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Shadowrun Overhaul: Magical Dueling


There are several ways that the ancient tradition of dueling as re-entered society as we go deeper into the Sixth World. Dueling pervades all strata of society and takes many forms from taking credit for an idea to get promoted over your rival at the office to a little amateur urban brawl action so your bike chummers think you’re chill to outright blazing guns and headless enemies. One of the most common forms of dueling is through proxies in which the rich and powerful pit their chosen against each other sometimes with challenges and sometimes in gladiator style combat.

The first is the basic duel in which the magicians choose a melee weapon and can use magic but nothing prepared beforehand and can only wear obvious armor if agreed to before the duel starts. This is more common for Adepts but the occasional magician or mystical adept has dueled in this way. The problem with this form of dueling is that it tends to be injurious to both duelists and possibly even deadly. Even with each duelist having a second to protect bystanders and their charges from errant magic it is just too easy for things to go wrong.

The second involves combat in the Astral realm which is evolving very rapidly as it becomes more popular. Hidden Arenas in Domains linked to the Battle metaplace have spread like wildfire in the past two years with the arrival of tempo and the rising popularity of spirit vs spirit combat. It is rumored that a cabal of free spirits has inordinate influence on the dueling scene one of whom takes the form of an older african male with wild and crazy hair.

With the introduction of the first martial art form created for Awakened Orks and by Awakened Orks: Hez Errit’grumrutra has changed the landscape for magical duels. Masters of this new martial art have dominated the metahuman combat leagues while sparking interest in Astral Combat official competitions and the magical society Egran’den Er’rek Wejoto has profited greatly despite suffering from half a dozen deadly attacks on its Jrikrek or school building by unknown but powerful magical assailants. The Egran’den are made up of an unique blend of ex-military or mercenary Orks with extensive Awakened combat experience and street shamans with a bent towards social justice. Many of the new outer circle members are former gang toughs who are being rehabilitated with tough love from the military crowd and a little wise gentleness from the street shamans.

The third involves direct magic to magic battle extreme. There are two methods by which this duel takes place. The first involves the duelists channeling their power and essence into a centerpoint until it gels into a form and a duelists dominates it. The second option involves a Ritual which is cast by a neutral third party that has evolved into the popular collegiate game Astral Total War.

The Arcane Duel

 Traditionally the two duelists face off with their seconds watching for treachery and their thirds creating mana barriers up to prevent accidental harm to bystanders. Each bows towards each other and stand within 10 meters of each other. Now both cast the Arcane Duel spell targeting the area between them. The Force of the spell acts as a limit to most Tests between the Duelists and the spellcaster can pick whatever Force they want but they have to handle the Drain from the spell which is quite demanding so they risk gaining penalties from before the actual duel for higher potentials. The spellcasters decide whether the duel shall use Sorcery, Conjury, or Enchanting.

The two duelists continue to pour power and weave threads into the center of the dueling area which slowly takes on an appearance based on the personalities of the duelists, the Skills involved in the duel, whatever mentor spirits they might have, and their Tradition.

In battles between master conjurers the audience can watch two pseudo-elementals slug it out for their amusement while another might involve a single elemental that both conjurers are trying to control. A duel between two Chinese sorcerers may play out visually as a game of go played by two elaborately designed Shen. It was once common amongst Hermetics familiar with the Old Matrix sculpting for their duels to take on the clear lines and geometric shapes of the Old Matrix protocols but that has become rarer in the modern day.

There is a moment when the spell gels and combat can begin usually sometime after the combined total of the two spell’s Force x 3 Seconds but can happen earlier or later depending on how difficult it is for the spell to find an appropriate venue. The better duelist at Assensing tends to win first action which is a big advantage as from then on the duel goes back and forth between the duelists until the victory conditions are met.

The duelists trade blows or moves back and forth until victory is achieved. For the vindictive they prefer to deal several light to medium blows to weaken the mage before hitting them hard so as to “Scorch” their opponent and possibly cause permanent damage to a magical faculty or mental facility.

Victory conditions can be the collapse of the opponent or first blood or first to five damage boxes dealt.

Weapon Foci bonded to a duelist provide an increase in DV by the rating of the Focus. Power or Spell/Spirit/Enchanting Foci add to the Attack or Defense Totals by choice of the duelist at the beginning of combat. For a duelist with two Foci one could be applied to Attack while another to Defense or both to Attack or both to Defense.

 

Initiative: Intuition + Assensing Opposed Test (only rolled once at the beginning of the duel; after that it goes back and forth)

Attack: Logic + (Spellcasting/Summoning/Alchemy) + (Power Focus or appropriate Focus such as a Spell Focus for a Sorcery duel) [Force]

Defense: Intuition + (Counterspelling/Banishing/Disenchanting) (Power Focus or appropriate Focus) [Force]

Damage Value: Charisma + Net Hits on Attack + Weapon Focus Rating + (Ritual Spellcasting/Binding/Artificing)

Resistance: Willpower + Arcana

Boxes of damage: Magic Rating x 2 (If damages overflows and is greater than Willpower then the mage is knocked unconscious (Stun Damage) and her astral form is disrupted which can cause permanent psychological or magical problems and is called Scorching your opponent.)

Edge: The Special Attribute of Edge is replaced by the Mage’s Grade. A non-initiate has a Grade of 0 and thus would act as if they had no Edge throughout the duel. “Edge” spent on the duel has no impact on the Edge Special Attribute.

-Don’t forget Wound penalties from before and during the duel.

-Reagents can’t be spent during the duel itself to alter Limits.

Arcane Duel Technique:

This arcane technique costs no karma to learn and can be taught in an hour or two with a good instructor. The Arcane Duel doesn’t conform to the standard categorizations of spells and rituals as it involves parts of all five spell categories and some of the steps of a ritual. Both duelists must have this Quality for the Duel to work. Some of the principles of Attunement are used as well as the anchoring technique of Ritual Spellcasting. Rumor has it that this technique involves elements of ancient and foreign magics.

Both duelists must be within 10 meters of each other. Both duelists expend Reagents equal to the Force of they choose for themselves at the same time which creates a temporary magical lodge just for the purposes of this duel in a sphere surrounding the two duelists. The initial prep time can usually takes about a minute. Each attack takes a full minute after which the other duelist begins their attack which lasts a full minute.

Drain is handled normally for your tradition as if casting a spell with a Drain Code of Force and Centering can be used.

 

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Hermes Portal and Ars Magica


Here are pdf’s of the articles I contributed to for Hermes Portal an ezine for Ars Magica by Atlas Games.

 

Portal_US_11 Portal_US_10 Portal_US_9 Portal_US_15

 

If you’re interested in more check out Hermes Portal which has 1 through 15 issues downloadable for free.

Check out my blogroll on the right and check out Sub Rosa which is continuing the tradition of high quality Ars Magica articles.

Shadowrun Overhaul: Build Point Alternative to Priority System for Character Creation


As an alternative to the Priority Table path to character creation I decided to try my hand at using Build Points as previous editions have done. In order to help the character creation process I also made Archetypes which use half the BP’s for a standard character to provide a template and aid for character building. This system is compatible with my Shadowrun Overhaul Rules on Karma and Character Advancement House Rules and the standard ruleset. With this system Magicians, Mystic Adepts, and Technomancers will be weaker, Aspected Magicians will be much stronger, and characters that rely on nuyen will be a little bit better off.

Campaign Style:

Street: These are the young, the disadvantaged, the has beens, the almost was, and the burnouts.

125 BP +13 Karma

Limit on Resources to 10 BP or 75,000 nuyen. Skill limit at 6 for 1 Skill or Skill Group, 5 for a second Skill or Skill Group and the rest at 4 or less. Knowledges and Languages limit at 6, Attributes have One Terminal Rating and One (Terminal Rating -1) and the rest at +3 added to the minimum Attribute Rating for their metatype or less (Humans for all Attributes except Edge would be at a 4 or less). Availability at 10.

Standard: The young geniuses, the competent professionals, and the cream of the crop amongst the disadvantaged.

150 BP +25 Karma

Limit on Resources to 35 BP or 450,000 nuyen. Skill limit at 8 for 1 Skill or Skill Group, 7 for a second Skill or Skill Group and the rest at 6 or less. Knowledges and Languages limit at 8. Attributes have One Terminal Rating and the rest at +4 added to the minimum Attribute Rating for their metatype or less (Humans for all Attributes except Edge would be at a 5 or less). Availability at 12.

Prime Runner: The experienced geniuses, the exceptional professionals, and the best of the best amongst the disadvantaged.

175 BP +35 Karma

Limit on Resources to 45 BP or 600,000 nuyen. Skill limit at 10 for 1 Skill or Skill Group, 9 for a second Skill or Skill Group and the rest at 8 or less. Knowledges and Languages limit at 10. Attributes have One Terminal Rating and the rest at +4 added to the minimum Attribute Rating for their metatype or less (Humans for all Attributes except Edge would be at a 5 or less). Availability at 14.

High Life: The very best of the best. World class shadowrunners, mercenaries, hackers, and magicians. For those who seek the limelight their names are known to almost all in their fields of expertise.

200 BP +50 Karma

Limit on Resources to 65 BP or 1.1 million nuyen. Attributes have just Metatype limits. Standard Skill, Knowledge, and Language limit at 12. No Availability limit.

Karma Conversion: 1 BP is roughly 5 Karma give or take a few.

Purchase Costs:

Metatype:

Human: 0

Elf: 7

Dwarf: 10

Ork: 11

Troll: 16

Attributes and Special Attributes: 3 BP’s per +1 Rating.

Alternative rule: 6 BP for +1 if it is a terminal rating for the PC’s metatype such as a 6 in Logic for an human. (Don’t forget everyone starts out with their “free” minimum attributes.)

Skills: 1 BP per +1 Rating.

Alternative rule: 2 BP per +1 Rating for terminal rating based on character creation limit of the campaign.

Skill Groups: 2 BP’s per +1 Rating. (I prefer to encourage characters to use Skill Groups by providing a discount but if you don’t agree you can change it to 2.5 BP’s per +1 Rating)

Alternative rule: 4 or 5 BP per +1 Rating for terminal rating based on character creation limit for campaign.

Specializations (and Concentrations for Overhaul rules):  1 BP per new specialization or concentration.

Knowledges: 1 BP per 3 Ratings. 2(Intuition + Logic) for free. (Overhaul rules gives 10 free Knowledge points to be spent only on Interests)

Languages: 1 BP per 5 Ratings. (I like to encourage Language taking at character creation for realistic reasons because it is much harder to learn languages as an adult then it is to learn them as a child. Plus, most games seem to assume someone who knows lots of languages is rare probably because of the bias of americans. It isn’t uncommon in Europe to see well educated people able to minimally comprehend four or five languages and speak well two or three others.)

Spells, Preparations, Rituals, Power Points, and Complex Forms: 1 BP each.

Contacts: 5 Points to spend on Connection and Loyalty per 1 BP.

Registered Sprites/Bound Spirits: 5 Tasks or Service per 1 BP.

Special Talents:

Technomancer: 15 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Resonance. (Some GM’s may increase to 20 BP but TM’s have been blunted in many other ways and don’t need to be artificially expensive as they are on the Priority Table.)

Mystic Adept: 20 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic. Mystic Adepts must purchase Power Points to unlock Adept Powers.

Magician: 15 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic.

Aspected Magician: 10 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic, an Active Skill Group equal to their final Magic Rating, and as many Spells, Preparations, Rituals, or Bound Spirits (each with 5 services; # of spirits is limited by Charisma) equal to their final Magic Rating. (In my opinion the Priority Table as setup in 5e really discourages anyone from picking Aspected Magician as a trait and I think having the extras added on makes it a viable choice. Also, by leaving Magician without any extras it allows for a full magician character who is as new or untrained in magic as a minor talent but has greater potential which can be a lot of fun depending on the style of the campaign.)

Adept: 10 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic with an Active Skill equal to her final Magic Rating, and automatic gaining of Power Points equal to Magic at character creation and whenever their Magic Rating increases.

Minor Talent: 5 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic. At character creation the PC can only have 1 Magical Skill and 1 Spell, Preparation, Ritual, Bound Spirit or Power Point.  After character creation the minor talent can learn new abilities by purchasing Power Points if an Adept up to their Magic Rating and once that is done they are a full Adept and automatically gain Power Points when they increase their Magic Rating. If a potential Aspected Magician then they can learn other Skills in their Skill Group and new Spells, Preparations, or Rituals by spending Karma as normal. This is a good special trait to have in a Street level campaign and it can be quite fun to watch the nascent Awakened grow into their full power. (An example of a common Minor Talent would be someone who can Astrally Perceive. Buy 1 Power Point for the Astral Perception Adept Power and buy a Rating in  Assensing and voila!)

Nuyen: (A PC who wanted 80,000 nuyen would pay 11 BP’s) an alternative system is to simply have 1 BP = 10,000 nuyen.

1 BP = +5,000 nuyen

5 BP = +30,000 nuyen

10 BP = +75,000 nuyen

15 BP = +140,000 nuyen

25 BP = +275,000 nuyen

35 BP = +450,000 nuyen

45 BP = +600,000 nuyen

55 BP = + 800,000 nuyen

65 BP = +1,100,000 nuyen

 

Archetypes:

Each Archetype includes an example of a standard character brought to step 5 and thus still have Karma to spend.

 

Street Samurai:

Standard PC: 150 BP

(35 BP) +450,000 nuyen in gear and cyberware

(11) Ork

(69 BP) B: 8 A: 6 R: 5 S: 6 W: 4 L: 2 I: 3 C: 2 E: 1

(32 BP) Close Combat Group 6, Firearms Group 6, Pilot (Ground) 1, Sneaking 2, Perception 2, Intimidation 2, and First Aid 1.

(1 BP) Knowledges (10): Law Enforcement 3, Safehouses 2, Small Unit Tactics 3, Triads 1, Yakuza 3, and Seattle Gangs 1.

Interests (10 free): Great Restaurants  4, Poetry 2, Matrix Fantasy MMO’s 2, and Akira Kurosawa movies 2.

(2 BP) Languages: English N, Or’zet 5, Japanese 4, Aztlaner Spanish 1

 

Face:

Standard PC: 150 BP

(15 BP) 140,000 nuyen in gear.

(7 BP) Elf

(10 BP) Adept

( 75 BP) B: 3 A: 4 R: 3 S: 3 W: 4 L: 3 I: 3 C: 7 E: 1 M:5

( 39 BP) Acting skill group 3, Influence Skill Group 6 (Negotiation 8*), Close Combat Skill Group 4, Stealth Skill Group 2, Pistols 5,  First Aid 1, Perception 5, and Pilot (Ground) 1.

(0 BP) Knowledges(12): Business 4, Neuro-Linguistic Programming 2, Psychology 2, Bartering 1, and Nonviolent Communication 3.

(4 BP) English N, Cantonese 5, Mandarin 5, Japanese 4, Sperethiel 4, Aztlaner Spanish 2.

(0 BP) Interests(10 free): Designer Clothes 4, Elven Wine 3, and SF trids 3.

(0 BP) Voice Control 4 levels (2), Kinesics  2 (.5), Improved Reflexes 1 (1.5), Improved Negotiation* 2 (1).

 

Combat Sorceror:

Standard PC: 150 BP

Hermetic Tradition

(10 BP) 75,000 nuyen in gear.

(16 BP) Troll

(10) Aspected Magician: Sorceror (includes a 1 Rating in Magic, an Active Skill equal to their final Magic Rating, and 6 spells or rituals.)

( 75 BP) B: 6  A: 4 R: 4 S: 6 W: 4 L:5  I:3  C:2  E: 2 M:6

( 27 BP) Sorcery Skill Group 6* (free), Close Combat Skill Group 4, Perception  4, Assensing  4, Arcana 4, Sneaking 3, Pilot (Ground) 1, and First Aid 3.

(2 BP) Knowledges (16 free): Critters 3, Magic Theory 4, Small Unit Tactics 4, Military Procedures 3, Russion Vory 3, Triads 2, Yakuza 1, and Street Gangs 2.

(4 BP) Languages: English N, Aztlaner Spanish 4, Latin 4, Greek 3, Hebrew 3, Sperethiel 2, Or’zet 2, and German 2. (He likes to read Arcane Texts in their original languages)

(0 BP) Interests (10 free): Action Trids 3, Urban Brawl 3, Fantasy Matrix Games 2, Ancient Languages 2.

(6 BP) (6 free) Spells and Rituals: Heal, Stun Bolt, Combat Sense, Ball Lightning, Flamethrower, Increase Reflexes, Armor, Detect Enemies Extended, and Invisibility. Ward, Circle of Healing, and Remote Sensing.

 

 

An Abstract from the Journal of Practical Thaumaturgy Volume 17: Mana Theory


Dr. Joseph Mentem Professor of Ritual Spellcasting at Charles University of Prague.

Mana is the energy that allows those entities capable of using it to perform work by an understanding of memetics or neoplatonic thought, controlled concentration, imagination, force of personality, and training alone. A mage has no need of a tool or physical exertion to harness the power of mana to change the world around him.

Mana flows and ebbs from the Metaplanes though it seems to be influenced by activities in our universe as shown by the increase of mana during Haley’s comet. Mana flows through our physical realm of existence and through our astral realm of existence. There is some feedback between physical realm mana and astral realm mana but as it is today it is minor and slow to transfer and it places certain limitations on how mana can be used to effect change in a Realm the mage is not currently inhabiting. An astrally projected spellcaster cannot cast a spell on an entity or target that is wholly in the physical plane because of the feeble flow of mana from one realm to the other. Decades ago it was possible for an astrally projecting mage to ground a spell through an active focus so it would be released into the physical realm but that is no longer the case though we do not know why precisely however it is theorized that it involves an emergent property of the physical/astral barrier when mana saturation reaches a certain point on the scale.

Mana flows through the astral and physical realms and sometimes forms what could be considered through a metaphor as rivers and lakes. These locations have an abundance of mana and are called power sites and the mana rivers are most often called ley lines. Usually if a ley line exists in one Realm the contiguous area in the parallel Realm has one as well with the same going for Power Sites though the degree of flow may differ.

It is known that aspected mana tends to attract like and repel the dissimilar as a rule thus on occasion a new Power Site will emerge in an area and exert a “pull” on a nearby Domain thus encouraging a ley line to flow between them. Geomancers and Geomasons specialize in encouraging this especially for a megacorporation’s new magical research lab. This can sometimes lead to a war in the shadows as various organizations try to create Power Sites or Domains to alter and weaken the other’s mana network.

 

Domains are Power Sites that when Named and invested with a genius loci become aspected which means that it helps and hinders different types of magic or uses of magic. With this abundance of mana it should be obvious that it can allow magic wielders to attempt more powerful or difficult work than would ordinarily be possible. Most commonly newly created Domains are aspected towards certain traditions of magic, magical societies or individuals of great power or Influence such as Dragons as well as military, political, and corporate leaders. The Domain provides enhanced mana towards those who serve the Individual or to those who share a certain mindset about how magic works and are in line with the genius loci of the domain.  Emergent Domains tend to provide enhancement towards certain magical activities and the genius loci tend to have more personality and variety as every emergent domain is different and usually oriented more towards either the astral realm or the physical realm as well as more vulnerable to changes in Background Count of feeder ley lines than a created domain which tends to be very stable and balanced evenly between the astral and the physical.

For example a minor power site near the university is on land owned by SK and was Named to be aspected to Lofwyr the great dragon. As a consequence those who are either Named Lofwyr or serve him can tap into the greater mana at the site while those opposed would find the power site working against them once the genius loci of the site became aware of them otherwise neutral spellcasters would find themselves unaffected and unable to use the extra mana around them. The genius loci of the site is no surprise in the form of a dracoform. There are rumors of metamagical skills or rituals that allow the renaming of a power site or grant the ability to ‘spoof’ the genius loci into thinking that you are Named by altering the aura of the spellcaster to match the weave of the site and thus gain approval of the genius loci.

Geomancers and Geomasons claim to have the ability to manipulate mana flows as to create domains called Power Sites (analogous to a lake) and Ley Lines (analogous to a river) through manipulation of astral energies in the case of Geomancers and through manipulation of physical energies for Geomasons who often sculpt and modify a physical environment to promote certain aspects onto the mana in the domain. In Europe skilled practitioners are often Freemasons or caretakers of the cathedrals, mosques, and temples while in Asia they are often students of Feng shui. There are specialized “types” of mana described by experts in mana manipulation as being very similar to each other but lending themselves to certain magical activities and derived from different sources as varied as places of worship to tectonic plates. As a consequence of the increased effectiveness of magic to do work at certain locales these power sites tend to be highly prized by magical societies, governments, dragons, and megacorporations.

(The types are known as Song grooves and pools, Dragon Paths and Nests, and are differentiated by the dominance of either astral or physical mana flow compared to a balanced flow between both realms found in what are traditionally called ley lines and power sites. -Editor)

As the pre-eminent scholar of power sites and the ley lines that connect them in Europe the Great Dragon Schwarzkopf has developed the ‘Schwarzkopf Scale of Ambient Mana’ which is most often used when rating a power site and goes from -10 to 10 with 0 being the current world norm. So far no location has been rated above 5 on a permanent basis and above 8 on a temporary basis. However a -10 is found in the void of space representing the extreme sparseness of life, emotion, and mind in outer space. During the year of the comet many regions saw a temporary rise of one or two points and it was a time of power for many mages who achieved effects that they normally would not be capable of doing.

Not all changes in the mana flow of an area are good for the practitioner. Mana can be distorted by powerful emotions or experiences in the astral realm and by environmental damage in the physical. When this happens the mana becomes harder to work with leading to what magicians call Ephemeral Background Count and it is rated based on degree of distortion using the Schwarzkopf Scale to provide an estimate of degree of difficulty in mana manipulation compared to a lack of mana. It is common for there to be bleed-through from one plane to the next in these cases and if there are causes for mana pollution in both realms sometimes that can start a feedback loop leading to more permanent damage to the mana flow in the area known as Persistent Background Count which can lead to regional problems. Certain twisted and deviant traditions can actually reinforce this feedback loop creating near permanent areas and by rumor can use the Background Count as a normal magician would use a power site.  We know some mages are capable of creating domains that match their tradition out of the background count if it is aspected appropriately .

The Filtering Metamagic is known to allow Initiate’s to bypass some of the problems involved in using mana for magic in an area with a Background Count. However despite an area having a similar rating on the Schwarzkopf scale they behave differently as an area with a -2 on the Schwarzkopf scale that has a background count typically has a normal amount of mana it is just polluted to make it harder to use while an area with a lowered mana level simply has less mana to use. Since mana pollution is commonly stronger in one realm than the other knowledge of the state of the local mana in both realms can be really useful in helping a wise mage in spell choice as a physical realm background count without a mana realm background count would naturally lend itself to mana based spells.

If the damage is temporary then the background count is what theorists call ‘ephemeral background count’. A series of traumatic events or a long term and powerful experience can all provide greater difficulty in mana manipulation. What makes this type of mana distortion ephemeral is that as soon as the aggravating element is removed the mana flow returns to normal.

Longer lasting Background Count would be such as the Cermak blast site. In this case the combination of massive defensive magics on the part of the insect spirits, nuclear detonation, and loss of life was enough to disrupt the mana in the area to prevent all but the most skilled Initiate’s from making mana work in the vicinity. This is an example of Persistent Background Count and without the constant presence of Knight Errant and periodic Cleansing Rituals it would be inevitable for a vulnerable shaman to be influenced into becoming an insect shaman should they spend too much time around the Cermak area as it is known to have some sort of astral connection or bridge to the metaplanes of the insect spirits.

Depending on tradition of the mage there are many ways that mana is imprinted on in order to be effected by the mage into having a real world effect. The key to magic involves perception of the nature of something and the ability to rewrite the song of that secret nature. Some call it “Renaming” while others use basket weaving analogies or storytelling metaphors and even religious contexts. But, in effect we all end up reweaving the narrative of whatever it is we are seeking to manipulate with our magic. The pattern of our reweaving varies depending on the spell, ritual, conjuration, or enchantment we are attempting as well as the Name of the target we are attempting to create or alter.