Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Empress core rules - Section 6.5 - 6.7

These subsections cover a few aspects of spells, such as new spell effects, how they are learned, and a standard notation system to describe spell effects.

6.5. Spell effects

6.5.1. Determining spell level

Defining the spell level for a given spell effect is not an exact science.  Instead, the GM must consider this primarily in light of how effective the spell is.  Here’s a rough guideline:

Spell level
  • Mimics an effective skill usage in a limited way
  • Inflicts as much harm as an effective melee attack
  • Incapacitates weak opponents
  • Provides important information or clues but not answers
  • Approximately as useful as an action by one skilled ally
  • Augury
  • Invisibility
  • Magic Missile
  • Web
  • Can mimic nearly superhuman feats
  • Can damage large numbers of opponents like a melee attack
  • Able to incapacitate foes in many situations
  • Can reveal hidden information
  • Approximately as useful as a group of ten people acting for a minutes
  • Charm Monster
  • Detect Illusion
  • Fly
  • Polymorph Self
  • Major feats of magic, beyond human ability
  • Can take out most individual opponents or groups of fodder
  • Take effect over ranges beyond sight, with long durations
  • Can cause permanent changes in the local landscape
  • Approximately as useful as a mob of people cooperating for a turn
  • Cloudkill
  • Commune
  • Legend Lore
  • Teleport
  • Miraculous events, like opening portals to other universes
  • Dramatic effects over large areas, like earthquakes or snow in summer
  • Access to archmage powers, like greatly extended life
  • Approximately as useful as a small army acting together for an hour
  • Earthquake
  • Invisibility, Mass
  • Polymorph Any Object
  • Reverse Gravity
  • World changing effects, like opening permanent tears in space-time
  • Doing the impossible, like reversing time or raising the dead
  • Immortality, or even certain kinds of spiritual ascension
  • Like a minor act of divinity
  • Immortality
  • Power Word Kill
  • Shape Change
  • Time Stop

6.5.2. New spell effects

Arcane Justice

Level: 1
Duration: until target spell terminates
Range: 1000’ per level of the caster
A Mage casts Arcane Justice upon another spell that he or she can otherwise detect.  At that point, he or she becomes able to sense the direction of the person who cast the targeted spell.  When that caster is looked upon by the caster of Arcane Justice, he or she will glow with a distinct aura like a Faerie Fire, but green.

Blessing of Life

Level: 3
Duration: 1 week
Range: touch
This charm is cast upon a grievously wounded character, causing them to revert to a merely wounded state after one week of recovery.  During this time, the subject of the spell is unconscious, and must be carefully ministered during this time (though not necessarily by the caster; this is just what’s needed to keep a person alive for a week).

Chamber of the Archmage

Level: 2
Duration: 1 hour per level
Range: 200’
This impressive-sounding spell can have impressive-looking results, although the effect is purely illusory.  The magician is able to designate a volume of 10’x10’x10’ per level as the area of the spell effect.  In this region, the magician is able to create an entirely illusionary locale, complete with rote animation.  None of this can cause damage, but the caster is able to change any part of the illusion while it is in effect, so long as it is not being viewed by others.

Conjure Nightmare

Level: 2
Duration: 1 hour
Range: 60’
The Mage summons a demonic entity from the depths of his subconscious.  The Nightmare is different for everyone who casts this spell, but the same each time.  The creature has a number of HD equal to the caster’s level, does damage equal to 1d6 for every four caster levels, or fraction thereof.  It moves at 150’ per round.  The creature also has three other abilities, selected by the players:

  • Protection 3
  • Each attack is also a grapple
  • Regains half inflicted damage
  • Flight at 200’ per round
  • Running at 300’ per round
  • Clings to sheer surfaces
  • Stealth 6, Sneak Attack 2
  • Poisonous bite, Reflexes save on hit or Fortitude save or take 2d6 Agility damage
  • Hypnotic gaze, paralyze one opponent per round who fails Willpower save
  • Can attack up to four opponents per round
  • Fear attack; stress effect that forces retreat for 1 turn on failure, at start of combat
  • Create effect of Web spell in one minute
  • Spine attack; treat as heavy crossbow
  • Stinking Cloud 1 time per day
  • May take a specific innocuous form (like a toddler), then change back for surprise attacks
  • Nursery rhyme takes one minute to cast Sleep
  • etc.

The Nightmare is actually a glamour, so those killed by it will awaken when the spell ends, and the effects it creates are not truly physical.  Those it “kills” suffer a stress effect upon waking.

Dream of the Great Seer

Level: 3
Duration: special
Range: self
The Mage casts this spell shortly before going to sleep, with a clear intention of dreaming of a certain day in the future.  The Mage must then make a Mind saving throw; if it is failed, he or she is off in time by +/-(1d20 x 10)%.

In this dream the Mage experiences this day as it would happen.  There is some inherent inaccuracy in this kind of vision.  The GM should approximate to his or her best guess.  In addition the GM should introduce 1d4-2 intentional lies.

Eternal Possession

Level: 4
Range: eyesight
Duration: permanent
This spell causes the Mage to possess the body of another.  The target gets a Will saving throw to resist the effect.  Upon failure, the Mage takes possession of the victim’s body, and the victim’s soul is trapped.  Every month thereafter, the victim must make a Will save, or his or her soul has been ejected entirely from the body.  Before this point, a Remove Curse or dispel magic will force the Mage out of the victim.  If this happens, the caster may return to his or her body if it is still alive.  If it is not, then the Mage’s soul is lost.

Evil Eye

Level: 2
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: Unlimited
For this to work, the Mage needs a personal object or bodily matter from the spell’s subject.  The subject will then be visited by nightmares every night until the spell is resisted by the victim for three separate occasions.  Every night that the character is afflicted, he or she must attempt a Will save.  On a failure, no HP are regained, and the character suffers a stressful event (and now must save vs Will again or lose Nerve as per rules regarding stress).

Expel Parasites

Level: 2
Duration: immediate
Range: touch
This spell will cause the recipient to immediately eject any parasites infesting them.  This will not eject any symbiotes that are natural companions of those host species (e.g. gut bacteria), but even the most helpful of alien symbiotic organisms will find themselves evicted.  This process is typically a bit messy and uncomfortable, even for healthy individuals.  In any case, would-be parasites get no saving throws.  This will not free the character from spiritual possession, however.

Faerie Gold

Level: 1
Duration: 1 turn per level
Range: touch
The name of this spell is a bit of a misnomer, since it can accomplish quite a bit more than conjure fake gold.  The Faerie Gold spell allows the caster to create inanimate objects equivalent to one encumbrance item per caster level; if rendered as coins, this is one-hundred.  These objects are entirely convincing to all senses, although they aren’t real, and illusory weapons cannot cause actual damage.

Fey Blade

Level: 3
Duration: one turn
Range: touch
The spell allows the mage to conjure an enchanted sword from the lands of a faerie.  This blade is a powerful glamor - it is neither wholly real nor entirely made of dreamstuff.  The sword can be used to strike any being that can be seen, and carried with the mage into the dreamlands and spirit world.

The Fey Blade does not inflict physical damage.  Instead, whenever a target is hit (ignoring armor), that character must attempt a Will saving throw.  On a failure, the target takes 1d8 Nerve damage and loses his or her next action, while the character suffers a loss of only one point on a success.  On a critical failure, the character suffers trauma.

While living things become a drooling wreck if Nerve is brought to zero or less, magical creatures will usually be banished when brought down to zero or less Nerve.

Friend of the Wind

Level: 2
Duration: 1 turn per level
Range: immediate vicinity
The effect of this spell is to let the Mage call up a minor alteration in the weather conditions for the duration of the spell.  The direction of the wind may be changed by up to 120 degrees.  A dead calm may be transformed into a light breeze and visa versa, and in extreme conditions, related saving throws may be improved or worsened by +/-3.  Light precipitation may be summoned or dispelled.  Temperatures can change by about 5-10 degrees (C).  

Basically, we’re talking about minor effects, but they can be used in versatile ways.  Whatever effect is chosen at the start of the spell is fixed for the duration.

Healer’s Ward

Level: 2
Duration: 3 days
Range: one bed
This spell causes a character who is wounded to recover to 1HP in three days.  It is cast upon the bed that they are sleeping in; as long as the character sleeps three nights in a row in that bed, the spell will take effect.  If they miss any night, the spell will fade and the character’s condition will revert to what it was.


Level: 5
Range: self
Duration: permanent
This spell makes the Mage ageless, as well as immune to disease (but not poisons and drugs).  However, the human mind was not built for immortality, and the passage of time will surely drive the wizard mad.  The Mage must roll a Will save once per decade after his or her first century of life, at a penalty that increases by -1 every decade.  On a failure, the Mage permanently loses one Nerve, and this may not be regained by any means.  On a critical failure, he or she loses 1d3 instead, and must roll for insanity.

Magic Scroll

Level: 3
Range: special
Duration: special
With this spell, the mage may follow it up by casting any other spell, and sealing it into the scroll.  This spell can then be unleashed by whoever holds the scroll, and reads the command words (often written on the scroll, but not necessarily).  It takes one minute to trigger the spell, but anyone may do this, as long as they speak the correct words.  The command words are selected by the caster.  Unleashing the spell will discharge the power of the scroll.

Drawbacks for this spell don’t have to take into account that the effect is “transferrable and triggerable,” since that’s accounted by the level of the spell itself.  Just design the drawbacks as usual.  The ritual for this spell can be split into two parts: one to create the scroll as a generic receptacle, and another (generally much shorter) to prepare it to contain one’s next spell.  Of course, there is usually some kind of material components and casting time is usually non-trivial.  Sometimes the scroll itself is reusable, but not always.

Minor Invisibility

Level: 1
Duration: 1 turn/level
Range: touch
The magician may cast this spell on anyone, including him or herself, to turn them invisible.  This lasts for the duration, and is cancelled as soon as the character touches another person, either directly or indirectly through a weapon or any other object.  One big drawback of this spell is that it doesn’t extend its invisibility to the equipment of the subject.  Thus, it is only truly effective when naked and unarmed.

Penetration Curse

Level: 1-5
Duration: Instantaneous
Range: 0
This spell affects the spell that the Mage casts immediately afterwards.  The Penetration Curse has the effect of reducing saving throws by twice its level for purposes of that subsequent casting.

Rally the Spirit

Level: 1
Duration: immediate
Range: Touch
This spell causes anyone in critical condition to get a Fortitude save; on a success, their condition immediately stabilizes.  On a failure, the spell has no effect.


Level: 4
Duration: immediate
Range: touch
This spell will banish all fatigue and heal attribute damage.  One lost attribute point can be restored, as well.  This does not include attribute points lost to aging, however.

Reverse Aging

Level: 4
Range: self
Duration: permanent
This spell causes the Mage to effectively de-age by 1d6 years.

Rush of Vitality

Level: 1
Duration: 1 round/level
Range: touch
The target of this spell immediately regains all lost HP, as long as they are greater than zero.  Otherwise, it does not heal a character.  It will furthermore increase the recipient’s Toughness by 1d4 for the duration of the spell.  Regained HP are not lost when the effect expires.

Seal of the Ocular Curse

Level: 3
Duration: until cured
Range: touch
The Seal consists of a strange runic sigil that is engraved upon an object to be projected by this spell.  From that point onward, the next person to disturb that object, by direct or indirect contact, will be forced to make both a Will and Fortitude save, both at -2.  If they both fail, the target is affected.

The effect of the curse will manifest within an hour of taking effect as an intense itching all over the skin.  This will develop into boils over the next week, causing 1d3 Agility and Charisma damage on the second day.  After one week, the character will wake up to find a horrid surprise: all the boils have burst to reveal human eyeballs (the color of the caster).

The effects of this will be fairly traumatic.  First of all, the eyeballs are very sensitive, like real eyes, so the character will be constantly sensitive and uncomfortable.  Toughness is reduced by 2d4, Agility is reduced 1d4, and Charisma is reduced by 3d6.  On the positive side, Perception increases by 1d4, and Dexterity improves by one point.

In addition to all these effects, the Mage who cast the curse will be able to see out of the eyes by closing his or her own and concentrating for a moment.  This wizard will know when the curse has been triggered, and when the eyes appear.

A careful victim may think to cover the eyes in order to conceal one’s location from the cursing Mage.  This is a good idea with a small downside: increases to Perception and Dexterity are lost.  Charisma damage is reduced to 1d6, as one’s cloaked appearance is certainly cause for suspicion.  Agility and Toughness penalties remain in full effect.

Seeming of the Fair and the Foul

Level: 1
Duration: 1 hour per level
Range: touch
This spell causes the contacted subject to appear significantly better or worse than his or her actual condition, as selected by the caster.  The magician can determine the nature of improvement or worsening of appearance: age, pallor, beauty, wealth, charm, etc.  The basic nature of the thing cannot be changed, but the level of quality may be made to appear very different.  In the case of a character, this may change Charisma by up to five points.

Anyone who examines the subject very explicitly gets a Mind save to see through the spell, and anyone around the subject for extended periods of time gets one save per hour.

Sequester Memory

Level: 1
Duration: until triggered
Range: 0
This spell allows the Mage to select certain of his or her own memories and have them temporarily sectioned off into an reachable corner of the mind.  The magician decides upon a post-hypnotic trigger that will retrieve these memories.  The scope of the memories can include not only the trigger, but the memory of having severed any memories in the first place.

This spell is an important discipline to Kandarian sorcerers, who essentially do this every time they commit a spell to memory.  It’s also a useful way to keep secrets even if one’s mind is read or otherwise probed.  Finally, it’s can be used to stave off the effects of insanity by immediately sectioning off the traumatic memories within an hour of their occurrence.

The effects of this spell may be undone by casting a Remove Curse, but not with a simple Dispel Magic.  The ongoing effects are not themselves magical; instead, the mind has been subtly altered.


Level: 1
Duration: immediate
Range: touch
The effect of this spell is to heal an ally who is touched by the caster by a number of hit points equal to 1d4 per level of the caster.  This only works on characters whose hit points are greater than zero.  Otherwise, it heals only a single point of damage, and that’s if the recipient makes a Fortitude save.

Touch of Bliss

Level: 1
Duration: 1 turn per level
Range: touch
This enchantment is cast upon anyone touched by the caster, including him or herself.  If the recipient is not an aware and willing recipient, he or she receive a Will saving throw to resist the effect.  The spell effect is to eliminate all pain in the subject.  Even the most gruesome injuries will merely register as contact of a kind.

There are positive and negative effects to this spell.  A positive effect is that it creates a buffer of 4HP of damage that are ignored while it is in effect.  Also, a character affected by this spell receives a +4 bonus to saving throws against any spells that induce pain.  Whenever it is relevant, the character should not be affected by non-magical sources of pain (such as normal torture).

The negative effect is that the subject of the spell may be injured without realizing it.  When damaged, the character must make a Wits saving throw to even notice that something is amiss, although this save receives a bonus equal to the damage inflicted.  A person unknowingly affected by this spell could be stabbed to death in a crowd without realizing what was happening.


Level: 3
Duration: 2 hours
Range: 10’
The caster conjures the form of Warslave, a bloody avatar from a bygone age.  Warslave does not speak, but clearly hungers for carnage above all else.  A naked, muscular pale and hairy giant, it is clad only in an iron mask that is welded to its head.  It carries two massive blood-rusted cleavers which are wielded with shocking speed and crushing power.  It will attack its caster if it goes one minute without orders to attack, or after a turn if it does not engage in combat.  Since it is a conjuration, those who die to it will go mad, and upon the spell ending, will awake and immediately seek out indiscriminate and mindless violence until dead.

HD: 16, HP: 72, Move: 180’
HC: 10, AC: 15, Protection: 7 / 1 (massively thick mail / thick skin)
Initiative: 16, AM: +16, PM: +16
Ref: 7, For: 2, Will: 2, Wits: 7, Mind: 7
Attacks -
  • Massive cleavers - Damage: 1d12 Penetration+2
Notes: Depending on whether he uses defensive or offensive dual weapon style, +2 to AM or HC (and possibly roll 1d10x2 and take the highest roll)


Level: 2
Duration: 1 minute per level
Range: self
The effect of this spell is subtle but extremely potent in the right hands.  As soon as it is cast, for the duration of the spell, nothing that occurs will be of consequence.  The reason for that is because, at the end of that period, the universe will return to its state prior to the casting of the spell.  In fact, only the caster will have any memory of what happened during the effect.  Has the Mage traveled through time, or merely seen into the future?  On this question, the scholarship is divided.

It’s easy for the GM to play through when a PC casts this spell, but what about an NPC?  The GM has to try to imagine what would happen, and provide the NPC with the intelligence that they would have gained.

If the caster has Warrior levels, then the spell may also be used to gain insight into the fighting technique of opponents.  This will give the character a +1 bonus to both HC and AM/PM with respect to one opponent fought per Warrior level.  Thus, a caster with three Warrior levels who fought three or more opponents during the duration of the spell can select three of them against which to receive that bonus.  If the caster doesn’t fight these opponents immediately, he or she gets a Mind saving throw every future time that he or she does.  On a success, the caster still remembers enough to retain his or her bonuses.  On a failure, it has been forgotten, and will not be recalled in any future episodes, either.

This bonus does not stack over multiple castings.

6.6. Acquiring spells

There are several basic ways that Mages get their hands on more spells.  Let us discuss the ways.

6.6.1. Learning spells

The process  of learning spells is usually pretty straightforward.  There are three basic requirements: the character must have enough available learning slots to pay for the spell, instruction on how to cast the spell, and a number of weeks to study it equal to twice the learning slot cost.  

A character can only study one spell at a time, spending about eight hours a day to do so; it’s possible to study less per day, but then it takes a proportionally higher time to learn the spell.  It’s possible to study a spell for which one lacks sufficient learning slots, in preparation for when one earns said slots.  The character only gets credit for the contiguous time spent studying whatever spell he was studying at the time that he or she is ready to pay for it.

Instruction consists of complete and fully comprehended written instructions, or a tutor willing to provide the same level of detail.

6.6.2. Inventing spells

To invent a spell, a wizard should have access to facilities appropriate for his or her tradition, such as a laboratory, sacred temple or whatever makes sense.  To make the attempt, the Mage must spend a number of months equal to the spell level, and at the GM’s option, 1d6x100 gp each month.  As with learning a spell, this is the amount of time it takes if the character is spending eight hours a day inventing; the number of months taken is inversely proportional to the ratio of eight hours spent per day (i.e. it takes twice as long if only four hours are spent per day).  As with learning spells, only one may be researched at a time (and indeed, learning and research are incompatible activities).

At the end of the period, the player attempts to make a Mind saving throw, penalized by the spell level.  On a success, the invention succeeds.  The GM should select the casting conditions, with the magic tradition and the player’s requests in mind.  On a critical success, the casting conditions may decrease by one, but only for the inventor (he or she chooses what condition to improve).

6.6.3. Patronage

Patronage refers to an arrangement where a Mage has access to extensive learning resources, such as an archmage willing to take the PC as an apprentice, an order of competent wizards who exchange secrets amongst themselves, or a grand library of magic.  This is the sort of thing that can be very useful to a PC mage, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the character may receive unlimited instruction for free.  

A character can start the game with some kind of tradition-appropriate patronage, treating that as a two-point advantage.  Otherwise, it is possible for a character to earn a patron through the course of play.  This should be considered a great reward, however, so the GM should make it easy to achieve.  Obtaining patronage could reasonably be the goal of an adventure.

A patron will give the character one spell for free every experience level.  The GM should choose the spell, but he or she should take the player preference into consideration; if there’s nothing wrong with what the player wants, the GM should just give it to him or her.

Learning any other spells requires that the character must provide resources or services for his or her patron.  There’s no hard or fast guidelines for this; the GM can use this for adventure hooks and role-playing opportunities.  A high level spell might entail a full adventure, while a mid-level spell should involve a vignette, and a low-level spell could involve a single encounter.  That’s just a rough guideline.

6.6.4. Spell modification

A character can also spend time tweaking the drawbacks of a spell.  The process is much the same as inventing a spell, although there is no penalty for the effect being outside the canon of the tradition, since the spell is already invented.

If the attempt was a success, the Mage may exchange one selected drawback of the spell with one of his or her choice.  If the new drawback is very unusual for this tradition, or the dropped drawback is very typical for it, then a penalty of -4 is applied to the Mind save.  

Rather than simply exchanging drawbacks, the Mage may increase or decrease the intensities of existing drawbacks.  For instance, a modification could eliminate one drawback while intensifying another that already exists.  Or a drawback could be reduced in exchange for creating a new one.  Or one existing drawback can be lessened in exchange for increasing another.

Similarly, a magician can make a spell easier to cast by spending extra learning slots on it.  For every two learning slots spent on a spell that is already known, the character may reduce its drawbacks by one point.  The player and GM have to figure out exactly which drawbacks are reduced how much, with the GM getting the final say (of course).  The maximum reduction in drawback points for any given spell is two.

6.6.5. Starting spells

When a character starts the game with Mage levels, the player may select which spells the character has learned.  There are no restrictions on what spells the player may select, except that the total learning slot cost of the spells must not exceed the character’s learning slot total.  Not all slots need to be spent, however.

A character may also possess a number of spells which he or she does not yet know.  The character may have a number of such spells equal to his or her learning slot total.  These spells may or may not have learning slot costs; if they do, then the character cannot cast them until he or she has spent the required slots to learn the spell.

In the character saves any learning slots, he or she can know an additional number of spells equal to the number of unspent slots.  However, such spells must lack a learning slot requirement to qualify for this distinction.

One-time costs to learn a spell should be resolved before the game starts.  If these costs entail the expenditure of money, then it must be deducted from the character’s starting cash total.  If the character cannot or will not pay, then the requirement is not met, and the spell cannot be cast as-yet.

6.6.6. Automatic learning

Certain spells may be classified as automatically learned by practitioners of their closed traditions, which is described as a kind of tradition casting condition.

6.7. Updated compact format

Due to how drawbacks work, it’s a little trickier to list spells in a compact format.  The best way to do is to simply list the spells that a given NPC can cast, along with the requirements for those spells.  In addition, it is important to list the Casting Slots (or just Castings) for each tradition that the NPC is using.  Usually that’s only going to be one.

If the NPC has several spells prepared for triggering (i.e. “Vancian” style magic), then those spells which have been so prepared should note the number of preparations.

This represents an extension of the existing compact format.  Here it is:

Name, HD: Hit Dice, HP: Hit Points, Move: Movement Rate
HC: Hit Class, AC: Armor Class, Protection: Protection[, Shield: shield size]
Initiative: Initiative level, AM: Attack Modifier, PM: Power Modifier
Ref: Reflexes, For: Fortitude, Will: Will, Wits: Wits, Mind: Mind
Attacks -
  • attack - Damage: damage[, Range: short / medium / long]
Spells -
  • spell, [Preparations: preparations, ]Requires: short-term drawbacks for casting
Castings -
  • tradition: casting slots
Notes: anything else

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