Friday, August 14, 2020

Exhausting Magic

Matthieu Cousin | Character design inspiration, Character art, Illustration  character design
Matthieu Cousin

Ruminations over on the Bastionland Discord got me thinking about a potential magic system to use with Electric Bastionland and Into the Odd. 

One of the things (in a list of many) that EB does really well is mechanically express exhaustion. The cycle of rest, full hp, lose hp, rest again. With added modifiers like becoming Deprived and not healing. 

Thusly from this formed the nucleus of an idea. Expend all your hp to do a magic, then regain the hp after a rest. Basically expending yourself to exhaustion when doing magic.

No need for spell slots, or once a day casting, it naturally balances itself out and fits neatly into the existing play cycle. It forces players to plan, makes wizards "squishy" without weird class restrictions, and is flexible enough to allow for player (and GM) creativity.

Without further ado here it is...

Core Rules

  • Sacrifice all HP to cast a spell.
  • Cannot (safely) cast again until HP is recovered.
  • Unlimited spells per day.
  • As long as you have HP to sacrifice you can cast.

Optional Rules

Casting Without HP
  • Possible but dangerous and costly
  • For each spell cast while not having HP do one die of damage.
  • Increase the die size for each spell cast without HP; d4 -> d6 -> d8 -> etc...
  • Example: Merdoc is out of HP but casts anyway, they have 12 Cha/Wil and roll a 3 on a d4. Reducing their Cha/Wil to 9. They cast again rolling 5 dmg on a d6. Now at Cha/Wil of 3.
Banking Spells
  • Same as casting, sacrifice full HP to invest an object with a spell.
  • Items imbued with magic must be durable or will burn up/melt when the spell is cast.
  • If banking spells is done during downtime it is recommend that a limit or cost be set.
  • For Example: While camping in a dungeon Emily banks several spells at the cost of getting a good nights rest. So the next morning she is at full HP but Deprived until she sleeps.
Magical Items
  • Similar to banking spells, magical items can contain a single spell recharged by sacrificing HP.
  • This is the most iffy mechanic to be honest. But a potentially workable one.
Layman's Magic
  • Anyone can do magic if they learn or are taught the secrets.
  • However people with a background/failed career/what-have-you in magic will get a 'cantrip' or permanent ability to use without spending HP.

Thats about it all really. Lots of room for modification and hacking though!


  1. Some GLOG hackers over on the OSR discord were apparently doing something similar and brought up the excellent point that it need not be your HP!

  2. Well, I'm totally using this! Seems like it would pair well with the Maze Rats spell generation.