Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fantasy: Incantation Magic

Incantation used to be called "Magecraft," back when I couldn't think of a good name for it, and has since become less of a generic "spellcasting" form of magic and more of a very specific, song-and-chant-based thing. It's also very specific to the setting, because I'm not really keen on fireballs and meteor swarms, although the basic mechanics are simple enough to be usable for a wide variety of magical effects.

(I'm not going to embarrass myself by admitting where I got the idea to have a very limited, song-based form of magic, but trust me, it's pretty embarrassing.)

Practitioners of Incantation magic are known as chanters; their spells are commonly known as songs. Incantation uses Art as its base skill, and is the most direct form of magic in the setting.

The default difficulty is Mediocre (+0). Shifts obtained on your Art roll can be spent on:
  • Power: The effect of the song -- what it does. Pick a skill, such as Intimidation, Missile, Rapport, or whatever is most appropriate to the effect you want to achieve. For example, if it's a song of charm you're after, pick Rapport. Each shift spent on Power increases the quality of this skill by +1.
  • Duration: How long the effect lasts. Damaging effects default to instant; other effects default to a few minutes. Each shift spent on Duration increases the length of the effect by one step on the Time Chart.
  • Targets: How many targets are affected. By default, this is one. You can spend shifts to affect additional targets, or spend three shifts to affect everyone (or everything) in a zone.
The length of time required to use Incantation starts at instant. For every shift spent on Power or Duration, increase the time required by one step on the Time Chart. Unspent shifts reduce the time required by an equal amount -- one step per unspent shift, to a minimum of instant.

Songs fall into three basic categories: Harm, Help, and Hinder. The alliteration is accidental, I assure you.

Harm
If the effect is meant to be harmful -- that is, if it uses Melee, Missile, Intimidation, or some other direct-damage skill -- apply the song's Power against the target's appropriate defense, usually Endurance or Resolve, depending on the flavor of the song. If the skill used is Missile, it might harm the target with sonic energy, in which case the proper defense would be Endurance, or it might baffle the target's mind with a maddening onslaught of sounds and images, in which case he'd defend with Resolve. Regardless, take the difference between the song's Power and the target's skill (the skill alone, without a roll) and deal a consequence of the corresponding type and severity. The consequence should relate directly to the effect of the song. For example, if Rain-Splitting-Rock's song of friendship (a test of Rapport vs. Resolve) deals a consequence, a good one might be "Thinks Rain-Splitting-Rock Is His Best Friend."

Help
If the effect is beneficial to yourself or an ally, apply the song's Power as a bonus to the target's use of the same skill, as with Alchemy (more on that later).

Hinder
The opposite of Help -- here you're trying to reduce the target's capability with a skill, not increase it. Compare the song's Power against the target's Endurance or Resolve, as appropriate. Any shifts obtained over that defense are applied as a penalty to the Power's selected skill for the duration of the effect. For example, a song of confusion could apply a penalty to the target's Melee, a song of blindness could penalize Alertness, or a song of lethargy work against the target's Athletics.

Penalizing multiple skills requires multiple Power skills, or all skills of a particular category (physical, mental, or social) can be penalized at double the cost (2 shifts/-1).

In essence, this is the same mechanic as Help; Help just assumes that the target is willing, and consequently offers a defense of Mediocre (+0).

Incantation can always be used to apply a fragile aspect to the target with an opposed test of Art vs. Resolve. Unlike aspects normally created using Art, they don't have to be limited to moods. Aspects like "Charmed" or "Confused" are perfectly reasonable. If you want to deal damage or accomplish anything more interesting, though, you have to jump through the above hoops.

Example:
Rain-Splitting-Rock, a satyr shamaness, is set upon by a trio of hungry wolves. Thinking quickly, she sings a song of fear -- an Intimidation effect. She adds her Good (+3) Art to her roll of +3, for a Fantastic (+6) effort. She spends two shifts to affect the two extra targets, two shifts on the song's Fair (+2) Power, which she figures should be enough to overcome their Resolve, and two shifts to increase the effect's Duration from a few minutes to half an hour, just to make sure she has enough time to get to safety. With all those shifts, that's going to take half an hour to pull off, though, but by then she'll be dinner. She spends two Fate Points and invokes two aspects ("The All-Mother sings through me" and "Shamaness of the Plains") to give her four more shifts. That'll bring the time required down to half a minute, which the GM says will be fast enough to beat the wolves' advance, but she'll be cutting it close. The wolves are just mooks, with an Average (+1) Resolve, so her song inflicts a Minor consequence of "Terrified of the Satyr." Since, as Average (+1) mooks, they don't have any Grit, the single consequence is enough to take them out, and they go running off with their tails between their legs.


Each skill or category means a different song, so if you define your song of strength as affecting Might, that's the only skill it can affect (but see Hinder, above).

This last bit isn't totally necessary, but it might be useful: A character starts knowing a number of songs equal to her Art skill, but can learn more according to her skill.

Art Skill:
Max Songs Known:
Average (+1)
1
Fair (+2)
3
Good (+3)
6
Great (+4)
10
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