My favourite magic systems are from Ars Magica (and to a degree, MAGE), and the effects based system from For Faery Queen and Country.
The principle of Nothing From Nothing (and presumably, Nothing Into Nothing) I like a lot. Which means you can get shot of Creo and Perdo. It’s really just about seeing, controlling and changing
I think all Arcane spells should be prepared with an effect based system. But they need to be written. The spell is then cast by reading the spell from the paper. Arcanists can have lots of spells prepared/designed.
Sky – the element of air and weather. The satrapy of the kingdoms of night and day and the passage of the Sun and Moons.
Fire – the volatile and violent element. It provides warmth and light but also pain and death. Formed by the the leftovers when the Sun escaped from Darkness. Now it lies underground, hiding from the Sun.
Waters – in small amounts this is vital and harmless. In large amounts unfathomable and murderous. The realm of venomous and lurid creatures.
Stone – the ground beneath us and the Chthonic monsters who cause earthquakes with their movement. Their movement is linked to the lines of power and their eggs to the Wyrd places. The Earth traps and smothers fire.
Metal – where fire (the escapee) turns earth (the solid and ancient power) to water. A usurper force, the magic of metals is in the forging of superior weapons and armour.
Spirit – the great linking force. The thing that binds us all. From humans to animals to demons. Sickness is a result of the Spirit being unbalanced. Injuries can be healed through the spirit. Animals summoned and communicated with. Demons called or cast out.
As for the mechanics.
Effect based system describes the number of successes needed. As a comparison: Think each 5 points in Ars Magica being 1 success. So sometimes you’ll need 6+ successes.
Points Range Space Duration Intensity
0 Touch Hand Instant 0 (paper)
1 Close (10m) Human 1 second 1 (cloth)
2 Medium (50m) Room 1 minute 2 (wood)
3 Extreme (200m) Building 1 hour 3 (metal)
4 Line of Sight Town 1 day 4 (stone)
5 Country City 1 week 5 (diamond)
6 Continent Country 1 month 6 (Hardest Known)
7 World Continent 1 season 7 (Mithril)
8 Dimensional World 1 year 8 (Magical Alloys)
9 Multidimensional Reality Permanent 9 (Unobtainium)
That’s a lot. But that’s the sort of magic that infects a city with pestilence. 1 Success for the 1d6 Pestilence, 5 successes for the area the size of a City. 6 successes, Yikes! Even higher if you want a higher intensity pestilence.
So. How would we do that.
We want to send death to a city through the air. We will be corrupting the air with unnatural vapours. Super.
You can just roll your Path dice. So that’s d6-d12 providing up to 2 successes. We have d8 in Air.
You’ll likely need a bucket of Wyrd dice too. So spend a week in a cave at the intersection of ley lines. One d6 per day. Add in your own life force (say STR d8) and it means you can sacrifice hit points for extra successes. Yay.
Ley Lines, consuming certain lotus infused things etc, sacrifices at ley lines etc etc etc.
Hitting minimum successes sends an intensity d6 disease through the city. Lots of deaths. Extra successes can bump that to d12.
If you have a dice roller here, roll d8 (path of air) and 7d6 (each day in the ritual in a power cave) and see how many extra successes we need to hit 6
Whoops. Only 2 successes. Gotta find more helpers, some consuming of magical plants, maybe some auto successes from certain events and sacrifice some hit points.
Optional rule: 2 **1** results means a 2 bump magical mishap. 1st gives a d6. Second bumps to d8.
Magic becomes unpredictable, expensive in time and resources but also deadly. And dangerous to the caster. Who could have used Spirit rather than HitPoints. But having a weakened spirit might leave them open to possession during a magical mishap
If the magician has a sympathetic connection to the target (a scrap of bone, a hank of hair), then Range is considered 0, no matter what the actual range is. And this includes crossing dimensional barriers. Magic, as it is made up of the stuff that formed the multiverses, is not concerned with distance.
Foci and Trappings
Magicians can add foci objects and trappings (rituals, practices) to increase the Effects of their magic. Every focus or trapping adds 1 to the effect at a sacrifice of time. Also, if a focus is defined, then it must be present for the magician to cast their magic. A focus is usually a portable item they carry everywhere (wand, pendant, staff).
Trappings are like foci. They are time consuming things the magician must do. As a rule, each level of the trapping is taken from the Duration column and the corresponding points added to the other levels of the effect. For instance, a ritual taking 1 minute would add an Effect of 2.
The magician can use a Universal Nexus to boost their power without recourse to using their own life force. A Nexus is a conjunction of time and space where the links between worlds are stronger and the barriers between dimensions are thinner. A Nexus will commonly be a reputedly haunted or sacred space and the veneration of these spaces contributes to their power. At a physical Nexus, the magician has an extra 2 points of Effect. At a temporal Nexus, the magician has an extra 2 points. These are cumulative. Calling on dimensional energies at Stonehenge on an Equinox will be pretty effective.
Famous nexuses include Stonehenge (or indeed, any of a thousand other stone circles in the British Isles and Western Europe), It includes places of worship, temples and burial places across the world where the emotional and spiritual outpourings of humanity have charged the fabric of reality.