The Nature of Magic


Magic is the manipulation of Mana, which can be crudely thought of as "life force" or "spiritual energy" (although it is not necessarily limited to living beings). Mana is certainly generated in the body of living creatures, but it can also become associated with things - such as a venerated shrine, a haunted castle or an item which has been owned and valued for many generations. Properly used - or abused - Mana allows the alteration of normally inviolate physical laws. Thus, a spellcaster can - after long and arduous training - manipulate Mana to fly, or generate lightning. To take another example, a soldier dying on a bloody battlefield, where much Mana has been released can sometimes use it - by sheer force of will - to stave off death, becoming a ghost.

Practice of all the sorcerous arts is strenuous - manipulating the flow of Mana mean routing it through the mage's body. If the flow of Mana required for an enchantment is insufficient, then it will be torn from the mage's body. This most often manifests as sudden, premature aging (perhaps accounting for the fact that your stereotypical mage is wizened and bent) or if the Mana loss is of sufficent magnitude, death. Even normal spell-use is exhausting. It takes strength of body as well as mind to master the way of the sorceror.

To cast any spell requires END, but this END loss is treated as using up Long Term Endurance (which is referred to Mana), which means that under normal conditions, a mage recovers his REC in LTE (Mana) each day, or every 5 hours if resting. Note Mana is used *only* to cast the spell - not on succeeding phases for a spell which is continous or constant. Some locations may also have increased ambient mana - temples, holy places, sites of ancient sorcerous power, etc. Mana generally recovers faster in such areas (double REC) and in addition there may be "free" ambient mana that can be used to power spells (ie: an aid to Mana).

If a mage has insufficient Mana, when he casts a spell, then he must make up the difference with BOD instead, on a two for one basis. This is a general rule for spellcasting and is awarded a -1/4 limitation (the same as a major side effect with the "alwasy occurs when a character does a specific act" modifier). Obviously, if used frequently, to cast even minor magics would soon be crippling or lethal to a normal person, and to be a successful mage, a high END score, a high BOD score or both are required. Different schools of magic overcome this limitation in different ways, which are detailed below.

Generation and Control of Mana

Some Mages seek to increase the amount of Mana they can generate within their own body. This means that they do not become dependant on external sources of power, and this self sufficiency and body knowledge is thought to be an important step on the road to true self awareness. To simulate this in game terms, mages may buy up their END to reflect their capacity to cast more powerful or more frequent magic though it is still subject to Normal Characteristic Maxima. It is of course possible to buy extra END or REC that only affects Mana: this is a -1 limitation.

Mages may also buy the advantage "Trigger" on their spells so that they can cast them in safety, and rest to regain their strength - those spells can then be called forth later on when needed. Of course, this has the disadvantage that once triggered, those spells are gone until the mage has the time to meditate and restore his Mana, and the casting of the spells can be very debilitating. Alternatively, many mages - and especially sorceror priests - increase their Mana by prolonged meditation, which is simulated in game terms by a BOD or MANA Aid. Generally, this is bought with a reduced rate of return so that the benefits of meditation are not quickly lost, although some mages accept the loss of Mana and meditate to regain their strength afterwards. However, as with other types of magic, meditation is regarded as a spell and so requires Mana loss itself, making this a slow process.

It is possible to use END resrves - however, not all styles of magic do this, of course, since it either requires that spells must be bought with the +1/4 advantage "can draw from Mage or Reserve" or be restricted to only using a reserve.

Most Mages, however, rely on external sources of Mana. This is most easily obtained by taking Mana from other sources. To do so by force is not a good act - nevertheless, many mages use animal sacrifices to power their art. To take Mana from a human is almost universally regarded as an evil act and only employed by wielders of the darker arts.

Tapping Mana by sacrifice might be done like this:

  • 2d6 END Aid, +20 max, continous (+1). Requires a properly prepared sacrificial victim (OAF, expendable, -1 1/2), Cannot transfer more END than target has (-1/4), Concentration (1/2 DCV, throughout, -1/2), Self Only (-1/2), extra time (full phase, - 1/2), Gestures (thoughout, -1/2), Incantation (throughout, -1/2), Requires END to Cast (-1/4), Requires a skill roll (-1/2), Requires Mana (-1/4) for a total of -5 1/2. 30 active points. Real cost = 5 points.

However, it is inconvenient to have to make a sacrifice every time you want to cast a spell, so most practitioners of magic who use sacrifices trap the Mana for later use (in game terms, that means building their spells with the advantage Trigger, +1/4) or put it into forms where it can be later recovered (ie: buy an END reserve). This allows them to build up reserves for spellcasting when it is needed.

Alternatively, a spellcaster can learn to drain power directly from his victims, without the need for physical sacrifice. "The Hand of Soul-eating" created by Talmage the Deathless, is such a spell and is the darkest magic indeed:

  • 1d6 END Transfer, +10 max, ranged (+1/2), continous (+1). Concentration (1/2 DCV, throughout, -1/2), Self Only (-1/2), extra time (full phase, - 1/2), Gestures (thoughout, -1/2), Incantation (throughout, -1/2), Requires a skill roll (-1/2), Requires END to Cast (-1/4), Requires Mana (-1/4) for a total of -3 1/2. 50 active points, real cost = 11 points. While expensive, this spell is a potent weapon as well as a way of stealing Mana.

A safer route is to get someone else to provide it for you - which is why many mages train apprentices. The first spell almost any apprentice learns is some form of Mana transfer spell - for example:

  • 1d6 END Aid, +10 max, continous (+1). Concentration (0 DCV, throughout, -1), extra time (full phase, - 1/2), Incantation (throughout, -1/2), Requires a skill roll (-1/2), Requires END to Cast (-1/4), Requires Mana (-1/4) for a total of -3. 20 active points, real cost = 5 points.

This spell not only allows the recipient to cast powerful spells, but also can heal a body depleted of BOD by injury or use of magic. It can be used to power the apprentice's own spells or to transfer power to his master.

There are other ways to increase the availability of Mana, however. Geomancers locate places where the earth's Mana can be most easily tapped and arrange their environment to maximise the flow of Mana. While this is relatively benign, Geomancers tend to be limited in the areas where they can work magic. Alchemists seek to use Mana derived from both the earth and from living creatures, by distilling and trapping it in objects of power (potions, powders and artifacts) that are portable. An example might be:

  • An amulet which draws and holds Mana, which can be tapped by the holder. This is simply bought as +10 MANA (OAF, -1) for 2 points. When drained of Mana, the amulet will slowly refill with Mana drawn from the wearer (in other words it uses the wearer's REC statistic).

Other means include potions which can restore or augment Mana when drunk. These use Mana-rich ingredients such as dragon's blood and giant's sweat. An example of such a potion might be:

  • Hero's blood potion. This potion can fill a sorceror with such power that he can cast amazing magics. Power: 8d6 Aid to END. Specific Modifiers : Usable by self or one other (+1/4), Trigger (by drinking, +1/4), One Charge (-2), Requires a skill roll (-1/2), Requires END to Cast (-1/4), Requires Mana (-1/4), Gestures (drinking, -1/4), OAF, Expendable, Very difficult to recover (-1 1/2). Active Cost: 60; real cost 11

Use of such restoratives of course renders the mage dependant on them. There are other sources of Mana, including one which is easily tapped, but which the most dangerous and limiting of all, and that is demonology. There are many malign spirits who in exchange for certain services, are capable of supplying power to their servants. However, an evil spirit will make an evil master....


GM's notes

These rules heavily restrict the use of magic - or at least the frequency with which it can be used. This is entirely intentional: Gothick Empires is a swords and sorcery setting where combat should be dominated by swords and armor. On the other hand, there are no active caps on damage or active points, and many forms of magic use power frameworks. This means that mages can have many spells and are capable of great feats - crumbling castle walls like sand, summoning horrendous demons or blasting whole regiments of soldiers into ashes. However, they can't do this very frequently - a mage who casts more than one or two powerful spells is likely to take several days to recover unless he uses more magic to restore himself. If he pushes himself too hard he could die from the effects. Thus magic in this setting is potent - but not something used casually and not especially suited to combat.


Inherent Magical Powers

Inherent magical powers are those possessed by supernatural creatures such as ghosts and demons. They are aspects of their being, and as such, totally natural to them. Such powers are thus are not subject to the rules given above for Mana use, which can make these beings very powerful (and thus deserving of respect). Normally however, such creatures are restricted in other ways - ghosts draw on the power of darkness and cannot survive the light, Demons are normally restricted in their access to the world of humans and so on. Inherently magical creatures are therefore not suitable for player characters.

General Fields of Magical Endeavour

Regardless of how they get their mana, most Mages choose a field in which to specialise. The various fields of magical endeavour are given below:

Alchemy (Al)

Alchemists are able to devise a variety of mystical effects by the sprinkling or imbibing of magical essences, oils, potions, etc.

Animal Magic (Am)

Practioners of this art (often called shamans, druids, or the like) are able to control animals, shapeshift into animal forms or even take on certain characteristics of some beast.

Artifice (Ar)

Artificers are those mages who specialise in the construction of magical devices rather than the casting of spells at specific targets.

Divination (Dv)

Diviners (also called mediums) are those who specialise in the spells of detection - they can scry the past, the future or the present.

Enchantment (En)

Enchanters are those mages who specialise in the arts of the mind - also called Thaumaturges, Mentalists, etc.

Elementalism (El)

It is something of a misnomer to define this as one art since it is used to define those mages who work with the control of a particular manifestation. It can be one of the 8 cardinal elements such as Fire (pyromancy) or Flesh (Biomancy) or a more restricted field such as Ice and Cold (the Olmai Wintermagi, for example). A fuller description of the elements and elemental sorcery is here.

Illusion (Il)

The art of illusion, or glamour, partakes of equal parts enchantment and summoning, since Illusions can be completely illusory, quasi-real, or even briefly, quite real.

Metamagic (Mm)

This is the branch of magic concerned with other magic - its detection, suppression and alteration. It is not generally considered a branch of magic on its own, but is subsumed into other fields. It is mentioned here because it is sometimes taught as a seperate field at advanced colleges of magic.

Necromancy (Ne)

Necromancers are experts in the arts of decay and the spirit. For this reason they are generally mistrusted, but not all are evil, since the dead can also be questioned or bought back to aid the causes of good and some necromantic spells deal with the reversal of entropic effects. Some necromancers are in fact solitary crusaders against those who would use their art for evil.

Plant Magic (Pm)

Practioners of this art (often called shamans, druids, or the like) are able to speak to or control plants, and generally know much of the secret lore of nature.

Summoning (Su)

Summoners (also called Conjurers or Invokers) are able to draw power from other planes or places. By the reversal of their spells (evocation or abjuration) they are able to project people (themselves or others) - or powers - thus enabling travel outside of normal dimensions of space and time.

Nature Magic (Nm)

Practioners of this art specialise in spells controlling natural phenomenon - the powers of Geomancy, Maromancy (sea magic), Weather control, etc.