Adapting magic systems

The magic systems of Athas

One thing I have come to appreciate about Troy Denning and his Prism Pentad is incorporating so many different magic systems, even in the first book. He had to introduce Vancian style casting along with the concept of defiling and preserving. The elemental/godless nature of divine spell casting AND Templar magic. Oh, and the concept behind druidic. Psionics is ubiquitous, powerful and highly versatile.

That’s a complicated ball of wax, to put it lightly.

Part of what makes me appreciate that is looking into other systems to adapt Dark Sun into. This many systems that are so wildly different, yet each integral to the setting.

Some rules

· I am ignoring the Vancian element of the magic systems. This includes things like spell slots, needing a spell book, etc. Make no mistake, I am a big fan of Jack Vance, and his use of that magic system is brilliant. It’s not essential to the setting of Dark Sun.

· Elemental magic grants a considerable amount of power within their element. Aside from broad guidelines, there is no cost to using the magic and it is popularly accepted.

· Templar magic is supreme within city states. Hated, but supreme. Strict dictates from sorcerer monarchs. No other cost.

· Druidic magic pretty similar to clerical, but add animal affinity. I would drop the sacred ground element. Players want to be able to move around.

· Psionics. Critical to the setting. Immensely versatile and accepted. Cost is internal, aka fatigue and exhaustion.

· Arcane. Vast amount of power. Obvious and persecuted. Defiling can be used to “super charge” magic. Depending on the approach, preserving magic is weaker and and more restricted OR it’s as powerful as ever and defiling magic is easier or strongly.


This is an interesting alternative to standard d20. Ubiquity is largely a skill based system and is very flexible with many things. While it’s base is 1930s pulp, I’ve seen it adapted to alien Mars, Space 1889 and kung fu. I can go on. If it gives a you a feel for it’s range, the only time I see it not really being to adapt to a genre is superhuman. Especially with wildly different scales. I don’t see you being able to run Justice League.

One stand out feature from Desolation in particular is that it has much more in the way of logistics. You’ve got useful ways

As usual the challenge comes with the different magic systems. We’ve got elemental divine, druid divine, sorcerer king divine, highly versatile psionics and a very setting dependent form of arcane magic. The Desolation game system is the best one to help us with this system.

Cleric/elemental/templar- Desolation already has a system for elemental magic. It would take some tweaking to be more Lore accurate (like having command of only one element rather than two). The real challenge is Burn. A major part of the balance with these abilities is inflicting damage on oneself rather than the environment.

Druid- Druids can be mimicked by use of Primalism and elemental magic, though in the former case make it harder to use weather magic. The issue with Burn remains.

Psionic- This is a tricky one. Really tricky. Psionics are ubiquitous, strong and casually used. Given the Ubiquity rule set, I have several options. From the Secrets of the Surface world, and Revelations of Mars, you’ve got a wide variety of Talents (feats) which grant you psychic powers. You do have to invest Talents to get them (which is expensive) and you only get one power for it. Conversely, in Desolation there are several schools of magic which could mimic elements (Beguiling in particular comes to mind) but there are problems with all of them.

Defiling/Arcane- If I thought psionics was hard. Sheesh. There are different systems in Desolation in particular which allow for arcane magic. Easily. However, the issue becomes DEFILING. How to incorporate that?