A Touch of Magic
Preview the Magic System in the Genesys Roleplaying Game
A wizard hurls a fireball at a writhing beast, a young girl causes an earthquake in the middle of the city, a cybernetic super-soldier turns an incoming spaceship to ice. No matter what form your adventures take in the Genesys Roleplaying System, magic can make characters more exotic while providing players with additional customization options. But how do you make something as fantastical as magic work with any setting?
Today, Genesys Designer Sam Stewart sits down to discuss the unique magic system of the game. Sam not only dives into the infinite possibilities of the system, but how it can be adopted to many different settings and work for a plethora of characters.
A World of Magic
Sam Stewart: When we set out to design a magic system for Genesys, we were starting from scratch. Our goal from the outset was three-fold.
First, we wanted a system that followed the same basic dice mechanics as the rest of Genesys—roll a dice pool, try and get Successes, and spend Threat and Advantage. Second, we wanted a system that made magic users feel like they were doing something fundamentally different from other characters. Finally, we needed a magic system that felt like it fit in fantasy settings as well as more modern settings.
Oh, and did I mention we wanted to fit all this into ten to twenty pages of text?
So we went to work, and early on we came up with an idea that would shape our development. Instead of creating a list of specific spells such as “fireball” and “ice wall” and “greater poison cure," we decided to invent a list of broad magic actions. These actions would govern most of what people wanted to do with a magic system. For example, the “attack” magic action could represent your character flinging fireballs at foes or trying to spear them with shards of ice.
If you want your character to cast a spell that you call “fireball,” for example, you start with the basic magic attack action. This allows you to target an enemy at short range. You’ll make an Easy combat check using a magic skill, and deal damage equal to the characteristic linked to that skill, plus one additional damage per success. So far, very similar to making a ranged attack with a throwing knife.
Where things get interesting is what happens next. Right now, your fireball spell doesn’t have anything fiery about it. However, you can choose to add the Fire effect to your spell, increasing the difficulty of your check by one and giving it the Burn quality. Do you want your fireball to explode and hit groups? Give it the Blast effect for another difficulty increase. Now your character is casting something that feels much more like a fireball!
Of course, the check to cast the spell is Hard. While even a novice spellcaster can attempt a complex and powerful spell, only a trained and skilled wizard has a reasonable chance of success. Generally, the more skilled a spellcaster is, the more complex spells they can attempt.
Some people may feel like that difficulty is still a bit high to reliably fling fire at their enemies, or the damage feels too low compared to hitting them with a sword. While spellcasters do have the advantage of being able to cast spells without any tools or weapons (which is going to come as a rude surprise for your captors the first time your character gets thrown into prison!), they’re going to need implements to make a real impact.
Implements are tools that enhance a spellcaster’s power and ability. Like weapons, many implements add to the damage of attack spells. But unlike weapons, implements also allow casters to add certain effects to spells without increasing the difficulty.
For example, the magic staff, a staple of wizards everywhere, increases the damage of your character’s attack spells by four. And what's more, it also allows spellcasters to increase the range of their spells without increasing difficulty. That makes a wizard’s staff far more deadly than a simple walking stick!
Risk Vs. Reward
Finally, we wanted to make sure magic had big payoffs coupled with big risks. We felt magic was more interesting if it was a bit unpredictable, and things could sometimes go wrong in an exciting and terrifying fashion. Luckily, we had the Threat and Despair mechanic for that!
Our magic rules include a set of options for spending the Threat and Despair generated on magic skill checks. These can include suffering lots of strain or the spell not taking effect for a round, but it can get a lot worse! If your character rolls a Despair, you might find the magic warping out of control and your GM choosing who gets hit by that fireball instead! And if you manage to generate two Despair… well, maybe you’ll enjoy spending the rest of the encounter transformed into a toad?
Skills and Spellcasters
So who can be a spellcaster? Well, that’s up to you! (And by “you,” we mean all you GMs out there). We offer a few different suggestions on how to integrate magic into your game and setting. Generally, we advise that only characters with a magic skill as a career skill be allowed to cast spells. This limits spellcasting to certain careers, such as a Wizard or a Priest.
Of course, maybe in your setting magic is widespread and anyone can do it! In that case, you can remove the restriction and let anyone buy ranks in magic skills. Certain careers may be able to focus on those skills for less experience, but there’s no problem with that.
An Ancient Art
Whether you're slinging fireballs at an ancient wyvern or channeling enough energy to bring down a spacecraft, magic in Genesys is an adaptable and customizable system. What kind of spells will you craft when adventure calls?
Craft your spells and pre-order the Genesys System Core Rulebook (GNS01) from your local retailer or from our website here!