My take on a Fantasy Adventure MG hack.

Let me start by saying this hack is very specific to the needs of my group and doesn’t really take into consideration what others may prefer; it is more of a framework than a true and complete hack.

I started a campaign with first-time tabletop gamers (all high school seniors); none had played anything other than videogame RPG’s, yet all were very excited to try ‘D&D’.

We started with 3.5 D&D, and they thoroughly enjoyed many aspects of the game: camaraderie, role-play (a few drawn heavily into story and character- yay!), putting villains to the sword, and the like. However, they did not like the abundance of rules. Specifically, they felt overwhelmed by the action conventions (standard, move, move-equivalent, full, etc.), nor did they like that they could not simply add narrative description for the sake of theatre and/or story (frustration here derived mostly from them wanting to do something cinematic and me replying with, “That requires feat X or skill Y”, etc.).

These only served to exacerbate what I considered the primary detraction from the game: given our availability of play time-- we meet only once a week (at best) and only for 2-3 hours (at most)-- we were accomplishing almost nothing in our sessions (maybe one RP encounter/story element and one combat encounter). This impeded story progression, stymieing it so much that it became nearly irrelevant (an unacceptable outcome, imo).

So… I hacked some rules from MG and played a session. They freaking loved it!!!

Anyhoo, the specifics of that are for another thread. On to the hack…

Most of what I used I bastardized (or just took, such as racial Natures) from Rafe and Saint&Sinner’s Realm Guardhack (for two reasons: the hack is awesome and expediency). Otherwise, here’s what we did:

They were not interested in starting over, so I converted their existing characters. This meant that I didn’t need to completely flush out recruitment, so I only did what was necessary. For Rank, I used the following that converted Guard Rank into Classes.

Guard Rank Class Will Health
Tenderpaw Fighter 2 6
Guardmouse Rogue 3 5
Patrol Guard Bard 4 4
Patrol Leader Cleric 5 4
Guard Captain Wizard 6 3

As a disclaimer, my players’ characters fit into these archetypes pretty easily: a sorcerer, a rogue, a barbarian, a paladin, and a cleric.

For where the PCs were born, I used race (from which Nature is derived- see Realm Guard link above. Also, these were the races being played, so these are all I converted):

S: Laborer, Haggler
T: Choose any 1 trait from ‘a quality you were born with’ portion of recruitment

S: Armorer, Smith
T: Tough, Hard Worker

S: Nature Lore, Forest-wise
T: Alert, Nimble

S: Cook, Haggler
T: Short, Extrovert

S: Laborer, Forager (which became a separate skill when removed as part of Nature)
T: Outcast, Tall

Finally, I had to incorporate Magic, so here’s what I came up with:

Magic is a skill that can be selected using Guard (Adventuring) Experience ranks (from the recruitment section) for Bard, Cleric, and Wizard. A character with the Magic skill can spend a Fate point to substitute a Magic skill test in place of any other skill for a given test (assuming, of course, appropriate narrative description). Also, a character may use Magic to help with any test (again, assuming appropriate narrative description. Helping does not require expenditure of Fate, that’s only for testing).

Magic skill also works a bit like Nature in a few ways: a failed Magic test taxes Magic by the margin of failure and a Magic ranking of 1 or 7 is detrimental.

A Magic of 1 means that a character has overdrawn his connection to the magical weave and can no longer use Fate to substitute Magic for another test until the rank becomes 2 (which can be recovered like Nature: after delivering a prologue, returning from absence, or reducing maximum Magic rating). Until then, the character takes a trait like Jaded or Bitter (magic has failed the character). A Magic rank of 7 means the character is saturated with magic and cannot stem the flow of the energy from the weave; this is much more detrimental than a ranking of 1. With a rank of 7, the character becomes almost supernatural or an outsider and is shunned by almost everyone (the rest of the party included). If a character ends a session with a Magic rank of 7, the character must retire until at least the next spring.

Though my characters are not yet interested in item creation, I’m certain they will be. I want to be prepared for/allow them to do this, so I’ll need something for that eventually…

That’s it, in a nutshell.

My players absolutely love it. They were drawn into their characters and the story, and they latched on to the RP queues (BIG’s). The spell casters felt freed by the way we used Magic (as opposed to being restrained by standard 3.5 casting), and the other players never felt like their abilities were (or would be) made obsolete by the Magic skill. Likewise, they though the tradeoff between using Magic and not advancing a given skill was a fair balance, as was the use of spending fate to cast a spell (this idea stemmed from MrKrasotkin’s concerns regarding Fate surplus).

Finally, we were able to complete a mission (storyline) within our time constraints (while explaining/learning a new rules set!). They are hooked and can’t wait to play again.

Let me know what you think!


Sounds like a fun hack! As long as your group is having fun, then you’re doing it right. I really like the idea of having to expend Fate to fuel magic.

Also, as far as 3.5e goes, I may be doing it wrong, but when I play or DM I always encourage and allow cinematic flourishes. D&D doesn’t get it across that well, but they do encourage filling in the narrative gaps. If their action has no real consequences to the situation, I usually just let them have fun. Otherwise, I just increase or decrease the DC as needed to accomodate the action or I sometimes just make them roll a straight attribute check.

Returning to your hack, though, can the players use magic only to replace another skill test, or are there rules in place to create purely magical effects?

I hear you on the 3.5, and I tried that. However, it quickly became too much of me mediating actions to get a compromise between RAW and allowing them to do what they wanted. This made running the game unfun for myself and unfulfilling for the players (I wasn’t creating new, long-term gamers who would continue playing after high school, and I needed to sever the tether, as it were).

As for the Magic hack, I’m not sure I completely understand what you mean by ‘create purely magical effects’. Basically, they can describe their use of Magic skill however they like, so long as it is narrative appropriate.

For example, the party (after failing a versus Scout test) came across a pack of ghouls. The cleric shouted, “I’m charging up there!”

In the interest of ‘No Weaseling’, I told them that the cleric would have to make the test (Fighter vs Ghoul Nature) and that the rest of the group could help if they desired. Noting that his Fighter skill was significantly lower than his Magic skill (and that he had to make the test), he decided to spend a point of Fate (to test Magic) and ‘cast a spell’ instead of rolling (and testing) Fighter. He described that he would cast Chain Lightning (I let them reference the 3.5 spell lists for ideas and effects, completely disregarding spell level). The remainder of the players offered their help, and they passed the test, dispatching the pack of ghouls before continuing on.

In a different scenario, the sorcerer offered a helping die when the party needed to camp for the night and Survivalist was tested. His help came in the form of a simple fire spell that would ignite the fire for the evening (note that this was helping and not a test, so it did not require the expenditure of Fate).


as far as the “pure effects,” i’m referring to things that you simply can’t do with any other skills, which for my money is what makes magic . . . magical. i’m talking about things like scrying/divining, buffing players, flight . . .

Sure, they can do these, as long as it fits the narrative.

For example, one could use Magic to create a scrying effect to add a helping die to (or make a test in place of) Scout tests (or any other situation in which the group feels the spell description is appropriate- when testing Circles to find someone, for example).

Buffing players could come in the form of helping someone with a Defend or Maneuver action, or increasing strength to help with Laborer, intelligence for Scientist, etc. (again, based on appropriate narrative and group concensus).

Likewise, a player could use magic and fly instead of testing Nature for climbing (or make the entire party fly instead of testing Pathfinder to cover ground. Though, I will say, if my players plan to do this, they better be prepared to engage some aviary threats!)

Really, it’s all about how creative the player gets with his/her spell use and description (I should also note that giving the name of a spell is insufficient; I make them describe how they are using the effect specifically and to what outcome). Our group did a superb job of regulating spell use, more than once agreeing that a given use of a spell as inappropriate (the player was not allowed to use the spell to test or help, as appropriate).


So basically magic is a catch-all aid? Or are there specific obstacles your players have to hit to earn helping dice?

Whatever you’re doing seems like it’s working, though!

In essence, yes, magic is a catch-all. There aren’t any specific obstacles, just appropriate narrative description (or not).

To elaborate on an earlier example, if a player were to test Magic and fly instead of testing Pathfinder, any helpers may have a difficult time appropriately describing how they would help for that test (because they are flying).

Likewise, if a character is testing Administrator, it may be difficult for another character to describe an effective use of the Magic skill to offer a helping die for the test.

Magic is a catch-all, but it doesn’t always catch.

Very interesting. I like it! This is a really elegant way to tack on magic without totally rewriting the system.

Thanks, Krasotkin. If you (or anyone else) get a chance to use it, be sure to let us know how it went!