|Image by Kentos78 from Pixabay|
In my campaigns, Magic is usually pretty rare; while I like running the odd high magic setting, I generally default to one where magicians are either initiated members of secret societies of wealthy elites or they are isolated mystics that hand their secrets from Master to Apprentice or in small cults. They may be familiar with one another, but usually only by reputation or correspondence.
In such campaigns, spell craft is an exceptional talent. Magicians make up less than 1% of the population, and 70% of those are hedge magicians, alchemists, and cultists who might only cause magical effects through the creation of objects, brewing of potions, or lengthy rituals. Only a gifted few can cast spells, and they are unique and strange.
To keep magic feeling magical, I like having a few alternative systems on hand to allow a PC or important NPC to have strange surprises. In a world where no two Magic-Users are guaranteed to use the same list of spells - or even spells at all, no one really knows what to expect from a magician.
Right now, I keep a few options to use with my fantasy games.
I also have jacked an Alchemy system from Pathfinder 1e and toned it way down for B/X-derived systems to serve as an alternative healer to the Cleric.
(You can see that in PDF here.)
Yesterday, I read a fantastic article from Ian Slater at Dweller of the Forbidden City on a specialized class he designed called the Gyre. Like both the Pact Magic system above and the Sorcery system it does not use spells, and is fairly free-form, but each Gyre is bound to one conceptual magical focus. Read it Here.
This last one is perfect for creating a broad range of hedge-magicians, sorcerous priests, and psychics, each unpredictable and different. And none of them are bound by the typical Vancian structure.