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I'm playing around a lot with the FATE system at the moment (particularly with Diaspora) and I'm now looking at how I might apply it to a fantasy setting. What I'm looking for is a nice magic system that might be amenable to converting over to FATE (thoughts on how I might achieve that would be a bonus although I fully expect the majority of work there to be my own). What am I looking for a magic system?

  • Flexibility for the player/character so they can achieve a wide range of effects and be inventive with it.
  • Atmosphere - a feeling that the magic system is embedded in the setting (I know - hard to do this without details of a setting but just having hooks that can be built into a setting would be nice).
  • A price. I like fantasy where magic has a price (dealing with demons ala Elrik, burning up life ala Dark Sun etc).

I don't have a setting yet, although it is likely to be relatively generic western-European medieval fantasy with magic-use being rare but not fantastically so and with races other humans being confined to the wilder, less 'civilised' areas.

Any ideas?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 22 down vote accepted

I was in exactly the same boat as you a year ago: introduced to Fate with Diaspora, loved it, and then wanted to capture than in a fantasy setting. This is where I went with it:

Dresden Files RPG has a comprehensive, flavourful, flexible, and very Fate-like magic system that easily translates to a fantasy setting. For an incredibly-good explanation of its strengths, weaknesses, and internal logic, browse through Rick Neal's blog post series on DFRPG. It handles prices of various sorts, including story-based ones that aren't strictly mechanical; it's necessarily embedded into your setting because of the way the characters must gather their power; and it's incredibly flexible while being, somehow, not a free-form system that leaves you scratching your head as to what is possible or sensible.

I was working on a fantasy conversion of DFRPG's magic system to graft onto a fantasy conversion of Diaspora at one point myself, but Life interfered and I haven't returned to it. Rick's articles helped immensely to solidify my understanding of the magic system's rules and philosophy while I was working on the draft.

For a off-the-shelf magic system, Legends of Anglerre is a well-regarded fantasy implementation of Fate. I haven't played it myself, but it's ready to go without hacking, unlike DFRPG, and is what I would have gone with if I hadn't had a desire for a writing project. Right now, given the availability of free time to write, I would use Legends of Anglerre without hesitation. The bit of research I did when I was working on my fantasy-Fate draft indicated that it would have been well-suited to the sort of fantasy I enjoy. Because it's more heavy in the rules than Diaspora, though, I went with my own writing attempt. I can't say how it handles price for power, flexibility, or flavour – for those, DFRPG is still my recommendation – but I would be remiss if I didn't at least point you in this game's direction so you know it's out there.

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+1 for Legends of Anglerre; it's good stuff. –  Rob Nov 21 '12 at 16:23

One of the expansions from the Fate Core Kickstarter was a Fate System Toolkit that included an extensive chapter on magic including five example systems.

In one of our earlier incarnations of the Fate system, Evil Hat co-founder Rob Donoghue lost his damn mind and included a chapter of over half a dozen different magic systems for use with the game. With this stretch goal, Rob will create a new supplement doing exactly that for Fate Core to be added to our Expansions package for our backers.

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You may want to look at the Dresden Files RPG, which is FATE-based and has an elaborate magic system. Characters capable of magic have a lower Refresh, which makes you desperate for Fate points in play—wizards tend to get beat up a lot. You would have to adapt it from a modern to medieval setting.

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Although I do agree with the suggestion of the Dresden Files RPG magic system as one to definitely consider, there is another option that I would put forth - The Fate of Inglemia. It's not as wide open as the system from DFRPG- being more of a Vancian system with definite drawbacks. It also builds on, rather than replaces wholesale, the magic system in the FATE 3.0 SRD. But that framework to me gives it a bit more flavour- and this is coming from someone that absolutely loves the system in DFRPG.

The system itself is built for High Powered magic at the higher levels, so competes with the DFRPG on that point. It is based on skills and aspects, with the aspect giving the ability to cast spells (and increase that ability), and the skills defining the area of knowledge that the caster knows, how well and how much he can cast spells from that arena, and his general casting abilities.

When creating a magician, the first thing that you look at is your aspects. Every magician must have the Magical Talent aspect, and at least one level of the Magical Initiation aspect. Each additional level of the Magical Initiation aspect increases the circle of spell the magician has access to for all Schools which the mage has skill in. Other magical aspects can be purchased also in relation to the character's background as usual for a FATE character. These aspects are important in spell casting.

The next thing to purchase is skills in magic. The general FATE 3.0 SRD skills of Evocation, Summoning, Mastery, and Dispelling are used to control your spells. Skill in the initiated school of magic must also be purchased. In addition, a mage that purchases an aspect to define his specialization can purchase skill related to that aspect, and stunt ranks. The skill is useful for out of combat uses of the specialization in unique ways, and the stunt ranks can be useful in creating unique uses of the specialized magical skill in combat, and protection against feedback if the mage pushes his powers.

As I said, the system has Vancian characteristics - at the beginning of the day, the caster must study spells from a spellbook; the muber of spells in a given circle which the mage can have prepared is equal to the number of skills ranks invested in the skill. Each spell cast successfully marks off a rank of any magical aspects, limiting the number of times per day a mage can cast, and the spell is also lost until prepared again.

If all of a character's magical talent aspects are checked off, and the mage still needs to cast a spell, difficulty is determined and the spell check is made to cast the spell. If it is successful with a MOS of 1, the spell is cast successfully as normal. If it is failed, or succeeds exactly, the spell is treated as an attack on the character with a severity equal to the difficulty of the spell, plus the amount the casting roll was failed by. The only defense against this attack is the character's magical talent, and any stunts that he has that are directly related to the spell that are being cast, i.e. a pyromancy specialist would get to use his pyromancy to defend if he was casting a fire spell.

There are problems and areas to be cleaned up; I had to read several times to get an understanding, and I'm still not sure if its the author's intent. There were also several clarifications over time in character creation and play, as several times the rules seem to contradict themselves. But it's very flexible in action, while having a more defined framework than the DFRPG magical system. The background itself is also quite well done, and it really shows that the intent was for a high powered game with definite strategic efforts like Birthright, Ars Magica, and The Primal Order.

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