The Dangerous Aspects of Using Magic
This is a system for balancing magic based on two negative aspects: A) Magic creates 'noise' that those sensitive to power will notice and B)Magic is channeled through rifts to other parts of reality OR other dimensions/planes/what have you and those rifts can get out of control...
The idea was born from the following: Noise in Steven Eriksons Malazan world, Power sensitivity in many RPs. Uncontrolled rifts share similarities with the concept of wild magic in D&D.
In my setting mages tap into the 6 basic elements; fire, water, air and earth element and black and white essence. The first four are self explanatory, but the latter two requires more detail. The white essence is the life giving element. It is the source of growth and fertility. The black element is its opposite, the very source of decay, death and destruction. The elements can be woven together to create mixed spells (Flaming undead, etc)
All mages are born under certain stellar configurations. Their star signs decide which element they have a connection to (they can freely choose among the constellations).
The further away from his element a mage gets, the harder it is for him to cast spells. Thus a white mage (channels from white essence) will have a hard time to channel from black essence (will cost more magic points / mana).
If the mage fumbles or get a 'marginal success', the channelling may have created a small rift and a leak occurs. This rift can be trivial or very dangerous based on die rolls. In addition the casting of spells creates noise that can be detected by sensitive creatures.
Noise:-Whenever a spell is cast, it creates a controlled channel to the elemental pocket/plane/source, a rift of sorts, to the appropriate element. This rift disturbs the natural order of things and creatures connected to the element may notice. The chance of detection will increase with the potency of the spell. It is seldom indeed that normal spells attract attention. Some unlucky individuals are unsuited to the weaving of magic and have a higher chance of creating noise.
In areas connected strongly to a certain element the chance of detection is less when using spells of that element and higher when using opposing elements.
Clavius had done it again. His simple spell of masking, aimed at concealing the squad from the enemy, had created so much noise it actually attracted attention. It was evident everywhere. The corpse maggots poured from the week dead body of a centurion. They eased through the cracks of his armour, poured through his wounds. Their white bodies contorted in involuntary response to the casting before they tumbled and fell to the ground. Rats were pouring through the walls, screeching and clawing towards Clavius, while the ravens circled in the sky, spiralling ever downwards.
Every warlock and witch with power sensitivity and every restless spirit would have felt the tremors, and within nightfall they might expect spirits and familiars descending upon this location. Ordinary people felt nothing, of course, but at the local farmsteads the farm animals would act strangely, and the peasants would mumble about bad omens and make warding signs against evil.
The spell of masking still worked though, and Clavius Thuul ordered his men to make haste. The enemy was still out there, but was not likely to have sensed anything, so the fifth squad half ran towards the forest, desperate to get away before the animals made the enemy investigate.
-When mages fumble or succeed marginally an uncontrolled rift is created. The effect of this rift is determined by a die roll with marginal successes less likely to create a rift of any potency, most likely none at all. The rift will be related to the element tapped. If several elements are tapped simultaneously the effects should be custom made to reflect that (i.e. Fire & Water = Steam, Fire & Earth = Magma, Fire & Black essence = Brutal and devastating Smouldering flames, Fire & White = Dancing Fire globes that give of pleasant warmth, etc). The rift might only last seconds or it might (not often) last years. All rifts heal with time and the natural order is restored.
Some proposed effects:
(Ranges from the least to greatest potency)
-A new kind of plant has been created. It grows right beneath the rift.
-A healing wind blows from the rift.
-Seeds of life begin to grow within all females in the area, whether they are eligible or not (even old women get pregnant)
-The recently dead are raised
-The white essence element merges with the surroundings. Everything grows at a supernatural rate and aging beyond maturity does not occur. The area will soon become a dense jungle where feeding is not necessary and fertility guaranteed.
-A hot wind blows through the rift. It has the vile stench of rot and decay.
-Local plants withers. The area becomes barren, shunned by animals, for as long the rift exists.
-A sinister fog rolls out of the rift and envelopes everything. All the nature as well as buildings and living beings are aged. (Buildings decay, trees grow, mountains erode and men age)
-The Black essence element merges with the surroundings. Life is snuffed out of everyone and everything within the area, leaving only dried corpses and dead trees.
-Sulphurous smoke pours out of the rift
-Various degrees of flames leaking through (From small candlelight sized flame to full firestorm)
-Entities from the element of fire pour through the rift.
-The fire element merges with the surroundings. The ground slowly turns to magma, the plants and forest burn and fountains of lava spurt into the air.
-A small stream gushes forth through the rift (possibility of fish and other sea animals).
-Snow is sprayed in every direction from the rift. It is like a miniature avalanche coating everything with a fine layer of powdery snow.
-The rift develops a local geyser which spurts forth from the base of the rift.
-The element of water merges with the area. A new swamp with rivers and lakes evolve and might take long to dry out.
-The rift causes an insignificant tremor. Small rocks will slide and birds will fly away startled.
-Sand pours through the rift, flooding the area. The ground gets covered by an inch of sand
- The rift causes disturbances in the very earth. An earthquake makes the earth shake and rumble, the earth opens wide and buildings collapse.
-The element of earth merges with the surroundings. The ground explodes as small volcanoes erupt and magma streams throughout the area. Soon everything is buried beneath tons upon tons of volcanic stone.
-Dust devils are caused by the rift
-Varying degrees of wind is created by the rift.
-The sky darkens and thunder booms as the rift cause a severe thunderstorm
-The air element merges with the surroundings and the area becomes a pandemonium of howling winds and whipping rain. Soon only the sturdiest of buildings remain and the area is abandoned by everyone.
Clavius Thuul prepared his spell. The greater incantation of summoning would call to the elemental lords of water and bind them to his service. He rolled up his sleeves and buttoned his robe. He cleared his throat and prepared mentally. The scroll of Tharus spoke of the dangers a mage faced when casting the spell. As he spoke the syllables with slow deliberation, his hands moved with trained efficiency. His mind raced while he wove the spell. How was that last syllable pronounced again?
As Clavius finished his spell, there was a bursting sound. Like a pipe springing a leak. Suddenly water gushed forth and he was nearly drowned before he managed to stand up and get his head out of the water. Behind him he could hear his men dying of laughter. Clavius had created yet another tale to be told by the campfire.
I have not incorporated this fully in my setting.
If you have any ideas or hints please post them here.
Feedback wouldn't hurt either.
It would be easy to pigeonhole the white and black essences as good and evil, a purely human concept. I played the White-Wolf Mage game and it had a similar concept, but instead of rifts, the spell caster accumulated points of Scourge a reference to punishment from god. If you did a lot of big flashy spells, and acted improperly or like a munchkin, you got alot of scourge.
Some potential ideas.
For the Elemental encounters:
When an elementally aligned spell is poorly cast, a potent incarna, or spirit of the element arrives through the rift to punish the magus for his poor use of magic, and lack of respect for said element. Once a mage is slapped around by a salamander a few times they might start thinking a little bit about tossing around flame spells. This could apply to any of the four basic elements.
White essence: there is an explosion in the population of a certain animal that was the closest to the epicenter of the rift. This could produce a massive swarm of gnats, or some other insect, or cause the seeds of a certain plant to grow at incredible speed once they hit the ground. Imagine, an entire village overrun by a single type of plant or tree. Kudzu anyone?
This population/growth boom could possibly effect larger animals. Perhaps the mage, or a fellow party member becomes the recipient of uncontrolled fertility. Casual contact, such as touching hands could be enough for the PC to impregnate a woman.
For a more disturbing and macabre form of growth, introduce mutations. Wizards with three arms, or two heads, all caused by positive aspected rifts. Other possibilites could include growing tusks, a thick pelt of hair, or even growing in stature.
Even more fun with Positive rifts. Taking the above idea of spontaneous growth of population, but applying it to a single animal. The rift could grow a dog to the size of a horse, or a wolf to the same size. Mosquitos and flies the size of large birds? It could be an adventure in itself surviving, and eliminating such aberrations.
A Black Rift could have many of the same effects as above, but reversed. All of single plant witihin a certain radius withers and dies, or all of a certain animal keel over stone cold dead. Not a big deal with weeds and bugs, but what if a PC accidentally wipes out all of a food crop for several miles with a poorly cast spell? What if all of the cats suffer the same fate. Mice and rodents, lacking their prime urban predator could explode in population, plague ensues...evil wicked fun :twisted:
Just my humble, twisted thoughts
Have fun with it
as with fummbling positive and negative energy spells, so could the elemental spells cause a lot of havoc... - when all sparrows are turned into tiny phoenixes, soon they will light the whole area with small fires or cause flashfires that burn whole duchies down. Likewise, a mage could find his hair transformed to flame - it might not harm himself, but any hat or pillow would be forfeit, and he would find it difficult to hide. As well as that, a fire mage could develop a vulnerability to cold.
A water mage might develop gills, or his legs merge to a fluke!
Fire Mages might become extremely hungry, consuming huge amounts of food, but never full...
Water Mages become sluggish when it gets cold, and freeze if it's cold enough...
Earth Mages become stiff and complain of joint pain, and eventually find their joints to be immobile...
I can't think of anything for Air Mages, though.
Black Essence wielders might wither as their cells die...
White Essence wielders might mutate, growing extra organs and extremities.
Air mages might become as light as a feather, tossed around by breezes, or lifted of the ground to soar through the air, as carefree, and uncontrolled as a leaf.
Or on a more personal note, they might be afflicted with copious amounts of gas that would cause terrible pain unless they vent it frequently.
Associating Lightning with the element of air:
Mage has static cling from hell, or shocks everyone he touches. Hair is crazy and refuses to lay down due to internal charge. Mind you this is only enough of a charge to be a nuisance, not a power to be used.
Associating Ice/cold with the element of air:
Mage becomes ice cold to the touch, or his/her touch causes frost to form. The mage could also lower the temperature where ever he or she goes.
They might also become air heads. :lol:
This is a fun one. I am thinking of just things that can happen for a limited duration as a result of a spell.
White: for black, just think opposite of this stuff I guess
-Lucky streaks. Gambling is suddenly a winner's game as they have 'the touch'
-Caster's footprints leave areas of sudden growth and life.
-Breathe is life giving for a little while. Blowing on plants accelerate's growth etc.
(I like the fire hair :) )
-Have a glow around them that they cannot remove.
-Scorch things they touch, if touch is extended can ignite. If they are an artist great opportunity for woodburning art.
-Can physically pick up flames and hold them.
-Smoke pours out of them. Standing still greats a sense of being in a forest fire.
-Scorched earth footprints
-They are constantly soggy or damp
-Touch will slowly create water at the contanct point.
-Can pick up and mold water in the same way others can mold snow.
-Can sense bodies of water and lead you to them.
-Feel variations easy. Feel riders, walkers in the land and tell the direction they are from him.
-Sense precious metals.
-Able to dig hand into stone and scoop/mold it as if it was snow.
-Slowly sink into ground if stand still for too long. (not through anything living so they are safe if they climb a tree)
-Are about half body weight with same strength. Easy to climb, jump, but if they punch or hit there is not much mass behind it.
-Cape or clothes constantly billowing.
-Sense wind currents in general (weather change)
-Can almost tell the surroundings just from the way the wind currents swirl around him. (sense invisible)
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? Responses (10)
So how would you impliment this in a game?
Would it be a somewhat random chart where it is either choose one appropriate (for GM) or roll random?
Actually I like lists that could be converted into charts, so a list of six or ten effects... even if you don't list the numbers by the names, could be randomly generated by the astute gamer.
I am sure I would never do the random element, I would choose one appropriate for the scene (and the karmic background of the character) and impliment it. But most people are not me.
Would it be based upon the 'element' in general or the spell effect? Would each spell have a list or suggested effects?
What other effects would you list?
In my mind it would have to go with the spell effect....but that is just me...
I like the idea alot, and what about other creatures, not really elementals, that feed off of the rifts? Big beasty ones, that will tear everything to peices, and just grow stronger the more it feeds...
I would implement this with a big list of possible suggestions, rather than a random chart. Different varieties of spells could have some examples, but I would personally prefer to use general ideas to select and modify as needed.
Another idea to take into consideration is that the rifts don't have to go one way. That is, they may be reversed so as to steal the desired element instead. For example, a failed fire spell may instead cause cold as the heat is drawn out. Alternately, the wrong plane can be accessed: an earth spell to repair a stone wall can instead have the hole patched with white essence, granting the wall a form of pseudo-life.
Good ideas Kinslayer.
The way I have utilized these effects are as follows: In the beginning I had several random charts, but after some experimentation I discovered that the effects often were ill suited to the situation. Then I did as MoonHunter suggest here: I custom designed each effect to the situation, having a base to work from (which was easy to make thanks to the contribution of imaginative Strolenites).
My experience with MoonHunter's technique is good.
If I ever am a GM I will see if I can fit this in.Very good in a game as it makes magic risky to use.
Yes, I like keeping a check on magic. In my setting and system, magic can be potentially rewarding, but there are some nasty side effects that the wise stay well clear of.
This is really, really cool.
I think I'll expand on this topic and add a scroll. Soon I hope.
Fresh ideas? New blood!
I'd be in your debt valadaar!
As per a private request I got by valadaar, this sub is now a codex in addition to being a scroll.
And a damn good one to boot! Never saw this piece until now. Fascinating to peruse. Great little touch on least to greatest potency ranges! Good scroll additions. Fun one!
Will need to ponder and add something