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Magic Revised

Copyright A. Cherry ©2002

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

 

RMSS/RMFRP divides magic into three categories: Channeling, Essence and Mentalism (the Arcane realm is simply an über-hybrid of all 3 realms).  Channeling uses the power of a deity or other divine entity, Essence uses the power of the surrounding nature, and Mentalism uses the power of the spell user himself.  This is a rather elegant division, and one of which I heartily approve.  It is unfortunate, then, in my eyes, that these three realms are governed by pretty much the same set of rules, some of which simply do not make sense to me as a player or GM.  As such, I have spent time trying to revise magic in an attempt to emphasize the difference between the three realms, as well as try to add some wonder back into magic.

Channeling - Devotion

                It was the Channeling Realm that started me on this quest to revise RM magic.  It bothered me that all priests and priestesses had access to a generic pool of Open and Closed lists, and seemed unfair arbitrarily to deny them access to certain lists without somehow recompensing them.  For a short while I considered creating a table of all Channeling lists, and all of my gods, and listing which lists were Open, Closed, Own Base, and Other Base, depending on the deity one worshipped (and the role one played in the deity's retinue).  It was a worthwhile experiment, but deciding what spell lists go where quickly bogged down.  Nonetheless, I recommend that approach to anyone who otherwise sticks with the basic Rolemaster system, as it does make Channeling much more sensible.  If anyone does go that route, however, I suggest only working out the classifications for those gods who actually have followers among the player characters; that would have made my job a lot easier!

                The realm of Channeling now consists of three parts—rites, liturgies, and supplication.  Rites are much like spell lists—they are granted to some of the faithful, and work pretty much like how one would expect spell lists to work, allowing a follower to call upon a channeled power for a specific effect.  Liturgies are simple formulae and prayers that allow people to supplicate gods—much like the prayer "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep," only that it is actually supposed to work.  Finally, supplication is governed by communion, which in turn determines the connectedness of a person with his god and allows followers to call the attention of a power directly for a result.  This results in the creation of new skill categories:

 

                Devotion · Communion [combined progression] EM/IN/EM                Skills:                Commune (per deity or other power)

                Devotion · Liturgies [standard progression] EM/SD/IN                Skills:                Liturgy (per deity and type of worship)

                Devotion · Rites [limited progression] EM                                  Skills:                Rite (per spell list)

                Note:  This author believes that Empathy matches Channeling users better than Essence users, and Intuition is better served as a function of Essence.  If you think otherwise, feel free to switch EM and IN in these categories.

 

                The gods accept all comers, and anyone can join with the church at any time.  Thus all the Channeling professions should be dropped (some moved to other realms—the Animist and the Ranger both make excellent Essence users; others converted into training packages—a full-fledged priest of any god would be trained somehow), and all professions should have these categories added to their costs.  These costs are the same no matter what the profession—it is as easy for a Magician to worship a god as it is for a Fighter.  The DP cost does become easier or harder as one's Divine Status (see Channeling Companion) with regards to a particular god improves or worsens, as evidenced by the table below.  As a person's Divine Status for several powers may be different, it is very possible that he may find it easier to Commune more with one deity than another, and that's the way it should be.  Five is the default Divine Status.

                It is hoped, of course, that as one's Divine Status as regards a particular deity rises, the deity will grant other powers and abilities as well—the Divine Status guide in Channeling Companion is a start, but once again seems to assume all deities will grant the same powers.  This author encourages the GM to be creative in deciding what special powers (or special penalties) a deity grants those who rise (or fall) in his eyes.

Divine Status Table

 

Communion

Liturgies

Rites

10

2/5

4/12

1/1/1

9

3/6

4/12

2/2/2

8

4/9

4/12

3/3/3

7

5/12

4/12

4/4/4

6

6

4/12

6/6/6

5

7

4/12

8/8/8

4

8

4/12

16/16

3

16

4/12

25

2

32

4/12

50

1

64

4/12

n/a

                Communion:       The skill of communion is one of the most difficult skills I've ever had to develop, and I am still working the kinks out; anyone willing to offer suggestions is welcome to post them on the Guild Companion board.  In short, it involves the character's ability to call on their god directly to solve a problem.  The difficulty of the maneuver depends on a number of factors, including what the character is trying to accomplish, how in line with the god's plans the task would be, and how much effort the character puts into the question (simply saying "God help me!" is much less likely to work than saying "Oh Animi, Goddess of Plants, please have those horses chasing at us to trip over conveniently placed roots!").  I suggest using the Moving Maneuver Table, to figure out how much the god has listened; the difficulty is based on how much faith and effort the character put into his plea.

                Rites: These are effectively spell lists, and function as described in Spell Law, only without any casting bonuses or penalties other than casting time (using the character's ranks in the appropriate Communion skill as his level for spell-casting).  Also, though there is no more distinction between Open, Closed, Own Base, and Other Base, the only rites a character can learn are those that his deity allows him access to; if the deity says no, then no it is.  Furthermore, the Rites a character can learn are considered Restricted skills for all ranks greater than the ranks the character has in Communion—one has to grow closer to his deity to get more spells from his deity.  Note that if a character communes with two powers, and they both give the same list, he may learn the list twice, once for each power, or simply once for a particular power.

                Liturgy: The Religion skill handles knowledge about a religion; Liturgies are ways to get the attention of a power.  However, while communion is organized according to god, skills in the Liturgy category should be organized according to religion or cult or sect (in many games, these are identical, but not always).  A liturgy is a prayer or ritual accessible by the common person; it can be as simple as "Our Father, Who Art In Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name" or as complex as a nightlong meditation combined with body scarification.  Similar to the skill Tale-Telling, the ranks a character have in any skill in this category is equal to the number of liturgies the character knows with regards to his religion, and the total bonus tells of the potency of these prayers.  Though they can be powerful, liturgies fall under "things that the average worshipper might have learned;" those who commune are more likely to learn rites.  Harvest rituals, fertility prayers, protect-this-house, all of these fall into the category of Liturgy. 

                In most games, many people probably don't know more than 1 or 2 ranks of many different gods' liturgies.  Suggestions of some common liturgies follow, taken from my fantasy world:

·         Daregar's Asylum—A simple Liturgy available to any follower of the god Daregar, Daregar's Asylum takes about an hour of preparation (and is available at 1st rank), performing blessings and scattering salt around a campsite or other location.  When completed, Daregar's Asylum protects a single small area about the size of a campsite, providing a bonus to any avoidance roll for nighttime encounter rolls made for the inhabitants therein.  The bonus is equal to the subsequent maneuver bonus on the static maneuver tables.  This bonus only lasts until something or someone crosses the outer perimeter of salt for any reason (usually morning).

·         Arista's Blessing—Another simple Liturgy learned by many women, Arista's Blessing reduces the chances of miscarriage during a pregnancy and helps to ensure a proper and healthy birth.  Overuse of the blessing, however, can make a woman barren after they birth their child, but this can be offset with Charisha's Touch and is not very likely, as the Blessing involves drinking a foul-tasting mix of healthy herbs and spices.  This liturgy is also available at 1st rank, and few mothers have not learned it.

·         Sword of Fire—This nasty-sounding blessing is another 1st rank liturgy learned by many soldiers, and is not nearly as powerful as it first appears.  The liturgy is often said the night before a combat, for it calls upon the god Thakanae and asks him for help in an upcoming fight; it is a simple shouted prayer—the louder the better, which is why mercenary groups normally do it in groups (GM's decision as to bonus).  If successful, Sword of Fire grants OB equal to the subsequent maneuver bonus on the static maneuver table for a single combat.  As such, it is a favorite of mercenaries on both sides of a conflict.  However, failure grants an OB penalty—Thakanae is a spiteful god.

·         Vond's Telling—Seasoned sailors often know Vond's Telling, a 3rd rank liturgy that allows them to see the sea god Vond's favor about their travels and their boat.  Before any ship sets sail, smart captains perform this liturgy, or have one of their sailors perform it, to foretell their time at sea.  This is done by taking a wreath of white-petaled flowers and throwing them into the water at high tide.  If all the petals darken (a failure) the trip will be bad but should be survivable; if all the petals stay bright (a success) the trip will be good.  A mixed reaction of petals means that the trip is just that—mixed (partial or near success).  If all the petals sink instead of float (an absolute failure) then the trip simply isn't taken that day—Vond's Telling is predicting doom.

·         Beleth's Transformation—A powerful liturgy, a minimum of 10th rank, Beleth's Transformation is an appeal to the goddess of darkness and nightmares that only certain small sects of her following even teach.  It is a nightlong ritual that, if successful, changes the performer into a Lich at the end.  If it fails, the performer simply perishes, though Beleth often takes these poor souls and turns them into nightmarish servants of her own.  Most details of Beleth's Transformation are better left buried.

Essence - Spellcrafting

                The realm of Essence is that of magic.  Mentalism, Essence, Arcane, and even some Channeling lists are combined into this single realm.  There is no more artificial division between Own Realm and Other Realm—there are simply spells a person can cast.  In this case, spell RRs are modified by Em + In + Pr and one gets a bonus to Power Point Development equal to the average of those three bonuses.  We do still keep the division between Open, Closed and Base, which works well with my other article, The Role of Magic.  If a GM is not using that other article, all spell-casting professions that you do not turn into training packages should be moved to Essence, though their Prime Requisites should remain the same (with the obvious exception of the Priest—Rangers and Animists make better Essence Users than they do Channeling users!).  Use whatever spell-casting penalties you believe are appropriate for how you view magic in the world—I personally enjoy the schools of magic out of the Essence Companion and would suggest those.

                What is new here is Spellcrafting.  Spellcrafting allows a spell user to create spells on the fly.  Though spellcrafting is treated as a skill in the Power Manipulation category, spell users may not put ranks into it directly.  Instead, the skill bonus naturally rises as the spell user puts ranks into his spell lists.  Spell lists that go high are a plus, but the number of lists is also vitally important—the more lists a person knows, the more flexible his options are.  The Spellcrafting bonus is calculated by counting up his total ranks in all of his spell lists, multiplying it by the number of spell lists he knows.  Take the square root of this product and round down.  As a character only needs to calculate this once a level, this should not be too onerous a task to accomplish.

                The highest level spell a person may spellcraft is equal to the highest level spell list he knows, plus his level.  To resolve the attempt, one rolls Spellcrafting, minus one per level of the spell effect attempted, along with any other spell casting modifiers including over-casting.  Add 10 if the character has a spell list with a similar effect, or 25 if the character has successfully crafted this particular spell before.  Subtract 25 if the effect desired is not at all related to any of the lists that the character knows.  Due to the danger of improvised magic, failure is always rolled on the 'attack spells' column.

Mentalism - Psychic

                The simplest change that was made was simply replacing Mentalism with the psychic powers, as they were laid out in the excellent Spacemaster: Privateers.  The Mentalism Companion makes an excellent argument for the difference between Mentalism and Psychic powers; it is this author's opinion that the difference is not great enough to warrant a separate category.  However, it should not take too much work to make Mentalism into a separate 'school of magic'—this author hasn't found the need to do that yet.  Also take into consideration that the Mentalism Companion's argument was about Mentalism in the setting more than the system; changing the mechanics used shouldn't necessarily change the underlying setting considerations.

                There are two other considerations the author took into account when making this change.  First was his joy at finding an RMSS magical system that wasn't list-oriented.  Second was more aesthetic—after changing Channeling so much, it really didn't seem proper for Essence and Mentalism to be so similar.  The psychic powers came along at the perfect time, and Mentalism was given to the Magic classification in order to make room for the Psychic classification.

                In game terms, there is now a Mind Point Development (MPD) skill in addition to Power Point Development (PPD); a Magician and Psychic would need to learn both (if you want to keep the argument from Mentalism Companion, simply rule that PPD and MPD are the same skill).  The Spacemaster: Privateer professions map well onto the existing professions for the purposes of adding the costs for MPD and Psychic Powers.  Even the Psychic works perfectly as a Pure Mentalism User, though once again I suggest The Role of Magic for its logic applies equally to the psychic as it does to the spell user. 

                The one big change I have made here is that when figuring out refraction, one uses the category ranks of the psychic power, not the character's level.  Also note that in a fantasy setting, one should combine Photokinesis and Radiokinesis into a single category.  There are also holes in the psychic powers that a skilled GM can fill (the biggest being a lack of an illusion skill in Photokinesis), though hopefully Future Law will address those when the new owners release it.

Using this Article with The Role of Magic

The following changes and additions should be made to the Talents and Flaws:

Archetype—can be used for Power Point Development or Mind Point Development

Aura—can be used for Power Point Development or Mind Point Development

Hybrid Archmage Abilities should be deleted; there is no such thing as a hybrid anymore

Directed Spells Master is now Directed Powers Master, and works for both spells and psychic powers

Power Burn—Can apply to PPD or MPD; if it applies to both, it is –15 points

New Psychic Talents:

15

Directed Psychic (Major)

One Psychic skill is Occupational; others in the same category are Everyman

10

Directed Psychic (Minor)

One Psychic skill is Everyman (the rest of the category have normal progression)

30

Exceptional Supernatural Ability (Greater)

You have both the True Mentalist and Lesser Archmage Abilities talents

30

General Psychic (Greater)

+30 to all Psychic categories

20

General Psychic (Major)

+20 to all Psychic categories

10

General Psychic (Minor)

+10 to all Psychic categories

20

True Mentalist

Your Psychic Power costs start at 3/3/3

30

Pure Mentalist

Your Psychic Power costs start at 1/1/1

30

Psychic Power (Greater)

50 ranks of Psychic categories/skills, no more than 5 ranks in any category/skill

5

Psychic Power (Lesser)

3 ranks of Psychic categories/skills

20

Psychic Power (Major)

25 ranks of Psychic categories/skills, no more than 5 ranks in any category/skill

10

Psychic Power (Minor)

10 ranks of Psychic categories/skills, no more than 5 ranks in any category or skill

15

Psychic Training

The user can ignore SD restrictions, and develop all Psychic powers as normal skills


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