The latest version of Rolemaster contains a very interesting and useful section (2.8, to be exact) on Customizing Magic in an RM game. As inspiration for this consideration, I’m recommending that every RM gamer, if you don’t already have it, pick up Chivalry & Sorcery’s Magicks & Miracles. It’s free, after all.
If you’re like me, though, and this is your first time exploring C&S, let me give you a warning: this isn’t a very well-organized book.* Designing an rpg is an art form, and expressing an rpg—in an orderly and systematic way—might be even more of one. I believe that a good rpg should be a mutually-dependent network of narrative mechanics, each component leaning on and resting on another, all bending toward a nexus, the Core Mechanic. It’s very difficult to present a game such as I have described in the linear method necessitated by prose. Sometimes the writer of rpgs has to rely on the reader to keep a concept or term in mind, patient for when it will, in time, be clarified. At the very least it is helpful to give some brief context for a component at the moment wherein it first is mentioned, even better to provide a glossary. Unfortunately Magicks doesn’t employ any of these strategies for comprehension.
Instead, someone fresh to Magicks, without being told to do so, must read the entirety of the book and then return, armed with greater understanding, to earlier portions of the text. I have done this, and perhaps my words here can better prepare new initiates to the experience.
Because, now that my criticism about Magicks’s delivery is aside, I must say that I love this book. Love this book. Each of the Magickal Vocations feels unique. As a result, the independent Magicks in which each practitioner specializes seems fresh. The C&S Magick system exhibits verisimilitude and suggests exciting possibilities for RM gamers.
To begin, let me remind the reader of the three Realms of RM Magic: Channeling, Essence and Mentalism. Channeling comes from the gods, Essence from the force, Mentalism from one’s own personality or being. It wasn’t until encountering C&S Magick that I realized just how limiting this structure is. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great way of organizing sources of magic, but when the powers being tapped come to define the casters themselves, you end up with (despite RM’s menu of magical Professions) just three (four, if you count Hybrid casters as a separate category) kinds of magical practitioners.
To contrast this with C&S, I’m willing to claim that C&S presents fourteen distinct casters. Two qualities conspire to define the Magickal Vocation: the Vocation itself, with its preferences for certain Magick Skills; and its primary Skill, the one specific to the caster’s central art, which explains the practice in great detail and provides specifications and descriptions of the artist’s preferred Focus. There simply isn’t space to provide descriptions for each of the Magickal Vocations, nor to explain just why I believe they’re so individual. As a way to give you at least one example of why I’m so enthusiastic about them, however, here’s the relevant language concerning the first listed Magickal class, the Conjuror.
The Vocation description.
Conjurers employ potions to perform their feats of magick, brewed from an enchanted cauldron. Conjurors are particularly adept at the magicks of illusion and transmutation and are able to brew potions that allow others to cast spells, though this can be risky.
Where a conjuror can practice magick it is restricted in that he must use a rather non-portable cauldron that acts as his focus. In the cauldron the conjurer keeps his “brew,” which contains Magickal components of all the spells he has learned. Often this brew attracts the attentions of a spirit (affectionately referred to as a “spook”) that will reside in the cauldron.
The Skill description.
Conjuration involves the preparation of “brews” in which the Conjuror prepares and stores spells for later casting. He actually binds minor spirits into potions. When drunk, the spirit is released, conditional upon the spell being cast. The Conjuror is particularly adept at the spells of Transmutation and Illusion, which are very amenable to the kind of casting procedures he employs.
The Conjuror has two major Items of Arcana, which he must fashion in order to cast his magick:
The Cauldron: This is the Conjurer’s major focus. The cauldron forms the container for the “Brew” through which the Conjuror casts all his spells. It must be constructed by using the 22 correspondences related to his birth sign. Once fully enchanted to MR 0 the metal correspondences must be taken to a metal worker to be smelted together with 50 lbs of copper and beaten into a 10 gallon cauldron (smaller cauldrons can be made for portable use). The Conjuror then enchants the remaining materials to anoint the cauldron. The enchanted gems must then be set into the handles of the cauldron by a Master Jewelsmith. It should be noted that the metals indicated in the list of correspondences cannot be replaced by other materials with the exception of metals such as Dwarvish or Greater Gold.
The Brew: This forms the Conjuror’s “Spell Book” and is created initially by using 7 parts of each of the 22 correspondences, all crushed, plus 21 different herbs, 7 flowers, 7 essences and 21 parts of each of 13 different liquids. All these ingredients must be fully enchanted to MR 0. Also, once each year the Conjuror must add 3 parts of each of the 22 correspondences and 13 parts of each of 13 different liquids. These need not be enchanted. If the Conjuror fails to do this, the Brew will dry up and both it and the Cauldron must be replaced afresh.
I see that this description should require some explanation about these “correspondences” and MR (Magic Resistance).
I’m able, only in part, to explain correspondences. The last chapter of this book, “The Apothecary Shoppe,” contains lists of ingredients, both Magickal and mundane. But, at a glance, I think it would be difficult for a character to find in this list twenty-two correspondences specific to her Vocation for the construction of a Focus (again, each of the fourteen Magickal Vocations have recommendations for Foci). It might be that the arcanist is supposed to cobble together all of the necessary correspondences by exploiting the various “Laws” of Magick, as specified by the rules, many of which allow seemingly counter-intuitive ingredients (such as Water for a Fire spell—the Law of Polarity) to be used to power or modify spells and their effects.
Magick Resistance is a result of C&S’s metaphysics of Magick. The rules explain that most substances resist being manipulated through the Magick arts and that they must be enchanted down to a level in which their energies might be more readily transferred. This would be MR 0. In a pinch, casters are able to work with MRs higher than this, though at a penalty.
I also should add that Foci, ranging from Simple to Greater, add bonuses to the casters’ Skill abilities, heighten their Magick Levels, and store Magickal energy.
You ask, how would I port any of this into Rolemaster? Well, in C&S, specific Vocations, of course, are able to purchase the Skills in which they specialize at lower costs than others. I’m running Against the Darkmaster, and in that game “Spell Lores” and Spell Skills are developed together by purchasing Ranks in a single Spell Lore. I could make Vocation Lores less expensive, award one-time bonuses for Vocation Lores, or create Background Options involving arcane “specializations.” It’s probably this last that I would implement, providing the vocational Focus or other relevant item with a higher Background Tier. C&S Spells are neatly organized by Vocation, so it should be no trouble to translate these into Lists or Spell Lores—particularly for VsD, wherein each Lore contains just ten Spells.
Next I shall explore C&S’s Magick system and how it might relate to RM’s. I also will look more closely at C&S’s “Priest Mages” and C&S’s detailed rules about Faith.
*Would you believe that a section called “Magick”, with two immediate subheadings of “What is Magick” and “Practising Magick”, doesn’t appear till Chapter 5–Chapter 5! Perhaps, after the introduction, start here.