Continuing my look at a Warhammer Fantasy (WFRP) setting using D&D 5e ruleset.
Magic in the Old World is quite different from your standard D&D world. Short of rewriting the magic system – which I don’t see the point of if you want to play D&D – here are some rules to have more of the feel of Old World magic in a D&D campaign. First a primer on Warhammer Fantasy Magic.
– THE NATURE OF MAGIC –
As Magisters (aka magic users) see it, to use magic is to give shape to the stuff of raw Chaos. A wizard uses his will and his very flesh to form a conduit between this world and the immaterial realm (known as the Aethyr and the Realm of Chaos), drawing power from the “winds” of magic. Through training, willpower and inborn talent, a Magister may summon fire, create illusions or transmute lead into gold. At the same time, he may bring disaster, or attract the attention of unseen eyes. Many whisper that Daemons ride the Winds of Magic, ever keen to spot those who tarry in their domain. Whatever the truth of this may be, it is commonly accepted that magic is a fickle mistress, with faces both cruel and kind.
– THE WINDS OF MAGIC –
Just as the emblem of Chaos has eight arrows, so does magic have eight winds. They blow across the world, carrying the energy of Chaos with them. While raw magic is unified within the Realm of Chaos, when it comes into this world it refracts into eight “colours”, known collectively as the Winds of Magic. Spellcasters gain their power by tapping into these Winds of Magic. Some do so by joining an Order dedicated to study of one colour of magic. Others do so by prayer, luck or instinct. Since they are playing with the essence of Chaos itself, whatever their methods, all spell casters risk their lives and even their souls when they practice magic.
Winds of Magic provides details on the eight winds. It includes the colour of each wind, its common name, runic name, and the name of the arcane order that studies that wind. Any human practitioner of magic must be a member of the College of Magic. Rogue magic users are dangerous as they can become uncontrolled conduits to the Realm of Chaos. Witchunters are tasked with the job of hunting down rogue casters and ending their lives. Though it is not unheard of for a witchunter to bring in a particularly talented or young witch or hedge wizard to Altdorf for training in the College of Magic.
– TYPES OF MAGIC –
There are two main types of magic: arcane and divine. Arcane spellcasters, typically known as Wizards, use magical formulae and personal will power to command and control the Winds of Magic. Divine spellcasters, typically known as Priests, use faith and religious rituals to work magic. Thus Wizards believe that their own inner strength powers their spells, while Priests believe that their spells are gifts from the Gods in return for devotion and prayer. Divine Magic tends to be safer than Arcane Magic because it is so highly ritualised. All magic has its risks, however, as is amply demonstrated by Dark Magic. This is a subset of Arcane Magic, whose practitioners are willing to take even greater personal risks for increased power.
In terms of D&D, divine spellcaster remains unchanged and play as written with the one exception of adding the “Wrath of the Gods” check when casting. Arcane casters get their own treatment below.
– MAGIC AND THE RACES –
Halflings and the Dwarfs seem to possess a resistance to the influence of the Aethyr, and they do not have spellcasters like the other races. Dwarfs should have access to a type of rune magic. If you don’t want to create something from scratch (personally I am a proponent of not reinventing the wheel) you could use the rules from Storm Kings Thunder or the Kobold Press Rune Magic rules. Both work fine.
Amongst the Elves, the ability to manipulate this power seems commonplace, if not “natural” to their highborn kind. In Humans, only a few are born with the power to see and use the Winds of Magic. Of every thousand babies born, perhaps one may possess a talent with magic. Of every thousand with talent, one may have a remarkable talent, and for every ten thousand with a remarkable talent, there may be one powerful enough to become one of the legendary Battle Wizards. In most, lack of training means that their abilities never emerge, or manifest as minor strangeness and “hedge” wizardry.
– CASTING SPELLS –
When you want to cast a spell, you must draw upon the power of the Winds of Magic and focus it into your desired effect (the chosen spell). To do this make a concentration check with a DC equal to 10 + Spell Level. If you fail this check the spell fizzles and is wasted. If you critically fail you have drawn the eye of a Chaos power and must additionally roll on the Tzeentch’s Curse table for arcane casters and the Wrath of the Gods for divine spellcasters (alternatively you can just use the Wild Magic Table provided with the Wild Magic Socerer in the Player’s Handbook). To make up for this unreliablity and personal risk involved in the casting of arcane spells, a successfully cast spell either increases its damage die by 1 or impose disadvantage on the saving throw.
– VARIABLE WINDS –
Spellcasting assumes an average amount of energy is available from the Winds of Magic, but this is not always the case. There are places of power, where magic is infused in the landscape, that spellcasting is easier. Conversely, in some areas, the winds blow but lightly, making it more difficult. Certain times of the year can provide similar boons and penalties. When the Chaos moon Morrslieb is full, for example, magic is in the air.
DMs can reflect these variable winds in two ways. First, the DM can give a bonus or penalty to the concentration check or even grant advantage. Second, the DM can provide a proficiency die to roll (DMG pg. 263) or take them away. Spellcasters can detect such areas with a successful Intelligence (Arcana) check.