I'm searching for a system that has significant options for magic adventures.

I want to let players not just to tell their stories and take part in an adventure, but create the magic themselves.

A couple of nice systems (shortly):

  • Ars Magica - constructing any spell (most versatile system). Interesting setting, playing 1 PC plus group of NPC.
  • World Of Darkness (I) - very nice meta plot, simple spell constructor, crossover can be played in case of something.

The rest of systems (D&D, Gurps, Fuzion, Savage Worlds, Warhammer...) that I know are the combination of : mana points + list of spells.

How do other systems compare to AM/WoD (in terms of setting/constructor/something else)?

Update: I'm trying to find a new system (narrative or not) which has an interesting magic setting (not general fantasy, not firing a lot of spells per second) and at least a simple spells constructor (because fixed spells list is not an option).

Good examples of settings: Faeries from WoD, AM with covens in Medieval Fantasy Europe. Bad examples: DnD with action based magic - kill'em all.

It's a magic, it should be like fairy tales.


3 Answers 3


It might be hard to find, but Masterbook was a decent generic role-playing system that gave rules for developing your own spells. It had a lot of flexibility in spell creation. However, since it was a generic RPG, it didn't really have a setting on its own.

Bloodshadows, which was a specific setting for the Masterbook system, had a pretty heavy noir feel (though with the inclusion of the supernatural and magic), though I remember pretty much just ripping the pre-made spells out of that and using it in my own setting. They had a very gruesome, gritty feel to them.

Another system that let you create your own magic effects on the fly, in a manner not dissimilar from WOD's Mage, is Alpha Omega. In their magic system, you have "Sources" and "Intentions", and you combine them to create magical effects. For instance, the "Elemental" source "Agony" intention can be combine to deal, say, fire damage to a character.

It's a game with a neat setting and a beautiful rulebook, but as a warning my group gave up on it feeling that it was pretty horribly play-tested and balanced. Despite there being a ton of character types, you pretty much either had to be a supernatural mage or a combat-heavy AI to be competitive in combat. Despite being a point-buy character creation system, the classes (in my opinion) were not balanced and thus two starting characters of different classes could have vastly different power levels. Since it sounds like you're looking for less combat, and EVERYONE would be a mage, that might be a lot less of an issue for you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the great answer. You are right, it would campaign like "less combat, more creativity" \$\endgroup\$
    – ravnur
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 19:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Masterbook is still available in electronic format last I checked. (a few months ago.) \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 2:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right, it seems like it's still available in PDF form here: pigames.net/store/default.php?cPath=107. Looks like they even have print copies, which surprised me. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sterno
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 21:47

Not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but the magic (aka evocation) powers in The Dresden Files RPG (Fate 3.0) allows for a player to do pretty close to whatever they want, as limited by the GM (and their abilities).

For instance, let’s say I’m a focused practitioner (Channeling – 1 element), and I’m into fire (aka a pyromancer). With the way Fate is set up, I have 4 basic options: attack, defend, maneuver, and dispel (this isn’t the right word, but basically it comes down to breaking a spell set on someone or something).

Attack: you can set up your attacks to look and feel however you want. The size, shape, targets, etc. are all set up by the player. As a pyromancer I could throw a fireball at a large area, targeting an area. Or I could send a narrow jet of fire at a single person. Whatever I want to do, I can, as long as it’s with my element.

Defend: you can use magic to defend as well. Let’s say someone shoots at me with a machine gun. For my defense I could throw up a magic wall of fire and disintegrate the bullets before they get to me. Or, I could use my magic to try and ignite the bullets in the gun,k or make the gun too hot for them to hold.

Maneuver: these are your strategic magic spells. These do not cause damage to characters, but rather cause changes to characters or the environment to give you a leg up on the situation. For instance, you might heat up the area to make it difficult to breath, or melt a statue to intimidate an opponent.

You wouldn't necessarily have to use the DFRPG settings, but the system is pretty nice

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer. I've add a couple of comments to my question. So do not search for "mage-machine-gun". But system is nice. I tried it. \$\endgroup\$
    – ravnur
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 21:22

Several more


Both have build your own magic mechanics. Both do so with fixed spells created by the players during character creation. Both have similar approaches, and it's buy the effect, not buy the cause.

Hero System has a mechanic called the Variable Point Pool. It's able to be used to build new powers on-the-fly. It's not a good idea for the Hero System novice, but it works great for Hero System fans. Aside from this, it's also a buy the effect rather than the cause.

Burning Wheel has almost a dozen magic systems between the core and the Magic Burner suppliment... each works differently from the others, and none of them is spell-point driven that I recall. Some are incompatible with others; most are able to be used with the others.


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