Saturday, February 12, 2005

A consideration on Harry Potter, magic systems, and d20

So I've been reading the Harry Potter books lately, and I think I realized something. D20 really IS the game system to run it in, becuase the books are very much level based.

Well, more to the point, a d20-Ars Magica hybrid engine. Graft the Ars Magica spell system over onto d20, allowing for a greater customization of spells in specific levels and styles, along with "Feats" to simulate having greater or lesser numbers of spells.

The books suggest that its not just knowing the words and wand movements to a spell that are important, its the understanding of the spell itself. The simple stuff ("Wingardiam leviosa", "Alohamora", and "Lumos") can be learned in an hour or so, as shown by most of the characters learning the use of very simple spells in a single class, while others are more difficult and require either skill ("Accio"), mindset ("Crucio"), or pure will ("Avada kedarva") to function. Mad Eye Moony comments in Goblet of Fire that the students could fire off the Killing Curse at him all day and they'd not give him so much as a nose bleed becuase they aren't trained in its use.

Additionally, the wand is nessecary for magic (for some wizards, at least, IIRC Lupin, Dumbledore, Voldemort, and others sometimes cast spells without a wands OR words), and while a wizard is best with his own wand, we've seen characters perform magic with someone else's (and the horrible effects of Ron using a broken wand...or Hagrid's success with half a wand inside an umbrella). I therefore hold that wizards should get bonuses with their own wands, penalties with other people's, and thus be able to cast with anything wand-like.

I thus put forward that, for students, they be statted out by Year. Each Year gives greater bonuses to various categories, more skills, and a greater repetoire of spells (like Hermione, who starts her first year with seemingly twice as many spells as anyone else). There would then be Feats for taking more spells, and negative Feats for less, as well as Feats for the various weird tricks that characters show (Parselmouth, Wormtail's weird affinity with rats, being an Animagus, etc.). Spells should be grouped under the various classes (Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, etc., with subclasses for hexes, curses, and the like...and an entire class, in and of itself, for the Dark Arts). Spell descriptions would, of course, be enhanced by giving the words to cast the spell, and any nessecary wand motions.

After student levels, I'd probably suggest grading by OWL or NEWT, and perhaps provide some story-driven level based mechanic similar to the one presented for Green Ronin's Blue Rose.

I admit, I analyze the magic system within Harry Potter FAR too much sometimes. But I find that aspect thoroughly enjoyable. I look forward to the sixth book, though Order of the Phoenix was rather annoying at times, as I didn't like Rowling's attempt to handle a dystopia. It just wasn't all the great, and didn't make all that much sense at times. I think she's attempting to put far too much political commentary into the books, and I hope that the sixth is more in the tradition of Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, than Order of the Phoenix and Chamber of Secrets.


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