A Magical Miscellany for SAGA

Variant Magic Styles for the Saga Game System

The Dragonlance: Fifth Age game presents a system of magic used by the heroes of Krynn in the Fifth Age. It relies on the flexible, story-oriented nature of the SAGA System rules. However, this system is by no means the only style of magic possible in the SAGA System. The basic game system is extremely flexible, and capable of simulating magic from many different fantasy settings, even mixing-and-matching different magical styles within the same setting.

Note that the term “magician” in the following descriptions refers interchangeably to either sorcerers or mystics from the Dragonlance: Fifth Age rules. Where sorcerers or mystics are specifically intended, those terms are used. If desired, the Narrator can choose one option for sorcerers in the game and another for mystics, mixing and matching to create several different types of magic.

Spell Gathering

In this system, magicians have no spell points of their own to cast spells. Instead, spell points (magical energy) is gathered from the environment by drawing cards from the Fate Deck, which represents the local magical energy available. If desired, the Narrator can use a separate Fate Deck for spell gathering, so the players’ own hands do not deplete the deck.

Each school or sphere is aligned with a particular suit of the Fate Deck (see the Suit Alignment Table). Cards for that suit count their full face value towards the cost of the spell. Cards from other suits count as only 1 point each. The magician must gather enough cards to successfully cast the spell. The first card draw takes no time (the caster simply “grabs” whatever available energy is nearby). Each additional draw takes one minute. This means only the weakest and simplest spells can be cast quickly. If desired, the Narrator can vary the speed of gathering. For rapid spellcasting, allow casters to draw a number of cards equal to the appropriate ability score (Reason for sorcery, Spirit for mysticism) immediately, then one additional card per minute. For slower castings, eliminate the free first card, or require each draw to take 10 minutes or more.

A magician can draw as many cards as his or her appropriate ability score (Reason or Spirit). If the magician does not gather enough power, or stops gathering before gaining enough power to cast the spell, it dissipates harmlessly. If the magician draws the 10 of Dragons while gathering power, the spell misfires immediately in some way determined by the Narrator.

Once the necessary power has been gathered, a normal action is still required to cast the spell, as described in the Fifth Age rules. The magician must gather enough additional power to overcome the target’s resistance or the spell automatically fails.

The Narrator must decide how quickly the “pool” of magical energy (the Fate Deck) recovers. It may do so immediately after each spell, in which case magicians cannot deplete the magical power around them. Alternately, the local magical resources may only recover each day, or even slower, forcing magicians to husband power and not become overly extravagant with spellcasting. The geographic size of a magical pool is also important. If it is limited to only a mile or two, then a magician can find more energy only a short distance away. If it is many miles, then magicians may fight to control the magical power of a given area.

Suit Alignment Table

Fate Deck Suit Sorcery School Mystic Sphere
Swords Pyromancy Channeling
Helms Cryomancy Healing
Arrows Aeromancy Alteration
Shields Geomancy Animism
Orbs Enchantment Meditation
Moons Divination Sensitivity
Hearts Spectramancy Spiritualism
Crowns Hydromancy Mentalism

Spell Memorization

Magicians do not have spell points. Instead, magicians memorize their spells. Once cast, the spell is forgotten until it is re-memorized, similar to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons systems of magic.

The magician builds spells in advance according to the normal spell system in the Fifth Age rules. All spells are limited to no more than (attribute x 2) cost. Use Reason for sorcery and Spirit for mysticism, so a sorcerer with Reason 7 cannot memorize a spell with a cost greater than 14. Heroes add their number of Quests to this total, so a Reason 7 hero with 5 Quests can memorize spells with a cost up to 19 points (7 times 2, plus 5).

A hero can memorize a number of spells equal to his or her appropriate ability, plus an additional spell per Quest. So a Spirit 5 mystic can memorize 5 spells, plus one per Quest. Memorizing a spell requires a number of minutes equal to the spell’s cost. Sorcerers must have a spellbook to memorize from. Mystics need only quiet, uninterrupted meditation to memorize spells.

Casting a memorized spell requires an average Reason or Spirit action, opposed by the target’s ability, if applicable.

Spell Components

Rather than magicians having their own spell points, spell points are stored in objects, which are used as part of the spellcasting. These objects may be virtually anything allowed by the Narrator, from simple herbs, minerals and animal parts to exotic and rare ingredients. Without the proper components, a magician cannot cast spells. The number of spell points contained in an object varies according to the Narrator’s judgment. Generally, more common items have fewer spell points, while rarer items have more. Narrators may want to use the rules from Heroes of Sorcery to allow magicians to draw spell points of existing magical items as well.

Source Magic

Magicians do not have spell points. However, other living beings do have them, and magicians can draw on them to perform magic. However, the other being must willingly give spell points to the magician, they cannot be taken against his or her will (except, perhaps, by some dark and evil rituals). Magicians need “sources,” companions willing to supply magical power for them to cast spells.

The availability of suitable sources varies depending on the effect desired. If sources can be any living being (even friendly animals), then magicians are likely to have many pets and familiars, along with servants and traveling companions, to provide a ready source of energy. Cities and towns may require citizens to volunteer spell points to help magicians with municipal work and the defense of the area.

If sources are rarer, such as only allowing certain people to act as sources (perhaps only those with high scores or codes in Perception or Presence), then magicians will carefully cultivate possible sources. If each magician has only one source, then the source and the magician have a very close bond and must work together as partners. Each is powerless without the other.

Life Magic

Magical power (spell points) comes from the life force of living things. Using magic results in the depletion of this life force, leading to death. This is similar to the defiler magic from the Dark Sun campaign setting. Generally, life force must be given freely to the magician, or taken from non-intelligent life like plants (again, certain evil, arcane rituals may be able to alter this).

Plant life (along with small insects, lichens and similar simple life forms) have roughly 1 spell point per square yard in size. A hundred square yards of grass and plants yields 100 spell points. An average adult tree provides 20-30 spell points. Plant life drained of spell points turns to ash, and the ground there will not grow plants again until rejuvenated in some way.

A creature or character has as many spell points as its Endurance squared. For every amount of spell points equal to Endurance used by the magician, reduced the being’s Endurance by 1. When all its spell points are used up, the being dies. Heroes have spell points based on the cards in their hand. A hero can spend cards from his or her hand to give a magician spell points, the magician gets a number of points equal to twice the card’s face value. If the donating hero is reduced to 0 cards, the hero falls into a coma and is dying.

Magicians in a setting where life magic is common may decimate the environment, and may be hunted or outlawed for indiscriminate uses of magic.

Power Sites and Ley Lines

Magical energy comes from certain sites and places (or times). These places are often connected by “ley lines” that carry magical energy along the surface of the terrain, much like invisible, magical rivers. Each site or line is rating according to how much magical energy it supplies. A site may provide a certain number of free spell points automatically each minute, or it may allow a magician to draw spell points from it (as described under Spell Gathering). For example, a ley line may provide any magician standing on it with access to 12 spell points per minute, which means that any magician standing on the line can cast any spell with a cost of 12 or less for free. The magician cannot cast any spells with a cost greater than 12 unless some other source of spell points is available.

If power sites and ley lines are the only sources of spell points in a world, magicians are likely to fight over control of them. Even if they are not the only sources of magical power, magicians will still wish to control power sites for the advantages they offer.

Learned Spells

This option reduces the flexibility of magicians and makes their spells more predictable. Magicians can only cast spell effects they have specifically learned, rather than having access to all effects from the schools they know. Heroes get starting spells equal to their appropriate ability, plus one additional spell per Quest. Heroes should design their individual spells and keep track of them. For example, Hermod the Enchanter has Reason 8 and 6 Quests, so he knows fourteen spells. Hermod’s player designs the spells his hero knows based on Hermod’s available schools and shows them to the Narrator, who approves them.

Learned Schools

Magicians are able to learn additional schools or spheres over time, one additional school or sphere per increase in the magician’s Reputation. Experienced magicians can become very flexible and powerful in this way. For example, a sorcerer with a Reason Code of “A” in the SAGA System begins as Rabble, knowing three schools of Sorcery. The sorcerer can then learn an additional school upon becoming a Novice, and upon attaining each new Reputation level, until becoming a Legend, when her or she will know all nine schools of Sorcery. If hero who knows both sorcery and mysticism gains an additional school or an additional sphere per increase in reputation.

Expansive Magic

Magicians have access to all spheres or schools of their chosen type of magic. Magic can do anything, limited only by the ability and energy (spell points) of the magician. This option should be limited to fantasy settings where magicians are superior to all other types of characters, since they have the greatest flexibility and range of powers. However, magicians are still limited by their abilities and their available spell points, so they are not all-powerful. Narrators choosing this option should be careful to control the power of magicians to keep them from completely overshadowing other heroes.

Catastrophe Magic

Magicians have access to unlimited magical power. However, the more they use, the more likely for bad things to start happening. This makes magicians reluctant to overuse their powers, lest disaster strike. Magicians do not have spell points of their own. Instead, as they cast spells, the cost of the spell goes in a “catastrophe pool.” Once this pool exceeds the level of the magician’s appropriate attribute, squared, bad things start to happen. Each time a magician over the limit casts a spell, draw a card from the Fate Deck and add the amount by which the magician is over the limit. Dragon cards are considered trumps for this draw. Add the total together and consult the Catastrophe Table. The effects may represent a magical backlash or misfire, divine disfavor, the loosing of uncontrolled forces of chaos, or anything else appropriate to the setting’s magic.

The catastrophe pool is reduced by 1 point per hour. The Narrator can vary this rate of reduction in order to make the use of magic more or less risky, and therefore more or less common, in the game.

Catastrophe Table

 Total Effect
 4  Minor Mishap: The spell goes wrong in some fairly harmless way.
 8  Major Mishap: The spell goes wrong in a major way, affecting the caster or any companions.
 12  Minor Setback: The caster suffers from some minor problem, like a paralyzed arm that lasts for a day and increases the difficulty of all Dexterity actions by two levels, or being surrounded by a glowing light like a torch for several days, attracting monsters and strange looks.
 16  Major Setback: The caster suffers from a major problem, like being struck blind, deaf, or dumb for a day, being rendered unconscious for several hours, and so forth.
 20  Minor Injury: The caster suffers from a minor injury that lasts for at least a month and increases the difficulty of certain actions by two levels. For example, suffering a limp (affecting movement and Agility actions), a stutter (affecting Presence actions), or weakness (affecting Strength actions).
 24  Major Injury: The caster suffers some permanent, lasting injury that permanently reduces an ability score by 1. The Narrator can draw a card from the Fate Deck or choose an ability related to the spell cast.
 28  Minor Disaster: A minor disaster occurs around the caster. This includes a building or cavern collapsing, a sudden storm, an attack of monsters, an explosion or something similar. The disaster should provide an additional threat for the heroes to overcome and should hamper their plans in some way.
 32+  Major Disaster: A major disaster strikes the area around the caster. This includes earthquake, forest fire, hurricane, tsunami, plague of vermin (insects, frogs, rats, etc.), sudden darkness, and similar catastrophes. Additionally, the magician is rendered nearly helpless (0 in all abilities) for a number of hours equal to a draw from the Fate Deck.