Sorcery

Across the multitude of Shadow there are a vast array of forces which can only be described as magic. Some of them are nearly as strong as higher powers like Pattern and Logrus, awe inspiring and mighty, others are parlor tricks barely noticeable, let alone powerful. Most forms of magic lie between those ends. But all of them share some commonalities, and among them is the fact that they don't work well when moved through shadow. A powerful incantation might be a feeble charm only a handful of shadows away, and a few more beyond might fizzle completely. The magic of every shadow seems to be different in sometimes subtle and sometimes profound ways, and the thought of having to learn not just one, but an infinite number of magical arts has lead more than one wizard to contemplate suicide rather than suffer that boredom.

But for those with the patience, insight and training to discover them, there exists a set of principles and techniques that seems to work in the vast majority of Shadows. Those arts are collectively the basis for the skill known as Sorcery. Once a magic user begins to master Sorcery he finds he now has the ability to work magic nearly anywhere that magic works, a greatly useful trick for those that travel Shadow on any regular basis. Additionally, Sorcerers often learn tricks that mere shadow-dwelling magic users can only dream of, as their travels allow them to learn principles that often haven't been developed in other Shadows. There are still places where Sorcery doesn't work, most often shadows that simply have no magic at all, but occasionally a Sorcerer will find one where the local magic system is so integral to the fabric of the shadow that the principles of Sorcery just won't work. It's also possible to turn off Sorcery within a Shadow using Powers such as Pattern or Logrus.

Almost anyone can learn to become a Sorcerer. The only requirements seem to be a keen mind with a modicum of determination (even Human ranked Psyche is sufficient), and some way to learn the first principles. Usually, a sorcerer is trained by another, serving as an apprentice. However, it's also possible for a studious mage of a local style of magic to discover the underlying principles of Sorcery and elevate themselves to the rank of Sorcerer after some intense research and experimentation. There have also been cases where ordinary mages or people have undergone various initiation rites, planned or spontaneous, and come out with the knowledge necessary to practice Sorcery.

Sorcery Powers and their Costs

Partial Power Breakdown

Basic Sorcery [15 points]

"Standard" Advanced Sorcery [30 total]

Details of Sorcery Powers

Sorcery Potential

Before being able to lob spells and impose one's will on the multiverse, a Sorcerer must learn to perceive the forces they work with. Magicians who have never travelled Shadow generally have great difficulty performing their spells afar, as the local rules that govern Magic can change out from under them. Becoming a Sorcerer means understanding the underlying principles of magic and being able to apply them more universally, allowing the caster to adapt their magic to the local environment. Sorcery Potential is often gained through some sort of higher level initiation rite or by intense study of multiple magical systems in a 'quest' for a unified principle of magic. It's generally impossible to develop Sorcery Potential without access to multiple magical systems to study or someone who can teach it.

Spell Points

There are a multitude of factors that determine how much work and skill a given spell takes to cast and how much work it can do in turn. Power, range, targets, duration, conditions and special features can all change the complexity of a spell. To represent how much skill a Sorcerer can muster, they have a number of spell points which they can expend on each spell to determine what that spell can do. Over time, with practice and study, a Sorcerer can increase their ability to cast more complex spells, gaining more spell points which they can use to construct their spells with. When a Sorcerer learns to tap their Sorcery Potential they start with 10 spell points. Additional spell points cost of 5 per 2 spell points, representing additional practice, experience, knowledge, etc.

Racking

While many trivial spells can be cast without any significant preparation or delay, most spells of any degree of power take a relatively long time and great concentration to cast. This can be exceedingly annoying or even fatal for the Sorcerer, as casting a fireball spell takes a lot longer than it takes for a bandit to cross the room and cut the sorcerer's head off. To prevent this problem, most Sorcerers learn to Rack their spells. Racking involves casting most of a spell, doing the majority of work involved in gathering, shaping and preparing the magical energy that will form the spell, then suspending it. The suspended spell can then be completed in very short order (usually with a few words or gestures, known as lynchpins). Unfortunately, a suspended spell is a delicate thing, and over time they begin to decay back into nothingness. The more complex and power the spell, the faster it decays. As such, the sorcerer must learn to perform maintenance on their spells, a task they need to do regularly, as casting a partially damaged or decayed spell can have disastrous results.

Racking a spell requires a mystical container of some sort for the spell. Specially prepared items, manifestations of Powers, and the caster's own brain are the usual choices. Each form of container has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Over Racking

By playing fast and loose with normal racking methods, the Sorcerer gains the ability to cram more spell points into a rack than it could normally contain. However, doing this is dangerous. Over charged racks cause spells to decay much faster and are much more likely to lose spells if damaged or attacked in some manner. If the rack is sufficiently over charged, it may even exploded violently or cause all the spells within to go off at once.

Protected Racking

Many sorcerers rather dislike the idea that someone could employ their spells if an opponent manages to wrest control of a spell rack from them. To prevent this from happening, some mages learn to use Protected Rackings. The available protections are threefold. First, the spells racked are done in a way to make them be less visible, making the rack a less tempting target. Second the way spells are racked is slightly altered to insulate the spells better, making it less likely that spells can be damaged by outside magics and helping to dampen any damages that might occur if a spell is accidentally discharged from within the rack. Finally, spells are racked in away requires the magical equivilent of a password, and failing to give the password will destroy the spell rather than cast it, as will tampering with it from outside. Since this mystical passcode slightly increases the time it takes to cast a spell from the rack (by about a second or two), it's possible to forgo the password on any or all spells in the rack. Because of the modifications involved, it takes 1 extra spell point to Protected Rack a spell.

Advanced Protected Racking

While a Protected Racking prevents or reduces many of the potential problems associated with spell racks, most forms of mind control still allow the sorcerer's opponent to cast spells through them, by digging out the passcode from the sorcerer's mind. This can be partially alleviated with Contingency Spells or other spells that make the sorcerer forget the passcode when mind controlled, but not completely. Instead, Advanced Protected Racks replace the passcode with a 'mental fingerprint', based on how the sorcerer casts their spells. This means that the spells are protected nearly perfectly from outside control, as even the best mind control would change the way the sorcerer casts the spell, triggering the spell protections. As an added advantage, because it doesn't require a seperate step, Advanced Protection racks are slightly faster, taking up only a half second or second of extra time. Advanced Protected Racking adds 2 extra spell points to the overall cost of the spell.

Mana Batteries

By racking a spell that consists of nothing but pure magical energy, the Sorcerer can power spells in areas where Sorcery normally doesn't work due to a lack of magical energy (so called 'null-magic' zones). It does not allow the Sorcerer to cast spells in Shadows where magic explicitly doesn't work, or where a Pattern or Logrus user has turned off Sorcery.

The batteries are racked just like normal spells, though it only takes half the normal casting time to rack a battery, as the energy is merely stored, not shaped in any way. A spell that uses a battery must use only one battery, and the battery must contain enough energy for that spell. If a Sorcerer has a 10 point battery, he could cast one 10 point spell, an 8 point spell and a 2 point spell, or ten 1 point spells. However, he could not cast a 12 point spell, even if he had another 2 point battery, as neither battery alone is big enough for the spell.

Meta-Sorcery Spells

Once the basics of spell casting are mastered, the Sorcerer can begin to learn to use Sorcery spells to affect other spells, a form of meta-magic. In general this is a stepping stone to more advanced forms of meta-magic, but it does provide two important abilities: Spell-Maintenance spells, and the ability to cast counter-spells and magic shields.

Fast Casting

Over time, Sorcerers learn more efficient ways to cast their simpler spells, using a variety of shortcuts. A Sorcerer with Fast Casting can use their excess spell points to speed up the casting of a spell. For each 2 points used this way, the casting time is decreased as if the spell cost 1 less point. For example, an advanced Sorcerer with 20 spell points casting a 10 point spell could use the remaining 10 points to speed up the casting from 2 hours to around a minute.

Power-Enhanced Sorcery

For those Sorcerers lucky enough to have another Power, taking the appropriate form of Power-Enhanced Sorcery can help them improve their spells substantially. Each Power must be bought individually. Here are some examples of what Power-Enhanced spells gain:

Pattern:
Resistance to being dispelled or countered, the ability to manipulate probability or shadow.
Logrus:
More power but more erratic, along with resistance to being dispelled or countered, though less so than Pattern.
Trump:
The ability to better overcome a target's defense by using a trump connection to them. Being able to use a spell through a trump to affect a person or place. Being able to cast a spell that triggers when a trump is used.
Broken Pattern:
Minor resistance to being dispelled or countered. Because of the decay that BP causes, BP spells make very good counterspells. Most Broken Pattern spells will reflect the damage of the Pattern in some minor way.
Shapeshifting:
Increases the ability of a spell to shapeshift people, including the caster. Near instant shapeshifting by 'racking' the shifts in advance as a Sorcery Spell. Creatures of Blood can gain the ability to use magic and to rack spells if the caster can.
Conjuration:
Conjurations can be racked, allowing them to be held just like a normal spell, then used when desired. Contingency Conjurations are fairly popular.

Other powers enhancers are definitely possible, depending on the particular campaign and whims of the GM (Fount of Power 'mantic' powers, Abyss, Blue Stones, Constructs, Spikards, Tree of Life, etc, etc, etc), though details will depend largely on the specific game.

Sorcery Game Mechanics

Spell Racking

The table below summarizes the sorts of spell racks available and their capacities, advantages, and disadvantages.
Summary of Spell Racks
Typical Capacity Time to Decay Advantages Disadvantages
Items of Power 100 1 week Decent capacity, easy to get, spells decay fairly slowly Can be lost, damaged or stolen
Broken Pattern Infinite 1 day or less High capacity, always available, can't be stolen Spells decay very rapidly and sometimes vanish
Logrus Infinite 2 to 3 days Spells decay fairly quickly
Pattern Infinite 4 to 5 days Spells decay faster than in items
Human Psyche 3 Never Spells don't decay, always available, can't be stolen Sleep or unconsciousness ruins all racked spells, low capacity
Chaos Psyche 6
Amber Psyche 12
Ranked Psyche 12 + (Psy/4)

It's possible to employ the spells that someone else has racked under certain conditions. If the racker is willing, the process is easy. If the racker is unwilling, the Sorcerer must be sufficiently powerful of mind to win a mental combat, at which point they can use any racked spells the victim has available, casting them either through the victim or directly themself. In the case of racks placed in objects, the sorcerer must obtain mental contact with the rack (using a spell, direct touch, a trump or some other similar method), which almost always alerts the target, allowing them to resist, unless the rack is not in their possession. Once the sorcerer has control (or permission) it generally takes a few moments to figure out what the lynchpins of any particular spell are.

Under normal conditions racked spells should be checked for damage once a couple days, more often if racked on the Logrus or a Broken Pattern. The average spell will last about a week in an item rack before needing maintenance. Once a spell has started to decay it becomes dangerous to cast until it had been fixed.

Spell Maintenance Spells

For every spell point of casting, a spell maintaining spell can repair the wear and tear on upto 3 spell points of racked spells. Each spell to be repaired must be completely repaired by one maintenence spell, though one maintence spell can repair more than one spell, as long as it covers the necessary number of spell points. For example, a 10 point spell requires at least a 4 point maintenance spell, however, a 10 point maintence spell could repair two 10 points spells, a 5 point spell, and a 4 point spell in one casting). In general it's most effective to use multiple maintenance spells only as large as necessary to fix one spell, but sometimes the ability to do multiple spells at once is more useful, such as when racking the maintenance spells for later use.

It's also possible to rack maintenance spells, then use spell maintenance spells on the racked maintenance spell. This is why it's called meta-magic. Although Meta-Sorcery and its dependant abilities generally work best on racked spells, they don't actually require the ability to rack spells oneself. They can be used on other people's racked spells too, under the same conditions that the sorcerer could cast those spells (see Racking).

Designing a Spell

Below are tables which detail how much various spell parameters translate to, in terms of spell points. In all cases, the label represents the maximum, not the minimum. A spell that lasts 2 hours would cost 4 spell points (upto 1 day), not 3 (upto 1 hour), for example.

Duration

Spell Duration
Spell Points
An Instant 0
A Second 1
A Minute 2
An Hour 3
A Day 4

Range

Spell Range
Spell Points
touch (1 meter) 0
10 meters 1
100 meters 2
1 kilometer 3
10 kilometers 4
100 kilometers 5
1000 kilometers 6
anywhere on a planet 7
anywhere in a Shadow 8

Targets/Area

Spell Target or Area of Effect
Radius Spell Points People
Highly Accurate 2 An eye or ear
Accurate 1 A hand
1 Object 0 1
1 meter 1 2
5 meter 2 5
10 meter 3 10
50 meter 4 50
100 meter 5 100
500 meter 6 500
1 kilometer 7 1,000
5 kilometer 8 5,000
10 kilometer 9 10,000
50 kilometer 10 50,000
100 kilometer 11 100,000
500 kilometer 12 500,000
1000 kilometer 13 1 million
5000 kilometer 14 25 million
A whole planet 15 100 million
A solar system 16 5 billion
A whole Shadow 17 25 billion

If targetting a group, the spell will simply choose the closest people in range, to get any sort of selectivity ("only target my enemies"), then the spell must be used with the Intelligence feature.

Effect

Guidelines for Spell Effects
Effects Spell Points Examples
Petty 0 Create light as bright as a penlight
Create a flame that would light paper on fire
Change a simple color (one shade to another)
Change water to carbonated water
Make someone look at you
Give someone a papercut
Lift a pencil
Minor 2 Create light as bright as a flaslight
Create a flame that could light tinder on fire
Change a color (multiple shades)
Change water to cola
Make someone think of you
Give someone a slight wound
Ward off a Power Word
Lift a book
Average 4 Create a light as bright as lightbulb
Create a flame that could light dry wood on fire
Change a complicated color (patterns)
Change water to wine
Make someone like you
Give someone a fairly serious wound
Create a magical shield against normal attacks,
Fly slowly
Lift a person
Difficult 6 Create a light as bright as a floodlight
Create a flame that could set wet wood on fire
Impersonate someone
Change water to mercury
Make someone love you
Give someone with Human endurance a fatal wound
Create a shield against spells with Average or less effect
Send a telepathic message
Fly quickly
Teleport with poor control
Lift a motorcycle
Challenging 8 Create a light as bright as a large spotlight
Create a flame that could melt lead
Turn invisible
Change water to gold
Make someone worship you
Give someone with Chaos endurance a fatal wound
Create a sheild against spells with Difficult or less effect
Fly as fast as a jet
Teleport with good control
Lift a car
Hard 10 Create a light as bright as welding torch
Create a flame that could melt steel
Become compeletely undetectable
Change air to gold
Remold someone's entire personality
Give someone with Amber endurance a fatal wound
Create a sheild against spells with Challenging or less effect
Fly fast enought to reach orbit
Teleport with great control
Lift a semi-truck
Very Hard 15 Create a light as bright as the sun
Create a flame that could melt diamond
Give someone with Low Ranked endurance a fatal wound
Create a sheild against spells with Hard or less effect
Teleport with perfect control
Lift a battleship
God-like 20 Create a light as bright as a supernova
Create a flame that could melt anything
Give someone with High Ranked endurance a fatal wound
Lift a planet
Do practically anything

Unlike Duration, Range, and Target, the exact Details of Effect are largely subjective. The above are only guidelines, consult with your GM if you have any questions and know that they may increase (or rarely, decrease) the number of points required for a specific effect.

Special Features

Spell Feature Costs
Spell Points
Mana Battery 1 per 2 points of battery *
Spell Maintenance 1 per 3 points of repairs *
Protected Racking 1
Advanced Protected Racking 2

* - Mana Battery and Maintenance Spells are exclusive types and cannot be combined with any other regular or special spell features.

Example

Just as an example, lets construct the sort of fireball a beginning sorcerer might cast. We have 10 spell points to work with.

First is Duration. This a blast 'em spell, so instant is fine, for 0 points. Next is Range. A hundred meters (the length of a football field) sounds pretty good, which is 2 points. Now Area/Target. As a blast spell, we'll use the radius, 20 meters is plenty, also for 2 points. Last is effect. We've spent 4 points total so far, leaving 6 for Effect, which gives us a flame that's hot enough to set damp wood on fire. Sounds perfect. There, for 10 points we now have a servicable basic fireball spell. Looking at the table below, it would take us about 2 hours to rack this spell for usage.

Casting Times

The following table gives an approximate idea of how long it takes to cast (or rack) a spell given the total number of spell points used to cast it.
Spell Casting Times
Spell Points Casting Time
1 Instant
2 1 second
3 8 seconds
4 15 seconds
5 30 seconds
6 A minute
7 8 minutes
8 15 minutes
9 30 minutes
10 An hour
Spell Points Casting Time
11 2 hours
12 3 hours
13 4 hours
14 6 hours
15 8 hours
16 10 hours
17 12 hours
18 16 hours
19 20 hours
20 1 day
Spell Points Casting Time
25 2 days
30 7 days
35 14 days
40 1 month
45 2 months
50 3 months
55 4 months
60 6 months
65 9 months
70 12 months

If a spell is being cast from a rack, it takes a number of seconds equal to half the number of spell points for the whole spell (5 seconds for a 10 spell point casting). Fast Casting spells use the effective spell total for determining how fast spells can be unracked and cast.

Grimoire

[some example spells]

Interactions

The details of using Sorcery enhanced by various other powers are listed above, under Power-Enhanced Spells. Below is information on how the various powers interact with Sorcery in other fashions.

Pattern

Pattern beats Sorcery. A Pattern defense will ward off all but the most powerful spells unless the Sorcerer has a tremendous advantage mentally. Pattern can turn off Sorcery in a shadow, actively disrupt spells it's used against, and undo any changes to a Shadow made with Sorcery. Sorcery workings are easily sensed with Pattern abilities, particularly Pattern Lenses, while the Sorcery can sense the gross effects of Pattern, but not the more subtle ones.

Other than the possibilities presented under Racking and Power enhanced Sorcery, there are relatively few places where Pattern and Sorcery can enhance each other.

Logrus

Logrus also beats Sorcery though by a slightly narrower margin than Pattern. A Logrus Defense will defeat incoming spells with ease, unless the Sorcerer is of dramatically greater Psyche. Using the Logrus as a sense easily detects magic, and tendrils can easily disrupt sorcerous workings. As with Pattern, Logrus easily overrides Shadow manipulations by spells.

Logrus combines with Sorcery in some interesting ways. Asides from its uses for enhancing spells and being a fairly ideal spell rack, spells can be cast through the tips of Logrus tendrils, extending their range quite a lot as well as allowing them to be used cross-shadow.

Trump

Generally, Trump out-classes Sorcery in areas where they interact. Active Trump defenses will add very substantially to the chance of resisting a spell. An open Trump connection can serve as a conduit for casting a spell through.

Shapeshifting

Shapeshifting is on the same level as Sorcery, in terms of power, neither being particularly dominant over the other in any area. It's possible that some forms a Shapeshifter could take would be particularly resistant, vulnerable, sensitive to, or insensitive to Sorcery. Particular forms of power might even be able to innately use Sorcerous-like powers. Special Sorcery spells might be able to trigger shapeshifts or have shapeshifting like spells, though it would take a rather large Effect to prevent the shapeshifter from eventually changing back.

Other Forms of Magic

It takes fairly trivial spells to ward off the influences of most Power Words, with the exception of Magic Disrupting words, which tend to be very difficult for pure Sorcery to overcome (though any Power-Enhanced spells will tend to overcome Magic Disruptions). The only difficulty is casting them in time. Contingency and Fast Casting are the usual ways to be able to deal with this. Sorcery and Power Words do compliment well though, as Counterspelling with Power Words works very well, and power words can easily fill in some low level quick effects that take more effort and time with Sorcery.

Conjuration is another wonderful compliment to Sorcery, particularly for making spells that Conjure items, as well as the pure utility of being able to create one's own spell racks on demand. At the same time, Sorcery spells can be used to disrupt and destroy Conjured items, and an several types of Conjuration enchantments can disrupt, deflect, or otherwise affect spells.

Overall Thoughts

This system for Sorcery replaces the oft maligned one in the original ADRPG book. Neither seems to capture the feel of the magic in Zelazny's canon books, but this system was designed to be at least more solidly defined and thus useful to players and GMs in an Amber campaign. It also provides a strong foundation for advancing from generic Sorcery into the upper realms that Elders and other powerful magic users might display.

The system is based on the ideas by Boris Sirbey ("Parametered Magic"), as well as those of John Biles (his entire Magick system), which is in turn based in part on Frank Sronce's work ("Advanced and Exalted Sorcery and Conjuration"), plus a fair amount of generalization and clarifying of concepts from the original version of the ADRPG and some entirely made up stuff.

The unified spell point system is meant to allow the players to gauge approximately how strong a spell is, something which was nearly impossible in the original system. There, only the number of mini-spells matters, a spell that uses four takes much longer to cast than one which uses only one, even if the latter spell has a hundred times greater effect. There are also very poorly defined limits on how much power and precision a spell can possess.

While this represents an overall increase in the power and flexibility of Sorcery, it still remains a second-class power in the face of Pattern, Logrus, and Trump and an expensive way to get many of the effects that can be replicated easily with greater powers. On the other hand, it gives a justification for bothering to mention the likes of Fiona and Brand as being powerful sorcerers and sorceresses.