Sunday, November 15, 2009

Magic - Syntax and The Spell Tree

This is an update to my very nebulous verb-noun spell system. As a quick refresher, I am thinking of a Verb + Noun system where players combine elements to creatively generate spells.


The nouns will consist of the elements: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Aether (White), and Chaos (Black). Possibly "Rustica" as well. This matches up quite nicely as you can see with my languages. Proficiency with nouns will be relatively fixed and determined by languages known, race, etc.

Verbs will consist of the spell tree described below; basically, "Abjure," "Divine," or "Conjure."

Spell sentence syntax is typically I + Verb + Noun (Direct Object). Additional nouns can be added to a sentence at the cost of increasing the difficulty of spell casting, and nouns are Declined as in Latin. The available declensions are as follows:
  • Accusative (Direct Object): This is the standard case used most of the time. In this case, the noun is used as the direct object of the sentence; i.e., the element acted upon by the mage. "I conjure fire."
  • Ablative (By Means Of): In this case, the noun is used to express how something is done. For example, "I conjure Aether by Means of Fire!" would allow one to use a large fire as a tool to conjure aether. This might be useful for a mage highly skilled at Fire magic but not so good at influencing Aether.
  • Dative (Indirect Object): This indicates what the direct object is acting on; that is, a specific target. It is used to target spells. "I conjure fire to air!" would be used to sling
  • a fireball specifically at an air-creature like the fey without affecting anything else.


Verbs are arranged into a tree with basic, simple, and advanced branches. This is similar to weapons. A magic-user will have access to all three levels. A partial caster such as an archetypal cleric might have access to only the simple branches. Finally, most characters should have access to the basic verbs.

The basic schools are Conjurations, Divinations, and Abjurations. There is a rock/paper/scissors relationship: Divinations > Abjurations > Conjurations > Divinations. Divinations are needed to exploit the cracks in a complex ward; abjurations can shield from conjurations; solid conjurations will demolish a divination.

The number of verbs that can be simultaneusly "carried" is dependent on INT, just as the number of weapons that can be carried is based on STR. I'm thinking something like 2 +/- INT modifier.

Basic verbs are very general. They have the power to influence a possible and likely event without a high degree of control. For example, "Conjure Water" is very vague and general. If in a desert it could lead to the soon fortuitous locating of an oasis. They are handy as they are so general but limited because its hard to predict their effects. It can be hard to separate basic verb usage from fate or luck.

Simple verbs are more specific. They have the power to cause even unlikely events to occur. For example, "Summon Water" might be used to call forth a merfolk; sure, its unlikely to find a merfolk in the desert, but its possible even if unlikely. The caster has significantly more control but they are perhaps more limited in usage.

Advanced verbs are extremely specific. They have the power to cause impossible events to occur. For example, "Blast Water" could call forth a damaging blast of frigid ice to attack foes even in the midst of a desert. As you can see below I'm not quite sure what all the advanced verbs will be.

  • Conjure
    • Evoke
      • Blast
      • ADV
    • Summon
      • ADV
      • ADV
  • Divine
    • Know
      • ADV
      • ADV
    • Communicate
      • ADV
      • ADV
  • Abjure
    • Ward
      • ADV
      • ADV
    • Dispel
      • ADV
      • ADV

Additionally, there are two other "side" schools. They have no advantage against any other school and thus are "outside" the rock/paper/scissors school. They have no advanced verbs; they only have basic and simple verbs, albeit verbs that are more potent than usual; Basic words have power to do the improbable, and simple words the power to do the impossible. Access to them can only be gained by foregoing knowledge of any simple or advanced words in the traditional schools.

This allows tricksters or shapeshifters to be easily built. The two side schools are Transmutation and Beguiling.

  • Transmute
    • Alter
    • Shapeshift
  • Beguile
    • Charm
    • Elude (illusions)

Anyways, this is the rough outline of things to come. Just wanted to get something "on paper."

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