The Art of Magical Combat

The Art of Magical Combat

Written by: Breezie Noel & Vanatosis Arentire
Images by: Filipa Thespian

In the world of role-playing, combat can take many forms, from the physical to the mental and spiritual. Physically powerful combatants channel their strength into devastating attacks with melee and ranged weapons. But what chance does the smaller, weaker player have against such a formidable foe? And how does anyone survive after repeated injury if the battle still rages?

With Magic, of course.

In this segment of RP University, we will explore the use of magic in combat role-play. (We’ll cover general magic role-play in later issues, so stay tuned.)

Magic is one of the most powerful options available in the role-player’s bag of combat tricks. Magic spells may be offensive, defensive, or healing, and can be brilliantly varied when used by a skilled protagonist. A healer may cast defensive spells on himself or others in his party, such as a mild protection against a certain type of attack, or cast an enhancement spell (buff) to increase health or strength, for example, in addition to casting blessed healing spells upon the injured. The offensive magic user can be a terrifying foe, raining down fire, ice, magic missiles, and other damaging effects to weaken and destroy the opponent.

But choosing to be a magic wielder in role-play combat isn’t an automatic guarantee of victory. Basic tenets are crucial to avoid “God-modding” – no one in a combat scenario should be invincible, lest they ruin the experience for others.  In proper role-play, the use of magic is governed by built-in checks and balances.

I. Magic spells are not instantaneous.

arcane10All magic spells require a minimum casting time of two posts. (With the exception of Cantrips, which are instant, non-combative spells with minor effects that do no damage, such as increasing light, cleaning, etc.) A spell’s power is directly related to how many posts it takes to cast it. The more powerful the spell, the more posting steps it requires.

The following guidelines are not set in stone but are widely accepted  throughout free-form role-play sims.

  • Two posts: Minor actions (a Magic Missile or other light damage spell, Light Heals of minor cuts and scrapes)
  • Three posts: Medium actions (a Fireball or other moderate damage spell, Moderate Heals of lacerations and open wounds)
  • Four + posts: Major Actions (a Continuous Blast fireball or other powerful channelled spell, Strong Heals of broken bones and serious injuries)

The first spell-casting post describes the “draw” or “build,” as your character harnesses whatever energies, deities, etc. that you must call upon to gather the power to cast your spells.

Here is an example of a caster preparing a medium action spell through build up:

Post 1: Thraxton begins to chant the unholy words of power. The ground around him starts to vibrate as he feels the power rise within him. He looks to his opponent with an evil smile.

Post 2: Thraxton continues his chant. He bares his fangs with delight as an unholy reddish hue slowly engulfs his hands.  Fire begins to crackle from his fingers and forms into a glowing ball in his palm.

The actual directing of the spell toward the opponent is called the “sending” or the “cast” and usually occurs in the last post of the build up.

Post 3: Thraxton eyes his opponents, laughing silently. They don’t see him in the shadows. How delicious; they won’t know what hit them. With a final word of power, he sends the flaming ball hurtling toward the closest human.

spread 02

II. Spells can be resisted, dodged, or evaded.

As with any role-play combat, the caster should leave the effect of the spell open-ended. Opponents may have resistance; others may be on the periphery and have the chance to dodge or evade the spell.

Opponent Post 1: Nebula suddenly feels a prickling sensation, as if malevolent energy is gathering behind her. Danger! Calling out to her goddess mother, she infuses her shield with as much magical protection as she can muster and raises it with a quickly whispered prayer.

Opponent Post 2: Not quick enough! The powerful blast knocks her from her feet, singeing her hair. Nebula smells scorched flesh and realizes her shield arm is blistered and useless. But she is alive, if barely.

III.  Spell casts can be disrupted.

If, at any point during the above example, Thraxton had been interrupted while building up his cast, the spell would have failed and the amount of power already charged would be lost.

As tempting as it may be to cast the most powerful spells, the longer you channel a spell, the easier it is for your foe to disrupt the spell. Anything that would break the concentration of a caster can and should disrupt the spell being cast.

IV. Magic users may suffer detrimental effects after casting.

Wolf Casting MaleMagic spells are a powerful boon in a battle, but using magic is not without consequence. Casting a spell takes a great deal of focus and energy, and you may suffer weakness, dizziness, or exhaustion (or whatever detrimental effect the spell calls for) once the sending is completed, putting you at a momentary disadvantage.

Many people also include a backlash if their spell is disrupted as well, creating similar negative consequences as from a completed cast.

Healing spells can be especially dangerous if interrupted. Not only would the healing caster suffer detrimental effects from being disrupted,  losing control while healing could also do serious damage to the player being healed.

Role-play combat can be a rich, enjoyable experience, and the insertion of a magic user into the fray creates endless possibilities. If you have ever used magic or considered delving into the magical arts while in combat, we hope these guidelines will enhance and enrich your gameplay.

As always, balance is the key. And fun is the reward.

Reproduced with permission from Roleplay Guide Magazine.
April 2011June 2011August 2011Sept 2011Oct 2011Nov/Dec 2011January 2012 – Oct 2014

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