Magic to fit Fighting Fantasy

As discussed last time, In my update of the original Fighting Fantasy RPG, I want adventurers to have some ability to use magic. That being said, I don’t want it to be complicated and I don’t want it to be boring. I run my main Monday night game for a group of thirty-something players who like to be able to combine character abilities and found artefacts for hilarious consequences. So they need a certain amount of freedom to do things I hadn’t planned for.

I also run games for my son and his friends. They are a varied group of teenagers who enjoy different parts of the roleplaying experience, but I can guarantee that if there are any loopholes in my vague, do what you want magic system, they will find them and spam that Fireball or Summon Zombie Horde button until another party of adventurers are sent out to deal with them.

My third group is my daughter and her friends. We don’t play often but I’d like this system to be an option for when we do. They are young and wouldn’t enjoy studying a spell list or building their own spells from points and components, they would rather get stuck into the action.

So a build-you-own-spell mechanic would only be good for my friends, and it’s probably far too complex an idea for this little game anyway.

The most obvious way to implement a magic system would be a list of spells for adventurers to learn and cast. Certainly it’s the most common solution, and one used in Fighting Fantasy itself as early as book 2. There is a lovely spell list at the back of the Sorcery! Books which I’m sure many of you will remember, it would need quite a lot of clarifying to use it outside of the gamebooks though. I did ask Eric Nieudan if I could make use of his excellent d66 list of B/X style spells, but he is planning on using them for a new game of his own. Anyway, I was being lazy, rather than borrowing someone else’s work, I should be writing my own solution.

So back to the drawing board, what do I actually want?

  • Powerful magic effects. I want magic using players to know that they have had an impact.
  • Interesting decisions. I want players to have a number of distinct options to choose from. Making magic costly would help, so probably burning Stamina to pay for spells.
  • Simple to use. Not too many spells or rules exceptions to remember.

I figure I have two distinct options: discovered spells taking up inventory slots (similar to Knave) or magic realms filling background slots (similar to Tiny Dungeon or Vagabonds of Dyfed).

Discovered spells would mean that PCs can only cast spells they have in their inventory. This actually replicates the feel of the gamebooks fairly well as the player would usually only have access to a handful of spells if they had any at all. To avoid players having to read through lists of spells I could have new characters start with randomly allocated spells and then players only need to look up spells as they find new ones while adventuring. I don’t think any character would really feel like a full magic user, but that’s fine, Fighting Fantasy characters are supposed to be scrappy opportunists using every trick they can get their hands on. The fully trained wizards tend to stay in their tower and send other people to do the adventuring.

Magic realms is an idea whereby magic using characters choose a type of magic which they have mastered, giving them a package of related abilities. So you could have a water magic, giving your character the abilities water jet, mist and control water. Or life magic with restore Stamina, cure disease and quicken. Necromancy with a wither attack, talk to the dead and skeletal servant. This would mean players have a meaningful choice to make at the start of the game and would give them some pretty impressive powers from the start.

I like both of these options and it will take some playtesting to see if they work as well as I hope. At least I am now a step closer to that playtest. I’ll need to write up a spell list for the discovered spells, or borrow one. Wonder & Wickedness would do nicely for a little while at least. I’ll also need to put together a selection of magic realms to test: the classic four elements, healing, necromancy, summoning, shadow, illusion… I’d like a dozen if possible.

Thinking about it, I might not have to choose between them. If both ideas work I could allow players to buy the ability to cast spell scrolls and cantrips with one background and then mastery of a realm with a second background. This would enable players to build many different kinds of character without much in the way of mechanics.

I’m going to have to get this to the table soon!

Part 4

4 thoughts on “Magic to fit Fighting Fantasy

  1. I’m not at all familiar with Fighting Fantasy, but I really like the idea of spells taking up inventory slots! Is inventory management a primary mechanic of the system?

    1. Well, sort of. Finding stuff which might be useful later is certainly a big aircraft of the gamebooks. You might find a gem which you can trade with a dwarf to gain access to the mountain. Or a scrap of paper which later turns out to be someone’s notes for translating am actor inscription.

      Stuff like that. They don’t normally limit how much you can carry though.

      1. Sorry ThatOneGM, I trashed your other content by accident.

        You should have a look at Knave. It’s a light RPG based all around what the adventurers choose to carry.

        1. No worries! Yeah, perhaps the ocean is not quite so blue around for an inventory-management-based TTRPG as I originally assumed. I’ll give Knave a deeper look. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s