly appropriate magic system could be had with "spells" that bumped the success level of a task up (or down) a level (or more) or possibly just allowed success levels beyond the normal ones.

Come to think of it, if there were higher success levels locked away, it would explain how so much of the ancient crafts have been lost. There just aren't people around who can reach those higher success levels.

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Re: Magic System

Post by Glorelendil » Wed Nov 29, 2017 6:23 pm

One way I like to think of it is to make an analogy:

The real world "creation story" is about particles and atoms and energy and physics. Our "magical" abilities (q.v. Arthur C. Clarke) are based on harnessing those elements to achieve wondrous things.

In Middle-Earth the creation story is described in the Ainulindalë....etc.

(Which, by the way, is why I roll my eyes whenever rpg forum posters start talking about historical arms and armor, metallurgy, smithing techniques, etc. etc. etc. I just don't think it's relevant.)
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