So the “Magic School” idea is kind of a pain to develop, and there are a few usable games in the genre; I want to look at this further someday, but not now. But it did lead me back to one of my ideas for a “Magic Returns” game. While Bright certainly isn’t inspirational, it’s not the worst big-budget B-movie I’ve seen, and made me miss some parts of Shadowrun.
I’ve got a good ways into it.
Obviously, there’s D20, Microlite, The Black Hack, etc., and on the other side almost-freeform systems like Venger Satanis’ Crimson Dragon Slayer, but I feel the tone should be lite-retro-crunch; D20 and even TBH are too heavy, Microlite has no crunch, CDS isn’t all that retro (the setting is, but the system’s pure ’90s storygame like Over the Edge). Tunnels & Trolls has been mangled into modern settings a few times, and it doesn’t make sense, but “only six-siders” is a good design rule, and those saving rolls are the best mechanic ever.
I look back at some of my old games like Phobos (my first attempt at the “Magic Returns” genre), and go “shit that’s a lot of rules & words for stuff I don’t do anymore”. The spell design rules in that were hard, and nobody liked making spells.
- Premise lets you throw magic, tech, anything you want into one blender, like the old multigenre invasion settings.
- System is inspired by fantasy gamebooks and early post-apocalyptic games, quick systems with a fistful of six-sided dice.
- Stats are more specific than many minimal games, because the system is largely about making stat rolls.
- There are no classes or skills; characters can try to do anything.
- Experience encourages a variety of actions from the players, not just grinding.
- Equipment has been purified down to what you need for an adventure, not a catalog of every item ever made.
- Wilderness and Tactical Exploration are the bare minimum to do a hex-crawl/dungeon-crawl. Try to avoid complex resource management but still keep the two that matter: food and torches.
- Combat is a pair of opposed rolls, and then a damage roll. No tables.
- Armor mechanics are meant to make heavy armor a big initial advantage that wears down over time, as a constant gold sink, but can’t require a lot of bookkeeping.
- Magic is freeform, but constrained by known spells, which lets the Referee have some idea what characters can do.
- Monsters use the same simple mechanics as other characters, and are freeform to keep players on edge, unable to memorize stats and weaknesses.
- Treasures are given as a set of cascading die rolls, but with a limited value in mind so runaway wealth isn’t so likely.
Here’s the hard part. My codename for the system was “DiceChucker”. There’s already a DiceChucker game, but that’s not a shipping name anyway, just a place to put a file. Everything involving “Arcadia”, my placeholder name for faerieland, is taken, often for alternate-world erotica.
I dunno what to do here. Die-roll up some random names? The magical world of Ffnnfgrppa awaits you! A cursory view of DriveThruRPG suggests that’s how many people work.