So, decision time. Before trying to design any spells or anything, I'm going to pick at least some placeholder systems for How Stuff Works.
Bits of magic
As discussed in part 2, magic is going to be split into several distinct areas of talent.
- Academic knowledge of things magical and supernatural will be handled by the Occult skill. This will also probably cover interacting with magical artefacts or existing spells, and performing generic rituals.
- Actual spellcasting prowess is established during character design.
- As things currently stand, there's no hard difference in magical strength; spells are powered by expending heat points. I could tie this into a skill, but frankly I don't see any reason to. If traits are introduced later, I suppose there might be a trait for enhanced spell power.
- I'm not planning an actual crafting system; magic isn't tame enough to be making magic swords and stuff all the time. Any plot-specific crafting needed will be handled by rituals or via NPCs.
- Use of simple artefacts will be handled with appropriate skills: Firearms for lightning wands, for example.
What magic is like
As discussed in part 3, magic is there to do what technology doesn't allow. It bends time, alters weather, instils emotions, conjures things from thin air, curses and petrifies. Where technology is quantitative, magic is qualitative.
Spellcasting will have side-effects. As I want magic to be used fairly readily, but not ubiquitous, the side effects need to be relatively minor, but with potential to cause interesting complications. Because this isn't a "magic is evil and self-destructive" setting, they should not directly imperil the caster or their allies, nor should the side effects themselves be horrific. My initial thought here is some kind of chart, where you'd roll a die plus the power of the spell to determine the category of side-effect, then roll up a side-effect.
Casting is (at least initially) going to be reliable. One reason is that it has a cost and side effects, so unreliability on top of that seems likely to discourage spellcasting, where I want it to be fairly frequent. Another reason is that it's hard to portray a wizard if your spells never work. Again, I might tinker with this later on (perhaps there's a small failure chance, perhaps more powerful spells are unreliable...) but for now any unreliability will come effect rolls, not from failed casting.
As discussed in part 4, I'm going to start by giving all PCs of the same 'level' the same amount of spellcasting ability, which is to say the same amount of spells (whatever 'spells' may be). Later I might experiment with giving limited flexibility to trade this off against other benefits, but as a starting point this is definitely way simpler.
Spellcasting will be powered on a depletion system based on body temperature. By and large, this means Monitors (and other reptiles) are far more magically-competent than others. However, this will not be the only cost, as side-effects must also be considered.