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KillerShrike.com
Skip Navigation LinksHigh Fantasy HERO>Content>Magic>Shrike House Rules
Magic House Rules
Magic Exposition Interacting with Magic Magic and Adjustment Powers
Spell Resistance Spellcraft Anti-Magic
Magic is a very large part of what differentiates the Fantasy Genre from all others. Whereas the Superhero Genre has superpowers, SciFi has spaceships and blasters, Cyberpunk has cybernetics, and Martial Arts games have over the top fighting styles, Fantasy has Magic. At the high end its the widget by which all other things can be explained away and at the low end a means to personal power for individual characters.
So-called Fantasy games without Magic play more like Historical reenactments, and So-called Cyberpunk games that include Magic play more like Fantasy games. It's such a major influence on the Genre, that most fantasy games have as much or more information detailing Magic, its use, and various "Spells" and "Items" than they do on the entire rest of the game.
Because of this pervasive impact on the Genre, it can be truthfully said that the Magic System(s) used for a particular setting have a major impact on many aspects of play and on the setting itself. Most games predefine the Magic System in effect and even build it directly into the default setting of the game, which is fine for those who want things done for them but not so great for those that have a neat idea for a system of Magic of their own.
One of the main strengths of using the HERO System to play Fantasy Genre games is that there is no predefined Magic System, and no one "right way" to do Magic. GM's are openly encouraged to design whatever system works for them and to use the system to enrich their game rather than bend their game to fit the system.
This empowerment is very refreshing and open ended. Most game systems only have one or maybe two basic mechanics for Magic use, but in the HERO System there's nothing stopping a GM from including as many Magic Systems as he likes even within the same setting. For example, in my own Campaign Setting of San'Dora one of my primary meta-goals for the setting is to combine as many Magic Systems as possible and tie specific Magic Systems directly to various cultures, having Magic be one of the primary forces in the rise and fall of nations throughout the history of the world, and also to depict Magic Systems ranging from the primitive/simple to the very sophisticated.
USAGE
This document focuses specifically on designing Magic Systems, and how Magic interacts with the setting and itself; it does not cover higher order conceptual considerations such as the source(s) of Magic, why Magic works, commonality of Magic and so forth. In other words this is more of a practical-application coverage than a conceptual coverage of the subject.
While the following document provides guidelines for interacting with Magic and designing Magic Systems for Fantasy HERO and gives many examples of different types of systems, it is also recommended that interested GM's check out the Magic Systems Chapter in Fantasy HERO for HERO System 5th Edition, pages 220 to 288 for a far more comprehensive treatment.

Interacting with Magic
Magic is a major force and defining element of just about any High Fantasy setting. Therefore it is important to have very clear-cut ways of interacting with it. Following are some basic considerations a GM should ponder regarding Magic in their setting.
WHO CAN USE MAGIC
As a default it is assumed that any character can be taught the rudiments of any Magic System unless the write up for that system specifically limits itself. However in some campaigns this may not be true and Magic Use may be something that only specially talented people can do. Following are several ways in which a GM might limit who can use Magic in their setting.
By Birth
This option is not in effect in my campaigns
By this method characters are either born with the capacity to use Magic or they are not. To indicate that they have the potential to become Magic Users, whether they start off as one or not, a character must purchase a Custom Talent at character creation that does nothing for the character save allow them to use Magic in the campaign setting. This is essentially just a "place holding" and forces players to commit some points for the privilege of hooking into Magic use either initially or later in-play.
The actual cost of the Talent is up to the individual GM.
GIFT FOR MAGIC AS CUSTOM TALENT
This Talent allows a Character the inherent capacity to understand and use Magic. This is typically attached to a particular Magic System, so that a Character would buy a Gift of Magic for a specific Magic System. At the GM's discretion, Gift for Magic may only be taken at Character creation, indicating that a Character is either born with this capacity or not.
Gift for Magic Cost: X points; may only be taken at Character creation.
By Race
This option is in effect in my campaigns where indicated
Another option to limit who can use Magic is to simply dictate as a campaign guideline that specific Races can use Magic (or even certain types of Magic) and others cannot. This can be as straight forward as the old-school "Dwarves can't be Magic Users" of D&D or something more complex. If this method of determining who can use Magic is in effect then Races that are not able to use magic may or may not qualify for a Physical Limitation as part of their Race packaged based upon the GM's discretion.
By Character Points
This option is not in effect in my campaigns where indicated
Another option is to limit Magic Use to characters over a certain point threshold. A GM might determine for example that no character can use Magic if they are less than 200 points or some other similar arbitrary determinant. Perhaps Magic Users are sequestered and in training until they reach that point, or simply can't use Magic without a mentor's assistance until that point. This type of restriction could be used to prevent beginning characters from being Magic Users, or demonstrate an Earthdawn-like maturation process whereby all characters start off basically normal but start evincing effectively Magical adeptness as they progress in experience.
MAGIC SFX AND ADJUSTMENT POWERS
Magic is an extremely broad SFX in a Fantasy context, and some GM's might be hesitant to allow Dispels and Adjustments to affect all Magic for a mere +1/4 Power Advantage as listed in the HERO System 5th Edition Rulebook. The following is presented as an alternative.
"Fantasy Magic" Redefinition
This option is in effect in my campaigns
By the HERO System 5th Edition Rulebook, a single +1/4 Advantage allows Dispel and by extension Adjustment Powers to affect all Fantasy Magic one Power/Spell at a time. In my opinion while that may work in a superheroic game where Magic is fairly generalized, it's too powerful in most Fantasy contexts.
EXPANDED "EXPANDED GROUP"
As an alternative to this, a +1/4 Advantage will affect all Fantasy Magic of a specific category one target at a time. Thus a +1/4 Advantage could be used to make Dispel Magic (Wizardry) or Dispel Magic (Sortilege). To affect All Arcane Magic or All Divine Magic one target at a time is a +1/2 Advantage. To affect All Magic one target at a time is a +1 Advantage.
SIMULTANEOUS TARGETS FOR EXPANDED EFFECT
As an adjunct to this change, Simultaneous Targets must also be modified. Simply add the difference of the Expanded Group to the total for this Advantage; thus to Dispel All Arcane Magic All At Once is a +2 1/4 Advantage and to Dispel All Magic Simultaneously is a +2 3/4 Advantage.
SPELL RESISTANCE
This option is in effect in my campaigns for the various Vancian Magic Systems, but is not mandatory
Because of the many ways in which Magic abilities can be fashioned in the HERO System it is difficult to defend against Magic uniformly as there is no intrinsic game mechanic which makes a character resistant to Magic.
D&D 3e STYLE SPELL RESISTANCE
The following is a suggested alternative mechanic which allows a character to resist offensive Magic in a fashion consistent with the way Spell Resistance works in D&D 3e, based upon a Custom Talent with an associated Skill Roll called Spell Resistance.
This method has a drawback in that in order to work it requires Spells to be designed a certain way to interact with it.
Essentially Power Constructs for Magic abilities can be built with a special form of Requires Skill Roll, taking the Opposed option (and typically no Active Point Penalty to Roll for a net -1/4 Limitation). When such as Power Construct is used against a character with Spell Resistance they roll off. If the caster makes their roll by more the target is effected, but if the target makes their roll by more they are not affected.
Spell Resistance generally requires GM permission for Player Characters unless contained in a pre-constructed Package Deal or a Race Package Deal.
D&D 3e STYLE SPELL RESISTANCE AS CUSTOM TALENT
This Talent allows a character to resist Magic Spells and Spell-like Abilities that have the RSR: Magic Skill vs. Spell Resistance Limitation.
The Talent serves as an Opposed Roll vs. the Spellcaster's appropriate Magic Skill Roll, resolves automatically when the character is targeted by a Magic Spell with the RSR: Magic Skill vs. Spell Resistance Limitation, and takes no time.
If an entity with Spell Resistance makes his Spell Resistance by more than the Spellcaster makes their Magic Skill Roll or if the Spellcaster fails their Magic Skill Roll, the Spell or Spell-like ability has no effect upon the Spell Resistant entity.
This does not nullify Spells, it simply protects the Spell Resistant character; thus an AoE Spell targeting a protected character would still go off and effect its normal Area of Effect including any other viable targets in that Area (unless they too have Spell Resistance and succeed at an opposed roll versus the Spellcaster).
Spell Resistance Cost: 10 Points for a base 11- roll, +1 to roll for 2 points
SPELL RESISTANCE AS DAMAGE REDUCTION
This option is in effect in my campaigns.
Another options (which can be used instead of or in addition to other Spell Resistance options) is to allow a special form of Damage Reduction be purchased that only works vs. Magic, but protects vs. any sort of Magical damage whether it be Physical or Energy.
This requires GM permission as the price is basically cut in half, but its effect is generally in line with its functionality in most games. Some GM's may allow this ability, but require it to be bought vs. Physical and Energy separately as is normal for Damage Reduction. GM's might also require mandatory Limitations on such abilities such as an Activation Roll.
SPELL RESISTANCE AS DAMAGE REDUCTION
Magic Resistance: Damage Reduction 25% Resistant; Only vs. Magic (-1)
Real Cost: 15 Points
Magic Resistance: Damage Reduction 50% Resistant; Only vs. Magic (-1)
Real Cost: 22 Points
Magic Resistance: Damage Reduction 75% Resistant; Only vs. Magic (-1)
Real Cost: 30 Points
SPELL RESISTANCE AS A FIGURED CHARACTERISTIC
This option is not in effect in my campaigns.
Suggested in Fantasy HERO, a GM could add a new Figured Characteristic called Magic Defense, similar to PD and ED. If you use it I would recommend the following:
  • Base it on (EGO / 10) + (PRE / 10) + (CON / 10)
  • Costs 3 character points per 1 point
  • Characteristic Maxima = 10
  • It is Resistant
This defense subtracts directly from all Magical damage in exactly the same fashion that Armor subtracts from mundane damage.
SPELLCRAFT
This option is in effect in my campaigns for the various Vancian Magic Systems
All of the Vancian Magic Systems involve some sort of Magic Skill Roll, (each such Magic System lists the Magic Skill or Skills appropriate to that style of Magic), and the differences in the way individual Magic Systems organize their Spells into Skill groups provide a major point of stylistic diversion to them.
However, a GM might want to allow for a more genericized Magic Skill either in addition to or instead of the more elaborate and specific Magic Skills described elsewhere. Also, a GM might want to allow non-Magic Users an opportunity to be familiar with Magic even if they themselves cannot use it.
Thus at the GM's discretion a character might choose to learn a Custom Talent called Spellcraft. Spellcraft represents a very general but flexible knowledge of Magic and while it will rarely yield the same depth of knowledge on a given subject as the appropriate Spell School Skill for a particular Spell would, it  is convenient and overall less expensive than buying a separate Knowledge or Power Skill for a wide variety of Magic Systems. Spellcraft can also represent the inborn understanding of a Sorcerer, a flair or genius for applied theory, or the generalist knowledge of a "Mage", Hedge Wizard, Witch, or less studious Wizard.
Non-Magic Users can purchase Spellcraft as well even if they lack the ability to cast Spells. This would allow them to use some Magic Items that require a Magic Skill Roll to activate, and of course to identify Magic Spells being cast at them. However the cost is sufficiently high that few characters bother unless they intend to become Magic Users eventually.
At the GM's discretion a character with Spellcraft may later cannibalize the points they have spent on Spellcraft to purchase Spell School Skills with, but this is not recommended as it can lead to logical inconsistencies depending on events that have transpired in play.
SPELLCRAFT FEATURES
The Spellcraft Talent allows a character to make Magic Skill Rolls when they do not otherwise have the correct Spell School Knowledge Skill to identify, learn, or cast Spells. Spellcraft may act as a proxy in the place of any Spell School Skill. Thus if a character needs to make a KS: Necromancy Skill check but lacks KS: Necromancy, they may make a Spellcraft check instead.
A person using Spellcraft in lieu of the correct Magic School Skills only grasps the observable effects of Spells and understands the practical necessities of casting Spells, but that is enough to function as a Magic User if the character has the other necessary trappings of a Magic System.
SPELLCRAFT AS CUSTOM TALENT
Spellcraft may be used as a proxy for any Vancian Magic School Skill for the purposes of learning, casting, and identifying Magic.
Spellcraft Cost: 15 Points for a base 11- roll, +1 to roll for 2 Points
SPELLCRAFT LIMITATIONS
Spellcraft will never yield the same depth of knowledge on a given subject as the appropriate Spell School Skill would, but is enough to get the general ideas of what is going on.
Thus, a person with KS: Evocation would likely know things like the actual named theories involved with an Evocation Spell, and perhaps even things like the Spellcaster who discovered or invented the Spell and when; they may even know contextual data such as schools where the Spell is taught, notable practitioners who favor the Spell, or even minor subtle variations indicating the caster's mastery of the Spell; in short any bit of scholarly information associated with a Spell is accessible by a person with the actual Magic School Skill based upon how much they make their Skill Roll by in the normal fashion.
Spellcraft can also not be used in the creation of new Magic Spells or Magic Items; the understanding of Magic gained via Spellcraft is insufficient for that level of complexity.
ANTI-MAGIC
This option is in effect in my campaigns
D&D source material has the concept of Anti-Magic, which is a very arbitrarily absolute effect only available at higher levels of Magic use and cautiously employed. Some GM's like this concept and would like to model it in the HERO System.
However, the HERO System does not recognize absolute effects by default, so it can be difficult to generate enough Active Points to achieve the same level of effect in the HERO System with Anti-Magic as is typical in the source material.
For GM's that wish to overcome this difficulty, the following recommendations are made:
  • The term "Anti-Magic" or "Anti-Magic Field" refers to any AoE Continuous Uncontrolled Suppress or Dispel bought to affect All Magic Simultaneously (+2 3/4)
  • All Magical Effects on Continuing Charges are deactivated by contact with an Anti-Magic Field that has equal or greater Active Points, expending the current Charge.
    • This can also be expanded to include any Constant/Continuous Magical effect at the GM's discretion.
  • Instant effects that cross or enter an Anti-Magic field that has Active Points at least double that of the Instant effect in question are nullified on contact.
    • The effects of the Anti-Magic field are still applied to Instant effects that are not nullified.