Flavors of Magic

We were chatting on the Discord a while back about discussing various sorts of magic from our favorite fantasy settings and media, to give people a better idea of how to use the flexible Open Legend mechanics in a way that still makes one’s own setting distinct and unique. When it comes to magic systems, in my opinion, the key is 100% in the way you self-limit and describe the effects you create. Giving a framework to newer players to help them build a character concept can be really freeing, as it gives them a way to start narrowing down the literally ENDLESS options given in Open Legend!

So I’m planning on posting a few Magic Systems in this thread, and would love to hear from other people in how they have flavored magic in their own campaigns!

I’m going to start with a system that is INCREDIBLY tedious, but I think translates simply and beautifully into Open Legend: The Pvaric Wheel of the Shek-Pvar in Columbia Games’ fantasy system, HarnMaster.

There was a lot of word salad in there so just real quick, some definitions of terms:

  • Shek-Pvar–in Harnmaster, this is the catch-all term for the college of magic users. Magic is a subject of intense study and secrecy in Harn, and everything has its own fancy language surrounding it.
  • Pvaric–relating to magic.
  • Mavari–Apprentice. When a child or adolescent shows aptitude for magic, they are taken under the wing of an experienced magic user. That apprenticeship lasts for years, as the Mavari is educated in the principles of magic and the rules of their master’s specific order.
  • Satia-Mavari–Journeyman. When a Mavari has completed their apprenticeship, They are released out to the world for a minimum of one year and one day. During that time they are not allowed to seek aid from any Shek Pvar college, as they rely on their own wits and magical knowledge to achieve mastery in their craft. Most adventurers are Satia-Mavari, and few ever make it past this rank. To promote, they must return after their journey and present to the college at least two spells they have invented on their own, and two items of “esoteric or magical value” to enhance the college for posterity.
  • Shenava–Master. After completing their journey, magic users are promoted to this rank. Almost nobody progresses past this. Most magic users continue honing their particular school of magic, perfecting their own spells and keeping to themselves. An elite few continue their studies, learning the tenets of the other five schools of magic. If they master each of the schools, they can eventually become . . .
  • Viran–Grand Master. These are also known as Grey Mages, masters not only of the various schools of magic, but also of magic itself. They have nearly godlike abilities, able to meddle in the natural order on unprecedented levels. There are rumored to be maybe six or seven Viran in the entirety of the world.

So, what are the various schools of magic one can learn?

This may just look like a fancy color wheel, but it actually represents the six “convocations,” or schools of magic. You might call them Elements, but they’re a little more complex than that. Each has its own fancy name, and attributes that go along with it.

Starting from Red, and working clockwise:

  1. Lyahvi–Element of the Air. Attributes: Sight, Scent, Sound, Intangibility. Often used for Illusion magic, though not its only application.
  2. Peleahn–Element of Fire. Attributes: Heat, Movement (particularly Acceleration), Activity. Shek-Pvar who specialize in this magic are often considered impulsive and destructive.
  3. Jmorvi–Element of Metal. Attributes: Form, Shape, Function, Craft. Often a slower and more deliberate magic, Jmorvi is known especially for the enchantment of items.
  4. Fyvria–Element of Earth. Attributes: Life, Death, Growth, Decay. These Shek-Pvar are often healers and botanists, focused on magic that other systems might consider Druidic, but can just as easily become cryptkeepers and necromancers.
  5. Odivshe–Element of Water. Attributes: Cold, Darkness, Quiescence, Vitiation. These Shek-Pvar are going to wield your darkness spells, your cone of colds, your slowed banes. However, their magics can be used in other, more creative ways as well. I once played an Odivshe Journeyman who wrote a spell that increased the slowing effects of alcohol on the drinker, effectively making the alcohol more potent.
  6. Savorya–Element of Spirit. Attributes: Thought, Emotion, Meaning, Will. Savorya is one of the more difficult convocations to wrap one’s head around. It is often used for Prescience-style abilities such as telepathy and Reading, and could at higher levels be used to charm or dominate or modify memory.

Writing spells in a particular convocation requires focusing on one of its primary attributes and building an effect around that particular attribute. If one wanted to use more than one attribute, or use it in a more complex/less obvious way, that would be a more difficult spell with a higher power level.

If a character wishes to branch out into other convocations once they’ve become a master, it is generally accepted that you begin with the “colors” closest to your own on the Pvaric wheel, as their principles are more closely aligned to yours. You eventually can branch out to the colors bordering THEM if you continue in mastery. The convocation directly opposite your own is the last you will learn, as its principles are diametrically opposed to the ones you first learned.

I am sure that your OL-loving minds are already coming up with a zillion different ways to interpret these principles and make them do wonderful and terrible things in your games :smiling_imp:

If you need an example though, here is a rough conversion of Manori, the Odivshe Shenava:

I hope this is helpful and interesting, and gives you some ideas for a magic system you may want to use!


After an entirely-too-long hiatus, we’re going to take a look at yet another “flavor” you could toss into your magic system for your campaign!

Before we get down to it though, just a reminder: this is not necessarily limiting the kinds of powers you can include in your game. The idea here isn’t to limit magic, it’s to DESCRIBE the magic–to help your players think of interesting ways to use the attributes they have besides “I shoot a bolt of energy at them.” There’s nothing WRONG with just shooting bolts of energy, of course, but sometimes you want to add something fun and distinctive to make your setting really pop!

So, without further ado, another magic system–this time from the “Circle of Magic” series by Tamora Pierce, which you should DEFINITELY READ IMMEDIATELY RIGHT NOW.

In Circle of Magic, magic is tied inextricably to craft. Magic is seen as sort of an invisible force in the world that can be bent or shaped or infused into the world around you. Those who study magic do so in relation to various other trades. Tris, Sandry, Daja, and Briar, the four protagonists of the series, each approach magic from a different perspective.

  • Sandry is skilled with threadwork, such as weaving, spinning, and other such textile skills. Her first use of magic includes weaving light into a spun cord of thread to stave off the darkness of her captivity.

  • Daja finds herself drawn to forge work, her magics dealing with the hammer and flame. Her magic has to do not only with enchanting items, but imbuing things with heat and strength.

  • Tris has magic touched by the storm, and hers is the least tied to physical craft of the four. She harnesses control of the weather, be it the winds and air pressure or the geothermal events within the earth. Though she can control the events around her with ambient magical energy, she also binds magic and spells into her hair with specific braids and hair ties, to be harnessed and released at the proper time.

  • Briar gains his name from the first thornbush he causes to grow while he is in prison. This thief has a special affinity for plants, and apprentices under a gardener for his magical training. He learns how to control the growth of plants, making them larger and thicker and healthier, but also learns how to cause magic to grow LIKE plants, tending it and treating it as a being in itself.

It’s important to note that each of these characters and their magics have to do not JUST with items of their craft–for example, Sandry isn’t JUST good at enchanting fabrics, or Daja metals. They each approach the force of magic itself as another material within their craft. Sandry learns to weave magic itself into protective blankets or ensnaring nets. Daja harnesses the strength of magic as metal and fire.

How might this work in your Open Legend Campaign? Obviously the idea of crafting lends itself to the “Craft Extraordinary Item” feat, but try to broaden your thoughts beyond that. Briar could conjure healing draughts or deadly poisons within his plants. Daja can harness the metals within the earth as a protective barrier. There are other trades and crafts connected to magic in this system, including things as concrete as glassmaking and as esoteric as dancing. What combat, support, and summoning magics might be able to work on these principles? Let your imagination run wild!


Wow, I can’t believe I missed this thread when you first made it, because let me tell you I have some thoughts on magic systems. Here’s a few of my favourites.

First of all:

The Old Kingdom chronicles by Garth Nix, which in and of itself contains a few different forms of magic.
Most iconic to the setting is death magic, and the bells of a necromancer. Death itself is portrayed as a river, sweeping spirits through nine precincts of different perils towards a final afterlife, necromancers can step into this river at will and cast spells on the dead using nine bells:

  1. Ranna, the Sleeper, prompting drowsiness in the listener;
  2. Mosrael, the Waker, transmitting the ringer further into Death but the listener into Life;
  3. Kibeth, the Walker, which can give the Dead freedom of movement or force them to walk according to the ringer’s intention;
  4. Dyrim, the Speaker, used either to revive or annul the listener’s ability to speak;
  5. Belgaer, the Thinker, used to restore or remove memory;
  6. Saraneth, the Binder, used to control the Dead directly; and
  7. Astarael, the Weeper, also named Sorrowful, which sends both ringer and listener far into Death.

This is a super cool system, and not something I’ve seen the likeness of anywhere else, but too restrictive for Open Legend I think. Each bell having only one effect (and sometimes the inverse of that effect) means that there’s little room for growth. I could see the necromancers’ bells being a Legendary item, but not the basis for a campaign. Death on the other hand, is more setting than system and could definitely make for some interesting narratives in the right game.

Also in the same setting is a different magic, known as “Charter Magic” while ostensibly this is magic given more form than the “free magic” that necromancers use, it’s actually less restrictive. An entire language of runes, each of which has a name and an effect, that can be combined into spells. Usually carved into items as a form of enchantment or used in combat by either inscribing in the air with the tip of a sword or a finger or by shouting the names. In a game, this would mostly be set-dressing with the minor upside that you could easily name particular effects that you use often. I like that it doesn’t restrict itself only to “wizards”, with spellswords actually being more common than dedicated mages in the setting.


Pact by Wildbow (who some of you may recognise as the author of Worm, my absolute favourite setting).
In Pact, magic is based heavily in deals and symbolism. The power of a magician comes from a blood pact that they take, which along with allowing them to see magical effects and creatures for what they are, prevents them from lying without serious consequences. The inability to lie is a magician’s most potent ability as it allows them to make deals and promises with spirits and magical creatures, from which they draw most of their power. It also turns most magicians, and the entities they make deals with, into incredible wordsmiths; if a fellow magician promises “you will suffer no harm by my hand” then you should watch out for her kicking you while your back is turned.

Also important is the symbolism inherent in your actions, belongings and environs. For example, at one point Blake (the main character) is heading for a showdown with a minor demon of decay, corruption and chaos. So, he showers, shaves, slicks his hair back and combs it neatly. He draws geometric patterns all over his body and clothes, and makes sure to speak properly and clearly. By presenting himself neatly he gives himself protection from the chaos of the demon, as neatness and cleanliness oppose decay.

Each magician also has an implement that they use to cast spells, the power of which comes from the three deeper meanings that it has; Declarative, Authoritative, and Socio-cultural. The Declarative is what the object conveys to the practitioner and others while inert and base, at a glance. The Authoritative is what the object conveys while it is in use. The Socio-cultural is what group or type of person would use the object. For example, a coin conveys wealth in its base state, if you toss the coin to use it that conveys luck and chance, and the sort of person who would use one could easily be a gambler. These would combine to make materialistic, probabilistic, and predictive spells more powerful when cast through a coin.


A system of my own, which I called “the winds of magic”
I used this a few years ago for a campaign in a homebrew system. It also leaned heavily on symbolism, though in a much simpler way. Here’s what I wrote to describe it:

The Winds of Magic flow through every part of the world; each object and each living thing emits a stream of magic that consists of aspects that describe and define it. These aspects can be almost anything, save for incredibly broad and deep concepts; notably; light, dark, death and life are present, but cannot normally be accessed by mortals. For example, a sword emits an aura that says “sword” but a magical practitioner might be able to split that into “sharp,” “tool” and “metal” for use in a spell, artifact or potion. A flower might have the aspects of “growth,” “colour” and “beauty,” but not life. A lit torch might hold the element of “flame,” but not light.

You could quite easily just take that paragraph and run with it, but I went a bit further and defined Arcanists, Alchemists and Artificers as the three different ways to use the winds of magic (it’s worth noting that a character could easily by more than one of these three).

  • Arcanists bend the winds of magic into spells without affecting the item the element comes from, using “missile” from an arrow and “flame” from a lantern to create a fireball
  • Alchemists consume elements into potions by destroying the original item, infusing a liquid with a bell and a bat’s eyes to create a potion of blindsight that allowed one to use echolocation
  • Artificers could move elements from one object to another, strengthening armour while crumbling a stone to dust, or extinguishing a campfire to make a flaming sword

Those are just the ones that first sprang to mind. I look forward to hearing about other people’s favourite magic systems :smiley:


Just leave this here to be completely helpful to everyone:


Your homebrew magic system is great. I like the FATE vibe in the way a character can use aspects of an item. Do arcanists have to interact with an actual arrow and an actual torch to cast fireball ? What kind of interaction he or she has to perform ? Like touching the object or just ‘felling’ its wind from afar ?

They just had to be near the item in question, exact distance was kind of hand-waved. And yes, FATE was an inspiration for it.

By the end of the campaign I ran, I had one Arcanist who had become extremely good at finding the elements they needed for a particular effect just from my scene descriptions, and an Arcanist-Alchemist who carried with him a backpack full of items with useful elements (e.g. a piece of steel, a piece of silver, a stick, a bell, a dagger) from which he had a handful of signature spells.

I very much enjoyed the system, though it did put a lot of pressure on both me and my players to be good at improv. It’s something I’d happily revisit at some point.


So I saw this thread, and I had to share my own homebrew world’s uniques magic system. Let me know what you guys think.


I totally think you should revisit this idea. It seems marvelous. I’m going to steal it for when I play games with kids. It got my head spinning with ideas. There is so much going on, I don’t even know where to start. Would you mind showing us what you’ve already got written down, or elaborate on how you determine attributes (“aspects”) of items? That would be amazing :grinning:

Since there has been interest, I’ll share a little more. To answer the second part first, it was entirely improvisation on mine and the players’ part. They would ask if something was possible and I’d decide if it was reasonable; in retrospect this put a lot of pressure on my players to improvise, and a lot of pressure on me to describe scenes fully and completely, but I just about made it work.

Here’s a bit more of my written information about how the magic system worked:

The Winds of Magic flow through every part of the world; each object and each living thing emits a stream of magic that consists of aspects that describe and define it. These aspects can be almost anything, save for incredibly broad and deep concepts; notably, light, dark, death and life are present, but cannot normally be accessed by mortals. For example, a sword emits an aura that says “sword” but a magical practitioner might be able to split that into “sharp,” “tool” and “metal” for use in a spell, artifact or potion. A flower might have the aspects of “growth,” “colour” and “beauty,” but not life. A lit torch might hold the element of “flame,” but not light. Each character also has a personal element, something which symbolises them on a fundamental level; either through personality, belief, or actions. A character always has access to their own element for all purposes, although they may become drained from using it too heavily.

The powers system relied on players picking two powers for their character from the list (or the same power twice to “master” it). The original list was much longer, but I’ve cut all the powers and abilities which were unrelated to the magic system. I left the Mastered versions in as an example of what a character devoted entirely to one aspect could be like, though obviously the two powers limit is pointless to carry over to OL.

The character can form spells by combining the essences from their surroundings. They must use objects, and the elements of themselves other party members, to describe an effect thoroughly. For example, taking an arrow and a lit torch, an Arcanist could use the aspects of “missile” and “flame” to make a fireball.
Mastered: You become a ‘mancer, able to wield your character’s Element in nearly any way you can imagine without having to combine it with other elements (though you still can), e.g.: pyromancer (fire), hydromancer (water), bibliomancer (books), arbormancer (trees).

Unlock the essences of ingredients to create magical potions, poisons, or even bombs. The character may spend time during a rest to make potions out of the essences of materials they have to hand. These materials are destroyed in the process. The player must define whether the potion is intended to drink, as a coating on a weapon, or as a thrown weapon at the time of making it, the effect is determined based on the aspects used. Only one potion may be affecting a character at any one time. An example might be using quicksilver and the tail of a running lizard to make a potion of haste, or melting down a bell to make a sonic bomb, or mixing spicy peppers with lamp oil to create a sword coating that makes wounds burst into flame.
Mastered: The ingredients in your potions no longer need to be components of physical objects, you can condense auras from the surroundings into liquid form. The aspect used is lost from the item used, similar to artificing, and the item itself is often destroyed.

Bind the essence from an object into any piece of equipment, to add properties, or be unleashed when chosen. Artificers essentially “move” essences from one object to another, e.g. taking the heat from a fire to make a heated blade, putting out the fire in the process. Or strengthening armour with the toughness of stone, but crumbling a rock to dust. They cannot drain aspects from living beings.
Mastered: You gain the ability to create complex magical and mechanical constructs, such as simple mechanoids or blackpowder firearms.


It isn’t strictly a “magic” system, but I’ve mentioned it a lot and the game I’m using it in is in full swing, so I thought I’d go into some details on the system of parahuman powers in the Worm Web Serial (side note, if you have some time and like stories about people doing the wrong things for the right reasons, give it a read. It gets very good after the Leviathan arc)

So, without wanting to spoil anything serious, powers in Worm develop when someone, most commonly in their teenage years, is put under an extremely stressful situation known as a trigger event. The kind of trigger can vary massively, but the common theme is usually a lack of control. The resultant powers are even more varied, though they’re usually very specific in their scope.

The power that develops is usually in some way related to the trigger, but (and this is important) it is not a direct response. You don’t trigger due to being stabbed in the face and the power you develop is an armored face. The best power/trigger combos are the ones where the parahuman in some way carries their trigger with them through their power. For example, the main character, Skitter, triggers when she is stuffed into a locker filled with garbage. Surrounded by the filth with no way to escape it, she triggers and gains the ability to sense and control insects; having triggered from an extremely gross situation that makes people shun her, she gains an extremely gross power that makes people shun her.

If a trigger event is mostly mental, the resultant power is likely to be mental. Another character triggers when her brother commits suicide, she spends days fretting that she should have seen it coming and prevented it, then over the course of a sleepless night gains a power that would have easily allowed her to prevent it from happening (not going into specifics to avoid spoilers). She has to live on knowing that she triggered too late to save him.

If a trigger is environmental, such as being trapped in a collapsing building, they might develop what’s known as a Shaker power, gaining some measures of control over their environment. A character who triggered while locked in a mental health facility gains the power superimpose other, whimsical worlds over the real world as a form of escapism.

For more details on the kinds of powers you can read the [wiki] (http://worm.wikia.com/wiki/Power_classifications), but be wary of spoilers. The whole thing about triggers is likely to be irrelevant during most games, but it’s an excellent starting point for interesting character back stories and the trauma of a trigger could easily slot into the flaws system in Open Legend.

My absolute favourite part of the powers in Worm is the creativity and growth used with some of them. Each power is incredibly specific but its uses grow as the user gets more familiar with it. This is especially apparent with Skitter, who uses her very simple ability to control insects to go face to face with some of the most powerful heroes and villains in the world simply by being smart with its uses. Read the first few chapters to see her start her career as a cape by taking down an unstoppable dragon, and take a moment to appreciate that it only goes up from there, culminating with her fighting against an enemy who is essentially God in a way that entirely makes sense.

I hope this has piqued some interest, I can attest to this being an absolute joy to run, though I did choose to start at level 3 to give my players more options. Let me know if you have any questions.


I would like to thank you for mentioning Worm. I’m still only in chapter 15 but what a great story.

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A bit late to the party here, but I recently saw some interesting videos on writing magic systems. Some of the things haven’t been addressed here so I though I’d share them.

TLDW/R version :

You’ll want to figure out where on the scale of hard vs soft your magic (or magic like) system lays.

A hard magic system is a system that has clear rules about how its used, what it takes, and how powerful it can be. Example : Full metal alchemist
Pro : Easier to provide characters with interesting challenges that can’t just be magicked away.
Con : Can result in nitpicking, especially if it has some gray areas.

A soft magic system is an unclear system where almost everything is possible as long as the character has enough equally unclear magic resource.
Example : Star Wars
Pro : Characters can do a lot of cool stuff without having to explain how exactly it works.
Con : Characters can Deus Ex Machina magic their way out of every situation unless you put Deus Ex Machina jammers in place.

For more in depth, watch the videos.