The magic of the mysterious East was the subject of many legends in Middle Ages Europe. Moorish alchemists sought the secret of eternal life, Arabian astrologers used the stars to predict the future and frightful djinn and ifrit roamed the desert sands. Now, after the Awakening, many of the legends and magical tales of the Middle East have come to life in new and startling ways.
The Arabian Magician
Magic has become a generally accepted fact of life in Islamic culture, as it has in other parts of the world. It is a tool, a natural gift of Allah, which can be used by men for good or evil. Only the most fundamentalist Shiite sects see magical ability as inherently evil. Magicians in those areas are persecuted and killed as devil-spawn.
The magician in Islamic culture is a figure of intellect and learning, a scholar of the same status as a holy man or scientist. Magicians study the secrets of the universe and have been granted special gifts and responsibilities by Allah.
The first is the magician’s gift of clear sight. Wizards are able to see through illusions and perceive the true form of a thing, no matter what its outward appearance. Disguises and deceptions are of little use against them. Aura reading is commonly used as a means of diving the truth in the courts of many Islamic nations and the advice of a respected magician is held in high esteme. Mages are also known for their skill in prophecy, using astrology, sand-reading and dream interpretation to gain some clue of the divine plan. This skill is not quite as reliable as the true Sight, but divination spells are often quite useful.
Arabian magic focuses more on information and transformation than Western sorcery. Combat spells are very rare-most Islamic wizards shun them in favor of less direct methods such as Petrify and Transform. Sleep is a fairly common spell, but most other combat spells are vitually unknown by any but military magicians.
Illusion magic abounds, and the walled gardens and homes of Islamic mages are often wonderlands of fantastically crafted images. Some have shown concern that the magical creation of images may be considered blasphemy, since it impinges on Allah’s role as the sole Creator, but most mages do not concern themselves.
Magicians are as skilled at disguise and deception as they are at seeing through it. Around a mage, all may not be what it appears. This control over appearance also extends to form and Transformation spells are quite common, especially shapeshift.
The Shapeshifter’s Duel
A tradition among Islamic mages is a duel using the shapeshift spell. While the duel is in effect, each magician assumes a series of shapes, trying to use superior knowledge and cunning to overcome his opponent. Each participant cast shapeshift normally at the start of the duel. During the duel, the magician may not use other magic, but may assume a new shape as a Simple Action. Each form change requires a new Force Success Test, but does not require an additional Drain Resistance Test. Remember that the magician is limited to forms within two Body points of his own Body Attribute.
This sort of combat exists in numerous traditions. At the gamemaster’s discression, any magician who knows the shapeshift spell may participate in such a duel. Indeed, it would be interesting to see such a conflict played out between two magicians of different traditions.
Islamic legends are full of tales of difficult and heroic quests to throw off a curse cast by some evil sorcerer. In the Sixth World, someone troubled by such magic would normally seek out another magician to dispel it, but Arabian sorcery is not so easily dealt with.
When an Arabian mage Quickens a spell on another place or person (not himself or his own possessions), he must specify a condition that will break the spell. This condition should be difficult, but not impossible (such as going to a particular holy place and keeping vigil there for 24 hours). If the condition is fulfilled, the spell ends immediately. No test is required.
Such spells are difficult to Dispel normally; double the amount of Karma spent to quicken the spell to determine the Target Number for dispelling tests and the effective Force of the spell in astral combat. A successful astral perception test against a target number equal to the Karma spent to quicken the spell will allow a magician to determine what the breaking condition of the spell is.
Dealing with spirits is a difficult and dangerous business in Arabian magic. Even more liberal Muslims are troubled by the theological and moral dimensions of conjuring. Arabain mages only rarely conjure elementals, following the Aristotelian tradition they inheirited from the Greeks. They generally reserve the Conjuring skill for exorcism, banishing and defense against hostile spirits. In fact, many mages Concentrate or Specialize in such things.
One type of spirit that the Middle East has in abundance is the djinn or ifrit. They are described as “creatures of smokeless fire,” often terrible in aspect and possessing great magical powers. They can be bargained with, and powerful mages may even bend them to their will, but they are deciteful and dangerous servants.
Djinn are Free Elemental Spirits (see Grimoire, p.76). Most are native to the Metaplanes of Fire and Air, although Earth and Water djinn are known. While some may have developed from Free Elementals, most djinn appear to have originated as Free Spirits.
An Islamic mage using conjuring can call a djinn to appear before him. Make a Conjuring success test against the Force of the spirit the mages wishes to call. Roll 1D6 to determine the djinn’s Spirit Energy value. One success on the Conjuring test is sufficient for the spirit to appear and there is no drain. However, when the spirit appears it is under no bond to obey its summoner. The mage may attempt to bargain for the djinn’s services by offering something (usually Karma) in return. The summoner might also attempt to force the spirit to obey, but this is a very dangerous practice.
If a magician knows a djinn’s True Name (Grimoire, p.77), he may attempt to enslave the spirit through the use of Conjuring. Magicians with djinn servants are powerful and feared, but there are many tales of such slaves turning against their masters.
The art of sihr (enchantment) is one that Arabian mages excell at. In medieval Europe, Arabian alchemal texts were highly prized additions to a scholar’s library and Moorish wizards were often consulted for their legendary alchemical skill.
Arabian mages have great skill in all facets of the Enchanting process. They gain a -1 to all of their Enchanting target numbers so long as they work within restrictions of time and materials laid down in alchemal texts and the pattern of astrological forecasts (and as determined by the gamemaster).
There are rumors that some powerful Arabian mages, sponsored by wealthy princes and corporations, are seeking to duplicate other legendary feats of alchemy, such as the Philosopher’s Stone, which could turn lead into gold or the Elixir of Life, which might grant immortality. Who knows? Perhaps one of them has even succeeded.
Arabian magi are also experts in using their knowledge of astrology to create talismans, small objects such as amulets which have numbers and symbols on them corresponding to the influence of particular planets. Verses from the Qur’an are also common. These talismans are used for a variety of purposes.
Some simple talismans are used as spell locks. The talisman is given to a mundane and the mage casts a (generally beneficial) spell upon him. Mages are cautious about this practice because their talismans retain an astral link back to them.
Other talismans are used as spell focuses or fetish focuses. The talisman will reflect the planetary and astrological influences that will enhance the spell or class of spells the talisman is for. Another Arabian mage can tell what such a talisman was designed for by making a Magic Theory (4) Test. Any other Hermetic magician can make such a determination, with +2 to target number. A shaman needs a Magic Theory (8) Test to make such a determination.
Talismans which are constructed in accordance with the proper astrological alignments gain the -1 TN bonus to Enchanting mentioned above.
Magi make much use of the position of the stars and planets in their magic. Although modern astronomy has long since invalidated the astrological model of the cosmos as literal truth, the geocentric “universe” of astrology still has great magical significance.
Arabian magicians use astrology to study the influences of the heavenly bodies on their many magical activities such as rituals and enchantments. Astrological charts and talismans are often used as fetishes or focuses, especially for detection (divination) spells of all kinds.
For some Initiate magi astrology serves as a centering skill to focus the magician’s attention upon the influence of the right planets and stars for the magical work at hand.
The Dervishes are a mystical sect that seeks to achieve gnostic union with Allah. They do so through the performance of unique whirling dances of great energy and complexity that build the dervish up into a state of spiritual ecstasy, where the barriers to the Divine disolve and the derish may receive revelations or holy visions.
After the Awakening, many dervishes proved to be capable of performing shamanic-style magic. Their intense religious fervor serves them in much the same manner as a totem. Dervishes always use their dancing ability as a means of Centering and it is always a first choice for a Geas.