The basis of magic is spell casting – channeling a force through the body and manipulating it to produce specific effects. While the process is limited only by the players imagination, and may include anything from a traditionally rigid methodology to a freestyle roister, there are specific mechanics that govern it’s use. With attack, defend, move, and utility spells available, understanding the mechanics is vital to effective spell casting, especially as characters advance.
This section includes rules for everything from selecting the type of magic to be used to the art and tactics of spell casting. There is a formulaic quality to each spell governing its basic factors, effects, and targets, and as character’s advance they gain the ability to manipulate these to enhance their overall effectiveness. Because the magic system is designed to be flexible, with a wide variety of spells available, it’s important to understand how they work.
Defining the Magic
Much as a magnifying glass concentrates light, the caster’s Foundation focuses their spells, giving them form and substance. All casters must choose from one of the five Magic Foundations during character generation, which can help define background and spells cast. These are based on the aspects of magic: Mystic and four Elemental subclasses, Land Strider, Wind Rider, Fire Walker, and Wave Runner.
Mystics are the classic fantasy wizards who derive their power from the fifth element of magic, which circles the world in ancient ley lines. The various schools that invoke this power define the aesthetic look and feel of spell casting and allows for a great deal of customization in color and form, with a mix of fantastic displays and dramatic flair.
Elementalists call upon the fundamental aspects of the universe for their power, drawing their magic from one of the four basic elements.
Wind Riders draw their power from the unending skies. Their colors range from deep grays to light blues and they typically have wildly unpredictable personalities that are rife with mood swings and thunderous tempers.
Fire Walker magic is fed by the great infernos that fuel the world. They’re a loud and passionate sect that could as easily be inspiring leaders as devout destroyers; preferring to dress in the reds, yellows, or oranges of their medium.
Land Striders derive their power from the ground, whether that is rock, soil, or nature based is up to the player and campaign setting. Usually dressing in browns or greens, they tend to be reserved and protective preferring the open land to cities.
Powered by the great oceans, Wave Runners are a solitary, antisocial lot who understand that water has the power to give life and unmercifully take it away. They dress in deep blues and greens with a look about them that many find intimidating.
Once this selection is made, they must define their Foundation Object. This is a piece of jewelry, trinket, or other such item that serves as their connection to the Foundation. Without it, the character suffers a difficult (-4) modifier to all magic based skills.
The process of forging a Foundation Object requires the character to channel magic continuously into it until the link is established. Typically, the caster will spend several hours channeling, and make a (fatigued) Casting skill check to create the bond. If the skill check is successful, the object must make structural strength check (+1 per hour, and +1 per level). Should either the Casting skill check or structural strength check fail, the object shatters and the process must be started again. Foundation objects can be evolved into other forms, either by incorporating or reforging the object, and if lost, they may be reforged.
A forged Foundation Object adds the caster’s magic skill rank to the item’s structural strength. Because of this, forging a delicate item into a Foundation Object is often viewed as a significant feat.
Just like swinging a sword, casting a spell requires a successful skill check. This mechanic is the same as every attack, defend, move, or utility action in the game. The major difference with magic is in how it is defensed. All spells have an effect, these are what differentiate magical combat from melee combat. In order to avoid the effects, opponents must make a save.
As has been previously noted, the three base saves are: Reaction, Stamina, and Willpower. When a spell is successfully cast, the opponent is allowed to make a resistance check to reduce or negate the effect of the spell, based on its description. Unlike the Dodge/Evade mechanic used in melee combat, resistance checks typically do not cost actions, but then they don’t always completely negate the spell effect and each save must be raised individually.
Casting a Spell
There are three steps to casting a spell.
- Choose a spell to cast
- Choose a magic skill to cast with
- Roll the dice to make the skill check
Yet, within those three steps, there are a myriad of choices. With numerous different attack, defend, move, and utility spells to choose from and many magic skills available at various stages of advancement. In addition, some skills allow for the ability to alter or enhance parts of the spell. It can get complicated.
As mentioned in several skills, the moment a character accesses magic, regardless of success or failure, they enter a casting state. This state marks the beginning of the Magic Encounter, imbuing the caster with energy that can be shaped into specific effects. There are numerous aesthetic or roleplaying effects that can accompany the onset of the casting state, from a visible display of energy to a thrum of power to pain or a feeling of euphoria, as defined by the player.
For casters, an encounter begins with the onset of the Casting State and resets an hour after the last spell is cast. This represents the amount of time it takes for the magic energy to disperse, ending the Casting State, and the physical form to recover from the stresses of channeling the magic. If the character is forced to begin an additional casting state before the Encounter ends, the original Encounter continues, adding each round to the previous number for determining the onset of casting fatigue.
Channeling and shaping magic energies is strenuous and takes a mental and physical toll on the caster. The onset of the casting state opens a gateway into the realm of magic; the casters use their bodies as conduits for the power, but their minds to control and shape it. Once a Casting State has begun, spells can be cast for a number of rounds equal to the Constitution attribute score before the caster begins to suffer from fatigue (only rounds spent casting or maintaining spells count towards fatigue).
The normal fatigue rules apply to the caster (-4 modifier to all actions), though Willpower saves are substituted for the required Stamina saves.
All spells are composed of eight parts:
|Area of Effect:||Components:|
Type. This determines how the spell is used and whether it can be layered. A spell may have multiple uses and is marked with an (L) if it can be layered. There are four ways a spell may be used:
Attack: these are used to cause damage or limit the combat effectiveness of a target. All attack spells have a general casting speed factor of two, though many are limited by the number of actions required to cast.
Defend: spells of this type are used to aid the caster’s ability to survive combat. There is no casting speed factor for defend spells, except as defined by the number of actions available to the caster in the round.
Move: these spells enhance the caster’s ability to get from one place to another. The nature of this magic limits the casting speed factor to one.
Utility: includes spells that have a variety of capabilities that are not typically combat-oriented. There is no casting speed factor for defend spells, except as defined by the number of actions available to the caster in the round.
Domain. Control over magic is accomplished by shaping it to the will of the caster. The six domains determine the form that the magic will take.
Change: using magic to modify the target’s current properties, transforming it in some manner.
Control: exerting the power of magic over a target to direct it in some way.
Create: through magic, briefly bringing into existence something that didn’t exist before.
Damage: applying magic to inflict harm, Basic Hits are not added to the armor save.
Divination: employing magic to enhance perception or to perceive beyond the borders of the physical world.
Summon: beckoning magic to enter the physical world while remaining grounded in the magical world.
Range. This is the total distance that a particular spell can progress without the use of additional skills, and includes three factors.
Personal: indicates the spell may only be cast on the self.
Touch: the caster is required to make physical contact with the target.
Reach: this spell may be cast a distance in yards equal to the caster’s Influence score.
Duration. Defines the amount of time that a cast spell will endure. This part includes the mechanic used for maintaining the spell, and is defined by three factors:
Active: the cast spell effect may be maintained for up to a number of rounds equal to the Influence score without further casting, at the cost of one action per round.
Passive: the cast spell effect continues for a number of rounds equal to the Constitution score, with no further action from the caster.
Instant: the cast spell effect is resolved immediately and does not continue beyond the casting action.
Area of Effect. This is the maximum area that a particular spell effect can cover without the use of additional skills, and includes three factors:
Individual: indicates that the spell can affect a single target of up to medium size (unless otherwise noted in the spell description), within the range of the spell.
Object: the spell effect is applied to an item rather than a being, of up to medium size (unless otherwise noted in the description), within the range of the spell.
Group: allows for the spell to affect individuals within an area equal to the Influence score /2 (round down) surrounding a single targeted individual, affecting those of any size scale, so long as they fall within the AoE.
Locus: targets a specific area of up to the Influence score /2 (round down) with the affect of the spell, requiring individual within the area to escape (requiring a Dodge defend action and a move), or suffer the affect of the spell without a getting a resistance check (damage saves against Magic are made normally).
Components. These are the practiced procedures that are required to shape and cast a spell. It may include one, two, or all three factors:
Verbal: the caster is required to vocalize a set of specific words to cast the spell.
Somatic: the caster is required to perform some type of physical gesture to cast the spell.
Material: the casting requires an active Foundation Object to cast the spell.
Resistance. Defines the saving throw that is required to negate or reduce the spell effect, as defined in the spell description. For damaging spells, targets get a damage resistance at their Base save, plus any armor modifiers provided by magic.
A resistance save of N/A indicates that affect does not require a saving throw, typically because it is defensive in nature, though any unwilling target is allowed a save regardless. A resistance listed as None means there is no save against the spell, while Special has a particular save that is included in the description.
Casting Time. This is the total number of actions that a spell requires to be cast.
All spells fall into one of the three duration categories – Active, Passive, and Instant. Understanding each of these is important to determining how the spells work and using them to their full potential. Additionally, grasping how each works will be helpful should the caster acquire skills allowing them to manipulate these factors of the spell.
Instant spells are the most straightforward type. The spell is cast. The target makes a save. The effect is noted. Move on.
Passive spells can affect the caster, an area, or a target, and will last a number of rounds based on the character’s Constitution score. While it’s important for the duration to be tracked to determine when the effect ends, unless dispelled, a passive spell will last for the full duration, regardless of whether the caster is present or conscious.
Active spells technically only have a one round duration. In order to be extended into the next round, the caster is required to maintain the spell. This involves spending one action in each successive round to maintain the effect without having to recast the spell. Casters can choose to drop a spell at any time, but doing so must occur before the target is affected in the round, including any saves, otherwise, they must pay the cost for that round.
For example, Hold is cast on a giant spider at the end of the round, in the next round, the caster might spend one action maintaining the Hold spell, use one action to pull free of the webbing, and the two remaining actions for movement. The caster can cast another spell that round, but not one with a casting time greater than three actions, as one action must be used for maintenance.
Multiple Duration Spells
Limited by casting time and speed factor, it is possible to cast multiple Instant or Passive spells in a single round with no modifiers, but as noted above, once an Active spell is cast, one action must be spent in each successive round to maintain it. While maintaining an Active spell casters may continue to cast Passive or Instant spells normally, as allowed by casting times and speed factor.
While maintaining additional Active castings are included in that one maintenance action, for each additional Active spell cast there is a progressive -2 modifier to all casting skill checks. That means that while a character is maintaining two active spells, there is a -2 modifier to cast any other spells in the round, maintaining three active spells increases that modifier to -4, etc. This represents the mental toll of channeling and manipulating additional spell effects while continuing these existing effects.
These factors are designed to combine roleplaying with the game mechanics, while keeping the action moving along. During combat it might be possible for foes to miss the utterance of magic words and phrases, it’s even possible for them to miss simple gestures, but it’s doubtful that they won’t see that glowing focus object, which will tell them exactly who is the biggest threat on the field of battle. Essentially, the more powerful the spell, the more likely it is that the caster will be noticed while casting it.
Unfortunately, for those looking to buy some thick black canvas to wrap around their focus object, only the Concealed Casting skill can dim its magnificence. If a focus object is covered, the aura of magic simply passes through the material covering it, giving it a coronal radiance. If the caster loses possession of their focus object, spells requiring it cannot be cast, in addition to the standard -4 modifier.
Casting Range vs. Effective Range
As defined in the Parts of a Spell section, the casting range is the total distance in yards that a spell can reach, but what about after the spell is cast – How far can the target go and remain under the effect of the spell?
This depends on the duration category of the spell.
Active. As the caster must maintain concentration on the spell to keep it in effect, it only makes sense that the target and caster must remain within the casted range of the spell for it to continue into the next round.
For an active spell with a range of touch, unless otherwise noted in the description, the target must remain within the caster’s general vicinity, which is defined as a radius equal to their Constitution score around the caster.
Passive. Once this type of spell is cast, it will last until the duration ends, regardless of how far the target gets from the caster.
Instant. This is not applicable to the question, the caster must be in range to cast the spell and the effect is instantaneous.
This interconnectivity between duration and effect range is part of the balance among the spells and with other parts of the game system. Additionally, it adds to the overall combat tactics, encouraging a caster to consider the entire field of battle.
Area of Effect
This is all about targeting, as determined by the spell. Aside from some special circumstances, there are three AoE categories – Individual, Group, and Locus. The category determines not only the number of potential targets but also how they save against the spell effect.
Individual or Object. Self-explanatory, these spells are cast at a single target and that target makes an appropriate saving throw against the spell effect. These targets must be of medium size scale or smaller to be affected by these spells.
Group. Spells in this category target a number of individuals in a particular area or a size scaled target that fits into the area, i.e. large, giant, etc. Each target makes an appropriate saving throw against the spell effect.
Locus. Rather than individual targets, spells in this category target a location. All targets in the locus must escape the area to avoid the effect, requiring a successful Reaction save and one or more Move actions. Any targets unable to escape the area, suffer the effects of the spell without further saving throws (damage saves against Magic are made normally).
For the purpose of inflating an area of effect with the use of skills, the AoE steps include Indivciudal/Object to Group, Group to Locus or Group plus area modifier, and Locus plus area modifier. The area modifier is used to move through the steps, reducing the inflation range.
Where the caster goes in the round is going to affect the choice of spell. Going early allows casters to be interruptive with crowd control spells, but marks them as a target, forcing them to hold actions for defense. Going later in the round allows casters to more safely use spells that have longer casting times as holding actions may not be as important. Choosing which spell to cast based on the initiative order is a tactical choice, and should be considered carefully.
Choosing A Target
Selecting targets can be tricky. Going for the biggest or toughest looking foe first could be key in weakening them for the melee and ranged members of the party. Then again, disrupting the leader or giving the enemy something to worry about besides the metal encrusted melee combatants might draw undo attention. A key for casters surviving on the battlefield is carefully picking targets that allow them to work with the strength of their allies.
As important is choosing the right spell to use on that target. A Silence spell on another caster or someone with Leadership will be far more effective than a Blast, while casting Hold on a target in the midst melee will likely lead to the spell being broken quickly. Understanding how each spell in the caster’s arsenal works and carefully selecting targets will be far more effective than running around dropping damage everywhere.
Melee combatants more than any other, focus on one target at a time, but casters can’t do that. The best target in one round might not be the best target in the next. To determine this, a caster must pay attention to what their foes are doing. If the bandit thug is holding his own against a melee ally, a Blast may cause just enough damage to turn the tide of battle, while a bandit who picks up a crossbow, might look better as a bunny for a while, keeping his bolts from piercing the back of an allied healer.
Casting in Combat
When in melee combat casters have a difficult (-4) modifier to any casting skill check, and are subject to an Attack of Opportunity. Similarly, when a caster is actively under attack from ranged attacks, whether being pelted by arrows, rocks, or whatever, they have a difficult (-4) modifier to any casting skill check. These modifier can be overcome with a successful Concentration skill check, though if the skill check fails they lose an action.
Casting on the Move
This refers to riding on a beast of burden or other vehicle based movement. Before the casting skill is attempted, the caster must make a Concentration skill check. If the skill check fails, an action is lost and they may try again with another Concentration skill check. However, if the Concentration check succeeds, it only costs a free action and spells may be cast normally for the remainder of the round. Additional skill checks are only required if there is a sudden change, i.e. speed, terrain, etc.
While a melee combatant must be adjacent to their target, and the ranged combatants can remain at the edge of their weapon range, casters must be more mobile. With spell ranges running from Touch to Reach, with some Area of Effect thrown in, the best spell in the moment can require the caster to be in one place one round, and another the next.
Because Range and Area of Effect are based on the character’s Influence attribute, the values should be known and easy to calculate. At the start of combat, the caster must decide from where to cast. This will be dictated by three factors: choice of spell, location of allies in relation to targets, and any obstacles in the area. It’s important to remember with range, the area begins adjacent to the caster and ends on the target location.
An area of effect spell uses the same range calculation (if applicable), with the area of effect beginning at the target and expanding outward. In this example, the AoE Locus is 4 yards (Constitution 8 /2). All AoE magic effects take a circular form.
This is where targeting is important. Spells that target a group, must be centered on a member of that group and anyone within the effect, friend or foe is subject to the spell effect. A spell with a four yard AoE can potentially affect 21 targets if they are clustered together. For spells that effect an area, it may be placed anywhere the caster chooses within their range, offering better control over who will be affected by the spell.