3 Rounds for Casting
Copyright Joel Blair, 1999
The Speed of Essence: why 3 rounds are the basic time for spell casting.
"My mage wants to cast this spell in one round!" -player
"Okay you're facing a huge penalty, the spell is at your level." -GM
"What? Why? Its all Essence isn't it? According to Joel, it is all the same stuff. Shouldn't matter how fast I pull it in!" -Player
GM shakes head sadly, wishing Joel had never posted to where his players could read. Wishing his players couldn't read...
"Okay, I guess you're right. But for some reason, it takes you 3 rounds to remember all the steps. Otherwise you're hurrying them." -GM waits.
"Alright." *grumble* Player deals with this definition since he just wants to blast something. GM wipes his forehead and sighs in relief at another hastily patched breach in gaming theory.
Sound familiar? Well for most of you, probably not. It did in my campaigns. Most of our approach to rules is based on whether the rule makes sense and if it "fits" with the overall game. This incorporates the field of gaming theory more than anything else. Umm... Okay, those of you who I just lost: It happens to my group and other groups I know. So I thought I would post the idea behind why it takes 3 rounds at one point to cast a spell, then 2, then 1 as the caster progresses in levels.
There are 3 aspects involved in spell casting that are used by all 3 of the realms. These 3 aspects were the basis of the Arcanists conversion from Ritual magic to using Arcane Spells. Mastery of these 3 aspects enable one to focus the Essence and achieve desired results. These aspects are not spells themselves, or skills, but rather a reflection of the "doing" of them. An example would be woodworking. There are many tools and techniques used during wood crafting but none of them "is" wood crafting itself, together they make it up.
Principles of Magic and the Essence
The three rounds of spell casting can be defined through the three aspects that must be engaged to call upon the Essence. Each aspect correlates to a round of spell casting. The first aspect is the first round, etc. When a caster reduces the time spent in preparing a spell, the first and second aspect/round is lost not the third or final round. To explain: The first aspect is the imaging/forming of the idea/spell image, i.e. seeing the Fireball in the mind's eye. The second aspect is summoning/calling to the energy, i.e. summoning the element of the Fire to be present for the caster. At the end of this round some physical effects would be visible. The third and final aspect involves naming the spell (i.e. True name). This third round is the most important aspect and is the actual phase when the spell fully comes into being. It is the round in which the caster can fumble his control of the energy that makes up the spell (attack, BAR, etc) and the casting of the spell itself (the SCSM).
Channelers have been found to use chants or prayers that call upon the attention of their chosen Higher Being. Each chant is composed of 3 aspects of symbolic reference, though the chant itself in many cases may be much longer. The first aspect represents the imaging of the Higher Being as the Channeler sets up a connection to the divine/demonic other. As it can be noticed many songs of faith and devotion start by naming the subject of the caster's faith: i.e. "Amazing Grace" (which represents the Christian God), "Hara Krishna" (naming an incarnation of Vishnu), etc. The second aspect is the calling to the Higher Being, wherein the caster pours out his/her faith, and devotion to prove that their intent is true to the Higher Being's principles. The third aspect is the naming of the deity/being itself, It's will is present and the caster calls out It's name as he/she is filled with divine/demonic power.
If the Channeler cuts down the time of casting, they have cut down the need to cover one of these aspects. Cutting down the casting time also cuts down on the words which make up the prayer or chant, in most cases it changes to another chant or prayer entirely. For example: when cutting the spell from 3 rounds to 2 the caster no longer needs to form an image of their Higher Being, their experience or faith (or wishful hoping in the case of snap casting) enables them to hold the image of the being at all times. Cutting from two rounds to one the caster has surpassed the need to prove their intent, it is taken as granted by the Higher Being. When finally down to one round all the Channeler must do is symbolize the Higher Being's name and their wished for effect is given. The Being knows their desire and sees the spell they wish to cast as being almost a right of the caster. Note that this description is not meant to imply that any usage of a spell by the caster is going to be granted by the being when a casting of one round is performed. Merely that the caster is trying to get a desired result by simply calling on the name of their Higher Being.
Some GMs will wish to have spells fizzle out if the usage of the spell does not match the Higher Being's principles; others may simply have the caster suffer afterwards in reflection. Neither of these gaming styles would render this definition of spell casting time unworkable.
Those who mold the Essence directly have a similar approach but differing methods. Essence users tend to use a single word, that is each round is spent calling out a Word which is associated with the casting of the spell instead of a series of chants or prayers. Cutting down on the number of rounds means that the caster has enough control over the Essence that they are able to skip those phases, such as imaging the element or spell, summoning of the spell energy, to the point of where eventually they simply call out the "Name" of the spell effect and it comes into being. Powerful Essence casters (Yoda, Lao-Tzu, Don Juan, Bel-Garath) are so attuned to the Essence that they have started to move slightly closer to the realm of Mentalism in the fact that their Will and a single Word are enough to change reality.
Those who use the realm of Mentalism have an even more personal form of spell casting method, sometimes having a mantra, sometimes just mental imagery and internal vocalization. They operate by Will alone, each round that they cut down from the casting time is simply one step further to pure Will that they have become. Real world examples of this includes yogis or disciplined people who are able to enter various intense states of concentration and focus. After enough practice, they are able to cut down on the time needed to achieve desired levels of focus; master yogi's can slow their heart rates down to a null state almost instantly.
Hybrids and Arcane: This part is wholly within the realm of the GM as the inter-action of the realms in each world is still very unique. This is not a cop-out, only a recognition that while I can analyze and look at the nature of spell-casting, the GM must decide where Channeling begins and Essence leaves off, etc. and how users of both must dance between 2 or even 3 realms.
Spell time in Gaming Rounds:
For Channelers each part of the symbolism must be repeated each round. Thus, each part can be seen as taking 3 seconds of time, one round being 10 seconds. When the caster cuts down on casting rounds they sometimes use chants/prayers/ or words which take up less time but hold more power and thus fill the caster with more of the Being's Essence. For Essence users the actual word once again takes roughly 3 seconds to say, yet the movements of body, the usage of the catalyst, etc. are also incorporated to take up roughly another 6 seconds. In the case of Mentalists the mental imagery and pure concentration to get the Essence to bend to their will (a feat which still boggles the imagination) eats up the entire round. It is amazing that it does not eat up more but the realm and study of Mentalism is known for users with high Self Discipline and this must account for how quickly they are able to manipulate the Essence by will alone. Their minds are trained to the point of lacking the "noise" that most of us must filter through before achieving unbroken states of concentration.
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