By Marcus L. Rowland
Copyright © 2005, portions Copyright © 1993-2002

Back to game index - Back to main index

Back to Adding Melodrama

This document is copyright, but you are encouraged to make copies and print-outs as needed. You may make modifications for your own use, but modified versions MUST NOT be distributed. If you find any of these files useful you are asked to register.

The first release of these rules was originally converted to HTML by Stefan Matthias Aust, to whom many thanks.

This copy of the rules has been split into several separate files. A version consisting of a single large file is also provided. These documents should be accompanied by several files including larger versions of the game tables and a short summary of the main rules for the use of players.


APPENDIX - It's a Kind of MAGIC...

Forgotten Futures VIII introduced rules for magic, a new MAGIC characteristic, and a new Wizardry skill, plus rules for generating characters as children with magical powers. They work well in their original context, but poorly for designing adult characters. This appendix contains a more general and somewhat abridged version of this material.

For non-magical campaigns continue to use the standard BODY, MIND and SOUL. If characters are subsequently used in a magical setting they are recorded as having MAGIC [0]; this would apparently imply that they are very vulnerable to magical attacks, but in practice the other characteristics can be used to resist them.

FF IV: The Carnacki Cylinders also dealt with magic, in the context of supernatural detectives. To use these rules with FF IV characters simply convert their Scholar (Magic) skill to Wizardry, and give them MAGIC at Wizardry/2 (round UP). Anyone who doesn't have Scholar (Magic) should be given MAGIC [0]. Note that most spells simply won't work in the Carnacki universe, where magic is used almost entirely for defensive purposes and summoning and communicating with supernatural entities.

Character Generation

Characters in magical settings spend points to buy characteristics normally, but there are four characterics to buy, not three, and no extra points are available (unless you are using the melodramatic rules in the previous appendix). Spend points to buy MAGIC and Wizardry:

Example: Tom Byzantine [1]
Tom Byzantine is to be a stage magician with a secret; genuine magical powers. It's a melodramatic campaign, and the player wants him to be an Anti-Hero. The player has 25 points and buys
   BODY [2] (2 pt), MIND [3] (3 pt), SOUL [3] (3 pt), MAGIC [5] (7 pt) = 15 points
and spends the rest of 25 points on
  Actor (conjuror) [6] (3 pt), Brawling [2] (free), Linguist (French, German) [4] (1 pt), Marksman (pistol) [4] (1 pt) Medium [4] (1 pt), Melee Weapon (rapier) [3] (1 pt), Psychology [4] (1 pt), Wizardry [7] (2 pt)

If you are using the traits described in the previous appendix all magicians, wizards, witches etc. must have at least one that relates to their magical ability.

Example: Tom Byzantine [2]
As mentioned above, Byzantine is to be an anti-hero. The player selects the traits Notorious (as a conjuror who has been mysteriously present when various notable criminals met their well-deserved ends), Secret (he's really a wizard; if word gets out he'll be treated as a freak) and Wanted (by the police, for questioning in connection with the above well-deserved ends.

Depending on the circumstances of the campaign magic may be a neutral force, good, or evil. In most of what follows it's assumed to be neutral, a tool responsive to the will of its user. Reliability is another matter; most Victorian and Edwardian sources seem to show magic as devastatingly powerful while simultaneously whimsical in its effects. Spells never work exactly as planned, although they may come close. The examples below hopefully reflect this.

Magical Basics

The basic process of magic is simple; each spell attacks its target using the magician's Wizardry, with Effect equivalent to the magician's MAGIC. The target might be BODY (especially if the magician wants to harm or transform something), MIND (to create an illusion), SOUL (for hypnosis etc., or to convert something alive to an inanimate object) or MAGIC (to overcome another spell or magical power, or to cast a spell on another magician). Often two or more characteristics are attacked, if so they should be added together. Sometimes more characteristics can be added to the attack; for example, for telepathy SOUL might be added to MAGIC. MAGIC can also be used to boost another characteristic or a skill.

Optionally, if the roll to attack is a 12 something bad happens; the spell backfires in some way, hits the wrong target, or otherwise malfunctions.

Magicians often need much more MAGIC than they have. There are several possible sources, all with disadvantages:
  Wands and magical talismans add to MAGIC and may reduce the time needed to cast spells, but sometimes have an agenda of their own, or just exist to cause trouble. They may be usable as often as the magician wants to cast a spell, or have some limitation such as a maximum number of uses, or an unwelcome side effect. This is one way that a magician with MAGIC [0] can cast spells. Common forms include rings, daggers and other weapons, books, amulets, pointy hats, and of course staffs with a knob on the end™. Some places also seem to have this effect, adding to the MAGIC of spells; ancient stone circles, tombs, temples and fairy rings are particularly likely to have this property. Wizards may go to great lengths to find such places, especially if they plan powerful permanent spells or magical defences. This is usually not good news for the neighbours...
  Magicians can pool their power in a spell; this lets them add their MAGIC together but increases the time needed to cast it. There is unfortunately no guarantee that participants won't use their own MAGIC to overcome the nominal leader of the ceremony and change the nature or target of the spell. Witches are especially likely to work this way, especially in trios. The magician leading the spell should usually be the most powerful. Some evil magicians may be able to tap the MAGIC of an unwilling victim in such a ceremony; this usually has bad side effects.
  Familiars can lend their MAGIC to a spell, and can be used as a "communications relay" for the magician, reducing the Difficulty of spells cast at a distance. In fiction the most common are cats, but many other species seem possible.
  Worshippers are a useful source for religious magicians, using spells which draw on the SOUL of the worshippers. The magician adds 1 MAGIC per worshipper present, regardless of their SOUL or MAGIC, but the power goes as soon as the ceremony ends, time is again prolonged, and the worshippers are usually exhausted after the ceremony.
  Human or animal Sacrifice lets the magician add a victim's MAGIC (or SOUL/2) to his own MAGIC. The duration is usually a day or two. The magician needs MAGIC [1] or better, or an external source of MAGIC, to make this work. Magicians who specialise in this type of spell are usually called Necromancers, and are feared and shunned.
All spells should have a basic duration; the spell-casters MAGIC in days (or in hours or minutes for unusually spectacular feats); for unusual duration add Difficulty as follows:

Normal DurationRequired Duration Difficulty

For example, the conversion of a prince to a frog might normally last a few days. With +3 Difficulty the spell will be permanent. In this context "permanent" always has some sort of loophole; the spell's antidote may be as simple as being touched by cold iron or kissed by a princess, or require some elaborate quest for the ingredients, but there is always a way out.

In campaigns where spells almost always ends at the same time (e.g., after exactly 24 hours, at sunset, at dawn) this table should be ignored. Instead, increase Difficulty considerably to get past this limitation.

Difficulty may also increase if the magician wants to cast the spell at a distance, if the spell is complex or will be unusually difficult to break, if the target is moving or hidden, or if it is to affect several people or a large area.

Difficulty can be reduced if a spell is cast on someone who wants it to work, if several magicians pool their MAGIC (see side text), if the duration of the spell is reduced, or if it is broken down into sections. This last may need some explanation; for example, to turn a prince into a frog, then turn the frog into a silver frog statue, then make the spell permanent might use three separate spells; there is less chance of any given stage going wrong, but the total effort requires three spells, any one of which still has a chance of failure, and is likely to be exhausting and time-consuming.

Optionally there should be a limit on the number of spells cast in a day. Magicians can cast MAGIC spells at normal Difficulty, any more add +1 Difficulty per spell cast. This is reset by a good night's sleep.

The time taken to cast a spell can vary from seconds to hours. Use whatever seems most dramatically appropriate: from a few seconds for the sudden appearance of an evil fairy, a curse, and her vanishing, to a few hours for an elaborate magical ceremony to create rain. There isn't necessarily any relationship between the time to cast a spell and its power or complexity; one wizard may spend a week creating a single perfect rose, another ten seconds creating a slightly slipshod magical palace or an equally slipshod curse. Optionally extra-long rituals can reduce the Difficulty of a spell or increase the quality of the result at the referee's discretion.

Optionally any spell can have dramatic special effects added; they don't add to Difficulty, unless they change the actual outcome, but when the spell is used the player must describe the effect. Suitable special effects include sparkling lights, thunder, smoke, pungent smells, and crackles of electricity.

Beyond these guidelines each magician, and each work of magic, is unique.

Magical Techniques

Spell books and training schools apart, there is no such thing as a "standard" spell or magician; everyone has their own path to power, and often it may be very different to the magician next door. One magician might turn a prince into a frog by an elaborate ritual, another by clicking his heels. What follow is very much a do-it-yourself system, and referees should be ready to make up most of the details as they go along; some examples of the most common spells follow, with some modifiers that might be useful. Everything in this section is optional.

Many other spells can be imagined or have appeared in fiction. Hopefully these examples will help referees to develop more of their own as the need arises.

External Magic

External sources of magical power are common in fantasy, and have advantages for the referee. Since their powers are defined by the referee players can rarely be sure of their capabilities or limitations, and if necessary the referee can "bend" them to meet the needs of the scenario. It's rarely necessary to use special rules to describe their effects.

They generally fall into one or more of four broad categories; wishing machines, a term borrowed from an "article" by the late John Brunner, Galactic Consumer Reports: Twin Tube Wishing Machines, transport systems such as magic carpets, which may also have some "wishing machine" functions, "gadgets" such as enchanted swords that have limited functions, and magical beings which can either use magic or are innately magical. The first three terms often include creatures that can use these powers, such as genies.

For much more on magic (including a large bestiary of magical creatures and detailed examples of spells and magic use) see FF VIII.

Continue to A Gallery of Gadgets

Revised and converted to HTML 23/4/98, Revised and updated 1/2005 - If you have any queries or comments on these rules please contact the author.