Thursday, 1 July 2010

Yep, it's a color system

I now proceed to embrace the most hackneyed cliche in all of gaming. Yes, it's a magic system where different schools of magic are different colors!

But I like colors. They are more vague and poetic than the dry terms from 3rd edition D&D (Evocation ... Animal Domain). The Western Esoteric Tradition assigns colors to different sephiroth of the mystic Tree of Life and uses these as the basis for different effects of ritual magic. I have followed this scheme in a rough way, but with a number of simplifications and departures. This is certainly a system flavored with, rather than based on, the knowledge base of hermetic ritual magic. Besides, if I give away too much, the Secret Ascended Masters will have my chakras for Christmas ornaments ...

The advantage of colors is that they organize spells in a modular way that encourages customization according to setting. If you want specialist magic schools, you got 'em. If you want generalist mages, just mash all the colors together and turn your monitor to monochrome. The question of whether Black or White magic fit in a magic-user's education can be resolved setting by setting. Scholarly orders of priesthood with different forms of training can be supported.

The scheme is as follows, listing both clerical and magical schools:

White: Sacred magic that protects against and rebukes evil, illuminates and liberates. Divine light as metaphor.
Black: Crosses the boundary of Death; harms the forms of things directly; separates soul from form. Darkness as metaphor. Not all black magicians are evil ... just yet.
Silver: Transports creatures and spirits from other planes, and sends people through the planes and eventually to them.

Blue: The creation of matter and organized force; forms with substance.
Red: Raw energy, often destructive.
Gold: The restoration of forms in healing and other ways. Strictly for the clerics; you need contact with a  godly intelligence to struggle against entropy and resolve the blue-red antithesis this way.
Yellow: The transmutation of forms; the easier resolution of the blue-red antithesis.

Green: Working on emotions. The magic of desire.
Orange: The gaining of true knowledge. The magic of reason.
Purple: The creation of illusion. The magic of appearances.

Brown: Hedge and nature magic. Degeneration of classic magic, or its origin?

For the magic spell lists I will focus on silver and the six primary and secondary colors. Don't worry though, I will present them in a way that can be very easily "monochromed."


  1. Interesting. A mixture of some of the usual suspects in terms of colors paired to characteristics, and some different takes. And the most colorful post I read today. ;)

  2. I like the idea that color clues in-game could be learned by players: "That wand is growing green, stand back she'll charm you!"

  3. Thanks guys. In my initial development of this scheme for a home brewed game with casting rolls, you could actually increase your chance of success by wearing the color and symbols of that school of magic - at the cost of giving away what kind of magic that was.

  4. I actually really like this. It reminds me of 'old school' Warhammer Fantasy Battles where the colleges of magic that derived from elven High Magic, were divided into 8 colors and had very distinct effects. Now Games Workshop only vaguely references the old color scheme in a more fluff way, while the colleges were changed to lores, and the colors given way to words that were more intuitive as to what you might expect from that sub-set of spells (for example the Amethyst College became the Lore of Death, or the Amber College becoming the Lore of Beasts.)