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: Spoiler 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: Spoiler 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: Substance (A.k.a Earth) Motion (A.k.a Water) Energy (A.k.a Fire) Breath (A.k.a Air) Creation Void 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: Spoiler Substance: 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. Motion: 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. Energy: 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. Breath: 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: Creation is the concept of making something concrete and enduring. Something from nothing. Blessing and Curses are major uses of creation. Void: 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: 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!): Spoiler 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? Spoiler 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: Spoiler 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.