Ardanian Magic, Part 2: Elven Magic

Elves…the name alone brings to mind stories of magic and of a people in tune with nature and the world around them.  Proud and haughty, their ancient history is filled with deeds of wonder and mystery.  Thus are the elves of Ardania.  This post will focus on the magic system which defines their culture and their way of life.

Ardanian elves do not study specific paths or colleges of spells, as the academic wizards do, but instead shape the ambient energy around them, bending it to their needs by focusing it through verbs and nouns.  This is referred to as Syntactic Verb-Noun magic (Thaumatology, p.179).  An elf mage decides what effect he or she wishes to create, and what combinations of words will be used.  If the GM determines that the words are apropos to the desired outcome, the energy cost and casting time are calculated.  Then the mage makes two skill checks, one for the verb and one for the noun, to determine success or failure.

Any casting will require at least one verb and one noun to describe an effect.  More complicated results require additional words.  There will often be multiple ways to achieve an effect, using different combinations of words.  This provides the player a great amount of flexibility, limited only by their imagination.

All Elves must take Elven Magery 0 and one or more levels of Elven Magery.  Each level of Elven Magery grants +1 to Thaumatology, but unlike the standard magic system, no bonus is granted to individual word skills. At the core of elven magic are a set of words, both verbs and nouns.  Each word is a separate IQ/VH skill and may not exceed Elven Magery + 10.  The following table lists each elven word, it’s english meaning, and the base energy cost and time to cast:

Word Meaning Type Energy Time(sec)
Centa Communicate Verb 1 0
Tortha Control Verb 2 1
Onta Create Verb 2 2
Nestad Heal Verb 1 2
Ruma Move Verb 0 0
Varna Protect Verb 1 1
Cenuva Sense Verb 2 0
Ture Strengthen Verb 1 1
Ahyane Transform Verb 3 2
Milya Weaken Verb 1 1
Vilya Air Noun 3 3
Celva Animal Noun 2 1
Hroa Body Noun 2 4
Cemen Earth Noun 2 2
Naro Fire Noun 4 1
Matil Food Noun 2 1
Thia Image Noun 2 2
Cala Light Noun 3 2
Ingole Magic Noun 2 3
Sama Mind Noun 1 5
Olva Plant Noun 2 2
Lamma Sound Noun 3 3
Fea Spirit Noun 2 4
Nen Water Noun 1 3

Once an effect has been described and the words have been chosen, the GM determines a number of parameters for the casting.  As in the standard spell lists, each spell belongs to a specific class (Magic, p.11).  Guidelines covering special situations are given (Thaumatology, p.167).  The spell classes are: Regular, Area, Melee, Missile, Blocking, Information, Enchantment, and Special.  Any class assigned to a casting will effect the cost and casting time.

Some effects are resisted, most often using the subject’s Will, but HT can resist effects that attack metabolism, immune systems, etc., and PER or IQ can resist illusory effects.  In all cases, the subject adds any Magic Resistant to the roll.

Base energy cost is the sum of both the verb and noun energy costs. When more than two words are involved, the caster chooses which verb and noun to use.  This base cost may be doubled for more complex effects, at the GM’s discretion.  Other parameters factor into the total cost: range, duration, area, damage amount, number of targets, etc.

Instead of increasing energy cost, a mage may choose to have a penalty applied to the skill rolls.  This will become more beneficial as the mage grows in power and increases in skill.  The GM may decide certain parameters or situations mandate a skill penalty.

A mage may opt to roll using base cost and time to cast.  In this case, the margin of success determines parameters such as range, number of HP healed, area of effect, etc.  Use the roll with the lowest margin.  This will produce less predictable results, but may be useful if a mage is approaching his or her energy threshold limit.  Critical success in either roll results in something good; for both rolls, something fantastic!

Similar to energy cost, base casting time is determined by adding together the casting time for both the verb and the noun.  The mage chooses which verb and noun to use when more than two words are involved.  Under most circumstances, time to cast cannot be rushed.  If the GM determines haste is an option, there will be a -3 penalty to skill for halving the casting time, minimum 1 second.  Likewise, taking twice as long will give a +1 to skill, and the time will be at least double.

Once the parameters have been determined, the mage rolls twice, once for the verb and once for the noun.  All penalties apply to both rolls.  In the case of multiple words, use the verb and the noun with the lowest skills.  Apply a -1 penalty to skill for each word after the first two.  Critical success for either roll halves the cost; for both rolls it’s free!  If one roll fails, something happened, but not what the mage intended.  If both rolls are normal failures, the spell simply fails and the mage spends one 1 energy point.  A critical roll for either roll is disaster; for both it is spectacular.  The mage will not necessarily know what happened in the event of a failure.

Example Of Elven Magic: Heal Party

The following example demonstrates Elven Magic in action.

The mage decides to cast a single spell that will heal the entire party, using the verb Nestad (Heal) and the noun Hroa (Body).  The GM questions the mage for greater detail, and it is determined that each member of the party will have 2d HP restored.   The two words are deemed adequate.  The party will gather around so they are all within reach of the mage.  There are 6 members of the party, including the mage.

First, the spell class is determined.  Healing spells normally require physical contact.  As that is the case here, this is a Regular spell.  The spell will not be resisted since all the subjects are willing and eager to have their HP restored.

Next, several parameters are calculated.  Since the mage will physically touch each party member, there is no range parameter.  The effect will be instantaneous, so there is no duration parameter, and there is also no area of effect parameter.

Default energy cost is good enough to heal 1d of HP.  To increase this, the mage has a couple of options: 1) multiply base cost by # of dice to restore, 2) incur -3 to skill for additional dice after the first, or 3) Roll without adjustments to skill or energy cost, and use margin of success to determine # dice of HP restored.  Since the mage’s skill in either word is only 12, and since their power tally is still low, the mage selects the first option, and base energy will be doubled.

Referring to the Multiple Target Modifiers Table in the back of Thaumatology (p.243), we find that six targets have a modifier of +6.  So, starting with a base energy cost of 3 (1 for Heal and 2 for Body), multiplying by 2 to heal 2d of HP, and adding 6 based on the number of targets, the final energy cost is a 12 points.  Elves have a threshold limit of 40, so this will increase the mage’s power tally by quite a bit. Upon further consideration, the mage decides to use margin of success to determine number of dice of HP healed.  This reduces the energy cost back down to 9, much more acceptable to the mage.

Default casting time is 6 seconds (2 for Heal and 4 for Body).  As the party is not in the heat of battle, the GM decides to allow the mage to take 12 or more seconds, and grants a +1 to skill.

It’s time to roll.  The mage rolls a 10 for Heal and 7 for Body.  With the bonus +1 to skill, the smallest margin of success is 3 (effective skill of 13 for body, and a roll of 10).  This is only good enough for 1d of HP.  The mage adds 9 points to his power tally, marks off 1 FP for successfully casting a spell, and each character in the party has 1d HP restored.

Comparing this with the standard spells in Magic, the mage would have to cast Major Healing 6 times, putting 3 points of energy into each casting, for a total of 18 FP points, well beyond the mage’s 12 FP.  Not only was the syntactic magic cheaper, but it wasn’t nearly as exausting.

part 1 | part 2 | part 3

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