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A long time ago, I fiddled around with ideas for an FRPG system in which spells were free-form rather than taken from a stereotyped list. My question is whether there is a system out there like this today.

The idea was something like this. A spell would have a difficulty level, which would be computed on a point system. For example:

How much volume does the spell affect?

the size of a fist ... 0 points

the size of a person ... 1 point

the size of a dragon ... 2 points

...

How much energy does the spell expend?

similar to a candle flame ... 0 points

similar to a running person ... 1 point

similar to a running horse ... 2 points

...

How much does the spell affect the consciousness and perceptions of others?

subtle visual impression ... 0 points

makes them fall in love, change political parties, etc. ... 5 points

There could be other kinds of points for other things, e.g., duration, points if you want the spell to not require concentration to maintain, negative points if you are willing to have the spell's effects vanish after the spell is over...

The obvious design issue would be that it would be hard to balance the system appropriately. A possible way to deal with this would be to make all people and creatures magic to some extent, so that most uses of spells would become battles of skill. E.g., even if you just want to cast a spell to put the watch dog to sleep, the dog has some magic resistance because it's seen magic before.

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    \$\begingroup\$ More detail on what you want besides freeform magic would help, because there are a lot of games that provide it. I’ve played several RPGs that support this – Mage, Fantasy Hero, Fate – and they’re all very different in style and setting. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Nov 15 '14 at 3:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BraddSzonye: I'm too ignorant of the current gaming scene to have had any idea whether freeform magic existed today. An answer with links to info about the games you mentioned would be great. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Crowell Nov 15 '14 at 3:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Some things that would be helpful to know: Do you want the whole RPG, or just a magic system to borrow for your favorite RPG/homebrew? Do you care about the setting? Some games are modern-day, some are medieval. Some are swords & sorcery, some are mages only. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye Nov 15 '14 at 3:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Genre is also a useful constraint. Complexity of system as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 15 '14 at 5:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that you're a physics prof, how important is a newtonian paradigm? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 15 '14 at 10:45