Fantasy Wargaming, cover to cover (XVIII)

Continuing the section on active magic!

Preparations for sorcery and the accumulation of mana

Although there’s already been some discussion of what you can do with mana, it is only now that we find out how to get the stuff. The five methods in FW are:

  1. incantation/ululation,
  2. shamanistic dancing/frenzy/etc.,
  3. deep meditation and study,
  4. fasting (including sexual abstinence), and
  5. sacrifices.

The first four all take some time and have limits on how long they can be performed, and each also provides bonuses to BMC(1) as preparation. They are also associated with specific types of mages. Witches use the frenzied dance, Cabalists use study and meditation, etc.

Sacrifices can be done by anyone, but they count as sins for Christians (we’ll see the sin rules later under religion!). An animal yields d6 mana (the later Norse religion rules specify definite amounts for various animal types) while human sacrifice yields d6+6! The mage must also consume some part of the sacrifice, such as the brain, heart, liver, etc.

Limits on mana: Most characters can have no more than 16 times their magic level (ML) in mana; Ethereal and Faery spirits can accumulate 32 x ML. Later on their are rules concerning the self-conjuration of spirits that can allow mortals to accumulate 32 x ML mana too.

If you’re like me, you were disappointed to see that the magical diagrams in the AD&D DMG were never really given much explanation. FW gives mechanics for the various types of “pentacles” one might draw, for use in defense against sorcery (BMC(2) bonuses) and against conjured beings.  The simplest pentacle (a mere circle) gives just a +1, while a triangle inscribed in the circle gives a +2 and a five or six pointed star inscribed in the circle gives a +3.  Short & sweet.

Another sort of active magic is calling Ethereal beings to the Earthly plane, normally to control, bind, and/or compel them. Any higher or lower power, the spirit of any living or dead being, and elementals can all be summoned; but living or dead things in their earthly form, beings whose body & spirit are united (Faeries and self-conjured mages), and zodiacal forces cannot be summoned.

The mechanics involve first establishing a link (BMC(1) again), then the issue of a command (BMC(3)). Normally a defense (pentacle) is prepared first. The text then mentions some reasons one might conjure a spirit, such as to have it cast a spell, give information, teach skills or spells to the caster, bind them as servants or into magic items (binding them into dead bodies creates undead servants!) and so on. There is also a cautionary tale from actual play about summoning a demon and asking it to create light, which it did by igniting the whole room & destroying the conjurer, as a warning that demons are unreliable. Summoning angels and demons are sins for Christians, as is self-conjuration, which is described next. The types of conjuration described are:

  • Self-conjuration. I’m not an occultist, but I am pretty well read, and this concept is probably the only one in FW that I can point to that does not have an obvious analog in real world beliefs. I think it follows very logically from everything else the system establishes about the Ethereal plane and spirits, but still it is a little jarring. Maybe I just need to do some research. Anyway, self-conjuration is the binding of one’s own spirit to one’s body. It is a serious sin, and very difficult, but it has many advantages: you no longer need to do BMC(1) — links are automatic because you are partly in the Ethereal plane; your spirit cannot be conjured by others (conjuring a person’s spirit can force it to reveal your secrets!); you can vanish for an hour at time into the Ethereal plane; you gain 2 magic levels; and you can accumulate twice as much mana (32 per level). Oh, and there is a chance the operation will cause the character to go temporarily or permanently insane.
  • Conjuring the spirits of living beings. Instead of summoning your own spirit, you might summon another person or creature’s spirit to gain information about the Earthly form, or to bind to yourself (this is how witches gain familiars — the animal’s spirit is bound to the witch).
  • Necromancy, including communing with the spirits of the dead or binding them to bodies as the undead.
  • Elementals. You can summon part of the elementals either for normal divinatory purposes or to use their powers in sorcery (for example summon a fire elemental to throw fireballs)
  • Possession. Demons can also use the same process to possess human bodies.

This illustrates just how awesome the magic system of FW really is. Demonic possession, familiars, necromancy, and more all fit into the theory of the Ethereal plane and commands.

Next up, passive magic.

Published in: on August 12, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think that self-conjuration is intended to represent the internal “alchemy” of processes similar to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel of the Thelemics, or (more traditionally) magical assumption of the Genius, Daimon, or similar Doubles (the Norse equivalent, by the way, would be the Fylgja, something that was treated differently in the original FW rules, but which could profitably be unified in a revision or retroclone). It could also represent the actual alchemical goal of the Philosopher’s Stone (which was not actually a stone at all; also, despite the protestation of the authors, alchemy is well within the period described, something which could be remedied in a revision/retroclone).

    • You’re right, the text does dismiss alchemy unjustly.
      I never heard of Fylgja before, although I had heard about the idea of an astral double. Thanks!
      Your explanation makes good dense. I see the connection now.

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