There are three magical laws:
1. Magic has no sway of the heart of another. It cannot cause one to love or hate, etc.
2. Magic may not destroy the “spark of life”. Though magic can kill, the spirit continues.
3. Magic must have some amount of plausible deniability which allows it to be believed.
This makes blog article eight and within I will discuss something that sets Faerie Tales & Folklore apart from most of its peers, that being how magic is handled. In the setting that was crafted for this game, magic is problematic, it is in no way free of consequence and it is usually more subtle when compared to many fantasy roleplaying games. Magic within the mythology of our earthly cultures was seldom flashy, and it often came at a cost. It is this cost which kept it a practice of the brave, or foolish. In addition, magic is frightening in the extreme to those who do not understand. For all of these reasons, magic often becomes a pursuit of the hermit or other solitary individual. To surround oneself by practitioners of magic opens one to the otherworldly influences of many things best left forgotten. (Continue below)
So what makes magic in Faerie Tales & Folklore different? This question alone will take a bit of explanation and there is no short answer. First, there are three separate systems by which a magical effect can be invoked: spells, that have set effects and set side effects; spontaneous magic, where casters can shape magic on the fly; and finally miracles, that are called upon by common men and enacted by spirits from the Otherworld. Each of the known magical systems operates in a very different way and will like;y achieve different results. A miracle is the least reliable form of magic, though it can arguably create some of the most dramatic effects. A predefined spell will likely be more powerful according to its difficulty then spontaneous magic but is far more limited. Spells will have side effects which can be as severe as death, and material components which can add greater effect to the magic being summoned. Spontaneous magic is mostly intended for use by a game’s referee, and is capable of creating a wide range of effects so players do not become overly accustomed to what can be levied against them. Each of these descriptions is but a simple generalization however and each method will need to be detailed further.
It would be prudent to begin with the most common fantasy trope for magic within the roleplaying spectrum, spells. A spell is a predefined magical effect which is passed on by way of scrolls or spell books to other casters. This form of magic is very well-defined and will require the least effort to utilize within the game. Each spell has a detailed effect, as well as both a side effect and material component. To avoid a given side effect, a caster is required to fulfill the material component. Unlike many spell casting systems presented in fantasy roleplaying games, the one in Faerie Tales & Folklore is not “Vancian”. That is to say that spells are not memorized and forgotten when cast. Instead, each time a spell is cast, a complexity roll is made. If the complexity roll succeeds, the spell succeeds and if no material component was used, the caster suffers the spell’s side effect. If the material component of a spell is used, the spell is modified as stated in its description and the side effect is avoided. A spell’s side effect is also accompanied by a fear within those around the caster, the penalty of this fear affects the moral of everyone near the caster and not simply enemies. Spell magic has the further advantage of being able to be ritualized, so as to make casting easier but more time-consuming; or rushed, which makes a spell more likely to be cast quickly but with more difficulty. Lastly, a character is allowed to choose a single spell as a “signature spell”. Such spells may be quickly cast with some ease, though the caster will be significantly drained by such a casting.
Next I shall detail spontaneous magic. This magical form is generally less powerful than casting a spell, but it is much more flexible. To cast a spontaneous effect, the caster must decide on a single effect then roll a complexity check similar to the one used to cast a spell. However, this complexity check does not decide simply if the spell succeeds or not, but also determines the additional parameters of the final magical effect. It is important to understand that when deciding upon an effect, the character is NOT deciding upon the magnitude of the effect, only the type. The complexity roll for a spontaneous spell will be used to determine the available complexity level of effect that may be summoned. This complexity level is expended on aspects such as the magnitude of the desired effect, or the area, range, and duration of the effect. Spontaneous casting more than a few times per day will often cause serious depletion of the caster, leaving them drained and unable to function effectively. This will not be the case for spontaneous effects with a complexity total of zero. A spontaneous effect which totals zero is called a cantrip, a cantrip can be cast repeatedly without issue. Finally, spontaneous magic incurs no side effects and as such makes no use of material components.
The final form of magic that can be utilized in Faerie Tales & Folklore is that of miracles. Miracles are unique in that only common men are capable of calling them. Miracles are the least reliable of all the forms of magic available to a player and one should not come to rely upon their use. To call a miracle, a common man must make a specific request of a known spirit. This request is most easily handled by simply asking for an effect that is similar to an existing spell, though this is not a requirement. A request from a miracle can be almost anything, a miracle can even break the three magical laws in very rare or special circumstances. The type of request and who the request is made of will affect the chance the miracle is enacted. Once all the factors are figured and tallied, a percentile die is rolled to determine if the request for a miracle is answered. One of the primary reasons only common men can call for a miracle is that only their voices can be heard across the veil by the spirits who may answer them. Knowing which spirits will be able to fulfill certain requests will aid in receiving the requested miracle.
It is important at this point to give some detail to the power of astrological influence as it affects the use of magic. Though astrology has almost no influence over the calling of a miracle, it can hold strong power over the use of spell and spontaneous magic. When one uses astrological influence to cast a spell or magical effect, the collect correspondences which relate to the astrology of the magic they are trying to use. The more correspondences gathered, the more rare such correspondences are, and the more of each is gathered, the greater the magical effect that can be invoked. This method of casting spells or magical effects is far more reliable than even standard spell casting, as no complexity roll is required so long as all the necessary correspondences are provided. Procuring such correspondences can become quite a challenge however, especially for extremely powerful magic.
Magic within Faerie Tales & Folklore is intended to feel like a living thing. It is a fickle if not mischievous force that delights in its own double-edged nature. It is not as flashy as it will seem in other fantasy settings, as the mythological Earth tries to maintain a certain relative believability with the Earth we know. A wizard does not throw lightning and fireballs at foes directly from their hands, they call them down from the skies. It is this believability which is key to the feel of magic within the game’s setting. The mythological Earth is not “high fantasy” in the most basic sense, though that feel can occur within the game. Rather Faerie Tales & Folklore seeks to provide a more subtle and nuanced view of all things magical and otherworldly, and in this subtlety, it hopes to create a memorable experience that feels as though it could have happened in another time or another place.
Enjoy your time playing, or sitting behind the referee’s screen friends! Remember, sometimes a shadow brings more fear than the Devil himself!