This is a variant magic system for the SAGA game rules, specifically the version used in the Dragonlance: Fifth Age adventure game. It is intended to encourage magicians able to cast small, fairly simple spells often, but who have to strain in order to cast very power and complex spells. It tends to encourage a higher-magic game than found in the Dragonlance setting.
Heroes and characters with an ability code of “A” or “B” in Reason know how to cast spells. Note that these rules use Reason as the basic spellcasting ability, but Narrators can change it to another ability, if desired, or even have multiple abilities to represent different types of magic (as in Dragonlance: Fifth Age).
A magician’s available magical energy at any given time is equal to his or her Reason score, for a magician with an “A” code, and half that score, rounded down, for a magician with a “B” code. (Alternately, all magicians may have energy based on their full Reason score, but different spheres of magic limited by ability code, see Spheres, below). A magician can cast any spell who’s cost is equal to or less than the magician’s energy level. If the spell is above the magician’s limit, it cannot be cast, although there are some means a magician can use to cast the spell anyway.
Example: Mikos the Cunning is a magician with Reason 8A. He can cast any spell with a final cost of 8 or less. If Mikos had only a B code in Reason, he could cast any spell with a final cost of 4 or less (half his Reason).
A basic spell takes one action to cast, has personal range, does 0 damage or has some cosmetic effect, affects one human-sized target or space, lasts for an instant, and is Average difficulty to cast, for a cost of 0 energy.
All these factors can be altered by the caster to create whatever spell is desired. The Narrator has the final say about whether or not a particular spell is allowed in the game. Most factors increase a spell’s energy cost, some decrease it. A spell’s cost can never be reduced below 0, but there is no limit to how high its cost can get.
Spells have a base casting time of instant, which is to say they require a single action to cast. By increasing the time required to cast the spell, the magician can reduce’s the spell’s cost. Each step down the Time Chart (see below) reduces the spell’s cost by 1 point.
If a caster takes any other action while casting a spell, including defensive actions, the spell fails. If the caster is injured while spellcasting, he can make an easy Spirit action, modified by the number of wounds taken, to continue the spellcasting. So a caster who is struck for 8 wounds while spellcasting must make a challenging Spirit action to continue.
A spell has a normal range of Personal, affecting whatever the magician can touch. Increasing range increases the cost of the spell by 1 per level.
Other Plane or Dimension
The standard spell lasts for only an instant. Each step up on the Time Chart in duration adds 1 to the spell’s cost. So a spell that lasts for 1 hour costs +4. A spell that is permanent in duration adds 20 to the spell’s cost. The magician must set some non-magical condition when the spell is made permanent that will break the spell.
The standard spell affects a single individual or up to a cubic yard of material for a cost of 0. Each step up on the area chart adds one to the cost of the spell.
Small Room (2 people)
Large Room (5 people)
Small Building (10 people)
Large Building (25 people)
Very Large Building (50 people)
Small Village (100 people)
Large Village (500 people)
Town (1,000 people)
City (10,000 people)
Nation (100,000 people)
The base effect for a spell is negligable or cosmetic, for 0 cost. For specific effects, the Narrator can use the guidelines below.
- Break: This effect damages or destroys things. Every three points of damage costs 1 energy point. For non-living materials, the Narrator can assess a cost based on the strength of the material, from +1 for fragile materials like glass, to +5 for stone and +7 or more for steel or other hard materials.
- Communicate: This effect passes on information. It is generally worth +2 cost, for things like telepathy or translating languages. For especially difficult or complex communication (like passing on days of experience and information in an instant), the Narrator may increase the cost.
- Control: This effect causes someone or something to do something it is normally capable of. Causing something the target is inclined towards (like making a lazy guard fall asleep or making it rain from an overcast sky) is +2. Something the target is not inclinded towards is +4. Something the target is generally against is +6. Something the target is completely opposed to is +8.
- Create: This effect creates something out of nothing (or out of pure magic). As a general guideline, Narrators can use the summoning chart from Heroes of Sorcery to add up the creation’s abilities and determine the cost.
- Enhance: This effect improves something. Each additional ability point granted to a subject costs 2 energy.
- Heal: This effect heals or repairs damage. Every card (or 2 wound points) restored costs 2 energy.
- Know: This efffect reveals information. Information that could be gained by normal means is +2, information that would be dangerous or difficult to gain by normal means is +4 and information that cannot be gained by normal means is +6 or more.
- Move: This effect moves things. Levitating a target (moving up and down) costs +2, causing a target to fly is +4 (more for especially swift flight) and teleporting a target is +8.
- Protect: This effect shields against harm and other effects. Protecting a target against the weather is a cosmetic effect, for 0 cost. Every three points of defense costs 1 energy. Warding a target against magic (increasing the difficulty of all spells cast on the target) costs 2 energy per point of resistance.
- Transform: This effect turns something into something else. These are some of the most difficult spells. Generally, the cost of the transformation is the gain in abilities between forms. So, assuming the form of a creature with a Physique of 16 for a target with Strength 6 and Endurance 8 costs 18 points. Likewise, turning the same target into a Physique 1 mouse costs 13 points. Every special ability possessed by the new form increases the cost by +1.
A spell’s base difficulty is Average. Reducing difficulty to Easy increases the spell’s cost by 4. For every level the spell’s difficulty increases, its cost decreases by 4. So a Challenging spell costs 4 energy less than an Average spell. An Impossible spell costs 16 energy less than Average. Spells targeted at living beings are always resisted by an appropriate ability, chosen by the Narrator. For example, a spell that hurls a lighnting bolt might be resisted by Agility, while a spell that controls a target’s mind might be resisted by Spirit. The resistance ability is added to the spell’s difficulty, but does not affect energy cost.
The system here assumes that magicians are capable of creating any effect, so long as they have sufficient energy to cast the spell. If desired, Narrators may require magicians to know specific types of magical effects, known as spheres, schools, colleges, realms, arts, techniques and similar titles. There can be as many or as few spheres as the Narrator wishes, dividing effects as desired. Some sphere may “overlap” with others, making a particular effect possible using different spheres.
The simplest division is to use the effects described above, making each a seperate sphere. A Narrator could also divide magic into four spheres according to the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water), or five by adding the element of Spirit. Or into ten colleges of Mind, Body, Animals, Plants, Images, Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Magic. Or Living Things, Elements and Undead. Or Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Summoning and Transmutation. And so forth, as desired.
The number of spheres a magician knows is generally dictated by ability code. The Narrator sets which abilities provide access to which spheres and how many. The most suitable abilities for this are Reason and Spirit. For example, a Reason of “A” might provide access to three out of nine spheres, while a “B” code provides only one, as in Dragonlance, or an “A” code might provide access to five spheres, or even all of them, while a “B” code provides proportionally less. Spheres may be broken up between abilities, as with sorcery and mysticism in Dragonlance.
The use of spheres gives Narrators options for limiting the power of magicians and making individual spellcasters more unique.
Rituals are things magicians do to cast spells, all the gestures, magical incantations and various props used in magic. More importantly, rituals are used by magicians to reduce the energy cost of spells, making more costly spells easier to cast.
A magician can use material items to provide some of the energy for a spell, making it less costly to cast. The reduction in cost is based on the nature of the item. An item that represents the effect of the spell is considered “similar” and reduces cost by 1. An item that is connected to the target in some way is considered “contagious” and also reduces cost by 1. The value of the item reflects how much energy it grants. Common items are worth the base value (e.g. a bird’s feather for a flying spell). Uncommon items are worth double the base value (an eagle’s feather), Rare items are worth triple (a griffin’s feather) and Unique items are worth quadruple (a feather from a unique creature).
Components are used up (or made magically worthless) during the casting of the spell. If desired, a component can be specifically enchanted so it may be used over and over again (see Enchantment, below).
A magician can get assistance from others to reduce the cost of a spell by increasing its difficulty. If the assistants are also magicians, they add half the total of their appropriate ability score to the magician’s ability for the spellcasting action. Non-magicians add only one point each to the magician’s ability score. So a magician with Reason 8, assisted by three apprentices with Reason 6 gains a bonus of (6 x 3)/2 or +9 for his spellcasting action. This allows the magician to increase the difficulty of his spell from Average to Daunting, reducing cost by 8 and still having a perfecting decent chance for success.
The maximum number of assistants a magician can have at one time is determined by his or her Presence code. An “A” code allows up to 10 assistants, a “B” code allows up to 5 assistants, a “C” code allows up to 2 assistants, a “D” code allows 1 assistant and an “X” code prohibits the use of assistants (the magician can only work alone).
A magician may use life-energy to make up a difference in energy cost for a spell. The magician takes wounds equal to the difference in cost. So a magician with Reason 8 casting a spell with a cost of 11 can take 3 wounds in order to cast the spell. This damage is not affected by any sort of defense and is otherwise treated like normal damage for purposes of healing, except that first aid has no effect on it.
Magicians can also use the life-force of other beings to reduce the cost of spells. In this case, the being must be killed in order to liberate its life energy. The cost of the spell is reduced by the Spirit or Essence of the sacrifice. Note that this is considered a heinously evil act by most cultures, and magicians who practice such sacrifice may suffer a change in Nature as a result.
Curse: Transforms the target into a monstrous creature. Desperate Difficulty, resisted by Spirit (-12), Invocation: 1 day (-7), Range: Horizion (+6), Duration: permanent (+20), Area: Individual (0), Effect: Transform (+10). Rituals: Component (a necklace given to the target by a loved one. Symbolic of the “binding” of the spell [-1]; connected with the target [-1] and unique [x4] for -8), Cost: 9.
Demon Summoning: Calls up a demon to serve the caster. Daunting Difficulty (-8), Invocation: 4 hours (-5), Range: Other-Dimension (+10), Duration: 1 month (+11), Area: Individual, Effect: Create (summon) demon (+10). Rituals: Component (valuable ruby, -3), Sacrifice (Spirit 8) (-8), Cost: 7. The magician may want some assistants to ensure the spellcasting is successful.
Fire Bolt: Hurls a spear of flames at an opponent. Average Difficulty, resisted by Agility (0), Casting Time: Instant (0), Range: Far Missile (+3), Duration: Instant (0), Area: Individual (0), Effect: Break (12 damage points, +4), Cost: 7.
Flight: Allows a subject to fly through the air. Average Difficulty (0), Casting Time: Instant (0), Range: Personal (0), Duration: 1 hour (+4), Area: Individual (0), Effect: Move (flight, +4), Ritual: Component (feather, -1), Cost: 7.
Light: Creates a hovering sphere of light to see by. Average Difficulty (0), Invocation: 1 minute (-1), Range: Melee (+1), Duration: 30 minutes (+3), Area: Large Room (+2), Effect: Create (0), Cost: 5.
Major Healing: Heals wounds a subject has suffered. Average Difficulty (0), Invocation: 1 minute (-1), Range: Personal (0), Duration: Instant (0), Area: Individual (0), Effect: Heal (up to 5 cards or 10 damage points) (+10), Cost: 9 points.
Might: Increases a subject’s Strength. Challenging Difficulty (-4), Invocation: 1 minute (-1), Range: Personal (0), Duration: 15 minutes (+2), Area: Individual (0), Effect: Enhance (+5 Str , +10), Cost: 7.
Sleep: Puts a small group of targets into a magical slumber. Average Difficulty, resisted by Spirit (0), Invocation: Instant (0), Range: Near-Missile (+2), Duration: 15 minutes (+2), Area: 5 people (+2), Effect: Control (sleep, +4), Ritual: Component (handful of sand or rose petals, -1), Cost: 9.
Teleport: Transports the caster over a great distance. Daunting Difficulty (-8), Invocation: Instant (0), Range: Cross-Country (+7), Duration: Instant (0), Area: Individual (0), Effect: Move (teleport, +8), Cost: 7.