Originally posted October 2008

I had this idea for a magic/psychic damage system while playing Mass Effect tonight and thinking about how to differentiate all the Roman numerated weapons where the rating doesn’t seem to matter much. As a side effect, any setting that uses it has an easy time explaining why casters don’t just run around with plate and broadswords. On the downside, it may be somewhat unwieldy for tabletop play, as it uses a chart and multipliers.

The basic idea is as follows (and you can substitute psionics or some such for magic in a space opera setting):

  • Magical armors, magical weapons, and pure magic attacks and defenses are rated on a more or less traditional scale: +1 through +10.
  • The magical number does not add directly to damage/resistance. Instead, the attacker’s magic number is divided by the defender’s magic number to serve as a multiplier for damage. For example, an attacker with a level 4 weapon does double damage against a defender with level 2 armor. Conversely, an attacker with a level 2 weapon does half damage against a defender with level 4 armor.
  • Besides being expensive, wearing magic armor and using magic weapons is hazardous to the wielder. Each swing of a weapon or hit taken while wearing armor unleashes a surge of raw mystic force into the bearer: powerful items emit coronal displays with each swing or impact. The bearer takes damage proportional to the magic rating (e.g., 5 damage per swing with a +5 sword, 3 damage per impact when wearing +3 armor).
  • Characters can inure themselves to this effect by building up a magical tolerance (functionally equating to character level). A character with tolerance 4 could use +4 or lesser items with no difficulty, the magic rolling off his or her back, but would still receive damage from +5 or greater items (though less than an intolerant bearer).
  • Magic users themselves would find their spells limited or even crippled by developing a tolerance to magic. Thus, they constantly find themselves being shocked by even the weakest of items, as their systems eagerly absorb the raw energy.
  • Thus, mighty warriors bear blades of singing magic and armor girded by mystical runes, but true magicians must rely on spells to approximate such attacks and defenses without the feedback effect.