Thursday, February 11, 2010

Elric Explored - Part 5: Magic

I think this will be the last in my series before tackling the other side of the formula for my Icosa setting: Cthulhu. Magic in the Elric saga touches back on many of the previous parts of this exploration, but I wanted to give it it's own space to work through some ideas.

I've already spoken of the types of magic that result from summoning of elementals and other entities. This could be seen as channeling energy from other planes. In the Elric saga this is an exhausting task. The albino is not the only one who must rest after casting difficult spells. I'm not proposing any new systems here, I think the limit on spell casting is enough of a mechanic.

I still want to have 'regular' spell casting. The idea of learning ancient magic from dusty tomes fits right in. So I turned my attention to what is magic in general. Channeled energy is one form (which could work for clerical spells as well), but I want magic to be a force unto itself. I think magic will be Chaotic energy. Each spell is a formula master for directing Chaotic energy to perform a specific function. This seems to work well with the Vancian magic system of old school fantasy. Spells are limited by level because you can only hold so many in your mind at a time. As you progress in experience (levels) you are able to contain more spells including ones of a more powerful sort.

Spring-boarding off this idea I look back at my ancient civilizations and forward to Cthulhu. There will exist magic that is unlike anything currently in practice. These ancient spells could pose great danger to the caster (attribute/hit point loss) not to mention those around him - these spell are 'more' chaotic, if I can use that term. Gaining these spells will be the stuff of adventures. I think there will be spells of all levels that fall into this category, but more as you raise up in levels as well. This will require some research and play. I'm fortunate that S&W starts with a small list of spells, that it is easier to add on, rather than have to whittle away or reorganize a large list.

Another area that falls under the subject of magic are items of a magical nature. There are very few items in Elric that can be viewed from the traditional RPG sense as 'magic items'. Of course there is Elric's demon sword, Stormbringer as well as his Ring of Kings. But not much else. There was one mention of a suit of armor that was enspelled. This could have been a magical effect, like Mage Armor; I'm willing to go with that.

However, there were mention of items with a long history. For example, Elric starts out with the sword of Earl Aubec. We get a treat in the stories to go back in time to see Aubec use his sword. So what I'm proposing, is that most items of a magical nature are in fact items wielded by great historic icons. By being used in this way and passed down, they take on a magical quality over long periods of time. Most items in S&W are only +1 and that seems to fit. This also means that these 'named' items will have a history to them. adding to the depth of the world and setting. More work for me, but it's a lot of fun.

So this will bring the exploration of Elric to a close, even though I haven't finished the series as yet. I'll be turning my attention to the Cthulhu mythos soon.

Follow Your Bliss,


  1. Take the opportunity and build up magic as being magical. A +1 sword IS a big deal, and should be sold as such. The plus needs to secondary to the artifact. Same thing with spells - even a 1st level spell is amazing! Especially when you contrast against the ancient, bizarre and maddening magic of the Mythos, the (low-level) "normal" magic that characters will wield and encounter should be all the more appealing for its stability.

  2. Good points. The setting is all still vague in my head and only now starting to coalesce. I do _not_ want to sell anything short, so this is good advice to keep in the back of my mind.

    I have to keep reminding myself of the scale of this game. It is a very human scale which will nicely juxtapose against the larger backdrop.

    At the same time it is also a spectrum. The characters are the exception to the rule and much more powerful that the majority of the population eeking out their small lives. The characters are caught between the two extremes.

  3. I like that distinction; the PCs should be heroes! But part of the OS paradigm is the zero-to-hero gauntlet - use that to grow both your PCs, and your world (with all the mechanical and story elements that implies).

  4. Yes, the farmboy-to-king approach. That journey to fame is a long road and I like the idea of the world growing along with it; like Earl Aubec pushing back the borders of Chaos.