I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The beauty of Magic Points (MP)

There are innumerable magic systems out there. The "Vancian" spell slots might be the most famous one among people who play RPGs, but for anyone who has never played D&D, it will almost always sounds like something novel and a bit bizarre.

One popular alternative in videogames is magic points (MP), spell points, mana points, etc.. This is not so common in fiction, for a number of reasons*. One reasons is that this method seems to logical, too "quantifiable", too... videogamey, I guess.

I once thought MP to be too "rational", too... However, I've come to realize there are also many benefits to this approach.

Let us mention a few. You COULD use some of this with spell slots or random casting, but MP just makes it a lot easier easier.

1. Less notes/charts. MP requires less bookkeeping when compared to Vancian magic, and less "chart checking" when compared to random results.

2. Better than HP. You could always use hit points (HP) instead of MP, but that brings other issues. First, if you can heal HP using magic, this could bring you infinite HP. In addition, all wizard would require lots of HP to function... which goes against the archetype.

3. Divisibility and party composition. If a fighter recovers half HP overnight, or 10% of HP in an hour, etc., how many spell slots does a wizard recover? Unless the answer is "all", it becomes complicated. MP could recover at the same rate as HP, making all members in te party recover their resources at the same time.

4. Short rest/long rest. Even if you want to keep a distinction between these two, MP makes things easier. Maybe wizards recover more MP overnight, but sorcerers recover more MP during a short rest.

5. Fueling MP. You can fuel your MP through various means - provided your know the rituals. Prayer, meditation, trance, study, ritual sacrifice... the possibilities are endless, and a great way of distinguishing spellcasting classes WITHOUT needing a different system for each.

6. Sacrificing MP. Sacrificing your MP FOREVER is a great way to cause permanent effects upon the world. Maybe it is even the only way of creating magic items, etc.

7. Temporary MP. On the other hand, being in the right place or time (the stars are right!) might give you temporary MP. Failing to use MP will bring your MP level slowly back to its usual rate.

8. Meta-magic. MP is great for meta-magic. For example, spend 2 additional MP and double the distance of the spell. Spend 10 additional MP and multiply the duration for 10 (or 1000, depending on your system, etc.)

9. Combining with other systems. You can always combine MP with other systems - maybe you must sacrifice some HP permanently to get MP, for example, or make a roll to see if your spell causes unintended side-effects or, if your roll is good enough, costs you no MP at all.

[EDIT]. 10. Mana potions! Potions, stones, ley lines... several items that could give you extra MP in an easier way than spell slots. Additionally, magic items can store MP for their own spells. It is only appropriate to include this, since this month's topic in the RPG blog carnival is alchemy!

Since I often play D&D-like games, if I were to use such a system, I would like to make it compatible to existing spells. 5e already has rules for this, but I'd try something even simpler... Maybe something like that:

- You get your Intelligence modifier + level in MP.
- A 3rd-level spell requires 3 MP, etc.
- You cannot use more than half your MP at once, or you risk catastrophe.

The exact amount of MP may vary... Probably add a few MP when you reach levels 5, 11 and 17, etc.

* Well, the most common explanation in fiction might be "it is magic, we don't have to explain it". Sometimes this is due to bad writing, but sometimes the authors just want to make magic mysterious.


While we are on the subject, I have a book called Dark Fantasy Magic. It contains shorts essays and many tables that deal with magic, wizards, spells, etc. You can find it by clicking on the link above.

If you like this, you'll find more stuff like this on my Dark Fantasy line.

It is also a great way to support this blog!

Hope you enjoy it! Thanks!


  1. The 5E D&D Dungeon Master's Guide, page 288-289, includes a variant spell point system.

    1. Yes, thank you! Like I've said, "5e already has rules for this, but I'd try something even simpler""

  2. Very interesting points. I would just like to say that Int. Mod. + level would feel very, very weak for most players; whereas a viable alternative might be to have a gain of Int. Mod. points per level, or 1 + Int. Mod., which would both allow for comparable levels of spellcasting to the base game's wizards. The latter option gives significantly more points than the 89 that the spell slots of a Lv. 20 character would be converted to, if the character has 18 or 20 Intelligence [100 or 120 vs. 89]; whereas the former would have a 20 Intelligence caster *just barely* edge out the base game's spellcasting capabilities with 11 more points than the slot-to-point conversion rate would have allowed, if normal level progression were followed.

    Obviously, this would invalidate your "spending more than half MP at once is dangerous" option, with the exception of if it meant "half of current MP," but one could create a similar sense of danger by suggesting that one can only cast spells that they would be skilled enough to cast in the base game, given the class's progression, and that casting more than one of each level for 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells caused a chance of some negative consequence occurring.

    1. Yeah, that's a good idea. Int. Mod. + level is weak compared to 5e as written. Still trying to come up with the perfect formula, something simple and with few exceptions.

  3. You could have also have MP regained whenever a player spends a HD to recover HP. This would also let MP be recovered at a faster rate through a bard's Song of Rest.

    There could be magic items (single use?) that would permanently add 1d6 or 1d8 MP for a PC, or a scroll that, when translated, teaches them to cast a spell for fewer MP than normal.

    And I like the simplicity of Level plus Int Mod, but I'm leaning towards Int (or whatever mod) times your Proficiency Bonus. You'd end up with 30 (36?) MP near endgame, you get around 6 to 8 to start with, just enough to be useful all day without being overpowered in the beginning.

    Not sure how'd this work with Warlocks. Maybe a smaller pool, but it refreshes also on a short rest? Or leave them with spell slots?

    Now I really want to combine this with the old "Paths of Power" article for 2E. Completing a path giving you new spells, or different metamagic to apply, etc.

    1. I like the idea of giving more uses to HD.

      Also, Int times prof bonus is a really cool idea, the amount of MP you get is a lot closer to what 5e already does.

      Not sure about warlocks, etc. TBH, I am not even sure I like the warlock/sorcerer idea, those are just different magi-users IMO.

  4. I've been using a MP point system for all the classes in my "Once More" system: https://slightadjustments.blogspot.com/2020/04/once-more.html

    A few fun things I had was that melee classes often have "expend the rest of your MP" as the cost, and Barbarians are buffed while they are at 0 MP. Since all classes can share MP in thematic ways, I'm predicting that the Barbarian will often give the Wizard party member all of their MP via mead!

    1. That's a cool idea!

      And I really love what you did with classes! 36 (in 6 themes) is a good number. The whole system is very interesting, will use as inspiration top work with inspiration points (pardon the pun)!