You Can Do Magic

By | June 22, 2013

Magic is not limited to those who pore over dusty tomes. Any character in the Infinite Earths Roleplaying Game can tap into magical forces in a variety of ways.

Players combine Fighting Style, Vocation and Persona to make their own personalized class during character creation. Four Fighting Styles use Mana to power magical attacks in combat: the Battlecaster, who combines martial skill with magical might; the Mystic, who uses the natural elements already present on the battlefield for zone control; the Summoner, who draws fantastic creatures into battle by his side, and the Wizard, the classic enrobed spellslinger. Multiple Vocations offer Players the opportunity to shape magical energies through skills to craft rituals (Ritualist), potions (Alchemist), trinkets and magical arms and armor (Enchanter). The Persona role, which governs social interaction, is the only role that does not contain innately magical abilities (though that hasn’t stopped some playtesters from describing their charming demeanors as … well, charms).

Players can combine the three roles however they wish, allowing for a wide range of magical and nonmagical options. But a single Character cannot master all forms of magic in Infinite Earths to maintain different flavors for different spellcasters.  One of our major considerations in developing the magic system has been ensuring that there is no “single way to play,” which would offer players the illusion of choice but would in fact just be trapping them into weaker power levels.

Here are a few examples of how roles can be combined in different ways to make different types of magical Characters:

  • Warrior-Ritualist:  Two-handed weapon user who casts long rituals to communicate with the great beyond, scry, teleport or use other powerful magic.
  • Summoner-Clergy:  Church leader who can call on angels or demons in combat, depending on the nature of worship.
  • Wizard-Scholar:  The classic sage, a Knowledge seeker who wields arcane power and draws the elements down to destroy enemies.
  • Guardian-Alchemist:  Sword-and-shield fighter who brews potions, oils, elixirs or even poisons to give an edge in battle.
  • Battlecaster-Crafter:  Crafts weapons and uses those weapons to channel magic, delivering spells and bypassing opponents’ magical defenses.
  • Dervish-Enchanter:  Two-weapon fighter who enchants a variety of weapons with different magic to ensure the right weapon for the right opponent is always at hand.

But in Infinite Earths, Fighting Style and Vocation are not the only gateways into magic. Let’s also focus on some magical abilities any Player Character can gain regardless of their Fighting Style and Vocation.

The first is a Talent available to anyone: Cantrip. This allows the character to manipulate magical forces without spending Mana or any other resource other than the time taken to invoke the effect (a Minor Action to cast Cantrip and a Swift Action to maintain it).

Cantrip cannot do harm to anyone or anything. Cantrip cannot do anything that would allow a Body Resist or Mind Resist roll to avoid or diminish. In fact, the use of Cantrip can never affect a die roll in any way. But that doesn’t mean Cantrip is weak.

What can be done? Conjure a non-burning light. Snag the keys to a jail cell from a hook on the wall using telekinesis. Animate a knife and fork to feed you while you read a book. Call forth a translucent illusion to spook animals. Muffle the sounds of your armored friend trying to be sneaky. Turn the duke’s treacherous whispers into a sound loud enough for everyone in the royal court to hear.

In short, Cantrip covers most of the minor magical effects that would spelled out over numerous pages in a more overparticular set of rules. Another similar Talent is Magesense, which allows a character who stops and concentrates the ability to detect the power and presence of magical auras even through walls. And I would be remiss in not mentioning that, like Vlad Taltos, otherwise non-magical characters can have a Familiar who can offer them advice and act as remote agents.  These familiars communicate telepathically with their masters, and can be upgraded with the Eye of Omens, which allows their master to see through their eyes, along with other Familiar-specific Talents.

While the rules include magic in many shapes and forms, there is no distinction drawn between arcane and divine magics. Mechanically, magic is magic; it is the trappings surrounding the mechanics which give it flavor. And the devout and the pious have access to magical abilities that others do not.

Any character who chooses to be a member of a religious faith and follow the doctrines of that faith can take a Religion Talent. The specifics of each faith and doctrine are left to the Guide and to the Setting, and violations of faith and doctrine are tracked as part of a character’s Renowns. Thus, if a character consistently behaves in a way that violates the doctrines of faith, new options are opened. That character can choose to replace any Religion Talents with new Talents or, alternately, can choose to worship a different god with more palatable doctrines.

So why be religious? Let’s have a look:

Bear the Burden is a Religion Talent that allows a character to remove a detrimental effect from a fellow member of his faith by magically taking that burden on himself.

For example, one character’s feet have been frozen in place by a Wizard’s attack. Another character asks his god to free his fellow worshipper in exchange for freezing him in place instead. The duration of the transferred effect is unchanged.

Some Religion Talents give special abilities that only work on Holy or Unholy creatures (the choice often being tied to the faith in question). One example is Exorcise, which allows the Player to maximize all damage rolls against Unholy creatures. This can be a bit of a trade off, since a maximized attack does not allow the Player to explode damage dice.

Then there is the ultimate religious Talent, Prayer, which I will reproduce here in its entirety:

Prayer (Religion Talent)

You see the bandits sweeping down upon your village, their axes held high, their bellowing war-calls echoing over the cries of the townsfolk.

You clutch your holy symbol in your hand and pray.

As the bandits cross the bridge into town, the ancient stone pillars holding it over the rushing waters crack and snap, tearing the bridge from the riverbank. The bridge and the bandits tumble into the river and are gone.

     Prerequisite: Worshipper of a god.

     Mechanic: Once per Scene when you are in dire need, you can pray to the divine for succor as a Minor Action. Depending on how dire the situation is, your higher power may or may not answer. To determine the severity of the situation and the likelihood your Prayer will be heard and answered, reference the following chart:

Severity and Description

Response Difficulty

Contrary to God: You are performing an action that does not align with your god’s interests, or are suffering the consequences of such an action.

Minor Need: You or another of your faith are not in danger of immediate physical harm.

20

Moderate Need: You are in danger, but you should be able to handle it without intervention.

18

Major Need: You or another of your faith are in mortal danger but could still escape. Alternately, your quest will directly benefit your god.

16

Severe Need: A major center of your god’s power could be destroyed if god does not intervene. Alternately, your quest is god-given.

14

Desperate Need: You or another of your faith will likely die within a round.

12

When using the above chart, the Guide first determines the level of Severity according to the praying character’s need. The Severity level is then announced to the Player whose character is praying. The Player then rolls an unmodified d20 and, if the result meets or exceeds the Response Difficulty specified for the Severity, the character’s divinity answers the Prayer. The Prayer is still expended for that Scene even if it is not answered.

Answered prayers are the purview of the Guide. Only one rule governs them: answered prayers must be beneficial to the praying character and his allies. There is no “beneficial, with a twist” involved in prayer: either god answers wholly positively, or god does not answer. When god answers positively, the response must be appropriate to resolve the situation the praying character is in, or provide an opportunity for the praying character to extract himself and his allies from the situation. Furthermore, while Players may make suggestions as to how they would like the divine to help them, they cannot dictate results. Prayer can be tricky; the result you get when you pray might not be the result you want, but it is always the result your god wants.

Answered prayers can take many forms. If a character is alone and about to be slain, his enemy may suddenly trip and fall on his blade, killing himself and sparing the character. Alternately, if a character is having a difficult time convincing a needed ally to join his cause, the needed ally could suddenly find a softening of his heart, becoming easier to convince. Additionally, a character forging a mighty weapon might pray to make it stronger, pledging it to the fulfillment of god’s will, and god could oblige. The key to keep in mind is that gods tend not to work directly, but instead operate through coincidence and happenstance. In this way, there can always be doubt as to whether a god truly intervened or mere luck was involved.

Please also keep in mind that the Guide should use careful judgment when fulfilling character prayers. The Guide is not god, the Guide is only roleplaying one. It is a best practice to avoid pronouncements of your own godhood when you act as Guide, as by doing so you may find yourself without Players willing to worship you!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at alternate uses of magic in the Infinite Earths Roleplaying Game.  See you next time!