The Magic of Dual20

Well… it’s been far, far, far too long since my last post here (darn WordPress, I though I set you to send me reminders to post? Oh well, wouldn’t have helped being so busy and distracted by other things/projects :P )

So for this post I thought I’d give an overview of the four basic forms of magic in Dual20: Lore, Core, Will, and Pact. Core could also be referred to as Inherent, but then it’d have more than four letters and break the lovely pattern :P

Lore magic is your classic magician up in the tower pouring over spells or your academy of mages, alchemists and their guilds, enchanters creating wondrous magical artifacts, and other such workers of magic. They gain magical power from their tools and the environment around them. They study and discover the hidden workings of the universe, and how to manipulate them, whether by magic words or runes, special ingredients, or particular motions.

Core magic is the mage or creatures who have magic as a natural part of their being. Their magical power comes from their bodies and possibly able to draw on the environment too, though not as Lore mages do (so kind of like the difference between breathing in the air and blowing it out vs. using a fan to blow it around). Core magic is almost always a bit flashy when used by mages, though for magical creatures it can be more subtle.

Will magic, this is your “subtle and quick to anger” type wizards. It’ll be very much like the magic seen in Tolkien’s works, particularly the Silmarillion (mixed with some Lore magic, too; Lore and Will magic often mix well together). Using this magic is hardly ever flashy, though the results can be sometimes. This is probably the rarest form of magic, and some would say the first and purest. Though there are other types of will mages besides wizards, bards and inspiring war captains have a bit of this magic too.

Pact mages come in the wide variety, from your prophets wielding the power of God, to your warlocks making deals with the devil, or someone who has gained favor with the fey, or otherwise gains his magic from some Entity of Power. I’m also thinking this will handle characters that have a lot “pets” as their primary means of power, summoners, binders, etc. They may technically use another form of magic to obtain them, but it’s not directly usable for other things.

In later posts I’ll delve a bit further , though I think I’ll do into my thoughts for each of them, including ideas for mechanics (where I have them at least), though I think the next will go over the various classes that I have planned (now including the mages, though several have been named already ;) )


Character Foundation and Stats

I believe I mentioned before that the Foundation elements that a character picks may add grades to his stats. I had initially considered that there’d be a few bonuses sprinkled around, but that didn’t satisfy me, they mostly because that would have the problem of too many potentially stacking together.

But while writing my last post I thought what if they weren’t outright granted but only made available as a choice, similar to what 13th Age does for ability bonuses from race and class.

So now every Foundational element except Fates will grant as an available option a Stat or Skill grade bonus. These grade bonuses are the only way to get a grade of 4.
I might still consider races to be able to outright grant a stat bonus in addition to granting an extra option choice. They can get away with it because you’ll only ever have one race basic package.

Also I’m thinking that usually Race and Background are what offer Stat grade bonuses, and Background, Culture, and Specialty are what offer Skill grade bonuses.


Actions: Time and Multitasking

And now we get into the detailed time tracking system. It was this system that made me realize that this game will truly need an app to help play. It shouldn’t be impossible to play without the app, but there’ll be a lot to keep track of that would be easier with an app.

Edit: There’s been a change to the terms here. Action Slots are now Focuses, and Tasks are now Means.


Time in Dual20 is continuous and simultaneous, there are no turns. It is divided into rounds and ticks, with 12 ticks per round, and a round is approximately 6 seconds in length (might adjust this later), though a Tick doesn’t represent a particular amount of time. If two people are both performing an action that occurs on the same tick, both are resolved together and then the results are applied. It is quite possible for two combatants to kill each other.

An action will usually take more than one tick to complete. It has a single Strike tick, and may have a Warm-up time or a Cool-down time or both. There will be ways for characters to reliably reduce the WU/CD of certain actions, and less reliable ways to reduce them in general, but at a cost.


A character can be doing several things at once, he could be striking with a sword in one hand, a dagger in the other, while actively dodging an opponent behind him, and keeping aware of his immediate surroundings (so he knows about the opponent behind him), while maintaining good footing for his fighting style (aka, a Stance). To model this actions have two parts, the Slot and the Task. (These are working names, if someone has a better idea of what to call these, I’m open to it)

The Slot can be considered as how much attention must be given to the action, and there are three types: Engagement, Support, and Perpetual. Engagement actions are for those that take the most focus of the character, such as attacking or casting most spells. Support actions are for things such as movement, drawing weapons, reactionary defenses, etc. The Perpetual Slot is a little different in that it is not for a specific action so much as a continuous state of things, such as stances, maintaining spells, or wearing armor, or dealing with hindrances. Most characters will have multiple slots of each type, 2 or 3 per type, but actions will usually take multiple slots themselves (particularly Engagement actions).

Higher level Slots can be used to fit Lower level ones, so if you don’t have enough Perpetual Slots you can use Support Slots in their place, or the same for Support and Engagement respectfully.

The Task is what kind of attention is needed for the action, of which there are currently two: Physical and Mental. In addition, a Task can be further specified, such as a Physical (hand) Task. A character will have several Tasks available to them, including two Physical (hand) Tasks, and at least one Physical (feet) Task. A specific Task may be used in the place of a general one, but you can not use one kind of Task in the place of another.

An action will have only one kind of Slot but can have multiple kinds of Tasks. The number of Slots and Tasks will always match (Tasks are put into Slots). While an action is occurring all the Slots and Tasks it needs are locked up.

So in the above example of things going on, the character has some means for dual wielding combat so each of the attack actions is taking only one Engagement Slot and Physical (hand) Task each, the active dodging will take a Support Slot and Physical (feet) Task, the awareness takes a Perpetual Slot and a Mental Task, and the Stance takes a Perpetual Slot and a plain Physical Task.

Mixing Things Up a Little

So what else can be done with this structure for time? Well, one can try to do a particular WU or CD quicker than it otherwise would, say to get in an attack just before your opponent gets theirs or a counter at the same moment. A character could reduce the amount of WU or CD an action takes. A character might even be able to learn how to overlap the WU and CD of certain actions with each other (which would be like combos in other kinds of games).

A character can also cancel an action, provided it’s still in the WU stage. Doing so may have penalties on the next action.

I said that time was split into Round and there are twelve Ticks per Round, which will be referred to as Round Ticks, but other than that they haven’t been mentioned. Rounds are important for Haste and Slow effects. Both Haste and Slow have a number with them, so Haste 2 or Slow 3. Haste grants a character extra Ticks per round, which will be known as Haste Ticks, and Slow decreases the Ticks the character has, and they cancel each other out. The worse that Slow can get is Slow 6, while Haste can get as high as 12. The extra or lost Ticks are distributed evenly over the Round. Any extra Ticks from Haste happen after the Round Tick that it occurs on.

There is also Hyper, which is similar to Haste except that it grants a number of extra Ticks per round Tick. Hyper 1 and Haste 12 are equivalent. Hyper abilities will tend to last for just a short amount of  Round Ticks.

But you still want to play by hand

So how would you run this by hand if you didn’t have access or want to use the app? You could have a set of cards for the actions you can take, and a number of tokens for each Slot and Task you have available. You’d also want a Tick/Rounds track, and several sets of markers to go with the actions, each set having a marker to place on the action card, and on the tick track one for the Strike and one for the Cool-Down’s completion.

If Haste or Slow are involved, then whenever you get to a Tick that applies, you shift all of the characters’ markers down or up the Tick track. If the Marker is then on the current Tick, it then Strikes on that Round Tick’s Haste Tick.

It will help that people don’t have to wait for each other’s turns to finish, though they do have to wait till the right tick for their character to act. But when several are acting on a single Tick they can all go at once.