Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures) wrote,
Marcus L. Rowland
ffutures

It's A Kind of Magic

Here's the "adult" version of the Forgotten Futures magic rules. Comments would as always be very welcome. In particular is it adult enough, or is there still too much Nesbit in it?



APPENDIX - It's a Kind of MAGIC...</a>


Forgotten Futures VIII introduced rules for magic, a new MAGIC characteristic, and a new Wizardry skill, plus rules for generating characters as children with magical powers. They work well in their original context, but poorly for designing adult characters. This appendix contains a more general and somewhat abridged version of this material.

For non-magical campaigns continue to use the standard BODY, MIND and SOUL. If characters are subsequently used in a magical setting they are recorded as having MAGIC [0]; this would apparently imply that they are very vulnerable to magical attacks, but in practice the other characteristics can be used to resist them.

FF IV: The Carnacki Cylinders also dealt with magic, in the context of supernatural detectives. To use these rules with FF IV characters simply convert their Scholar (Magic) skill to Wizardry, and give them MAGIC at Wizardry/2 (round UP). Anyone who doesn't have Scholar (Magic) should be given MAGIC [0]. Note that most spells simply won't work in the Carnacki universe, where magic is used almost entirely for defensive purposes and summoning and communicating with supernatural entities.

Character Generation

Characters in magical settings spend points to buy characteristics normally, but there are four characterics to buy, not three, and no extra points are available (unless you are using the melodramatic rules in the previous appendix. Spend points to buy MAGIC and Wizardry:


  • MAGIC is the raw power behind magical ability
    • It is purchased as any other characteristic but has a value of [0], not [1], if no points are spent
    • MAGIC [1] costs one point.
  • Wizardry is the skill with which MAGIC is used.

    • The base value is Av. MAGIC & SOUL.
    • It's possible to buy Wizardry without MAGIC; the character will have no innate power but may be able to harness an external source. Base value is SOUL/2
Example: Tom Byzantine
Tom Byzantine is to be a stage magician with a secret; genuine magical powers. It's a melodramatic campaign, and the player wants him to be an Anti-Hero. The player has 25 points and buys
  
BODY [2] (2 pt), MIND [3] (3 pt), SOUL [3] (3 pt), MAGIC [5] (7 pt) = 15 points

and spends the rest of 25 points on

  Actor (conjuror) [6] (3 pt), Brawling [2] (free), Linguist (French, German) [4] (1 pt), Marksman (pistol) [4] (1 pt) Medium [4] (1 pt), Melee Weapon (rapier) [3] (1 pt), Psychology [4] (1 pt), Wizardry [7] (2 pt)

If you are using the traits described in the previous apprendix all magicians, wizards, witches etc. must have at least one that relates to their magical ability.

Example: Tom Byzantine [2]
As mentioned above, Byzantine is to be an anti-hero. The player selects the traits Notorious (as a conjuror who has been mysteriously present when various notable criminals met their well-deserved ends), Secret (he's really a wizard; if word gets out he'll be treated as a freak) and Wanted (by the police, for questioning in connection with the above well-deserved ends.

Depending on the circumstances of the campaign magic may be a neutral force, good, or evil. In most of what follows it's assumed to be neutral, a tool responsive to the will of its user. Reliability is another matter; most Victorian and Edwardian sources seem to show magic as devastatingly powerful while simultaneously whimsical in its effects. Spells never work exactly as planned, although they may come close. The examples below hopefully reflect this.

Magical Basics

The basic process of magic is simple; each spell attacks its target using the magician's Wizardry, with Effect equivalent to the magician's MAGIC. The target might be BODY (especially if the magician wants to harm or transform something), MIND (to create an illusion), SOUL (for hypnosis etc., or to convert something alive to an inanimate object) or MAGIC (to overcome another spell or magical power, or to cast a spell on another magician). Often two or more characteristics are attacked, if so they should be added together. Sometimes more characteristics can be added to the attack; for example, for telepathy SOUL might be added to to MAGIC. MAGIC can also be used to boost another characteristic or a skill.

Optionally, if the roll to attack is a 12 something bad happens; the spell backfires in some way, hits the wrong target, or otherwise malfunctions.

More MAGIC
Magicians often need much more MAGIC than they have. There are several possible sources, all with disadvantages:

  Wands and magical talismans add to MAGIC and may reduce the time needed to cast spells, but sometimes have an agenda of their own, or just exist to cause trouble. They may be usable as often as the magician wants to cast a spell, or have some limitation such as a maximum number of uses, or an unwelcome side effect. This is one way that a magician with MAGIC [0] can cast spells. Common forms include rings, daggers and other weapons, books, amulets, pointy hats, and of course staffs with a knob on the end™. Some places also seem to have this effect, adding to the MAGIC of spells; ancient stone circles, tombs, temples and fairy rings are particularly likely to have this property. Wizards may go to great lengths to find such places, especially if they plan powerful permanent spells or magical defences. This is usually not good news for the neighbours...
  Magicians can pool their power in a spell; this lets them add their MAGIC together but increases the time needed to cast it. There is unfortunately no guarantee that participants won't use their own MAGIC to overcome the nominal leader of the ceremony and change the nature or target of the spell. Witches are especially likely to work this way, especially in trios. The magician leading the spell should usually be the most powerful. Some evil magicians may be able to tap the MAGIC of an unwilling victim in such a ceremony; this usually has bad side effects.
  Familiars can lend their MAGIC to a spell, and can be used as a "communications relay" for the magician, reducing the Difficulty of spells cast at a distance. In fiction the most common are cats, but many other species seem possible.
  Worshippers are a useful source for religious magicians, using spells which draw on the SOUL of the worshippers. The magician adds 1 MAGIC per worshipper present, regardless of their SOUL or MAGIC, but the power goes as soon as the ceremony ends, time is again prolonged, and the worshippers are usually exhausted after the ceremony.
  Human or animal Sacrifice lets the magician add a victim's MAGIC (or SOUL/2) to his own MAGIC. The duration is usually a day or two. The magician needs MAGIC [1] or better, or an external source of MAGIC, to make this work. Magicians who specialise in this type of spell are usually called Necromancers, and are feared and shunned.
All spells should have a basic duration; the spell-casters MAGIC in days (or in hours or minutes for unusually spectacular feats); for unusual duration add Difficulty as follows:
Normal DurationRequired Duration Difficulty
MinutesHours+1
HoursDays+1
DaysYears+1
YearsCenturies+1
CenturiesPermanent+1

For example, the conversion of a prince to a frog might normally last a few days. With +3 Difficulty the spell will be permanent. In this context "permanent" always has some sort of loophole; the spell's antidote may be as simple as being touched by cold iron or kissed by a princess, or require some elaborate quest for the ingredients, but there is always a way out.

In campaigns where spells almost always ends at the same time (e.g., after exactly 24 hours, at sunset, at dawn) this table should be ignored. Instead, increase Difficulty considerably to get past this limitation.

Difficulty may also increase if the magician wants to cast the spell at a distance, if the spell is complex or will be unusually difficult to break, if the target is moving or hidden, or if it is to affect several people or a large area.

Difficulty can be reduced if a spell is cast on someone who wants it to work, if several magicians pool their MAGIC (see side text), if the duration of the spell is reduced, or if it is broken down into sections. This last may need some explanation; for example, to turn a prince into a frog, then turn the frog into a silver frog statue, then make the spell permanent might use three separate spells; there is less chance of any given stage going wrong, but the total effort requires three spells, any one of which still has a chance of failure, and is likely to be exhausting and time-consuming.

Optionally there should be a limit on the number of spells cast in a day. Macicians can cast MAGIC spells at normal Difficulty, any more add +1 Difficulty per spell cast. This is reset by a good night's sleep.

The time taken to cast a spell can vary from seconds to hours. Use whatever seems most dramatically appropriate: from a few seconds for the sudden appearance of an evil fairy, a curse, and her vanishing, to a few hours for an elaborate magical ceremony to create rain. There isn't necessarily any relationship between the time to cast a spell and its power or complexity; one wizard may spend a week creating a single perfect rose, another ten seconds creating a slightly slipshod magical palace or an equally slipshod curse. Optionally extra-long rituals can reduce the Difficulty of a spell or increase the quality of the result at the referee's discretion.

Optionally any spell can have dramatic special effects added; they don't add to Difficulty, unless they change the actual outcome, but when the spell is used the player must describe the effect. Suitable special effects include sparkling lights, thunder, smoke, pungent smells, and crackles of electricity.

Beyond these guidelines each magician, and each work of magic, is unique.

Magical Techniques

Spell books and training schools apart, there is no such thing as a "standard" spell or magician; everyone has their own path to power, and often it may be very different to the magician next door. One magician might turn a prince into a frog by an elaborate ritual, another by clicking his heels. What follow is very much a do-it-yourself system, and referees should be ready to make up most of the details as they go along; some examples of the most common spells follow, with some modifiers that might be useful. Everything in this section is optional.

  • Communication seems to be the easiest magical power, according to most sources; anyone with any trace of magical talent talks to foreigners, animals, plants, and inanimate objects, and gets useful answers. This generally seems so easy that it's pointless putting numbers here, but if you want to make people roll for it, use MAGIC with the following Difficulty:
    LanguageDifficulty
    Any other human language regardless of origin, most supernatural creatures, pets2
    Any domesticated animal (cows, horses, chickens etc.)3
    Wild animals including birds, fish, etc., toys and other favourite objects.4
    Insects and other invertebrates, plants, railway engines and other man-made objects5
    Rocks, clouds, the wind, the sea, bacteria, etc.6

    If used at all these numbers should only be guidelines, and may be modified if (for example) the creature or object is making an effort to talk to the magician. All sources seem to agree that practice improves this ability, to the point at which your enjoyment of a nice scone may be spoiled by involuntarily hearing the death-agonies of the yeast organisms as they cook. See e.g. Diane Duane's So You Want To Be A Wizard and sequels.

    Add to the Difficulty if communication would normally be prevented or takes place at a distance. For example, if the magician is bound and gagged but wants to use telepathy to contact a friend and ask for rescue, the referee might make the Difficulty 3 for communication under impossible circumstances plus 2 for distance (use the distance modifiers listed for clairvoyance below), total Difficulty 5. Optionally SOUL can be added to MAGIC for attempts at telepathy, to a maximum of 10.

    Many non-human intelligent creatures can communicate without the use of magic, by the normal Linguist skill or by having a human language as their native tongue; for example, any magical creature resident in Britain probably speaks some variation of English (or Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Old English, etc.)

  • Clairvoyance is the ability to know what's going on at a distance, in a place that can't be seen by other means, or in the past or future. Difficulty is based on distance and time; as a rough guide:
    DistanceDifficultyTimeDifficulty
    10 miles1A day in the future *2
    100 miles2Two days in the future *4
    1000 miles3Three days in the future *8 etc.
    Anywhere in the world4A year in the past1
    The moon5Ten years in the past2
    Anywhere in the solar system8A century in the past3 etc.
    Another universe10Dark / underwater / underground+2
    * Seeing the future is much more difficult than seeing the past, since there is an observer effect which means that viewing the future often changes it; see the notes on time travel below.

    Difficulty rises if the power is being opposed by another magician's MAGIC, falls if the target wants to be observed and adds MAGIC to the spell.

  • Materialisation of objects (such as an ice-cream cone or a pair of billiard balls) is tricky. Ignoring Einstein, who would say that this requires ridiculously large amounts of energy, the basic Difficulty is the BODY of the object to be materialised, plus its MIND, SOUL and MAGIC (if any), multiplied by the number of objects to be created. Calculating this can be tricky; for example, creating two billiard balls (BODY [1], no MIND, SOUL or MAGIC) would be Difficulty 2, since the balls are two distinct objects, but the whole set of balls in their frame can be visualised as a single whole object with BODY [1], and thus created with Difficulty 1! Some more examples:blockquote>
    To create a ton or so of gold (BODY [20], no MIND, SOUL, or MAGIC) would be Difficulty 20 if it is visualised as a huge heap of gold. If it was visualised as separate coins the Difficulty would be 1 per coin, totalling several hundred for the whole stack!
    To create a kitten (BODY [1], MIND [1], SOUL [1], MAGIC [1]) for a few days would be Difficulty 4. To create a kitten to last for centuries would raise the cost to 6, higher if the spell is to be proof against standard magic-breaking events such as the touch of cold iron. It's easier to buy one at the pet shop...
    A gateway to another world (BODY [6], MAGIC [8]) would be Difficulty 14 if the world is already known, considerably more if it required a feat of imagination.
    </blockquote>

    Materialisation can be worked in reverse, to destroy something - the Difficulty is again the total of all characteristics - and especially gifted magicians can cast a short-duration destructive spell on themselves (or anyone or anything else) to vanish in one place and reappear in another. The Difficulty is the total of all characteristics plus modifiers for duration and distance as above. Obviously the results of a fumble are likely to be fairly horrible - think "transporter accident" plus The Fly...

  • Just as common is transformation, changing objects from one form to another; lead into gold, a prince into a frog, wood into fire. It is also used to make objects larger or smaller (and thus change BODY) without otherwise affecting them. Ignoring Einstein again, the basic Difficulty is the sum of the change in each of the characteristics, plus the original BODY of the object. For example:
    To change a BODY [4] prince into a BODY [1] frog will be at least Difficulty 7 (10 if the spell is to last centuries); a change of form affecting BODY [4], then a change in BODY from 4 to 1. the result will be a frog that still has human intelligence etc., removing these characteristics makes the spell even more difficult. If the prince has any MAGIC it will oppose the spell, adding to the Difficulty. Often transformed humans gain magical powers as a side-effect of transformation - as a rough guideline, give such characters any BODY, MIND, or SOUL they've lost as MAGIC, with the proviso that it can't be used to reverse the spell; our prince would gain at least 3 MAGIC.
    To change yourself (BODY [2], MIND [2], SOUL [2], MAGIC [4] into a BODY [1] fish with other characteristics unchanged would be Difficulty 3; since it is a willing transformation your MAGIC does not oppose the spell. Reduce the Difficulty to 2 if the spell will only last a couple of hours, to 1 if it's just for a couple of minutes.
    To change a frog into a gold statuette of a frog would require a change of form affecting BODY [1], and the removal of MIND [1] and SOUL [1], total Difficulty 3. Add 3 Difficulty to make the spell permanent.
    To set a log on fire is a transformation which will destroy BODY, so the Difficulty is the BODY of the log plus the eventual loss of BODY; in other words, double the BODY.
    To change lead into gold is a change in form, but not a change in BODY or any other characteristic, so the difficulty is just the BODY of the lead. Referees may choose to halve the Difficulty of such "easy" transformations.

    Optionally, magicians who transform themselves into animal forms must beware of a subtle danger; the risk that they will come to believe that they are the creature whose form has been assumed, and prolong the spell until it becomes permanent and gradually erases the magician's personality. Roll MIND plus SOUL against the number of days since the spell was cast: If there is a failure 1 MIND or 1 SOUL is lost, on a roll of twelve 1D6/2 MIND or SOUL is lost. Repeat until there is nothing left that isn't natural to the animal. The only thing that reveals the truth is the trace of MAGIC that keeps the spell working. If the spell is reversed MIND and SOUL slowly return; roll every day, on a 2 one point is recovered. A full cure may take months. Note that this doesn't apply to people who have been changed into animal form by someone else's spell; the duration and effects of the spell are set when it is cast.

    If any characteristic is changed to zero it is usually a temporary effect, and will be revert when the spell is undone. Exactly what happens to MIND and SOUL during this process isn't clear; since they are usually restored they presumably exist in some form, but no thought or feelings should be experienced until the transformation ends.

    Optionally people or creatures turned into inanimate objects might retain their MIND, SOUL, and even MAGIC, which can be detected by someone with the Medium skill or MAGIC. If this option is used the Difficulty of the transformation should be unchanged because it will still be necessary to bind these characteristics to the will of the magician. This could be one of the ways that evil magicians create some of the magical objects described in the next section. If the object is destroyed before the spell can be reversed the SOUL is released and the victim dies.

  • Some magicians seem to be able to hurl bolts of lightning, fire, ice, small stones and other physical attacks at their foes. While it looks spectacular, this is essentially an attack of Wizardry versus the target's BODY (and MAGIC if any) plus or minus a modifier to Difficulty as below, with the magician's MAGIC as the Effect. Some examples:
    Attack typeABCNotes
    LightningB/F  F+KOI+KOInjuries are burns, Difficulty +3
    FireBFIInjuries are burns, Difficulty +2
    Ice * / coldBFF/IInjuries are frostbite
    Stones *BFI/I+KOInjuries are bruises and/or cuts
    Water / Small frogs / fish *-BBVictim suffers embarassment or discomfort, Difficulty -1
    * These attacks involve the momentary materialisation and destruction of physical objects, but leave no physical evidence apart from cold, dampness, slime, a smell of fish, etc.

  • To Boost characteristics or skills Difficulty is simply the change; for example, to boost your strength and lift a boulder you might need to boost BODY from 2 to 6 - the Difficulty would be 4. This power only works while the character is concentrating on it - for example, by thinking "I must be strong" - and actually using the characteristic. It wears off as soon as the character relaxes. Only one characteristic (BODY, MIND, or SOUL) can be boosted, related skills are not boosted. The characteristic is used normally in all respects once this change has been made. Changing BODY in this way does not change a character's size; that requires transformation as above. Skills may be improved in the same way.

  • Healing is the one type of magic that usually seems to be permanent; if a rationale is needed, say that curing an injury is like undoing a spell and restoring the patient's body to normal. The Difficulty of the spell is the recovery Difficulty, as in the Forgotten Futures rules. Usually the patient recovers immediately, and since the spell restores the pre-injury condition there is no mark left. The means by which a cure is administered can be childishly simple - "I'll kiss it better" - or an adjunct to more conventional medical treatment. Optionally there should be the same chance of a magical cure going wrong as any other type of healing; if the spell fails, the wound will take longer than usual to heal.

  • Illusions seem to be part of most magicians' repertoire. The magician's MIND and MAGIC attack the observer's MIND (and MAGIC if any). Illusions normally end in a few minutes as the victim notices inconsistencies, but with extra Difficulty they can be made to last longer. They can also be cast on a place or object as a temporary or permanent effect, "attacking" the MIND and MAGIC of anyone who looks at it, but this also adds to Difficulty. Normally illusions only target sight, add +1 Difficulty per sense to target hearing, smell, etc. The magician can't see the illusion, but must imagine it in all its detail. Usually an illusion won't affect a camera, the spell is targeted specifically at the mind. Whether mirrors are any defence is a matter for the referee.

  • Invisibility is one example of an illusion, usually affecting sight only. Generally evidence of the presence of an invisible person is not concealed; footmarks and other tracks are left behind, there may also be a scent trail that can be followed, fingerprints, etc. Invisibility and other illusions generated by an object (such as a cloak) usually only apply to the object itself; for example, someone who is made invisible by a cloak or a ring (see e.g. The Hobbit) may still have a visible shadow. Such objects usually have power equivalent to the MAGIC and Wizardry of the person who cast the spell on them.

    To fly the magician must overcome BODY to hover, with Difficulty +1 per 10 MPH. The spell normally lasts a few minutes, with difficulty rising for longer durations as above. To make an unwilling victim fly overcome that person's BODY and MAGIC, if any. If a willing subject wanted to fly their MAGIC would be subtracted from the Difficulty, not added. Possible results for a success are:

    1. Flight at 2/3 the desired speed
    2. Flight at desired speed
    3. Flight at 1½ times the desired speed

    Another way to fly is to be transformed to a winged human form then fly naturally. Even with wings some magical help is needed - human bodies simply aren't built for flight - but the Difficulty of flying can be halved. See also Transformation into animals, above.

  • Mind Control is the most sinister spell discussed here. Many magicians and some magical devices are capable of influencing the thoughts of others, causing personality changes or taking control of thoughts. Illusions are a limited version of this power, and relatively harmless; mind control can be much more dangerous. However, it must usually be accomplished gradually, much like hypnosis; use MIND plus Wizardry against the MIND plus MAGIC of the target - if the roll is made successfully for a number of rounds equivalent to the MIND of the target, the victim's mind can be controlled. The degree of success is determined by a roll of the magician's MIND plus MAGIC against the victim's MIND plus MAGIC.
    1. Limited success: the victim must be led to believe that there is a rational reason to do whatever the magician wishes, and will not perform any act which would seriously conflict with normal behaviour (e.g. someone who wouldn't normally steal or use violence still won't).
    2. Success: the victim will do anything required, provided that it does not involve suicide or a major conflict with normal behaviour (e.g. someone who wouldn't normally steal or use violence will steal, but probably won't use violence)
    3. Total Success: the victim will do absolutely anything, up to and including suicide.
    With appropriate Difficulty modifiers (and more time) this spell can be used at a distance, by telepathy, and across species barriers. The magician can make things easier by aiming to trigger an emotion, such as greed or anger, rather than precisely controlling behaviour.

  • Curses seem to use combinations of spells, often adding time delays and unlikely cancellation conditions. In many cases it seems possible that these conditions are actually predictions, things that are going to happen anyway if given a little nudge by magic. Player characters should not usually be allowed to use curses; if they insist, make it clear that they have to do all the hard work of ensuring that they have the desired effect.

Many other spells can be imagined or have appeared in fiction. Hopefully these examples will help referees to develop more of their own as the need arises.

External Magic

External sources of magical power are common in fantasy, and have advantages for the referee. Since their powers are defined by the referee players can rarely be sure of their capabilities or limitations, and if necessary the referee can "bend" them to meet the needs of the scenario. It's rarely necessary to use special rules to describe their effects.

They generally fall into one or more of four broad categories; wishing machines, a term borrowed from an "article" by the late John Brunner, Galactic Consumer Reports: Twin Tube Wishing Machines, transport systems such as the Carpet and the Amulet, both of which also have some "wishing machine" functions, "gadgets" such as enchanted swords that have limited functions, and magical beings which can either use magic or are innately magical. The first three terms often include creatures that can use these powers, such as genies.

  • Wishing machines always have some degree of intelligence, even if they are inanimate objects. They can alter reality, usually on receipt of a command prefaced by the words "I wish" (also, if you're feeling extra mean, "I want" and other alternatives). It really is that simple; if a child says "I wish I had a million billion ice creams." the whole world will be hip-deep in the stuff - imagine the child buried under megatons of ice cream, the pollution, and the smell as it goes rancid a couple of days later... Fortunately there are usually loopholes to stop global dairy deluges and other catastrophes, most typically some of the following limits, some of which can also be applied to other magical devices and beings:
    The wish can only be activated by a complex ritual, prolonged flattery, or persuasion.
    An upper physical limit on the size or complexity of the wish. In the example above the "million billion ice creams" might be microscopic ones, or even individual molecules, and the great ice cream flood suddenly becomes a quart or two of raspberry ripple. The rules for materialisation spells in the previous section may be useful, if only as a guideline.
    No wish will cause immediate harm to anyone - however, the consequences of a wish may be very dangerous. For instance, in the ice-cream example above the child would be safely on top of the ice-cream mountain rather than underneath it - but would soon start to sink...
    There are a finite number of wishes per day or wishes in total, as in The Monkey's Paw and most other "three wishes" stories. Referees are strongly advised to make this limitation apply to the whole group of adventurers, rather than giving each person three wishes!
    At a certain time, or after a certain number of hours, the spell will come undone (the Psammead, Cinderella's fairy Godmother, etc.)
    A condition or command that will undo the spell; a good example from outside the genre appears in the original version of the film Bedazzled. Usually undoing a wish erases all of its effects, and removes it from the memory of everyone except those who made the wish.
    A limitation imposed by a previous wish.
    Wishes can only be granted if they will further a specific goal (e.g. vengeance, the course of true love, etc.)
    Wishes can only be granted if what is wished for could conceivably happen, however unlikely it might be. This rules out some of the more extreme examples of magic, such as wings - unless you want to acquire them by some extraordinary non-magical means, such as being bitten by a radioactive sparrow - but makes it more likely that magic will have permanent effects. For example, the only way to give someone "...wealth beyond the dreams of avarice" might be for them to find a hitherto-unknown gold mine, or inherit untold millions from a long-lost relative.
    Wishes will only be granted if the person making the wish understands what they are wishing for. They may not understand the consequences, of course...
    An element of whimsy and/or wilful stupidity and literal-mindedness.

    For example, in Nesbit's Five Children and It (FF VIII) the Psammead is a living wishing machine whose main limitations are a limit of one spell per day (two if one of them is very small), a high limit on complexity and/or bulk, a time limit (spells always end at sunset), and its own bloody-mindedness. An early wish adds a permanent qualifier - that the family's servants will never notice the effects of wishes.

    Unlimited Wishes
    For a very different "feel" to wishes, and assuming that the referee is prepared to live with the consequences, try the following "limits" instead of those in the main text:
    • All wishes are permanent, can cause harm, and affect as much of the world as seems appropriate. If necessary they affect the past retroactively, e.g. "what do you mean, that green dog is proof that you made a wish? I've got two puppies just like it at home..."
    • The effects of wishes are cumulative.
    • Wishes can't be undone unless a different wish cancels them - this may not be of the form "I wish that wish had never been cast...", it must have some other objective.
    • Wishes can't be undone by wishing that the power to cast wishes had never been acquired.
    • You can wish for supreme godlike power, mastery of the world, etc., but must live with the consequences; for example, you may have to spend every moment thinking about keeping the earth rotating, the sun shining, etc.
    • You can't wish away the power to cast wishes.
    Usually the world and/or the human race lasts about two days if these conditions are used; see e.g. Jerome Bixby's It's a Good Life and Ursula K. LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven

    It's difficult to avoid saying "I wish" and wishing irresponsibly; to simulate this with adult players, who may be trying to avoid the phrase, the referee should encourage players to talk in character, listen for anything that's said which might be construed as a wish then ask the player to roll MIND versus Difficulty 6 - if the result is a failure the words "I wish" were used. Of course it's best if the words "I wish" are actually used by players, and sooner or later someone will probably slip.

    Referees should be alert for any use of the word "wish", even out of context, including phrases along the lines of "what if I wish for..." or "Suppose we wish..." - assume that the wishing machine uses the word "wish..." as an activation phrase and will then start to 'parse' the words that follow!

    Players may try to beat the system by setting up elaborate logic traps and conditions for wishes. Discourage this by making the results worst than a straightforward wish, or by wilful stupidity on the behalf of the wishing machine. For example:

    "...and that the aforesaid children will not be harmed in any way by receiving this wish, subject to the terms and conditions previously mentioned, and that the wish will commence upon my saying `I so wish'. I so wish!" concluded Cedric triumphantly.

    A hundred gallons of ice cream cascaded down onto his head. "Was that all right?," asked the Psammead "I think I lost track somewhere in the second subclause."

    If you want to put numbers to this (the author prefers vindictiveness and abuse of power by the referee) assume that the wishing machine must use its MIND to overcome a Difficulty number of the referee's choosing - 4+2 for each clause, "however", or other qualifier in the wish seems about right.

    Similarly, the referee may wish to limit the maximum size or complexity of the item wished for; use the materialisation rules above, or your own discretion. NEVER let the players know what factors are used to decide the results!

    When granting wishes referees should always be alert for the implications of the wish, as well as the actual request, and its potential for chaos and disaster. For example, wishing for unseasonable rain might achieve the desired end (rain stops play at Lords, Britain wins the Test Match) but have some undesirable side effects (flash floods wipe out half of Norfolk).

    Normally there is no way to resist the power of a wish; if for any reason the referee wants to allow this - for example, if the wish is being made by an enemy and will cause physical or mental harm - the referee should roll the MAGIC behind the spell versus the MAGIC of each character. On a failure the wish doesn't work on that particular character. Wishes that affect the world as a whole can't be resisted in this way.

  • Transport Systems range from flying carpets to brooms to wings to sophisticated magical time machines. Some are operated like wishing machines; the user states a destination, and the transport system does its best to interpret their meaning, sometimes with mixed success. Others are steered by their riders, who must direct their travels. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.

    "Wish" travel is inflexible but requires little skill. All of the limitations
    indicated for wishing machines above can apply, the most important being that there may be limits on the system's ability to understand complex or vague orders. The users are passengers, not drivers, and may be at the mercy of their transport. "Steered" travel is more flexible, but may require the Riding or Driving skill and some knowledge of geography for navigation. Sometimes these skills may be part of the mode of travel, such as an instinctive ability to fly as part of magical transformation to bird form.

    There's no guarantee that all magical transport will be as easy to use, of course; it may require special skills (e.g. a broomstick rider might need Riding and Athlete to control the broom and stay on) or status (e.g. some obvious qualifications are needed to ride a unicorn).

    The main types of travel that appear in fantasy are teleportation and portals through space and/or time, flight, and fast land travel.

    Teleportation is usually an instantaneous transition from one place to another, almost always achieved by a wish or command which could potentially go wrong (as described under materialisation, in the previous section). There generally seems to be some form of protection to ensure that travellers have room to materialise, and aren't in deadly danger the second they arrive. To keep teleportation from becoming too powerful a tool, referees may want to impose some moderately obvious limits. Some or all of the following should suffice:

    You can only teleport somewhere you (or the teleporting device) has already been, or somewhere you can see.
    You can't teleport into or from a fast moving vehicle (such as a train). Slow vehicles (such as ships) may be allowed. Optionally, it's necessary to match speed
    with the target vehicle before teleporting.
    You can't teleport into any private area, such as a home or a bank vault, unless you have permission to enter (or it is dramatically appropriate). This usually doesn't apply if one of the adventurers is being held prisoner and the others want to rescue him; the presence of the captive is an implied invitation to enter.
    Some minimum time must elapse before you can teleport again. This can be very specific (e.g. "At least twenty minutes"), or extremely vague ("When I'm feeling a little better").
    An upper limit on the size or weight of the object that can be teleported.
    You can only teleport to or from special places, such as intersections of Ley Lines (note that this is not authentic for period fantasy) or fairy rings.
    An activating ritual is needed before teleportation is possible, or some rare substance must be found first (see e.g. the need for mercury to repair the "fluid links" in early Dr. Who stories)
    After teleporting you must return to your starting point before you can go anywhere else. Optionally there is a base station (see especially portals, below) which doesn't travel.
    Loosely worded orders will be interpreted reasonably well; really precise orders tend to go wrong.

    A common variant on teleportation is a portal through space, time, or to other worlds and dimensions; the wardrobe of the Narnia stories and the openings of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy are good examples. All of the limitations above can be applied; additionally, some of the following may be useful

    Only one portal at a time may be open, or only one in a given area.
    You have to go back the way you came before you can go anywhere else.
    While a portal is open it is a "weakness" which allows strange phenomena to enter the world, or may slowly damage the world in some way.
    Portals are "natural" events; they appear and vanish spontaneously, the "magic" is in finding and using them. E.g. Time Bandits, Sliders.

    The "model" for time travel used in stories of this period varies considerably, but a good compromise version appears in Nesbit's The Story of the Amulet (FF VIII) and can best be summed up as "fixed past, potential future". You can't make major changes to the past, and in many cases what you do causes history as you know it. There are no time paradoxes, and you can't affect your personal past. Minor changes can be made, such as saving the life of someone relatively obscure who is supposed to have died (the change might manifest as a previously-unnoticed page of errata in a local history, a changed or missing gravestone in a cemetary, or a pained letter to The Times from the grandson of someone who allegedly died in infancy), but it is impossible to change the broad sweep of past history. Any changes you make will have "always" been that way, so far as the rest of the world is concerned. An excellent modern example of this style of time travel can be found in the film Twelve Monkeys.

    There's an important exception; some magic includes a "reset" button, the ability to wish that it had never happened (as in Anstey's The Brass Bottle). Here there seems to be a "branch" in history at the moment the spell was cast, with two possible futures depending on whether or not the spell is cancelled. Usually the duration of the split seems to be from a few hours to a few days, but there seems no reason why this situation should be resolved so quickly. Generally only the person who cancels the spell can remember the previous state of affairs. An oddly relevant SF story is the novel Replay by Ken Grimwood.

    The future is full of potential; anything is possible, and the right choices may improve things. You are creating the future as you live, a fraction of a second at a time, and anything you bring back to the present is simply a prophetic vision, not a certainty or anything like it. It's a startling intuitive anticipation of the uncertainty we take for granted today.

    Again, there is an exception; while knowledge bought back by time travel can be as inaccurate as any other vision, there are occasional prophecies and curses that seem to be inescapable. Generally speaking these seem to take place only in highly magical "fairy-tale" worlds, not the more "mundane" worlds of the Psammead stories and much of Nesbit's other fiction. It's a much earlier version of time and predestination, as seen in stories from the Arabian Nights to the Brothers Grimm. While it can be fun to involve adventurers in resolving these situations, it isn't usually a good idea to make them the subjects of the prediction, players tend to be much better than fairy-tale characters at resolving them!

    For a VERY different version of time travel see the Past Out, Future Home campaign described in FF IX.

  • Flight is usually controllable, using the Riding or Driving skill as seems appropriate for animals and vehicles, or suddenly-acquired instincts if given wings, transformed into birds, etc. The main advantages are the ability to fly over obstacles and away from danger, and the sheer fun of it. The main disadvantage is the risk of something going wrong, especially when the means of flight is wholly magical; it can be a LONG way down...

    Any of the means of flight discussed in the previous section can be granted by magical devices, wishes, etc.; if so, the performance is usually derived from the devices' characteristics, or those of the source of the spell, not the user. Top speed for most magical flying devices should be their Wizardry x 10 MPH, the maximum extra load carried is their MAGIC minus the rider's BODY (or BODY 1 if the rider's BODY is the same or greater than the device's MAGIC).

    Wings let their users fly like a bird. Optionally assume that to fly at all needs a roll of BODY (or Athlete) versus Difficulty 4 to get airborne, with multiple attempts allowed if necessary. Once airborne the rest is easy... Usually the skills needed to control flight come free with the wings. If not, use BODY or Athlete rolls to avoid obstructions etc., and any other skills that seem appropriate. Top speed is as for levitation above. Wings large enough to carry a human should be at least as bulky as those of a hang glider, so they are somewhat conspicuous on the ground. Optionally they have other disadvantages ("...don't fly too close to the sun!") which should be determined by the referee.
    Carpets may be limited as to size, capacity, ability to teleport, etc. If they are steered the Drive or Ride skill is appropriate, otherwise a period of trial and error with the carpet performing acrobatics while the rider holds on for dear life... Referees can have fun with activation words and rituals (see especially Diana Wynne Jones' Castle in the Air), number of uses per day, and anything else that seems appropriate. Magic carpets can be rolled up and carried when they aren't in use, and seem to be implausibly small and light when rolled; presumably they use their power to neutralise some of their weight.
    Broomsticks are mainly the province of witches; despite the Harry Potter books they aren't "canonical" for anyone else in this genre. They generally fly extremely fast, but lack other powers. Unlike the other devices discussed here, they are in part fuelled by the user's MAGIC, giving them a top speed of the user's MAGIC x 20 MPH.
    Pegasi, Dragons, Rocs, etc. tend to be extremely shy; unless they can be tamed they tend to try to escape and/or harm their riders. They fly by a combination of muscle and MAGIC, but riders can never be sure how much of each is involved; for example, without magic does a Pegasus fly slowly, glide, or plummet like a stone? All should be controlled by the Riding skill, or may be intelligent enough to make their own decisions.
    Flying Ships are generally only found in worlds where magic is a powerful part of everyday life. They can carry as much cargo as any sailing ship, and fly at the speed of the wind; about 30-60 MPH at altitude, less near the ground. They can only land on water. Creating such ships is usually the work of a powerful magician, but once built almost anyone can steer them. Winged ships have BODY 10-30 depending on size. They can be armed with catapults and other weapons, including cannon if they are available. See FF VII for rules for mechanical winged ships, aerial combat, etc., which can be adapted to magical ships. If the magic that holds them up is interrupted for any reason they must glide for a crash landing; for this reason they usually fly over water and try to avoid mountains, the fortresses of evil wizards, and other hazards. Optionally clouds may be the equivalent of magical islands or rocks in the sky, and a real hazard to aerial navigation.

    Living Ships - In some magical worlds winged ships might be living beings, bred for qualities such as speed or cargo capacity. Their eggs hatch as small winged boats (just the right size to be given to a group of children who have befriended an aerial sailor) then slowly grow to full size. They have swan- or dragon-like wings and heads on long necks at the prow, and are reasonably affectionate to an owner who treats them well. Such small boats, with the right pedigree, might grow up to be very valuable. What they eat is left up to the referee; pond weed seems a reasonably simple option, but possibly war ships eat meat.
      An interesting adventure might revolve around catching and training a wild ship; see e.g. The Black Stallion for ideas.

      For non-magical equivalents see the TV series Lexx and Farscape, both of which have living starships.
    Flying carriages are usually built by powerful wizards or witches; they must be pulled by something which would normally travel through the air, such as swans or a dragon.
    Flying houses, cauldrons, etc. have a certain unnaturalness that tends to brand them as the work of evil witches and wizards. A cautious adventurer will usually try to hide if he sees them coming. They fly by their innate magical power, the spells used to create them, but are controlled by the magic of their owners. If either fails they plummet downwards or fly off out of control.

    There are many other forms of travel, of course, on land and water, underground, and everywhere else that can readily be imagined. Often the form of transport functions both as a means of transport and (in stories beginning in the "real" world) as a means of getting to magic kingdoms and other strange places, and may be able to go into the past or future:

    Seven-league boots are the traditional way to get around quickly on land. How they actually work is uncertain; the most likely explanation is that taking a step starts teleportation to a point seven leagues away (about 21 miles). The main problem with them, as with many other magical transport devices, is stopping without overshooting the destination. It ought to be possible to reach any place within seven leagues in two steps with the aid of a compass, map, and dividers, using simple geometric methods, but children will rarely have the patience for this. Even if this can be done, stopping without taking another step could be difficult. See Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle for an excellent example of the problems that might arise. Boots appear to have their own magical power, and can move one person and anything that person carries.
    Sleighs show an odd dichotomy; they seem to be used as transport by evil queens and witches (The Snow Queen, the Narnia stories) and Father Christmas, but rarely by anyone in between these extremes of goodness and badness. Usually they are supernaturally fast, pulled by reindeer or immensely strong horses, and move in an eerie silence interrupted only by the soft jingling of bells, the crack of a whip and an occasional stamping hoof. They can carry several occupants and tons of cargo; they can often fly.
    Ships are often the best way of getting around in primitive societies; usually they have sails, since steam is a little too high-tech for most period fantasy. Ships seem to have a habit of being stopped by sea serpents and other monsters, getting wrecked on tropical isles that happen to be the hiding place of immense pirate treasures, and otherwise forcing adventure upon their passengers. Magical ships often come with their own source of wind (or a magician who can control it); see e.g. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea. Other features can improve animated figure-heads (as for the flying ships above), golem or undead rowers (especially for evil captains), etc. Ships with black sails are almost always owned by evil magicians and/or slave traders. Ships with silk sails are generally owned by magical beings of one sort or another.

  • Magical Gadgets almost always have one main function; sometimes this is obvious from their nature - for example, a magic sword is most likely going to be enchanted in a way that makes it a better sword - otherwise some experimentation may be needed. Since their functions tend to be limited they aren't usually intelligent, although there are always exceptions. Intelligent gadgets have at least some of the capabilities and limitations of wishing machines and transport systems, their behaviour should be handled accordingly.
    Wands and Staffs usually add to the user's MAGIC, sometimes to Wizardry. They may be limited to a particular type of spell (such as lightning bolts, transformation, etc.) or to a particular purpose (they will only aid spells cast against dragons, cast for an evil purpose, etc.), or have no limitations at all. Sometimes they are unreliable or treacherous, waiting until the user comes to rely on their power then turning against them.
    Books typically contain spells on a single topic such as the summoning of demons or protection against them. There may also be stored magical power which allows someone without the MAGIC characteristic to cast them. Sometimes they are written in obscure dialects of ancient languages; just as often they are all too eager to be read, and any chance glimpse is enough to release the magic within, with optional brain damage and other side effects to anyone looking at the text.
    Magic Weapons have unusually high Effect (typically +1 to +3 above the normal weapon), and may have additional properties similar to those of any of the gadgets in this section. For example:
    • The Dragon-Repellant Broadsword has Effect Melee +3 or BODY +3, whichever is better, and when it is drawn from its sheath has the additional power of singing a note that is acutely painful to dragons; dragons will typically flee rather than fight, humans eventually get a bad migraine. It can currently be found in the hoard of a profoundly deaf dragon.
    • Jove's Thunderbolts are chunks of solidified lightning shaped to be fired from a longbow. Anyone struck by them suffers an electrical attack: Brawling 6, Effect 6, A:F, B:F/KO, C:I/C in addition to the normal damage from being hit by an arrow. Unfortunately anyone touching them suffers a smaller attack, delivered as Brawling 2, Effect 2, A:-, B:F, C:F+KO.
    As with the spells in the previous section, these are simply examples showing a relatively small range of possibilities. Referees are strongly advised to develop alternatives, preferably ones that won't be familiar from endless fantasy novels or other RPGs. Magic should contain infinite variety, not the same gizmos over and over again.

For much more on magic (including a large bestiary of magical creatures and examples of spells and magic use) see FF VIII.

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