Five Color Magic

Last week I wondered aloud about the possibility of reorganizing the spell lists and spellcaster classes into five schools or spheres based loosely on that one card game. As I’ve thought about it some more and got my son involved, we’ve come to like the idea more and more. So, without further ado, here is the list of spell levels 1 through 5 in PDF form:

Five Color Magic by Lord Kilgore

Five Color Magic - Free PDF

There are, I think, a lot of benefits to doing something along these lines. Most of all, it gives five fairly equally-playable classes instead of four where one (the druid) is often seen as out of place and another (the illusionist) is often not viable. Plus it solves the issue of “just what is the cleric class doing in the game, anyway?” which has always bugged me a bit. Rather than one powerful spellcaster and one supporting cast member, there are five flavors of adventuring wizard, each with strengths and weaknesses.

I should say that this list is not exaclty what we’ve come up with for our own game. We’ve added a few spells (such as a full complement of cure wounds spells) and some other minor tweaking along the way. I wanted a fairly standard list for others, though, so I’ve removed our own spells and used the standard names from Labyrinth Lord’s Advanced Edition Companion.

One thing we’ve done on our own list is to slightly adjust the spell’s flavor to better suit the color it ended up in. For instance, in our list the illusionist spell obscuring mist is in the red list so we changed it to obscuring smoke to better match red’s theme of fire. And some of the overtly-religious spells have also been re-named while keeping the same mechanical effect. Bless, for instance, became rally.

Some of the slotting decisions were arbitrary, and no doubt others will want to adjust things to their liking before giving it a try. Our own list is still in a state of flux and will probably continue to be so for some time as we keep tinkering. One thing that I did leave in from our take are the separate elemental conjuration spells (as the druid handles it) rather than the all-in-one conjure elemental magic-user spell. Splitting up the conjuration and banishment of elementals from the various elemental planes really plays to the strength of the color-based system, so I included it here.

Our basic idea is to use five wizard classes, one for each color. A wizard will only be able to cast spells of his own color or from the “colorless” list which consists of general magical function spells. An optional idea is to allow wizards of higher levels to begin getting access to lower-level spells from the two sympathetic colors (white and red for green, for instance). We haven’t quite worked out how we’ll manage that.

Another thing we’ve been thinking about is making spells of seventh-level and above require cooperative casting by wizards from two or more colors.

One thing I should say is that this does not at all, I think, turn D&D into some sort of Magic: The Roleplaying Game. The spells themselves remain the same as in the original game and the number cast per day is unchanged. This is simply an attempt to look at an alternative class system for spellcasting adventurers.

Take a look if interested and, by all means, give me some feedback on this. It has gone from something done out of curiosity to something that is looking more and more worthwhile to use in our game. In fact, my son’s enthusiasm for the idea has us working on taking some of these ideas beyond just the magic system and re-tooling our homebrew game in a more significant manner. I’ll have more on that in the near future if we keep at it.

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14 Responses to Five Color Magic

  1. Pingback: Colorful Magic « Lord Kilgore

  2. bat says:

    This is very well done and does pull in the druid and illusionist nicely.
    I just realized with this post that color magic can be considered an element of M:tG. I never played that game and was introduced to this idea through the online mmorpg Archmage that is now called the-Reincarnation. There were colors that were aligned and others opposite or neutral, so, for example a Necromancer (Black) could easily learn a Chaos (Red) spell, but would have difficulty learning and casting a Nature (Green) spell, but no bonus or penalty casting an Illusionist (Blue) spell. While it worked with a mana pool, one could introduce this idea with putting a modifier on spell-casting, depending on the spell in question being aligned with or against the caster.

    The trick was that each color also had summoning spells that called bigger and badder creatures of the respective color (alignment) as the wizard progressed and sometimes a Necromancer (black) would want to stack Treants (Green) into his territory.

    I have wanted to make an rpg for years based on that idea. Each player would be a color mage and go from there. In the mmorpg there were hundreds of guilds that would accept wizards of all colors for the tactical benefits of the different spells in combat, research and expansion.

    So, yes, great pdf!

  3. frijoles_jr says:

    I also like this idea a lot.

    I find myself in love with the idea, though of course I do disagree with many of the slotting decisions. I suspect that If I slotted the spells more in the spirit of that one game, I’d wind up with the lists being not so numerically balanced.

    If spell list length balance is desirable, I’d approach it by growing or shrinking the overall spell list (inventing new or discarding spells, or taking the idea of that game a bit further and padding out the lists with artificing or summoning), rather than with a shoehorn.

    But I do like the idea very much.

    • Kilgore says:

      I suspect that If I slotted the spells more in the spirit of that one game, I’d wind up with the lists being not so numerically balanced.

      Yes, that was very much a concern as I did this. I was of the opinion that no matter what I did, people would modify it if they wanted to use it. So this is a sort of starting point which also happens to be very close to our own list.

      I did absolutely want to avoid inventing or discarding spells. Like I mentioned, our own list has a number of new spells. A few have been dropped, too.

  4. sycarion says:

    This is a very well done list. I wish I could have come up with something this smart. At some point, I had wanted to do colors based on this “seven element” idea

    I appreciate the name changes to suit colors.

    The only change I could think of would be to use either another languages’ words for colors (Beranga, Kala, Nila, Hara, Lala, Safeyda) or conceptual names instead of colors. (Common, dark, mind, life, transition, light). Still, the color system is great, too – just a couple ideas.

    I wonder if I could do the same with psionics… Hmmm.

  5. Praetorius says:

    I like the concept, creative and a nice spin on the spell system. It seems tilted towards fleshing out the magic-user and isn’t that what the kits did (what was that, 2e, 3e?) Also, I liked the idea of a master spell pool and allowing the player to shape their character by their spell choices. Granted, it’s hard not to gravitate towards the really powerful, especially early on.

    I never personally had issues with the druid, or cleric (in fact I love the cleric) although I admit the illusionist was a tough sell for a PC.

    Anyway, this sounds more negative than I intended… nice job on a fun alternative.

    • Kilgore says:

      I don’t really have issues with the druid, it’s just that in our games (usually urban or underground) there are relatively few chances for him to “do his thing.”

      And I also like the cleric. My first character was a cleric and I’ve had a few really fun ones. But the class seems to be a construct for the game rather than something out of the stories and literature that inspired it. That’s not a problem, but I’ve always sort of thought the class seemed contrived. At the same time, I wanted the healing and protection type magic, so this color scheme fits it all in.

      • Praetorius says:

        This also fits in with my feeling that magic (if you include it at all) is part of the “fabric” of life in a fantasy campaign, like verbal communication. So spell casting is to magic like language is to speaking.

        A regional “dialect” if you will, could exist among spell casters. In this case though, dialect refers to how spell casting power is derived. In one region it could be the traditional “giant pool” of spells that anyone who is a magic-user can learn and in another, your schools of color could be the norm.

        As others have put much more succinctly than I, it’s a nice way to introduce foreign concepts that take the players out of their comfort zone.

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  7. Great writeup – I really like this idea and might very well slot it in my own system (heck, not sure I can call them houserules anymore…) for the Magic User. And, of course, I’ll want to pull in a few of Magic: the Gathering’s spells for flavor (and as an easter egg for any players who played M:tG back in the day).

    Anyway, as always, inspiring stuff.

  8. David Macauley says:

    I’d definitely like to use this in a future campaign, thanks LK. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Five Color Magic Text Doc « Lord Kilgore

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  11. ze Bulette says:

    Late to the party, but just wanted to tell you that I really like this. It’s the type of mod or hack I like – modest and flavorful! Thanks for putting it together.

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