Rob Donoghue had a cool post last week about using different classes of mana to power 4e-style powers. The idea is that your more powerful (“encounter” and “daily”) powers cost mana that’s generated by using your less powerful (“at will”) abilities. In addition to nicely solving the problem with alpha strikes, or just people using up their cool powers and getting bored when they get down to at wills, it also removes a bit of the metaness of such powers. That is, instead of something arbitrarily usable only once per day or per combat, it’s at least now something that has an in-story rationale (even if that rationale is a mostly gamist mana pool).
I haven’t played much Magic, but I’ve been playing a lot of Guild Wars 2 and some Warhammer Fantasy lately. Thus, the following energy categories leaped almost fully formed into my brain.
The purview mostly of heavily armed and armored warriors, this energy is powered by battle lust and adrenaline. It is used for abilities that allow the user to hit harder and shrug off pain.
One point is generated whenever the character is hit by an attack (even if the damage is reduced to nothing). At-will abilities that generate this energy include Power Attack (trading attack for damage) and Wild Blow (trading defense for damage).
Meanwhile, lightly armored physical characters tend to rely on the “energy” of motion and staying ahead of the opponent. It is used for abilities that allow the user to hit more easily, maneuver the opponent, stay out of harm’s way, and act sooner in the turn order.
One point is generated whenever the character is missed by an attack (or saves against a spell). At-will abilities that generate this energy include Careful Strike (trading damage for attack) and Combat Expertise (trading attack for defense).
The province of dark mages, this energy is drawn from the power in blood itself. The types of effects it powers vary based on how evil blood magic is within a given setting, but it is a natural fit for vampiric effects.
One point is generated whenever the character takes slashing damage (possibly of a minimum amount based on level), either dealt by an opponent or self-inflicted. At-will abilities that generate this energy tend to require a bladed melee weapon and cut an opponent to bleed freely.
Both forces for good and forces for evil can find great power in the energy of the soul itself. It can power effects that control, heal, or blast with the very force of consciousness.
One point is generated whenever the character willingly expends life energy (in the form of a minimum number of HP). At-will abilities that generate this energy are either psychic drains (for unsavory users) or less effective attacks that nonetheless allow the (more savory) attacker to fan the flames of his or her own soul.
Harder to come by than life force, the direct energy of a deity is useful to all manner of priests. It can be used to replace any other type of energy in any ability taught by the character’s church.
One point is generated by fulfilling one of the character’s ethos requirements (i.e., a list of deity-specific actions that grant Grace). There are no at-will abilities that grant this energy, but certain abilities powered by other energy types may grant Grace on an exceptional/critical success.
Mages and some priests have the ability to absorb and channel the very power of the elements. This energy fuels extremely large and explosive magics.
One point is generated whenever the character takes elemental damage. At-will abilities that generate the energy are cantrips with limited effect and targets.
Note: Some settings may track each elemental type separately, with some in opposition. For example, unleashing an at-will Cold attack may create heat energy that the character can use to launch a Fire attack.
The rarest of energy types, arcane power is the pure, unspecialized energy of the cosmos. This energy can replace any other type in a mage’s abilities, and can also be used to enchant items.
It is only generated by willingly destroying a magic item or having access to a rare, naturally occurring source of power.
Certain martial artists and psions can deliberately expend their own personal mental energy. This energy can be used for a wide variety of physical and psychic effects.
It is generated by meditation. Unlike other forms of energy, a character will often start a battle with several points of it, but be unable to generate more easily during the fight.
I envision this as generally following a couple of simple rules. If you have more of any energy type than your level, you lose a point of each overfull type per round. If you have less than or equal to your level, you lose a point per minute (and generally won’t have to start counting until out of combat). So a fifth level character with 7 Fury and 6 Momentum loses one point of each on the next round and one point of Fury the round after.
Too many types of energy could be prohibitive to keep track of, particularly for the GM. Most characters will only have abilities that use and generate a couple of types, so can disregard the others. For example, a wizard hit by an attack is technically owed a point of Fury, but if he doesn’t have any relevant abilities, he doesn’t need to track it. Meanwhile, NPCs should probably by eyeballed by the GM rather than tracked precisely, unless you’re up for the bookkeeping.
I really like Rob’s suggestion that “utility” spells are just a quicker version of a ritual that you use in combat. The energy types above would probably phrase the long-term casting of such a power differently for different sources. That is, a Fury, Momentum, Elemental, Willpower, or Grace ritual may simply have a level requirement with the assumption that the character can typically generate the requisite energy easily in non-combat rounds and only the size of the personal “battery” is important. Meanwhile, a Blood, Life Force, or Arcane ritual might have very specific energy costs, as those energy types tend to require a sacrifice in items, personal health… or the blood or energy of others.