Jan 24, 2012

Abolishing the Common Magic Skill

Technically in Openquest this skill is called "Battle Magic" and in Mongoose Runequest 2 / Legend it's called "Common Magic", but I don't care either way because I'm abolishing this skill in the Dawnlands. When I need to refer to the type of magic, I'll call it "Common Magic". I'm not abolishing the type of magic, just a special skill that governs it.

In Moragne (a MRQII only setting), there's a ready answer for what this skill is, it's minor prayers to the Hidden God, or to various powerful spirits for some boon (it differs from divine magic in that divine magic can only be cast by ordained priests). But in most other settings, including the Dawnlands, this kind of specificity of domain is lacking. Magic in the Dawnlands is much more diffuse, much more worked into the ordinary world. This distinguishes it from the other kinds of magic you get, all of which have specific domains of knowledge and power represented by skills, which I am fine with.

So I decided to abolish the Common Magic skill and use the following house rules instead.

1) Character still learn Common Magic spells. Learning Common Magic spells is represented by learning sacred and esoteric lore related to some other skill.

2) Characters cast Common Magic spells by declaring they are doing so while making a skill check. They must provide an explanation for how the spell can manifest based on what they are doing. They expend magic points to cast the spell. If the check fails, so does the spell, and the magic points are expended until they are regenerated. You need a skill at 50% or better to be able to cast a spell using it.

3) Skills like Craft (Whatever) can be used to create objects imbued with a spell, Natural Lore can be used to find potent objects like herbs, stones, etc., and Language (Native) can be used to find potent truenames and words. Essentially, these skills can be used to give the "Trigger" condition to any Common Magic spell. In these cases and others like them, the character rolls the skill and expends the magic points during the period of creation / discovery, but the spell does not trigger until they wish. They must choose the magnitude of the spell during creation / discovery. They don't regenerate the expended points until the spell is triggered. The character must handle or manipulate the item containing the spell, and if it lost, the points cannot be regained until the spell is discharged. If someone else takes the item, they may use the magic points the creator imbued into the object to cast the spell. Only a single use of a spell by a single person may be imbued into an item at a time without the use of the Create Charm spell.

Yes, this means the only use of Create Charm is now to create permanent magic items. That still makes it a really good spell. 


  1. I think this is a good move. It gets acrosss the idea that there is a numinous quality implicit in all human activity, and I think that is in keeping both with the thought behind runequest and with what i understand of a setting like Dawnlands.

    There is an idea that I think is shored up by RPGs more than folklore or pre-D&D fantasy fiction that magic is a very discrete thing where you can detect something as being magical or operate in a non-magic zone, etc. Whereas I think it is no less reasonable and truer to how many people historically considered supernatural powers to work, to consider practices, objects, etc. to have a gradation from mundane to magical. E.G. one sings so well that it is magical, one makes a sword so well that the forging is magical, etc. Or that one does an activity in a sacred or ritualized way and thus makes that activity magical. Rather than that you add an entirely outside element of 'magic.'

  2. You've got it, that's exactly what I'm driving at with this rule.