Legend of the Archons: Magic

he below is partially-completed stuff for Legend of the Archons, my FATE3/Spirit of the Century fantasy renaissance mod. Commentary, feedback and the like are encouraged.

The Principles of Magic

In Legend of the Archons, magic is represented through a combination of Aspects and Skills. Every spellcasting character must have at least one Aspect pertaining to magic use.

Aspects may be indicative of rank, social status or style, but with a caveat: at least one of the character’s magic-oriented Aspects must specify which of the Thrice-Three Principles the character is most closely attuned with. This Aspect impacts the character’s personality, magical nature, their style of magic use and, in fine, every facet of the character’s identity. The character’s magical Aspect does not straightjacket the character and turn him into a caricature, but it does influence him. Certain actions might require a specific Principle to be part of a character’s magical Aspect.

The typical format for a character’s primary magical aspect would be [Descriptor] of [Principle], where the descriptor indicates the level of training or degree of initiation that the character has in the secrets of their particular Principle. The most common descriptors, in general order of achievement, are the formal nomenclature for ranks in the Arts that are used by the academics of the Church: Novice > Initiate > Disciple > Adept > Master. Only one character in the world may have the aspect Archon of [any single given Principle] at any one time. Also, no character may have more than one Principle specified in their Aspects, though they may certainly have multiple Aspects that relate to the use of magic.

The specific principle in the magical Aspect that the character has will influence the sorts of magical effects that they wield, and thus the sorts of magical skills that the character selects.

The Magic Skill: Magic Words

The Magic skill is a bit of a special case in that a character can take it many times, with each iteration of the skill representing a different sort of magic with which the character is proficient. Each time that a player takes the Magic skill, they must pair the name of the skill with a single word that defines the sort of magic that is associated with this particular iteration of the skill. Using this particular magical skill, the character may invoke effects (cast spells) based around that word, whch may be interpreted both literally and metaphorically. For example, if a character has the skill “Magic: Distance,” he could cast spells that interact with the physical distances between objects, or the social distance between persons or opinions and so on. A character can have many different magic skills, each of which can have a different value and will fall in its usual place in the skill column like any other skill.

Sample Magic words by Principle:

Concord: Dispatch, motion, location, unity, influence, binding, synergy, combination, sympathy

Death: Darkness, mortification, ghost, angel, possession, undeath, exorcism, blight, entropy, decay

Forces: Fire, Wind, Weather, Waves, Thunder, Sky,

Horizons: psychopomp, travel, portal, access, discovery, dimension, spirit

Life: health, beasts, vegetation, transformation, fertility, adaptation, contagion

Mind: intellect, confusion, glamour, discernment, madness

Opposition: barriers, shifting, justice, war, power, fury

Substance: earth, transmutation, material, artifice, structure, integrity, states, potion

Vision: chiaroscuro, prophecy, scrying, sight, mystery, blindness

A magician can select magical skills that are not directly connected with their Principle, but if they do so then the first rank spent places the skill value at Mediocre (0) rather than Average (+1) like most other skills would. This reflects the fact that these skills do not come naturally to the character. Characters with no Magic skills simply cannot cast magical spells at all, so they default to no value whatsoever rather than Mediocre.

Casting Spells

When casting a spell, a magician’s player must first determine what sort of effect they are going to try to create. Second, they must ascertain what would be the most appropriate magic skill to apply. If the character has no skill that would cover the spell in question, then he cannot cast a spell to create that particular effect and must find alternate means to accomplish his goals, or may look for ways to get similar end results through techniques and means that the character already does possess – this will often requiree creative thinking and strategy, which is entirely deliberate. Also, while certain magical skills cannot seem to fit a particular task, they might be used to achieve partial results: while it might be difficult to use water magic to destroy a bridge across the top of a chasm, that magic could be used to remove all moisture from the wood and therefore more vulnerable to fire.

Magical skills and spellcasting can be combined with one another and standard skills like any other, and it is very common for one magical skill to be used as a supplementary skill with another, or for one spell to be cast as a maneuver to set up or prepare for another to be cast immediately afterwards.

Scope

Next the scope of the spell must be determined: how much force is required, how large of an area or how many targets are to be affected and so on. Scope is best judged with roughly the amount of material being worked with. Most spells will either affect a number of targets or have a scope and not both. Thus, a spell designed to bend the minds of a roomfull of people will use number of targets while a spell designed to fill the room with light will use scope. When in doubt, use the higher difficulty. See the table below:

Targets
Scope Difficulty
No One Small Object Average (1)
One Person Self Fair (2)
Small Group Room Good (3)
Large Group Building Great (4)
Neighborhood Several Houses Superb (5)
Town Town Fantastic (6)
City Province Epic (7)
Realm Kingdom Legendary (8)

One general limit to spellcasting is that spells typically cannot target something that the caster cannot see or perceive. There are fields and principles of magic designed specifically to overcome this limitation such as sympathetic magic, space-altering magics and scrying, but a good rule of thumb is that the caster’s line of sight determines what can be targeted with his magic. The exceptions usually require a maneuver or supplementary magical skill specifically connected with long-distance effects and will very frequently require magical components and material correspondences as well.

Spells used as attacks or to resolve a conflict are essentially just like the use of any other skill, though with the caveat that a spell-based attack must best the spell’s own inherent difficulty (based on its scope and modifiers) or the defender’s resistance, whichever is greater.

Modifiers

A number of modifiers to the base difficulty exist. See below:

If the spell is…

Damaging: +1 difficulty

Incapacitating: +2 difficulty

Fully tansformative: +3 difficulty

Mind altering: +1 difficulty

If The casting takes…

Moments (i.e. in combat): +1 difficulty

Minutes: +0 difficulty

Hours: -1 difficulty

Days: -2 difficulty

As a note: in most cases where casting a spell takes more than a few moments, the Occult skill will be used as a supplementary skill for the ritual itself, and often one or more others will be used as well. Also, spells with long casting times wll frequently have been researched or prepared ahead of time (see Research, below).

If the spell lasts…

An instant (such as a typical combat attack): +0 difficulty

A few minutes: +1 difficulty

A few hours: +2 difficulty

A few days/until a short-term trigger occurs: +3 difficulty

A few months: +4 difficulty

A few years/until a long-term trigger occurs: +5 difficulty

Forever: +6 difficulty

If the spell…

Advances the plot: -1 difficulty

Jumps over minor plot points: +1 difficulty

Jumps over major plot points: +2 difficulty or more

One unusual modifier:

Inconvenient timing: -1 or more. This represents spells that can only occur under certain circumstances (“when the stars are right” or “when a new Archon is brought to the Sanctuary” for example). This generally gives a plot reason why a villain or major NPC can be casting a huge permanent or world-wracking spell but still be at a level that the PCs have some hope of defeating.

Research

If the spell was previously researched and prepared and set up in advance (with a magical toolkit, library or laboratory of sorts). Generally Occult (but occasionally other skills like Art as well) is used as a supplementary skill for the spell casting, modifying the difficulty accordingly. If the player wants to use the research as a separate action, it may be appropriate to roll separately and use the spin from this roll to either create an aspect or otherwise impact the final spell. Duplicating a spell that was previously cast after research or preparation requires new preparation/research, but the character at least knows what sources to rely upon.

Backlash

Magic is powerful and versatile, but messing with the substance of Fate and the energies of the universe is a dangerous practice. If a spellcasting character ever runs out of fate points, they might well be about to bite off more than they can safely chew if they try to manipulate the stuff of magic again. If a character in such circumstances casts a spell and the spell succeeds with at least one shift, then all is well. If the spell fails or succeeds exactly, the powers the character is maipulating spin out of control. This is treated as an attack on the character (either health or composure) with a severity equal to the difficulty of the spell plus the degree by which the character failed. The character rolls to defend against this attack with [trait]. Consequences from this sort of attack tend to range from the visceral and horrific to having somebody else’s fate tied frustratingly to one’s own.

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2 Responses to “Legend of the Archons: Magic”

  1. Liza Says:

    The style of writing is quite familiar . Have you written guest posts for other blogs?

    • casewerk Says:

      I have not, though I used to blog at LiveJournal instead of here. The raw mechanics above are a fairly heavily modified cousin to two of the magic systems in Fate version 2 by Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue (Specifically the Combinative Magic and Improvisational Magic systems) since Legend of the Archons is a retooled variant of Fate version 3 (AKA Spirit of the Century). It’s possible that those writers’ voice also influenced my style of writing this time around.

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