CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Magic of...Magic.

So you’ve got your pointy hat and staff. Maybe you’ve got some magical tattoos. Or perhaps you have a cauldron and familiar. But really how do you cast your spells? How does you magic manifest in the world around you? Many people just want to blow things up and say I cast fireball, and that’s ok, but this article is for those who want to put a little more magic in their magic.

book with sparkles of magic rising from it's open pages - pathfinder

I’ll admit I am not a fan of playing magic users in Pathfinder or D&D. It's not like I don’t like magic however, one of my favorite games is Mage the Ascension. And one of the things I loved about Mage was the idea that all magic users forced their will upon the world in different ways. And there’s no reason why this can’t translate over to Pathfinder.

Does the Shaonti fire blooded sorcerer cast his fireball the same way as the Magnimarian Evoker? What method does the Tian Wizard use and how is it different from the Egyptian Influence Osirian wizard? Does a cleric of Asmodeus’ casting appear the same as the cleric of Shelyn?

One of the best loved NPC I had was in a 3.5 homebrew I ran. Lucius “Lucky” Littlefoot, yes I’m one of those weirdos who likes alliteration. Lucky was a beguiler and the worlds luckiest Halfling. The thing is he never cast his spells in such a way that any of the PCs knew he was a spell caster.

small cage with open door and a cricket inside - pathfinder
When they were locked in a cell he pulled out a set of picks and mumbled to himself in a language they didn’t understand. They thought he picked the lock but what he really did was cast knock. They were all curious as to why he’d take time to talk to the cricket he kept in a cage, they didn’t notice at first the orcs falling asleep on the battlefield. The multicolored sand he threw at the enemies, color spray.

But really it was the description of how he cast his spells that made the character. I didn’t just say he casts knock, he casts sleep, he casts color spray. I described the actions and let the PC figure it out.

One of the other players in my Rise of the Runelords campaign I’m in is a cartomancer witch. He doesn’t just cast spells and be done with it. When he wants to cast light he describes his character drawing an appropriate card from the harrow and the light emanating from the card. He gives the magic a distinct flavor dealing with how his character projects his will upon the world.

People constantly ask about how you can get your players immersed in the game more. And one of the best things to do is to make you world seem more dynamic. Having magic be more than just I cast scorching ray is one way to do just that. Magic should be alive (unless you’re a necromancer) as it effects the world around it.

How does your caster will his magic to work? What is his or her style and tools of the trade?


  1. I can agree with this wholeheartedly. I mean, dry and game-based descriptions don't really help me get into the game at all -- "I roll, I miss... I roll, I hit with a 17, I do 2d6+3 damage...." That take the life out of what could be an exciting combat, where the bugbear ducks the first axe swipe but steps into the second swing, taking a blow to the gut. But when it comes to magic... well, it's magic! No excuse for making that a boring recital of damage dice and save DCs, right?

    I alway try to narrate flavor into what I do, but especially magic effects. The power of your blood manifests as a torrent of electricity, channeling the power of a god to purge disease from your ally, you're manipulating time with arcane knowledge... this is some cool dramatic shit. Narrate appropriately. :)

  2. We've spoken about it on one of the facebook threads but I'd like to reiterate here that is all great stuff Steven. Hopefully helpful to other players and GMs looking to throw a little more flavor into their magic.

    I'd also like to point out to GMs that players (and technically your NPCs) aren't suppose to know what the spells that are being cast are automatically. That's what spell craft is for, so not saying "NPC 1 casts sleep" is a perfectly acceptable tactic as a GM.

  3. Low Fantasy Gaming RPG uses a Dark & Dangerous magic check (& table) to instil a bit of unpredictability/danger back into d&d magic

    1. I like unpredictability. I was always a fan of wild magic from D&D and of course paradox backlash from Mage the Ascension.