Magic in DADA

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Magic in DADA

Post  Erik Sieurin on Mon Jan 19, 2009 4:49 pm

The main rulebook for DADA has rules for two forms of magic, sorcery and witchcraft. There are no magic-using classes in the basic game, however.

The reasons the rules are there are for game master characters (I need a snazzier name for game master... an analogy to maze master... dark master? I dunno) and for... regular player characters.

There are no regulations on armor, weapons etc in DADA. There are no regulations on magic either. Anyone can learn most spells. It is generally plain dumb if your Will and Wits Gifts and Wisdom Virtue aren't good, but you can try.

Here's a fluff piece from the magic chapter. This represents the world background, and is written more with style than my drier rules...

Magic in the Dark Ages is divided into two forms: sorcery and witchcraft. With few exceptions, what they can accomplish is not so different. In game terms, the spells are the same. How they accomplish it is, however.

Sorcery is learned magic. It simply uses the natural god-given laws of the universe in ways the average man doesn't understand. Everyone uses what is basically simple sorcery. A sailor knows not to whistle because it can call up a storm. A farmer knows to put a piece of steel under the threshold to keep out goblins and their ilk. A midwife knows that a broth of willowbark is good for what ails you. Sorcery is just something more complex in the same vein.

Sorcery is not in itself sinful or evil (and not virtuous or good, for that matter). However, it certainly gives lots of opportunity to commit sins. How easy to commit murder when you can slay a man from afar; how easy to steal when you can become invisible; how easy to commit adultery when you can make philtres of love. The foremost sin of any sorcerer is pride, however, because he easily thinks himself more than other men and does not fear God as he should.

In addition, sorcery is an old art and science, and as all the arts and sciences, what is left of it mostly come from the Ancients, in fragments preserved in cloisters and forgotten treasuries, in ruins and graves. And the Ancients were all pagans, even the virtuous ones.

So sorcery is mistrusted by pious men, despite the fact that many sorcerers - both dabblers and those who have dedicated their life to the Art - are men of the cloth. They are, after all, highly educated and devoted people who have time and opportunity to study. Because that is how you learn sorcery: you study with a mentor or from one of the rare written sources and practice until you know it by heart. Fulltime sorcerers (that is, Sorcerers in game terms) has dedicated their lives to study and memorisation, making the learning process that much easier.

Witchcraft, now, is something different. It is supernatural magic. Witchcraft is worked by consorting with various airy spirits, overruling natural laws. Anyone who works witchery puts his soul at risk by the pure act of doing so. Hence, there is said to be white, grey and black witchcraft.

White witchcraft is worked using pure spirits that could perhaps be angels, or merely virtuous aetheric beings. It is wholly benign, and can never hurt nor manipulate your fellow man. Its main limit is that the beings involved will only work for a virtuous witch. That does not only mean that he should avoid all but white magic, but also that he should strive to live a life free from sin - not always an easy accomplishment, especially for the kind of person player characters are supposed to be. (White witchcraft, however, should be clearly separated from miracles, who are the work of God Almighty, not some petty angel and a mortal man working together.)

Grey witchcraft, now, is a suspicious thing. The airy spirits who work it are not inimical to the children of Adam, but not friends of them either. They simply seek cooperation for their own benefit. They cannot directly harm or control man, but can do so indirectly, or certainly fool him. Working even grey witchcraft is a sin, although not necessarily a big one, unless the sprits asks the witch to worship it like it was God, in which case it is of course pagan idolatry. (This, by the way, is the most generous interpretation churchmen have of pagan "miracles" - they are in best case grey and in worst case black witchcraft worked by heathen priests and witches.)

Black witchcraft can accomplish any deed, no matter how foul. However, the spirits employed to do it are if not actual demons something equally bad, and they universally seem to hate mankind. They will inevitably demand that the witch damns himself - if not by selling his immortal soul, by asking him to commit horrible crimes against God and man as payment for their services.

It should be noted that black witches can perform all the works that grey and white witches can do, and grey witches can do all that white witches can do. That magic is black or grey simply means that you cannot work such witchcraft without becoming a black or grey witch, respectively.

To learn witchcraft magics, you must court and make a pact with a spirit. A full-time witch (a Witch, in game terms, someone who has the Path of Witch) has a full-time spirit Patronus, and thus has much easier learning magics.

There is no "clerical spells" in DADA. Various pagans use witchcraft (or sorcery, for that matter); true believers don't have any "religious spells", but Piety is nice to have. Friars - among other things - get automatic increases in Piety, and can (the rules haven't been ironed out yet) perform religious ceremonies that, usually, let other use their Piety or use Piety in different ways.

For instance - no actual Virtue helps you if you need to make healing rolls. You don't heal faster because you are brave or cunning or wise. But your Piety does add. (In a way, it is sort of related to Luck in M&M in that way). Now, a Friar can pray by someone's sickbed, and then you add HIS Piety. And so on.

That, btw, goes in line with other Path abilities as well. For instance, Yeomen can help others succeed with moving without being noticed (you can use their Stealth and Perception, so to speak - just as Sir Roland is about to trample on a noisy twig, Gwyn the Green stops him and ssssh-es fiercly). Scoundrels can help others manipulate NPCs socially (when Sir Roland forgets he is supposed to be a humble monk and speaks haughtily, Fast Gwilliam tells the others how hard it is with novices who forget that they are men of God now, not sons of noblemen... and people grow less suspicious), Knights help others resist fearsome monsters, and so on.


Erik Sieurin

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And some basic rules...

Post  Erik Sieurin on Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:30 am

Levels of Power
Spells, regardless of type, are divided into three levels of Power (and hence, difficulty and rarity): the Outer Circle (petty magic and hedge-wizardry), the Inner Circle (major spells and charms) and Great Mystery (magic for legendary sorcerers and witches). It should be noted that this coarse division means that not all spells, charms, recipes within one level etc are exactly equal or ”balanced”. Some magic simply is ”better” than others.

Learning sorcery
The character must have a source to learn from. If the prospective sorcerer can read, this can be a tome, scroll, standing stone with mystic runes, etc. Otherwise, he must have a teacher willing to teach. This can be a fellow mortal, or (beware!) some kind of spirit being. (Note that some demon or aery spirit teaching a mortal sorcery is not the same as that being granting him use of witchcraft – the processes just look similar to the casual observer, including those likely to not suffer witches to live.)

The GM thus controls the access to sorcery. Only by finding tomes and teachers can the character hope to learn it, and the GM decides what happens. This is a great responsibility. If the GM is afraid sorcery will be abused, or doesn’t fit with his campaign, he doesn’t have allow it! If he does, he can hardly complain if the players use their magic.

This takes time. A spell of the Outer Circle takes hours to learn, a spell of the Inner Circle takes days to learn, and a spell of the Great Mysteries takes weeks to learn. If you are learning from a written description, the number of hours/days/weeks is 1d20. If you are learning from a mortal sorcerer, the number of hours/days/weeks is 1d10. If you are learning from some aery spirit or the like, the number of hours/days/weeks is 1d6.

At the end of the period, the player rolls 2d10 + Wits + Wisdom and consults this table:

<=0 (Bad): Your mind is stuck on the details! You cannot learn this spell, until either your Wisdom or your Wits has improved.
1-6 (Poor): You cannot understand what’s going written, or your teacher’s description. You cannot learn this spell from this source, until either your Wisdom or your Wits has improved. You can try again with a different source.
7- 14(Fair): You have understood the basics of the spell. If you can consult a lengthy written description (a book, collection of scrolls, etc.) you can cast it. Preparing this for casting takes a full minute of turning pages, etc. This does not include getting your grimoire out and ready.
15-20 (Good): You have understood the spell well. You still need a short written description with symbols and runes. Preparing it takes 1 round (in the preparation phase). This does not include getting out the scroll, rune-carved stick etc.
21+ (Excellent): You understand the spell perfectly. You need no helping shorthand to use the spell, but can recall the details from your mind easily.

A character can try again unless the table above says otherwise. The character can also re-study a spell to learn it better. This takes just as much time as trying to learn the spell. Make the same kind of roll, but read the result as follows:

<=0 (Bad): You don’t get it. You cannot improve your understanding of this spell until either your Wisdom or your Wits has improved.
1-6 (Poor): It is still hard... maybe it’s not you? You cannot improve your understanding of this spell from this source, until either your Wisdom or your Wits has improved. You can try again with a different source.
7- 14(Fair): You don’t get any better – but try again.
15-20 (Good): You now understand the spell as well as if you had rolled a Good result from the start. If that was already your understanding, try again…
21+ (Excellent): You now understand the spell as well as if you had rolled an Excellent result from the start. If that was already your understanding, try again…

Learning witchcraft
To gain a witchcraft spell, the character must confront a spirit being and make a pact with it. Such a pact is technically a minor pact; the character is not selling his immortal soul (we hope!) The character promises some favor to the spirit in return for the ability to perform the magical feat.

How to confront a magical being? Well, first is the possibility to summon it using magic – either witchcraft, sorcery, or some talisman. It need not be the character himself who does it. Many a dabbling warlock has had a ”professional” wizard act on his behalf. There are also some beings who appear at certain places and/or times just by themselves.

Just as with sorcery, all access is controlled by the GM. He should consider carefully what he will allow, and also do his best to make the process as enjoyable as possible – which does not mean it should be easy, but that it should be interesting and exciting.

Spirits are classified as lesser, minor, greater or major spirits.
 Lesser spirits cannot grant witchcraft. This include most hauntings and lesser hobs and goblins, and the imps and familiars of witches and warlocks. An actual spell (sorcery or witchcraft) to summon one would belong to the Outer Circle.
 Minor spirits can grant witchcraft of the Outer Circle. This includes the lower orders of demons and genies as well as elves and other beings who lives in great barrows, which include many pagan heroes of old (they are hard to tell apart anyway). A spell (sorcery or witchcraft) to summon one would belong to the Inner Circle.
 Greater spirits can also grant witchcraft of the Inner Circle. They include the nobility of genies, demons and elves and some forgotten pagan gods and true but lesser angels. A spell (sorcery or witchcraft) to summon one would belong to the Great Mysteries.
 Major spirits can grant any witchcraft. These are the self-proclaimed rulers of Hell, the greater angels who deal with the mundane world, the spirits of stars and planets, and some of the hoary Old Gods worshipped by pagans. These are the bings that acts as Patrons for true witches and warlocks. Such beings cannot be summoned by mortal magic. They appear as requires their nature and habit, the will of the Allmighty, or old old magics which cannot be duplicated by the lesser minds of this dark age.

Spirits are also classified as virtuous, neutral or dark.
 Virtuous spirits grant only white magic, but ask no great favor. They merely require the witch to remain a virtuous person (Piety 1+, in game terms, as judged by the GM).
 Neutral spirits can grant grey or white magic. In return, they will either ask for sacrifice of precious woods, oils, essences, perfumes etc, or the blood of animals, or that the witch takes on a geas or performs a quest, either to further some mundane goal of the spirit or to show their sincerity.
 Dark spirits can grant any magic. They will require the witch to perform some heinous, blasphemous deed, a human sacrifice, or that she starts worshipping it as a false god. Dealing with a dark spirit in any way except exorcism and banishment is automatically blasphemy. Even pagan religions frown upon it, since such beings are universally recognized as evil and inhuman.

When the spirit is asked to grant a spell, make a roll on 2d10 + Will + Wisdom (or Piety for virtuous spirits) and compare to the following table (essentially a reaction check):

<=0 (Bad): Virtuous spirit: The spirit frowns sadly and disappears.
Neutral spirits: The spirit is angry and refuses to deal with the witch again.
Dark spirit: The spirit strikes the witch with a horrible curse and certainly isn’t about to grant you anything. If the 2d10 roll (before modifiers) was less than the absolute value of a negative Piety – so, less than 4 for a Piety of –4 – the dark spirit thinks its about time and drags the character down to Hell (and good riddance!)
1-6 (Poor): Virtuous spirit: The spirit informs the witch of her current unoworthiness and may remind her of some deed or habit which is less than saintly.
Neutral spirit: The spirit is less than impressed and doesn’t want to do business with the character.
Dark spirit: The spirits threatens spiritual and bodily harm unless he given some sacrifice or commision right away – without granting any magic.
7- 14(Fair): Virtuous spirit: The spirit grants some small favor but no magic – but try again in perhaps a year (with a +4 bonus).
Neutral spirit: The spirit demands something big, expensive or difficult to grant the magic reequested – to become a hermit, or a flawless ruby, or to slay a dangerous being the spirit dislikes. After that, try again (with a +2 bonus).
Dark spirit: The spirit demands a horrible, blasphemous deed or a human sacrifice to consider granting its magic (try again, with a +1 bonus).
15-20 (Good): Virtuous spirit: The spirit smiles and grants your magic.
Neutral spirit: The spirit demands a reasonable favor of the witch – a gift of sweet expensive incense, a minor quest or a taboo such as ”never harm an owl”.
Dark spirit: In return for a human sacrifice or a deed of darkness, the spirit will grant its magic.
21+ (Excellent): Virtuous spirit: Your magic is granted – and the spirits blesses you in some minor way.
Neutral spirit: The spirit grants the magic in return for a completely token gift or favor. Dark spirit: The spirit grants its magic with false smiles and reassurances that ”you can return the favor later…”

The roll should be modified as follows:
Lesser spirits: They cannot grant witchcraft but these rules should be used for other spirit reactions as well.
Minor spirit: -2
Greater spirits: -4
Major spirits: -8
Neutral and dark spirits: Offers suitable sacrifice (blood, incense, etc.) immediatelly upon arrival, with no demands for anything in return: +0 to +4; no such sacrifice gives a –4 penalty.
Virtuous spirits: Fasting and purification for at least a week: +1/week, maximum of +4.
Asking greater spirit for magic of the Inner Circle or major spirit for magic of the Outer Circle: +2 (its easier for them)
Asking major spirit for magic of the Outer Circle: +4
Personality of the spirit compared to that of the witch: GM’s discretion. Spirits are rather empathic and tend to know more about characters than they do about them.

Normally, you get at least one chance to deal with the spirit through negotiation, oratory, bargaining etc. This works exactly as when dealing with mortal NPCs, except Status is irrelevant. Use Rank instead (all spirits respects power and knowledge). Greater spirits have a Rank of 15-20 (!). Major spirits have a rank of 10-15. Lesser spirits have a Rank of 1-12. Minor spirits have a rank of 0-4.

It can’t be stressed how important it is that spirit beings are treated like NPCs: be given a personality, goals, whims and quirks. This should often be something the PCs can find out aforehand when dealing with them.

Using magic
Using magic in combat is a Mystic Attack done in the Attack Phase of the round. You must roll 1d20 + Mystic Attack (Wisdom + Wits) and score equal to or higher than your target’s Mystic Defense (10 + Wisdom or Piety + Will) or your own Encumbrance, whichever is higher.

If a sorcerer does not understand the spell completely (an Excellent understanding, as per the Learning Sorcery Table), he will need to prepare himself using a written description of the spell. This takes place in the Preparation Phases of the round or rounds before casting the spell. If your understanding of the spell is merely Fair, it takes 10 rounds; if it is Good, it takes a single round. If interrupted by taking damage or taking any other action, you have to start over. A witch has no such problems.

A low enough roll is always a failure. ”Low enough” is 1 for the Outer Circle, 1-2 for the Inner Circle and 1-3 for the Great Mysteries.
If a witch makes such a low roll, the spell cannot be cast until the witch has purified herself and dealt with her patron. Black witchcraft often causes a horrible backlash of some sort as well (GM’s discretion).
Likewise, a roll of 20 is always a success.

No matter whether the Mystic Attack fails or succeeds, you become Fatigued from casting the spell. You take 1 Fatigue from a spell from the Outer Circle, 2 Fatigue from a spell of the Inner Circle, and 3 Fatigue from a spell of the Greater Mysteries. If your Fatigue becomes high enough to make you collapse or leave you Exhausted, that happens after you cast the spell. The Fatigue from spellcasting is recovered by normal rest.

A successfull spell has an Effect of 1d10+Wits. If you roll at least 10 point higher than the number you needed to roll, you can either add 1d10 to the Effect or reduce the Fatigue suffered by 1. The Effect is used to determine just how effective the spell is – the how much damage it causes, how long it lasts, etc. Spells who cause damage generally cause loss of Combat Points, but if the Mystic Attack roll is at least 10 points higher the magician may elect to cause Wounds instead.

Unless noted, a spell can be cast on a target you can either see or touch. If there is any doubt whether you can see the target clearly, you get a penalty to your Mystic Attack roll for cover/concealment, just as for a missile attack.

Untargeted Spells
Some spells are untargeted. An untargeted spell need only beat the magician’s Encumbrance. It has no specific target it is directed at som Mystic Defense is irrelevant. However, in some cases anyone affected indirectly by the spell may try to avoid its effects. Then they can make some kind of roll (usually described by the spell to do so), which must be equal to or higher than the Mystic Attack roll to use the spell. If they succeed, the spell still worked, it just didn’t work on them (or was less effective).

Many spells described requires various paraphernalia to cast. These items are usually not destroyed when the spell is cast, unless noted or obvious, but such items must be ”virgin” items unless noted. This means they must never have been used for anything else than casting the spell, and gathered from nature or created for that single purpose. If casting a spell using a virgin item fails, it must be ”purified” by a solemn ritual that takes an hour or so before it can be used again. If used to do anything but casting the spell, it cannot be used as paraphernalia ever again. It is still perfectly useful for any mundane tasks, however (a ritual dagger can cut bread or an enemy’s throat, for instance). The paraphernalia are merely suggestions, inspired by myth and imagination; a GM can use other, or let different magicians use different paraphernalia.

Some spells are Rituals. A Ritual takes several hours to perform (1d10 hours unless noted). When working Rituals the magician must have peace and quiet and create a ”sacred space” where he can concentrate the mystical energies to do their work. This is not a complex thing and can be considered part of the ritual, but if the ritual takes a long time nothing else, now matter how innocuos, can be done in that place without interrupting the ritual. (Most magicians set aside a room for this and lock the door). Fatigue caused by working Rituals needs a full night of sleep and good food and drink to recover from.

If a magician sees someone preparing a spell he knows, he will understand what is going on (the GM can demand a 1d20 + Wits + Wisdom to notice if they are not exposing themselves). Then, he can try to counter the spell using his knowledge. If he can make a Mystic Attack roll in the same attack phase as the spell is cast, the spell does not take effect! He doesn’t need to prepare himself or use any special paraphernalia. However, he will take Fatigue as if casting the spell itself, no matter whether he succeeds in countering it or not. A sorcerer can counter witchcraft and a witch sorcery.

Erik Sieurin

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