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Want comments for a 5 thematic sphere of magic design

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

I have been struggling this in my head for many years, I thought I had something, but there were some inconsistencies, so I am trying to adapt it.


Create 5 thematic sphere of magic, some sort of classification scheme, that can contain all possible spell effects and creature.


Have a magic structure that will be used in many of my games.


  • There must be 5 to fit on a pentagram
  • I do not want to use magic the gathering
  • I do not want Good VS Evil in the model. So no Angels and Demons.
  • I do not want humanoids races still they could be attuned to a sphere (ex: elves are more likely to use nature magic, humans to science magic.)
  • The color of magic is not what you see. Ex: Fire spells are not classed as red. (Spells colors will be added afterward, I have a copy of the "Authentic Thaumaturgy" book that explains that pretty well)
  • the names must be different than the arcana in mage the ascension/awakening. (See below)

Old System

The old system I used contained the following sphere (in clockwise order):

  • Science (Yellow) : Golems, Constructions, astronomy, forces,
  • Ether (Blue) : Fantasy creatures, elementals, Dispel Magic,
  • Spirit (Gray) : Ghost, shadows, Puppets, Psionic Magic, Ethereal Magic
  • Chaos (Red) : Mix of living and matter (gargoyle, living wall), transmutation magic, mix of creatures (chimera), aberration (lovecraft styles)
  • Nature (Green) : Plant, Animals, Weather Magic

Problems with old system

The problems is that some sphere have more stuff than others, or some stuff are unclassifiable.

The other thing I realized is that spells effect and monster theme are 2 different things with little relation with each other. So for designing spells, the model above does not really work.

For example: Is a lightning storm actually nature magic because it's about weather control, is it ether magic because it's about controlling energy or forces, or is it about science magic, that's about controlling electricity used by machines.

References or Sources

So I started looking else where for more ideas:

Mage the ascension/Awakening: I know that their model allows any type of spell effects possible. So I though of magic 2 models, one for spells and one for creatures and bind them together afterwards.

The recent mage the awakening system use 10 spheres made of 5 groups where one is more physical and the other is more abstract. It gives in clockwise order:

  • Life + Spirit
  • Matter + Death
  • Force + Prime
  • Time + Fate
  • Mind + Space

I could fit each of the 5 arcana group to one of my sphere. Or fit each of my sphere in between 2 arcana groups. Giving access to 2 arcana group for each of my magic sphere. It could be interesting as certain spells would be available in 2 different place.

The only issue I can see is that in Mage, those spell arcana are designed to be combined, which will not be possible in my game. I could at most use the most dominant one. For for example, a stoneskin spell that would use life + matter, I would have to resign using one or the other.

Dungeons & Dragons monster manual (3rd ed): I lately got this book in a sale (For 2$) and I know that they had a very good selection of monsters in there. So I thought I could use their groups to find every possible monster imaginable. They have 17 monsters category, I tried to group them in 5. I first removed the following categories:

  • Giant, Humanoids, Monstrous Humanoids: I do no want humanoids, they are more related to races than creatures.
  • Outsiders: Related to the good vs evil, Angels vs demons

So with the rest, I grouped them as follow (Possible sphere name in parenthesis):

  • A: Animal, beast, plants, vermin (Nature)
  • B: Dragon, Fey, Magical Beast (Fantasy, Kinetics!?(name from etherlords))
  • C: Elemental, Ooze (Energy, Ether !?)
  • D: Aberration, Undead (Chaos, Doom, !?)
  • E: Construct, Shapechanger (Craft, Science!?)

Now I could link each of those creature groups to the mage spells arcana.

Life + Spirit -> Nature: Life is required by animals and plants. They can be impersonated by spirits.

Matter + Death -> Doom, Chaos!?: Make "living" things out of matter, death for undead, Aberration, not sure how related.

Force + Prime -> Energy, Ether!?: Creature mades of primal elements or energy.

Time + Fate -> Craft, Science!?: Clockwork machines related to time. Fate is hard to plug in.

Mind + Space -> Fantasy, Kinetics!?: Don't see any link.

--- OR ---

I could make creature theme in between spell arcana for a broader variety:

Life + Spirit

-> Doom, Chaos: Add the use of spirits for undead ghost. Can mix life with matter.

Matter + Death

-> Ether, Energy: Add matter for elementals (Earth, Water, Air).

Force + Prime

-> Craft, Science: Add Force and Prime to feed energy to machines.

Time + Fate

-> Fantasy, Kinetics!?: Cannot find the link again.

Mind + Space

-> Nature: Animals has a mind, so you can speak with them.

Life + Spirit

So here are my questions?

  1. Do you like new the system better?

  2. Do you think everything is classifiable in those categories?

  3. Do you prefer spell arcana to be in between monster theme, or directly attached to monster theme?

  4. Do you know other good reference It should worth checking for inspiration?

  5. It seem I have a hard time defining the "Fantasy" sphere where dragons and fairies resides, and make it in relation with mind and space magic. Do you have any ideas for name and Mind+Space justification? Surprisingly, it would be my favorite sphere.

Thank you for comments

Joined: 07/03/2013

I'm here to try to help you thematically. Sounds like you want to base things off of theme here.

You mentioned that you bought a monster manual, but you don't have a player's handbook. In the player's handbook, it classifies spells according to "schools" of magic, and players can specialize in the schools for a certain benefit, at the cost of not learning the other spell types. If you want a system where spells come from a specific school of thought or source of power, this might be a good source to look to. As part of your game, there is likely to be some schools which don't apply.

The schools of D&D magic are as follows:

Another way to think about it is to view it like 4th edition does: sources of power. With that in mind, here's another set of ideas:

-Arcane Magic
-Divine Magic
-Primal Magic
-Martial Power
-Psionic Power

Each stands as a way for a character to gain power and expertise. You could have spells come from a combination of these ideas, although psionic and arcane power overlap somewhat. You could make psionic power about manipulations while arcane is about bashing in the front door. Maybe you could call it leadership, when moving friends or enemies on the field. Martial would be about boosting monsters already in play.

Another source might be to look at 4E rituals, which have the fields of binding, creation, deception, divination, exploration, restoration, scrying, travel and warding.

I suggest a look through here fore more ideas:

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Yes I know D&D, I never liked

Yes I know D&D, I never liked much their magic system. Also certain spells appears in multiple categories which is very bad. There is also the split between arcane and divine magic that I do not like at all for what I want to achieve.

Also their split makes no sense for me, for example all my 5 sphere will have conjuration and enchantment spells. So this is a split by function while I want a split by theme.

The reason why I chose Mage is because I know they made a system beign capable of handling any possible spell effect.

Still, Thanks for comments.

Joined: 04/29/2013
Mechanical Approach

When I get stuck I like to come at things from another angle.

Why not approach things first from a mechanical perpespective? Simply name the power/magic sources A-E for now, decide what effects should go into each school, and then come up with names based on what kind of spells are in that school?

For example, if you put a lot of sneaky or underhanded tactics into School C, you could rename it the Shadow School, with a thematic focus on mind manipulation and/or illusions.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
If I use the spell arcana of

If I use the spell arcana of mage, it pretty sum up the spells effects I can do with spells.

What is more uncertain is monster theme. There is a lot of possible outcome. Which reminds me that Fhizban game me a huge list of monsters where many are very weird. I could try to classify and make groups in the system above and see if I can fit them all.

The second part is linking both system together. As I said, spells effect and monster there are somewhat incompatible. Monster are classed by theme, and spells are classed by functions. Then links are made between boths to group them together.

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