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Magic By Power Words

This system is essentially a conversion of the GURPS "improvised magic" approach as penned by S. John Ross.

With a broad range of potential spell effects, the "Power Words" system requires a GM who can think fast on s/his feet in order to provide an entertaining gaming session. If the player can imagine a spell result, the "Power Words" system should be able to provide a means to accomplish it.

Mages combine appropriate "Power Words" into a "spell focus." Each Power Word has an initial difficulty of Very Easy (5). Every time a mage uses a particular word in a day, the difficulty number increases by 5. A mage's skill with a spell focus is determined by adding the skill dice with each Word used. The final difficulty of a given spell focus is found similarly by adding the difficulty of each Word. Only one "Wild Die" should be used when combining Words in this manner.


The Eldrich Fishmonger has CONTROL:4D and ANIMALS:3D. When attempting to cast a spell to summon a giant kraken, his skill total for the CONTROL ANIMAL spell focus is 7D. If his current difficulty with CONTROL is Moderate(15) and with ANIMALS is Very Difficult(30), the final difficulty for this spell focus is a 45.

In general, a mage must know a given Word (have it listed on the character sheet with skill dice invested in it) to be able to utilize it in a spell focus. However, mages who have studied the Thaumatology skill may make use of Words they have not yet learned if they make a successful skill-check on their Thaumatology skill first. A success allows a mage to make a "standard default" use of the Word, using the dice invested in the Magery attribute. Words used at the "default" level begin at "Easy" rather than "Very Easy" and are still subject to the "accumulating difficulty" rule.

The Affinity listed in the following tables is for use with the Options - Affinity Families section.


Mages may make use of the "Preparation" rule and Character Point expenditures when casting spells in order to gain skill-dice bonuses. The use of spell components and enhanced rituals can be used to reduce the difficulty of a spell focus.


The Eldrich Fishmonger spends [2 rounds] preparing his spell focus and the [2 rounds] needed to actually cast it. This gains him an additional 1D to add to the 7D he has in his CONTROL ANIMALS spell focus. He then pulls a hand-carved model of a kraken out of his pouch and paints it with ink taken from a giant kraken. These spell components combine to reduce his target Difficulty by [3], giving him a new target of 42. He decides to improve his chances by performing an enhanced ritual, gaining another reduction of [4 points], bringing his target down to 38. Really pouring himself into his efforts, he expends a character point, garnering another 1D to add to his skill-pool. His final tally is CONTROL ANIMALS:9D against a Difficulty Target of 38.

Opportunities for spectacular failure abound when using magic. When a player rolls a "1" on the Wild Die during a spellcasting, the GM may opt for one of two approaches to a Complication - Reasonable or Whimsical. The Reasonable approach is the one where the botched attempt results in something similar to the caster's intentions, but totally lacking in the desired effect. The Whimsical approach may bear little or no resemblance to the effect the caster desired.


Reasonable - The Eldrich Fishmonger rolls his dice in his attempt to summon a giant kraken. With a roll of 45, he has achieved his difficulty number, but the Wild Die came up a 1. The GM decides a swarm of the more common (and utterly useless to the caster) lesser kraken respond to the summons.

Whimsical - With the same rolls, the GM decides a half-dozen sea-turtles follow the caster around for the duration of the spell.

Any time a spell targets another sentient being for purposes other than inflicting damage, the spell is affected by the Relationship and Proximity Modifiers tables. Sentient subjects also have the option of resisting a spell. When a mage is the target of a spell being cast surreptitiously, s/he rolls a Perception check with the difficulty number being the amount by which the spell-caster exceeded the difficulty-number of his spell-focus. If the Perception check is successful, the targeted character is allowed to resist. If the subject of a spell opts to resist, s/he makes a Magery roll and the result is added to the caster's difficulty.

The different approaches to spell-casting have different ways in which the range and duration affect a mage's ability to cast a spell. The tables below list the amount by which the mage's final difficulty number is adjusted.
self+ 0seconds+ 0
touch+ 5minutes+ 5
close (up to 10m)+10hour+10
near (up to 100m)+15half a day+15
far (up to 500m)+20day+20
within sight+25week+25
"been there"+30month+30

Other charts for modifiers such as spell components and rituals will go here

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