In contrast to Rolemaster’s spell system, Chivalry & Sorcery requires two (sometimes three) rolls to resolve its use of Magick. To clarify this, it’s perhaps helpful to understand more of the game’s Magickal metaphysics. C&S posits a Shadow World, in which exists this Magickal energy. To cast a spell, practitioners first must successfully access this power in the Shadow World. Then they must “target” their object on the material plane. Some Magick may be avoided with a Resistance Roll or even Dodged.
The intriguing aspect about C&S is that Magick is fueled by a character’s Fatigue, not any kind of “spell per day” or magical resource (such as RM’s Power Points). I know that in the game Dungeon Crawl Classics, casters can expend Hit Points (I believe the process is called “Spellburn”) to power magic. I have considered something similar to this for RM. But not until I read C&S and saw Magick use tied directly to a mage’s physicality did it became clear to me that this style of mechanics is more emulationist than “traditional” fantasy rpg magic systems. In the fictions I have read, wizards who are called into strenuous arcane battles often became mentally and physically exhausted at the ends of their conflicts. Seldom do I see them say, “Nope, all tapped out. No Spells or magical juju left in this gray-headed sage!”*
The innovation implications for RM should be obvious: get rid of Power Points and instead power Spells with Hit Points. Do I hear you say that this is too radical? It might be. Maybe I shouldn’t do away with PP entirely—this is one possible function of a sorcerer’s magic staff, after all—but not allow PP per Level, instead just one bonus, per the Attribute, at Level 1. Does this make the magic-user an unviable character Class, particularly if I don’t allow Body Development per Level? Possibly. It’s an interesting thought experiment, though. Would this likewise place high-level magic permanently out of reach? I’m not sure. It certainly would be difficult to do all alone, but, in a Ritual context, with mages sharing resources, it shouldn’t be so far beyond one’s grasp.
I already have claimed that C&S’s Magickal Vocations are impressively distinct from one another to a greater degree than the caster classes from other systems. C&S gets even better by differentiating the “divine” Vocations from the arcane Magicks. One could argue that, in traditional FRPGs, there aren’t even two different kinds of “magic.” There are different spells, sure, but, whether a caster works with Channeling, Essence or Mentalism (or, in some other games, the Arcane or the Divine), in practice all magic essentially is the same, powered either by PPs or rote memorization in the mornings. In contrast, when it comes to divine power, C&S adds a Faith Skill and a new resource, Belief Points.
Here’s how divine “magic” works in C&S. When an Act of Faith is performed, a Skill Roll, Faith, is performed and Belief Points expended to “power” the effect. If the test Critically succeeds, the believer gets all his Belief Points +1 back immediately. If it just succeeds, all of them. If it fails, only half. If it Critically fails, none. Similarly, characters being exposed to Miracles of a different religion must test their Faiths or lose BPs.
It’s a really neat method for emulating divine systems that require faith (even if the character’s belief is only the size of a mustard seed!) on the part of the adherent and the dynamic nature to this fidelity that might result from failures of divine acts and interactions with other religions. On a first examination, the mechanic might appear to belie my claim that C&S divine magic is qualitatively different from the arcane. Aren’t BPs, one might ask, just another magical resource like PPs? Yes, but unlike PPs, that take hours to recover, BPs are reliant only on the success of a character’s Faith. Moreover, it’s worth reminding the reader that C&S Magicks are powered through a caster’s Fatigue and not PPs, making the practitioners bodily sacrifice to her craft that much more palpable.
I should add that some C&S Acts of Faith require Fatigue, too. This, I suppose, simulates religious exercises such as fasting and fervent prayer. It also feels like a touch of humor when I read that characters can receive BPs for going to church at the expense of losing some Fatigue.😇
This Faith system does not emulate the kinds of theologies that posit an all-powerful Deity that does whatever He or She wants for Her or His worshippers at any time. I’m not sure if this can be systematized (outside of a GM inhabiting that admittedly arbitrary and potentially capricious role), and C&S points this out in its text. I believe we can get closer to this emulation, however, by doing away with BPs. This alternative system would use the Faith Skill alone. Very grand Acts of Faith would receive great penalties to the Skill attempt (simulating, for example, the natural doubt that would arise from trying to move an entire mountain to, say, walking on water). And the Skill itself, not BPs, would be subject to alteration depending on whether the Miracle was successful or not.
As a last observation, Magicks & Miracles demonstrates the greater possibilities of C&S’s Critical Die feature. For many of the Skill Tests presented in this book, the Critical Die offers a range of resolutions, not just a very good Pass or a very Bad fail. It encourages me to consider more granular options in RM’s—or even Against the Darkmaster’s—Action Resolution Tables.
*The exception, probably, would be The Dying Earth series of Jack Vance, upon which D&D’s magic system is based. Obviously novels published by any actual game companies are precluded from consideration.