Inactive Firmament & Reflux Magic system

Discussion in 'Suggestions' started by UberWaffe, Jun 11, 2013.

  1. UberWaffe

    UberWaffe Member

    I've seen a great many games that take the approach of "You are limited to what you have."
    I want to see if I can make a system that is more "You are limited by the consequences."

    The general idea:
    What I refer to is that you can do magic that does not require mana, or much raw resources, or rare staffs or anything like that.
    Instead, the greater the act of magic (the more it alters reality) the more harshly and powerfully reality responds to the change.

    For example, even an apprentice arcanest can cast a giga-fireball-of-cataclysm+5, if willing to risk the repercussions.
    Repercussions of using magic far beyond your ability to control include, but are not limited to:
    • Immediate undoing of whatever it is you are trying to achieve, such as the aforementioned fireball turning to a puff of smoke.
    • Having the effect turn nasty and apply to you, such as spontaneous combustion.
    • Having the negative effects stay with you, and only diminish over time, such as repeated though fading spontaneous combustion.
    • Having the negative effects use you as a focus point to discharge into the local environment, such as part of your house suffer spontaneous inferno-syndrome.
    • Having the negative effects be related to the type of magic you were wielding.
    What this means, is that the gameplay for magic is not really about first amassing something (Goods, materials, experience, whatever).
    Instead it is about how well you can push the limits of what control, and how you handle the repercussions afterwards.

    The Lore:
    I've long thought about how I picture magic in a fiction genre.
    This system ties in closely to what I've come to view as my take on what magic is.

    What is magic?
    Let us start with what magic is not.
    Magic is not science, not because it is stereo-typically assumed to be mystical or unknown, but because it follows a fundamentally different rule set.
    Science (even the unknown parts) operates on the basic principle that there are rules that cannot be broken. Anything is possible as long as there rules are adhered to.
    As long as you adhere to 'Energy cannot be made or unmade', 'For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction' and 'Gravity', you can do propulsion systems.

    Magic makes no such claim.
    Instead magic is magic because it can break the rules reality takes as unbreakable and irrefutable.
    But magic is in direct opposition to reality, and reality is a stubborn old coot.
    So, when you decide to ignore things like gravity, reality comes at you with a vengeance.

    Magic is not about asking permission.
    It is about asking forgiveness...
    Unfortunately reality has no mercy.

    How is magic used? Where does it come from?
    Magic is divided into seven firmaments:
    1. Substance (A.k.a Earth)
    2. Motion (A.k.a Water)
    3. Energy (A.k.a Fire)
    4. Breath (A.k.a Air)
    5. Creation
    6. Void
    7. Spirit
    Each firmament is essentially a concept, a sphere of flux. Each firmament coincides with a concept of reality.
    As such, a firmament can only create changes that are part of its concept.

    Flux is simply the measure for how much of a given concept (firmament) you are pulling into reality and making real.

    Now the interesting thing about flux and reflux is that reality cannot always exactly undo all flux changes, especially when the arcanest is skilled, so it often resorts to the next best thing.
    By undoing as much of the flux as possible by turning it upon the arcanest.
    This is Reflux. Reflux is the measure of how much of the flux is (instead of forming the spell/change) turned upon the caster.

    What separates master arcanest and newbs is not how much flux they can pull, but how much of it they can control and maintain to its original purpose.
    And even then, even if the spell is perfectly formed, there is always resulting reflux.
    Arcanests only live to become masters if they quickly learn the most important rule of magic.
    "Ditch the reflux."

    The firmaments:
    Also historically (and incorrectly) referred to as 'Earth'.
    Substance is mass, the matter that makes up anything physical (though not spiritual).
    Substance is also the inherit qualities of physical objects, and form the basis of enchanting.

    Also historically (and incorrectly) referred to as 'Water'.
    Motion is the concept of relocating something, regardless of laws or limiting factors. (I.e. no regard for equal and opposite reaction law, or walls for that matter).
    Summoning of any sort is also motion, as it is simply motion applying to another creature.

    Also historically (and incorrectly) referred to as 'Fire'.
    Energy is the stuff of fireballs and lightning bolts. Essentially anything that doesn't have 'mass' but is instead some form of energy.

    Also historically (and incorrectly) referred to as 'Air'.
    Breath is life, or at least the aspect biology of it. Anything living has breath in it (of some form or another).
    Healing, Poisons and Disease are often used components of breath.

    Creation is the concept of making something concrete and enduring. Something from nothing.
    Blessing and Curses are major uses of creation.

    Void is not destruction (which is actually more the forte of Energy). Void is nothingness made total, the very embodiment of unmaking.
    Annulling is a major use of void.

    Spirit is the consciousness, mind and soul. Anything with a consciousness, no matter how small, has spirit in some form or another.
    Compulsion and Soulmagic are major uses of spirit.

    Combinations (M-M-M-Monster-Spell!):
    More advanced spells use flux from multiple firmaments.

    For example, creating a pile of gold would use both Substance and Creation, as substance alone cannot create anything permament.
    Similarly, using void alone can only 'unmake' something into utterly nothingness. While combined with motion can trap a target in place. (I.e unmake its motion.)

    Spells using only a single firmament are actually quite rare, and combining firmaments is one of the earliest tricks Arcanest learn.
    Tread carefully, however, as spells of multiple firmaments also result in multiple types of reflux, of equally nasty combinations.

    How do Arcanests use magic?
    By means of The Will and The Word.
    The Will: The most important aspect of tapping the firmaments, willpower is used to shape and control the flux.
    The Word: The Word is the trigger. Without it there can be no action, and the will is rendered empty. The Word need not make a sound, or even be a spoken language, for The Word is spoken from the spirit.

    Though these two are but the start of the Arcane. The greater skill lies in the control of the reflux.
    Arcanests use various methods of countering it, ranging from simply waiting between casting spells.
    Or casting only weak spells.
    More advanced ways include using physical objects to 'vent' reflux, or simply act as reflux magnets and thus shift part of the problem somewhere else.

    At the core of all this is the way reflux works.
    For the most part reflux is inert, taking time to take effect. Meaning that after an Arcanest receives reflux, there is time before it 'activates'.
    This cuts both ways though, as reflux can build, turning several small doses of weak reflux into one deadly discharge.

    What this would mean in game:
    Envisioned to be tied to a skill system (RPG level up style), this would allow the player to cast spells. Probably using a hotkey and a circular selection GUI.
    Upon casting a spell, the player would see some sort of pattern displayed, which the user must then (in a brief few moments) replicate.
    How accurately the user manages to replicate the pattern in the time given determines how much extra reflux the user suffers (or less reflux).

    In other words, a spell has a predefined amount of reflux of each firmament it generates.
    Scoring below 50% pattern accuracy will generate extra +(2x)% reflux of each firmament. Double at worst.
    Scoring above 50% pattern accuracy will generate less -% reflux of each firmament. Half at best.

    Upon the end of the pattern the spell casts (Essentially other players see your 'pattern moment' as your charge-up animation).

    Reflux would build and discharge something along these lines:
    Immediately after casting a spell, if you have much more reflux than your skill allows, the spell simply fails, but you still gain reflux.
    For 20 seconds after casting a spell (regardless of firmaments), reflux dose nothing (i.e. waits to see what you do).
    Every 30 seconds thereafter you discharge 1% of your total remaining reflux + some flat amount. Suffering the appropriate random negative effects from the various firmaments, severity based on amount of reflux discharged.
    If you have not cast any spell for 5 minutes, you discharge all remaining reflux you still have. Suffering the appropriate effects.

    In other words, rapidly casting spells will make reflux build to large proportions if you do not let it discharge.
    Casting a small spell every now and again can help you avoid the massive reflux discharges after 5 minutes.
    Casting a spell far beyond your remaining 'reflux cap' (if we even allow that) it would simply fail but you still suffer reflux for it.

    Various artifacts, rituals, magic circles, etc. can help get rid of reflux.
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  2. Skaldarnar

    Skaldarnar Badges badges badges badges mushroom mushroom! Staff Member

    Wow UberWaffe, that looks like a pretty neat and sound magical system.

    Here are some thoughts that just came to my mind considering that it still should be in a GAME. That my sound a bit harsh, but what I mean is that it's a pain in the neck to deal with flying/swapped blocks in your house because you were distracted casting this pretty telekinesis spell 10 min before ;) Not to speak of spontaneous combustion :D

    Here's my suggestion: Flux and reflux are not only based on the accuracy of the player painting weird symbols on the screen, but also on his magical experience (MXP) (player's RPG style levels in the firmaments so to say). The order of spells corresponds to these MXP levels. Now there are basically three corridors:
    1. below the player's MXP: e.g. the player is quite skilled casting fireballs. Lighting a candle with a finger snap shouldn't be problem for him, regardless of his drawing skills. Casting a lower order spell won't yield much Reflux, but on the other hand it will decrease the player's MXP when used too often. You can think of forgetting/unlearning higher order spells.
    2. small corridor around MXP: This is a quite safe corridor for magicians. Casting spells from it the MXP should stay nearly the same (maybe in-/decrease very slowly to provide a safe way of getting more skilled). The effect of flux and reflux could be exactly as you mentioned before, only based on the drawing skills :)
    3. above player's MXP: This area is the opposite to the first corridor. The risk of high reflux will increase, but the player can increase his/her MXP significantly using higher order spells.
    Having such MXP levels for every firmament we can speak of skill/experience/practice in a more natural fashion. We can even think of a dynamic range of the the safe corridor based on the amount of spells casted from a specific firmament (practicing without changing spell order level).
    I hope you can follow my thoughts, let me here what you think about it. ;)
    • Like Like x 1
  3. UberWaffe

    UberWaffe Member

    Thanks for the response!:D

    The spontaneous combustion and giant smoldering craters of past-arcanest-bases were just exaggerated examples... No, really.:whistle:
    My idea was that only really really extreme amounts of reflux would cause severe effects such as death or possible flooding-of-your-house-with-magical-goo-monsters.
    In short, what the negative effects are and how severe they are are open to balance.
    ANYTHING can be done badly or well. I hope to do it well.;)

    But you make a good point, it that perhaps a spell should also have a reflux-step-level defined. An no matter how much you cast a spell it can never push your reflux beyond that level. (I.e. 'light candle' would be a 'minimal reflux' level, and thus never be able to push your reflux beyond minimal.)
    Spamming it will get you to minimal reflux and then prevent you from casting it again until you ditch some reflux (or perhaps actively allow yourself into the next level of reflux).

    As to MXP and related mechanics.
    I was more envisioning the standard RPG style level-up, skill and ability approach.
    As in you would gain skill by using magic (per firmament is a good idea though), and so earn XP (other source also possible).
    Enough XP nets you a level up, and an ability point.
    Abilities would be like research-tree type approach, and include abilities like (as random just-thought-of-these-examples):
    • Reflux Mastery: Reduces reflux received for casting a spell.
    • Trickster: Greatly reduces reflux received for casting spell of level 4 or lower.
    • Reflux Sponge: Increases time between reflux discharges, and total reflux discharge. (More time to get rid of it at your super-duper-steampowered-reflux-sucker-ritual-machine)
    • Steam punkist: Allows you to use steam-power to create better arcane machines and goodies.
    • Etc.
    Overall, the idea is that a high-level-super-mage can pay less attention to the symbol casting (or just swipe down to cast more quickly at the penalty of more reflux). While an apprentice mage would have to be more careful. Though also extremely unlikely to ever get to reflux levels of severe danger, unless they try super-spells. Still debating if that should be allowed at all.

    In short, the system I envisioned (and admirably failed to explain) is already much like how you describe MXP to be.
    Just perhaps a bit more "Mix of Torchlight 2 and Skyrim" in its representation.:p
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  4. Skaldarnar

    Skaldarnar Badges badges badges badges mushroom mushroom! Staff Member

    Oh, great, then see my post as an additional clarification :rolleyes:.

    I am not sure what you mean by other sources. I would like to see magical XP separated from "ordinary" fighting XP. If you think of books and scrolls as alternative sources I am totally on your side :D

    Ability points and research trees sound good to me, although I like the idea of having natural and dynamic ways of gaining special skills (and unlearning them again). But all that is probably a matter of balancing/fine-tuning :barefoot:
  5. UberWaffe

    UberWaffe Member

    Was merely thinking of allowing things such as arcane research or artifact crafting or similar magic flavoured tasks. Not defined yet.
    Figured that gaining magic skills only by spamming spells was a bit boring.:unsure:
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. Cervator

    Cervator Project Lead and Community Wizard Staff Member

    I love magic systems - so many options! I've got some of my own too and look forward to working in the area one day. Especially involving gestures with optional Leap Motion support :D

    This one sounds nice and a little Thaumcraftian. Consequences good!

    Where to put it is a harder question. I see creative and open systems like this out around the third major game mode, when we've got more of a traditional "survival" world that can develop societies with their own things like magic systems. Can't wait to get there, and no harm in releasing it early as a module if it works, but in the meanwhile I'll keep dreaming, discussing, and collecting notes :)
  7. ddr2

    ddr2 New Member

    Well, if you can "farm" it with little weights put on your keyboard like in Morrowind, I find it quite fun :whistle:

    Oh yeah, kamehameha in front of your computer :omg:

    Overall, I find the idea behind this magic system really nice and well-thought. I have doubts on how to make the gameplay actually enjoyable (I am not sure about the pattern-matching thingy being fun). But the idea of reflux and that you can absolutely do what-you want but you have to accept the consequences is really great.

    On that point, I think it has to be allowed. What's great in your system is that the limits are defined by the player, not the game. It's like applying that "open world vs linear environnement" debate into the gameplay itself :omg:
    • Agree Agree x 1
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  8. Cervator

    Cervator Project Lead and Community Wizard Staff Member

    Bwahahaha. Totally need to make that one of the gestures :D

    And +1 for player limit over game limit :)
  9. UberWaffe

    UberWaffe Member

    Yeah, the pattern matching is perhaps not a very bright idea, but I am basically trying to think of a way to let the player determine "spell-charge-up/preparation" time.
    I.e. you can reduce the charge time and suffer extra reflux.
    But again, maybe that is not needed in the first place.

    Did you have doubts beyond just the pattern drawing?
    Implementation is probably still far off, but no harm in apply some brain power to potential problems in the mean time.:geek:

    Thanks! I'm glad people like the idea. :)
  10. Skaldarnar

    Skaldarnar Badges badges badges badges mushroom mushroom! Staff Member

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  11. SuperSnark

    SuperSnark Lore Master Staff Member

    This concept of magic with a moral (perhaps) and physical cost as opposed to a resource cost is very intriguing. It reminds me of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime.

    I love the potential possibility of world alteration/bending this brings about in terms of gameplay. There's an indie game I've played a demo of called Papo and Yo ( where you manipulate the environemnt of a dream-world in a very magic-y way. You can pull stairs out of walls and move whole buildings to cross obstacles, open doors through walls via drawings.

    But beyond that, the possibility of complete control and manipulation over the gameworld you're in is very cool. And of course the possibility of annihilating yourself in the process of learning is a very interesting concept. It sort of plays with our fears of success and failure doesn't it? What are you willing to risk to become increasingly powerful?

    Neat stuff!
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  12. UberWaffe

    UberWaffe Member

    Ooh! You just gave e a neat idea for some of the more nasty reflux effects.:sneaky:
    Since motion is the core firmament behind teleportation and summoning, how about the possibility of being haunted?
    I.e. summoning gone wrong.

    Such as at mid-levels motion reflux you get... things (demons/ghosts)... that pop into and out of the edge of your vision, even in and through nearby walls and objects. The effect gets more pronounced in darker areas.

    At higher level motion reflux (perhaps some void or spirit reflux required as well) these effects become even more pronounced and the visitors start taking swipes at you. As in likely killing you.

    At the 'super-extreme-instant-death' levels portals open and you get dragged through. After a few moments in total darkness, with the stereotypical heavy breathing and noises in the dark, you get torn to shreds.

    Ooh, so much potential for reflux mechanics...:D
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