The magic system is one of the systems that excites me most about Ultimate ADOM besides amputations & grafting and possession (both to be covered in upcoming blog posts). If you look at ADOM’s magic system from a neutral point of view you will have to admit that it is kind of bland: there is a variety of combat spells (bolts and balls) that mostly vary by the type of elemental or energy damage they cause and (for bolts) if they bounce or not. Then there are a few healing spells, utility spells (for opening doors, etc.) and that’s about it. Somehow the excitement of magic is severely lacking here.

If you look at many other games they have similar problems: tons of combat, protection and healing spells and sometimes a few elemental creation spells to bring walls of fire, lakes of water or whatever into existence. And maybe some item enchantment spells sprinkled in. Still this is far from exciting.

So we started to wonder: What would make for a truly exciting magic system? Our answers are:

  • Different categories of magic that feel truly different in how they interact and alter the game world (and not just by offering differing type of elemental specializations – although “elemental” for sure is one nice category).
  • Spell effects that go far beyond the standard receipts seen in so many games: Combat magic is a must have – but not really exciting. Healing, protection, movement – check. All boring standard stuff. Possession? Could be a nice one if it really allows you to play almost anything – but other games like MidBoss have gone this route and this feature alone for sure is not enough to make a game truly unique.
  • Interaction with the world based on the “physics” of a magical fantasy world: That’s a must have. We really need to think through the effects spells have on the world when being used because this creates interesting tactical combinations. Take the spells in ADOM and their stark limits:
    • No matter how many fireballs you cast in a tunnel – for some reason the walls never get destroyed. Even with fantasy physics combat spells should seriously alter the landscape (yes, you can do that with the Earthquake spell in ADOM – but that’s a rare thing to use and not that much fun either; and yes: items get destroyed by some spells – but is this really a good feature increasing the fun you have with a game?).
    • You can freeze ice – but you can’t turn it into steam.
    • There’s blood on the ground – but it’s just visual effects. You can’t slip on it or whatever (you can’t slip on ice either BTW).
    • Explosions seem to be rather silent – at least they don’t attract any monsters with their noise. So sound aspects are an interesting area currently untouched.
  • True specialization: A 10th level wizard should be able to specialize in such a way that she is very different from the next 10th level wizard (if the players wants to breathe fresh air). So we need a much better talent system in place that does more than just alter some boring parameters of spells (like range or damage).
  • Different magic systems for different areas of magic – I’m pointing to the way priestly magic might differ from the scholarly magic of wizards.
  • Unique spell effects: We really want to do different things nobody has done before. Basically to bring back the magic into magic.

I’d like to elaborate the last two points for the rest of this blog post (more to come in later posts):

1. Different Magical Systems

Again looking at ADOM magic used by wizards and priests basically is the same. They even share the same spell lists although the spell names differ for them. We really want to change this for Ultimate ADOM by introducing divine magic and arcane magic as magic systems with subtle differences in how you interact with them:

  • There will be differences in spell lists:
    • Priestly magic will be more concerned with healing, divination, protection and the occasional wrath of the gods combat spell.
    • Druid magic will be focussed on nature with some healing and protection sprinkled in (summoning animals, growing plants [in an interesting way], etc.).
    • Arcane magic will have various exciting transformation, alteration, movement, combat, protection and divination specializations (to name a few).
  • ADOM has life-casting to power spells (basically sacrificing hitpoints for additional magical energy). In Ultimate ADOM we want to expand on this idea:
    • Wizards and druids will have access to life-casting (wizards sacrificing their personal life energy, druids being attuned to life in general).
    • Priests will be able to sacrifice piety to power spells (as they basically gain their magic from one or more gods it seems logical that deities might get more and more annoyed about excessive requests from a follower).
    • As the war against Chaos and the temptation & corruption by power is a central theme of ADOM and Ultimate ADOM you will be able to exchange power point needs for corruption. This last option will be the most open-ended – it takes a longer while to suffer from the negative effects (and you even get more powerful in the process). I’m particularly fond of this option – maybe we will even be able to have the engine kind of judge the direness of the current situation in order to scale corruption incurred according to that (the devil wants his price).
  • There will be schools of magic (as you can see above) like Transmutation, Elemental, Necromancy, Healing, Protection and others and you will be able to specialize in them with your talents in order to build truly different setups of spellcasting characters.

Combined with a hopefully more elaborate religion system (things are still in the planning stage in this area and might truly manifest only in versions after 1.0) we hope that these features will a add a lot more flavor to the spellcasting classes.

Magical Battle

Magical Battle

Oh, and there will be a third type of magic (“hedge magic”) providing basic spells that are shared between divine and arcane spellcasters. Basically the common stuff peasants know about from stories and rumors. These spells usually will be less powerful but beneficial in minor tricky situations.

2. Unique Spell Effects

I already used past blog posts to talk about the technical benefits of having an entity component system [ECS] (e.g. here about modding Ultimate ADOM and here about animating objects and bringing them to life). The gist always is “ECS allows for incredible flexibility”.

So it seems natural to bring this flexibility to the effects of magic. And that’s exactly what we are doing.

Internally we use “effects” as an abstraction of many things that are going to happen in Ultimate ADOM – be that the effects of traps, of special powers of magical weapons, skill applications or… spells. In ADOM all this is hard-coded complex to change stuff in the code. In Ultimate ADOM this is more like Lego our assembling a puzzle with many non-unique connection points.

What does this offer? Flexibility! E.g. think about the following applications of lego-like effects that we can assemble in (almost) any way we want:

  • Picking pockets is a well-discussed thief skill. Once that skill is implemented we simply can take its effect and invent a spell that allows you to use the effect e.g. at range: “Remote Pilfering” is born as a spell. Cast it at a monster in visible range and take something from its pockets. There even might be a spell for followers of the God of Thieves that excels at this: “Major Heist” (or something like that) allowing you to rob an item of arbitrary size from a monster – even when wielded. Now imagine stealing Moloch Armor from a moloch – or the underwear of Andor Drakon (well, if he is wearing underwear – but that’s a different topic).
    So re-using effects from other domains (items, skills, class-powers) to power truly unique spell effects is one way of creating truly exciting magic because it gives spellcasters very limited access to other abilities – and at a price.
  • Combining effects can be a lot more exciting in ADOM. Think of bouncing bolts in ADOM. They have created endless funny YASD (Yet Another Stupid Death) stories because someone miscalculated the angle of a spell, carelessly used an unidentified wand or misjudged the effect of his power point expenditure when using a wand of far slaying. So combine “bouncing” with other spell effects from the list above. One of these great ideas is to use the effect of “amputation” (think “sword of sharpness”) for a bouncing spell – and thus the “Bouncing Ray of Dismemberment” spell was born. I can already see the stories this spell is going to generate.
  • Picking on an animated item

    Picking on an animated item

    Third thing is the ability to bring inanimate objects (like doors, altars, walls or whatever) to life effectively turning them into monsters (that again be charmed or whatever). We already had a blog post about this and you can see its hilarious effects in this video at around 26:30).

And there is a lot more to it – magical pulses that activate other items, features or spells. Sound effects. Coincidental damage to the world. Truly flexible environmental effects (slipping on ice, lack of air in steam clouds, etc. pp.). So we have lots of plans for the magic system in Ultimate ADOM and hope to really get you excited about it!