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Different magic systems?

CoC 1-6e CoC 7e New to Cthulhu

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#1 Patterns

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 07:13 PM

The most alluring horizon in Call of Cthulhu, for me, is the idea of investigators actually becoming part of the mythos they fight against. Genuinely becoming proficient in the kinds of magus arts that are normally reserved for insane villains. The idea that, in a spell-heavy campaign context, an investigator that is low on their sanity meter is not only battered and worn down but also a reservoir of pent up sorcerous rage with nothing to lose. An academic bloodhound of the esoteric that ends his career in an explosion of wizarding warfare against an alien acolyte that is his superior in terms of knowledge, not power.

 

Anyway, coming from that, I find myself a bit disappointed with the magic system in the core book. It's a cool start, granted, but ultimately the spell list boils down to a bunch of fire-and-forget multitools. They take a span of time to learn and penalize you in terms of an accelerating downward Sanity spiral, but they're still a bit utilitarian. I guess I'm looking for something that is a bit more robust, in terms of either processes required in becoming magical or difficult choices that the magician has to make for every blast or divination.

 

Are there any supplements or online resources for alternative magic systems for Call of Cthulhu? I'd bet there are, but I'm new at this and search tools are failing me for some reason. Any ideas are more than welcome, I'm only just starting to brainstorm this out for myself.


Edited by Patterns, 24 September 2017 - 07:18 PM.



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#2 GBSteve

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 08:43 PM

There's a monograph on alternate magic system for Call of Cthulhu, called Mythos Magic, and of course there's the big ass book of spells, the Grand Grimoire. And you could also use Enlightened Magic.

 

I've been writing along similar line for Trail of Cthulhu. There's already improvised magic in Ken Hite's Rough Magicks, but I've introduced alchemy, magick, spiritualism and witchcraft in Fearful Symmetries (out soonish, soonisher than expected possibly).


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#3 eternalchampion

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 09:38 PM

Thanks, I have forgotten about "Fearfull Symmetries".

If we can add something more to the original question, we could also suggest the "Golden Dawn" supplement of Pagan Publishing, describing this magical society in a world with the Mythos and an alternative magic system that has mostly to do with divination and Astral travel.

#4 andreroy

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Posted 24 September 2017 - 10:24 PM

Sadly it's in French and requires the added stats of Faith and Conviction, but Byzance An 800 had a new Faith Based Magic System. Allowing character with high Conviction to learn some spells specific to their Faith. It's actually quite flavorful and useful without the sanity loss.

#5 rsanford

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 03:26 PM

The most alluring horizon in Call of Cthulhu, for me, is the idea of investigators actually becoming part of the mythos they fight against. Genuinely becoming proficient in the kinds of magus arts that are normally reserved for insane villains. The idea that, in a spell-heavy campaign context, an investigator that is low on their sanity meter is not only battered and worn down but also a reservoir of pent up sorcerous rage with nothing to lose. An academic bloodhound of the esoteric that ends his career in an explosion of wizarding warfare against an alien acolyte that is his superior in terms of knowledge, not power.

 

Anyway, coming from that, I find myself a bit disappointed with the magic system in the core book. It's a cool start, granted, but ultimately the spell list boils down to a bunch of fire-and-forget multitools. They take a span of time to learn and penalize you in terms of an accelerating downward Sanity spiral, but they're still a bit utilitarian. I guess I'm looking for something that is a bit more robust, in terms of either processes required in becoming magical or difficult choices that the magician has to make for every blast or divination.

 

Are there any supplements or online resources for alternative magic systems for Call of Cthulhu? I'd bet there are, but I'm new at this and search tools are failing me for some reason. Any ideas are more than welcome, I'm only just starting to brainstorm this out for myself.

 

I am pretty new at CoC and my players have yet to cast their first spell (though they did do a Voodoo blessing) but I have been considering using the rules for Enlightened Magic to add subtle magics.  It's been a while since I read the book but at the time it seemed like the most faithful representation of how occult magic might be practiced today. Of course my knowledge of the occult is close to nil but Enlightened Magic provides rituals that put me in the mindset of the movie "The Craft". More so the book's writer, John Snead, I believe is a practicing Wiccan priest and is as much an expert as there likely will ever be. Note there is nothing flashy about how things in Enlightened Magic work rather the effects tend to be subtle.  For example you might curse someone and the next day they might fall down a stairway. My only concerns with using Enlightened Magic rules are that I think it might add a Mayfair Witches flavor to the game (which might be okay) and that I would have to reconcile how Enlightened Magic relates to the Mythos.

 

Another reference you might look into is the book "Secrets of New Orleans". I have yet to study the book carefully but I understand that it has suggestions for using Voodoo in CoC and relating the mythos to Voodoo.



#6 JeffErwin

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 06:33 PM

One note on Enlightened Magic: it reflects the Modern and post-Modern forms of magic best. Suffice it to say that early Modern and Mediaeval magic was a fair bit messier. Alchemy is particularly noteworthy as a concept which is very different in the book from what's known of 17th c and earlier practice.

 

This means it will work well for Golden Dawn and French-style occultism of the later 19th c. better than it would for a undying sorcerer.



#7 Jiminy

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 06:37 PM

Hardboiled readers may be encouraged that Ken Hite has written several magic Gumshoe add-ons for his Ken Writes About Stuff series.

 

Voodoo 1

http://site.pelgrane...dex.php?p=15238

 

Voodoo 2

http://site.pelgrane...dex.php?p=15423

 

Alchemy

http://site.pelgranepress.com/?p=20231

 

Mind Control

http://site.pelgranepress.com/?p=14134

 

If so inclined, the Voodoo and Alchemy papers are presently available for purchase at a discounted price over on the RPG Drive Thru web site until the end of September 2017.



#8 vincentVV

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 07:49 PM

Ars Magica has a very interesting magic mechanics which can be useful.



#9 DAR

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 09:57 PM

So what sort of non-utilitarian magic do you want available?

 

Fundamentally, I like the rules in 7e for using Cthulhu Mythos (the skill) as an ad hoc spell-casting mechanic. It fits the flavor of the game relatively well, and I suppose you could also add in a "Hedge Magic" skill to do a similar thing if you want sorcerers to be able to do non-utilitarian magic. You might also look at the Golden Dawn supplement from Pagan Publishing as well as Secrets of Japan if you want different takes on what sorcery can look like.

 

I've experimented on and off for years with ways to increase the amount of magic available to the Investigators that reduces their San loss, but also requires them to invest time and study in other skills. That seems like the most balanced way to me to keep a system that ultimately works pretty well, even if it doesn't quite have the flavor I'm looking for.

 

D.



#10 The_Tatterdemalion_King

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 10:18 PM

You might want to look at the Renaissance SRD's dual magic systems, or RuneQuest/OpenQuest's divine magic.

Edited by The_Tatterdemalion_King, 25 September 2017 - 10:18 PM.

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#11 JeffErwin

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Posted 25 September 2017 - 10:22 PM

So what sort of non-utilitarian magic do you want available?
 
Fundamentally, I like the rules in 7e for using Cthulhu Mythos (the skill) as an ad hoc spell-casting mechanic. It fits the flavor of the game relatively well, and I suppose you could also add in a "Hedge Magic" skill to do a similar thing if you want sorcerers to be able to do non-utilitarian magic. You might also look at the Golden Dawn supplement from Pagan Publishing as well as Secrets of Japan if you want different takes on what sorcery can look like.
 
I've experimented on and off for years with ways to increase the amount of magic available to the Investigators that reduces their San loss, but also requires them to invest time and study in other skills. That seems like the most balanced way to me to keep a system that ultimately works pretty well, even if it doesn't quite have the flavor I'm looking for.
 
D.

 
I used Occult in my Elizabethan home-brew: higher skill grants knowledge of various folk charms, remedies, and hexes (you need at least 20% to cast anything).



#12 DAR

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 11:09 PM

 
I used Occult in my Elizabethan home-brew: higher skill grants knowledge of various folk charms, remedies, and hexes (you need at least 20% to cast anything).

 

That sounds like a pretty reasonable idea.

 

The big thing you need to decide is how fast you want your Investigators to be burning through Sanity. Under the normal rules, adding more spell-casting is merely going to speed the process of character insanity - unless you come up with some sort of mechanic that you like that modifies Sanity loss or Sanity costs.

 

D.



#13 JeffErwin

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Posted 02 October 2017 - 11:22 PM

That sounds like a pretty reasonable idea.

 

The big thing you need to decide is how fast you want your Investigators to be burning through Sanity. Under the normal rules, adding more spell-casting is merely going to speed the process of character insanity - unless you come up with some sort of mechanic that you like that modifies Sanity loss or Sanity costs.

 

D.

 

 

Most folk charms wouldn't cost much (or anything) unless they worked strangely or too well... It's not like folk magic's going to upset someone's view of the universe, in the period I game in, or make one believe the world is terrible or uncaring. It would... perhaps, today. However, I generally keep such things subtle or capable of being rationalized.

 

Conjuring a spirit or ghost might involve actual SAN loss, if it's disturbing in appearance or actively malevolent. If it was a major part of a campaign, I'd use the "getting used to a creature" optional rules, i.e., once you've seen something enough times to equal maximum SAN loss, you only take minimum, which would usually be 0 or 1 for this sort of thing.



#14 ElijahWhateley

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 12:09 AM

Unknown Armies is always a decent place to look for inspiration on more human magic.


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#15 carpocratian

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 12:59 AM

Unknown Armies is always a decent place to look for inspiration on more human magic.

 

That's my favorite rpg magic system.



#16 Taavi

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 01:09 AM

Here's one I prepared earlier: Grammar and Grimoire, an Aklo-based magic system for CoC


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#17 DAR

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Posted 03 October 2017 - 04:19 PM

Most folk charms wouldn't cost much (or anything) unless they worked strangely or too well... It's not like folk magic's going to upset someone's view of the universe, in the period I game in, or make one believe the world is terrible or uncaring. It would... perhaps, today. However, I generally keep such things subtle or capable of being rationalized.

 

Conjuring a spirit or ghost might involve actual SAN loss, if it's disturbing in appearance or actively malevolent. If it was a major part of a campaign, I'd use the "getting used to a creature" optional rules, i.e., once you've seen something enough times to equal maximum SAN loss, you only take minimum, which would usually be 0 or 1 for this sort of thing.

 

Oh, I agree, and that pretty much matches the examples of "white witchcraft" (or whatever) we've seen in various supplements and editions - depending on what it is. Read over those early grimoires and some of these spells and incantations are less than ...innocuous. But I do think that it's important to note that Sanity isn't just a measure of how an individual can rationalize something, it's also a measure of how mundane reality-breaking events affect the psyche. You could just as easily "rationalize" Sanity loss as organic brain damage cause by the little ruptures in reality that occur...

 

My typical method of reducing Sanity loss was to take Occult/20 and Cthulhu Mythos/10, also an extra skill Meditation/30 (rounding down in all cases) and use that as a modifier to Sanity loss - never able to reduce it lower than the minimum San loss as rolled on the check. The higher your skill, the less San you lose. It's been a nice, simple system that worked well over the years.

 

Add in some of the traits from Pulp Cthulhu and you can actually have pretty resilient characters. The Big Bads are still big and bad, but the more minor horrors and most spellcasting tend to be pretty safe.

 

Also, I always ran Summoning the mean way, lose San for casting the spell, then lose San for seeing whatever shows up.

 

D.



#18 Gallows

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Posted 06 October 2017 - 01:02 PM

I do it on a spell by spell basis. I make an A5 page for every spell the investigators acquire, detailing how it is cast. With that approach the options are unlimited and I like the idea that magic isn't bound by a common set of rules. The only thing all spells have in common is sanity cost. But we use our own game system based on the EotE dice mechanics, but adapted to be true to CoC 7th in areas like sanity occupations and more. That allows for some surprised when the dice show certain symbols.

#19 rylehNC

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Posted 07 October 2017 - 12:54 AM

Hardboiled readers may be encouraged that Ken Hite has written several magic Gumshoe add-ons for his Ken Writes About Stuff series.

 

Voodoo 1

http://site.pelgrane...dex.php?p=15238

 

Voodoo 2

http://site.pelgrane...dex.php?p=15423

 

Alchemy

http://site.pelgranepress.com/?p=20231

 

Mind Control

http://site.pelgranepress.com/?p=14134

 

If so inclined, the Voodoo and Alchemy papers are presently available for purchase at a discounted price over on the RPG Drive Thru web site until the end of September 2017.

 

This series also includes writeups for Heptarchic Magick (Elizabethan) and Egyptian Heka in The School of Night and Tombhounds of Egypt, respectively. And Goetia in another.


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#20 Puriri

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Posted 11 October 2017 - 05:39 PM

I used a pretty different magic system for one of my campaigns. In the game different entities represented different dimensions, Shub-Niggurath was a dimension of pure matter, Yog-Sothoth pure energy, and Nyarlathotep pure thought. A magician could use one of these dimensions. As someone learned more about magic and delved into a particular branch they would be able to see more and more of that dimension. A magician looking into matter would slowly see the world thicken into fleshy blobs until Shub-Niggurath appeared filling the entire universe. A mind magician would see the world as isolated brains, and an energy magician would see glowing fountains of energy from people to machines.

 

Mechanically I wanted something simple yet descriptive. Players could "bet" magic points when they were casting spells. When opposing another magician whoever had the highest number of magic points would win, with the difference being rolled in 1d6 and damage taken out of their stats. I rewarded small amounts extra dice based on excellent descriptions of their magic.

 

This worked okay, but I let it get out of hand when I allowed players to rip power from others, making an effective insta-kill and permanent POW boost. I knew I had screwed up when I had to reevaluate my villains and change their POWs from high 70-100s to 200-300s. At that point you can't really use it to roll.

I wrote up a reflection on it here:

https://cthulhustutt...ew-magic-system







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