Monday, November 2, 2009

Magical Monday - Magic, Yeah we Got More of That

See Magic System Series Part I. The intro of that will particularly aide in understanding this post. Part III

Last time we got Wizards, Mages, and Sorcerers often pure casters. Now we look at a trio of options which are often semi-casters. By pure/semi I refer, of course, to the amount of arcane pie a character has.


Other names include: Monk, Cabalist / Qabalist, Gnostic, Thelemist, Esotericist, Guru

Manna/Mental based magic, not memorized. Cha/Int
- Safe, comparatively. No casting check at least not until over-casting.
- Can learn any number of disciplines (spells).
- Available disciplines are highly specific to provide proper flavor. Pulled from spell, psionic, mentalist, and similar lists.
- Disciplines can be learnt from masters/guru's or discovered through personal enlightenment (aka a small number are gained each experience level). Further enlightenment might be possible via arduous meditative rituals such as spending a week atop the holy mountain exposed to the elements contemplating the riddle of flesh. Also, Near death experiences are good for a new discipline.
- No ritual casting. Although, some disciplines take as long.
- No or very limited minor effects, perhaps only when "balanced" (see below).
- Some disciplines require incense or foci as material components, rarely are somatics involved. Verbal components are common in some traditions, rare in others.
- A type of casting check required (see below)
- Originally an Eastern tradition it has spread and been modified by many cultures.

Flavor: Altered state/world psychonaut. Qabalah, divine power by following the tree of life. Achieving the 8th circuit of the mind. Cool ass monk priest/mages.

Very personal, private sort of magic. Akin to mentalism or psionics. All mystics are concerned with transcending the mortal and achieving enlightenment (what that means and how to get it is up for, often violent, debate). Mystic's "spells", let's call them disciplines, are rarely flashy, often mental/charm/illusion/mind over body type effects. The oriental monk's special powers would be example of this kind of magic.

Although Mystics do not deny the existence of gods, demons, CAI's and the like, they view worshiping or invoking them as wrong turns on the path to personal enlightenment. Mystics do not gain piety, may not use divine intervention, and will not participate in nor derive benefit from similar religious/sorcerous activities.

Using disciplines upsets the natural order and pushes the Mystic out of balance. Each use of a discipline increases the Mystic's Imbalance Score by an amount equal to discipline's circuit (level). A mystic may contain/control only so much imbalance, this number is called their Balance Threshold. Balance Threshold is calculated from experience level, number of arcane pie pieces, and ability modifier.

As long as Imbalance remains at or below Threshold, everything is relatively right in the world. Once Threshold is exceeded, bad things may happen, and the Mystic must roll on the Strain Table (modified by how far their Imbalance Score is past their Threshold). They roll for every increase in imbalance beyond Threshold.
Example: Zardoz has Balance Threshold of 7. Earlier excesses have brought his Imbalance Score to 6. He uses Telekinesis (circle 2), exceeding his Threshold and thus must roll on Strain Table (with +1 modifier). Using it again, his imbalance is now 10, he must roll on Strain Table again this time with a +3 modifier.
After a good rest (i.e. once per day) a mystic may meditate for one hour to reduce his Imbalance Score an amount equal to their character level. Down to a minimum of 0, perfect balance, yay!

[Considered the simpler/tamer manna system from Beyond Fire and Forget. But, went with converted version of GURPS Unlimited Mana Variant. It's different and count up with the option/risk to go "over limit" appeals to me.]


Other names include: Alchaemancer,

Substance based magic. No memorization. Cha/Int.
- Sorta safe.
- Can learn any number of formulae.
- Available formulae taken from variety of sources including spell lists, Arduin Black Grimoire, Old Guard Gaming Accoutrements,
- Starts with small corpus of formulae. Must find/research new ones. Maintains written formulae
- No rituals.
- No minor effects.
- VSM, esp M components required at creation but not when concoctions are used.
- No casting check (but a creation check is required).
- Eastern Tradition adopted and expanded egyptians.

Flavor: Purplehell, wikipeadia, Schools of Alchaemical Philosophy

Much of the following is directly from or inspired by the Alchaemist Subclass from Old Guard Gaming Accouterments, a very excellent article.

Alchaemists practice Alchaemancy, and are concerned with discovering, understanding, and activating the magical potential which is inherent in all materials and living things. They utilize complex formulae and processes to extract, distil, and shape these magical essences into alcaemical concoctions

Alchaemical concoctions are similar to but not equivalent to magic potions. Concoctions posses more varied effects and are more like spells. In addition most concoctions may only be used by the Alchaemist who created them. Non-alchaemists may never create concoctions. Conversely, Alchaemists may create potions using the standard rules for such and many are quite gifted.

Alchaemical formulas are categorized into nine "meridians" of increasing complexity. Starting with the 9th (outer), through seven planetary(Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Luna, Sol), ending with the 1st (prime) meridian. The meridian rank 9 to 1 is the modifier (along with level and ability modifier) applied to comprehension checks (>=20 to understand formulae).

An Alchaemist must successfully comprehend and transcribe any formulae they research/find/are taught. A failed check means those particular instructions will never be of use to the Alchaemist. If they locate different instructions for that same formulae they may attempt a new comprehension check, otherwise no soup for you! An Alchaemist may prepare any formulae for which they have the written formulae regardless of it's complexity. Although, the comprehension check will tend to limit them to formulae not too complex for their level of experience.

The number of alchaemical formulas which an Alchaemist can execute in a day is equal to their character level. Each requires an alchaemical (casting) check and (10-meridian rank) * 10 minutes to prepare. Failed results may be immediate, explosions being common. Or, delayed until concoction is utilized. Many concoctions require specific material components. Adventures could involve tracking down these rare components. Slaying monsters could reap rare and precious materials for alchemical concoctions.

If kept in a non-magical container an alchaemical concoction will retain it’s potency for one day per level of creating Alchaemist . The same concoction will retain it’s power indefinitely while contained within an Alchaemical Flask. Carrying more than one dose of a particular concoction is dangerous. An Alchaemist may be limited by the amount of potions, oils, and salves he can effectively carry. (suffering "casting" delays to represent searching through the hoarders ridiculously large collection of bottles, pouches, and charms.)

An Alchaemist may create concoctions of up to the fourth meridian of complexity with the small equipment they are able to carry,"in the field". Alchaemical formulation of greater complexity will require access to a fully equipped laboratory and an assistant(s).

With successful check an Alchaemist may identify any magical potion/substance with a single drop on the tongue. This is identification of the potion only, not understanding of it’s formulation.

[A different system, Arnesonian Alchemy from Knockspell #2, which I was not impressed with.]


Other names include: Rune Master, Bone Caster, Skald, Erilaz, Seid(females only)

Runic based arcane magic. No memorization, ritual only. Cha/Wis?.
- Safe. Failed casting checks rarely result in bad things.
- Knows all spells. (maybe some lost ones to relearn)
- Limited and fixed spell list derived from selected spells, Arduin Black Grimoire, RuneQuest, Midgard RPG, other sources.
- All spells cast as ritual.
- No minor effects.
- VS and M "rune stones/bones" required to cast any spell.
- Must make d20 casting check range of success/failure.
- Asgard tradition. There is also a distinct Asian tradition, I Ching, not detailed here.

Flavor: Rune Alphabets, Galdr is Old Norse word for "spell, incantation"

Galdr (runic magic) is concerned with power within symbols and words (a dim shadow of Enochian) and their connection to the spirits of ancestors. It is strongly divinational. Although, healing Galdr (spells) are common and a few victory runes aide the warrior in defeating their foes. Galdr is the name for spells/chants, the name of the practice, and also a name for practitioner. Galdr is singular and plural.

Prior to a momentous undertaking (sea voyage, entering dungeon) during one of the thresholds when barriers between worlds are weakest (dawn, dusk, other days / places might provide bonus) the Galdr may cast their runes and divine their ancestors to reveal whether the undertaking will be auspicious or ominous. This ritual takes one hour and may be conducted at most once per day. All those performing the undertaking must share mead around a fire and allow the ancestral spirits to examine their fate lines.

[Darnit! I remember reading mechanics for simulating tarot reading/divinations and can't find nothing now... Something like diviner rolled his check and if they rolled(+modifiers) well there was a bonus or dice rerolls or something they earned. If they rolled badly then there was penalty or dice rerolls or something the DM earned to use against them. I remember it being very cool and elegant.
I have tons of weird dice, with runes, with symbols, blank dice, FUDGE dice. I'm gonna figure some way to work them into those mechanics.]

In addition, Galdr know several chants and rune combinations for more specific divinations (analogues of various div spells), cures, blessings, and for the black of heart, curses. These are cast and work identical to Rituals (casting time 10min per level)

Material components are important to runic magic. A Galdr must, obviously, have their personally constructed set of runes. Carved from the stones of their homeland or the bones of their ancestors. In addition many spells require consumption of mead and bread, the sacrifice of animals (crows, rabbits up to horses and cattle for the more powerful runes). Fires are often required, and less frequently purification (bathing) in running water, preferably run-off of a mighty peak, strong with magic.

Another key to the working of Galdr is that all those to be affected must be present and participating in the ritual. Even if only by proxy. If the berserker wants a victory blessing they will have to strip and wash themselves in the mountain stream. The mead drinking part will not be nearly as hard to "sell". To curse an enemy you must have some part of that enemy, hair, nails, an arm, something actually of them not just used/touched by them.

[A simpler and similar to normal vancian spell slots with different flavor system can be found in the Beyond Fire and Forget article.]


  1. Try this web site for a plan for using tarot cards;

  2. seems to be dead site?

  3. Dude, I'm very pleased to see the version of the Alchaemist you've cooked up, I got another excellent version sent to me by e-mail, but, It's Old Guard Gaming Accoutrements. Old Guy RPG blog is Chgowiz. Heh...

  4. E.G. Doh! Sorry about that, fixed. I'm an old guy, and easily get confused, at least that's the excuse I'm stickin to. It took me three rereadings to notice what was wrong.


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