Simple Magic Hack for MG (and Realm Guard)

If you want a flexible but dirt-simple magic system, let’s hack it this way:

  • Add a new skill called Arcane Mysteries (or something similar), OR (and I like this better) just use Lore Mouse (in Realm Guard, this would be Lore Master). If you create a new skill for this, then during character generation it is available on the same lists as Lore Mouse, and none of the others. When used for MAGIC, it can be helped by Lore Mouse, appropriate wises, and sometimes Science and Healing.

  • When used to do MAGIC, the skill can (like Science and Militarist) be used to affect opponents normally ‘too big’ to be affected by a single character.

  • The skill has its own specific uses, but in this hack it can also be used in lieu of any other skill in the game, without requiring the trappings of said skill. This use is the invocation of magic.

** When doing such a swap, narration of the effects describes how character magically, say: finds a path, changes the weather, crosses a large body of water, and so forth. It’s important to know what skill is being supplanted by the magic, so you know what kind of effect the magic is supplying.

** Such a power has a cost. Even if the character succeeds in a test where this skill replaced another, they will still be, at the least, Tired. Repeated use when the character is already Tired will inflict increasingly more detrimental Conditions.

** If the character fails such a check, they will suffer an Arcane Backlash Twist. Use your imagination.

** A character can do this ‘skill swap’ during a Conflict for as many rolls as they like – they only deal with the consequences of passed and/or failed checks after the Conflict, but suffer such consequences above and beyond the ‘main’ results of the Conflict. Keep in mind, however, that they may actually end up dealing with the consequences of both successful AND failed magic checks after a Conflict, if they used it multiple times, and got both results.

***Note: While they might face both success and failure magic test consequences after a long Conflict, they only face one of each, maximum; they won’t get hammered with three ‘success’ consequences after a single conflict, just because they used this option three times.

That pretty much gives you a spell system right there. Swap in the Arcane Mysteries to do anything that you could conceivably do with another skill, without having the equipment for that skill on hand, narrate appropriately, and off you go.

My first impression reaction is that I really like this idea. I’ll have to mull it over a bit, but I think it’s pretty cool in the context of Realm Guard.

That is awesome. It’s exactly the kind of minimalist hack that IMO works the best.

That plus the universality and accessibility of Nature is too much.

I like the idea of a skill that lets you fight things you otherwise can’t, but the universal skill thing is game-breaking.


Ahh. Yeah. Totally see what you’re saying, Luke.

I tried to balance that out by making the consequences for using it worse than the consequences for using Nature.

As it stands, when you use Nature, there’s just the potential taxing of Nature going on… while with this, you’re picking up up Conditions even if you succeed… I thought that would balance it out enough and make Nature a more attractive option most of the time.

Do you have any suggestions for tweaking the Consequences for success/failure that balance it a bit more?

Or… hmm. Or maybe a more limited list of skills that could be supplanted with this one.


Didn’t Luke say in the Realm Guard discussions, Nature is magic (or something like that). Would it break things to bend Nature to use with normally off limit skills or situations rather than replacing it? You could still use additional consequences or something to balance it.

I think Lore Master as a skill ought to work, as opposed to using Nature. I’m not comfortable with everyone being able to tap Nature as a “magical” ability. Now, I can see Elves doing so: they have the Fey Nature descriptor, after all. It’s in their Nature to have a vast understanding of and connection to the world and the strange or exceptional things within it.

I see Lore Master working a bit like Weather Watcher: the character tests Lore Master against the creature’s Nature, with failure resulting in Tired or a twist, as per usual. This keeps magic within the normal bounds of the game so we aren’t making anything an exception. However, that might require some juggling of Nature ratings, as many of them are quite high. Then again… will a newly-formed band of rangers be going up against a dragon or balrog? Hopefully not. And if/when they do, they can still tap Nature to add to the Lore Master roll as per usual tapping Nature rules. After all, it’d be quite the event and very worthy of tapping Nature for! :slight_smile:

There could also be a Trait for it, just like there is for Weather Watcher (via Weather Sense): Ancient Knowledge or something.

I like what you’re saying, Rafe. I especially like the idea that Elves can use Nature to do magic.

Or, rather, that Lore Masters do magic, and Elves are magic.

So, what Lore Master can do:

  • Understand the Language of Beasts (as per Lore Mouse, with the same Obs). This is the most basic and most mundane, almost-normal application, probably. This has lots of genre examples that I mentioned in the Realm Guard 1.4 thread.
  • The Big Stuff. Setting Pine cones on fire with your wand. Bursts of light that drive Nazgul off. Breaking bridges with a Balrog on it. Making weapons grow too hot to hold. I might ‘gate’ this big stuff, requiring like… I dunno… rating 4? Just so you don’t have random Rangers doing this. Anyone who DID work hard enough to get to this level would, by dint of their effort, make it believable.

The only rule-change I would make is to allow Lore Master to give helping dice to your other rolls, essentially functioning like both a Wise and a regular skill. Anytime LM is used in this way, the results of the test should be described with some equivocally supernatural elements.

So, when used to help Oration, the Lore Master’s voice takes on a heavy, thundering power. When used to help Scouting, he “seems to” listen to the whispering of the trees and beasts around them, and says “the orcs are to our west; they are many.”

And so forth. I think that even at, say, a rating of 3 (about what you could max it out to during Character Creation), you could make a pretty cool, mysteriously magical character, in the very subtle-magical-vein of Tolkein.

As for Talents, here’s a couple:

  • Student of the Wise (the sort of thing Faramir would have)
  • Lore Master of Fire (or “Lore Master of {specialty here}” - Radagast would be “of Birds and Beasts”, Saruman would be something with his beguiling speech… a Trait (and use of Lore Master) that his servant Grima Wormtongue learned from him).

I HATE punishing success in my games. For the most part, I’ve found that players will just skip a mechanic unless there’s some possibility of achieving an untrammeled success. Guaranteed cost for success sucks.

As I mentioned in the other thread, I think that a magic based on adjusting a creature’s Natural Order ranking would be cool.

Magic could also act as a weapon for fights, DoWs, even war. That’s pretty powerful – having a universal weapon. It could even have different stats for each conflict.

It could act as a substitution for a couple of skills for conflict. But note well, Gandalf was a kick-ass fighter as well as wizard, so this can’t be too good.

Magic could also be used to provide tools for a skill – light, keys, etc.


I’m not sure about the Big Stuff. Remember, the characters are Rangers of the North, not Wizards. I’m not sure we want to be giving them such abilities. Aragorn had no such abilities, though he was for decades a companion of Gandalf, and Faramir, who was regarded as a wizard’s pupil, had no such abilities.

Hmmm… I love this idea, but I feel it may be problematic to have a “skill to aid all skills” kind of thing. It eliminates the need for -wises, as they’re the only FoRK in MG/RG. To have a skill that FoRKs into any other skill would be quite a shift.

To avoid over-complication, I think we ought to just have one. I like Student of the Wise as the overarching trait that ties into Lore Master. If we start introducing too many, it may end up being less Rangers of the North and more like Spellcasters of the North. :slight_smile:

The more I think about it and the more conversation here evolves, my overall thought is that we’re moving too far from Rangers of the North. I know this thread is for both MG and RG, but I’m looking at it from a RG perspective. Again, these are Rangers and not ranger/wizards.

I think I’ve posted too much on this topic this morning. I need to let it all sink in. I’m loving the ideas, but fearing the implementation.

Best fucking answer, Luke. Excellent point.

Incorporating your other points below…

What Lore Master can do:

  • As Lore Mouse, with the same Obs. This is the most basic and most “mundane”, almost-normal application.
  • It can act as a “substitution skill” for conflict. As Luke points out, this shouldn’t allow a player to sub in Lore Master for everything in every conflict; suggestion: it may be substituted in for only one action in a given conflict (only one attack, maneuver, defend, or feint).
  • It can, like Scientist, let you affect things “bigger” than you when it’s used in Conflicts - alternately, the tools it can create accomplish this.
  • Can be used to create ‘tools’ for another skill – light, while Pathfinding in series of dark tunnels, for example.

I still kind of like the idea of magic being able to give to give helping dice to your other rolls. HOWEVER…

  • You can accomplish the same thing by taking a suitable magical Wise in addition to the Lore Master skill. Yes, this means you have to get two ‘magic’ skills, to which I reply “It’s f’ing MAGIC. Suck it up.”

You’ll note, Rafe, that this pretty much removes the “Big stuff” option that you (rightly) had concerns about.

On a personal note: I have no intention of bringing Magic into a proper Mouse Guard game. I like MG just find as it is, for running Mouse Guard. Most of my examples are Realm Guard things for that reason.

I occasionally go “big” on my examples because I’m thinking of ways to use RG in a third-age game with playable hobbits, elves, dwarves and the like, so I’m considering character options beyond Dunedain rangers, some of which might have more overt magic. Have grains of salt handy.

This and the conversation in the 1.4 thread have been great, great, great. Like Rafe, I’m going to leave the threads be for awhile and let it percolate. You guys are awesome.

There we go. That hits about every concern I had about the introduction of this new facet.

(Yeah, I know… I’m still posting after saying I’d shut up…)

I agree. I think this would be better for a broader Middle Earth hack than specifically for RotN.


loads up InDesign. . .

I’ll be honest though, a broader Middle Earth hack has a great deal of appeal. Being able to add in one unusual person to a Ranger group (Lore Master, Elf, Dwarf, etc) would also be nice. Especially if you’re going for elements of troupe play which I’ve considered for a longer term campaign…

That’s a good compromise.

That’s kind of where I go with it in my head at times; the first thing I want to do after running Realm Guard is run something with more-than-rangers. :slight_smile: “Big Stuff” is the kind of thing I’d leave on the cutting-room floor for Rangers of the North, but bring in for a third age “Shadows of Angmar” game.

Glad you like that summary, Rafe.

I’m going to bask in that for a bit - seems like I spend more time stepping on your creative toes than not, so… bask. Ahh.

Ahem. Right then.

I agree. That said, the line between a MG hack and just playing BW starts to blur at this point. Do we need a MG hack for a game setting that BW covers perfectly?

What I am tempted to do at this point, though, is break RG into two PDFs: The world info with general rules hacks (a la new WoD) + a book for playing Rangers, specifically. Then do the same mini-book for Elves, Dwarves, whatever (maybe even Orcs!). With the templates already in existence, it wouldn’t take all that much, I don’t think.


… as long as there’s a Realm Guard 1.5 with this in it, before you break it apart. :slight_smile:

Yeah, v1.5 is gunna have to be v1.5: “Fuck the Layout” Edition. :wink: