New takes on Magic, Shannon's comments

From: Chris Bell (
Date: Sun 19 Oct 1997 - 10:55:13 EEST

The recent discussion on magic systems and the new game systems seems to
dovetail nicely, and I'm enjoying it much. I've just done a write-up of a
personal magic system based off of Snady's Sorcery's rules. It's still
quite rough, being more of a set of house rules than anything else, but I
think it comes pretty close to how magic is represented in the Gloranthan

I basically work off the premise that there's no mechanical difference
between low-level sorcery (the spells in the West that are taught to
Dromars/Peasants and Holars/Knights) and what cult initiates in Central
Genertela use, while in the actual game setting the spells have wildly
differing sources and appearances while accomplishing the same function.
Thus, a weapons-blessing spell used by a Rokari knight may be the logical
equation for lawful warfare as taught by Hrestol, while a faithful
Yelmaion may recite the Guided Spear prayer to the Star Captains, but both
are Bladesharp (or an equivalent effect.) The same goes for personal
magic learned from Shamanic cultures as well... IMO, Gloranthan Magic is
really broken down into two types, for game purposes - Personal Magic,
which comes from the soul and knowledge of the caster (in RQ3 terms, this
is both Spirit Magic and Sorcery) and God Magic, which is granted to or
taken by the user via God Cults or HeroQuest from godly entities or
spirits (this is RQ3 Divine Magic.) Here I make a difference between
personal/low magic which is taught by cults (such as what would be cult
spirit magic in standard RQ3) and actual God Power which is granted in the
form of RQ3 cult Rune Magic (which seems to be an actual portion of the
deity's power granted to a mortal worhsipper, as opposed to knowledge
granted to a worshipper and powered by the worshipper's own soul force.)
It seems to me that aside from cult rituals and doctrine, no special
knowledge is needed to use God Power in Glorantha. This accounts for the
ease and proliferation of Divine Cults in Glorantha, as it's most likely
far easier to train a Priest than a Sorcerer or a Shaman, and the majority
of a Priestly training is concerned with getting the Rune Magic/God Power
and emulating the skills and behavior of the god in question, as opposed
to learning how the power actually works. "How does it work? It's the
power of Lodril, you fool! Don't question it, like some soulless God

Shamanism in Glorantha often combines the two above types of magic, as
Gloranthan Shamans use both personal magic (spells powered by themselves),
and God Power (Magic directly given to the Shaman in the same manner as
other god worshippers.) Most Gloranthan shamans are also members of
Shaman cults, and those who aren't usually join small Spirit Cults for
short lengths of time, in order to get specialty magic from local spirits.

Thus, I use Sandy's concept of Presence, where most adult members of
Gloranthan society take the equivalent of the High Vow (represented by
cult initiation rites, adulthood rites in tribal cultures, and coming of
age ceremonies for the appropriate caste in Malkioni cultures.) These
characters get an amount of Presence equal to (INT+POW) - 20. This
usually results in average members of society having a Presence of 2 to 4,
assuming average INT and POW of 11 to 12. This means that spells won't be
too large (Intensity 4 at most) and can handle the typical farmers needs.
I'm more strict on spell manipulation for non-professional magicians,
usually only allowing skill/20 manipulation for cult spells (That means if
you want that Bladesharp to be at 4 points, you better be an expert) and
non-cult spells at Skill/25. Certain spells may be allowed to be cast at
skill/15, for cult speciality spells (Heal for Chalana Arroy, for
example.) For my rules, I translated all non-variable Spirit Magic spells
to variable versions. In my rules, all Apprentice Sorcerers, Assistant
Shamans and Cult Initiates are considered to have taken their culture's
adulthood rites, which grant the (INT+POW)-20 PRE. I consider PRE to be a
person's connection to the Otherworld, while POW is their strength in
actually manipulating the Otherworld's energy's. The only Personal Magic
"Art" available is Intensity, which is gained by invoking your culture's
Art Patron and sacrificing 1 POW, similar to how Patron Saints are invoked
in Sandy's Sorcery rules. For Malkioni, it would indeed be Malkion. For
Shamanic Cultures, it would be Horned Man (who could conceivably visit new
adults, showing them the basic secrets of Magic), or one of the various
tribal deities, while the God in Question shows the secrets of how to
manipulate the cult's magic in a divine cult (in my rules, this is the
role that the Red Goddess takes in lunar cults, teaching those who follow
the Lunar Way the first secrets of magic, while specific powers are
granted by other Lunar deities.)

Magic "professionals", such as cult Acolytes and Priests, full Shamans and
Journeyman Sorcerers get to take the Vessel vow, which grants additional
Presence equlal to free INT, as detailed in Sandy's rules. Apprentice
Sorcerers and Assiatant Shamans would be able to gain additional personal
low magic "Arts", invoking the appropriate arts patron for their
cult/culture. Shamans are only able to get Range, Ease, Speed in addition
to Intensity (from a rules POV, I do this because Shamans don't have the
benefit of as powerful Rune Magic as Priests do, although their personal
magic shouldn't be as powerful as Sorcerers'.) Acolytes and Priests get
no arts, but benefit from the better spell manipulation and increased
presence as Shamans and Sorcerers do. Sorcerers of course get access to
all the Arts, either by study or Invocation, and the best spell
manipulation possible, as per Sandy's rules. Priests get skill/10 for
cult magic and skill/20 for non-cult magic, as Shaman's get the same for
their cult magic (if the have any), or skill/10 for spells that
specifically deal with spirits, skill/15 for other spells. Sorcerers get
skill/10 for all spells, unless they're specialists, as according to
Sandy's rules (magic IS what Sorcerers do best.)

I'll be done editing them and typing them up in about a week. Anyone who
wants a copy, please e-mail me and I'll be more than happy to oblige.
They haven't been playtested as of yet, so anyone who wants to take a stab
at it, just ask. And, as always, the majority of credit goes to Snady
Petersen, since these are merely a variant of his Sorcery rules.


Chris Bell


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