Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Magic and Spellcasting in Eldritch Tales

By the 1920s the nineteenth-century fascination with the occult was dying. Most people believed that the mystics, magicians and mediums were frauds of the lowest variety, and in most cases that belief was well founded. However, in Mythos Earth, certain rare sorcerers have learned to harness the eldritch power of the cosmos, while also taking on the inherent risks of such tampering.

Spells might be found in Mythos tomes, on the hieroglyph-carved walls of Egyptian tombs, or buried deep in mystic traditions. Spells have been drawn from traditional Swords & Wizardry lists, as well as those spells provided in Realms of Crawling Chaos, by Daniel Proctor and Michael Curtis. I've provided some spells below to help you understand the following mechanics.

The Beast, early twentieth century sorcerer
Learning Spells: Learning a spell requires an Intelligence Feat (refer back to here for information on  Attribute Feats) and each spell, depending on the difficulty/level, may invoke a penalty to the feat to "Learn Spell." Failing an attempt to learn a new spell incurs an Insanity increase. However, the character gains a Mythos Lore point, regardless of success or failure. [Mythos Lore is a simple measure of the character's Mythos knowledge and understanding; a score over 10 grants bonuses to certain rolls.]

Casting Spells: Once a spell is learned it may be cast at any time - no spells per day or memorization. Some spells have specific requirements and the referee is free to demand the use of components, though these are generally not stated. In order to cast the spell, the character must perform a special Attribute Feat, called a Spell Check. Depending on the nature of the spell, the Spell Check might test Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, and most spells impose a penalty to the check. Failing the Spell Check incurs the penalty (if any) listed under Failure.

Penalties imposed by difficult spells can be offset by having a high Mythos Lore, situational modifiers granted by the referee, the Occultist Occupation (if used), and perhaps other sources. Spellcasting is difficult and is not for every character. A character with average Attributes might feel confident enough to cast a spell after years spent studying Mythos Tomes (and thus gaining Mythos Lore). Attempts to abuse spellcasting will surely lead to the sanitarium.... or worse.

Consider the spells listed below. Minnesota Phipps has INT 15, WIS 12, CHR 10, and Mythos Lore 11 (a +1 bonus). His Intelligence Feat success is 4-6, while the other two Attributes are 5-6. When learning these spells, Phipps makes an Intelligence Feat, applies the Learn Spell penalty, as well as his Mythos Lore bonus [He attempts to learn Banish and rolls a "5" on a d6; the penalty and bonus combine to make the result a "4" - a success due to his above average Intelligence.]

However, Phipps attempts to cast Banish while his allies are confronting a Cosmic Spawn of Cthulhu... he hopefully has a lot of allies, because Banish will take 5 rounds to cast. He rolls a 1d6 which comes up "5" and applies his Mythos Lore bonus to make it a "6." Since he is now attempting to impose his will on cosmic forces, Phipps is testing Wisdom and the spell imposes -2 penalty to the Spell Check. That makes his result a "4" - a failure due to his average Wisdom. As it recognizes magical efforts targeting it, the Cthulhu Spawn turns his attention towards Phipps...

So, the formulas are:
Learn Spell: 1d6 Intelligence Feat + Mythos Lore - Learn Spell  Penalty.
Spell Check: 1d6 Int/Wis/Chr Feat  + Mythos Lore +/- Situational Modifiers - Spell Check  Penalty

Spell Level:            5
Learn Spell:          -2
Casting Time:       5 rounds
Spell Check:           Wisdom -2
Range:                   240 feet
Duration:               Permanent
Failure:    The banishment fails and the attempt draws the target’s attention.

This ritual only affects transdimensional beings, such as Yog Sothoth, the Hounds of Tindalos, and Cthulhu Spawn, and creatures that have been summoned by sorcery. After 2 rounds of casting a clap of thunder resounds in multiple dimensions, forcing the target back to its place of origin. The targeted creature is allowed to make a Saving Throw to resist the banishment, if it so chooses, but suffers a -2 penalty.

Summon Night-gaunt
Spell Level:           4
Learn Spell:            -1
Casting Time:       30 minutes
Spell Check:         Charisma +0
Range:                    Nil
Duration:         One night
Failure:          A night-gaunt arrives, but is completely uncontrolled. It will attempt to capture the caster and bear him into the Dreamlands.

By means of this ritual, which must be cast under the night sky, the caster summons a night-gaunt from the Outer Dark. The night-gaunt will arrive in 1d6 rounds and will do the caster’s bidding for the duration of the spell. However, it will not act in a selfless manner and will not throw its life away.
Water Breathing
Spell Level:           2
Learn Spell:          +0
Casting Time:      1 round
Spell Check:          Intelligence +0
Range:                 Touch
Duration:             2 hours
Failure:           The spell fails.

Upon completion of this spell, the recipient grows obvious gills in his or her neck allowing the person to breathe underwater until the spell’s duration expires.

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