Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Revising AC Magic

More on the mechanics (I promise I'll get out of this loop soon enough)

Magic and Spells

Being a mage has two components-- the Magery advantage (called Sorcery and Initiate for the different kinds of mages) and skills in the various Schools of magic. To cast a spell, the player describes the spell effect and chooses the appropriate school they have a skill in. Each school has a set of basic effects-- some are noted under the description, but generally this system assumes the player knows the conventions of magic in an rpg setting and can fit things as they will. Once a base effect has been determined, the character can apply modifiers to change the spell to make it do what they want.

Keep in mind that some Schools, like Animal have more than one base effect (in that example summon, control, and modify). Assume that the base effect is no range and lasts briefly.

Casting and Modifiers

When a casting a spell you need to roll equal or less than your skill with that school. If it is a targeted direct spell, you may have to roll an attack roll as well. If you add modifiers to the spell effect, each modifier applied reduces your effective skill by one.

Note that circumstances, being attacked or having time to prepare will raise or lower the difficulty of casting. Generally spells require a round to prepare and a round to cast-- this can be reduced with the Fast modifier, if the spell isn't a ritual one (generally defined as big, bad ass spells). Note that if you are engaged in melee, casting is at a -2 penalty.

Magery (Sorcery/Initiate)

This advantage has five ranks:

  • Magery 1: May cast spells, may add one modifier to a base effect.
  • Magery 2: May add two modifiers to a base effect; add +1 to all spell-casting skills
  • Magery 3: May add three modifiers, may double up on modifiers.
  • Magery 4: May add four modifiers, add +2 to all spell-casting skills
  • Magery 5: May add five modifiers, may triple up on modifiers

Other Advantages

Mages may buy an advantage for a particular modifier, meaning that when they apply that modifier it still counts towards their max. modifiers, but doesn't give a penalty for the casting. If a modifier is applied twice, this advantage only negates the modifier for the first application.

Mages may by an advantage for a particular school. This advantage allows them to add a free modifier to any spell they cast for that school-- no additional difficulty and may go over the normal stacking limit from their Magery.

Effects and Calculations

We can look at the vase effect and as reasonable persons come to an understanding of what they mean, but the questions get crunchier when we get into play, specifically when we get into combat. A good rule of thumb is this: the GM is inclined to be more generous with spell effects outside of combat, so long as they don't overpower the narrative. In combat, though, we need at least some rules of thumb for the numbers.

Let's begin with damage-- a lot of schools have a directed attack spell. The base damage for these things, if they go against armor, is equal to the caster's Swing Damage, as determined by their Health. HT in this case represents the Mage's ability to channel power. This damage is Cutting. Now, I know that seems like a lot of potential damage, but it does give parity with other combat types. The Mage has to make an additional check (the casting check) and still has to hit the target. If they want to do this at range, they have to apply the Ranged modifier.

For damage which doesn't go against armor, use the caster's Impale Damage, as determined by their Health. We're talking mental damage and the like. The GM can decide if this is crushing or cutting.

For resisted effects, the target generally makes a Stat or Will check, depending on the kind of spell to resist the effect. In some cases this might be contested, in which case you use the Caster's effective skill with the spell. That ought to be rarer though. Casters can use modifiers to make a resistance check more difficult.

For applying bonuses and penalties, generally the base effect gives a +1/-1. This can change depending on whether the affected ability/stat has a broader or narrower range. That's on a case by case basis. Keep in mind, what you want to describe is the end effect you want. For example, if you want to make someone stronger so then can lift and fling an Ox in combat, that's different from just making them stronger (to do more damage, etc). In a mechanics-based system, you'd have to increase a character's ST wildly to have that effect, and it would have other fallout in terms of damage. Here, you just say that you want to make them strong enough to lift that poor Ox. We roll and viola! One flying Ox coming up. It doesn't have any fallout elsewhere-- the character won't do extra damage or anything. In general, if you affect a Stat, figured stats won't be affected (i.e. reducing DX won't affect Move or Speed)-- if you want to affect those, you have to target them. It might not make sense entirely, but it is about speed, play balance and a hatred of math.

A Partial List of Spell Modifiers:

  • Damaging: Increase damage by +1, more depending on circumstance
  • Destructive: Damage versus inanimate is doubled.
  • Enduring: Lasts longer. Attack spells are obviously instant. Combat spells with an ongoing effect last three rounds or until resisted. This would make them last for the scene. Outside of combat, things are more flexible-- this modifier can be used to support an argument of why a spell should last a while.
  • Explosion: Explosive radius-- begins from caster unless done at range
  • Farther : Spell affects targets at range. Normally spells begin with a touch range.
  • Fast: Cast spell more quickly. If it isn't an uber-spell then casting usually takes one round of prep and one of casting. It it is an uber spell, then this reduces the time.
  • Horde: Usually with summoning, making many-- usually done to speed things up or affect multiple things.
  • Independent: Creation independence, used by others. If used with a device, summon or creation it can operate under simple commands. If used with a general spell effect, it allows another person to control it.
  • Intense : Harder to resist-- gives a -2 to resistance rolls.
  • Larger: Increase area, size- can affect an area. For example, a single target spell can be made to affect a megahex.
  • Layered: Associated with physical attack-- essentially applies a secondary effect to a standard attack, like enchanting an arrow with fire.
  • Loyal: Control/summon to prevent break away. Reduces chances of something breaking out from control.
  • Many: Larger number of targets-- single target spells can affect three-- larger applications of this can be negotiated.
  • Penetrating: Penetrates magic defenses-- a relative measure, used for combating other mages.
  • Piercing: Penetrates armor-- can either halve the DR of the target or make the damage itself Piercing (doubling after DR is applied)
  • Powerful: Spell attrib. enhanced (faster flight, etc)-- a good, generic measure.
  • Precise : Fine manipulation, for handling delicate things.
  • Resilient: Hard to dispel, cure
  • Selective: Target choice-- generally combined with area effects or triggers.
  • Shaped : Complex shapes or forms-- a measure of control in forms, can be combined with Larger
  • Smart: Understands complex commands
  • Solid: Hard to break, stronger defense
  • Subtle: Hard to detect-- affects multiple senses
  • Tricky: Bouncing, split, indirect, homing
  • Triggered: Remote with basic trigger
  • Waiting: Held for later release

There is one other modifier that warrants special mention:

Secondary Spell-- this modifier combines two different effects together for a spell. The rule of thumb is that the [Secondary Spell] modifier should be the weaker of the two effects. Also as a GM, I'd probably restrict people from blending more than three magical keyword schools together. I'm also assuming that the modifiers from the base spell cascade to the secondary spell.

Modifiers can be doubled up on to increase their effect. So, you have to put a couple of Endurings on something to get it to be semi-permanent.

Casting Magic

The base casting roll for any spell is equal to the caster's skill for the associated School of Magic. In the rare case where a caster use effects from two different Schools together the roll is based on the lower skill. Subtract 1 for each modifier applied to the spell-- as well as any circumstance penalties. This is the caster's Effective Skill with the spell. If the caster rolls this number or below, the spell goes off. If the caster rolls the Effective Skill number +/-2 they take a level of fatigue. So, someone with a 13 to cast will gain fatigue by rolling 11-15. Each level of fatigue subtracts -1 from the caster's spell skills in the scene. After three fatigue levels, the GM may require HT checks for concentration.

Pushing Magic

A caster can push their effects-- either allowing them to add another modifier above their limit or else doubling or tripling where they wouldn't be able to. Doing this automatically gives a level of fatigue to the caster. If the spell roll fails while doing this, it gives two levels of fatigue. Players can negotiate for greater pushing, with greater risks.

Schools of Magic (Tentative)

Air and Weather

Afflict and Curse






Enhance Person


Gates and Time




Light & Dark

Making & Breaking

Mind Control




Protection and Wards


Summons and Spirits


Water and Ice