The system is a mix of a high magic system and a low magic system. High magic in that quite a lot of the population (around 1%) can use magic and also magic can create some very powerful short-term effects, but low magic in that creating long-term effects or magic items is very difficult. Basically, if you want to use magic to fly blocks through the air to make a building then that is no problem; however, making a bridge “magical” so that it doesn’t need as much support is all but impossible. You don’t find many magic swords lying around either. Incidentally, this system means one of the most effective places where magic can be used is warfare where you usually only need short-term effects.
The system works by mana. Each wizard has a set amount of mana (30-40 mana for a level 1 wizard, up to around 200 mana for a very high level mage (e.g. head wizard in a kingdom)). To give a scale to this, it costs 10 mana to cast a fairly low-power fireball. Each spell has a mana cost and you can cast any spell (providing you know it) if you have enough mana. (Actually, this is not quite true because some spells need gemstone components, but it is true as far as mana is concerned).
A wizard’s mana (e.g. 50 mana) is for one “mission”. Obviously a “mission” is a game play device, but you can basically think of this as meaning that a wizard needs to have a couple of weeks of considerable rest to regain their mana. Essentially this means you can use up your mana very fast. Mana lost can be regained in a number of ways:
i) Potions of mana. Quite expensive. Don’t restore that much mana (10 each).
ii) There are necromantic spells that let you drain people’s life to give you mana. Not of interest here.
iii) There are spells that let you drain life from people (or yourself), with their consent. Not surprisingly, people don’t let you do this very much.
iv) Gemstones. By far the most important way of regaining mana. The rest of this post is about gemstones.
There are several uses for gemstones.
1) A wizard can use a gemstone to gain mana. Essentially he draws the energy of the crystal lattice from the gemstone and converts it to mana. The gemstone crumples to dust. Gems are much better value for money than potions of mana when it comes to giving you mana. Naturally, the more expensive and rarer gems give you more mana.
2) Most gems (and all the more powerful ones) are linked to one of the eight domains of magic (Power, Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Combat, Mind and Healing). Some domains have more than one gem associated with them (e.g. a ruby is the primary gem of fire and amethyst is the secondary gem of fire). Many spells in that domain either can or must use a gemstone associated with that domain in its casting (more below). Using a gem as a component destroys the gem.
3) Imbuing objects. Gems are the only way of creating a “stored spell”. (more below). Using a gem to imbue an object destroys the gem.
Incidentally, the gems I use are (in decreasing order of power/rarity/value): Diamond, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Pearl, Opal, Amethyst, Turquoise, Topaz, Onyx, Zircon, Lapis Lazuli, Amber, Garnet, Jade.
Gems as spell components
Spells can basically be divided in to three classes (note that this is totally independent of who can learn them, which depends on race).
i) Spells with no gem components. These spells, usually the less powerful spells, only require mana to cast. It is not possible to use a gem as a component in this spell.
ii) Spells with optional gem components. Some spells, though they can be cast just using mana, have the option of using a gem as part of the casting cost. For example, the spell “Feet of Wings” cost either 35 mana or 5 mana and a sapphire. The sapphire saves you 30 mana. Using a gem as a component in this way will always save you more than if you had just used the gem as a source of mana. A sapphire will give you 20 mana if you just use it for mana but if you use it as a component in “Feet of Wings” it saves you 30 mana.
iii) Spells with compulsory gem components. Some spells, usually (but not always) amongst the most powerful, require a gem stone to cast them. For example “Celestial Might” costs 25 mana and a diamond. Given how rare some of the rarer gems are, these spells are cast infrequently even by the most powerful wizards.
Gems are rare. Certainly you can usually pick up quite a lot of the lesser gems which are good for replenishing your mana or for minor spell components, but gems of sufficient quality for magic us to allow you to cast the more powerful spells (i.e. diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls - the “top 5”) are very rare. Even a very rich high-level character cannot just go around buying them. I really can’t stress this point enough as it is crucial to the whole system: you can’t buy these a lot of the time as they’re just not around. The most powerful spells rarely get cast either by wizards in general or by adventuring parties. In my sessions, a high level wizard would consider himself very fortunate if he obtained two of the “top 5” gems in the time it took him to advance a level.
In game terms, each time you come to a large city you can make searches for gems (incidentally, other rare items work like this in my system). All the “top 5” have rarity 11 (1 roll on 2d6 - you need 11 or more) except for diamond which has rarity 12. After searching for a gem, you can’t search again until either you get to another big city or you wait for 2-3 weeks. Alternatively you can make a “random gem search” which lets you find 5 random gems (though there is a 25% chance that any of them will be worthless glass). This is a d300 roll (which you do 5 times). There is a 1 in 300 chance of finding a diamond, or 1 in 20 of finding any of the big 5. I also use this roll for generating random gems as treasure. You can do a random gem search as many times as you like in one place. However, each of these searches (of any kind) takes time and money.
The rarity factor means that, if you are a wizard, you will try to gradually build up your collection of gems so that eventually you have some of each. This means that you can use them all to their maximum effect in spell components, can cast any spell you know and can use the lesser ones to gain mana. Obviously, you wouldn’t achieve this goal until you were very high level (if ever). It means though, that even the most powerful wizards can’t just casually decide to cast a powerful spell: if it uses one of their only two rubies, they don’t know when they’ll get another one. Similarly, if you’re in such a desparate situation that you need mana and the only way to get it is to use your emerald, this will be a real sacrifice.
This is the only way of creating “stored spells.” Any object can be imbued with a spell. Then that object can release the spell (anyone with enough intelligence can cast it, not only wizards) at any future date. Once it has cast a spell once that is it: the object is now merely a mundane object. The spell released from the object is instantaneous (i.e. zero casting time).
To imbue an object with a spell always costs more mana than to cast that spell. In addition to this, it also takes a gemstone (of the appropriate domain), even if the normal spell could be cast without gemstones. If a spell would normally require a gemstone then it takes two gemstones to imbue it: one as part of the standard cost and one to imbue it.
In domains with more than one gem associated with them (such as fire), each spell will have it designated as to whether that spell requires the primary or secondary gemstone to imbue it. Using a gem to imbue an object destroys the gem.
Here is an example of how much more it costs to imbue a spell than to cast it. A moderate fireball costs 15 mana to cost. To imbue it in to an object costs 18 mana plus an amethyst (which could be drained for 10 mana); i.e. it costs 28 mana equivalent, almost double the cost. Plus there is the difficulty of obtaining the amethyst (rarity value 9) to consider. To imbue the more powerful is almost never done due to the rarity of the gems: e.g. “Celestial Might” takes 32 mana and two diamonds (each of which could be drained for 20 mana and has rarity value 12).
I hope you find the system interesting, and if you’ve persisted enough to read this far, any suggestions and ideas as to how I could further extend the system would be enormously appreciated!
Additional Ideas (24)
Great system by the way and I very much think I am going to be *stealing* a few of your ideas. I have not though heavily about imbuing the powers into items but....anyway...
The problem I had, and I think it is a problem with this too, is the nature of diamond mines, or any other mines. It is common for veins or limited areas to be naturally in high concentration of diamonds and other precious gems. What prevents a wizard from taking over this area and building a fortress? I have that dilemna too, I limited it slightly by having the pockets small and diversified, although I suppose that could be done with yours as well though with only a little explaining.
Kings would probably be trying to stock up on these as much as possible, like we (did) stock nukes as a deterrent and in case of war. Those who control the diamonds control strength in power and in money/trade. So the fact that only a few gems are available could be as much a factor of the economy and ruler as it could their scarcity. That would also lead me to believe there would be a heavy heavy blackmarket in them which may open a whole other world of gem trading and expense. Their are probably little unregulated mines out there that are able to steadily supply blackmarkers the gems whereas the official mines (that haven't been taken over by wizards ) controlled by the king mostly go into the coffers and only a few make it to the free market.
In some places gems, like swords, might be not allowed to enter and must be 'checked' at the door. Perhaps in some places where you buy them it is like a background check here. They take down a lot of information about the wizard in an attempt to track 'civilian' wizards purchasing diamonds because of the threat they may pose. I would think there would be a lot of technology and resources into better mining, and perhaps even a rudimentary strip mining but this leads me to wanting to know A LOT more about the world. It is obvious to me that wizards would also end up being master jewelers so any jeweler very well may be a wizard...maybe...?
I have another question with the size of the gems. It is generically stated that such and such gem gives such and such mana. I would have to assume that each stone would give a certain amount of mana as determined by its carat size, no? A 1 carat diamond would give X amount of mana but a 40 carat jade would also hold X amount of mana. And if this is true would the quality of the gem also come into play?
And if that is true then you would not only have to have the correct type of gem for certain spells, you would also have to have certain carat sizes....or perhaps the spell only requires that gem but the size determines the power. So I could cast a small fireball that maybe only destroys a door with a small gem or I could destroy a castle wall with a huge gem of the same type....
What happens to the destroyed gem? Explodes into nothing? Gem dust? Dust still cool looking or useful for anything? Mixed with weapons? Used as a glistening whitewash on the richies house?
I agree by the way about the similarities to your Aros system - I hadn't noticed it the first time I read it, but upon rereading it there definitely is: particularly in the rarity of the gems/sand and also in the linking each one with a magical domain.
First a few simple points.
i) Quality of gems. Only flawless (or practically flawless - I guess on the molecular scale any gem has some discontinuities but I basically mean ones a jeweller would call "flawless") gems are suitable for magic. This has two effects. Firstly it dramatically cuts down the number of gems around (adding to the rarity). Secondly it means that gems unsuitable for magic but still of good quality are still used extensively in jewellery. Naturally you have to have a good knowledge of gems to tell the difference, which ties in with some later points.
ii) Yes, size does make a difference. I wasn't actually clear about this above, but the mana gain figures I was quoting above were for 1 "unit" There is a certain (reasonably large) minimum size for a gem to be any use at all (this varies from gem to gem and is the size of "1 unit". My gemstone tables actually have sub tables coming from them regarding size. If you've found a ruby (above the minimum size and of suitable quality for magic) there are random tables to roll on to determine how big it is (with the most common size being 1 unit of course, and bigger ones getting rarer). For game simplicity I assume that gems only come in whole or half integer sizes.
iii) A destroyed gem disintegrates in to nothing. It is not possible to use only part of a gem - you have to use all of it at once. If you, for example, were using a 2unit onyx in a spell that had a component of 1 onyx, you couldn't use just half the gem. Instead what would happen is that you would use 1 unit of the onyx as a spell component and the other 1 would give you mana (meaning you might actually gain mana from casting the spell!). Note that you can't use more than 1 gem in a spell to boost its power unless the spell specifically says you can do this. For this reason, small (i.e. 1 unit) gems are actually more useful, so most wizards, upon finding a large one, might well get it cut (or cut it themselves) in to smaller gems.
Now on to more interesting/difficult questions. Regarding diamond mines and the like. I really hadn't given them enough thought before. Let's see what I can make of it. Fortunately, it can tie in quite well with history of my world. It has been civilised for several thousand years and is currently in the second of two "highly developed" periods (highly developed meaning c. 17th century technology (but no gunpowder) and the "science" of magic being fairly well developed. The previous period (which ended about 1400 years ago) was meant to have had a much more highly developed magic system.
This would fit in very well with availability of gems: in the first period, as it was the first time people were so developed, all the mines had a lot of gems in. Magic was thus very plentiful. Now, gems are much rarer. All the mines have been largely worked out. Naturally, some gems are still found in them, but not that many. Therefore, magic is much lower. Also, as I want for my current game play purposes, gems are very rare. Of course, this also implies that magic will continually gradually decline (though will persist for a long time, as it would take a long time to completely work out gem deposits and also as gems become rarer, they will be used less as they're more valuable. Maybe wizards are trying to research a way of using gems of slightly lesser quality?).
Yes, all gem mines are strictly controlled by the government (one government or another that is). Regarding a wizard taking over a mine and building a fortress - if he can do this and establish himself in enough power to stop a neighbouring kingdom from defeating him then by definition he is a government (though there is a possibility of a wizard finding a new and minor isolated deposit of gems).
Regarding governments regulating sale of gemstones. They didn't before I read your post but they do now. This means working (even temporarily) for a government has an added perk if you're a wizard. I like the idea of having to check in your gemstones before you enter. Of course, if you're good at bluffing you might be able to persuade the guard they were just high quality ornamental gems (particularly if disguised in a ring or suchlike).
It makes a lot of sense that kingdoms would stockpile gems for war. It also means that wars are some of the few times when the two power of magic is unveiled.
Better mining technology. I hadn't even considered this, but it seems like an eminently plausible idea. I think I'll have to research mining a bit.
All wizards are master jewellers. Yes and no. Certainly all wizards would be expert at identifying gems but I don't see that it would necessarily follow that they would all be expert craftsmen at cutting them/putting them in jewellery etc. (though they might well have some minor skills at this). This would take a lot of time which they could be devoting to studies. Some probably would be of course, so the point about any jeweller being potentially a wizard is true, and one I haven't been making as much of as I could in my world. This decision is actually represented (partially) in my guild system. The two obvious guilds for a wizard to join (if he joins a guild) are the wizard's guild and the jeweller's guild. Both of them of course require certain skills etc. and you need to work your way up from apprentice etc. which takes some devotion. The jeweller's guild gives you quite a lot of bonuses with regarding purchasing gems at lower prices and also bonuses on rarity searches. On the other hand, the wizard's guild gives you things directly related to spell craft such as the possibility of learning spells of other races, more mana as well as more prestige amongst wizards.
The black market. Yes, definitely. The rarity rules incorporate buying things on the black market and if you do this you essentially double your chance (sometimes more, sometimes less) of finding something. Cooperating between a wizard and a thief in a party can be very useful. Buying things on the black market can cause a loss of honour for honourable characters (honour system is quite complex and I won't go in to it here).
I like the idea that suspicious governments might try to track "civilian" wizards purchasing top gems. I can think of missions based around one gem-poor country trying to purchase gems subtly in other countries in preparation for a war with a neighbouring gem-poor country.
First of all, I would postulate that flawless stones uncut, should only give some of the power they could if they were cut. This means gems in their raw state are less than perfectly useful. A trained eye could identify "weapon's grade" cut stones.
Gem Cutting and Gem assessment should be part of a mage's skill set, like alchemy or staff making. Jewelry might be a good skill to have.
If said Wizard took over a mine, he would then have to spend all his time cutting gems rather than doing what he wants. Or there may be other problems, see below.
The reason why I like this is that it avoids making mines totally dangerous places. If uncut stones could generate magical energy, then why are there not subterranean magical creatures living off the magical energy of these stones? Said creatures would make mining anywhere near a vein of stones difficult and dangerous. Let alone, if these creatures are inherently magical, like elementals or some such, where you can't just defendyourselff with any old tool handy. This does not make for a happy work condition.
(Perhaps an inherently anti-magical race, like Dwarves, are the only ones who would risk digging gems.)
I would also like to make a large number of stones together in one place a form of anti-magic, making it harder to cast spells (or exist if you are a non material magical entity). If magic is the focusing of the radiant energy trapped in the matrix of the crystal, then the presence of a large number of uncut stones, should generate enough chaotic radiant energy that the spell energy becomes unfocussed. A large number of cut stones around should have the same effect. This number should be larger than the number you foresee a player character MU carrying around, but if you want to limit the power of an MU, make the number less.
I would like to make a number of cut stones in an area generate a "magic rich" environment, allowing for free floating magical creatures to exist. This will eliminate anyone wanting to stockpile gems in quantity. This could get the governments out of the gem business and put it back into the hands of the wizards who can deal with such things. (Combining these two effects, means more monster and less available magic to fight them off, upping the danger ante).
Just some thoughts to incorporate...
Oh.. perhaps it is in the salt in the wizard's body that allows them to have mana. Maybe there is a culture that is known for its wizards and magic users. Their cuisine might be very salty and the magic aptitude being a side effect.
If I was a wizard and took over a mine, I would have plenty of neophyte wizards pounding at my door begging to cut gems for me in return for a few for themselves. I would be doing what I want if I owned the mine. I think implying that he would cut his own gems is like saying that he will mine them at all. I think if they found a mother of all gems, he may want to cut that one himselfe, but all the others....I am sure he would have a loyal (?) army of wizards doing the grunt work and everybody makes out by the situation. More wizards = more protection = no worries about rival kingdoms so much = all the gems they basically keep for themselves and there will be an understood system of distribution/payment. Ideal circumstances anyway. That is my thought on that.
I think the idea of underground creatures feeding off of them is a grand idea. Yet another reason why they are so rare. Perhaps dragons (or other monsters) live off them instead of subteranean beasts. They need them to fly or something, so anybody that has a mine or stockpile is under the immediate risk of magical creatures deciding they need your gems. All kingdoms that stockpile would be under the constant threat of attack and so maybe stockpiling doesn't happen except in very small quantities. If a king decided to use their magic they could pretty much do anything and would probably destroy the world if there weren't some kind of limits. Gem Holocaust.
The quantity of stones causing anti-magic is a GREAT limiting factor so you don't have indestructable mages running around. I couldn't think of a balancing factor for the stockpiling and that one solves it well.
Both the above ideas I used for my sands. Quantities of sand attract the Horde therefore making them very dangerous places to be. Sandmages can only carry a limited amount...because that is the nature of the sands. Both things if not solved cause some problems.
Brainstorming some more on Moonhunter...the "magic rich" environment. When he said "free floating magic creatures" I immediately thought if two powerful wizards carrying the perfect balance of gems that is near or just under the max they can carry before anti-magic come into play, if they come together instead of the combined power of the gems of both sending them over the top into anti-magic it could be an almost Highlander effect. Robes billowing, winds pick up whipping up stones and such, lightning perhaps striking around them. An overall dangerous environment. Another reason to check the gems at the gate.
It is the nature of the two mages with full mana and max gem power that creates the unique effect. This would probably force a rework of everything though, power games and tricking between mages, not wanting to use magic during an adventure to save it for the final confrontational wizard duel, or wanting to not carry max so the events don't happen and accidently harm anybody. Good mages would try and avoid that so limit themselves maybe. Wizard duels: would know the other is not at full strenth if they are at full strength yet the events don't take place so the other one is obviously currently underpowered (but still don't know how powerful they are)....Probably too far out there but I just saw the two wizards meet in storm of spinning gravel and lightning lifting up to the sky where the first few rounds of a magical battle would take place before they came back to the ground to finish the fight.
Maybe, the above scenerio could happen when two magicians are carrying enough gems to make them anti-magic. Any other time a max amount of gems would be anti-magic, but when two wizards with too many gems come together the above reaction happens instead. Perhaps there is an ritual fight that wizards do to solve differences and that is it.....or perhaps kingdoms, instead of killing off their armies in major wars could decide to end it by a glorious mage war.
The Society Of Simple Wizardry
- a "return to the roots" movement, these mages speak against the use of gems in magic. Sounds like nonsense? While gems do give many advantages to the wizard, they explicitly require their search and considerable funds. Not to be ignored, many wizards become allies (or as they say servants) of governments. Wizardry mingles with politicking, and forces one to hoard gems greedily.
Speaking about high ideals belonging to the art of magic, the group is often laughed about as being good only for the poor mages. (In fact, the members have little wealth, and are often the only way for the simple folk to learn magic.) It is not that rare that an able student earns enough to start using gems, and really does so...
On the other hand, this Society does some research without using gems, and may be good for some interesting discovery outside the "normal" magical development, ie a plot hook.
It is very ironical to me, that in this world the royal insignia (the crown, etc.) become a very real symbol of Power. Exactly, because of the gems fixed into them, and no real monarch would take the flawed ones, right? Thus the loving look of the court wizard may not go to His Majesty, but rather to his wonderful diamonds and other gems...
Note: Combine this with MoonHunter's ideas about that anti-magic and other special effects.
Did anyone mention nukes? I have just realized that a king would carry them on his person all the time! Quite a problem with those creatures that feel attracted, but still, sounds very imperial to me...
I think it might be more interesting if something would remain. It don't have to be shards, dust is quite fine. While dust may be unusable for spellcasting or recharging mana, it makes an interesting clue. If you find diamond dust somewhere, you know this place may not be that safe as it looks! Or something strange happened here. Further, a kind of magical analysis science may be created, the dust giving information on its use and user. (In extreme, it may give some voo-doo powers over the caster... though that may be too much.)
- Gem Assesment or Gem Knowledge would be one of the bases of a mage's skill set, Gem-Cutting probably not (you have to get your hands on a lot of gems first...). But older and more powerful wizards may very well learn it.
- An interesting concept about those "anti-magic" and "pro-magic" fields. A gem contains usually a regular moleclar grid, so it logically can concentrate magic (there is that high-technology thing with rubies and lasers). An uncut gem could thus also focus magic, but the irregularites on its surface make the result chaotic.
Should this be the explanation (hmmm, I love pseudo-science... occasionally), the amorphous (non-crystalline) gems (I think Jade and Amber, but am not sure) may be safe to store en-masse. Pity those are (probably) linked to healing spells and similar non-war effects.
Can anybody learn powers? Can gems make up for lack of skill? I ask these with manfred's comment about the king having perfect gems on his crown. Can the king use it?
So, the magician has all his normal spells that he can cast up to his personal mana. Gems resupply mana and help cast other spells in their realm. Can any gem restore any mana lost from any spell in the wizard?
Going back to the crown idea which hit a chord in me. Wizards would probably not just carry around a bag of gems to use as needed. They would most likely be put into a staff, in their own crown, a wand, or anything, something so that they know exactly where the gem is that they may need. They would probably have the jeweler skill to put new gems in to replace the ones that get destroyed. Only makes sense that their would be a way for the wizards to store them conveniently and easily accessible.
On top of that the gem choice is almost a mental challenge/game/skill to pick the correct or appropriate mix of gems that may change depending on what you are doing. Like a Magic Deck of cards that you can change depending on your strategy.
The idea of mines being the haunt of magical creatures is also brilliant. Presumably miners would have developed techniques of dealing with them, and would treat them like any other risk, but to non-miners, dealing with them would seem very dangerous. The gems attracting magical creatures would only prevent stock-piling in certain worlds, depending on how big a threat these are. In mine, in the majority of the kingdoms the land is very well pacified and people worry about monsters attacking about as much as 19th century Europeans worried about wolves and bears. It would probably stop a stock pile in a frontier region though.
Manfred, I love the society of Simple wizardry!
The royal regalia would indeed be a source of real power. Probably only a king (or an extremely wealthy lord) could afford to have flawless gems as jewellery, given how valuable they are to wizards. Though he couldn't use them (unless he was a wizard himself), he could get his court wizard to imbue spells in them, for one off use in case of emergencies. A crown with five gems might well have: Diamond - very powerful shield; Ruby - very powerful fireball; Emerald - "Benevolent Aura"; Sapphire - arc lightning and Pearl - "Water of Life" (powerful healing spell). He might also wear a ring inset with "True Sight" or "See truth" or the like. It would make assassination considerably harder. It would also mean the crown jewels would be far more valuable than they are normally.
Regarding stockpiling and the comparisons with nukes - yes, there is certainly a comparison with the general idea, but the gems (even in large quantities) don't give that sort of power (at least in my system). This is because the gems are used as components in spells rather than just for blasting pure energy at people, and even the most powerful spells don't let you destroy a city - they might let you blast a breach in a wall or obliterate a company of cavalry, but that is all (having a lot of gems just lets you do this more times, and more frequently). A powerful, developed kingdom with lots of gems, fighting one with no magic would be like 1850 European technology fighting 1300 European technology. As a result, in my world there is colonialism but no mutually assured destruction.
Another thing of course - remember spells only produce short-term affects. In other words, no matter how many gems/mana you have, you can't wrap yourself in shields the whole time. This means even the best wizard is vulnerable to a surprise attack - one arrow can kill them as fast as anyone else. Gems also don't let you cast spells any faster. My PCs once took down a powerful wizard (much to my annoyance, as it meant I suddenly had to improvise a new plot!) who was supposedly impossible for them to kill by simultaneous attacks and distractions from all directions. Though he killed a couple of them, he could focus and cast a spell one way and look behind him at the same time.
Just had another thought. One minor thing that could limit the use of magic in warfare is the matter of trust - you have to trust your wizards quite a lot before you start handing them out clusters of diamonds. Perhaps there might be only a few who were trusted with the more powerful ones, while the majority of wizards just used onyx, amber and the like to perform minor battlefield roles (fireballs, scrying, etc.) These few major wizards would (i) be key to a battle and thus have to be very well protected and (ii) incredibly useful as traitors.
Strolen, yes it makes much more sense for wizards to have their gems in wands/rings etc. It would stop any scrabbling around in a bag to find the right gem. Not anyone can learn wizardry (though I guess you could change that if you wanted). Gems can't make up for lack of skill - they make up for lack of power. If you don't know any powerful fire spells, rubies won't help you cast them - all you'll be able to do is drain them for mana. An experienced mage with no gems could thus probably beat a novice one with lots just because the older ones knows far more spells.
Actually, this makes the Society of Simple Wizardry have even more potential. Spared of the need to look for gems, learn jewellery skills etc., its members have more time to learn spells. A mage in the Society would specialise in knowing comparitively minor, little-known spells to counter the more powerful ones cast by gems. Though they would still be able to be defeated by a gem-using mage of equivalent level, they would probably have an advantage against the same mage if, for some reason, he was bereft of gems.
"Can any gem restore any mana lost from any spell in the wizard?" Yes. Personal mana is non-domain specific. If you use it, any gem can restore it (though it is, of course, better to use the gems as components).
Manfred yes, you're right: amber and jade aren't linked to anything good. Amber is the secondary gem of power (minor shields, minor summonings, detect magic, etc.) and jade isn't linked to anything - it just gives you a pittance of mana.
Yes, choosing gems is very much a challenge to pick the right ones. The decisions also come in to choosing which spells to learn as well. After all, do you choose a powerful spell that, due to the rarity of its gem components you'll only be able to cast a couple of times a year, or do you choose to learn a much weaker spell can be used all the time? Most medium level wizards end up specialising in a 2-3 of the 8 domains (for the more powerful spells) as it is really unfeasibly for mages below the most powerful and wealthiest to consistently find and buy gems in all the domains.
I missed the part where the gems turned to goo. I was going with the thought that they just dissappeared...I like them turning to dust personally.
Do they require physical touch to use the gem or is having them close good enough? I have been going on the assumption of the wizard having to hold or finger them to use them, but now I recall somebody saying they could blow up a mine by casting in the vicinity of gems.
Regarding physical touch - yes, I have them so they have to touch it (or at least be touching something that the gems are touching (e.g. you could have a ring on your finger with a gem in - your fingers would be touching the band, not the actual gem but this would still be OK). The blowing up a mine by being in the vicinity was just my speculative build on potential problems caused by lots of gems together - i.e. when surrounded by lots of uncut gems you could accidentally cause them to resonate wildly and blow up if you cast magic around - however, you wouldn't be able to use them controllably from a distance as this would require too much fine tuning and precise direction of the magic.
I just had a thought - if two mages were fighting, one could perhaps leap at the other and grapple him. If he got his hands on the other mages gems (if they were in a ring, etc.) he could potentially use them.
Grappling magic users. It sounds like something that would happen in an epic and climactic battle scene.
Does a magic user have to be "attuned" to a given gem to use it? After a few moments of study and tactile exploration, the magik user should be able to use it. If you can just "touch" and "use" a gem, any magic griefer can simple go through the well to do and magic users and "eliminate" their gems of quality.
There might be spells to prevent people from just being able to touch the stone and use it without being attuned to it.
A thought: A magic item might need a gemstone set into it, to "hold" the spell rather than power it. This will make items fairly identifiable. Since spells must be powered, there should be no "slip on and use items". The user must "will" the item on (or use a ritual activation) and spend some meger amount of manna.
Everyone should have a base manna score, enhanced by gifts/ reduced by flaws. Those of a magic using profession will have skills and abilities that allow them to increase their manna storage and recovery. Those who have many magic items might take some of the skills/ gifts to enhance their own manna rating... or even use a gem.. to empower them and their items.
Necromancers/ or magic users of less scruples will probably create "blood stones". These stones are created by bleeding out people (and draining lifeforce) and "crystalizing" the blood. This gives Evil magic users an even footing with good ones, if not an advantage. Good magic users use a rare commedity. Evil ones can make a technically unlimited number of blood stones, given a supply of victims and authorities that do not care about them. The dark path is quicker, easier, more seductive. It can not generate as much energy in a single stone as any good gem, but they can generate more.
Gem Grendades. I remember that spell can be "stored" in gems. Set, fire, forget.
I have it that Bloodstones can't be formed by just killing people and draining the life-force - though I toyed with the idea, I found it impossible to balance - one evil mage in an isolated area could quickly produce gems in the hundreds. Instead, bloodstones are formed by the last drops of blood "crystallising" when any draconic creature (including dragons, wyverns, basilisks, firedrakes, anything else you have in your world) is killed in a way that involves bleeding. This makes them also a rare commodity; however, if you're willing to use these as well as normal gems, you still get a large advantage (as you have twice as big a pool to pick gems from). As you said, this gives evil magic users an advantage. Bloodstones are also, in general, more powerful: the mana range is from 5 to 40 instead of from 2 to 30. The bloodstone from a wyvern (a standard opponent for mid-level adventurers) is worth 20 mana, as much as a ruby, sapphire or emerald.
About the only disadvantage that evil mages face is a lack of dark spells in which to use bloodstones. After all, all spells must have, at some point, been researched and over history there have been far more wizards researching "good" spells than the numbers who have been researching evil necromancy.
There is, of course, a large black market in bloodstones. Given their use simply for mana, many wizards, even those not dabbling in necromancy, would find them useful. Similarly, adventurers who have just killed a wyvern are likely to see little wrong with selling on the bloodstone. The fact remains though that use of bloodstones is still blood magic and thus innately evil - it will tarnish the soul of any who use them and cause them to lose honour. (Another point - most of these draconic creatures are intelligent or semi-intelligent).
Yes, I have all magic items have a gem in them to set the spell, as you say. For ones which the spell then just shoots out, no mana needs to be spent (this lets them be used by non-mages). Though, if you had everyone having mana as you were suggesting then you of course could have the activation cost have mana.
I think the idea of a magic user having to make a few moments of study of a gem to use it makes sense. Naturally he wouild probably do this in private so he could then use it instantly when he wanted to, but wouldn't be able to instantly use a gem he picked up off a dead enemy. You could still have grapples for gems, if you make the time about 10s or so.
Gem grenades - very neat! I hadn't thought of that. Presumably you'd still need line of sight to the gem in order to send the final "activate now" command.
Attuning to the gems...
...is it necessary? I think yes and no.
Yes, in so far that a magic user must learn to use every single kind of gem. But the more experience he has, with both gems in general, and this kind of gem, the shorter will the time needed be. Until at some point, a powerful wizard could use any gem in his reach, immediately! So you must wait until it pays off to try wizard wrestling. (It makes sense now to train the wizards in a little unarmed combat... pity they are usually old and bearded at that time... but spells could offset that.)
To prevent that some rival jumps at you, and uses your gems against you, a protective spell could hinder others at controlling your gems (or at least prolonging the time needed for attunement), or a variant of Insect Shield could be used (gives minor damage to creatures that touch you) - enough to break concetration.
Now, could there be a "curse", a chaotic field or something, placed either on a person or gems, that would make using gems dangerous and unpredictable, even cut and flawless ones?
Of course, if widely available, it might spoil the entire system, requiring new counter-spells and whatnot. But there are a few possibilities:
a) A mighty/complicated spell, only very powerful/skilled wizards are able to cast it.
b) It is a priestly spell, ideally coming from a god of magic, or a god with anti-magic agenda.
c) A kind of "irradiation", coming from weird magical accidents, or strange locations.
d) A true curse, placed upon a wizard that has harmed someone enough...
e) A special ability of some strange monster.
Even with those limits implied above, wizards can get really powerful, and it may be necessary to do something nasty to them (the Game Master smiles evilly...). It may be only a legend between magic-users, another reason why to let those boring priests in peace. Note that while their spellcasting ability would be crippled, it is certainly not gone.
Unique Munchkin Item: The Ruby Scepter
With several large identical rubies inset, it attracts the eyes of any wizard. Sadly, all are imbued with a strange protective spell, that makes the whole item very hard and the gems unusable for casting or draining. So what is it for?
The rubies do not loose their focusing power, though they add nothing of their own. Given their carefully balanced position, one has only to cast a fire-based spell. If holding the sceptre, the fireball will concentrate into a single fiery ray, more intense yet very thin.
Most spells are only short-term effects, particularly fire-based spells. Still, a well-targeted single shot can kill someone, blast through a wall, or destroy a lock. The more powerful the spell, the more of a super-laser you get. Then again, if you don't know any spells from this domain, it is useless, however expensive.
Be warned that this item is most probably too powerful, and should research make creating others possible (with other stones... Diamond Scepter anyone?), problems will arise... It better stays unique, if it is used at all. You were warned.
How about gems that have not been handled by mages take X long decreasing per level. Once a mage gets ahold of it he attunes it to himself to make it useable. Once attuned to him he can drop it, leave it, do whatever and it will always be ready for him and him alone.
Another wizard takes a gem that has been attuned by another then it will take X + difference in level of other mage. So a high level mage that attunes himself to a gem in 2 days and he is like level 10 or something. Then if he gives that gem to another mage of the exact same level then it will 2 days for him to attune to it. Give it to a 5th level mage and it will take that mage 5 + 2 = 7 days to attune himself or retune the gem to his tune. Or you could just have it flat, generic time plus the level of mage that it is currently tuned to.
Perhaps holding it on your person longer could increase the time for others to retune. If a mage was carrying a gem since he learned gem magic and died of old age...somebody else getting that gem may never be able to retune it and make it useable...
Thinking a little about the shape of the gems as well. The typical diamond cut has a flat top and a pointy bottom. Could the flat be used as a shotgun effect and the pointy side for a confined laser type effect? Then gems could not only be used for what area of magic they are for, but also for the type of cut they are and what magic it may produce.
I was thinking about faux gems created magically. These stones would allow you to invest in the future, by spending a great deal of manna to have some extra. So you spend 50 manna and create a "colorless" manna crystal of 5 manna.
This should only be used in a game system that can support research/ project tasks, or campaigns that have a lot of downtime.
This same ability could have other uses. Youu could invest a great deal of manna and upgrade a gem. Not from mundane (poor) to empowered (high quality), but to store additional energies in the gem for future use.
maybe, rather than just creating a gem "out of nothing", maybe the mana you spend is used to smooth out the molecular flaws in an "almost flawless" gem, turning it in to a flawless one suitable for magic. The 10:1 cost would mean that it was virtually impossible to create any but the least powerful gems using this method (so it's not going to be any good for making spell components), but for just creating some mana stores it would be quite good. Doing this means you would, of course, have to buy an actual "almost flawless" gem (but a jade or zircon unsuitable for magic will hardly break the bank). I could imagine students of a wizard having to create these in their spare time in exchange for lessons.
The attuning thing sounds good. I think your time scale seems a bit long Strolen - I would be tempted to make it minutes rather days, and a level 10 mage might be able to attune himself to less powerful gems in the matter of 10s or so. The basic idea of it taking longer to attune yourself to a gem if a powerful mage had it before sounds good though, as does the dependence on the length of time the mage had done before. I think it should be possible for more than one wizard to attune to the same gem (though this might take more time).
Back on the subject of how a mage carries his gems: a further advantage to putting them in something big such as a staff (despite the hassle of actually putting them there) rather than a ring or a bag is it makes it a lot harder for them to be stolen by pickpockets. On the other hand, it's rather hard to sneak a staff around, but if the gems are lose/in a ring you could easily conceal that. I guess most wizards would go for a mixture of both.
Those ideas of ways in which you could protect your gems are nice Manfred. To add another: as you can imbue spells in gems (which can then be cast instantaneously), you could always keep a couple of gems with spells imbued in them and then ward them in some way so that no-one could tell (they could tell they were magical, but then they would be - they're gems). If an enemy wizard tries to grapple you and use that one then just think the final command and, "Boom!" it goes off in his face. Obviously most of your gems won't have spells imbued in them (as you'll want to use them), but if most wizards began carrying a few warded ones around like this it would add a lot more risk to the gem-grabbing tactic: maybe it would only be used as a last resort.
I like the idea of a "curse" on some gems (though think it might be better on the gems rather than on the person) and agree it shouldn't be widely available. Weird magical accidents seem the best explanation for this, though perhaps some people (and certainly a god) would be able to duplicate the conditions. Perhaps the effect gradually fades with time, like radioactivity.
The ruby sceptre could be made less munchkinish by making it take time to recharge. To add a touch of chance, maybe the more you use it, the more unstable the gems get (though they settle in time), and the greater the chance it will blow up. Several large rubies going off at once in sympathy with a fire spell should be fairly devastating. It should have some amount of use without any danger, but shoot several high powered fire spells through it in an hour and even if you survive, it might take a week or more to settle. Say, one medium fireball equivalent (naturally channeled in to a super ray) per day recovery rate? Another disadvantage is that it should be quite hard to aim - I doubt people will be practiced at this sort of weapon. If you get good of course, it would have superb accurary, but it would take you quite a lot of practice (which of course takes quite a lot of time, due to the recovery rate) to get really good.
Shapes of gems making different effects - personally, I wouldn't use this in spells (as my spells are fairly fixed and un-freeform) but could be used to nice effect in magical objects (e.g. presumably the Ruby Sceptre would have nice pointy ones).
Incidentally, I definitely agree with Manfred about how it's great that all sorts of strategies and then counter-strategies keep coming up here. My players are going to find the magic scene fairly transformed in their next game!
To "almost flawless gems":
...what about those crystallic stones, that are not considered gems? Those, that may still be relatively nice, but are not terribly expensive.
(Tried to search a bit, a source about gemstones worth looking at.)
Smoothing out molecular flaws sounds a bit too much for me (though it is your decision ). One could imagine a spell created one day, able to slowly repair flaws, making a faulty big diamond after multiple castings a flawless big diamond.
Using cheaper stones may be better, I think, which but again pours more gold into the mining industry, or those that control it.
And reusability? I think not.
But... what about those blood stones? No, I don't mean the "usual" blood stones, how about stones created from your own blood? A very painful thing, certainly, but you can recharge your stone again and again (may need a drop or two of your blood, to make it not so great), and takes very long for anyone else to attune, so it is hard to steal its magic. A _very_ personalised magic item, one might say, with a little dark bent, so not suited for everyone. Colour might be optional, or may consist of several hues, making it again clear this stone is not for casting, but storing only.
Note: maybe a few hit points may need to be sacrificed permanently?
Oh, one thing I have noticed above:
Gems detect as magical? Of course they should, it was just not told before (or I have missed it). But in most systems is detecting magic relatively simple (often low-level spells), so "Gem-Check" at the door would be very easy. Or not?
What about Dwarwes?
I refer now to one idealised view if this race (certainly not true for each member, maybe none in your world). According to this, Dwarwes are not "greedy", but rather give great value to the treasures of Mother/Father Earth, both precious metals and gems.
Every Dwarf may be different, but still, what do they think of those stupid wizards, that seek the most beautiful of gems, only to turn them into ashes? They may sell them, but their attitude may be even more disrespectful to the mages, or downright hostile, in a few traditional clans. Strenghtens even more the "anti-magic" feeling of the dwarwes.
What about the Dragons?
Dragons (another "idealised" view) like to hoard treasure, gems among other items. What do they think of wizards? Especially if they themselves are a fine source of magic (blood stones)?
Dragons may or may not need gems for their own purposes. Dragon magic is ancient a little known to humanoids, and dragons do not share it. Gems may have been its focus long before humans thought of a similar idea, and it may know the secrets of storing more magic, draining them without destroying, or even freely re-using gems.
(Hmmm... it seems the farther I go, the less groups are friendly to wizards. )
Note: maybe a few hit points may need to be sacrificed permanently?
Now see what comes from re-reading own ideas. This may go in yet another direction, so beware...
What if, these stones would actually change their colour, or the hues? Does it remind you of something? Yes, a mood stone. Not only would it reveal something of current mood, but may hint at creators personality. This item is very personalised indeed...
It may seem very logical at first, that white stone=Evil, black stone=Good, but why keep the stereotype? A fanatic starting a holy war might have a white stone, for his devotion to some "pure" principle. Black might simply mean depression. Few colours might be concentration on some purpose, differing ones a broad personality, contrasting colours weird or crazy people... whatever you want.
All in all, another reason not to show this gem around.
Another thought is pretending to be a spellcaster, or imitating power. With that ruby in your hand, who will come close and check if it is flawless? Risky, but may work on occassion.
A third idea would be a sabotage. How about getting hands of someone's gems, not stealing them, but damaging them instead? With a bit of luck the poor wizard would fail to cast a spell, or miscast it and kill himself. Best done before a wizardly duel. If this happens more often, those magic users _will_ be paranoid about their gems.
A little background of my world magic.
Millenia ago the Gods changed how the mystical forces on the world were governed and used. No longer were the mortals able to pluck the power from the very air and use it. So they altered it, thinking the mortals were not clever enough to find a way to use it again. The God's crystalized magic. Placed the power in the four elements of the world. Now mortals did indeed determine a way to use magic again, albeit at a much lower proficiency. Magic users now require a focus staff made of the very essence of magic. These crystal staves store the mysticalenergies required to cast spells, needing to be recharged over time. The magic users scribe, etch, or carve the spells symbols directly on the staves and focus the energy through the symbols.
Now with the change in how magic worked a way was needed to create scrolls. Instead of the traditional paper, parchment, papryus, or skin and leather made scrolls a new way was found very similar to the focus staves.
Spell crystals were created.
These small 1" to 2" geometric cubes have the spell symbols etched directly on the crystals. When the spell is cast the crystals shatters into motes of fine dust and the spell activated, using up all the mystical energies within the crystals. The number of sides determine the potency of the actual spell crystals.
The cube (6 sides), the octahedron (8 sides), tetrahedron (4 sides) are the most common. They only have enough stored energy to have the most basic and general spells etched into their sides. The more complex spell crystals such as the dodecahedron (12 sides) and the icosahedron (20 sides) can hold far more energies and have far more complicated and powerful spells etched on their sides.
Propably the most sought after spell crystals is the truncated tetrahedron (8 sides). This odd shaped crystals is smaller than the rest but seems to be able to hold twice as much energies than the more complicated crystals. Another effect of this crystals is that it is the only one that does not shatter and destroy itself when it is used. These spell crystals can be used over again. The extent, if they have one, to which they can be used is unknown. There have only been eight of these odd crystals reportly seen and used in the last few centuries of the spell crystals use. They are highly coveted and lusted after by the magic community.
The spell crystals allow for far easier use and transport than of the traditional magic scrolls. They do not succumb to weather effects and are light weight and very easy to carry multiple crystals.
I changed this to have magic a little less prominent. It is very difficult to find the required material to make the spell crystals, and they do not run at a cheap price at an apothecary. Because of this they are coveted by those without the knowledge to create them.
This spell has been developed by an unknown radical member of The Society Of Simple Wizardry. It produces a strange unpleasant feeling in living beings, but its main target are gemstones. If successful, it damages irrevocably the fine microstructures that allow gems to be used for magic. While the gem somewhat reduces the aesthetic value of a stone (the fractures manifesting as tiny flaws and affecting beauty), it makes it useless for magical purposes.
The spell is new and unbalanced. It requires a lot of mana to cast and can also affect the caster, making it risky for gem users. Protecting spells improve the chances to resist it but are not safe. Gems with imbued powers may manifest their power one last time, stones with stored power may explode or harmlessly disperse their mana into their surroundings (attracting nasty creatures later on).
The spell was planned to be a quiet way to disarm powerful wizards and their stashes of gems, but the strange feeling accompanying the spells will alert a wizard that something if very wrong. If perfected, the spell could find its way into magical duels or could end the dominance of the School of Gemstone Magic (plot hook!).