Fantasy Wargaming, cover to cover (XXVII)

The final section of the FW rules cover monsters, magical beings, and general fauna.  (This is the only section whose authorship I have been able to confirm — Nick Lowe –, although I have not been pursuing the other copyright holders so far, as Nick Lowe has provided so much information.)   About sixty types of creature are detailed, including several specific giants such as Giolla Dacker (and his horse!).  The monsters here have frequently been criticized as ridiculous*, silly**, even racist***.  But all derive from period literature, legends, and heraldry.

The monsters are described pretty briefly, with several general items in every “stat block.” Size ranges from tiny to bloody huge.  Speed is given qualitatively, in comparison to a human.  So “very fast” means “a lot faster than you can run.”  Society is a descriptive term for number appearing, from unique/solitary (1), to lairs/nests (1-6), to flocks/herds (10-50) and swarms (50-200).  Finally source gives the specific literature or tradition the beast appears in, to help the GM determine whether they are suitable for his milieu.  Monsters also get their physical attributes, and some mental attributes listed, as well as combat levels, armor, methods of attack, and magic levels.

No rules specify how much damage a horn or bite attack does, although I’d think one could fairly easily improvise these.  The effects of some poisons are given but you need to read between the lines to determine if there is any saving throw (the chapter on GMing seems to recommend allowing saves when asked).

Finally the book has a very good index, and the fact that pagination in the regular and book club editions are different, I’m again surprised to find that so much effort went into something most game books lack.

And with that, this cover to cover series is over.  I hope to return to FW in the future, of course, but I’m pretty exhausted by it and will concentrate on minis for a while!

In the meantime I just discovered as I write this (August 17) that a similar project has been carried out at a RPG forum, about two years ago! Doh!  I’m off to read that now.

*The Bonnacon, for example.  Which is pretty odd (a cow-like animal firing flaming excrement as a defense).

**Venomous sheep, for example.  But if you read the description, these are seriously creepy.  Their venom drains your strength, and they are said to feed on carrion.  They appear in flocks, so it is not hard to imagine a flock of 50 or so of the bastards slowly sweeping across a plain, into a village, paralyzing, trampling, and finally consuming the inhabitants.  A sheep’s foot in very small and they exert a fairly crushing pressure.

***Specifically the “Black Men” which are explicitly explained as a jet-black giant race, not Moors or Africans, as detractors imagine.

Published in: on August 22, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (8)  
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Fantasy Wargaming, cover to cover (XXVI)

So the next section deals with the pagan Norse religion in lines that mostly parallel the previous section, although with some changes in the order of presentation. “Norse” religion stands in for all Germanic, Teutonic, and Scandinavian religious traditions, as they were fairly similar. It is too bad the Celtic religion does not get a similar treatment, but the Norse model makes it pretty clear how one might simulate other pantheons and religions, with a little research. (It would also be really fun to see similar sections on Islam, Judaism, and other major religions of the periods covered!)

First, the hierarchy of gods & goddesses is discussed, along with how intercessions work (things are complicated a bit because of blood and marriage ties between various deities), and how promotion within the hierarchy works.

Piety for pagans is always with respect to their own gods, not the Christian ethereal host, but pagans with negative piety attract the Devil’s attention, as he may claim the souls of anyone, of any religion. I did not like this idea much until I remembered a certain scene in Poul Anderson’s The broken sword where the Devil visits a Viking woman who is desperate for revenge, so I guess it would work.

The sins & virtues of Norse paganism are generally different from those of Christianity, with much more focus on heroism and hospitality than self-abasement and charity, as you might expect. The afterlife is handled differently too, as there is no Norse Purgatory and the circumstances of death matter more (in battle, at sea, etc.) so you may go to Valhalla, Niflhelm, etc. as appropriate. Heroes form the lower ranks of the Norse Ethereal host, so in principle you could have fallen heroes advance to become full-fledged gods in time, just as you could work out afterlife adventures for saints and sinners in Christianity.

The Norse ceremonies mostly involve sacrifices and feasts, and I as I noted earlier the mana values of specific animals are lists (ranging from 2 for fowl to 5 for cattle). There are also ceremonies for marriage, baptism (dedication to a specific god or goddess which also adds a component to the recipient’s name), funereal rites (barrow and ship burials), oaths (which are immensely important for the flavor of sagas!), and Seidhr (a sort of divinatory appeal combined with a ceremony). Inspiration may follow appeals, ceremonies, or oaths, and the Norse are more easily inspired spontaneously than are Christians.

Then a run-down of the Ethereal host is given in more detail, with a similar descriptive table to the one for Christianity and demonology.

Lastly, there is the section on monsters, magical beings, and general fauna.

Published in: on August 21, 2010 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fantasy Wargaming cover to cover (XXV)

Ethereal hosts and hierarchies

The Higher and Lower powers are organized into 9 “ranks” denoting their approximate power. At the top of the hierarchies are the Trinity and Satan (Rank 9); at the bottom mere servants (Cherubim and Imps/Hellhounds/Demon Warriors). Saints and demons generally rank in the 5-3 range, although certain archdevils fill out the upper ranks of the Lower powers (the corresponding rank 6-8 in for the Higher powers are angels, archangels, and the Vigin Mary). Rather interestingly, there are rules for promotion within the hierarchies, and also suggestions for how to “personalize” the lower ranks (as lesser saints, cherubim, imps, etc. all have very generic rather than individualized attributes). Coupled with the rules for become a saint or demon after death, I think you could cobble together a campaign where the players start as imps or cherubs, (or just the souls of a TPK’ed party) and have them struggle to rise among the ranks! This may work better in a pagan setting (Norse religion is covered later but has its own hierarchy with the souls of ancestors and heroes in the lowest ranks).

Anyway the Heavenly and Infernal hosts are then listed in detail on a pair of tables that have contributed to some of the game’s infamy. In fairness, these are primarily meant to chart the appropriate powers to Appeal to, and their resistances to appeals, and their ares of interest/favor/disfavor. The powers’ Magic Levels are given to help with calculating their spells’ effectiveness. However they do also have Combat Levels and other physical attributes given (excepting the Trinity who are off the chart in most respects!). Beelzebub would kick the Virgin Mary’s ass in combat, I’m afraid. But the chart is really awesome for detailing the many, many patrons saints of various minutia you’d otherwise need to research, and similar information for the demons is also very useful to those of us without a copy of the Grand Grimoire lying around.

Lastly religious XP is explained. XP is gained by making Appeals, performing or attending religious ceremonies, exercising other clerical powers, resisting temptation, and piety earned.

Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fantasy Wargaming cover to cover (XXIV)

Religion section three deals with all the other benefits and powers that come with worshiping a higher or lower power that don’t require making appeals.*  These are called Delegates, Routine, & Ceremonial Clerical Powers.  They all work automatically for the most part, but a cleric who is not in good standing with his power will lose some piety for doing them, as mentioned earlier under piety.  The effects of these powers range from morale boosts to magic.  They also raise mana for the Power worshiped, although only 25% of the total raised actually transfers to the Power, and the rest being lost (in the Ethereal plane?).

There is an extensive list of Christian ceremonies and sacraments with their game effects: Mass, High Mass, Benedictions, Maledictions, Ordination, Investment, Confession, Final Absolution, Excommunication, Interdiction, Baptism, Marriage, Exorcism, and so on.  Most of these affect piety (granting piety for attending the ceremony or receiving the sacrament); most boost morale; most also grant XP to the cleric and possibly the attendees.  A few also transfer mana to God, give bonuses to rolls for the recipients, and so on.  There is note that exorcism ONLY works on demons, and not on Norse deities, elves, and so on.  I guess that means an exorcism won’t force a spirit out of a dead body, so “turning the undead” will require an Appeal.

The ceremonies of Devil worshipers are mostly reversals/parodies of the Christian ceremonies, using blood rather than holy water and possibly involving sacrifices. We are also reminded that Witches may be a sort of mage/cleric hybrid because most Satanic ceremonies are followed by dances and orgies that build up the participants’ personal mana rather than transfer it to the Devil as the ceremonies do.  There is also a brief description of the Satanic Feast, which is similar to the pagan feast described later but which involves a continuous droning hum or chant which sounds truly frightening.

So most of the ceremonies list a Ceremonial Morale Factor (CMF).  After the ceremony this factor (and some others) are used to generate a number which will be used to roll to determine if there is a morale bonus for participants.  In some cases there may even be a chance for “Inspiration,” which provides a bunch of bonuses and a few penalties to simulate religious fervor.  If you’ve ever read about masses being said before battle in the middle ages you’ll understand why the CMF is so important.

Inspiration grants an increase in piety (to the next higher band), +2 morale, increased stamina, +1 to Physique, Endurance, Bravery, Charisma, and Faith; -1 to Intelligence & Agility; a bonus to Control tests (the berserking roll; Christians are less likely to go berserk, Pagans more likely!); and +3 to Appeals.  This is really potent and lasts until PB drops below 2.  There is also a 5% chance each day for the effects to wear off, but that is absolute, not cumulative, so one might remain inspired for days or weeks at a time.

Inspiration has a small chance of coming after a ceremony, and may also come spontaneously when a pious character: faces an enemy from a different religion’s powers or servants; sees a successful appeal; is rescued by a deity’s intervention, including exorcism.  Those with a very high piety (PB5 or PB-5 for Devil worshipers) may also test for inspiration after any notable event or victory occurs, even if it is not the result of an Appeal.

Lastly, Inspiration may come from an Appeal, and may affect an individual or an entire community.  Such inspiration can come to those not otherwise eligible for inspiration due to low piety, wounds or exhaustion, etc.  I imagine whole congregations of Devil worshipers, or a bunch of Viking berserkers inspired by Odin, terrorizing an area!  These communal inspirations use the same 5% chance of wearing off.

Next time: Ethereal hosts and hierarchies.  Then, the Norse religion and monsters and we are done with the book!

*Although, in the stream of consciousness style that characterizes much of the the book, one last kind of appeal does turn up, but in fairness it is for an effect otherwise normally induced by the ceremonies discussed here.

Published in: on August 19, 2010 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fantasy Wargaming, cover to cover (XXIII)

The next section under religion covers the very important matter of Divine Grace (or for Devil-worshipers, Devil’s Favor).  Players generally do not know their exact status here, and an exact account of one’s state was one of the suggested questions listed under Appeals.  The DG/DF is determined by three things: Religious Level, Religious Rank, and Piety Band.  The first two a player will certainly know; the last is a secret tally known only to the GM, except under certain conditions.

Religious Level obviously is the experience level of the character in the Religious area, and starts at zero unless you creating higher level characters.  Religious rank is the rank of the character in some religious organization, whether it is the Church, a coven, or some religious order (monks, Templars, etc.).  I will only mention that given the awesome gloss of Witches earlier (a pagan cult subverted bythe Devil) I’d hoped for something similar to the Knights Templar but I suppose their official status changed too much for any one interpretation.  In my own campaign I’d make them subverted by Devil-worship and/or Islam around 1300 A.D.

Anyway Christian clerics belong to one of several main organizations or types of organizations: Secular Clergy (i.e., clergy “in the world” like your parish priest all the way up to the Pope); Monastic orders (traditional monks & nuns); Friars (itinerant clergy with no permanent congregations); or Religious Knights (Hospitaliers, Templars, etc.).  The Religious knights are a special case because they would also choose a “Warrior type” and so begin with armor and certain favored weapons.  Religious knights range from rank 1-5, but the other types range up to rank 10 (Pope).  Devil-worshipers belong to Covens which also range up to rank 10 (Anti-pope).  There are rules for promotion within religious hierarchies, and basically you may attempt to be promoted when gaining Religious Levels, but (as you might expect) Social Class plays a big role too.

The third component, Piety Band (PB) is mostly unknown to the player and tracked by the GM.  PB is determined by the total number of Piety points a character has accumulated, and can be a negative number or positive.  Points are lost for committing sins and gained by doing acts of piety or “virtues” that the power approves of.  Because God and the Devil are in direct opposition, Devil worshipers gain Devil’s Favor by having negative piety and Christians try to keep positive piety.  The point total converts to Piety Bands in a fairly straightforward manner, bot each “Band” is increasingly broad, so that 1-10 piety is PB 1, 11-20 is PB2, 30-50 is PB 3, 51-80 is PB 4 etc. (or something like that, my notes are sketchy and the book is not with me just now).  Anyway the higher a PB one attains, the more slow the progress gets, because sins and virtues have variable piety values depending on which PB the character is in.  If you are very, very negative, only the worst sins will matter.  Contrariwise a very high PB character loses more points for a sin than a lower PB character, as God expects more of saints!  Sins and virtues are rated class 1-7 and spelled in in detail for Christians and Devil-worshipers.

There are a few situations when a player will learn his character’s exact PB.  these are at the break points of PB2, PB0, and PB-2.  All clerics are expected to maintain PB2 to be in God’s good graces, and they will actually sin if they perform ceremonies and offices while below PB2 (although the ceremonies and sacraments remain effective, just as theologians held).  At PB0 and again at -2, a character may get visions of hellfire or other serious warnings that they are in danger of damnation.  At PB-2 a character’s spirit is damned to hell.  At PB-3, the Devil himself may come to claim the sinner’s soul.  He might kill the character and drag him to hell or more usually he’ll bind the character to him with spells (Absolute Commands) and force him into a contract.

Piety is also used to determine the fate of a character’s soul after death.  There are calculations to determine if the soul goes to hell, heaven, or how long it will spend in purgatory.   There are also rules for determining if a soul will be promoted to a saint or demon!  Later in the rules there are guidelines for the promotion of spirits to higher ranks within the Ethereal host, so with a little tweaking you could continue a party’s adventures even after a TPK.  I can imagine allowing the spirits to appear before followers, and entreating them to perform masses, ceremonies, or even sacrifices to grant some mana to the spirit!  Accumulate enough mana and you may be eligible for promotion.  There would probably be certain dangers of pride, sin, and even casting out of heaven for those too ambitious within the Heavenly host!

Piety is probably too “core” to FW to do without, although I’ve heard that some GMs don’t try to record the points lost and gained for every action and just assign a number by fiat.  I would consider having any clerics in the party keep accounts of the other characters’ sins and virtues, which could be a pretty fun metagame!  The power of priests to withhold sacraments would make them quite important in any conflict.

Next up, Delegated, routine, & ceremonial clerical powers, and becoming Inspired!

Published in: on August 18, 2010 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fantasy Wargaming cover to cover (XXII)

Well, believe it or not the combat rules were really what drew my brother & I into this game. Now I think the magic & religion rules are a lot more interesting. Twenty-two posts in and we are finally seeing the end. The religion rules are next, and then the monsters, and we’ll be done!!!

The first section of the religion rules covers Appeals, Intercessions, & Miracles. Clerical magic in FW is basically cast directly by the higher or lower powers. Anyone can make appeals for miracles, but clerics will have better success rates because God (& other powers) have a vested interest in making sure their Church is effective, so they continue to be worshiped and thus accumulate mana. The basic process is an appeal (request) is made, and if the power grants the appeal, either the power directly performs a miracle or it asks a higher-up to do so (intercession). You might appeal to a saint, for example, and the saint may or may not grant the appeal, and if he or she does, they may need to ask an archangel, or the Virgin Mary, or more likely God himself to perform a miracle. This very accurately models the fact that the Virgin Mary is typically prayed to intercede (she is a lot less busy than God, and compassionate, and as Jesus’ mother she has some pull!), as are saints generally in their areas of patronage.

Appeals are calculated by adding up a long list of factors, including the DD of the miracle asked for (as if it were a spell), the appellant’s Divine Grace/Devil’s Favor as appropriate, bonuses for giving proof of serious intent (offerings ranging from a mere thought days of fasting). Some notes:

  • The “Faith” attribute is actually more important for magic than religion. Recall that “Faith” is defined as awareness of the Ethereal world.
  • Successive appeals are a negative factor, as God-bothering apparently gets on His nerves.
  • Areas of control and interest are listed for each power, so you are better off asking St. Sebastian for protection from persecutors, but St. George is more helpful in dealing with Dragons, and so on. Astrology is an influence too (!).

The total of the factors will reach -5 to +25 (which is the biggest range yet) and the roll will result in a success or failure, with or without penalty. The “penalty” is always some piety loss, so it is possible to to have your appeal refused but at no penalty, or to succeed with a penalty (your god thinks less of you for asking but does it anyway) and so on.

On a success, whether or not there is a penalty, the power appealed to will do what was asked, casting a spell or counterspell, giving information, etc.  But if the power appealed to is not really capable of performing the favor asked, it will appeal higher up its hierarchy, possibly all the way up to God or the Devil.  This appeal (an Intercession) has a simpler mechanic, based mainly on the difference in rank of the powers in the hierarchy (an imp has less chance of successfully kicking a request upstream than does Beelzebub!).  There will be an automatic success, or a 25 or 50% chance, and that’s it.

Performing the actual miracle is uses the normal sorcery rules, although being Ethereal, powers obviously don’t need to establish a link, and go right ahead to BMC(2) and (3).  Additional factors and informational requests are given DDs on a chart, ranging all the way up to resurrections.  Lastly the rules for bonuses granted for holy sites, relics, and whatnot are given.  Even “fake” relics can give bonuses, because the power has been venerated through the item, which fits perfectly into the “Unified field theory” of the game.

The next section explains how to determine a character’s Divine Grace/Devil’s Favor.

Published in: on August 17, 2010 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fantasy Wargaming, cover to cover (XXI)

So, we finally see the table that explains the social classes* and backgrounds that may become various mage types, the methods each type uses to accumulate mana and make preparations for sorcery & divination, and the modes of divination they use, and their base bonuses/penalties to use various types of spells. I am too tired to replicate this info in detail but if you’ve been following up to now you know the types:

  • peasant mage aka Cunning Man/Wise Woman;
  • Wizard;
  • Witch;
  • High Sorcerer/Runic Sorcerer;
  • Cabalist.

Back in the day I missed the part about Runic sorcerers being Dark Ages only and High sorcerers being later eras. Oddly, Cabalists are required to be Jewish (not too surprising) or Muslim(!). I take it Muslim Cabalists are really practicing some Islamic esoterica but similar in all respects to Cabalists. Being Jewish is a “bogey” you might roll on the Bogey table; however the section on character creation already explicitly allows players to choose nationality, which could determine religion as well.

Anyway any mage may also become a Witch by joining a coven (and damning their souls). Peasant mages may become Wizards, and Wizards may become Sorcerers, if they can get to the required Social Class and Magic level (4th). “Multiclassed” Witches keep the better factors of their two classes, while other changes of class presumably just use the new factors, even if some are inferior.
The magic section concludes with a run down of magical XP. XP is gained by casting spells, magical preparations (=for accumulating mana), resisting spells and counter-magic (BMC(2)), divination, and detecting influences.

Doling out magical XP would require a lot of record keeping.  Like adventuring XP, it is mainly based on keeping track of chances of success and failure, and you get 100-%chance of success (or more simply, XP=chance of failure). XP is also gained by accumulating and spending mana, which again is going to need a lot of record keeping. This is probably on the order of Rolemaster, but still a little complex for my liking.  I’d probably come up with a much simpler method, like GM fiat.

*Earlier I posted that the Social Class was required of the character, but in fact it is the the character’s father’s SC that is required.

Published in: on August 16, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (6)  
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Fantasy Wargaming cover to cover (XX)

Passive magic
This is chiefly divination (gathering information), and for this type of magic, Intelligence is actually as important as Faith. The overall mana costs are lower too, so beginning mages will probably do more divination than sorcery. Two main kinds of divination are possible. The first kind relies on the system of correspondences more than personal power, and involves sophisticated techniques like astrology and tarot cards. Only High Sorcerers and Cabalists use this kind. This kind uses very little mana but takes a lot of time. The other kind concentrates the mage’s power into some focus to see into the Ethereal plane. The focus might be a crystal ball, a pool of ink, the entrails of an sacrificed creature, etc. Wizards, Witches, and Peasant mages use this kind. This kind of divination uses more mana but is also much faster. Standing in between these two is the Runic (dark ages) sorcerer, who uses divinatory “runic rods” as a focus, but these are also designed to take advantage of correspondences. These runic rods also help in active magic, unlike the other diniatory devices.
In fact, it is also possible to gather information in at least two more ways — dreams/visions and certain religious ceremonies, but those use different mechanics.

Divination uses a modified version of the BMC(1) calculations, where the difficulty/complexity of the question, and the Intelligence of the mage, factor in. This allows the question to be asked, but does not determine the answer. The nature of the question determines how it will be answered. The text encourages questions about future events to be interpreted as regular informational questions, when possible (One example presented is “Will so-and-so give me V.D.?” which should be interpreted as a “detect disease” type of question. No, really; that’s the example.) If the question can’t be re-interpreted, the GM is advised to roll, with 1-60 = yes, 61-100 = no! The GM is reminded the “stars” always have an out should this be wrong, since the future is never certain.
Other questions are answered according to their complexity as described on a chart (the two kinds of divination have different DDs and mana costs for different questions), and zodiacal controllers/diminshers affect this too.

In additon, characters with a Faith of 12+ may have prophetic dreams/visions, and characters with high Intelligence may interpret these dreams and visions. The chances of having a dream can be increased by taking preparations (using the normal methods of mana accumulation) and then spending mana. Interpretations may yield anything from a major secret of the adventure or an NPC to a wild lie, depending on how well the interpreter rolls. It is also mentioned that dreams cost 1-3 mana or 1-2 Endurance points, but there is no explanation as to how to choose. I suspect the Endurance cost is taken if there is not mana available, and one might extrapolate that other mana costs might be payable in Endurance in an emergency.

Next up: the mage “classes” in more detail. Yes, you’d think they’d be described in character creation but that’s how FW rolls. You need to read the whole book to play.

Published in: on August 15, 2010 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fantasy Wargaming, cover to cover (XIX)

The next section gives more detailed instructions for assigning the “Degree of Difficulty” (DD) for spells (and these will also apply to appeals for miracles in the religion rules).
The general types of spells covered are:

  • curing/disease&death;
  • illusion;
  • protection from magic;
  • absolute commands (which may be directed at living, Ethereal, or undead creatures);
  • elemental matters (instead of conjuring and commanding an elemental, a mage may just work sorcery using the four elements);
  • complex matter (using combinations of the four elements, such as metals and living matter);
  • transmutation (there are no specialist “alchemists” in FW but sorcerers do study alchemy).

There is also a list of 36 “miscellaneous spells,” some of which obviously fall into the above categories, but most of which are less clear-cut and in general all of them are similar to “D&D” spells (Evil eye, Lightning bolt, Weapon/armor enhancements, Stoppage of time, etc.)   These give some details of the effects they produce and the DD for each type of caster (Witches are better at Evil eye, while Cabalists are better at Stopping time, etc., according to the the adjustments for each caster type listed on the table given later in the rules).  In general, Cabalists are the strongest casters–most spells are relatively lower DD for them while the Cunning man/Wise woman is worse, although each has its strengths.
The factors determining DD are what you’d expect (area affected, duration, complexity, and so on, plus of course the astrological correspondences), and I think that in practice you’d also keep a record of the spells your character casts, so that in effect each mage will create their own spell list.

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (6)  
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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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Young scholars enthusiastic to tell you about COOL RESEARCH STUFF

Fail Squad Games

Tabletop games and adventures

Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

Hey Did You Know I Write Books

Save Vs. Dragon

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut


Old School Roleplaying and related musings

Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs

The Book Reviews You Can Trust!

Dawn of the Lead

Miniature wargaming and the occasional zombie News

The latest news on and the WordPress community.


Miniature Motivation

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

Roll to Disbelieve

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

A Book of Creatures

A Complete Guide to Entities of Myth, Legend, and Folklore

Making the Past

Diary of an apprentice swordsmith

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.


Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense

2 Warps to Neptune

Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek

Dagger and Brush

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain tutorials, reviews, interviews and painting guides


A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.

I bought these adventure and review them so you don't have to.

9th Key Press

Maps, supplements, and inspiration for roleplaying games.

The Rambling Roleplayer Archives

This site is no longer being updated. Check out the new site at

The History Blog

History fetish? What history fetish?

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller


A catch all of books, games, and sundry other interests

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time

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