Chapter 11: Magic
No fantasy setting would be complete without magic - whether a long-lost legend or a culture-shaping tool, it is a hallmark of the genre. But it is important to understand Darkrealm's take on magic. Certain kinds of magic are common - they replace the sciences in both a cultural and natural sense. But, unlike fighting, or sneaking, or metalworking, or the vast majority of other endeavours a character might undertake, magic has no one real-world source on which a player can model his actions. Nor is there one convention in the fantasy genre that completely represents the magic of Allornus. And as a result, it is necessary that magic be much more structured. The rules must suggest actions themselves, as well as how to mechanize them.

Alchemy and divination are in many ways similar to chemistry and meteorology in our modern world. They might have magical effects, they might even be called hedge magic, but they take advantage of natural laws. And while they are understood by an intellectual elite, and persecuted in many cultures, they are also commonplace. True magic does not obey or observe natural laws. It subverts them. True magic works by manipulating the tiny loopholes in the laws that formed reality, and tap that primordial energy to cause impossible things to happen. It's important to understand that most people fear it, almost no one has first hand experience of it, and it invariably causes bad things to happen to anyone who uses it. Wielded improperly (that is by anyone but a divh), its effects come at a terrible cost. Starting characters are strongly discouraged from having knowledge of experience of true magic, and especially of having any skill with it.

Alchemy


Alchemy is essentially the chemistry of a magical world. It is predicated upon the idea that all substances and energies in the world are made up of some combination of the eight elements of reality: Air, Darkness, Death, Earth, Fire, Life, Light, and Water. An alchemist is one who distils these elements from physical substances and energies, and channel either reshapes them into new forms (such as the fabled turning of lead to gold of historical alchemists), imbues other objects with foreign energies, or releases these raw elemental energies.

Skilled Characters can:

  • Use Alchemy to create potions. A list of formulae, as well as their skill requirements, are provided in the Encyclopaedia Arcana. These will usually require time and resources, but improvisation is not unthinkable.
  • Use Alchemy to identify elemental energies and properties, and subvert or manipulate them (in a similar way to that in which a modern character might use chemistry).

Making a Test

An Alchemist can expect the creation of any potion, or catalysation of any alchemical reaction, to require specific (sometimes rare and expensive) reagents, and a set of tools with which he can cleanly and unadulteratedly measure and mix reagents for the most reliable outcome. Not all reactions are volatile in nature, but failure could reasonably cause dangerously unpredictable results. Characters without the correct reagents could improvise against an astronomical Difficulty (around two to three tiers of Difficulty harder), or in a sub-optimal environment by taking penalty. He cannot work without some form of apparatus, though the specific formula will identify base Difficulty, and time and equipment required.

Divination


In Allornus, predestiny is a divine energy that governs the world. It is how the Divh can be omniscient, and it causes ripples in the fabric of the universe that can be read by the astute and educated. Whether fate's patter has already passed, or has yet to come, observing the currents of fate in the world can be achieved closely examining instance of chaos (rolling dice, throwing runes, turning cards, reading entrails, watching clouds, interpreting dreams), and deducing the currents of predestiny that they signal. But the diviner's dilemma is that knowledge of this design grants the ability to change it. And thus, when divining the future, a diviner must share information that can only be act upon at the last moment, and can almost never read his own future, lest the very act of reading invalidate it.

Skilled Characters can:

  • Use Divination as a skill bonus and/or justify alternative talent on tracking, danger seeking, and other searching-type tests.
  • Use Divination to make Recall/Memory style tests to know simple or general things the Diviner does not know.

Skilled Characters cannot:

  • Use any kind of clairvoyance or clairaudience. Their knowledge comes from observing signs and omens, in much the same way a modern statistician or meteorologist can deduce future events from data.
  • Use Divination to reliably predict his own future. If he does this, then simply by doing the reading changes the destiny he read, making it useless.

Making a Test

When the Diviner is first created (or the Divination skill is first acquired) the player should decide on his preferred method of Divination. Some divination techniques require tools, others do not. Tools can provide a bonus, but can also be lost or broken. More observational methods might not require equipment, but it also leaves less room for Advantage, and more room for environmental Disadvantage. This is not to say that the principles of Divination differ between these methods, and nor that they render other approaches impossible for that character. But as a warrior with Martial Combat might choose a sword or spear, a dagger or battle axe, so the diviner might choose the dice or the tarot, the runestones or the entrails.

When formulating a Divination test, the diviner should keep in mind that the simplest questions are those with a yes/no answer. The more complex the answer, the more exponentially difficult the Difficulty for the test. An obvious 'yes/no' question might be a test of Normal Difficulty range, one with a 'maybe' might become 'Challenging', and one that asks where a character is to be found, or how long ago an item lay here might be 'Difficult', 'Very Difficult', or even harder.

Sources of Advantage might include personal objects or otherwise attuned items associated with the sought information or target, divining tools, particularly close proximity to the divined information or target, or divining an event, individual, or thing of particular significance to the weave of predestiny. Disadvantage would most commonly come from rushing a divination, from seeking something distant or particularly uncertain or irrelevant (such as predicting the toss of a coin, or some other chaos-governed event), or misidentifying talismans of relevance, such as mistaking a divined individual's personal property. And, of course, divining something closely related to the diviner's own fate will almost always prove a source of Disadvantage.

Curses and Boons

But there is a darker side to seeing the future. Some have realized that they can make a weapon of destiny - sowing doubt and attracting the energies of misfortune and doom that flow through the world, or pushing them away. Subtly manipulating the flow of fate, without changing it, by acting upon the fact that knowledge can change it. Placing a curse or granting a boon is sometimes mistaken for spellcasting, but the subtle manipulation of fate has more to do with alchemy than true magic, for the energy of fate is a natural one, and the knowledge of it was ever the province of mortals. The diviner must identify a particular and specific kind of action. The next time that his target undertakes that specific action he will suffer either Advantage or Disadvantage. In the case of a margin of Improved Success or above, the diviner's boon or curse will continue until the specified test is either failed (in the case of a boon) or succeeds (in the case of a curse).

An individual can only be the target of a single curse or boon at a time, and further curses or boons will only replace their predecessor if they beat the initial Divination test that placed that curse. Similarly, a curse can undo a boon, and a boon can undo a curse without knowing the specific nature of that curse or boon, simply by beating the Test that bestowed that Boon or Curse. A diviner can also identify the nature or presence of an existing boon or curse as a standard divination.

Making a Test

A curse (or boon) can be actively resisted by its target. Most commonly this is done with the Wilful, Forceful, or Lucky Talents, but any creative formulation is (as usual) acceptable if properly justified. This means that frequently the diviner will be making an opposed test for a curse. A Static Difficulty for a curse or boon might start in the Normal range, and the placing of either can be expected to take anything from ten minutes to an hour. More time and preparation will yield Advantage, while haste will yield Disadvantage.

A voluntary and cooperative target who is in immediate proximity will likely also yield Advantage, and distance might be a source of Disadvantage. Having little knowledge of the target will yield Disadvantage, and having no knowledge of the subject (even second hand) will make the test nigh Impossible. An item of personal significance, or a part of the target's body will stand in for the target's absence, or will provide Advantage in the target's presence. Duress or interruption will similarly yield Disadvantage. Making the conditions in which a curse or boon come into effect too broad will yield Disadvantage, while making it exceedingly specific might be a source of Advantage.

A cursed character can try to resist a curse at any time, not just at the time of its inception. Of course severe failure will result in consequences just as it would in other significant tests.

Talismans & Relics


Objects, symbols and patterns instilled with power by virtue of exposure to stable forms of true magic, or symbolic import that reflects the logical 'magical' laws of the world. A talisman or relic operates like a Tool for certain processes. They might prove useful as Advantage yielding catalysts for Alchemy Tests, they might be focuses for Divination or even Spellcasting tests, or they might frequently be useful for Lucky tests, or even more diverse and unusual tests.

The key difference between a Talisman and a Relic is that a Talisman works around the same natural laws that hedge magic do. Attracting or shaping certain naturally occurring energies in entirely normal ways. Relics, meanwhile, come from those few places where true magic is at large in the world. They might have been created by powerful magicians, or simply by being exposed to powerful magic for long periods, but most often they are things that have been exposed to the divh.

While talismans are common, and often defined by no more than the manner of their use, relics are extremely rare, and exposure to them will have the same corrupting effect as exposure to true magic. Furthermore, making use of the properties of a relic might actually be considered casting a spell, and will both require the user to have a specific Skill, and put him at even greater risk of madness, corruption or mutation.

Spellcasting


Each and every Spell must be studied closely. Any true magic Spell must be purchased like a skill in order to be used at all, and many will require to be purchased at an advanced level to function. Spells almost universally take a great deal of time, effort, precision, and frequently resources to execute. Purchasing more than a half dozen or so spells is sure to severely impact a character's skill pool. Casting them with regularity is guaranteed to leave him an insane mutant, if not horrifically dead.

Extreme Peril

Casting a spell will almost always have a side effect, be it injury, mutation, growing insanity, or even death. But just being exposed to magic - being the target of it, or being in close proximity to it, even after the effect, is risky. All use of true magic will have a success Difficulty, and a much higher Difficulty to avoid Damage. If that Damage results in a status of any kind he should randomly generate that status on the Random Magical Collapse table.

Fear & Superstition


True magic is almost universally met with terror, while even hedge magic is something to be feared, or reviled in some cultures. A known magician cannot expect to be treated like other people. Remember that it is an undebatable fact within the logic of the setting that magic is a force of destruction, and all practitioners, no matter how skilled, will eventually bring down corruption and ruin on themselves, and all those in close proximity to them. People know this on an instinctual, primal level. Even the rudest of fools can sense true magic at work, and even the most alien of beasts will fight to escape it.

No character who has used true magic more than a couple of times, even one who is not known to be a magician, can conceal the aura of strange that surrounds them. And no character who has explored the ruinous powers of the world can ever go on as normal afterward. Any character who has successfully used true magic, and acquired any level in a Spell skill, must take a Character Trait to reflect how magic has changed them, and how they are now unnerving and obscene to all things natural. It is up to the player to compose this as they choose, so long as it reflects these key points.

The Tome of Lore: Core Rules for Darkrealm
Chapter 1 Character Creation; Concept; Core Details; Player Interaction
Chapter 2 Talents; The Fourteen Talents; Generating Character Talents; Properties
Chapter 3 Traits; Character Traits; Context Traits; Status Traits
Chapter 4 Skills; The Skill List; Purchasing Skills
Chapter 5 Gameplay; Announcing a Test; Sequence of Play; Actions and Objectives
Chapter 6 Damage; Opposed Tests; Effects of Damage; Recovery; Death
Chapter 7 Development; Awarding Hero Points; Training; Changing Character Traits
Chapter 8 Setting; Tone; Technology & Lifestyle; Religion; Magic; Other Oddities
Chapter 9 Player Races; Civilized Races; Racial Abilities
Chapter 10 Gear; Armour; Weapons; Tools; Animals and Transport; Clothing; Weight and Encumbrance
Chapter 11 Magic; Alchemy; Divination; Talismans and Relics; Fear and Superstition; Spellcasting
Chapter 12 Game Creation;
Appendices Common Actions; Damage Statuses