The rules below (which are quite extensive, but as yet incomplete) are something that I came up with in response to a request from one of my players, as well as cribbing (OK, stealing) from the Sorcerer book for Mage Revised. They have, thus far, been quite successful --Mox.
To the average inhabitant of Creation magic is very real. Little gods and elementals wander the earth, hungry ghosts stalk the city streets at night, Fair Folk entertainers create bewitching displays of illusion & artifice and the awe-inspiring Dragon-Blooded stride over all like the Lords of Creation. All of these and more are, if not everyday, then at least commonplace events for the people, evoking fear and awe in equal measure. But none of these can bring forth the depth of feeling that a mortal sorcerer can.
These are people who have gone beyond the normal degree of occult understanding that many peasants have. Knowing how to properly placate a local cloud spirit, or what signs to make in order to ward off evil influences are not specialised knowledge, they are tools for survival in the often savage world of the Second Age. Sorcery, however, is an entirely different animal. A sorcerer can bend the winds to his will, create light from nothing or cloaks from pure shadow, he can see in the dark or into the future, he can do all of these things and more besides. But there is a price that must be paid, and risks that must be taken, if the power of sorcery is to be taken and held.
Using Mortal Magics
In general, to use mortal magic the sorcerer spends a point of Willpower and then makes an Occult test paired with an appropriate Mental attribute (Intelligence, Perception or Wits). The Exalted have far more control over Essence than any mortal and can substitute the expenditure of a mote of Essence for the point of Willpower. Any further Willpower costs must be paid as normal, however.
The Risks of Sorcery
Mortal sorcery is inherently uncertain, unlike the Essence-driven levels of Exalted sorcery, and as such it carries risks that the other does not. The mortal sorcerer has to carefully weave the Essence of the world around him into his magic, rather than drawing on the reserves of his own body, and even the slightest misstep can lead to disaster. Botching when using mortal magic is far easier than almost any other endeavour, and the sorcerer who pushes his abilities too far can find himself on the wrong end of a magical mishap in which his quick death would be a fortunate outcome.
Many of the paths listed below allow the sorcerer to increase the strength, or alter the effect, of his spell by taking dice pool penalties to the applicable Occult test. Sorcery is not an exact science, however, and it would easily be possible for a sorcerer to over-extend himself, leading to potentially dire consequences should his magic fail. To prevent this, when using the Occult ability to work mortal magic the sorcerer may not subtract more dice from his dice pool than he has dots of Occult.
Some magical effects require the sorcerer to concentrate to maintain them. The effort involved in this is considerable, the sorcerer having to keep a part of the magic he used continually in his mind. In game terms this means that the sorcerer has to use a dice action every turn to maintain the effect, thus if the sorcerer wants to do something as well as keep concentration in a turn, then he suffers the appropriate dice pool penalties as for multiple actions. The maintained magic is essentially always the first action the sorcerer has in a turn.
Action & Reaction
Through sorcery the sorcerer can affect the world around him in ways beyond the capabilities of most mortals. This effect is a two-way process, however, and the sorcerer himself can be affected by the magic he uses. This effect is usually only noticeable on old sorcerers, who have been using magic for years, or even decades, and is more pronounced on sorcerers who specialise in one path.
The effects of this magical bleedback vary from person to person, but it is nevertheless real and noticeable (although with little or no mechanical effect). Some examples follow:
- When the sorcerer is angry, small objects tend to spontaneously explode around him. The sorcerer has an indefinable air of violence, making small animals skittish around him.
- The sorcerer's body heals naturally with little or no scarring. The sorcerer's hair and fingernails grow unnaturally quickly.
- The sorcerer gives of a very faint glow, noticeable only in darkness. Several small light-motes seem to follow the sorcerer everywhere, the patterns of their movement dependent on his mood.
- Shadows deepen and swell slightly around the sorcerer, almost as if he subtracts light from his surroundings. The sorcerer’s shadow sometimes appears to act independently of him, perhaps revealing his true feelings.
- The local weather will change slightly to reflect the sorcerer’s mood. Plants will grow or wither in the close vicinity of the sorcerer.
- The sorcerer has a very limited, instinctual view of the future, often opening a door just before someone knocks. The sorcerer’s vision changes slightly, light & dark become less of a factor for him.
- The sorcerer’s walking pace is sometimes unaccountably rapid and other times slower than old molasses.
- Small objects in the vicinity of the sorcerer will often appear to move by themselves. The sorcerer will often find any small item he needs is just to hand, or any item he habitually keeps might disappear.
- The sorcerer is unusually lucky (or unlucky) in small matters. Strings of minor coincidences surround the sorcerer.
- The sorcerer tends to attract small animals and minor spirits, particularly when emotionally agitated.
For a mortal gaining the knowledge and power to work sorcery is both difficult and dangerous, often requiring that they apprentice themselves to older sorcerers (often half-mad, or worse) or to knowledgeable spirits (who could best be described as capricious). The exact method varies from place to place, long quests into dangerous areas searching for hallucinogenic and/or poisonous plants are a favourite, but the end result is the same, as are the mechanics behind it - the character gains a speciality in the Occult ability (Mortal Sorcery +1). It should be noted that this bonus does not add to any Occult tests required by the rules below - having the speciality merely opens the door to magic, it does not make it any easier. (Further specialities will add to any Occult dice pools as normal) Exalts of many stripes have it somewhat easier - if the Exalted has the Occult ability as either a Caste/Aspect or Favoured/Auspicious ability then he is assumed to have the (Mortal Sorcery +1) speciality for free. If the Exalted is not one of those lucky ones, then he has to learn the old-fashioned way.
The three abilities below are basic functions of mortal sorcery that any occult theorist has access to.
The Paths of Sorcery
Each of the 11 Paths presented below represents a particular aspect of the sorceries available to mortal practitioners across the world. The systems are not complete, nor are they meant to be, instead they merely show some of what is possible to a mortal sorcerer - the price they pay for flexibility is power.
A mortal who wishes to learn any of the Paths must find a willing instructor, or be willing to experiment by (or on) himself, and some Paths are obviously far safer to learn with others present than on your own (the Path of Summoning in particular). Mechanically, instruction takes a month and costs the character 4 experience points, after which he will have access to a single Path chosen by his instructor - self-teaching is somewhat harder, requiring twice as much time.
As mentioned above, Exalts who have an inbuilt connection to the Occult ability have it somewhat easier. In the case of the Paths of sorcery it means that they gain Paths in much the same way that the Linguistics ability grants access to languages - one per dot. If the character wishes to learn more Paths than he has dots in Occult, then he has to spend experience points much as mortals do, although training time is halved. Other Exalted must learn mortal sorcery as a mortal.
The Path of MortalSorcery/Healing
The Path of MortalSorcery/Hellfire
The Path of MortalSorcery/Light
The Path of MortalSorcery/Shadow
The Path of MortalSorcery/Nature
The Path of MortalSorcery/Sight
The Path of MortalSorcery/Enchantment
The Path of MortalSorcery/Conveyance
The Path of MortalSorcery/Conjuration
The Path of MortalSorcery/Fortune
The Path of MortalSorcery/Summoning
Looks good to start with. I favor mortal sorcerers, and this looks much better than my plans to allow access to Terrestrial Circle Sorcery through ritual. One question: will this form of magic be accessible to the Exalted as well? - Quendalon
Absolutely. The sorcerer in the group is a megalomaniac (the player, too), and can never have enough power. :) Mortal-level sorcery is quite powerful, on the mortal level - when used by an Exalt it gets even more so, many of the paths depend on the permanent Essence of the user for a degree of their power.
Very good system indeed. Consider it "borrowed" :). One thing though. Dice pool penalities are usually only applied if for example the environment conditions make something more difficult. If the task per se is difficult I would rather increase the difficulty of the throw. -- BrokenQuill
Yeah, I know. That was the original system, too. It's easy enough to switch around, requiring more successes instead of subtracting dice - this will also have the effect of removing a great deal of the system's power (which I had completely forgotten I had begun putting on here. Must get back to it. :) ) The main reason I had for doing it this way was to make botches more likely - I felt that this sorcery should be unpredictable, and since a sorcerer can voluntarily reduce his dicepool by half (or more!) this has that effect. -- Moxiane
Heya =) \\ I really really like the system, I just had a quick question - I've been playtesting it, and the path of hellfire is, well, pretty badass. Did you mean for there to be a way to parry and/or dodge it? I was thinking maybe "dodge not parry" as a general characteristic of the path. - SilverMeerKat
Hellfire can be pretty nasty in the hands of a high-Essence Exalt, yeah - which was kinda the point, but to make it really nasty you risk a botch. As to defence issues, since I don't appear to have stated anything one way or the other I would say that dodging is almost always applicable, and parrying... ack, the elemental modifications are wierd that way. I'll have to go back and made decisions on each effect. Generally speaking you can parry single target blasts (although parrying a Magma effect would be neat. :) ), but area-effect is a case of dodge or suck it up. - Moxiane
Hmmm, I think the system is interesting. I take it you borrowed a lot from the World of Darkness: Sorcerer book for some of these effects and paths. ;p I'm not sure it woudl go in my game, as it is a bit powerful for "mere mortals" to have.
On a system note, if you want to increase the risk of botching but not use the "taking away dice" mechanic maybe you can say that -any- roll which fails to earn the required number of successes and has even a single 1 result on a die results in a botch when using mortal sorcery. This actually has the effect of making high dificulty sorcery very risky, when you do out the statistics. - Epsilon
- See the note at the top of the page for my "inspiration". :)
- As to the system, yeah - that was one of the iterations it went through originally. The main problem with it only showed up in gameplay, keeping track of how many successes were needed when a big-ass fight was going on got tricky at times, hence going over to the smaller dice-pools version. *shrug* I may well put up the alternate mechanic on a sub-page one day, I think I still have that doc knocking around somewhere.
- And regarding the power level - well, the main culprit is Hellfire I feel. A simple fix, which will probably go into the next round of updates is to decrease the bonus from 2L/die to 1L/die, dropping it from a 4:1 ratio to 2:1, which is far less OTT. - Moxiane
Is there anyway for more than one Path to be included in a rote? Also if so, how would it be costed? I really love your rules for mortal sorcery, (what i use in all my games) but I think it needs a lil expansion (I know it was done pre PG). I also have some thoughts on additions to the path Hellfire. The Hellfire addition includes two new ways of using hell fire (a wall, and a sword/melee weapon). And do Thaumaturgists with the Heir of Bridgid merit get any benifits from their unusual connection to magic? - Issaru
- Not as written, no - and I also don't quite get the need. As written here using Mortal Sorcery is just a dice-action, so if you need to fire off two rote spells quickly you split as normal and pray like Hell that your total dice-pool penalties don't make you botch. ^_^
- Also, and this is something I have assumed and don't necessarily know if I have made explicit anywhere - the uses for each Path are not the only ones, by a long shot, they're just the ones I could think of. The Path of Shadow gives you limited control over shadows, and so I wrote in the most likely things that people would want to do with that ability that I could figure out. The melee idea for Hellfire, frex, is an interesting one. Go nuts with it, sure.
- Finally, the Heir of Brigid thing, I doubt it - the way I've set up these rules the power is almost diametrically opposed to Exalted-level sorcery. Low-level, very flexible, while Exalted sorcery is rigid. - explicating Moxiane
- Gotcha. Thanx for the timely reply. - Issaru
Are these the sorcerery paths from Mage's "Sorcerer" book for hedge magic? I also don't know that exalts should suffer the same penalties as mortals for botching Mortal Sorcerery, given they can just pump out the essence. Also, what are your thoughts on adding Psionics? - Galen