Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ley Magic

Why do wizards lair in isolated valleys or remote mountains? Why do they build homes so far from the industrial towns where bookbinders, tanners, inkmakers and the other skilled artisans upon which they depend can be found? Why don't the royal courts keep hordes of low-level magicians running around at all times, armies of them ready to jump up at their call? And why are the lairs of wizards so impenetrable, filled with arcane traps and strange mazes, yet a military fortress restricted to the age-old use of portcullises and blind corners? Why, moreover, do the orcs not come pouring over the hilltops, forcing timid village-people to undertake the works of industry of which they are incapable? Why are we not ruled by dragons, or subjugated by cloud giants, greater than us in both strength of body and strength of mind?

In a phrase, it is because of ley lines.

Magic, like water and light, is not intrinsic to every part of the world. It flows, in great ethereal rivers, pooling in some places and running dry in others. Like flame, it can burst up suddenly in new places, and like sandstone, great weights of it can compress and push unmovingly into the soil. And, like water and light, it changes the nature of the land that it permeates. Long ago, when life was new, mana had its own subtle pull on the forms that it took. Some men grew to be larger and hungrier. Some dogs learned how to swim through magic the way other dogs learned how to swim through the seas. Most learned nothing, for they lived in areas where mana flowed too fast to take root, or was too scarce. A rarer few gorged themselves on it, and drank some of the wells dry.

Now, these magical creatures require ley energies in the same way they require air and food. A satyr could no more live in town than a hawk could roost beneath the oceans. As mundane humans began to learn the arts of society and technology, they also learned that neither art was much use against a frog that could breathe fire, or a wolf whose teeth pierced the very soul. Like the satyr and the hawk, humanity found its niche.

Of course, every artist has dreams, and seeks constantly to improve upon her works. It was only a matter of time before humanity learned to drink magic for itself, or systematically bind it and then burn it off in massive rituals. The former have come to be called, variously, mystics, wizards, mages, warlocks, witches, and druids. The latter, of course, is 'worship,' and it allowed humanity to clear out new, safe regions where it could build farms and cities, unmolested by arcane beasts.

Spellcasting

The mystic may bind one mana die (a d6) to herself per level. Spells are without level, and may be cast by throwing any number of available mana die and scoring higher than a 5. The "level" of the spell is determined by the number if dice thrown, and the spell takes two actions to prepare per die thrown, plus one more action to release. (In other systems, consider each die to take half a round to prepare, so a sixth level spell requires three rounds to cast.)

Each die that comes up equal to or lower than the number of dice thrown is lost. Each duplicated roll causes one point of lethal damage, as the expulsion of mystical energy stresses and damages the mystic's body. (So, a double would cause 2HP damage, triples 3HP, two doubles 4HP, etc.) None of these conditions affect the actual casting of the spell.

Additionally, any casting rolls of 15 or higher lubricate the flow of energy, allowing the mystic to instantly prepare another spell at any power level. Rolls of 30 or more actually attract energy to the spell's location, replenishing one spent mana die. Every multiple of 30 after that replenishes an additional mana die.

Limits to Spellcasting

Replenishing lost mana dice requires sleeping within a strong ley line or ley circle. A full eight hours of sleep replenishes 1d6 lost mana dice (apply WIS modifier). Stronger wells may replenish 1d8 or 1d10, while weaker ones might only return 1d4. These places are uncommon and likely to be guarded by jealous mages, or homes to dangerous magical creatures - the specifics, of course, will greatly determine the availability and power of magic in your campaign. Rarer, weaker, and more dangerous ley circles will restrict the mystic's power, and more common or stronger ones will commensurately increase it. 

A mystic can retain 1 spell per point of intelligence she has. Moreover, the retention of a spell necessitates the presence of some form of mana reserve - the mystic must have one mana dice per retained spell, or lose 1 HP per day, per excess spell. 

Learning a new spell - even one previously known - is an expensive and time-consuming process, requiring access ley energy the expenditure of 2d10x100 GP and 4d6 consecutive weeks of research and practice. If interrupted, the procedure must be started from scratch. Before rolling, a mystic can choose to rush the process, or work with more rudimentary materials - one can halve the total of one roll, at the cost of doubling the other.