27 November 2011

Magic Subsystem: Elemental Chakras

Part of the thing I'm trying to do with Skeleton Puncher is keep the traditional fantasy theme going strong, while streamlining and simplifying a lot of the mechanical side of things. A lot of the complexity that's come out of these systems is due to trying to "keep the same system but add more stuff" that gets us bloated rules messes like 3e and 4e, instead of actually serving some sort of purpose to the system.

This is relevant, because one of the messiest systems in any game is the magic. It's important to keep it a little complex, to allow for cool emergent gameplay and solutions you didn't think of, as well as to keep the feeling of magic being a little overwhelming for your characters. If there's this many moving parts and it's just a game to you, it feels a little more dangerous and mysterious than just using "Magic Points" to cast "Fire Blast 1".

So anyways, I was thinking about using a magic system for Skeleton Puncher where you bind the four classical elements to your chakras. For the uninitiated, I plan on using a very basic form of my understanding of the chakra theories, where there are 7 chakras, that open in order from lowest to highest, and each one has a different location on the body (that I'm going to more or less ignore, except for vague location types), and a different potency. That is, you have to open them in order, so opening your top-most chakra (the "crown chakra") is the epitome of a very enlightened person.

And this is what I want. As a spellcaster, you open your chakras as you advance in Rank. This gives you a small benefit related to the nature of the chakra (such as wizard's eye upon opening your 6th, or "brow" chakra, typically symbolising the third eye), as well as allows you another place to "bind" your elements.

Each bound element lets you access the next "tier" of the elemental magic you can access, and also allows you to mix and match elements, sort of. For example, if you have two fire and one air chakra, you can cast 2nd tier fire spells and 1st tier air spells, as well as maybe some sort of fire+air spell (although I'm not sure what that'd even be, I'd have to think about it more).

Really, I'm just throwing ideas out there. I don't think I'll go with this one.


  1. I can see several ways this could still work.

    * make the tiers bigger than D&D levels, unless you want to see 'straight fire wizards'. The benefit of third-level fire spells vs. second-level fire spells plus first-level air spells is pretty big in many peoples' minds.

    * consider having the chakras come active as you progress and they affect 'general' magical ability (i.e. in D&D terms you might say they each give access to new spells), but allow binding the chakras to give specializations of a sort.

    * as above, but have the chakras be less 'spell specialization' and more 'specific powers'. This lets you expand their application; a moderately enlightened rogue-type character might have mild telekinesis (hand chakra), where a fighter-type might have a more martial ability.

    It occurs to me that the third one might be the most generally applicable, and the use of chakras explicitly makes it clear that people can become more enlightened and gain more impressive powers than their 'base class' might otherwise suggest.

    So, the wizard with his brow chakra open might be able to see the inherent nature of magic, while the fighter would see the inherent nature of war. What exactly this means, I don't know.

    (And yes, I'm aware this is starting to feel somewhat like the Magic of Incarnum book from WotC. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing... I like the idea, the implementation fell down for me.)

  2. it occurs to me that if you were to expand this to six elements (add positive and negative energy -- life and death, creation and destruction, whatever) then you could have each provide access to spells of that type as a more binary thing. Enlightenment (crown chakra, the seventh chakra) is a more 'binding' thing that brings it all to an integrated whole.

    There might now even be 'accepted' 'chakra paths' for different groups -- ultimately everyone reaches the same point, enlightenment, but binding things in the 'wrong' order might have repercussions, if only at the social level.

  3. ... okay, clearly I misunderstood 'chakra', generally. A quick check online shows that they are aligned on the spine/vertical axis, not various body parts. 'Hand chakra' is meaningless.

    Speaking purely. I kind of like how they work or interact with the D&D magic item 'slots' and might pursue it that way.

    Rather than (continue to) flood this page with comments I'll post to my own blog.

  4. I don't remember if linkbacks work here, so:

    My thoughts on this topic and some questions or ideas that might be worth examining.

  5. I'm glad the idea found a good home at your blog- this was something I was struck by roughly in the middle of nowhere.

    Couple of things:

    I wasn't planning on using anything even roughly related to D&D's wonky spell power levels, where the effectiveness of spells increases exponentially with the level. I aimed at a fairly smooth progression, so that while you get significantly more powerful water spells by binding all your chakras to it, it wouldn't be so strong that you wouldn't want to bind another element somewhere.

    Using the item slots is another fairly good idea, I honestly hadn't thought of that. It'd be cool to essentially have "chakra items" that would take up a slot and give you cool stuff to use.

    I'll look over your blog in a bit, I'm still waking up from a nap and I want to give it my full attention.

  6. I didn't think you were necessarily aiming to use D&D spell levels, but the numbers looked roughly plausible if you were, if you widened things a little (say, spell levels 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 or something), but to be honest I don't think it'd work out quite right.

    You might look at Green Ronin's Black Company setting, where there are four main tiers of caster (plus Dabbler). The spells are basically designed at casting time, though, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to go in that direction.

    I mostly think in D&D terms (3.x to be more precise), as that's where I'm most experienced. I think I can imagine other ways this could fit together, though.

  7. While I like the because it's different, I'm not sure how this is any more streamlined than current D&D spells?

    One thing to think about with the advancement in chakra level--make it like the Richter scale, where each level is 10x more powerful than the one before it, so that means a 7th chakra wizard is incredibly rare and nobody in the world messes with him.

    You might want to check out Dave Duncan's series The 7th Sword, where he plays with this idea, only it applies to every single person in the society. There are stratified levels for the garbageman, the slave, the wizard, the accountant, the swordsman, etc. and the higher your level the more power (relatively speaking) you had.


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