Posts Tagged ‘magic’

Jumping Genres!

July 4, 2014

My last post was written mostly with humorous intent, but also was intended to get some thoughts churning. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, I wouldn’t derail an existing and relatively serious,steady game so wildly as to put something like the Deck of Many Genres into play. That would be a rather gross abuse of the social contract between GM and players, really.

I would, however, shift genres in a game as long as that made sense within the context of the game… and I would also run a game where the very premise revolves around shifting genres/layers of reality/alternate dimensions where the players move from one genre to the next and possibly back again. It might work best with a certain pre-determined number of predesigned genre/setting/layers where the players will run genre-shifted iterations of the same character/soul/self. I think that could be really, really fun.

Originally I was going to go back to the last post and edit it to that effect, but then after my friend Terry made a comment on his repost that was very much in line with my thinking, I decided this might be better suited if I post it by itself. I’ll share a few specific examples of times I’ve experimented with the genre-shifting concept already in games and found it a satisfying pursuit, point out a few narrative media where this technique or a variant has been used to good effect. I’ve never run a campaign where shifting realities and genres was a major part of the premise, though I have done individual adventures in a couple different systems that explored the concept either seriously or otherwise.


Deck of Many Genres

July 2, 2014

Mandatory Legal Disclaimer: side effects of bringing the magic item in this post into a game with a group that takes their games too seriously or that aren’t already expecting some serious weirdness may include rage quitting by players, blank stares, loose teeth, lost friendships or, in extreme cases, critical existence failure.

Recently while at my desk, an idea occurred to me for a magic item that might inspire far more dread in the hearts of players than even the infamous Deck of Many Things… as the title suggests, this is none other than The Deck of Many Genres. This is a magic item that is best reserved to particularly open-minded, experimental or creative play groups and GMs, and would clearly be much easier to use in a game like FATE, Wushu, Capes or Savage Worlds that can be retooled to new genres on the fly without hours of number-crunching misery. Alternately, a wily or enterprising GM might have stats generated for existing characters from your D20 or whatever game in FATE, Capes or something similarly fast and fluid that can be taken to hare off into crazy land with this thing as a side jaunt. (more…)

Another Look at The Fiend

August 7, 2012

Some while back I stumbled over Hero Machine, but I didn’t really take the time to do more than glance at it very briefly until last night, when I decided to try and put it through its paces and see if it was up to creating images of a rather challenging character: my own Brigitte Adelinde von Teufel, better known as The Fiend.

For those of you that might be new readers, Fraulein von Teufel is a gestalt being, created by thoroughly merging the mortal woman whose name this creature still bears with a demoness (specifically a Fury, a bringer of punishment and retribution), as a result of a botched summoning where the Nazi Occultist (Sigismund von Asch, the human Brigitte’s mentor) tried to sacrifice her to summon the Fury in question through her mortal shell. Neither the woman nor the demon exists anymore, in their place is a hybrid partaking of the abilities, knowledge and identity of both at once. She hasn’t aged a day since that event in 1938. As a character, one could think of her as being somewhere between Elsa Schneider, Illyana Rasputin and John Constantine. But enough jibber-jabber. Here are the results of my fevered experimentation. As always, click the images if you want to get a look at larger versions of these images.

Modern era Fiend

Here’s Brigitte in the modern days. She doesn’t look half bad for a centenarian!


Four Hermetics

May 5, 2011

In the vein of my recent post Four Cliaths, I’ve decided to quickly dash together four starter-level characters for Mage: the Ascension, but with the restriction that they are all required to be members of the Order of Hermes rather than any other Tradition.

The Hermetics are my favorite Tradition, and the one with which I am the most familiar. I’m not a real Mage expert, but I do like the game. There’s something lovable about a game of philosophical knife fights. Since all are Hermetics, what I’ll do is make one Mage with each of the four Essences. I think that I’ll continue with a series of these posts, each time with a different game or character type as a theme. If you’ve got requests, feel free to send them my way. (more…)

Legend of the Archons: Magic

March 31, 2009

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.


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:

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.


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.


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.


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.