Thursday, 31 December 2015

Generic Cyberpunk 2020 Bastard System: Fantasy Edition, Pt. III: Semi-Coherent Ramblings About Magic

You may remember that in previous posts (here and here) I discussed using the CP2020 rules as the basic for a gritty, tactical fantasy RPG more akin to RuneQuest and Rolemaster (or CP:2020, for that matter) than D&D.

I still think this project has legs for private games (I wouldn't publish such an abomination), and these thoughts were resurrected after playing Blade of the Iron Throne the other day. BotIT is an odd beast - a sort of amalgamation of the most storygamish storygames you can imagine, and Rolemaster combat but with the complexity dialled to 111, let alone 11. (It even has hit locations within hit locations.) It was a bit too much for me to get my head around as a player, but I enjoyed it, and remembered that there is a lot of fun to be had in the places where RPGs begin to look like wargames: Rolemaster, CP:2020's Friday Night Firefight rules, Warhammer FRP 2nd edition, etc.

I had previously stumbled over how to create a magic system, however. I have come to realise that, fundamentally, I mistrust and despise magic systems which involve rolling and hitting a target number in order to cast a spell. I can't think of much else that would banalify something which should be anything but. Yet CP:2020 is at root a banalifying system - it is a 1980s/1990s game, and it doesn't allow much room for creativity: everything in it is governed by rules.

Nonetheless, there seems to be something rather awful about just creating a new magic system to tack onto the Generic Cyberpunk 2020 Bastard System: Fantasy Edition (GCp2020BS: FE), which would in a sense repeat the mistakes of the original authors and their stupid netrunner rules - otherwise known as the Let's All Drink While We Watch the Ref and Netrunner Character Roll Dice for an Hour System (LADWWWtR....etc.).

So it has to be something that I can retool from the existing CP:2020 rules. This probably means fannying around with Empathy/Humanity Points.

My basic thoughts for the GCp2020BS: FE magic user, then, is as follows:

Magic User

Only gets INT+REF to spend on skills; the other 40 points have to be spent on learning one of the types of magic, which are, for instance:

Sorcery/goety (magic used through demons, and demon-summoning)
Geomancy (elemental magic)
Necromancy ('nuff said)
Thaumaturgy (the working of miracles)

Once he or she has access to a school, a magician can do anything within its bounds - it's just a matter of learning the proper techniques and requisite materials (from a teacher, books, etc.). When casting a spell, the caster has to roll under his EMP on a d10 or lose a certain number of humanity points depending on how powerful the spell he wants to cast is. So if a sorcerer wants to summon a little imp familiar this might just be a d6 humanity point loss on a failed EMP roll, but if he wants to summon the Marquis Andrealphus, the 65th Goetic Demon, he might go completely insane on a failed EMP roll (8d10 humanity loss).

He also rolls against his fortitude (which replaces the "cool" stat) to see if he can control whatever he is summoning - unless he is willing to do weird ritualistic things, and/or is very experienced - you can sink IP into raising fortitude.


  1. Friday Night Arrow Fight!

    I have to say, I never, in about 14 billionty years, would ever have thought of converting CP2020 to fantasy. I love that idea.

    1. It would work very well for a RuneQuest-y experience, I think.

  2. I didn't like the Vancian spell casting system of traditional D&D. I adapted a Runequest system instead, where every spell has a chance to succeed and be cast, until the magic user fails, and the spell must be memorized again. I have a complex system, where theoretical knowledge of the school of magic, the individual casting skills that account for the verbal, somatic, and material components - Declamation, sleight of hand, and Alchemy, and the experience of casting the spell for the first time when it actually goes off as planned, they all translate into a unique base chance of success (roll under on % dice) for each individual spell. It helps to have a vastly more experienced and pedagogically inclined teacher helping you. Under my system, a 1st level Magic User with a high level tutor, has s small chance to learn the Fireball spell after studying for 6 months. My goal is to make player character development part of actual adventuring. Seeking Masters to teach you, learning ancient languages, hunting out antique, expensive, obscure, barely decipherable writings of other wizards to build up your spell book.

    How do I explain all this in real world terms? When a Magic User casts a spell - it is essentially a work of performance arts - He or She must PERFORM the spell-casting over the din and chaos of melee battle raging nearby. He must speak loudly and confidently to get the spoken word out, he must convolute and contort the body as a dancer to channel and shape and direct the energy of a spell, he must prepare the proper pure material components beforehand, and then throw them into his spell.

    Picture a joggler doing his act while vocalizing a song, while a shootout is raging nearby and people are trying to get a shot at the joggler. The joggler must FOCUS to do it right and hurl that spell at the enemy. If he sings off key or drops one of the juggling props, the spell fails.

    The magic user must focus to cast a spell. Every minute in combat, every arrow and rock hurled at him - stress the wizard out and tire him. He can cast a spell maybe once or twice, maybe three times or more if spectacularly lucky, but eventually he will make a mistake and forget the true form, and the spell will not go off. The Wizard then has to get out of combat, rest, review his spell book, practice and correct his casting form, before he can cast that spell in anger again.

    1. My goal is to make player character development part of actual adventuring. Seeking Masters to teach you, learning ancient languages, hunting out antique, expensive, obscure, barely decipherable writings of other wizards to build up your spell book.

      There should be much more of this to D&D, I think.

    2. What I discovered is that this kind of player interest in your game requires (a) Player's fascination with a particular character class and (b) Player Agency.

      You can pull off a sandbox campaign with a defined beginning, middle and an end with zero linearity, but if players fail to participate in exploring your world and show initiative, you are reduced to signposting and railroading, because players tend to react, unless you pique their interest and they start exploring your world.

  3. If you want something real quick and dirty, you can probably just tack DCC's spell system onto CP2020.

    Your CP2020 roll should give you a number between 3 and 30(Magic ability+magic skill+1d10). (Occasionally more if you get a critical hit)
    And DCC's spell system has tables between 1 and 36+

    So that would potentially work, though you'd still need a systematic way to translate DCC damage/effects in cyberpunk 2020...