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I first came up with the idea for Arcanomancy in this thread in the RPG.NET forums, when Chad Underkoffler expressed misgivings on moving the UA Laws of Magic outside the standard timeframe. My initial thoughts and musings on the matter eventually exploded into full-fledged Arcanomancy.

However, it is still in an alpha stage, since I've yet to properly playtest it. I'm mostly concerned that the Familiar spell is too powerful. Nonetheless, I've put this up for all of you to enjoy. If you have any concerns, questions, or so on, please email me or post them in the forums.

High Magic (Arcanomancy v0.42a)

Being an adaptation of the UA Laws of Magic to a Fantasy environment, as well as an attempt to explain many common stereotypes of the wizard.

Arcanomancers are the stereotypical fantasy wizards; anyone who looks at them immediately thinks "wizard." This is entirely on purpose. They wear conical hats and billowing robes covered in stars and moons, with huge medallions dangling before them; their familiars are most often cats and owls, with the occasional crow or toad; they carry pouches filled with spiderwebs and sulfur, jars full of newt's eyes and batwings, and large musty tomes written in ciphers and code.

It's all bunk. Arcanomancy's power comes directly from these perceptions; by putting on the appearance, they manage to tap into the reality. They (and to some extent, their magics) are ostentatious and theatrical; even when subdued, they exude a palpable presence, causing one's skin to crawl, as if saying MAGIC IS HERE. They have to.

At the core, all arcanomancers know they are faking it, though not all of them admit it to themselves. When they are first apprenticed, their tutors spend years forcing them to do grunt work with the excuse that they "aren't ready yet," combined with random and pointless tutelage in the "arcane arts" and generic knowledge, and equally random punishment. As their obsession with learning their master's secrets grows, their reputation as an apprentice also grows; their first manifestations of magic are generally unplanned, subconsciously gathered charges releasing themselves spontaneously - others' first manifestations come when they've had too much, and they sneak into their master's offices after hours and cast their first spells. Imagine the walking broomsticks from Fantasia for an example.

Later, usually after they have made some sort of name for themselves, they are sent out from their master's tutelage. These young former apprentices are aware that they can wield magic power, but are frustrated because they don't believe they really know what's behind it (an understandable stance, since there really is nothing behind it). They often go on manic quests, trying to find the secrets they crave. Few truly do, but most learn the art of bullshitting and bluster, until finally they don't notice the difference between their stories and their truth.

Arcanomancers occasionally manifest spontaneously. There are always stories about charlatans who stumbled into real power somewhere along the way; get enough people to believe in you, and the power may very well follow. Most of these are charlatan magicians - how often has the stereotype of the magician becoming the wizard turned true? Now you know why.

Arcanomancy declined as science rose; as people were more willing to pierce the veils of mystery, arcanomancers found themselves bereft of reputation, their powerful spells reduced to what they really were - just empty bluster. What science failed to realize is the bluster was emptied because of their actions. It is no longer a practiced school in the modern world.

Nicknames: High Magicians, Wizards, Warlocks, Arcanists

Central Paradox: The paradox of arcanomancy is one of belief - people need to believe in wizards in general, as well as arcanomancers in specific, in order for them to have power. Incidentally, this means arcanomancers are more likely to cooperate than adepts of other stripe, both with each other and with other schools. Cooperation helps them in a way it doesn't help other magickal paths.

Taboo: Appearing to be an ordinary man. Arcanomancy comes from reputation; if you slip out one night in your "street clothes" to go drinking, you forsake that. This applies EVEN WHEN YOU'RE ALONE - the universe is always watching. However, there are some ways around this restriction.

The arcanomancer's accountrements (his wand or his staff, his wizard's hat, his "spellbook," even a familiar) can all store charges for him if he wants to go out in street clothes - these charges remain even of the caster breaks taboo, but can be stolen by other adepts of all types, not just wizards. GM's discretion as to how many charges a particular item can hold.

Minor Charge: Minor charges come from appearing like a wizard, or doing wizard-like things; they rely on the reputation of wizards in general. As long as the arcanomancer makes a daily showing of his presence, he gains a charge (note this doesn't mean the arcanomancer must appear publicly; simply reminding people a wizard is around). For every four hours the wizard is in public, where people know/believe he is a wizard, he gains another charge, above and beyond the "making my presence known" charge.

In addition, spending an hour doing wizardly-like things (tricks, spells, etc.) in front of an audience can generate charges. Many wizards are skilled in all sorts of legerdemain and chicanery, into which they slip minor effects when necessary to increase the verisimilitude. A wizard spending all day at a marketplace can gain quite a collection of charges, as well as some coin.

Well-known arcanomancers can gain an additional minor charge simply through enough people remembering them. If Merlin were still around, he'd likely still be gathering daily charges. At most, this method allows for one charge per day; it can dwindle to as little as one charge per century. This is up to the GM's discretion, but generally the charges come in daily doses when the wizard first does something notable, then the frequency gradually declines until the arcanomancer makes another splash. This allows wizards to spend months or years in their towers without letting anyone in, as long as Everyone Knows about the great wizard in the tower, he gains much in the way of charges as a result.

Significant Charge: Significant charges come from doing things that affect your personal reputation as a wizard; these things generally involve either risk or time, sometimes both, but it has to be known by others. Attending a convocation of magicians (you wondered why these things were called, didn't you?), being called in by the king for consultation, going into seclusion for a whole season to study or meditate, defeating the horrid bandits or monsters plaguing the town, being in a position of authority, taking on an apprentice... these all gain significant charges (sometimes more than one - the magician in the role of the king's advisor gains one every day). A magician's apprentice generally becomes a journeyman once he's earned his first significant charge. Note that nothing precludes you from spending charges on this activity, any more than a dipsomancer is required to not spend charges to get his hands on a new brew.

Major Charge: Major charges come from long-term or highly-risky things (at least in the eyes of the populace). Defeating a dragon, questing for a major artifact, overthrowing the evil overlord (or becoming the evil overlord), guiding the king (Merlin guiding and protecting Arthur). These things tend to intersect with other paths of magical energy, so it is likely the task will allow the arcanomancer to rack up minor and significant charges, as well as bring the wizard into conflict with other sources of the Unnatural.

Note that significant and major charges can come from chicanery, if that chicanery is done right. Hiring bards to spread tales of your greatness won't cut it; hiring bandits to pretend to take over a town so you can chase them away, or creating a fake dragon's head and bringing it to the king, that's more like it.

Random magic domain: Magic. Wizaras can do most anything, as long as it's got enough pyrotechnics and power behind it. As the arcanomancer extends his personal reputation, things may get easier or harder (Volkar of the Shadows probably finds darkness easier than light, for instance); GM's discretion as to how costs change over time.

This might sound powerful, but remember that this ostentation makes wizards choice targets for anyone with a lick of sense. Blasts are amongst the easiest things an arcanomancer can do; a general rule of thumb is, the more skill or precision required, the more charges are necessary. In addition, this means the arcanomancer can rarely get away with using magick without inflicting Unnatural stresses on his spectators.

Arcanomancy blast style: Big and flashy; almost always some sort of bolt or ball emanating from the caster and soaring towards his target. It can affect inanimate objects as well.

Starting Charges: Journeyman wizards start with five minor charges. Journeymen also generally start with a familiar (see spell below).

Sample Minor Formula Spells

Hocus Pocus
1 minor charge

The wizard is able to do minor, distracting but harmless magical effects for an hour after casting this spell (make puffs of smoke, move a coin or a ball between two sources, change the appearance of a playing card). Unlike most arcanomancer spells, this won't cause Unnatural checks amongst the viewers, assuming they even notice it at all. Wizards sometimes use this to entertain, but it's not very efficient - spend this charge and do tricks for an hour, you'll get the charge back, but you won't get anything else for your troubles.

1 minor charge

The adept can send charges to other adepts, or even non-adepts (where the charges will later erupt). This is a pretty obvious stream of light from the adept to the target. It causes no damage.

1 minor charge

One of the first spells most wizards learn, illumination is the basic "light" spell, which must be cast on an item like a coin or a sword. For the single minor charge it will last for an hour. Each additional minor charge doubles that time, but the spell CANNOT be turned off early. The larger the item illumination is cast on, the wider the area of effect.

1 minor charge+

The caster draws a magical rune and invests a spell in it, which will be activated as soon as a set of conditions, specified by the caster at the time of the casting. Afterwards, the sigil fades and dies. This can be a formula spell, a random magick spell, or perhaps just an infusion of charges that will create a random spontaneous magickal effect. Either way, in addition to the sigil, the wizard has to pay for the spell infused within it.

Magic Missile [sic]
2 minor charges

This is the arcanomancer's minor blast. The adept throws little bolts of light at his opponent (based on the adept, this might be different - arrows of fire, spears of ice, slivers of darkness, etc.). For each additional charge spent, he can add a die of damage (these appear as additional bolts).

Burning Hands
2 minor charges

This is the other offensive arcanomancer spell. While the magic missile is a purely magical blast, the burning hands spell affects physical attacks. It can be cast on a person's actual hands, or on a weapon, which then glows or burns or darkens and generally looks magical, and has a +10 bonus to hit. Then, for around five rounds, any attacks that hit do an additional die of damage.

Hold Person
2 minor charges

The wizard immobilizes or incapacitates an individual without hurting them. This can be a magical sleep, a webbing, or a temporary petrification. (he turned to stone, but he'll get better!). The person this is cast upon may make a Soul roll to resist. Each additional charge invested in this spell gives a -10 to the Soul roll the victim needs to make.

Wall of Force
3 minor charges

The wizard creates a barrier that protects from physical attacks (magical blasts still make it through unless they can be defended against physically). This barrier can take no more than 50 points of damage before collapsing. Expending additional charges can either (a) add 25 points to the barrier, or (b) heal the barrier back to full after it has been damaged. The wall remains up until the caster is falls unconscious or stops concentrating on the wall, or until another set of conditions has occurred (a wall of ice is "until it melts").

Fly Like an Eagle
4 minor charges

The wizard can fly. It's a dream most all of us have, and the wizard is actually able to accomplish it. He can fly for an hour, plus an additional hour for each additional charge. He can also expend additional charges to bring others with him, one per person, but they must hold hands the entire way.


The wizard can disrupt a lot of magic, causing it to fall apart. A general rule of thumb is, magic costs one less charge to dispel than it did to create. Any actual CASTING of a spell can be disrupted for a single minor charge; the opposing caster loses his spell and his charges, but this can lead to interesting side effects.

Sample Significant Effects

1 significant charge

The first significant charge most adepts spend is on this formula spell, which binds them to an animal henceforth known as a familiar. The wizard can see through the eyes of the animal, or even possess it for a time (leaving his body comatose) and the animal, in return, is enhanced, uplifted in spirit through the sharing of the caster's soul.

When the wizard binds himself to a familiar, he invests a certain portion of his Soul into it. The wizard can invest one charge in the familiar for every ten soul points, or fraction thereof, he invests in it. Every full ten points gives the familiar an additional power or ability; GM's discretion. The GM may also decide that large familiars (tigers, bears, dragons) might require more soul expenditure than small familiars (crows, rats, cats) due to their additional natural abilities.

A new familiar has a starting Soul statistic equal to twice the Soul given it, and can raise it just as a character would. The familiar may not begin more than 250 points spread amongst the other attributes and skills (plus 25 per additional significant charge spent). Familiars do not earn their own XP - rather, the character must choose whether or not to spend XP on improving themselves, or their familiars. Exchange rates vary - the familiar gets one XP per charge it can hold; so a familiar invested with 11 Soul gets 2 XP for every 1 the character spends on it.

If the familiar dies, the character loses the XP invested in the familiar, any charges currently being held by the familiar, as well as all Soul invested in it. He must also make a rank-10 Self check, as a large part of himself becomes utterly and irretrievably lost.

Lightning Bolt
1 significant charge

This is the arcanomancer's significant blast. While the title is "lightning bolt," depending on the wizard the SFX, this effect can be anything at all (although it must be learned separately for each FX). Unlike the minor blast, this can be dodged; however, unlike most magicks, the wizard can take focus shifts to increase has chances of hitting.

Phantom Hounds
2 significant charges

The wizard summons a pair of obedient phantom hounds (B:90 S:80 M:50 S:30; Athletics 40%, Struggle 60%, Initiative 40%, Notice 50%), who arrive in a burst of brimstone. They last a variable amount of time - in general, the more active they are, the less time they are around. The longest they will remain is until the next sunset or sunrise, making them excellent guard dogs for an arcanist camping alone at night. In combat, they have +3 penetrating claws, and also do an extra die of damage as per the formula Burning Hands.

Sample Major Effects

Putting an entire castle to sleep until the princess is kissed, and then surrounding the whole thing with aggressive rose bushes afterwards. Turning an entire town to dust. Summoning and binding a dragon for a familiar. The sky's the limit, as long as it's big, ostentatious, and noticeable.

Last modified: Thursday January 01 1970 00:00:00, by Alexander Cherry