The Power of Three: Innate Magical Abilities

The fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons tends to place less emphasis on magic items as an expected component of characters’ capabilities. Certainly, there are challenges—such as monsters vulnerable only to magical weapons—that call for such things, but even then there are workarounds in terms of class abilities, spells, and the like, reducing the reliance on an arsenal of arcane items in the party’s possession.

One way the edition trims down on magic items is through the concept of attunement: wherein some magic items require a mystical bond with their wielder. This bond takes some time and effort to forge, and characters can attune to a finite number of items, namely three. (As an aside, world creators can have fun exploring all manner of metaphysical trinities to provide an explanation for the question, “Why three?” but that’s a subject for a different article.)

So, it can be said, from a system perspective, that fifth edition D&D characters have essentially three “potential” magical advantages, which are realized by connecting them with items the characters acquire during their adventures—but what if that wasn’t the only option?

Now, the Dungeon Master’s Guide does talk about some other options, including supernatural gifts, marks of prestige, and epic boons, but none of them draw upon the notion that a maximum of three “magic advantages” is built-in to the characters. They’re all extras layered on top.

Perhaps in addition to magic items, D&D characters can “fill” those attunement slots with innate abilities of different sorts, essentially the equivalent of a magic item the character can’t easily lose, but also can’t easily swap out for another item. The attunement mechanic also works as a starting point for things like:

  • Tattoos or markings, like Eberron’s dragonmarks or the spellscars from the Spellplague era of the Forgotten Realms.
  • Birthrights that are inherent magical abilities, from gifts from the gods to strange abilities caused by magical “mutation” or an unusual heritage or bloodline, such as some of those from the Birthright setting.
  • Gifts similar to the supernatural gifts from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but replicating a wider range of magic item abilities. These gifts might be granted by higher powers, magical rituals, or performing great deeds, to name a few.

Equivalence and Level. The magical ability should be about the equivalent of a magic item requiring attunement, with its level determined by the magic item’s rarity (as given on the Magic Item Rarity table in the DMG). So a magical ability equal to a ring of regeneration, for example, would be 11th level (for a very rare item).

Drawback. The ability may have a drawback that’s roughly equivalent to the potential of losing a magic item or having it taken away, since the ability is not so limited. For example, a magical ability equivalent to an amulet of the planes (let’s call it “planewalking,” shall we?) has, as an additional disadvantage, that when the Intelligence check made to activate it fails, the ability is also rendered unless until the character completes a long rest. On the other hand, the DM may decide that some magical abilities don’t need an additional drawback, such as the equivalent of boots of elvenkind, giving the character advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks to move silently at all times.

Acquisition. Acquiring the magical ability is largely at the Dungeon Master’s discretion and can be the result of any number of things, from a god’s blessing to the effects of drinking from an enchanted fountain. The ability may have prerequisites, including a minimum character level (based on item rarity) and class or race requirements similar to magic items. Generally, the character’s player should have the option of refusing the ability, in which case, nothing happens (save, perhaps, for offending a potential patron). If the character accepts, the ability “takes root” and fills one of the character’s attunement slots.

Divestment. Similarly, it’s up to the DM whether or not characters can shed or rid themselves of magical abilities. It should be difficult, since that is one of the primary drawbacks of abilities versus magic items, and might involve conditions similar to acquiring the ability, or the use of spells like remove curse to “uncouple” the ability and clear the attunement slot it occupies. Some abilities, like birthrights, might be things you cannot get rid of. Alternately, perhaps you can “overwrite” the ability by attuning a magic item and “filling” its slot, but the ability is no longer available (and might be lost permanently, even if you lose your attunement to the item that replaced it).

Leveling. It’s possibly for magical abilities to “level,” either along with the character, gaining the powers or properties of more effective items as the character grows in level, or filling additional attunement slots, essentially adding the benefits of additional items as the ability grows. This is particularly good for magic item abilities that have multiple levels of rarity and power.

Sample Magical Abilities

Here are just a few potential magical abilities using this concept.

Arcane Aegis

Surrounded by an unseen arcane aegis of protection, you have resistance to force damage and immunity to damage from the magic missile spell. Prerequisite: None.

Chaos Magic

You can call upon powerful, chaotic, magical forces. Use an action to choose a target within 120 feet of you: a creature, object, or even a point in space. Roll d100 an consult the wand of wonder effect table to see what happens. The effect is otherwise like that of a wand of wonder. You can use this ability 1d6 times per day, but the DM rolls each day at dawn and you only know you have expended all of your daily uses when you attempt to invoke your chaos magic and nothing happens. Prerequisite: spellcaster, 5th level.

Dragon Slayer

Any melee weapon you wield against a creature with the dragon type gains a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls and inflicts an extra 3d6 damage of the weapon’s type to the creature. However, true dragons can tell you have this ability by seeing or smelling you with a successful DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check. Prerequisite: 5th level.

Illusory Guise

You can use an action to cast the disguise self spell at will. Prerequisite: None.


You can use an action to make a DC 15 Intelligence check. On a successful check, you cast the plane shift spell. On a failure, you and each creature within 15 feet of you travel to a random destination and you are unable to use this ability until you complete a long rest. Roll d100. On a 1–60, you travel to a random location on the plane you named. On a 61–100, you travel to a randomly determined plane of existence. Prerequisite: 11th level.

Spell Resistance

You have advantage on all saving throws against spells. Prerequisite: 5th level.


You can use a bonus action to activate this ability. When you do, double your walking speed, and any creature that makes an opportunity attack against you has disadvantage on the attack roll. When you have used this ability for a total of 10 minutes, you must complete a long rest in order to use it again. Prerequisite: 5th level.

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.


The Black Art in the Sixth World

> Chummers, check out this latest on some of the deepest and darkest magics on the streets and in the shadows of the Sixth World. This is necromancy, the magic of the dead: of spirits, souls and undead. Take a look, because it explodes some of the popular notions of "the blackest art" and introduces some valuable information you might need the next time a Johnson wants you to collect a handful of graveyard dirt by the dark of the moon. You have been warned.
> Talon

Questions of life and death have long been a focus of metahumanity’s quest for enlightenment. All human cultures have wondered what lies beyond the veil of death, what awaits us on our final journey? Those questions have led to the development of numerous arts that attempt to learn more about the mysteries of death and the dead, to honor the spirits of those who have gone before us and, perhaps, to secure the afterlife or even immortality for those who follow the advice of the people in the know.

The Awakening has done nothing to end the debate on the nature of death and the existence of some kind of life-after-death existence. If anything, it’s only intensified it, creating new ways for metahumanity to explore the questions of life and death and adding fuel to the fire in the form of ghosts, zombies, vampires and the magical arts of necromancy.

Literally, necromancy is the “magic of the dead.” For most modern magical theorists (those who do no scoff at the mere mention of necromancy) the term has been extended to cover a wide and disparate range of magic, from the souls/spirits of living beings to the summoning of the dead to animating corpses and even the investigation of the so-called “undead” and “demons.”

In truth, necromancy is not a “school” of magic or even a branch of magical organization as many think. It is a loosely organized collection of spells, rituals, enchantments and theories having to do with spirits and the dead. The only “necromantic spells” are those that users and armchair magical experts choose to define as such. A manipulation spell is a manipulation, whether it manipulates dead flesh or unliving matter. One is not more “necromantic” than another. Likewise a mana spell that pours damaging energy into a target’s aura is no more “necromantic” than a spell that explodes a ferrocrete wall. The characterization of some spells as “necromantic” is largely a subjective one.

> True, but a subjective judgment has some actual weight in matters of magic. A magician who considers his manabolt to be a means of "shattering a target's soul" can produce some nasty signature effects and lingering traces. Style can be substance sometimes.
> Miss Tick

> This guy dances around the question: are they necromancers or not?
> Raker

> Depends, Raker old son, on what you mean by "necromancer." Are there magicians who are investigating the frontiers of life and death using magic? Yes. Are there magicians who animate corpses? Yes. Are there magicians who seem to be able to summon ghosts? Yes. But if you mean, are there magicians who are skeletal-thin, dress in black robes and live in haunted towers where they perform terrible experiments and have legions of skeletons and zombies as servants, I'm afraid you've been slotting too much kid-trid.
> Silicon Mage

Spirits and Survivals

The primary issues that the necromantic arts concern themselves with is the question of survivals; of life-after-death and the continued existence of the living spirit/soul following the death of the body.

Certainly many have pointed to astral projection as proof of the existence of a “spirit” that can exist apart from the body and some believe that astral forms are the souls of the living beings they represent.

> What jetwash. Astral projection proves absolutely nothing about the existence of the soul. It could just as easily be a mental projection created by the magician's mind and the whole astral plane a kind of veridical hallucination. Once the body dies, the astral body doesn't last long.
> Magister

> Yes, but the fact that the astral form can outlive the body at all is an interesting factoid about the nature of the spirit and astral space, no?
> Druid Lass

The most common manifestation of potential survival-phenomena is that of ghosts (larva valida), a class of spirits that are believed to be the remnants of a dead person. Whether or not the ghost is actually the spirit of the deceased bound to the material plane or an “astral echo” created by an especially traumatic death is still hotly debated by magical theoreticians and parazoologists.

It’s a well-established magical theory that strong emotions can leave a lasting “impression” on the local fabric of astral space. The strength, intensity and duration of the emotions relate directly to how long the emotional “imprint” is retained by a particular place or object. This background count can take the form of a lingering emotional presence, like a sound echoing through a canyon or a scent lingering in a room.

It is speculated that certain extraordinary cases of death-trauma can create a powerful astral impression, an “echo” that mimics many of the characteristics of the deceased at the moment of death, and that it is these lingering astral impressions that form the basis of many types of ghost phenomena.

> This theory denies the existence of the (meta)human soul and diminishes us in ways I can't even begin to describe. Magic should be a humanizing force in the world, not another tool of those soulless corporate bastards!
> Mr. X

> Whoa! Damp down, X. The "astral echo" theory doesn't say one way or another if people have souls. It just assumes that, if they do, they don't hang around on the astral plane after death. It's quite possible that we all do have souls (well, most of us <grin>) but that the soul goes on to its Final Reward (or whatever) while an "astral echo" lingers behind as a ghost. The two are not mutually incompatible.
> Blackstone

The majority of ghostly phenomena seem to take the form of lingering impressions, sometimes accompanied by strong emotional presences and even visual or other sensory impressions. Witnesses may see a ghostly image of the deceased, hear whispering voices or feel sensations of cold or even a phantom touch. All of these can be interpreted as sensory experiences of the unusual astral impressions.

Most ghosts seem to be “automatic” in a fashion, the manifestation always produces the same impressions or the same images over and over again. Many famous ghosts appear and act out the same events like clockwork and have become attractions for the curious and those interested in learning more about ghostly phenomena. It appears that these images are nothing more than mindless automatons, acting out the same events over and over.

> Or tormented souls doomed to re-enact events from their lives over and over for eternity.
> Mr. X

Some ghosts, on the other hand, exhibit qualities more like other spirits and astral entities. These ghosts are able to manipulate mana to produce magical effects and they appear to have intelligence and wills of their own. Some of these “specters” (as they have been dubbed) have considerable powers equal to those of an elemental, nature spirit or other independent astral entity. Some are even speculated to be as powerful as free-willed spirits.

There have been many cases of astral entities appearing in different metahuman forms. Common nature spirits (particularly Spirits of Man) can assume humanoid forms, as can elementals, although these forms are typically imperfect and not likely to be confused with a real person.

Other spirits, like the Brocken Bow, Man-of-the-Woods, Wraith or loa travail of Voudoun appear in very human-like forms and, in some cases, act like classical ghosts would be expected to, but whether or not these spirits are actually metahuman spirits that return to the etheric plane or spirits that look (meta)human remains a mystery.

Most ghosts, specters and similar spirits can be banished with the appropriate rites and rituals, just as other spirits can be. Some of these spirits exhibit unusually strong ties to the material plane and are difficult to exorcise.

> That's for sure. Many ghosts and specters are tied to some particular place or object that seems to serve as an "anchor" for them on this plane. As long as their anchor remains intact, they're damned near impossible to banish. The anchor first has to be destroyed or, in some cases, cleansed of the psychic impressions of the ghost, for the spirit to be sent away. I know some magical consultants who specialize in this kind of "ghost busting" for ornery spirits.
> Golddigger

> Ghosts are often an occupational hazard of shadowrunning. In addition to the possibility of having a mage whose body you've geeked come at you an hour or two later in astral form looking for revenge, there are some long-term ghost problems, too. I know of some runners who ended up going against this Yakuza kobun who was out the avenge his brother's death on a rival oyabun. They greased the kobun but it seems that his desire for revenge wasn't going to be kept down by death. When the oyabun turned up dead, the runners were the first suspects and the gumi had them killed in retaliation, but there are some people who think that the kobun's ghost came to finish the job he started.
> Yoshi

> What a load of drek. I know the dust-up you're talking about and it wasn't no fraggin spook who did the oyabun. Those runners got greedy and stupid and they paid for it. Evolution in action, plain and simple.
> D-Con

> Don't think the Yakuza clan agrees with you, D-Con. Buzz out on the streets is that they're looking to hire some more runners with a little more than average magical muscle for a very hush-hush job. Naturally their rep for working with runners is in the drekker right now, but it sounds to me like there's some ghost-hunting work out there.
> Walker

The Undead

In addition to ghosts and specters as examples of survivals are often lumped the various “undead” such as zombies, vampires and ghouls.

Unfortunately, zombies are generally little more than corpses animated through the power of magic, no more alive than a table made to walk through the power of a spell or a statue inhabited and animated by a familiar spirit. Such “undead” are little more than fleshy puppets of the magician that created them.

> Not entirely accurate. Some zombies are just puppets animated through manipulation spells and drek like that, but there are others the come out of the Voudoun of the islands and New Orleans area that are different. Some of them are animated by spirits summoned by the houngan, and who's to say that those spirits are the original ones who inhabited those bodies before they died? Not a pleasant thought.
> Decker del Sur

As for vampires and other so-called “undead” they are merely the victims of old world mythology applied to the Sixth World. Vampires, ghouls and others are metahumans infected with strains of the Human-Metahuman Vampiric Virus (HMHVV) a retrovirus that alters the genetics of its host, providing them with various magical abilities and the need to feed on the energy of other living beings to survive. These altered metahumans feed directly on life-energy through some medium such as flesh or blood to sustain them.

Vampires and their related kin are no more dead than anyone else. They are victims of a disease whose cause and cure have yet to be unraveled.

> That depends on your definition of "dead." Yeah, vampires and banshees can walk around, think, talk and do most of the other things that you or I can, but they can't reproduce and they can only survive by draining living essence from other beings. Without it, they slowly waste away. Sounds mighty undead to me.
> Jaxom

> Maybe so, but we have to feed on other life to survive too, chummer. We eat living things as food and we starve to dead if we don't eat just the same. Sounds to me like we're more alike than not.
> Gardener

> Where do ghouls fit into the equation? I thought they were a metahuman race?
> Hart

> That's a good question that's looking for an answer. Originally, it was believed that ghouls were a meta-human race like orks or trolls, who goblinized around the same time. More recently, it looks like ghouls are able to make otherwise normal humans become ghouls by infecting them with a strain of HMHVV. Some scientists are guessing that the original ghouls might have simply been humans with a dormant HMHVV retrovirus in their DNA. When the magic came back, the virus re-activated and people with a strong enough concentration of it became ghouls with the ability to infect other people. Because the transformation looked a lot like Goblinization, people figured that ghouls were metas like orks and trolls.
> Doc

> Right idea, Doc. Now take it to its logical conclusion. If ghouls are actually the result of a virus, couldn't it be that orks and trolls are, too? In fact, isn't it possible that all metahumans are the result of some kind of genetic virus and that our governments have know that fact all along and kept the information from us? What do you say to that?
> Buzz

> I'm not sure I should dignify such Humanis trash with an answer, Buzz, but to stay rational about it, metahumans have displayed no retroviral characteristics and clearly do not have the ability to infect humans like vampires and ghouls do. Medical science has long-since established that metahumanity is not a "disease" nor is it transmittable.
> Doc

Returning to Life

One thing that we cannot currently know for certain is what lies on the other side of the gulf that separates life and death. Although our abilities, both magical and technological, to stave off death have increased dramatically, we are still mortal and there is nothing that will keep death at bay forever.

> Speak for yourself, old man.
> A-mortal

One means we do have of gaining some information about the hereafter is through near-death experiences (NDEs) that have been reported. Thousands of NDE cases have been documented over the years and modern magical theory is expanding the frontiers of investigations in near-death experience.

Interestingly enough, reports of NDE strongly resemble metaplanar and astral projection experiences reported by magicians, leading to the possibility of a connection between the astral and the experience of those undergoing a NDE.

> Duh. That's because the astral is the realm of Spirit. In the distant depths of the spirit world are the Summerlands where our spirits go after death to await reincarnation to begin the wheel of life anew.
> Sereena

> Not that Elven drek again.
> Thorn

> Not elven, chummer, neo-pagan. Sorry to say that there's no definitive proof that the Summerlands, Heaven, Hell, Tartarus or the Happy Hunting Grounds are out there among the metaplanes. There are certainly magicians who have visited places like these and more on astral quests, but who can say for sure what they really are? Are they the realms of the afterlife or simply projections of our beliefs on the astral? Both? Neither?
> Miss Tick

Despite its considerable power to restore health and vigor to the injured and ill, magic is still not able to break the barrier of death and cannot be used to restore life to those who have died.

> At least, not yet. And of course the definition of "dead" can be a bit flexible. No life signs doesn't necessarily mean that you're done these days and a good combo of magic and tech can still bring you back more often than not.
> Spook

Goetia and Demons

Calling demons from ancient texts has been a work of many magicians since long before the Awakening. Since magic has come more into the public eye certain aspects of the Art, like the summoning of demons, has fallen by the wayside or been pushed into a dark closet where it is never talked about. Magical theoreticians talk long and loud about how there are no such things as demons to be summoned, as if their voices could drown out their own fears and concerns about the truth.

The truth is that some spirits like those found in different goetic texts have been summoned by magicians, and these spirits often have many of the abilities they are fabled to have, but they are also of keen intelligence and cunning. Calling upon the spirit of a “demon” is riding a magical tiger that can well devour the magician who summons it. Little wonder that the magical community wants to keep such things under wraps.

> Such so-called "demons" are nothing more than free spirits with a sense of humor and some knowledge of goetia. They appear in forms like the Dukes of Hell and their courts because it amuses them and strikes fear into superstitious mortals.
> Lyaster

> I'm not so sure. Such demons may indeed be free spirits-they are bound by their True Names in the same manner- but who is to say that they aren't really creatures of Hell or some similar astral realm? After all, plenty of magical lore proved true after the Awakening. Why not demons?
> Aethyr-smith

> That's just the kind of talk that the academics and the spin-doctors are afraid of. Start telling the mundos you're summoning "demons" and they'll be burning crosses on your lawn as a warm-up to burning you. Frag, it took years to convince most people that fraggin fire elementals and drek weren't creatures from Hell.
> Garnet

> Putting aside whether or not they are the genuine article, there are definitely freebies out there that play the demon's part. They appear in forms from the harmless to the hideous, and offer magicians deals involving the spirit's service in exchange for something. Usually it's rituals and rites that the magician has to invest in to increase the spirit's power. Then the spirit increases his, etc. This cycle can be mutually beneficial, so long as neither side tries to renege on the deal. Some mages also try to simply bind these freebies to their will as slaves. They get a powerful spirit-servant, but bound freebies are treacherous critters, always looking for a way out. Preferably one that involves a slow, painful death for their former master.
> Blackstone

> Dabbling in the summoning of demons is not recommended for living a long and sane life. Magicians who go this route sooner or later end up dead themselves or totally of their rocker, little more than creatures to be hunted down and destroyed by other practitioners of the Art.
> Westwood

Game Information

Gamemasters who want to introduce some different, darker spins on magic in their Shadowrun campaigns can try some of the ideas mentioned in this article to put necromancers and necromantic magic on the streets of the Sixth World.


An anchor is a physical object that holds a ghost or specter in the etheric plane near the physical world. Often it is some item that had strong emotional significance to the ghost in life. A magician who holds a ghost’s anchor can attempt to banish it. Ghost’s with anchors cannot be banished otherwise: their anchor holds them too firmly to this plane. The concept of Fetters from White Wolf’s Wraith: the Oblivion, is similar and can provide additional inspiration.

Specters are ghosts that have paranormal powers that can affect the physical world. They can be treated in much the same way as other spirits; they have a Force, which is used to determine their abilities, and they have various critter powers at their disposal. Powerful ghosts can be considered free spirits, with some of those powers, especially the Hidden Life power connected to a particular anchor of the ghost’s. They can also be summoned and bound, like free spirits, by someone who knows their True Name and/or possesses their anchor.

It remains unknown whether or not specters are actually the spirits of the dead or simply astral shadows molded in their image by powerful emotional impressions. In truth, it may be impossible to know for sure either way.


Like toxic shamans twist and pervert the way of their totem, necromancers are mages who have gone the route of corruption and power for its own sake. Not all who study the Black Art become evil and corrupt, but those who practice it for too long are subject to falling into a darkness of the spirit that never lifts.

Like other Magical Threats, necromancers can be given a Potency Rating that measures the additional power their twisted magical perceptions grant them. The Potency Rating is added directly to the necromancer’s Magical Threat Rating for determining their power level. Certain obscure rites and rituals can increase Potency, and necromancers will pursue those goals. Thwarting a necromancer can reduce Potency.

Essence Draining

A metamagical technique similar to the vampiric power. It allows a magician to tap into and drain a living being of its Essence to increase the magician’s own life-force.

The potential victim must be in an excited emotional state (terror, lust, anger, etc.) and in physical contact with the magician for the ability to work. Initiating an Essence drain requires at least 30 seconds (10 Combat Turns). The magician uses the Sorcery skill and makes a test against the victim’s Willpower. A single success is enough to begin the process of draining Essence.

The magician can drain as many Essence points as the victim has at a rate of 1 point per minute of contact. The Essence loss is permanent for the victim. The magician then adds the stolen essence to his own, up to a maximum of 12 points of Essence.

The side-effect of this Essence drain destabilizes the user’s own Essence. It begins to “bleed” away, causing the user to suffer from Essence Loss immediately after using the technique for the first time. This causes a permanent alteration in the user’s aura. They must now steal Essence in order to survive, like a vampire. On the up side, the Essence-drainer gains the critter powers of Immunity to Age, Immunity to Pathogens and Immunity to Toxins. So long as he continues to drain Essence, the magician is effectively immortal. Essence-drainers do not gain any of the other abilities of vampires, although they are similar. But they do not have any of a vampire’s traditional weaknesses to wood or sunlight, either.

Any magician can potentially learn how to Essence drain, but the technique is extremely rare and most magical paths consider it forbidden knowledge that is best left alone. Once an initiate steps onto the path of draining the life-force from others, there is no turning back.


Whether or not “real” demons exist in the Sixth World is up to individual gamemasters, but there can still be spirits in Shadowrun that are the functional equivalent of the demons of magical lore.

Demons are basically Shadow free spirits that are reflections of the dark side of humanity and human nature. These spirits take forms out of myth and legend much like demons and they are demons in nearly all practical ways.

These spirits can be summoned like other free spirit, using their true names to bind them to service. Some magicians use ancient texts and names of demons written down by occultists centuries ago to try and call something to their wills. Some of them even succeed, although they often find that the Names they have used do not bind the spirit like they thought they did. Some shadow-spirits even allow foolish magicians or mundanes to think that they are bound to them when in fact the spirits choose to serve their “masters” for reasons of their own.

Other magicians will try and bargain with a shadow-spirit in exchange for its service. The coin of the realm with shadows is generally Karma that the spirit can use to increase its power, but sometimes shadows will desire other things from supplicants. Some can even teach initiates the secrets of Essence Draining (above) and will take a “cut” of the Essence stolen from the magician, converting it into an equal amount of Karma for themselves. Other shadows have goals and desires that can only be barely comprehended by sane (meta)humans and demand payments that seem to have no logical purpose.

In addition to free spirits, there seem to be other things in the depths of the metaplanes. Spirits like Tutor from the Threats sourcebook, are prime examples of “demonic” spirits.

There are also deadly spirits that feed on living Essence and other things of the material world: the mysterious Enemy. These dark spirits are powerful beyond that of nearly any Shadowrun free spirit and they are best used as puppet-masters or background elements if they are used at all. Gamemasters familiar with the Earthdawn setting can adapt some of the Horrors from that game for Shadowrun, but even the least of the Horrors would likely annihilate a group of shadowrunners, so they are best used only in high-powered games or campaigns that are looking to create a feeling of hopeless terror, a la Call of Cthulhu.

Given here are a couple of sample “demon” free spirits for gamemaster to use in their campaigns:

The King of Pain

The King of Pain is a strange spirit that manifests as a tall figure covered in a dark, tattered and shapeless hooded robe. From beneath the robe protrude many different metallic probes and blades, all wickedly sharp and barbed, many attached to pulsating flesh or dripping blood or ichor. It speaks in a terrible whisper and carries and odor like a charnel house with it. In short, it’s just as many imagine a demon might be.

The spirit seems to have its own agenda and dislikes being summoned. It always appears to the call of it’s True Name, but it is difficult to bind (having a very high Force). It often bargains with summoners and offers them magical knowledge or power in exchange for service (and Karma). The spirit’s followers may have infiltrated many existing magical groups and orders, giving the King of Pain extensive influence in the magical world.


Mordel appears to be a fairly harmless creature, which is an often fatal misconception by those who see him. The spirit appears as a small, demonic imp: childlike body and features with reddish skin, small horns and a barbed tail. His voice and laugh are high-pitched and malevolent, but almost too comical to be threatening.

Mordel prefers to play the part of the “demonic servant” and appears at the summons of a magician to obey his “master’s” wishes. Usually Mordel does his best to draw out the most depraved and hidden desires of his masters and then fulfills them, usually in exchange for Karma that he himself can use. Those who believe they are in control of Mordel quickly become totally dependent on the little demon for advice and assistance. Eventually Mordel tires of the game and abandons his former master and leaves them to the mercy of the authorities or their angry victims and goes off seeking another “master” to serve.

Magic in the Shadows Miscellany

The following are some bits and pieces that were thought up for Magic in the Shadows, but never included in the book. Feel free to use them in your own Shadowrun games, but keep in mind that these ideas were never playtested and should not be considered “official.”

Adept Powers

New adept powers.


Cost: See below

A knack is a magical power similar to an inhierent spell or critter power possessed by the physical adept. It is treated as a normal spell, known by the adept at a Force equal to the level of the Knack. No Knack can have a level above the adept’s Magic rating. The adept uses the Knack normally just the original spell with the sole exception that the adept does not suffer Drain for the use of the Knack; the grounding of the power into the adept’s physical body is more controlled and permanent, and so causes no Drain. Knacks based on Sustained spells may be sustained by the adept following the normal rules for sustaining spells (+2 to all target numbers for each Knack the adept is sustaining).

The cost of the knack is based on the Drain Code of the spell, as given on the table below. Note, for the purpose of this power the Personal modifier does not apply, although the Voluntary Subject modifier may. Spells usable on Voluntary Subjects may only be used on the adept himself. Spells not requiring a voluntary subject may be used on any viable target, subject to the normal Spellcasting rules and using the Knack’s level as its Force for the Spell Success Test.

 Spell Drain

Cost per level









Example: Wind-Walker wishes to buy the Invisibility spell as a Knack. Invisibility has a Drain Code of M, so the Knack costs .5 Power Points per level. Wind-Walker pays 2 points to have the Knack at level 4. When he wishes to do so, using a Complex Action, he may make a Spell Success Test with his 4 dice to make himself (but not anyone else) invisible. Twice the number of Wind-Walker’s successes become the base TN to detect him while invisible.

Example: Fenris wants a Critter Form Knack that allows him to assume the form of his totem animal, Wolf. Critter Form has a Drain Code of +2M, so the Knack costs .5 Power Points per level. Fenris pays 3 points to have the Knack at level 6. Like the spell, he increases the Physical Attributes of his wolf form by 1 for every two successes rolled on his Critter Form Test.

Mystic Blade

Cost: 1

This power works like Killing Hands, except it requires a bladed weapon. The weapon does its normal damage, but it is treated as a magical weapon for damaging spirits and other critters with Immunity to Normal Weapons or Regeneration. The adept can also use the weapon in astral combat.

Metamagical Techniques

New metamagical techniques for initiates.


Many magical theorists believe the metaplanes are tied to the minds of metahumanity via the Universal Unconscious or some similar medium. The metamagical technique of Dreaming seems to support this idea. It allows an initiate to use astral projection to enter the dreams of others, observing, influencing and even acting through them.

In order to use Dreaming on a particular subject, that person must be asleep and dreaming. The initiate must begin projecting onto the metaplanes within physical sight or the subject. Otherwise, the initiate must have a material link and make a Sorcery Test to establish a link to the subject. Use the normal Ritual Sorcery rules for this test.

The initiate astrally projects onto the metaplanes. Once past the Dweller on the Threshold, the initiate undergoes an Astral Quest with a rating equal to the subject’s Willpower or Magic, whichever is higher. This Quest takes no time in the physical world. Upon reaching the Citadel, the initiate can enter the subject’s dreams.

A dream-world is much like a Place on a metaplane. It can take any form, subject to the dreamer’s conscious and subconscious mind. The initiate can also take on any form or appearance in the dream, but usually has all normal Physical Attributes and abilities, just like in the real world. The gamemaster has complete control over the “ground rules” for a particular dream world. Literally anything that can be imagined is possible.

The only constant in a dream world is the dreamer, who is always present and possesses whatever abilities the dreamer has in the physical world. The initiate can communicate with the dreamer normally, and the dream will be lucid enough for the dreamer to recall it upon awakening, although they may still thing it was “just a dream.” The initiate can also engage the dreamer in combat, using whatever weapons or abilities the initiate normally has. Physical damage inflicted by the initiate can kill the dreamer if it reaches Deadly, otherwise all such damage vanishes when the dreamer wakes, leaving only faint aches and pains. Deadly Stun damage causes the dreamer to awaken immediately, as if from a nightmare.

Attacks from things in the dream cause normal damage (Physical or Stun) to the initiate. While the dreamer cannot be harmed by anything in the dream, the initiate can be! If the initiate is killed in the dream, he dies in the real world as well. If knocked out (Deadly Stun damage) the initiate’s astral form is distrupted.


This metamagical techique can be used only by initiates capable of astral projection. It allows the initiate to create a material form for the astral body in order to affect the material world in a manner very similar to the Materialization power of certain spirits. Assuming a material form or abandoning it to shift back into astral form requires a Complex Action. There is no Test needed, switching between forms is automatic.

The material body is formed from the stuff of the astral plane and looks like the initiate’s astral form. The material form has Physical Attributes equal to the initiate’s Astral Attributes along with the character’s normal Mental Attributes. Reaction is equal to the character’s Intelligence rating and material forms gain a +10 bonus to Initiative. Additionally, the material form has the power of Immunity to Normal Weapons at a level equal to the initiate’s Grade. This provides twice the Initiate’s Grade in Armor against ranged attacks. Opponents using melee combat roll their Willpower dice to attack a materialized astral form, just like combat against a spirit.

Materializing is extremely fatiging. Each combat turn the initiate maintains a material form, he must resist a Drain Code of (Number of Turns)D. The target number of the Drain Test increases with the number of combat turns the character has been materialized. This Drain is resisted normally using Willpower. If Drain (or anything else) knocks the initiate unconscious, the material form vanishes and the astral form is disrupted. If the materialized form is killed, the initiate’s physical body dies as well.

While in materialized form, the initiate is considered a dual being, like a materialized spirit, able to use Sorcery on any physical or astral target the character can assense. All spells cast in materialized form still cause Physical Drain, just like spells cast in astral space. The material form can be targeted normally by spells from both the physical and astral planes. Spells affect the initiates material form, not his normal physical body, but astral reprecussion causes any damage inflicted on the material form to affect the body as well.

High Magic for SAGA

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.

Spell Casting

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.

Time Chart
1 minute
15 minutes
30 minutes
1 hour
4 hours
8 hours
1 day
3 days
1 week
2 weeks
1 month
1 season
1 year


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.

Range Chart
Near Missile
Far Missile
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.

Area Chart
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.

Sample Spells

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.