RE: a magic taxonomy

From: SÚrgio Mascarenhas (
Date: Fri 03 Oct 1997 - 18:35:28 EEST

Boris proposed A MAGIC TAXONOMY in the digest v5#169.

First I must congratulate Boris for is willingness to bring to us such =
an issue. In fact, I think that we should start discussing in GD the =
future Glorantha RPG system. It would be the best way to ensure that =

Glorantha will have the best system around.

So, here goes my contribution to the question of which magical rules =
should be designed for Glorantha:

        Traditional magic (this is the equivalent of RQ's spirit magic)
        Sorcery (equivalent of RQ sorcery)
        Cults (equivalent of RQ divine magic)

Personnal magic is made with the personnal resources of the magician. =
Alien magic is made with the resources of another entity. In this case =
the magician is the channel for the magical action.

Traditional magic and sorcery are based on the same principles. The =
difference between the two is that traditional magic is the result of =
experience, accident, example and tradition while sorcery is the result =
of rational research (let's say that the first is 'pre-scientific' while =
the second is 'scientific'...).
Inspiration: the Earthsea trilogy by Ursula K. le Guin.
Conclusion: the diference between traditional magic and sorcery is not a =
question of quality but of method.

Alien magic occurs when a person is used or accepts to be used as a ward =
of a magical beeing so that this beeing can perform a magical action.
In the case of divine magic, that beeing is a god. The divine spell is =
performed by the god and it should be done according to the aims and =
whim of the god. The priest or initiate serves only as the vehicle for =
the god in the mundane world. Through sacrifice and prayer the follower =
of the god becomes a permanent 'extension' of the god in the mundane =
In the case of possession the magician can be either controled or =
controler of the spirit that performs the magical act. The magician =
allows that spirit to have an occasional access to the mundane world.=20
Inspirations: the action of saints and prophets in RW midle-east and =
western religions; mediums in spiritism; voodoo.


1. Types of magical actions (and passions)

Traditional Magic Spells =96 these are spells resulting from tradition =
or personnal inspiration. You repeat what others have done or follow a =
subit inspiration on a stressful situation (this is rare and only the =
greatest magicians =96 or, should I say, heroquesters can do it). These =
spells are rather inflexible and vary from culture to culture even if =
they seem similar: a barbarian's Bludgeon is different from a troll's =
Bludgeon and their physical manifestations are different. You have to be =
a troll to understand the mysteries of troll's Bludgeon. How do they =
produce their results? Nobody knows: you don't discuss it, you just do =
Sorcery Spells =96 The principles are the same as on RQ sorcery rules. =
The rational study of magic allowed the sorcerors to understand how =
magic operates and to create a technique and its applications =96 the =
Divine Spells =96 These spells are realy done by the god. In a sense all =
divine spells are Divine Intervention. The follower of the god only =
requests the god's intervention. It is up to the god to decide if he =
conceds the grace or not (it depends on the situation, if the follower =
is in a good standing in the cult and on the god's mysterious =
Channeling =96 these magical actions deal with the comunication with the =
otherworld (spirit and divine planes). It is through channeling that the =
followers of a god alow him to act on the mundane world (divine spells). =
It iis through channeling that shamans interact with spirits. It his =
through channeling that mediums contact spirits. It's here we find =
invocations and telepaty.
Possession =96 this is the magical action connected with making a =
discorporate spirit appear in the mundade world. The mundane spirit must =
possess a thing or a living creature.
Enchantements =96 through enchantments a thing/creature will acquire =
some magical properties it doesn't have.
Rituals =96 rituals are instrumental. They help prepare the best =
conditions to perform other magical actions.
Collective magic =96 sometimes creatures can join their individual =
magical strenghs (or weaknesses) and act as a single entity. Collective =
magic is usualy associated with some sort of ritual.

2. Levels of magical actions
Low level =96 this is a new very basic type of magic less powerfull then =
any of the RQ systems. I would also qualify as low level the usage of RQ =
sorcery spells without any manipulations.
Middle level =96 in RQ terms is the equivalent of spirit magic and =
High level =96 in RQ terms is the equivalent of divine magic or a shaman =
acquiring is fetch.


a) Magical energy
In RQ it is power and magic points. An important point to make is that =
power and magic points are originated in the mundane plane. Neither gods =
or desembodied spirits can generate power or magic points. Only mundane =
creatures do. That's why both gods and otherworld creatures need access =
to the mundane world, usualy through mundane creatures.
My major question is: do we really need power and magic points? IMO be =
don't. Instead of Power we should use Constitution and instead of MP we =
should use Hit Points or Fatigue. Magic is a natural act for mundane =
beeings in Glorantha that should be done based on the same =
characteristics of any other mundane action.

b) Personnality
To do magic a creature must have the right 'personal frame'. Intelect =
would affect the ability to do sorcery since it is a rational act (key =
characteristic: Intelect or Intelligence). When you do spirit magic you =
are inspired by some fact you lived or you acquired when you became part =
of a certain culture so you must have the right feeling or emotional =
state to do it (key characteristic: personnality traits). The follower =
of the god impersonnates the archetype the god represents and is only =
successful in divine magic if it his faithful to his god example (or the =
saints and prophets of the god).

c) Sacrifice
To do magic you must do a personnal sacrifice. Different levels of magic =
require different types of sacrifices:
The most simple requires the sacrife of fatigue: you get tired doing it.
At an intermediate level you would do magic by hurting yourself =
sacrificing hit points (here you would find the equivalent of RQ's =
spirit and sorcery spells).
The most powerful magic would require the sacrifice of constitution =96 =
or other characteristics (the RQ example would be divine spells).
Spells can be one use or reusable. If they're reusable, there is a =
sacrifice to learn a spell and a sacrifice to use the spell and the rule =
is that if you do a sacrifice of a certain level to learn a spell, you =
do a sacrifice of the level below to use the spell: You sacrifice =
fatigue to learn 'small magic' and spend nothing to use it; you =
sacrifice hit points to learn 'spirit magic' and 'sorcery' but you spend =
fatigue to use it; you sacrifice characteristic points to learn 'divine =
magic' and sacrifice hit points to use it (BTW, if the god is a good god =
and decides to listen to your prayer and to do the spell, he will also =
cure the HP you've lost). If they're one use, if use the spell and do it =
in a single action you do the sacrifice required for learning; if learn =
it and use it in a different moment you have to do the two sacrifices =
(for learning and for usage).
Unlike in RQ, you could find the three levels in any of the possible =
magic systems: shamanic, sorcery, divine,etc.

d) Mind state
Each magical action requires a particular mind state: for instance, you =
couldn't do a Bladesharp unless you were fighting or in a rage. Of =
course, through the apropriate ceremony you can create that mind =

- -------------------

Tomorrow I will continue presenting my proposals for a new magic system. =
Issues to be discussed:
Magic learning / acquisition
The Magical Self
Collective Magic
Magic Systems

Best regards,

Sergio Mascarenhas


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