Saturday, October 12, 2013

Microlite 2d10 Fantasy Preview 3 - The Theory of Magic

    Here's a little more of my Pathfinder/d20 conversion, this time it's the basics of the magic system.  One thing I really wanted to change with magic was the power level.  I think that having spells like "Wish" makes mages so ridiculously powerful that they would be killed on sight in any semi-sane universe.  So I'm going to drop the top end just a little bit.  Also, there are a few spells that seem like they should be innate abilities (like Read Magic, and the question of- if you have to cast a spell to read magic how did anyone ever learn the read magic spell in the first place?).  I also want to make the "gift" of magic separate from being able to cast, so you can make the 'latent' characters who have the gift but don't know what to do with it.  I also want to make cleric magic more like the Wild Magic of Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory's Obsidian Trilogy (The Outstretched Shadow, To Light A Candle, When Darkness Falls).  There, every time you cast a spell you have to pay a price by doing something - the main character casts a finding spell for a lost key and ends up having to rescue a cat in a tree.  This feels more 'cleric' to me, the idea that you are supposed to be working on earth to further your deity's goals.  It's a good fantasy series if you haven't read it.  Actually working on the spell schools has been a very long process, I hope to get the first, Abjuration, done soon.

============== Magic ==============

    Magic is the ability to manipulate reality.  All of reality is made up of two conflicting forces: Order and Chaos.  One cannot exist without the other, yet they work in different, sometimes opposing, ways.  Order seeks to connect, to add, to stabilize, to entangle and complicate.  Chaos is singular, unique, transitory, unpredictable.  Embracing and surrounding them both is what's known as The Flux.  The Flux is the unknown and unknowable foundation for all reality, for all life, and for all magic.  A mage, which is a generic term for anyone who can access magic, has been touched by The Flux.  The way they have reached The Flux determines what kind of magic they can use.
    Those born with a portion of The Flux inside them have the Mage-Gift and are Wizards.  They access Arcane magic, harnessing the raw purpose of The Flux to bend reality.  Even though they are born with a gift, they must study long and hard to train themselves how to master it to cast spells.  Some, known as Ethermancers, focus on only one or two types of spells to cast.  Others, known as Sorcerers, have received their gift because of an encounter with a magical creature or effect in their heritage or past experiences, and work to evoke more of this gift in their bodies.
    Those who have been touched by the gods, sentient creatures of The Flux, are Clerics.  They are the True Believers, embracing their encounter with Divine magic.  They do not control their magic, instead they are given it by their patron deity, in Doctrines of behavior or association.  While most will tend to a congregation of believers or a sacred place, some will choose a more active life, moving through the world to further the goals of their deity (and sacrificing their own desires) as Palladins.  Others will seek to unify themselves with their deity, becoming one with extraplanar forces, as Oracles.
    Lastly are those who have opened themselves to The Flux, channeling it through their bodies.  Every living thing is a small reflection in microcosm of the macrocosm of The Flux.  By seeking the inner gates that connect the mortal to the supernatural, they achieve Enlightenment and access Psionic magic.  The Psions study how magic moves through their own bodies, while Manifesters create the strange material known as ectoplasm.  Strangest of all is the Instrumentality, who follows a pattern of life itself, making the immaterial manifest.

The Three Sources of Magic
    There are only three ways to harness The Flux.  Be born with it, making magic something to be learned, called Arcane magic.  Be given it, bestowed through a deep connection of belief, called Divine magic.  Or, awaken it, channeling it through your body and experiences in the form of Psionic magic.  Let's explore each one further:

Arcane magic
    Focused on manipulating energy and matter around the caster, this is the sort of default or middle type of magic - the type by which the others are judged/compared.  Casting this type requires speech and movement to help create the unique conduit between the world (via speech) and the mage (via movement).  The words are typically a constructed language, personalized to the mage's way of perceiving and interacting with natural forces.  There are rumors of the "true language of magic" that would give the wielder incredible power, but if it exists it is not commonly known.  Movement is typically provided by hand gestures, though some mages go for more elaborate things like dance, or even another skill like playing the lute.  It is possible for the arcane mage to cast without these, but it takes more power and skill (see the section on casting spells later).  As this is a learned skill, the maximum Magnitude that can be cast is equal to the wizard's Mysticism skill level (including the Mind attribute).

Divine magic
    In some ways is the easiest.  Unlike the other types of magic, the cleric is not the one casting the spell - they are instead asking their patron deity to cast for them.  Because of this, their power is not relevant, it is the deity providing the energy needed for the spell.  It is the job of the cleric to be the focal-point for the deity to act in the Mortal Sphere, to go to the places needed and to call upon the deity to do what is needed.  Since deities are extraplanar beings of The Flux, they cannot enter the Mortal Sphere directly without causing great changes to reality and risk to themselves.  So they act through their clerics, and occasionally more directly through Avatars.
    This relationship, as a petitioner, makes the cleric operate very differently from the other two types of mages.  First, the cleric can ask, but there is no guarantee of answer.  It is up to the deity [read: GM] to choose to fulfill the request.  A deity may also alter the spell being asked for in a great or small way to suit its own purposes.  Second, the cleric's MP total is spent and recovered differently.  A cleric's maximum MP represents time spent in prayer and contemplation of the deity, the closeness of the cleric to the deity (note, not to the church or other worldly organization, but to the deity itself).  A cleric does not use any skill for casting, this is not a learned ability.  Instead, the cleric's maximum MP is the highest magnitude spell they can pray for without personal cost.  A cleric can pray for a greater magnitude spell, but they must be willing to take some sort of penalty, HP loss, attribute reduction, or something as a show of faith and need.  If the prayer is denied, then the cleric loses only 1 MP for the attempt.  If the prayer is granted, the cleric loses MP as usual.  If a higher-Magnitude spell was granted, the cleric loses all his MP (but does not go negative) and must accept whatever penalty the deity chooses (known and agreed to before the prayer is granted, usually).  To regain MP, every deity has a list of actions that are Accepted, Encouraged and Praiseworthy (worth 2, 4 and 6 MP respectively).  This MP gain for actions can take their current total above their maximum, but they still use only the maximum for bonding to magic items and other permanent effects.  They also have a list of actions that are Taboo (-3 MP) and Forbidden (reduces current MP total to 0, -2 max MP if current total is 0 already - if this reduces the character's max MP to 0 then they have been excommunicated by the deity and lose the True Believer feat and all spellcasting ability, and their max MP remains at 0).  A cleric must do something, perform actions, to regain the deity's favor to pray for spells without penalty.

Psionic magic
    The Psion moves The Flux through themselves in order to cast spells.  This is almost the opposite of divine magic, and the psion is even more contained than the arcane caster.  This has both benefits and drawbacks.  A psion must increase the magnitude of any spell with a Range greater than Touch by +2.  However, a psion does not need to speak or move to cast, and they can also use their own bodies as power, taking 1 HP in damage for 2 MP (which cannot go beyond the psion's max MP).  A psion can cast a spell of a Magnitude equal to his Mysticism skill +Str (since they are both learned and innate casters)

The Thread of Magic
    All magic users have a Thread, a bond between themselves and the raw power of The Flux.  The different types of Threads offer different benefits and limitations to each type of magic user.  Let's go over each Thread in detail:

The Arcane Thread opens your mind and senses to magic, allowing a few special abilities:
⦁    Detect magic - as a full-round (AOO) action you can reach out to sense the flows of magic around you.  This is only a Vague sense, and you can close your eyes and still feel things instead.  You can sense other mages, and if they are arcane or divine or psionic.  You can also sense any latent gifts.  You can sense any magic items, but only that they are magical, not any details about the item's abilities or name.  Any active spells you can sense the School and Element (but not the exact Technique or Aspect), as well as the general power as Weak (Magnitude 1-6), Moderate (7-12) or Strong (13+).  You need a direct line to the spell/item to detect, if something is blocked behind a wall or in a container you can only sense if there is magic "nearby" with no details.
⦁    Write magic - you can also channel a small amount of magic into your writing.  This does not cost any MP.  The writing can be visible or invisible, if invisible then it takes someone with the Mage-Gift or a spell of Divination to read it.  You can write one thing visibly and another invisibly on the same surface.  With Arcane Writing it is impossible to tell a lie, at least, anyone reading it will know it's a lie (as far as you knew when you wrote it), and the writing carries emotional nuances just like body language, tone and inflection of voice do when speaking face-to-face.  The traces of your identity are not enough to form a Mark, but you do reveal a part of yourself, giving another spellcaster a +2 bonus on any Spellcasting BAB rolls to effect you.  Anyone reading it also gets a +2 Communication check to understand your meaning (if it was written in a different language than the reader, for example).  You can also create a Sigil, a unique and personal symbol of your magic (and therefore being) which can be visible or invisible, and acts as a Mark and +5 Spellcasting BAB for anyone who possesses it to cast targeting you.  Often joining magical groups will require you to hand over one as a surety of good behavior.  A visible Sigil can be copied, but anyone who can read magic will be able to tell it is a fake.
⦁    Read magic - you must use Detect magic to tell if there is any invisible magical writing, but you can read magical writing at will.

True Believer
Anyone can choose to believe in a deity, but the True Believer has been directly touched by the divine and has opened a channel to their deity.
⦁    Consecration - through a ritual you can set aside an area, item or person for your deity.  It must be something your deity would be willing to bless (ie, a nature deity would not generally consecrate a construct or undead).  For an item or area this lasts until another deity places a different consecration on the same thing/place (which negates both, so it has to be done twice to change deity), for people it lasts as long as the person believes in the deity.  Items and places give a +2 bonus to Spellcasting BABs by the same faith at that area or to that target, and give a -2 to all other faiths (note, Divine only, Arcane and Psioncs ignore this).  People receive the Brotherhood benefit below.
⦁    Atonement - a True Believer can bring others into the fold, by spending 1 MP on a willing person that person can also be given the True Believer feat (though they still have to pay for it).  A True Believer can also help another Believer who has fallen by performing a Forbidden act.  This takes time, and the recipient must be honestly willing to change, but it can eliminate the max MP penalty.  As a full-round (AOO) action the True Believer can commune with the deity to find out what the deity desires the Believer to do for an immediate and specific choice, option or course of action.  The deity may respond to do a certain thing, not do a certain thing, or that it does not matter/no answer.
⦁    Brotherhood - any beneficial spells cast on you by a member of your faith are treated as 2 Magnitudes higher for effects (you choose the bonus).  Also, any harmful Divine spells cast on you by a different faith are at -2 Spellcasting BAB.

Unlike the mental awakening of the arcane, or the spiritual awakening of the divine, the psionic has awakened to life itself.
⦁    Energetic Body - the psionic can spend 1 MP (only, cannot be combined with anything else like Ki pool) to gain a +2 bonus to a single physical or mental action (like Athletics or Knowledge, but not Communication).
⦁    Controlled Mind - the psionic can Invest 1 MP (reducing their current and max until ended) as a move-action to create a Mental Barrier, giving a +2 to Will Saves, but a -2 to any Spellcasting BABs, it takes another move-action to let down the barrier.
⦁    Trance - you can alter your consciousness in two ways.  First, when you take a rest you can instead choose to Meditate and transfer all the HP you would have gained into MP instead.  Second, you can open your mind as a Medium and sense the presence of any nearby spirits, which allows you to use your Communication skill to speak with them, however in this state you have a -2 to Will Saves (and you cannot have your Mental Barrier up).

Forms of Magic
    The most diverse way of using magic is through spellcasting, but it is not the only way.  There are three methods of delivering magic into the Mortal Sphere:

    Some mages can touch an item and imbue it with the power of The Flux.  This can take many forms.  The Palladins of Healing deities call it "lay on hands" and they imbue the person touched with positive extraplanar energy for healing.  There are Arcane casters who can Imbue items with magical properties, creating temporary magic items out of common objects.  And some Psions have learned how to use mujdra hand-symbols to create a channel of internal power, Imbuing themselves with magic.  There is a feat for each type of Imbuing, and the exact rules and usage is described in the Class Creation section.

    Rather than cast magic into the shape of a spell, some mages release raw energy into the Mortal Sphere.  Divine mages can become Beacons of the Faith, creating a powerful field of energy drawn from their deity.  This surge creates two opposing effects to two opposing targets, like healing the living and harming undead or increasing skill checks and decreasing spellcasting checks.  Each deity has different effects they provide.  Another way divine mages work is by taking the deity's power in themselves and creating an Avatar Aura.  This gives the mage an immunity to something, like fear for example, and gives all those nearby a bonus to resist the same.  Or it could give them a bonus to do something, and a lesser bonus to those nearby.  Arcane mages may create Elemental Fields that increase or decrease a certain Element.  While psions can perform Skill Channels, weaving energy into the things they do and increasing the effects beyond the natural - as with the blend of magic and music performed by the Bard.

    All of the above have limited effects, each ability does only one specific thing.  Spellcasting, however, is the ability to weave magic into any shape or form desired.  Because it can have so many different effects, the rest of this section will describe it in detail.

Classification of Spells
    Spells can take many, many different forms, since each is a specific alteration of reality.  However, over time mages have discovered deep commonalities between spells called "Schools."  Within each School are several "Techniques."  But these only describe the type of change being made, there is also the consideration of what in the real world is being effected.  These are called "Elements" in general and "Aspects" in particular.  The skill of magic use is in knowing how to execute Schools and Techniques after gathering enough power to overcome the Elements and Aspects being effected.
    Since it is effectively impossible to separate the action from the acted upon, next we'll describe each School and Technique, while highlighting the Elements and Aspects each was designed to influence.  Afterwards we'll look at how they can be separated to define exactly what a mage is capable of.

Limits of Magic
    Before we look at the individual Schools of magic, it is important to keep in mind that while magic is an incredible force, it too has limits:

⦁    The Burden of Free Will - you cannot take away choice from another sentient being, you can punish for disobeying, you can distract and entice, reward for obeying, but you cannot steal away choice (which is the fundamental expression of The Flux itself, to deny it would be to deny that which reality is built upon).  Note, however, that choice can be given.  When one bonds to a magic item or Patron force one gives up a piece of one's own soul to create the conduit for power to flow through.  Eventually this can diminish the soul enough to make the person a slave to the force or power they are now inextricably linked with - even still, they did it to themselves, they did not have to create the bond in the first place.
⦁    The Separation of Death - you cannot bring back the dead, when the soul leaves the body it leaves the Mortal Sphere and goes to another extraplanar space; only the Gods, who exist there, can send it back (they rarely will however, and they would always, always charge a very high price- plus the soul in question has to be willing to come back).  However, if you are prepared beforehand you can re-direct the soul in the moment it leaves the body and send it somewhere else.  Souls are eternal and cannot be destroyed.
⦁    The Turnings of Time - magic cannot alter the past, though it may view it.  One can attempt to alter the future, however it is constantly changing and virtually all spells attempting to do so will have unexpected consequences as the future they planned for does not come precisely to pass.

    In addition to these limits, there is the limit of a mortal spellcaster channeling the raw power that under-pins reality.  No Mortal mage of Medium Sentience can cast a spell with a Magnitude greater than 20.  Mages with a greater or lesser Sentience have a + or - 2 for each size category away from Medium.  Fae and Outsiders gain a bonus to this limit (+2 and +4 respectively), but Endowed have a penalty (-10) because most of their power is tied up in their existence.  There is a way to get around this, by casting the spell in a slower form as a Ritual, which will be described later.

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