Magic for kids

edited October 2012 in Game Design Help
I'm putting together a simple, fun fantasy game for my kids and I'm trying to include some magic. I am almost completely ignorant when it comes to the subject. I've got a few D&D campaigns under my belt, but I've always avoided being a caster of any kind.

We've been watching (and loving) Avatar: The Last Airbender lately and one of my favorite things about it is the way the characters use their bending abilities creatively. My hope is that I can make some general areas of magic and let the kids use their imaginations to decide how to use it, kind of like how Avatar uses Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

So, what are some spells that are used frequently in fantasy games that I can start to group into these more general areas? I'm hoping that I can get an idea of which areas would be useful and fun for the kids. I don't need an entire list of every spell ever written, just the ones that are used often or are helpful.



Comments

  • I have run a super-simplified version of donjon four or five times over the last year for a group of kids. Since they come up with their own abilities, and do most of the creative interpretation and application, I haven't needed a list. Most of them do one or more of the following: blatant attacks and defenses, increase or decrease maneuverability, make them hidden or draw attention, let them trick people, create objects or creatures, communicate with non-talking things, make friends or boss people around, change the terrain, change the climate, change visibility.

    These are the most common and easiest to remember off the top of my head, but you are right about kids interpreting their abilities very creatively. If I were going to create parameters I would definitely not say "This spell does damage by making a fireball," but instead "This spell makes a fiery ball'" and let them do what they want with it, maybe setting range and volume and durations and the like. Or not; maybe your system implies or interprets these things just fine.
  • The way Donjon handles magic is a great model for this, I agree! I would encourage you to take a look at that.
  • Most of them do one or more of the following: blatant attacks and defenses, increase or decrease maneuverability, make them hidden or draw attention, let them trick people, create objects or creatures, communicate with non-talking things, make friends or boss people around, change the terrain, change the climate, change visibility.
    Thanks, that's a good place to start. That list is just what I was looking for, big general categories that allow for some interpretation.

    I'll check out Donjon too.
  • Actually, I would look at In Nomine, because it has the idea of a "type" of magic, which is in Avatar pretty solidly. You can be a "fire guy" in In Nomine or a "creation guy" in IN. It's cool.
  • Actually, I would look at In Nomine, because it has the idea of a "type" of magic, which is in Avatar pretty solidly. You can be a "fire guy" in In Nomine or a "creation guy" in IN. It's cool.
    I checked it out but it wasn't quite what I had in mind. Thanks though.

  • What keeps you from going with the Earth, Wind, Fire, Water? That would be totally sufficient. The Kids would have to explain how they try to achieve the desired effect. You could assign a difficulty depending on the effect magnitude if you want to.

    A larger list of "elements" is in Ars Magica. There are 10 areas of effect plus 5 verbs - how you manipulate the element. In that game you have to combine a verb and an element (or technique and art - to use the correct lingo).

    But if you want a list of common spell effects this list might be a start.
  • So, what are some spells that are used frequently in fantasy games that I can start to group into these more general areas? I'm hoping that I can get an idea of which areas would be useful and fun for the kids.
    Read at least the first book of the Codex Alera. These aren't spells from fantasy games, but rather specifically elemental effects.

    Mechanics-wise, definitely look at transplanting the verb/noun bits from Ars Magica into something a bit less… scholarly and bleak.

    Also, take a peak at the playing card-based magic system from the original Castle Falkenstein. Really good system for doing improvisational magic under time pressure, where the faster you cast, the more likely you will generate side effects.
  • You might also consider Everway.
  • What keeps you from going with the Earth, Wind, Fire, Water? That would be totally sufficient. The Kids would have to explain how they try to achieve the desired effect. You could assign a difficulty depending on the effect magnitude if you want to.
    I definitely like the idea of using the four elements like Avatar but there are other things that would be fun like teleportation, illusions, invisibility—you know, more wizardy type spells that just aren't covered in an earth, air, fire, water system. Plus I don't want it to turn into an Avatar game, I want the kids to be creative, not mimic what they saw on TV.
  • When designing for play with kids, sometimes I take the opportunity to be educational. You could do what @kksimons did and make a foreign language be the language of magic.

    http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/16627/play-an-rpg-learn-a-language/p1

    Then, pretty much whatever they can say in the language, they can make happen.
  • When designing for play with kids, sometimes I take the opportunity to be educational. You could do what @kksimons did and make a foreign language be the language of magic.

    http://story-games.com/forums/discussion/16627/play-an-rpg-learn-a-language/p1

    Then, pretty much whatever they can say in the language, they can make happen.
    That's a great idea. Thanks.

  • but there are other things that would be fun like teleportation, illusions, invisibility—you know, more wizardy type spells that just aren't covered in an earth, air, fire, water system.
    You could start with a few "schools of magic" (like earth, wind, fire,...) and invent others on the fly when the kids try to do stuff thats not well covered yet. It should be not too hard to learn a new school when you go this way.

    Like "I wanna make myself invisible with the school of fire and extinguish all the light around me" "Sure, you can do that, but its very difficult. It would be much easier if you have learned the school of optics"



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