On the Top 10 Different Magic Systems

Well, why not?

10) Spell Points "Mana was defined in the introduction to the mage classes in Chapter 3 as the energy which powers most of the magik used by most mages." Arduin, The Compleat Arduin Book I

9) Sorcery "A sorcerer casts arcane spells which are drawn primarly from the sorcerer/wizard spell list. He can cast any spell he knows without preparing it ahead of time, the way a wizard or cleric must." Players Handbook 3rd edtion

8) Ley Line Magic "Ley lines are a matrix of natural Potential Psychic Energy that run in straight lines across the globe. The source of the energy is unknown and apparently inexhaustible." Palladium core book

7) Channeling Holy Power "The Channeler derives his power from another being, and is in its debt. If not for his deity, the Channeler would have no power himself. This is how a Channeling spell user should view his power and ability." Channeling Companion, Rolemaster

Yes, yes, and remember the magic
letter spell casting also.
6) Spell Lists "Spells are grouped into lists. A spell list is an ordering of spells based upon the correlation of level, intricacy, and potency. Spell lists are learned in stages, as the character progresses in experience, knowledge, and power." Spell Law, Rolemaster

5) Recharge Magic "In this variant, spellcasters don't have a hard limit on spells per day. Instead, it takes time to gather the magical energies required to cast a spell of a particular level, so the characters must wait a number of rounds, minutes or hours before casting such a spell again." Unearthed Arcana

4) Incantation and Ritual Magic "Rituals are complex ceremonies that create magic effects. You don't memorize or prepare a ritual; a ritual is so long and complex that no one could ever commit the whole thing to memory. To perform a ritual, you need to read from a book or scroll containing it. A ritual book contains one or more rituals that you can use as often and as many times as you like, as long as you can spare the time and the components to perform the ritual. . ." Players Handbook, 4th edition

3) Spheres "Fifteen magic arts describe your mastery of the various fields of magic: five techniques and ten forms. The techniques describe what you do, and the forms describe what you are affecting. Each spell combines one form and one technique. Thus a "Create fire" spell would produce light, heat, or fire, and a "Control Fire" spell could somehow control light, heat, or fire. Each of the fifteen arts has a Latin name." Ars Magica

2) Fatigue Casting "The effort of manipulating mana can exhaust or even injure a magician. . . Drain damage is usually stun damage". Shadowrun 3rd edition core book 

1) Vancian Magic

"In this fashion did Turjan enter his apprenticeship with Pandelume. Day and far into the opalescent Embelyon night he worked under Pandelume's unseen tutelage. He learned the secret of of renewed youth, many spells of the ancients, and a strange abstract lore that Pandelume termed "Mathematics".

"Within this instrument," said Pandelume, "resides the Universe. Passive in itself and not of sorcery, it elucidates every problem, each phase of existence, all the secrets of time and space. Your spells and runes are built upon its power and codified according to a great underlying mosaic of magic. The design of this mosaic we cannot surmise; our knowledge is didactic, empirical, arbitrary. Phandaal glimpsed the pattern and so was able to formulate many of the spells which bear his name. I have endeavored through the ages to break the clouded glass, but so far my research has failed. He who discovers the pattern will know all of sorcery and be a man powerful beyond comprehension."

So Turjan applied himself to the study and learned many of the simpler routines.

"I find herein a wonderful beauty," he told Pandelume. "This is no science, this is art, where equations fall away to elements like resolving chords, and where always prevails a symmetry either explicit or multiplex, but always of a crystalline serenity." The Dying Earth by Jack Vance


  1. Some more worth mentioning are pact magic (similar to channeling magic), binding magic (binding a vestige's power to the caster for a specific amount of time) and true name magic ( both binding and true name magic are from Tome of Magic for D&D 3.5).

  2. No roll-to-cast?

    Chainmail, Warhammer 2E fantasy & 40K, your own "bell curve" system, and I'm sure there are others.

    1. It's fatigue casting, innit?

    2. Maybe? The quoted example makes fatigue casting seem more like taking nonlethal damage.

      Your bell curve dice system certainly has a depletion mechanic, which can feel like fatigue, but some roll to cast systems involve no resources. For example, 4E at-will magic (which often requires a roll+INT), Chainmail roll to cast, some versions of my petition system for cleric magic.

    3. Isn't chainmail more of a "skill chance" sort of magic system?

  3. There's "Keep on casting until something awful happens".

    1. Yes! I enjoyed (what I would call) Risk Casting from Warhammer Fantasy. You can cast as much as you want, but each time you do, you risk loosing horrors on the world.

  4. This reminds me that I should include Ley Lines in my game.


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