GRIMOIRES - A Magic System Implementation for VDS Hack


So, I know there are a bunch of alternative magic systems for ICRPG, but VDS has not yet received that treatment. As I hack myself a dark-ish fantasy hack of VDS, I’ve been tinkering with ideas prior to my first playtest of the whole thing. B has been awfully kind in discussing these ideas as part of the gang on the Discord (after we all engaged in a bit of discussion on the presence of social mechanics in games hehe), but it was getting too lengthy to maintain there so I’m pulling it to the forums, where it’ll have better longevity and can be appreciated by non-Patrons as well.


Grimoire Skills
Represent the knowledge obtained from a specific Grimoire of magic. Each Grimoire has a theme, and as the learner delves deeper into it, more powerful spells are revealed to them. Grimoire Skills are tiered, each with 5 tiers of power, which are unlocked in order, and correspond to the number of Ds invested in the skill. A character needs access to a Grimoire to “unlock” a Grimoire Skill for learning, and must pass a WITS roll to first unveil its secrets (not needed in chargen).

The tiers are, in short, individual effects that have different difficulties for success. Each tier has a single spell, and its resolution mechanic is as follows:
1st Tier - ANY 4, 5, or 6 - Easy to cast, but effect is contained, fixed
2nd Tier - EACH 6 - Harder to get a success, but allows for multiples
3rd Tier - EACH 4, 5, and 6 - Easy to get a sucess, and allows for multiples
4th Tier - Beat Target's SPEED - Variable in difficulty but limited to one target, allows for powerful effect - and crits
5th Tier - Beat GM's 7D roll - Struggle with the world itself to warp reality in such a powerful way

So a first tier spell in a Grimoire succeeds with any 4, 5, or 6 rolled, a second tier one succeeds with each 6 rolled, and so on, being different spells with different effects.

Some VDS Skills will surely be used as part of the Grimoires: ILLUSIONS, SKELETONS, X FACTOR are all great candidates for this and help establish a few of the themes.

The goal is to bring something new to the Core that VDS gives us, without bloating it too much with new rules. This also uncouples a bit magic from the character being “smart”; work hard at it and you’ll get there eventually (kinda like I’m doing with this hack).

(EDIT 3/24/22) Sustaining Spells. To maintain the effect of a spell - or at least try to - is as hard as casting it. Therefore, to sustain a spell, roll for it again, abiding by the new result. If it fails, the spell ends, and the caster retains their action for the turn; if it succeeds, it suceeds according to this new roll, and the caster spends their action that turn struggling to control the new effects of the spell.

(EDIT 4/1/2022) Grimoire Progression. Grimoires progress similarly to Skills, but not exactly the same, to bring the feeling of difficulty in mastering magic. The first difference is it always takes 5 + the current number of dice in sucesses on a Grimoire to earn 1D from it. That means it takes from 6 to 9 sucesses to progress in a Grimoire. The second difference is Grimoires are detached from Skills, so dice obtained from progressing in Grimoires cannot be applied to Skills. They can be applied to the progressing Grimoire itself, of course, and to a new Grimoire (otherwise how would one expand their magical repertoire?), but the character must have encoutered this new Grimoire in the game, discovering it and learning from it. Since this depends on the course of play, an addition made here is that one (and only one) Grimoire progression die can be “held” in wait for a new Grimoire.

But What About Spell Stones? The de-facto ‘magic’ in VDS, Spell Stones are not a part of the Hacker’s Core. Keeping Spell Stones in my hack would certainly clash a bit with the proposed magic system, and the RUNES Skill would certainly be another complication. But I REALLY like limited-use items with fun effects like they are.

The place I found for something like them in my hack is with ALCHEMY. Keeping something akin to Spell Stones in ‘Alchemical Mixtures’ and having an ‘Alchemy’ Skill, I"d be able to cover them and make them thematically distinct from the magic of Grimoires. So that’s the direction I’m taking with them.

So there ya have it. Thanks in advance for replies (EDIT 4/1/2022: if they ever come…) and stuff that help me build this into something cool to play!

VDS "Fantasy" with Hacker's Core
Expanding Runehammer
BLOODIED - An additional step to death for VDS Hack

I quite like this. I have one question, which is whether each tier is bound to a number of dice, or if you can use the Tier 1 effect when you have 4D in that Grimoire


The tiers, besides differentiating the resolution mechanic, work as “locks”: as you advance in the Grimoire, more spells are unlocked. But as with normal Skills, you roll the full complement of your Grimoire dice with any of them.

With 4D in a Grimoire, you have access to all but the most powerful spell in it, rolling 4D for any of the spells you have access to.


Oh. Ok. That I really like, since I wasn’t sure if difficulty scaled.


I’ll edit it to make clearer that each tier unlocks another spell, with a different resolution.


Can you upgrade a Grimoire beyond 5D?


Not as originally intended, though mathematically it should be possible. The main limitation is you end up running out of methods of resolution. There is no hard cap for Skills in VDS, so I’m setting it at 5. On average you’ll have to push something to be able to battle the 6D from the GM (and the 6D is supposed to be the top tier difficulty), so I’m comfortable with that.


An update on this idea, for full disclosure:

Though I still feel it’s a good implementation of a magic system for a VDS hack, I’m no longer implementing it in MY hack.

After playtesting, the reduced number of spells, and by extension of applications of those spells, was something that felt more a hindrance to fun than a feature of the system. Though thematically they were exactly as envisioned, in practice they fell short, for my groups.

I have traded GRIMOIRES for a “combat casting” + “Rituals” pair, with skills for offensive casting, defensive casting, trickery magic, and Rituals. If some interest surges, I can bring them up here.