za3k > games > deadly education rpg

written 2021-02-12 by zachary "za3k" vance

This a simple RPG system based on the magic system from "A Deadly Education" by Naomi Novik. You don't need to have read the book--in fact I picked it because it was a little vague and independent of the book.

The only thing you need to know is that you're at a school to study magic. You have just arrived and have no idea what you expect. You want to learn magic and make it out alive with a 4-year degree. The school itself is magical and deadly. The school helps you learn new spells related to your innate talents.

Character creation


The subjects are: gym; health; wood shop; machining; chemistry; biology; physics; literature; poetry; music; romance languages; middle-eastern languages; asian languages; classical languages; alchemy (make one-time use magic potions); artificing (make magic items); magical theory (spell-crafting); metamagic (spell-modifying spells); group magic.

The letter grades are: F, D-, D, D+, C-, C, C+, B-, B, B+, A-, A, A+(, S, SS, SSS). "B+" is one letter grade above "C+". "S" is one letter grade above "A+".

When you need to use a subject, there will be a set difficulty (ex, "You need an A- in chemistry"). You can use a heroic action to do something that needs a result up to two full grades higher than what your report card says.

Some checks will need a grade--if you haven't studied classical languages, you don't know greek. Others will have a default grade of D--if you're not enrolled in gym class, you can still jump a long gap.


Each character knows several spells. Your spells each have a fixed MP cost and casting time. You can cast a spell whenever you like, but faster spells are more suited to high-speed action. Magical item creation is considered a spell for game purposes. Some spells have special conditions--the conditions might be anything, including emotional state, special supplies, time of day, or multiple spellcasters.

An MP cost depends on both how good the spell is (better spells cost more) and your affinity (spells close to your affinity are cheaper). A spell works well for any player--but the MP costs may be very different. Affinities affect costs very strongly. A fireball spell for a fire caster who uses area affects, it might cost 2 MP. For a specialist in musical entrancement, it might cost 200 MP.

You can cast variations on a spell, or the same spell at higher or lower power levels, with the GM's approval. Major variations on a spell (like changing a fireball to an cold ball) require study. Using a heroic action, you can instantly gain a variation that would otherwise require study, even in the heat of combat.

Whenever you cast a spell, you can pay the MP cost with malice, which is free and limitless, or mana, which you track on your character sheet.


Although malice is free, casting spells using malice increases your maliciousness. If you spend 50 malice on a spell, you gain 50 maliciousness on your character sheet, and something bad happens in the world. High maliciousness gives you random body mutations or mental effects. The GM determines what effects you suffer as your maliciousness increases. If you maliciousness becomes too high you will die.


Gameplay operates in two phases: Study and Action. A study phase is always followed by an action phase. An action phase can be followed by a study phase or another action phase.

Study Phase

During the study phase, you take three downtime actions. You can spend a heroic action to pull an all-nighter and take 2 additional actions.

The available actions are:

Action Phase

During an action phase, the characters face some challenge. The challenge often relates to demons which constantly invade the school. It could also be a final exam, a gang of upperclassmen bullying freshmen, or the school dance.

The school is sentient, and it will sometimes offer you choices between goals you want to achieve, and things it can offer (like spells or equipment). If you help the school, it may reward you.

4-Year Degree

At the end of a school year, you take final exams. If you have an F in any subject, you are expelled. All your grades drop one letter grade, representing the more difficult expectations you face. You may enroll in 0-2 new classes, dropping existing subjects. You have a C in the new subject, or your dropped grade, whichever is worse.

At the beginning of your year, you can choose in enroll in a 7th extracurricular subject, which you begin with a C grade. However, this takes up one study slot EVERY study phase. You cannot drop extracurriculars mid-year.

The recommended pace is to play four study phases per year. After four years of study, the players graduate, and the game ends.