Boil and Bubble: Power Reserve Magic

I had an interesting conversation with +GodBeastX the other day about how I might go about creating a magical system that would be good at creating a “combo-chain.” I totally misinterpreted what he said and the conversation devolved into other methodologies on how to do what he wanted. But it sparked an idea of my own. So the basic concept is this: some forms of fictional magic rely on separate energy reserves to use, while simultaneously sapping another energy reserve. For example, if all magic is broken into “fire wizardry”and “ice wizardry” then your “fire mana” fuels your fire spells, but also decreases your “fire mana.” In order to increase your limit you must then use your ice magic. (Note: This concept draws on the idea of “Long-Term Fatigue” presented in GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders by +Pk Levine.)

The Basic System
Use the following steps to determine the starting energy pools available. This depends heavily on how magic is broken down into groups. Note, while colleges can be individually groups – it would extremely complicated and hard to keep track of. Further, these rules assume that all casters get this reserve of energy for free, but that regular FP cannot power spells at all.

1. Determine the number of “power groups.” A power group could be as simple as “light magic” and “dark magic” or as complicated as the “wu xing” where one element counters another and nourishes yet another.
2. Determine which power groups oppose one another. Continuing our example from above, light magic opposes dark magic, while in the wu xing wood opposes earth and is in turn is opposes by metal.
3. To determine the starting power reserve divide the total number of power groups into 10; round all fractions to the nearest whole number. For example, if magic is divided into the classical four elements then the starting power reserve for each element would be 10 / 4 = 2.5 or 3 when rounded up.
4. To determine the character point cost of purchasing a higher reserve divide the total number of power groups into 3 and round up. For example, continuing our example to increase the light or dark power reserve would cost 2 points (3 /2 = 1.5 or 2 points).

How It Works
When casting a spell the energy for the spell is drawn from your power reserve just as if it were FP. Each point of power reserve spent also increases your accumulated power residue (APR) by one. The maximum size of your power reserve is reduced by your total accumulated power residue. For example, if you had a power reserve of 10 and cast a spell that cost 3 PR then you’d also accumulate 3 APR.

Getting rid of APR from a power reserve requires that you spend points from its opposite. PR recover at a rate of 1 point per 10 minutes.

Other than how the magic itself is fueled nothing else changes. Because of how PR and APR interact with one another you must use opposite forms of magic.

Getting Tricky
Changing how APR are shed could create entirely different systems. For example, imagine if the only way to shed your APR in a magic system featuring the four classical elements is to spend time in or near your element and they are shed at a variable rate. For example, you might get back 1 APR (Fire) every two minutes for being near a volcano, 1 APR every five minutes for being in a raging inferno of a burning house, 1 APR every ten minutes for being near a bonfire, and 1 APR for being in a hot (but not humid) environment. Being immersed in water or in an arctic environment means it’s impossible to shed APR.

Picking Over the Bones
The idea of using LFP for other things is starting to grow on me quite a bit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Long-Term Fatigue Points are an absolutely brilliant idea (kind of like +Douglas Cole‘s Control Points). I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can repurpose them for.

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  1. Weapons of the Gods did a similar thing, in that it mechanically forced you to switch up powers every once in awhile, but it did it by giving you 5 different "chi" pools that could only power certain things, and they all had a recharge, but it was slower than you were going to end up spending. The net result is that people were forced to "switch" between styles.

    It does much the same thing you're trying to do here, but without the added cost of tracking yet-another-stat.

  2. Interesting. By the way you say "Track another stat" I get the impression like that's a bad thing. Depending on the campaign I personally don't see a problem with it. I could get crowded if too many options are combined – I'll give you that.

  3. A thought that occurred to me was to turn the separate APRs actually into separate tally pools. There's a few ways you can go from there, but the main one that developed in my mind was:

    All magic is tied to the four elements. Casting a spell pushes one out of alignment with a human's natural 'balanced' state, incurring tally in that element. The only way to reduce tally is to cast a spell in the opposite element.

    It needs a a way to keep spell casting from being trivial so a mage doesn't just rebalance himself at every opportunity; PR or fatigue should be fine. Also, spell types must be strongly segregated. All attack spells are fire, all defense are earth, etc. I'm imagining a desperate, exhausted mage contemplating one last fire spell, knowing it just might incinerate him too….

  4. This was part of the combo conversation too. I was trying to model the Black mage from Final Fantasy 14 a bit, which I thought was a cool system. Instead of waiting for mana to refill before you could use mana again, you could cast opposite spells (Fire and Ice in that game) to get energy back. Ice was less destructive than fire, but it made sure the mage was always able to cast SOMETHING!

    I like your method way better of course =)

  5. Well, if you want to track numbers for the fun of it, then sure. But consider:

    I have Fire Magic 5 and Water Magic 5. I cast a fire spell for 3 points. I now have 2/5 Fire Magic and 5/5 Water Magic. Then I cast another fire spell for 2 points. I have 0/5 Fire Magic. If I want to cast another spell, it must be Water Magic.


    I have 5 Fire Magic and 5 Water Magic. I cast a fire magic spell. I now have 2/5 Fire magic, 3 fire APR and 5/5 Water Magic. I cast another fire magic spell for 2 points. I have 0/5 fire magic and 5 fire APR and 5/5 Water Magic. If I want to cast another spell, it needs to be water magic.

    These two are identical, except the latter has an additional number to track. What's the difference?

    The only real difference I can see is that in the former case, I could sit around and recover fire magic, while in the latter case, I couldn't possibly cast another fire spell EVER until I cast the equivalent water magic, and in so doing, I would generate water APR, which means once I fully recover fire, I need to cast it all if I ever want to regain water magic.

    You also have other suggestions on how to shed APR, but those could be turned around and made into "Ways you can regain your elemental-specific power reserves." That is, the only way I can recover fire magic is to hang out near a volcano, or cast water spells. Again, you get the same effect.

  6. THis was intentional – you have to cast a diametrically opposed spell when you get too full – so awesome. THat's what I was going for.

    All your other suggestions – *very* interesting. Hmmm.

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