There are dozens of spellcasting classes and hundreds (thousands if you allow Third Party) of spells available to magic-users, that your character trained in the Spellcraft skill could recognize. Its often hard to imagine exactly how they figure out so many forms of magic that their character will never even have access to. Yet with a successful roll they will. How might they do it?
Skill Results: Spellcraft
The GM has a lot of options when describing the result of a successful Spellcraft skill check. Just how did the PC recognize an enemy’s (or ally’s) spell? Below are a few ideas:
- Language of Magic – One of the most common (and for some players harder to swallow) is that magic is one universal language or attributed to a campaign language, say Draconic. Thus the character recognizes the command words of power from that language and strings them together to piece out the meaning of the spell. This also assumes that every magic-using character has to the same, single language. Still the opportunities to describe the character’s skill results can be fun, especially if they can’t see the source.
- Somatics – Similar in nature but somewhat more understandable would be the body language evident in hands (and other movements) to illustrate the character’s understanding. What otherwise be a hard sell of recognizing a foreign culture and/or races implementation of magic might be attribute to certain common gestures and movements.
- Materials and Focus – Like the other components above the material objects a caster uses when evoking the power of their magic can be another tell the GM can use to inform the discerning spellcrafter.
- School Based Descriptions – Creating specific school based descriptions or maybe even regional variants of them can be a flavorful way to add reveals for a magic effect.
- The mage’s chant ceases and the wind of ash that emanates of from him echoes the sense of Eastern necromancy. As the ash settles on the fallen bodies you scream a warning to your companions of their impending animation.
- As the sorceress finishes the hand flourish a sugar scent blossoms and you begin searching the eyes of your companions for the one that she has subverted with her enchantment.
- Purple waves of pulsing evocative energies hammer the ground in irregular rhythm and you know there are but seconds before the earth’s upheaval threatens to doom you all.
- Masking Game Terms – Naming conventions can be given to spell levels or sources of power that are in-character and game specific allowing the characters to recognize game effects directly while still enhancing verisimilitude.
- Signature Magic – In a conflict with a known mage, Spellcraft might represent familiarity with there techniques giving the player character the sufficient information to piece together the information.
- Theron’s pinky strains to hold during the formation of the illusion like it did during his testing, belying its nature before you see his “dragon” before he finishes “summoning it.”
- Even across the battlefield the purple flames of Jiera’s magic are unmistakable, she is alive and by the looks of it, fighting mad!
These a just a few ideas. There are always more ways to give magic more life with even the most basic mechanics of the games we play. Don’t hesitate to engage vivid language to build better stories even with the basic game mechanics like skill checks.