Thursday, April 12, 2012

A to Z Challenge: K is for Kinesis

Adept by JasonEngle

As I may have alluded to in my hastily drawn up posts on Catalysts I treat magic and elementalism a bit differently in my games.   Traditionally in the D&D / Vance spellcasting ethos elemental effects and spells were completely intertwined.  One did not throw fire at someone, they hastily recounted some arcane syllables and sent a tiny mote of fire to explode in a luminous sphere off in the distance.  Elements precipitated from magic.  What I would like to try is elementalism for its own sake without need of a spellcasting prerequisite.

What I would like is to have something more akin to pyromancy or aeromancy, the mancer binding the chosen element to his will and shaping it to her needs.  I would like it be fairly freeform but within a defined framework, which as you can imagine is excruciatingly difficult to lay out in rules text.  I also want it to be limited in scope so as to not overshadow non-mancers but also so that it doesn't simply bulldoze common problems that traditional models uphold.  This system is by far the most unrefined in the rules set I'm developing.  I've been pondering for a while the many ways to implement and it has gone through many revisions and likely more to come.  For now I'll just stick with the gist of it.

There are two character classes that have Kinesis built into their chassis.  Each of which handle kinesis in different ways related to how they interact with the world and the flow of mana (a catch-all term that both fuels and describes elemental effects).  One, we'll call M, bends the elements to their will forcing and perverting nature to do its bidding.  The shapes it creates are no natural phenomenon, a watery fist rising from a lake, a stone spire that encases its target in a tomb, tiny embers that move in a marionettes dance.  On the other side of the spectrum, we'll call E, is attuned to the natural world. They call upon the elements generating storm clouds, icy winds, flaring fires, crashing waves and swaying trees.  One takes from the land and uses it for their own choosing, the other beseeches the land to do what it was already capable of.  That is the basic dichotomy.

Now as I was saying before the power and range of effects comes into play here.  If there aren't strict guidelines on what you can do then whats to stop your terromancer from simply warping the stone around a gate. Suddenly a locked and barred sturdy door, a major obstacle for many an adventuring party, is rendered obsolete.  To limit that we can reduce the number of times the ability can use (spells per day for instance) or we can limit its effects.  Now if we limit that to high levels I'm sure many of us can think of a scene where a powerful mage (or magnetic mutant) merely rips a door or wall apart rather than fool with the puzzle that troubled the adventurers earlier.  There are other ways to limit it, restricting the number and type of elements they can manipulate is one such way but I'll save that for another post.


  1. You could also work it into the plot as well. Say perhaps that using elemental powers beyond a certain point creates tiny tears in the fabric of reality where frightening otherworldly creatures can crawl out and wreak havoc. So if your party decides to bust down every door they come across, they're simply creating more monsters/minibosses to terrorize the locals and eventually face themselves.

    1. This. This is a great idea. Although instead of beyond the stars Cthulu monsters instead it could summon Elementals and other elementally themed creatures (flaming rats, frost spewing moths).

      Thanks so much for the input!

  2. My proclivity towards Lovecraft always shows, eh? Hah!