Friday, May 25, 2012

Obscure Games: Fantasy Wargaming, Part Five

What does this have to do with Fantasy Wargaming?
I don't know, but it came up on a Google image
search for the words. Taylor Momsen has sure
grown up since she played Cindy Lou Who, hasn't
she? Plus, hey, we're talking about the magic system
now, which has demons and whatnot. So…
(The original picture that was here has vanished
from the internet, so I have replaced it with
this, very similar, image.)
This series begins here.

The magic system is, in many ways, the centerpiece of this game. Many of the otherwise mundane calculations are affected by the system of correspondencies, which indicates an intent that the "physics" underlying the game world are basically magical in nature. This is an interesting idea in itself, which was also explored, though not as strongly, in Lands of Adventure.

Magic in the game is divided into two broad categories: active magic and passive magic. Active magic is magic that creates an effect, while passive magic is sensory in nature. Both types start with creating a Link. This is a "path" of sorts through the "Ethereal Plane" (which is the game's usual term for the spirit world or Otherworld) from the magician to the target. The most important factors are the magician's magic level and his Faith characteristic, but other factors come into play, as well. One problem that I've found with the Link system is that it is affected by the "DD" ("Degree of Difficulty") of the spell being cast, but then the link lasts for up to three spells (or seven Absolute Commands, which are a specific type of spell that we'll discuss in a bit). There are provisions for ending the link after 30 minutes or if there is a "radical change in circumstances". I suppose that the latter could apply to spells of a greater DD, but that is one of the cases that should have been spelled out specifically. I also disagree with many of the exact factors listed, for instance the "Availability of target" factors. All told, the factors given make magic far too effective.

Anyway, when the Link is made, the target may feel a "touch" if they have a high enough Faith, magic level, or religious level. If they feel a touch, they may put up a quick Absolute Command to "desist" through the Link. The Link belongs to the original caster, though, so this Command is more difficult than if the Link belonged to the target. If this fails, or is not done, the final part of a spell is the spell itself. Again, I disagree with a number of the factors that affect the column on the success chart, but those are mere quibbles. There is a separate success table for the Link and for the spell itself. I'm not sure why. The caster gains XP equal to 100-success chance. We found that it's worthwhile to divide this by the magician's level, because a magician can cast an increasing number of spells as they go up in level, but that's not a part of the rules. Both the Link and a spell cost points of energy called "mana". I think that this game may have been the first, or at least one of the first, to use "mana" to mean "magical energy".

The System of Correspondencies is next. This is a chart which shows the symbolic connections between various aspects of the world and the twelve zodiac signs. Zodiac signs are connected to the character, of course, through the birth sign that is determined in character creation. Each sign is also associated with a planet, calendar dates (the dates during which the sun is in that sign), a day of the week, hours of the day, a classical element (earth, air, fire, or water), a metal, a type of gem, a type of wood, herbs, a color, a number, a part of the human body, a type of animal, a type of place, and particular aspects of human life. Each sign also has an opposite sign, which is the sign six places away from it (that is, the sign that is on the opposite side of the sky). There is a calculation for a magician to divine the amount of astrological influence on a situation. In play, my inclination has been to assume that most places have a level of influences that cancel each other out. Specific areas might be given more influence from one or another sign, for instance a grove of beech trees (which are the tree associated with Pisces) might have a little more Pisces influence, and even more if there are 10 beech trees in the grove, as 10 is the number associated with Pisces. What I'd do in creating the setting is note areas that have such influences, by noting the number of influences in an area - that way, I can simply add the number of influences that the characters are carrying to specifically affect the astrological correspondence of a situation and quickly come up with the factor to use. It requires more than just a couple of factors to affect calculations, though. The basic amount is that 3 factors associated with a single sign give ±1, 5 give ±2, 8 are ±3, and 12 or more factors result in a ±4. So, the beech grove wouldn't give any bonus, but if there were also a patch of rosehip (one of the herbs associated with Pisces), that would be 3 factors and give a ±1 to calculations affected by Pisces. Notice how particular such a situation would have to be, though. It's also noted that the modifier affecting mundane calculations should never exceed ±1.

Next in the rules is a section discussing enchanted items and magical devices. In the game, such a device is one which has been designed to concentrate astrological forces by creating an object out of materials associated with a sign, and fixing the forces of a particular time into it as well. So, a wand made of beech wood, set with bronze wire and pearls and painted blue (the metal, gem, and color associated with Pisces, giving four factors) might be enchanted on the open water on a Thursday from February 19th to March 20th, between the 3rd and 4th hours of the day in order to gain an extra 4 factors for place and time, giving a total of eight factors, making a wand that is rated at ±3 for Pisces-affected calculations - and it would retain that value even when it wasn't that time of year, day of the week, hour of the day, or in that location. Without that enchantment, the wand would still have 4 factors, giving a ±1 on its own.

An item can be enchanted with a practical purpose as well. This limits its use as a modifier in magical calculations to ±1, but its factor can affect other matters up to its value. So, a sword might be enchanted to give up to a +4 in combat calculations, a shield to give up to +4 points of protection (and reduce its encumbrance modifier to Agility by the same value), and so on. These are not specified in the rules, by design. The Referee would decide what effects are allowed, and use the modifier value as the numerical rating when necessary. Players with magician characters could certainly come up with effects to try to design into magical items, subject to Referee approval.

A magic item always retains a link to its creator. Anyone touching such an item is subject to spells by the enchanter, as he will have an automatic Link in magic. In addition, magic items will attempt to resist those who acquire them through dishonest means… or even legitimately if bought from a thief. There is also a warning to beware of items inscribed with words you don't understand, as these could be commands to the device requiring diligent service. I love this bit, as it makes the written word into a source of mystery and danger!

There is also a note that Enchanted items and Conjured creatures are similar, different only in that the item is not alive. We'll discuss that when we come to Conjuration.

This is getting long, so I'll continue tomorrow.

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