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Omar's Gramarye Variant

This is a small set of customized rules for Carl Cravens' magic system The Gramarye 1.0, available at the linked website as well as in Grey Ghost Press' A Magical Medley.

The Gramarye v1.0 is Copyright © 1997 by Carl D Cravens (raven @ phoenyx.net).

Contents:

Design Goals

The goal of this version of the Gramarye is to work well in a converted D&D setting. D&D is a fine system if you like it, but I would tend to prefer another system such as Fudge. Additionally, I am quite fond of the Gramarye; however, the "implied setting" in the default Gramarye is extremely different from the "implied setting" in the D&D magic system, and as such can have implications for the world. The modifications to the Gramarye listed below are intended to preserve the core of the Gramarye while meeting some of the more central assumptions of the magic system in a D&D setting (be it one I've created myself and built over the years like The Silent Runelands, or a published D&&D setting like Planescape).

These modifications to the Gramarye were designed to accomplish the following:

Preserve the spirit and nature of the Gramarye
The Gramarye is a very nice system that matches well with Fudge. Additionally, I like that it allows characters to improvise spells based on their knowledge of the various realms and colleges of magic; it also encourages spell casters to specialize in certain types of magic. While I'd seen this done purely for characterization reasons with D&D mages, the D&D magic system (at least as of 1st edition) does nothing to encourage this. This is one change I embrace, as it will tend to make wizards more varied and individual, and remove the sense that all wizards of a given "level" can do about the same thing.

Spell casting power recharges each day
Whereas the Gramarye's magical reservoir recharges over the course of minutes, D&D type mages typically have a certain amount of power they can wield each day. If they want, they can cast them all in quick succession (whereas the standard Gramarye only tends to let you get away with a couple of spells in a row before stopping to wait for a recharge), or they can space them out over the day.

Mages vary greatly in power
Beginning mages can only command relatively mild quantities of magical energy each day, and can only cast modest spells in one go. Very experienced mages can both command huge amounts of power each day, and can cast truly impressive single spells. As is, the Gramarye allows some variation (as casters with much higher skills can cast spells that are more difficult, i.e. spells requiring more mana but at increased difficulty to reduce the mana requirement), but one goal of this system is to allow even greater disparity.

Spells can be learned
With D&D, each spell is (effectively) a different skill. A mage can only cast the spells he has studied, either because he's done the long and arduous research to derive the spell himself, or because he's found it on a scroll or in a tome. While I like the creativity the Gramarye encourages by allowing improvised spells, I also want there to be a reason to pore through musty old magical tomes, and for there to be precious, "secret" spells only known by an elite.

Spells can be resisted
In D&D, many spells allow a "saving throw". That would correspond in Fudge to an opposed action. For example, a mind reading spell might require an opposed action between the spell caster's skill with the spell and the target's Will. The Gramarye as is does not normally allow spells to be resisted.

Rule Modifications

  • Start with the Gramarye, and add to it the Umana concept. In summary, each time you cast a spell, you add the mana spent on that spell to your "tally". If your tally passes your "threshold", bad things happen. (Roll 4dF, add the result to the number of points your tally is above your threshold, and look up the sum on the Calamity table.) Each day, your tally decreaes by your "recovery rate".

  • It costs one supernormal power (i.e. two gifts) to have the ability to cast spells. This grants a Mana Threshold of 20, a Recovery Rate 6 mana per day, and a Spell Mana Limit of 6 mana (see below).

  • Mages are limited as to amount of mana they may spend on a single spell. By default, this "Spell Mana Limit" is 6. If a mage casts a spell which costs greater mana than his Spell Mana Limit, he immediately rolls 4dF, adds the difference between the mana cost of the spell and his Spell Mana Limit, and applies the result on the calamity table. Note that this is the limit on how much mana the spell caster may spend at one time, including any mana pulled from Mana stones. If the spellcaster uses props to reduce the mana cost of a spell, he may cast more powerful spells without passing his Spell Mana Limit. Conversely, if he attempts to cast a spell which is not known to him, the higher mana cost of that spell does count against the caster's Spell Mana Limit.

  • For the cost of one gift, a mage's Threshold may be increased by 10, or the Recovery Rate may be increased by 3, or the Spell Mana Limit may be increased by 3. The GM may wish to set a limit on how much high any of these numbers may be at character creation.

  • The Calamity Table is replaced by one which is more likely simply to have personal consequences for the mage, and less likely to have environmental consequences. (See below.)

  • A "Known Spell" is one that a mage has scribed into his spell books; it is assumed that the mage regularly studies these spell books so as to refresh his knowledge of these known spells. A spell may become known one of three ways: it may be copied from another scroll or spell book, if the mage takes a few days to study it intensively; it may be taught by a mage who already knows the spell; or it may be derived by the mage through a long and arduous process of spell research.

    Note that a "Known Spell" is not a character skill, and need not be purchased with experience points. Each player should keep a list of those spells his character knows. The GM may want to limit the number of spells known at character creation (e.g. to 10, or such that the sum of the standard mana cost for casting all known spells is no more than 40).

  • The normal mana costs determined using the system described in the Gramarye is what it costs to cast a known spell. For spells which are not know, there are three types of spells; whenever any given spell effect is proposed, the GM decides in which class the spell falls.

    • "Simple Spells" are the most basic spells– the sorts of things that any spell caster in the world might be expected to know. These are generally the relatively low power (and low mana cost) spells. The mana cost of casting a simple spell that is not one of the mage's Known Spells is 2 higher than normal. (Equivalently, the difficulty of the spell is one level greater– Good instead of Fair, for example.)

    • "Ordinary Spells" are most spells. These may be improvised by a mage with skills in the necessary college(s) and realm(s). The mana cost of casting such a spell when it is not a Known Spell is 4 higher than normal. (Equivalently, the difficulty of the spell is two levels greater– Great instead of Fair, for example.)

    • "Esoteric Spells" are those the GM wants to limit. These will generally be the most powerful spells, or the spells which have the most far-reaching effects. These spells may not be cast at all unless they are known spells. At the GMs option, all spells from a given college or realm may be considered Esoteric Spells.

  • Resistance: many spells may be resisted. Any spell that comprises a physical attack will normally resisted by armor, unless specified otherwise by the spell. Area attacks (fireballs, lightning bolts, that sort of thing) should allow creatures to make a Dodge (or equivalent) roll to reduce the damage of the attack by one half. Any Control or Knowledge spell directed at a sentient but unwilling target is resisted by the target's Will; treat this as an Opposed Action between the caster's skill and the target's Will. (Very skillful casters, and powerful mages with enough mana to reduce the Difficulty of the spell, are naturally much harder to resist.) Any other spell which, in the GMs judgment, is similar enough to these should be similarly resisted (e.g. Movement spells to teleport another away). A spell like any of these which can not be resisted will have that noted in its description (e.g. Smite in Omar's Gramarye Spells.

Magic Items

Magic Items, like characters, also have a Threshold and a Recovery Rate. For "found" items, the GM can tune this to the mana costs of using a given item to regulate how many times it may be used in a day. For player-created items, suggestions will be forthcoming.

Some magic items have a permanent enchantment on them which is always "on", in which case the concept of Mana Threshold and Recovery Rate is not relevant. For magic items which (effectively) cast spells, use of a magic item increases the item's tally, not the caster's. If a user attempts to push the item over its Threshold, the item either simply doesn't do anything, or (at the GM's option) turns to dust or otherwise comes apart. Most of the time, an item's owner will know how close to its tally an item is.

Some magic items may be usable by mages, i.e. those with the supernormal power that grants the general ability to cast spells.

Mana Stones, as in the usual Gramarye, provide an extra reservoir of Mana which a character may draw on without counting the mana pulled from the stone against his own personal Mana tally. Mana Stones may have varying recovery rates, but typically they will be low (e.g. 1 point per day). A mage who holds a mana stone will know how much mana it currently holds (but not necessarily its capacity).

Illusions

There are two sorts of illusions. Those created with the "illusion" realm are actual projections (of sights, sounds, etc.). They will always be seen or heard by anybody capable of seeing or hearing. However, when touched, it will become immediately obvious that they are insubstantial. Such illusions cannot, for example, do damage to one who is "fooled"; however, they are not dispelled by the touch of an unbeliever. One's hand simply goes through the illusion, and the illusion remains as long as the spell as in force. Whether or not anybody is fooled by an illusion is up to the GM. The fooling ability of an illusion might be automatic if there is no reason for the viewer to doubt the reality of the illusion. If there is reason to doubt, it may be an Opposed Action between the viewer's Perception, Intellect, or appropriate knowledge skill and the caster's performance, knowledge, fast-talk, or other appropriate skill. (It will generally not be a contest against the caster's effective skill with the spell.)

The other sort of illusion isn't created with the Illusion realm at all, but is rather constructed as Control Mind. In this case, the illusion will not be seen by anybody who isn't a target of the spell, but exists only in the mind of the one looking at it. A powerful enough spell of this sort can do damage to the person it fools, as the person's mind will psychosomatically inflict damage upon his own body corresponding to what he believes the illusion is doing. This sort of illusion spell always is resisted, as an Opposed Action between the caster's skill with the spell and the target's Will.

New Realm

Illusion Realm

The Illusion Realm is only an average skill, not a hard skill, because it has a more limited scope (as described above) than the standard Gramayre version of this realm.

Air Realm

This realm includes all lightning spells. This matches the D&D philosophy; in Planescape, the Quasielemental Plane of Lightning is adjacent to the Elemental Plane of Air.

Multiverse Realm (H)

Specifically for Planescape, there is one additional important realm: the "Multiverse" (or, if you prefer, "Planes") realm. This is the realm that allows a spells effects to reach into a plane other than the plane where the spell caster is located. So, while a teleport spell would be constructed as "Move Body", a spell which moves the character to another plane would be "Move Multiverse". A spell that temporarily (or permanently?) blocks a gate would be "Break Multiverse", and a spell that creates a gate (costly even if temporary!) would be "Create Multiverse". A spell that banishes summoned creatures to their home plane would be "Control Multiverse".

The GM will probably wish to make most or all of the spells in this realm Esoteric Spells.

Calamity Table

In place of the standard calamity table, use the table below. In a magic-rich world, there are probably too many weak and foolish mages wandering about liable to attempt to overstep their bounds, which would wreak utter havoc on the countryside and generally make life untenable for those around it. This table makes the consequences much more personal; natural selection will very quickly take care of those weak and foolish mages who would too casually overstep their bounds. This table is inspired by the "Grim and Grisly Calamity Table" on otherwhere.org. (Look under "GURPS tools", "Magic & Spells".)

If a mage rolls on this table and gets a transitory effect (e.g. headaches, hallucinations) which he is already suffering, either the effect gets worse (summing all penalties), or (at the GM's option) the effect in the next line down on the table affects the mage.

RollResult
<0The mage was lucky; no effect
0The mage feels a tingling or a faint pain run through his body; this is a "special effect" warning only.
1The mage sustains minor internal injuries; he suffers the equivalent of a Scratch which does not go away until healed as if it were a normal Hurt wound.
2The mage experiences headaches, and is at -1 to all rolls for the next 5+4dF hours.
3The mage falls unconscious, and can not be awakened for 6+4dF combat rounds (5 seconds, or pi seconds, or whatever you use for the length of a combat round). If not awakened, the mage will sleep peacefully for 7+4dF hours.
4The mage experiences hallucinations (auditory and/or visual) for 5+4dF days; he is at -1 to any rolls having to do with concentration or coordination (including spell casting).
5One of the mage's arms is paralyzed for 6+4dF days; it will hang limp and useless at his side. This may hamper the casting of spells which require gestures!
6The mage's Threshold and Recovery Rate are reduced to half their normal value for the next 8+4dF weeks.
7The mage sustains serious internal injuries; the mage is Hurt.
8The mage looses all ability to cast spells or manipulate mana for the next 5+4dF weeks.
9The mage gains a new minor Fault (GM's option, though it should be something appropriate). This is a normal Fault, permanent unless the mage buys it off with experience points and performs the necessary in-game functions (atonement and healing, psychotherapy, etc.). This could be a mental fault (e.g. delusions), or a physical fault (e.g. the uncontrollable mana surge does the equivalent of permanent radiation damage to the mage's skin, rendering him ugly).
10The mage is sustains critical internal injuries; the mage is Very Hurt.
11The mage's connection to the natural mana fields is weakened; reduce Threshold by 10 and Recovery by 3 permanently.
12The mage falls into a coma and does not wake up for 5+4dF weeks.
13The mage sustains life-threatening internal injuries; the mage is Incapacitated.
14The mage instantly ages 10+4dF years (assuming a human mage; scale the age range up appropriately for races with longer lifespans).
15The mage suffers an injury to his brain; his skill level with all magical realms and colleges is reduced by one.
16The mage suffers permanent damange to his nervous system. Dexterity (or Agility or similar) and all skills of a physical nature are reduced by one level.
17The mage gains a new major Fault (potentially worth two Faults). This is something serious; e.g. the mage's eyes melt, and the mage is blinded, or the mage becomes a berserker, flying into uncontrollable ranges every time he fails a Will (or equivalent) roll during a stressful situation. (Be creative.)
18There is no immediate apparent effect. However, the mage radiates a mana signature which will be immediately visible to magical and supernatural creatures. What's more, this signature acts as a sort of beacon. Once a week for the next four weeks, a demon or other powerful supernatural creature will seek out and attack the mage, attempting to kill him. Any other supernatural creatures the mage comes across during that time may, at the GMs option, view the mage as a dangerous abomination and likewise attempt to kill him. The mage will know he is radiating this signature.
19The mage loses all ability to cast spells, and may never regain it under any circumstances.
20+The mage explodes in a radiant and gory burst of mana and gibs. Anybody within 1 meter of the mage takes 6 points of damage, anybody within 2 meters of the mage takes 3 points of damage, anybody within 3 meters of the mage takes 1 point of damage, and anybody within 5 meters of the mage gets covered by little bits of gore. Armor protects normally against the explosive damage. Note that the mage explodes before the spell is complete; the spell automatically fails.