Game Master's Guide

One idea that has been stressed throughout this site is that the Spheres of Power system is not only designed to allow players more control over creating and realizing their character concepts, but also to give Game Masters greater control over their worldbuilding. Specifically, Spheres of Power divides magic into multiple parts, making it easy for a Game Master to customize magic to fit their needs.

As previously discussed on this site, casting traditions grant you a level of freedom when building a world by allowing you to break the usual assumptions of a 5th edition game. Likewise, the distinction in magic spheres between basic talents and advanced talents allows you a greater level of freedom when deciding not just what types of magic exist in your setting, but also what magic can accomplish.

Certain magic changes the way a world works. For example, a world where resurrection is impossible is very different from a world where the wealthy can simply pay for a resurrection when their relative dies. Likewise, a game where even powerful wizards must ride horses is a different experience from a game where long-range teleportation is readily available. With advanced magic, instead of going through every spell to determine what magic might not be appropriate for your world (and possibly leaving magic users with few high-level spells they can choose), you can instead decide to allow or disallow advanced talents as a part or a whole depending on your needs. Perhaps in your world advanced talents are common, and magic is readily available to all. Perhaps advanced talents are only available to a select few, and gaining the knowledge of an advanced talent requires a quest in order to learn. Remember: characters do not need advanced talents to stay competative at high levels. While advanced talents can certainly do things basic talents cannot, they are not inherently better than basic talents, they are simply talents that have the possibility to change the way a game or campaign setting works.

When designing a world for a game, if you take the time to first determine which casting traditions are available, and then decide what advanced talents might or might not exist, you will find yourself with many more options than are normally available with your core 5th edition game.

Example: Tess is building a game in a custom world. In this world she has no interest in classic 5th edition tropes, and instead imagines a world where magic comes in two forms: those born with innate power, versus those that summon demons to perform magic on their behalf. She imagines these two groups being at odds, because while those who summon demons are more plentiful, only those with innate magic can sometimes possess powerful quirks. The campaign will center around this conflict, as the players will be tasked with finding and defending someone with the gift of resurrection magic so they can bring back an assassinated king.

Looking through the casting traditions in Spheres of Power, Tess decides that in her game, all magic users must have either the Natural or Pact Magic casting traditions. Pact Magic users are the only ones who can take the Conjuration sphere and may take its advanced talents, while Natural casters are the only ones that can take advanced talents from other spheres.

With this handful of choices, Tess has already created a world primed to create a unique player experience. She has created an original take on magic without homebrewing any classes, and has even determined how hard it might be to find advanced magic (a difficult quest to find someone with the right quirk, but not impossible). Now, she is ready to start planning out her campaign, knowing that the mechanics of the game will reflect the idea in her head with minimal adjustment or compromise.

Creating Custom Options

While expansive, the options presented within Spheres of Power are not exhaustive. Indeed, it would be impossible for any book to contain every possible expression of magic, which is part of why magic is such a wonderful thing.

At times, you may wish to expand the options available with Spheres of Power by creating new talents to cover a possibility not handled in this book.

When this happens, you need only to decide which sphere the ability will fall under, then compare the desired effect to other talents within that sphere. Since most spheres have a uniformity across their abilities (range, duration, etc.) the only important variables are whatever ability the new talent should represent. Remember: abilities too powerful to be used at-will cost a spell point, with additional spell points being required as the ability increases in power.

Example: As Tess’s game progresses, she decides to add some aspects of modern technology to her world, and wants some sphere effects that might specifically interact with that technology. She wants technomages who can turn technology on or off with magic, as well as magic that can grant administrative access to a computer. Since this feels like manipulating a computer as if it were a mind, she looks to the Mind sphere.

Since Mind sphere (charm) talents all have a specific format, she borrows that format and writes the following talent:

Command Computer (charm)

Duration: concentration, up to 1 minute
Saving throw: Intelligence negates (if the computer is a creature).

  • Lesser Charm: You can power a computer device, so long as it isn’t broken.
  • Greater Charm: As the Command Computer lesser charm, but you may also search and read one file on the computer, learning its contents instantly.
  • Powerful Charm: This functions as the Command Computer greater charm, except you may also issue one command to the computer, as if you had full administrative access.

The capabilities of this talent depend a lot on the setting and the computer in question (she will need either careful notes, or simply the improvisational skills to decide what each computer contains or can do), but as far as the talent is concerned, it is already finished; by tying the talent to the Mind sphere, she has already determined range, targets, cost, and how the talent interacts with other talents.

In general, new talents should not exceed the power level of talents presented in this book, and comparing any new talent to other offerings of its sphere is important. When in doubt, always increase the spell point cost of a talent you fear might be too powerful.

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