Into the Burning Wastes
We will be using a variant magic system in this game, based off of a mixture of Ritual Path Magic from GURPS Monster Hunters, and Threshold and Verb/Noun Syntactic magic from GURPS Thaumatology. You do not need to have either book – the full magic system is printed here.
All magic is based upon Words of Power, the basic building blocks of the universe. By stringing together several Words of Power, a skilled Mage can alter reality at a very fundamental level. The audible portion of a Word of Power is but a small aspect of the whole; a Word carries vast mystical overtones and subtleties. ‘Knowing’ a Word, and thus being able to speak it, is a matter of deep mystical understanding, and only those with the Magery advantage may use one.
When a Mage strings several Words of Power together, he can control their magical effects. One specific combination of Words of Power can have many different effects; a specific combination of Words of Power and their magical effects is called a spell. For example, In-Flam (Create Fire) is used in both the Fireball and Fire Wall spells.
In using Runic Magic, a Mage first decides what spell he wishes to cast – this can either be one that he knows and has practiced before, or he can come up with the spell and its effects on the spot. Each spell consists of four parts – the Words of Power used (and thus which skills the Mage must use to cast the spell), the energy cost, the time required to cast the spell, and finally the effects that the spell has.
Magic in this system is powered by ambient mana, completely divorcing it from physical stamina. Nearly any Mage, no matter how physically feeble, can crack castles or destroy armies – at the risk of personal obliteration or worse!
Divorcing magic from physical vigor lets Mages be, for instance, enfeebled old men and still be formidable tactical magicians. It also means that Mages who’ve overreached themselves will be largely incomprehensible when their mundane allies ask why they can’t cast spells. They aren’t simply tired – their problems are more arcane: “To draw too deeply on my Gift can lead to madness and death. Do not demand of me what you do not comprehend.”
Spells cast under this system don’t cost FP. Rather, when a Mage casts or maintains a spell, it comes from his Mana Points (MP). Each level of Magery provides 20 Mana Points. Mana Points represent a Mage’s ability to exert control over ambient magical energies. Low MP reflects increasing distortion in the Mage’s metaphysical relationship with the universe, which is visible to anyone able to perceive magical auras. Someone with low MP – may have a “deformed” or “turbulent” aura. This enables Mages and seers to tell when their colleagues have been overdoing their magic.
In an emergency, a Mage may spend FP or HP to help power their spells – at the cost of 4 FP or 2 HP per MP. The Mage may take this energy from themselves or a willing volunteer in direct contact with the Mage 1; traditionally, the Mage will kill a sacrifice with a ceremonial dagger, adding twice their HP total in energy to the spell. Sacrificing from yourself is painful; treat this as a -4 penalty to the skill roll to cast the Spell.
A Mage’s Mana Points “heal” over time. The recovery rate is 5xMagery, minimum 5, with recovery occurring at sunrise – a Mage with Magery 2 has a recovery rate of 10 per day. A Mage can improve his recovery rate by taking more levels of the Magery advantage. Paut and other items can restore MP, and magic can transfer MP from one Mage to another, but no other traits recover Mana Points in any way.
Magic Implement and the Environment
If a Mage does not wish to use up his mana, he may instead pull some or all of the energy required for a spell from a suitable Magic Implement. A Magic Implement is capable of storing a set amount of power that, when accessed, uses its stored mana for the spell; the maximum amount of Power that a Power Item can store is directly related to its cost in raw components. Magical items can be Magic Iplements, but the cost of their enchantments does not add to the maximum amount of Power they can hold. A Mage can bond his magical essence to only a single Magical Implement at a time, the implements mana replenishing in place of the Mages own, never in addition to it.
|Power Item Table|
The listed value is the minimum value needed to provide the listed amount of Power.
Environment, or Defiling, can reduce a Mage’s Power Tally or even power a spell actively being cast. For PT reducion, see Defiling.
Lost Mana Points
As a Mage casts spells, his current MP gets lower and lower, eventually falling below 0. If a Mage’s MP remains above zero, then everything’s fine. If his MP goes below zero, then bad things can happen. He must make a Calamity Check – a roll on the Calamity Table (below) – on any turn that he goes below zero MP for any reason. While he’s below zero MP, he must also make a Calamity Check on any turn that he casts a spell (even one with zero cost) or reduces his MP to maintain a spell.
At -1xMP or less, your magical ability is strained to its limit. If you suffer loss of any more MP for any reason, each MP you lose also causes 1 FP of fatigue. This can push you into negative FP, potentially killing you from exhaustion!
A Mage may cast no individual spell that costs more than 5xMagery MP unless the extra energy comes from sacrificing HP or FP.
Magic Items that would cost MP to use in the normal system generally have their own MP, which decreases each time it is used. A typical Magic Item has 10 MP and recovers MP at five per day, but some Magic Items might have differing MP totals and recovery rates, or take power through the user’s MP.
To make a Calamity Check, roll 3d and add 1 for every full 5 points by which MP is below zero after this casting. Calamities take effect immediately, but their nature may not always be apparent to the Mage (see the table for details). Calamities don’t normally cause the spell to fail. However, if the Calamity Check total is 29+, then the spell does fail unless the caster can make a Will roll at a penalty equal to the bonus to the Calamity Check.
|3 – 4||Nothing bad happens, and the Mage gets 1dx5 points of free, instant recovery!|
|5 – 9||Nothing happens – this time.|
|10 – 11||The Mage’s skin and clothing crawl with strange energies, sparks, or other visual effect for 3d minutes, and his eyes glow bright. Treat this as Unnatural Features 5 and preventing Stealth.|
|12||As 10, and the Mage suffers 1d of injury as the magical energies burn and crackle around him.|
|13||As 10, and the Mage is struck with violent headaches that prevent any action other than suffering (treat as physical stun) which lasts 3d turns.|
|14||As 12, but the Mage suffers 1dx4 of injury as the energies burn through his mind.|
|15||As 13 and for the next 1d+1 weeks, any failure on a spell casting roll is treated as a critical failure.|
|16||As 12 and the Mage’s grasp on his magic weakens – he loses 3d+5 MP, which recover at the rate of 1 per day. The Mage is aware that there’s been a drop, but not of how much!|
|17||As 12 and the Mage gains up to a -5 point disadvantage of the GM’s choice. This disadvantage can be anything – insanity or a decreased appearance are classic. If the Mage makes a HT (or Will, for a mental disadvantage) roll, it is treated as lasting crippling injury. If he fails, it is treated as permanent crippling injury.|
|18||As 16, but the MP is lost permanently and can never be recovered.|
|19||As 17, but the disadvantage is -10 points.|
|20||As 13 and the Mage is aged 2d+13 years.|
|21||As 17, but the disadvantage is -15 points.|
|22||Roll again with the same modifier. The result affects a randomly chosen companion of the Mage.|
|23||As 12 and the Mage permanently loses 1dx5 points of advantages, attributes, or secondary characteristcs.|
|24||As 12 and the Mage permanently loses one level of Magery and can never increase his Magery level again.|
|25||The Mage becomes a living ‘Mana-Scar’. Spells cost double within a 2d+3-yard radius of the Mage, and Recovery is halted in the same area! This lasts for 1d weeks. Result 10 applies for the entire duration!|
|26||As 25, but the radius is in miles. This lasts for 3d weeks, and other Mages can identify that he is the cause. All the Mages in the region will be gunning for him…|
|27||The spell propogates out of control, causing a Mana Storm to occur in the surrounding region! Harmful spells will affect everybody and every thing nearby, allies and enemies alike. Beneficial spells will do likewise, but will go “over the top” and cause dangerous side-effects (a healing spell might raise all the local dead, creating a horde of restless zombies out for revenge!) Information magic will overload the Mage’s mind (Fright Check at -20), and so on. The GM should be creative and unpredictable with this result. The mana storm lasts 1d hours. Result 10 applies for the entire duration.|
|28||As 27, but the Mana Storm lasts 1d weeks and occurs in the surround 2d+3 miles.|
|29||As 13 and 27, but the Mage permanently loses all levels of Magery.|
|30 – 39||As 13 and 28, but the Mage permanently loses all levels of Magery.|
|40+||As 30, and the Mage must make a HT roll at -6. If this roll is failed, the Mage is consumed in a backlash of magical energy. The backlash does the Mage’s (Will+Magery) dice of explosive burning damage, ignoring DR. If he succeeds the HT roll, the backlash is less dramatic – the Mage simply takes 2d dice of damage.|
All magical spells are cast using the twenty-six IQ-based Word skills below. A Mage must have one of Thaumatology or Symbol Drawing before learning any Word skill, and no Word skill can ever exceed either the higher of the Mage’s Thaumatology or Symbol Drawing skills or (12 + Magery); theoretical knowledge is just as important as magical power.
All magic is based around one of two magical traditions: Evocation or Inscription. Evocation is the more ‘active’ sort of magic, quick to use, but also fast to die off. Evocation is based around the Thaumatology skill; someone who practices Evocation is a Mage. Inscription is a slower form of magic, but has more control and can create works that can potentially last forever. Inscription is based around the Symbol Drawing skill; someone who practices Inscription is a Runesmith. The ‘default’ form of magic is Evocation; the areas where Inscription differs are explicitely mentioned.
The Words of Power
Each Word of Power is associated with a single letter of the alphabet and a single Rune. Every Word of Power has a particular meaning – some have more than one. Note that these are just inadequate mortal understandings of the Word; a Word of Power can’t be defined quite so succinctly.
Every Word of Power is considered a separate Word skill, and they gain no bonus for Magery.
|Word||Letter||Rune||Meaning||Alternative Meanings||Skill Difficulty||Cost||Time|
|Jux||J||Weaken||Break, Harm, End||Average||1||1|
All of the Word skills default to Thaumatology-4 or Symbol Drawing-4, and can be used at default to cast spells! However, a defaulted Word skill cannot exceed 12, regardless of how high the Mage’s Thaumatology or Symbol Drawing skill is. As all spell rolls are against a Word skill, an untrained Mage with a Thaumatology/Symbol Drawing skill of 16 is identical to one with a higher Thaumatology/Symbol Drawing skill.
Grimoires and Scrolls
A Mage does not need to know a specific spell in order to cast it; if he has not bought the spell, he is simply at a -6 penalty to cast it – unless he uses a Grimoire or Scroll (exception: Runic Enchantments do not have this penalty).
A spell takes up pages in a Grimoire equal to its length to cast. A standard Grimoire weighs 5 pounds, holds 60 pages of spells, and costs C250 plus the cost of the spells inscribed in the Grimoire. Some Grimoires give a bonus to actually cast the spell; this affects the cost to inscribe into the Grimoire based upon the bonus.
Multiply the spell’s Casting Time by the TP cost to get the time needed to inscribe that spell into the Grimoire. For truly potent spells it may take days to commit them to your Grimoire, particularly if one is in the Wastes fending for their lives.
There are more esoteric Grimoires out there, including magically infused ones that can hold an infinite number of spells, ones that are significantly protected from harm, or some that made from exotic materials, such as leather or metal. The Verdant Era is long over, however, and these powerful relics are either held by powers beyond mortal men or in the clutches of the dead ruins of the last age.
Spell Definition and Parameters
Every spell must be defined clearly; e.g., “Using Gal-Ort-Xen, I gain the ability to pinpoint magical items on a Per roll for ten minutes as if I had Detect (Magical Items, Precise).” That definition includes the Words of Power required (Gal, Ort, and Xen) and all of the applicable Parameters (altered traits, duration). Most Mages will define their spells ahead of time along with a name (e.g., ‘Seek Enchantments’), though some Parameters might remain variable (e.g., damage or area of effect).
The following parameters are primarily guidelines, not hard rules – magic is a fickle force and does not always obey its own laws. The GM is encouraged to forbid effects that would be deliterious to his game, or to alter their energy costs as he sees fit. Use these parameters, and the example spells, to guide you.
Afflictions: A spell to stun a foe has no additional energy cost. For other effects, this costs +1 energy for every +25% it’s worth as an enhancement to Affliction (e.g., a spell to make someone fall asleep would require +6 energy; see p. B36).
Altered Traits: Any spell that adds disadvantages or reduces attributes or advantages adds +1 energy for every 10 character points removed. One that adds advantages, reduces disadvantages, or increases attributes adds +1 energy for every 5 character point added. (A single parameter can affect multiple traits, but only if they make sense together; e.g., adding Protected Hearing 5 and Hard of Hearing [-10] for a net +0 energy.) You cannot add Magery or any of the advantages listed under Magic Power, and any HP or FP added cannot be used for magical energy – put simply, you cannot use magic to get better at magic!
Area of Effect: If the effect covers a circular area, then add energy equal to its radius in yards. If the effect is a cone-like projection, add energy equal to the cone’s width in yards. If the effect is a wall, add energy equal to one-third the number of square yards that it covers. Double the energy cost of the wall if it can be formed in any arbitrary shape.
Bestows a Bonus or Penalty: Use this table, based on whether the spell will add a modifier to a broad range of rolls (e.g., active defense rolls, Sense rolls, or a wildcard skill), a moderate range (e.g., rolls to hide or Vision rolls), or a single skill (e.g., Climbing rolls). You cannot give a bonus to magic use – though you can penalize it!
Damage: If the spell will cause damage, directly or indirectly, see the following table, then adjust the energy cost for damage type using the second table. For a visible, blatant, external attack, which can be can be dodged and must deal with DR, use the Standard column unless it is Explosive, in which case use the Explosive column. If it is a Malediction-type attack that bypasses DR and can not be dodged but allows the subject a chance to resist, use the Malediction column.
|Burning, Crushing, Piercing, Toxic||x1|
|Cutting, Large Piercing||x1.5|
|Corrosion, Fatigue, Huge Piercing, Impaling||x2|
Duration: For a spell that causes a lasting change, use the Duration column of the following table. For a spell that hangs around, possibly affecting others who enter its Area of Effect, use the Persistance column; the latter must have an Area of Effect as well. Effects that exceed 1 day generally shouldn’t be allowed to the PCs, though NPC mages may have them – magic is not fair!
If applicable, a spell with a Duration will continue to occur until the Mage conciously decides to stop maintaining it – this costs half as much as the additional energy for that Duration (round fractions up), with a maximum of the original energy cost to cast the spell – if the Mage is able to cast a spell for 0 energy, it is maintained for free, though he still suffers a -1 penalty to further casting skill rolls for it being up.
|+1||1 Minute||2 Seconds|
|+2||2 Minutes||5 Seconds|
|+3||5 Minutes||10 Seconds|
|+4||10 Minutes||20 Seconds|
|+5||20 Minutes||1 Minute|
|+6||1 Hour||2 Minutes|
|+7||2 Hours||5 Minutes|
|+8||6 Hours||10 Minutes|
|+9||12 Hours||20 Minutes|
|+10||24 Hours||1 Hour|
|+11||2 Days||2 Hours|
|+1||+1 Day||+1 Hour|
For spells that have conditional durations – spells that last until a specific condition is met – should follow the following guidelines.
|0||“Until your next heartbeat.”|
|+1-3||“Until I draw my next breath.”|
|+4-7||“Until a sparrow next enters this ordinary garden.”|
|+8-10||“Until sunrise” or “Until you next sleep.”|
|+20-40||“Until the swallows return.”|
|+50||“Until she’s kissed by a prince.”|
Meta-Magic: Dispeling or altering magic requires the caster to succeed at a quick-contest of spell skills with its original caster. A caster may choose to expend additional energy in order to overpower the spell through brute force; treat this as sacrificing energy in order to get a skill bonus, trading 2 energy for every +1 to skill.
Modifiers: For other effects that do not already have their own Parameters, look at Modifiers for advantages as inspiration. A general guideline of ±1 energy per ±25% in enhancements or limitations is recommended; round fractions up.
For example, to make an Explosive attack have damage divided by yards from the center (rather than by 3xYards), add 4 energy. To make a Malediction use the Speed/Range table rather than be -1 per yard of distance, add 2 energy.
Multiple Targets: For most spells, add one energy per distinct target after the first, and reduce the caster’s skill by a like amount. Not affecting a specific target caught in an area of effect is easier; simply add one energy per target you do not wish to affect, without the skill penalty.
Broader spells and curses can work slightly differently. With them, add four energy and subtract one from the caster’s skill per doubling of the number of targets – e.g., +40 energy and -10 to skill for up to 1,024 targets.
Range: The energy cost for range depends upon the penalty to the caster’s skill roll to deliver the effect. If it takes a -1 penalty per yard of range, or is melee ranged, add 0 energy. If it takes normal speed/range table penalties, add 2 energy. Certain spells, especially information spells, can use long-distance modifiers; add 4 energy. If there are no penalties to skill for range, including ranged Jet attacks, use the following table based upon the spell’s maximum range.
Range in Time: “Range in time” is a required parameter for magic involving perception (or possibly travel) through time, whether in the form of prophecy or precognition, retrocognition, or “time-slipping.”
Extradimensional Range: Cross-dimensional barriers add a flat 10 energy per dimension except in specific ‘dimensionally weak’ locations; there, add only five energy.
Speed: For movement spells, look up the speed in yards/second on the Range Table above and read ‘yards’ as ‘yards per second’. For gate travel spells, simply use the range table as-is.
Spell Type: If the spell is a Melee or Missile spell, following the specific rules for these spell types below, then reduce spell cost by 2.
Subject Weight: For Regular spells, see the following chart. For spells that can affect multiple targets and area spells, this is the weight of the largest individual subject you can affect – don’t pay for the total weight of all subjects! For most spells, use the Maximum Weight column; for spells that create objects from whole cloth, use the Maximum Creation colun. Missile, Melee, and most Blocking spells do not use this chart!
|Energy||Maximum Weight||Maximum Creation|
|+0||300 lbs||4 ounces|
|+1||1,000 lbs||1 lbs|
|+2||3,000 lbs||3 lbs|
|+3||5 tons||10 lbs|
|+4||15 tons||30 lbs|
|+5||50 tons||100 lbs|
|+6||150 tons||300 lbs|
|+7||500 tons||1,000 lbs|
Most spells fall into this class.
Regular spells work best if you can touch or see the subject. You do not have to see through your own eyes; any spell that lets you see by magical means will do.
If you cannot touch the subject, apply a skill penalty equal to your distance in yards from the subject; e.g., -5 at five yards. Figure distance at the moment you roll the dice for the spell. If you cannot touch or see the subject, there is a further -5 penalty. There are two ways to direct such a spell:
- Name a target location. For instance, if you specify “One yard beyond the other side of this door,” you’ll get whoever is standing on the other side of the door. If there is nobody there, you wasted the spell.
- Name a subject; e.g., “The closest person in the next room,” or, “George, who I know is around here somewhere.”
The GM determines the actual range to the subject. This is risky! If the subject is farther away than you think – or simply absent – you are inviting failure or even critical failure!
No physical barrier affects a Regular spell. Unless it backfires, the spell never hits the wrong target.
Melee spells “charge” your hand or magic staff (see box) with harmful energies that affect the first target you strike. These spells require two skill rolls: a roll against spell skill to cast the spell, and a normal melee attack roll to hit the target with your hand or staff.
To cast a Melee spell, concentrate for the required time, roll against spell skill at the end of the final turn of concentration, and pay the energy cost. No distance modifier applies because you are casting the spell on yourself! On a success, you energize your hand or staff with the spell’s magic. On your next turn, you must either hold your spell or attack with it.
If you hold your spell, your hand or staff remains “charged.” This costs no energy and requires no skill roll. You cannot cast another spell while holding a Melee spell. You can take any other combat maneuver (but an attack with the energized hand or staff discharges the spell). A parry with the hand or staff does not discharge the spell; only an attack in combat is a part of the ritual.
A Melee spell held on a staff persists for as long as you wield the staff. If you lose hold of your staff, even for an instant, the spell drains away harmlessly. If someone grabs your staff, and you are both holding it on your turn, your attempt to wrench it free counts as an attack, and your opponent instantly suffers the spell’s effects!
To attack, roll against DX or an unarmed combat skill to hit with a hand, or the appropriate Melee Weapon skill to hit with a staff. This is a standard melee attack. Your target may attempt any active defense. If he succeeds, your spell is not triggered; you may try again next turn. If he fails, your melee attack does its usual damage and your spell affects him immediately.
Armor protects normally against some Melee spells, not at all against others. If the spell is one that ignores armor, neither an unarmed parry (even with an armored limb) nor a block can protect the target from the spell. Even if such a defense wards off the melee attack, the spell arcs through the target’s armor or shield and affects him.
You may dissipate a Melee spell as a free action at any point during your turn; simply state that you are dissipating the spell and it “evaporates” harmlessly.
This class of spells encompasses long-distance “projectile” or “bolt” attacks, such as Fireball (p. 74) and Lightning (p. 196). Missile spells require two skill rolls: a roll against spell skill to cast the spell, and a roll against Innate Attack skill (p. B201) to hit the target.
To cast a Missile spell, you must concentrate for one second. At the end of your turn, roll against your skill with the spell. There is no modifier for distance – you are creating a magical missile in your hand. On a success, you may invest one or more points of energy in the spell, to a maximum of a number of energy points equal to your Magery level. The missile then appears in your hand, “charged” to the desired level.
On your next turn, you may “hold” it in hand, ready to attack. You do not have to launch the missile until you want to. While holding a Missile spell, you may move up to your full Move, take a Wait or Aim maneuver, or even attack using the hand that isn’t “holding” the missile. You may defend normally. However, you cannot cast another spell.
There is one drawback: if you are injured while you have a missile “in hand,” you must make a Will roll. If you fail, the missile immediately affects you!
When you are ready to attack, roll against your Innate Attack skill to hit. This is a standard ranged attack, subject to the usual modifiers for target size, speed, and range. Once launched, the missile flies in a straight line to the target. Physical barriers affect it just as they would affect any missile weapon.
Your target may block or dodge, but cannot parry (Parry Missile Weapons skill may work on some Missile spells, at the GM’s discretion). If he fails, the spell affects him. The strength of the effect depends on the energy invested. Damage Resistance – natural or from armor – usually protects normally against damaging Missile spells, but occasionally the spell will ignore armor.
You may dissipate a Missile spell as a free action at any point during your turn; simply state that you are dissipating the spell and it “evaporates” harmlessly. You can also get rid of a Missile spell by “dropping” it at your feet. This, too, is a free action. This does not damage you, unless the missile is explosive, but it damages whatever you are standing on. Missiles that inflict burning damage are liable to set fires!
A Blocking spell is one cast instantly as a defense against either a physical attack or another spell. It is the magical equivalent of a block, parry, or dodge (and often counts as one of
these defenses; see the spell description for details). You may cast only one Blocking spell per turn, no matter how skilled you are. You cannot attempt a Blocking spell against a critical hit.
If you try a Blocking spell, it automatically interrupts your concentration. You lose any spell you were preparing, exactly as if you had failed the Will roll to resist a distraction. If you are holding (not casting) a Melee or Missile spell, it is unaffected. Blocking spells do not get an energy cost reduction for high skill.
Many different spells can be used as Blocking spells; it’s a specific use of a spell, not a distinct type. Mages are encouraged to be creative!
Information spells are cast to gain knowledge. Some require you to touch the subject, while others function at a distance, usually using Long-Distance Modifiers. Spells intended to find things are at -1 per “known” item you choose to ignore in your search; it takes some concentration to bypass your canteen when casting Seek Water in the desert. Most Information spells have additional special modifiers, so read the spell description carefully.
When you cast an Information spell, the GM rolls for you in secret. If the spell succeeds, the GM gives you the desired information – the better the roll, the better the information. If the spell fails, the GM will say, “You sense nothing.” On a critical failure, the GM lies to you! Regardless of the outcome, you must always pay the full energy cost for the spell – you have no way to know if it succeeded or not.
Most Information spells will simply return the same information given previously if used more than once per day, though exceptions exist. The majority of Information spells have no duration. They grant a momentary glimpse of insight and end immediately; therefore, you cannot maintain them.
Spells that have an area-of-effect are typically Regular spells, but can be Melee or Missile spells. For range, use the range to the closest edge of the area. Otherwise, they follow all the normal rules for their overall spell type.
A spell of any type can also be “Resisted.” A spell like this works automatically only on a critical success. On a regular success, your spell must defeat the subject’s resistance to work.
The subject always has a chance to resist, even if he is unconscious. A conscious subject who is aware that something is happening may choose not to resist. Individuals who are unconscious, unfamiliar with magic, or wary of hostile magic always try to resist.
To resolve a Resisted spell, you must first attempt your skill roll. If the spell has a single subject (that is, it isn’t an Area spell), you have a penalty equal to the subject’s Magic Resistance, if any – even if he is willing! On a failure, the spell fails and the subject notices nothing. On a success, note your margin of success; e.g., if you rolled a 6 against an effective skill of 13, you succeeded by 7. If the subject is living or sapient, the Rule of 16 applies (see The Rule of 16, p. B349). There is no such limit if the subject is another spell.
The subject then attempts a resistance roll. A character resists using the attribute or other trait indicated in the spell description – usually HT or Will. The subject’s Magic Resistance, if any, adds to his resistance. A spell resists using the caster’s effective skill when he cast the spell.
Compare the subject’s resistance roll to your skill roll in a Quick Contest. If you win, your spell affects the subject. If you lose or tie, the spell has no effect – but you must still pay the full energy cost! A conscious subject feels a slight mental or physical wrench (depending on which attribute he Resisted with), but no other effect. You know whether or not the subject Resisted your spell.
Resisted Area Spells: When casting an Area spell that is Resisted, make the usual success roll for the spell and record your margin of success if you succeed. Everyone in the area gets a resistance roll, and those with Magic Resistance get double the usual benefit. Your spell affects those who make their roll by less than you did.
To cast a spell, a Mage must first decide whether he wants to cast a pre-defined spell or if he wishes to improvise a new spell on-the-fly. If he wishes to cast a pre-defined spell, he must decide how much power to put into the various Parameters of that spell (maximum range, amount of damage, etc); if he wishes to improvise a new spell, he must also decide what effects the spell should have and what Parameters it should accept. Once everything is decided, tell the GM what spell you are casting and with what parameters, then take Concentrate maneuvers for the requisite number of turns (see Time Required, below). At the end of the last second of concentration, make a success roll for the spell.
At this point, it is important to determine which Word skill the caster will use; all rolls for this spell will be against this skill. In the rare case that only one Word is being used, this is simple; e.g., the spell “Death” always uses Corp for all rolls. For spells that mix multiple Words of Power, the caster uses the lowest skill. (Remember that anyone with Thaumatology skill knows all of the Word of Power skills at default!) If the spell requires three or more Words, the caster uses his lowest one and is at a -1 penalty (to all spell-casting rolls) for every Word past the first two. Exception: Runic Inscriptions do not have a penalty for the number of Words used!
In all cases, use the lower of the Word skill derived here and Thaumatology when casting a spell, or the lower of Word skill and Symbol Drawing when creating a Runic Enchantment such as a Runic Ward.
Casting a spell works like any other use of a skill: roll 3d and compare the total to your effective skill (your base skill with the spell adjusted by any applicable modifiers). Modifiers depend on the class of spell (see Spell Classes, below) and its parameters (above). If your roll is less than or equal to your effective skill, the spell works. If it is greater than your effective skill, the spell fails.
On a success, the caster pays the spell’s energy cost (see Energy Cost, below). Its effects take place immediately. On a critical success, the spell works especially well. Details are up to the GM, who should be both generous and creative. Whatever else occurs, there is never an energy cost if you get a critical success when you cast a spell.
On a failure, the spell does not work. If success would have cost energy, you lose one energy point; otherwise, you lose nothing. (Exception: You must pay the full energy cost for an Information spell even on a failure; see Information Spells, below) On a critical failure, you must spend the full energy cost and the spell fails badly! The GM may use the Critical Spell Failure Table or improvise some other “backfire” he finds amusing.
Finally, if after casting the spell your MP is below zero, you must roll on the Calamity table, even if the spell cost 0 energy.
A spell has a defined Casting Time; in general, this is equal to the sum of the times to cast each individual Word of Power used in it. If Des (Lesser) is used in the spell, then Casting Time is half as long, while if Vas (Greater) is used then Casting Time is twice as long.
If casting the spell from a Grimoire or Scroll, then this is the time to cast the spell in minutes. Otherwise, this is the time to cast the spell in seconds.
A Mage may hurry a casting by accepting a penalty of -2 per halving of casting time (round time up). You may ‘instantly’ cast Blocking, Missile, and Melee spells by modifying time to 1 second and then applying a further -2; you can not instantly cast a spell from a Grimoire. Reduce these penalties by 1 for every level of the Faster Casting advantage.
Example: Merlin wishes to use the spell Mass Extinguish Fire (Vas-Jux-Flam) to put out all of the fires in Mordred’s army’s camp just before King Arthur attacks. Unfortunately, he does not know the spell well enough to cast it at this level without the use of a Grimoire. Luckily, Merlin has a Grimoire giving +5 to cast Mass Extinguish Fire. Merlin decides he can afford to accept a -4 penalty to his spell roll, quartering casting time. This spell will take 2 minutes to cast (1 minute (Jux) + 2 minutes (Flam), multiplied by 2 (Vas), and then divided by 4, for 1.5 minutes, rounded up to 2 minutes).
Later on, Morgan la Fey launches a fireball at Merlin. Merlin wishes to use Extinguish Fire (Jux-Flam) to put out the fireball before it incinerates him, meaning he must cast it instantly. Luckily, he knows this spell well enough to cast without a Grimoire. Normally, he would be at -6 to cast this spell, except he now has four levels of the Faster Casting advantage – his total penalty is -2.
Every spell has a defined Energy Cost; this is equal to the sum of the costs for each individual Word in the spell, plus the cost for each of its Parameters (above). A Mage may optionally accept a penalty to the spell skill roll to reduce the energy cost at a rate of -4 to skill for every 1 point reduction in energy cost. Alternatively, a Mage may add energy to his spell to increase his effective skill, at a rate of 2 energy per +1 to skill. Finally, if the Mage has the Cheaper Casting advantage for any Word of Power used in the spell, reduce the spell’s final energy cost by 1 per level of Cheaper Casting.
The minimum energy cost is 0.
Critical Spell Failure Table
|3||Spell fails entirely. Caster takes 1d of injury.|
|4||Spell is cast on caster (if harmful) or on a random nearby foe (if beneficial).|
|5 – 6||Spell is cast on one of the caster’s companions (if harmful) or on a random nearby foe (if beneficial).|
|7||Spell affects someone or something other than its intended target – friend, foe, or random object. Roll randomly or make an interesting choice.|
|8||Spell fails entirely. Caster takes 1 point of injury.|
|9||Spell fails entirely. Caster is stunned (IQ roll to recover).|
|10 – 11||Spell produces nothing but a loud noise, bright flash of light, awful odor, etc.|
|12||Spell produces a weak and useless shadow of the intended effect.|
|13||Spell produces the reverse of the intended effect.|
|14||A completely different effect is produced, probably on a different target; use spells of similar power to the one attempted to determine possible effects. This may inconvenience the caster, or help him, indirectly and strangely.|
|15 – 16||Spell has the reverse of the intended effect, on the wrong target. Roll randomly.|
|17 – 18||Spell fails entirely. A Mana Storm occurs in the region, or an angry and powerful creature is summoned to the scene, or caster loses a point of HT and gains a -10-point Divine Curse somehow related to the spell (GM’s option).|
To cast a spell, you must usually perform a ritual that involves gestures and speech. If you can’t perform the ritual, you can’t cast the spell! For instance, if the ritual for a spell requires you to speak, you cannot cast the spell if you are gagged or under a spell of silence.
If your unmodified spell skill is below nine, you must have both hands free for elaborate ritual movements and must speak the spell’s Words of Power in a firm, clear voice. If your unmodified skill is higher than nine, you need only one hand free, and you only need speak the Words of Power in a soft voice. You may omit either the hand gesture or speaking the Words of Power by accepting a -2 penalty to the skill roll, or omit both with a -4 penalty. On the other hand, if the Mage makes the effort to be especially precise with his movements, and speaks the incantation loudly and articulately, doubling the casting time, he gets +1 to effective skill.
Someone with Thaumatology skill can attempt to recognize a spell being cast by the rituals the Mage is using. Make a straight Thaumatology roll if the Mage is using at least a soft voice and one hand in gestures, otherwise the Thaumatology roll is penalized at -2 if the Mage is using only one of the rituals. If they are using no rituals, then the observer is out of luck! If the observer is a Mage and knows the spell being cast, then apply a +2 bonus to his Thaumatology roll to recognize the spell.
Magic does not “stack.” Results from different spells are never cumulative with each other, regardless of the Words of Power used. For example, if someone is under the effect of Ex-Des-Tym for +4 to rolls to remain undetected and Kal-Bet for +3 to Stealth rolls, he does not get +7 to Stealth! Only use the highest bonus (in this case, +4).
There may be exceptions to this rule – the DM will determine if this applies on a spell to spell basis. As an example, if a mage hardened his skin using a geomancy aspected spell and then cast a globe of hardened air about his person, the spells would stack. The soft rule for stacking magic is this, attribute and skill buffs do not stack. DR, Spd, and other independent attributes often will to a degree. It should also be noted that psionic boons are independent of the flows of magic – as such they can stack freely with spells but flow the rules of not stacking with themselves.
Distraction, Duration, and Maintenance
Some spells produce an instantaneous effect when cast and then end immediately. Other spells last for a fixed duration, after which they end immediately. Still others last indefinitely – but are a constant drain on the caster’s connection to ambient mana.
If you use an active defense against an attack, or are knocked back, knocked down, injured, grappled, or otherwise distracted while concentrating, make a Will roll at -3 to continue casting your spell. On a failure, your spell is spoiled and you must start over.
If you are stunned while concentrating, your spell is automatically spoiled.
If you are injured but not stunned while concentrating, and succeed on the roll to avoid distraction, you may cast your spell. However, the shock penalty for your injury reduces your effective skill. See p. B419 for details on shock.
There are five classes of duration for spells: instantaneous, temporary, lasting, permanent, and enchantment. Runic Enchantment is typically needed for the last two types, and may be needed for the third as well.
Instantaneous spells produce an instant effect when cast and then end immediately. Note that some instantaneous spells appear to last longer because they leave behind a persistent but nonmagical effect – Flesh to Stone, for example, instantly turns a living being to stone and ends, leaving behind a stone statue.
Temporary spells are spells that require the continuing expenditure of energy to maintain. If it has a cost to maintain, it is a temporary spell. Only temporary spells count as spells “on” (see below).
Lasting spells do not require maintenance, but have a limited effective duration. Typically, they last until some event ends the spell. A basic Runic Ward is a good example; the spell lasts until the ward is triggered. A Runesmith (see below) may have only a number of Lasting spells equal to twice his Magery level active at once.
Permanent spells create a magical effect that lasts indefinitely. A Great Ward is a good example – it lasts until the Ward has been dispelled or physically destroyed. A permanent spell, unlike temporary and lasting spells, does not end in a no-mana zone, but it is suspended until the subject leaves the zone. At that point the spell resumes. Creation of a Permanent spell requires an expenditure of material components valued at C5 per point of energy the spell costs.
Enchantments produce a still more enduring magical effect – usually one that generates other magical effects in turn. Enchantments are not dispelled by spells like Dispel Magic or Remove Curse. Like permanent spells, enchantments are suspended, not dispelled, by no-mana zones.
Concentration and Maintenance
You can maintain a spell without concentration unless the spell requires constant manipulation and change; e.g., to maneuver a levitating object. Spells like this require you to take the Concentrate maneuver only. If you are distracted, injured, or stunned, you must make a Will roll at -3. If you fail, the spell does not end, but it remains in precisely the state it was in when you were distracted, and does not respond to change until you can concentrate on it again. On a critical failure, the spell ends.
Casting another spell does not break concentration, but you suffer a skill penalty for doing two things at once (see below).
Temporary spells have maintenance costs. Maintenance costs are specified per-spell, and are discussed in the Duration parameter’s listing; the actual maintenance cost a Mage has to pay is the minimum of this and the original energy cost to cast the spell. (Note that for Temporary Runic Inscriptions, this is the energy cost to cast the Trigger – ignore the cost to cast the triggered spell when calculating maintenance costs) If the Mage was able to cast a spell for 0 energy, it is maintained for free – but note that Casting While Maintaining Other Effects, below, still applies.
All spells that can be maintained are maintained automatically, unless the Mage specifically chooses to end the effect. The maintenance cost for the spell is applied directly to his MP whenever a maintenance interval comes up, no matter if the Mage is awake or not; this only stops if the Mage chooses to cut off the spell, his connection to ambient mana becomes too turbulent (he suffers a Calamity), or he chooses to end the spell.
Casting While Maintaining Other Effects
You can only cast one new spell at a time. However, you can cast new spells before older ones end. Apply the following modifiers whenever you cast spells while you have other spells active:
- -3 per spell you are concentrating on at the moment. See the individual spell descriptions to learn which spells require concentration.
- -2 per other spell you have “on” at the moment – this does not stack with the concentrating penalty for the same spell. Two concentrating spells would have the same penalties as three spells up that do not require concentration.
Long-term and conditional effects generally can not be produced by the basic magic system – at least, not easily. This is where Runic Inscription comes into play. By stringing multiple Runes together, a Runesmith is able to achieve much more control over his magic than a Mage using Evocation.
Inscription works by inscribing the runes for both a trigger and a spell into an object. The object inscribed upon may be anything – paper, a stone tablet, a shield, a human’s skin, etc – the primary differences between the various objects are their resistance to damage, weight, and cost. The trigger is a specific form of runic inscription that watches for the triggering event and then triggers the linked spell, making it go off.
One of the basic requirements for creating an Inscription is appropriate tools for the material being inscribed upon; many Runesmiths substitue a Kal-Xen (Inscribe Matter) spell instead, using their magic to inscribe the runes.
Triggers may be as complex or simple as the Runesmith wishes. The ‘default’ trigger is Des-Kal-Bet (Lesser Sense Body), used to detect when a creature enters the trigger’s area. Other triggers may be more complex, allowing anyone through who speaks a password (add Des-Kal-Ort, Lesser Sense Secrets, possibly coupled with Des-Kal-Bet), or only triggering if a specific person enters the area (Kal-Bet).
An especially complex set of triggers and inscribed spells might behave intelligently; this is the method the great Runesmiths use to create Golems and Automatons.
In general, Runic Triggers require only Range and Duration parameters; many will be purely melee ranged, not altering the cost.
A Runic Ward is an Inscription set into a large, typically stationary object, such as a door or floor. It is possible to put a Ward upon a vehicle like a ship. Runic Wards are put into different classes depending upon what Duration their trigger uses. As there are three classes of trigger duration, there are three classes of Runic Wards – temporary, lesser (lasting), and greater (permanent). Temporary and lasting Wards only trigger once; Permanent Wards last indefinitely and can be triggered an indefinite number of times. All Runic Wards are vulnerable to being destroyed, either by damaging the Runic Inscriptions or by dispelling the magic.
A Runic Sigil is an Inscription set into a small, mobile object, such as a stone or shield. Like Runic Wards, there are three classes of Runic Sigils corresponding to the three different trigger duration classes: temporary, lesser, and greater. Temporary and Lesser Sigils require a Runesmith to activate, while Greater Sigils can be activated by anyone.
Most Runic Sigils are made with a melee-ranged Des-Gal-Wor (Lesser Sense Mind) trigger, though some (such as ones triggering Blocking spells) use Des-Gal-Nor-Sanct (Lesser Sense Danger). No trigger may be attached to more than one spell in a Sigil, though one object may have multiple Sigils inscribed upon it.
Greater Sigils can be purchased for C100 per point of energy that the the spell they cast costs. Runesmiths can create Greater Sigils for half of this cost. Only the most powerful practitioners of magic can take up the art of Runesmithing. The likes of Sorcerer Kings and their most powerful Templar, simply buying them without the patronage of a Sorcerer King or powerful Templar is impossible.
Permanent magical items are also the domain of the Runesmith or Psionic Enchanters.
1 Defilers and defiling can, at very high levels of skill, void the need for targets to be willing.