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HP:MoR is a novel-length fanfiction by Eliezer Yudkowsky, exploring the concept of a rational Harry Potter.

The world is a profoundly rationalist world, and has elements of scientific experiment, rationality, and surrealism. Optimally, a system would have some sort of scientific research mechanic as well as a mechanic that allowed for players to plot and compete against each other in large-group combats. Is there such a system?

If not, what systems can be combined to create a playable, simulatable, world?

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Best possible mechanism to support this style of magic in a game: force your wannabe mages to communicate only in Lojban. If they get their syntax correct the spell works.</joke> –  JUST MY correct OPINION Oct 27 '10 at 12:32
I do have to wonder were all the silent close votes are coming from. –  SevenSidedDie Oct 27 '10 at 15:05
I'm very tempted to mention mouseguard rules on conflicts for research/large-group combats. I don't know how well it would work though. –  Pureferret Jan 9 '12 at 23:19
@pureferret Try to work it into a theoretical framework and post it. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 9 '12 at 23:28
@BrianBallsun-Stanton Will do. –  Pureferret Jan 9 '12 at 23:28

2 Answers 2

One flexible simulationist approach to magic was West End's Torg. This game had the distinction that the magic rules were internal to the game world; past characters had researched them (and research was ongoing) so the mages were aware of the magic rules. Researching new spells had clear mechanics, and getting good spells needed either a lot of skill or a lot of time invested, or both.

Also, Torg was a cross-genre-warfare system intended to integrate magic into the modern world. (Along with dinosaurs, horrors and cyberpunk, but you could just not use those rules.)

Torg's system encourages a cinematic approach with larger-than-life stunts - in some ways it's a moral precursor to Feng Shui.

What Torg doesn't have is a good research mechanic for anything other than new spells, and its large-group combat mechanics are simplistic. (We merged it with a wargame once for a campaign-end battle, however, to good effect.)

Torg books are a little hard to find these days; it's been out of print for a while. Key Torg books for the magic design system are the main book and the sourcebook for Aysle (Torg's magical realm). The spellbook, Pixaud's Practical Grimoire, is not crucial but has a lot of examples.

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Also: Not relevant to the question, but where I said "...good spells needed either a lot of skill or a lot of time invested," it was also possible to add "or a desperate willingness to take risks". Last campaign I ran, the party mage nearly blew his head off researching a spell to summon a ton of metal plate from nowhere in less than five minutes. In fairness, there was a big hole in the side of their passenger ship at the time... –  Tynam Feb 23 '11 at 14:01
FYI: Your link to Torg seems to have disappeared from your post. –  yhw42 Feb 23 '11 at 16:18

If you're looking to simulate this kind of magic, you're probably out of luck—simulationist games and magic systems are notoriously specific on their own, let alone simulationist magic systems. Your chance of finding a good (never mind perfect) match in an existing game to the details of how magic works in HP:MoR is pretty low.

You'd likely have an easier time playing this kind of game with a full-on narrative system like HeroQuest 2. The system models the story-logic of conflicts rather than simulating the in-game world and its magic. That way you can just play according to the fictional magic system, and when a turning point in the story is at stake and the PCs just happen to be using magic or pursuing a magic-related goal, the rules will just work.

That does put the burden of understanding the logic of the magic in HP:MoR on you and the other players since the system won't be doing it for you, but presumably this is already something you're going to have down pat, simulation or no.

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Would it be the right system to explore the narrative of the army combats and backstabbing there? Is there a way to graft army-movement rules onto it so that the PCs could pretend to be the different generals? What about exploring the narrative of the scientific research into magic? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 27 '10 at 7:52
It should be able to handle anything that would appear in a story, without grafting. For example, army movement would be turned into a stake: "Can I get the army to march where I need it before it's too late to [accomplish X/prevent Y]?" The roll then determines that whole question. This review covers the conflict system well. –  SevenSidedDie Oct 27 '10 at 7:57
Whether it's the right system… well, that entirely depends on whether it clicks with you and your group. :) It would be a shortcut compared to developing a simulation, certainly, but it's a very different way of thinking of rolls and that trips people up. Looking up a "sell me on HeroQuest 2" thread on RPGnet may be useful. –  SevenSidedDie Oct 27 '10 at 8:01
That's not quite what I'm looking for. I don't think the narritivist tone would fit the RationalPotterverse. The fundamental assumptions of the fiction almost demand simulation. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Oct 27 '10 at 11:05

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