In response to a question about WHY I don’t like magic, I thought I would open up a topic specifically to discuss the downsides and failures of the magic system in 3.5/d20 specifically, and for those interested, fixes and/or replacements thereof.
Some, but not all, of my personal reasons for why I’m anti-magic:
Magic in general is done, redone and, overdone in our age. Been there, done that, revisited it who knows how many times, read about it over and over and over, burnt countless t-shirts about it… I’m just over it. Sick and tired of it, I cringe every time I hear or read the word “magic”. (Keep in mind that I’ve read literally tens of thousands of books in my life - averaged 700 pages (two books) a day ever since high school, for decades covering English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean sci-fi/fantasy works. So I’ve read a LOT containing magic.)
Athas is supposed to be pro-psionics and anti-magic.That’s the general populace, mind you, not talking about dragon-kings and their rabid fan minions. But I read the rules books and what do I find? Magic everywhere. It sucks. Where’s all the psionics? Not even half of any one of the books are about psionics and how it affects daily life. Magic should be rare and this should be reflected in the rule books with minimal magic related spells and options and tons of psionics offerings instead. Every time I watched someone play Dark Sun, what happened? Everyone wanted to be a defiler or preserver. Just sickened me.
TSR’s magic system is frankly, bad. One of the stronger contenders for “how NOT to do magic” out there (although I’ve seen worse). Gygax had to invent spell components and gestures and chants specifically in an attempt to FIX and LIMIT the mage-types. Slow them down, tie them up, mute them, knock them over, and the magic fails. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Does it? Not usually based on what I’ve observed in actual play.
I dislike Vancian-based systems in general. Not a fan of the whole “limited number of power slots per day” idea, but if it does have to exist, it shouldn’t without a solid fluff story to support the whys and hows. Which D&D fails to do.
I’ll stop there, that’s good enough to start of with.
In the spirit of possible fixes for those who do want to use magic, I offer the following ideas from my own collection:
- Magic takes one standard action per spell level to cast, minimum, unless the spell says longer. Cantrips are a move action.
- Cold iron prevents magic (arcane or divine) from working full stop if in contact with it.
- Cold iron protects against direct magical (arcane or divine) effects from affecting a protected target, but not from secondary effects (such as elemental or physical damage, summons, etc.,).
- Successful interruption of a spell casting in progress will result in a failure effect ranging from comical to detrimental (for everyone) to deadly (for the caster).
- Stacking rules update: permanent effects from the same source affecting the same creature, are included in stacking considerations.
- Stacking rules update: untyped bonuses granted by a specific SFX system (ie: magic, psionics, incarnum, etc.,) are replaced with a bonus type of that SFX system (ie: arcane, divine, psionic, incarnum, etc.). Non-SFX mechanics (feats, class features, race features, etc.) are not affected by this.
- More of a meta-fix, but ToB:BoNS options are available to martial types at the half-level rate without needing to take a feat or class level to gain access, and they are all considered to be chi-based wherever that matters.
Added up it gives the mage-types a real world reason to need minions, prevents certain types of magical abuse from existing, and boosts martial types, all without completely taking away the archetype of the uber-powerful mysterious mage from the games or stories for those of my players that really want it. They just have to play more carefully, which should be part of the mage stereotype anyway.