Items of Power: A Spell Focus Style for HARP

Copyright Robin Johnson © 2008

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"Items of Power are specially created wands, staffs, amulets, rings, but can be anything including places, buildings or even magical life forms"


In College of Magics, rules exist for "Spell Focus Styles" to provide excellent flavor for sigil creation and several examples are given with the theory being that a practitioner of magic would choose two styles and suffer a penalty if only able to use one and completely unable to cast spells if both styles were impossible in a particular situation. College of Magics supplies five examples: Gestural, Song, Somatic, Trance and Verbal. A wizard that has Gestural and Verbal focus styles would need to make a hand gesture and say something to cast a spell properly. This is great fun because a gagged and bound wizard wouldn't be able to cast spells to escape. But a wizard with Trance and Song could use their Trance ability without the Song (suffering a penalty) but could still cast spells while gagged and bound -- but has to make a Trance roll under lightning round conditions to cast spells (so there's a penalty).

Meanwhile, also in College of Magics, a Thaumaturge, Mage or Mystic can use the Magestaff spell to manufacture a Power Point and/or Spell Adder. A Magestaff is a mighty magic item and a must have for any serious wizard. A Spell Adder allows powerful spells to be cast without scaling penalties (except for armor) and a Power Point Adder allows a wizard to spew many spells either at no usage of power points or with the ability to scale without penalty. Again, great fun.

This sparked an idea to combine the two, essentially creating popular fantasy literature style spell casting with wands, staffs, rings, places of power combined with the spoken word. This led the author to creation of a spell focus style for Middle Magic that requires an Item of Power and the Verbal focus style with the restriction that both are required to cast any Middle Magic spell.

The rules that follow have been play tested for over a year and have proven to be well balanced and fun.

Items of Power Spell Focus Style

A spell caster that selects the Item of Power Spell Focus Style along with another Spell Focus Style (Verbal, Trance, Somatic, etc) must have access to an Item of Power to properly control and effectively use Middle Magic (regular spell casting). Items of Power are specially created wands, staffs, amulets, rings, but can be anything including places, buildings or even magical life forms. Items of Power can have different strengths for different spheres of magic. Each Item of Power has a set of maximum power ratings for each sphere of magic -- with most having a default rating for unlisted spheres. These power ratings place a limit how many power points can be used for a spell in the appropriate sphere. The power ratings are in addition to all other normal spell casting limitations, available power points, skill ranks, scaling, etc. An attuned user may exceed the power rating but there is a risk of damage to the item and spell caster. The Item of Power must be attuned to the user for maximum benefit. A user that has not attuned is limited to 50% of the maximum power rating. A character that has selected the Item of Power Spell Focus Style may not use a Power Point Adder or Spell Adder.

A character can only be attuned to one Item of Power at a time. Players wishing to use an attuned Item of Power will need to have the Attunement skill. The attunement process takes full, unbroken concentration for a number of minutes equal to the maximum power rating of the item up to a maximum of 16 hours (960 minutes) and exhausts a number of power points equal to the rating from the character up to the character's maximum power points. Attunement to an Item of Power disrupts any previous attunement to another Item of Power by that character. But should a character wish to reattune to a formerly attuned Item of Power they get a +50 bonus to the roll. A character that is already attuned to an Item of Power can assist another character in an attunement attempt -- the character attempting attunement gets a +30 bonus for the assistance (equivalent to "knowing the spell" bonus for attunement skill attempts). All players attempting attunement get the +10 knows abilities bonus as normal if told the Item of Power's ratings. More than one character may be attuned to the same Item of Power, but a character may only be attuned to one Item of Power at a time.

A character uses an Item of Power as a focus for casting middle magic spells. Ritual magic requires an Item of Power for focus as well. A character that has selected the Item of Power Spell Focus Style cannot cast Middle Magic Spells unless they have both an Item of Power and the ability to perform one of their other Spell Focus Styles. Characters that have not attuned must be touching an Item of Power to cast spells. Attuned characters, however, need only be within a certain "broadcast range" of the Item of Power depending on its rating. Items of Power with ratings 100 or less have a "broadcast range" of the power rating divided by 5 meters (example: a wand with a rating of 80 could be used by an attuned character 16 meters away to cast spells). Items of Power with ratings above 100 have a "broadcast range" of the power rating in meters minus 80. Only magical wards can block this ability.

Importantly, Items of Power can store mana. An attuned character may charge the Item of Power with their own power points at a rate of 1 point per minute up to the Item of Power's maximum charge. These power points are drained from the user's total and must be replenished in the usual manner. These stored power points can be used to cast spells including scaling options without taking the scaling penalties (except for armor) and can cast those spells in one round without suffering "rush" penalties -- however there is no bonus for taking extra rounds to prepare the spell. The charged mana remains until used or another character attunes to the Item of Power which disrupts any stored mana. A spell cast with charged mana cannot be combined with regular mana focused by the character through the Item of Power.

An Item of Power can provide stored mana for only one spell focus per round. Each spell beyond the first is delayed until the next round. Further spells pile onto the stack and will resolve once per round until all spells in queue are resolved. The same rule applies to mana charging -- a maximum of one mana per minute no matter how many attuned players are attempting to charge the Item of Power. Mana charged to the Item of Power by one character can be used by any other attuned character. Usually, an Item of Power "place" or otherwise immovable object would be a likely candidate for multiple character attunements -- however the players so attuned would be handicapped away from the place, although the place would likely have a very high power rating and potentially a wide broadcast range.

Excess Power Usage: If an attuned character casts a spell using power points that exceeds the power rating for an Item of Power, the spell casting roll suffers an additional -5 penalty per power point in excess of the rating and the caster immediately suffers one concussion hit per excess power point used. The Item of Power then must make a Cascading Magic RR roll. Roll adding the +5 per excess power point used to get target number. The Power Item then rolls its RR with a bonus of the Power Item's Skill Bonus given by its Default Power Rating (i.e. 10 is +50, 20 is +70, etc). If the item fails by 1 - 10, then its maximum power ratings are permanently reduced by one. If the item fails by 11 -- 20, then its maximum power ratings are permanently halved rounded down. If the item fails by 21+ - it becomes useless and deals a D100 + Power Rating Electrical Critical (no damage cap) to the character. A fumbled RR is identical to failing by 21+.

The Magestaff spell should be changed to allow for creation of Items of Power. The base spell should allow the creation of an Item of Power with a power rating of 16. The scaling options would be as follows: +1 PP for each 4 additional points of power rating up to 40, 2 points up to 60, 1 point above 60. Therefore an Item of Power with a rating of 40 would require +6 PP of scaling, a rating of 60 would require +16 of scaling, a rating of 80 would require +36 PP and a rating of 100 would require +56 PP.


For a true fantasy literature style spell casting environment, a game master could require that all regular spell casters using Middle Magic be required to have the Item of Power Spell Focus Style and hence an Item of Power. In such a setting, all adders would need to be changed to Items of Power with power ratings equivalent to 20 times the adder bonus. The same rules could be applied to clerics -- with the Items of Power being Holy Symbols, relics, holy sites and places of worship. Some game masters might want to eliminate the broadcast range ability forcing the spell caster to be in possession of the Item of Power.

The mana battery function of an Item of Power can be slightly more powerful than an adder since it relies on replenishment rather than time lapse, in other words, a spell caster can deplete the stored mana, then spend a number of minutes recharging the Item of Power, then the spell caster will be back to full strength after resting for eight hours to regain power points.