Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fantasy Traveller - Divine Magic

Today, in installment 2 of 3 on magic in a fantasy version of Traveller, I present divine magic.  As with arcane magic, there are two skills governing the channeling of divine power.

Liturgy: Liturgy is the fine art of asking deities for help and hoping that they answer.  Unlike with the arcane skills, Liturgy has specialties, as each god has their own holy book, rituals, and preferred offerings.  Liturgy 0 conveys a basic familiarity with the workings of divine magic and a cursory knowledge of the functions of the various deities in the pantheon, while scores higher than 0 must be assigned to separate deities as specialties, representing closer study of the tenets of those deities (ex: a standard D&D cleric might have Liturgy (Pelor) 2).  Note that under this system, polytheistic priests are quite possible with the spitting of points between multiple deities (ex: Liturgy (Boccob) 1, Liturgy (Wee Jas) 1 for the magically-inclined D&D priest).  The magical effects available through a particular Liturgical specialty depend heavily on the deity; a war god is likely to look favorably on requests to smite heathens, while a god of healing probably won't.  Difficulty modifiers should be assigned based on the the suitability of a given request from the deity's perspective.  Standard liturgical spell effects include turning the undead, smiting enemies of the faith, prophecy, healing the injured, curing the sick, raising the dead, and granting blessings.

Liturgy is generally governed by Education, as the governing factor of the effectiveness of prayers is making sure that you get the words right and living according to the tenets of the deity, which requires that you know the tenets of the deity and the words of his prayers.  Intuition may be relevant if you're trying to deceive a deity...  but that's a risky thing.  As a general rule, if a Liturgy check fails with effect -1, the spell succeeds, but the deity requires a sacrifice from the priest in accord with the magnitude of the desired effect; this may range from an extra two hours of prayer or the sacrifice of a goat for minor effects to a major quest or crusade for major effects.  With effects between -2 and -5, the prayer falls on deaf ears, and with effects of -6 or lower, the priest has angered the deity, with consequences such as revocation of spells for a period of time (or until ritually purified) for more merciful deities or plagues of boils, pillars of salt, rains of brimstone, impotence, leprosy, and other Old Testament-grade curses for less merciful ones.  Consult your GM to see if Liturgy is right for you!

Example uses:

Heal the injured - Average (+0) Liturgy + Edu, 1-6 minutes.  The target heals 1d6 + effect points of damage to ability scores if delivered within 5 minutes of the injury, or just the effect if delivered outside of 5 minutes.  Healing can only be administered once per injury.  For deities of growth and healing, this is an Routine (+2) effect, while for those of death and decay, this is a Difficult (-2) task.

Miraculous Healing - Average (+0) Liturgy + Edu, 1-6 hours.  This hours-long ritual is used for healing those who are terribly wounded ever after preliminary healing of injuries, and must be performed in a sanctified place.  See also Surgery, Traveller Core page 75.  As with healing the injured, modifiers for deity type apply.  Other uses of the Medic skill are likewise subsumed into Liturgy.

Bestow Blessing - Average (+0) Liturgy + Edu, 10-60 minutes.  You bestow your deity's favor on a single willing recipient, plus one recipient per point of effect, for the duration of one week.  Each recipient may 'burn' the blessing at any time during this week to gain a +2 DM on a check associated with the deity's portfolio (exception - you cannot use blessing bonuses on Liturgy checks).  Deities are jealous, however, and no character may benefit from more than one blessing in a given week.  Likewise, once a character has been blessed by a particular deity for a particular week, the blessing is 'locked in' for that week, and he cannot gain another deity's blessing for that week.

Turn the Undead - Average (+0) Liturgy + Edu, 1-6 seconds (significant action).  Nearby undead apply your effect as an inverse task chain to all of their actions for the next round (ex: Effect +6 normally generates a +2 bonus.  Instead, it would inflict a -2 penalty).  Deities of light and life may provide their followers with additional effects such as damage to the undead, while deities of death may instead provide the ability to bolster or heal the undead.  This effect also works on demons and other such entities, but this use may be Difficult (-2) or harder depending on the power of the entity.

Smite Enemy of the Faith - Average (+0) Liturgy + Edu, 1-6 seconds (minor action).  You may attempt to smite enemies of your faith with whom you are in combat.  This works much like Aiming, except that you gain a +1 plus a task chain bonus based on your Liturgy check result (ex: Liturgy check effect 6 -> +2 task chain bonus -> +3 smite bonus to attack).  This bonus stacks with Aiming, but not with itself.  Additionally, the bonus only applies to those who are actually enemies of your faith; a Cuthbertian can smite undead, liars, and thieves, for example.  Attempting to smite someone who isn't an enemy of your faith is likely to displease your deity.  This tends to be an Routine task for warlike deities, and Difficult for warmfuzzy healer deities.

Raise the Dead - Very Difficult (-4) Liturgy + Edu, 10-60 hours.  This arduous ritual must be performed in a sanctified place, but if successful, may restore a dead person to life.  The ritual requires a reasonably-intact corpse, and restores the target to life weakened and exhausted (Fatigued, and Endurance damaged to 0) by the ordeal.  Raising the dead without a corpse, or without the End damage, is Formidable (-6).  Even priests of life and growth find this ritual Difficult (-2), though deities of death can exercise their control of this domain to similar effect (they often demand sacrifices in exchange, such a death for a life, however).

Miracle - Formidable (-6) Liturgy + Int, 10-60 seconds.  Ask anything in your deity's portfolio, and hope you roll well.  Taking additional time provides a +2 DM for every two increments increased, rather than for every one increment as usual.  Ask the Dwarven smith god for a deity-forged weapon to slay the terrible dragon which plagues your people, the death god to personally slaughter your enemies, or the war god to lead your army on the field of battle.  Effects of this magnitude frequently involve the personal appearance of deities in the mortal world, or transport of the asking mortal to the deity's realm (sometimes in the form of a vision, other times physical transport).  Often deities will demand great sacrifices for service of this kind.

Druidism: The other primary form of divine magic is asking nature spirits for aid rather the deities.  Druidism does not have specialties like Liturgy does, though situational modifiers may apply based on the kind of spirits in the surrounding area - plant spirits are sparse inside a volcano.  Druidic effects include speaking with animals, skinwalking, healing, tree stride, weather control, and similar.  Powerful druids can induce natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.  Druidism relies primarily on being in tune with nature and the animal part of oneself, and so is governed by Intuition, though as with Sorcery, Education may sometimes be used for rituals from obscure texts.

Failure of a druidism check with effect -1 means that the spirits of the proper type for the chosen effect are weak in this area.  The druid may choose to force the spell, exhausting their power, which denies him the use of similar spells for a time depending on the magnitude of the effect, or he can choose to permit the spell to fail.  Effects between -2 and -5 mean that the druid has misread the spirits and failed to gain their aid, and effects of -6 or below earns the wrath of the spirits, who curse the druid in a thematically-appropriate way; animal spirits may become hostile, plant spirits may writhe and entangle him, and elemental spirits may animate the very earth against him.

Example uses:

Heal the injured - As with Liturgy.

Miraculous Healing - As with Liturgy, though a sanctified place for a Druid is one where the spirits of life and growth are strong.

Read a druidic standing stone - Average (+0) Druidism + Edu, time depends on amount of text.

Speak with Animals - Routine (+2) Druidism + Int, 1-6 minutes.  The subject animals must not be attacking, though they will generally not flee from a druid who is trying to speak with them.  Having appropriate food provides a +2 DM.

Influence Animals - Difficult (-2) Druidism + Int, 1-6 seconds (significant action).  The druid can alter try to alter an animal's reaction to the party's presence.  A successful check allows the druid to modify the animal's reaction result (per page 72 of Mongoose Core - Animal Reactions) by an amount less than or equal to his Effect in either direction.  For example, a party encounters a bull triceratops, which is a Grazer.  The DM rolls for its reaction, and gets a 9, so it attacks the party.  The druid rolls Influence Animals, getting Effect 3.  He can change the reaction roll to anything between 12 and 6, and so can cause it to cease attacking or to flee.

Enter a trance and transfer your consciousness into a nearby animal - Routine (+0) Druidism + Int, 1-6 minutes.  You gain nominal control over the mind of a nearby animal, though your perceptions are filtered through its.  Performing this on a tamed animal is Routine (+2), but truly wild, powerful, or savage animals may be Difficult (-2) or harder.  Modifiers based on size and utility may apply; controlling a raven is much easier than controlling a bear.  While in this state, your body sits motionless and defenseless.  You can be wakened by a slap, water, or damage to either your body or to the animal.  Maintaining the trance in the face of one of these interruptions requires a Druidism + End check of difficulty varying with the strength of the interruption.  Such a check is also required to maintain the trance for long periods of time.  While in such a trance, the only other druidic magic you may use is to speak with or influence animals, though speaking with or influencing animals of the type you are currently possessing is of Easy (+4) and Average (+0) difficulty, respectively.

Shapeshift into a small animal, such as a cat, monkey, or bird - Very Difficult (-4) Druidism + Int, 1-6 minutes.  While in this form, you gain the physical stats, special abilities, and senses of the animal into which you have changed.  You remain in this form indefinitely, though you revert if slain.  The animal's instincts are overlaid on yours, and it is dangerous to remain outside your natural form for too long; for every 24 hours you remain continuously in a foreign form, you must make a Druidism + Int check with a -1 DM per previous check to retain your sanity.  If you fail, you lose yourself in the animal nature and become a normal animal of that type.  Shapeshifting into larger, more powerful animals is possible, but difficult and dangerous; such animals tend to have stronger natures, and so sanity check frequency and difficulty are increased.  Additionally, you may cast no other spells while shapeshifted.  Resuming your natural form is a significant action.  When you shapeshift, damage persists across forms - if you have more damage than your new form can handle, you die.

Predict tomorrow's weather - Routine (+2) Druidism + Int, 1-6 minutes.  You can determine what the weather will be like tomorrow, and can look one additional day into the future per point of effect.

Make it stop raining - Difficult (-2) Druidism + Int, 1-6 minutes.  You can alter the weather in a small area surrounding you, such as a forest glade or stretch of beach.  This alteration persists for an hour, plus one hour per point of effect.

Induce berserk - Difficult (-2) Druidism + Int, 1-6 seconds (significant action).  You can cause yourself or a subject to enter a berserker frenzy by angering their animal spirits.  Using this ability on an unwilling subject increases the difficulty to Very Difficult (-4).  During the frenzy, the subject gains an extra minor action per round of combat and suffers no penalties for wounds taken.  Additionally, they add your effect to their Strength score for the duration.  However, they also cannot distinguish between enemies and allies, may only move towards targets and attack in melee (may not aim, hide, lurk in cover, cast spells, retreat, and so forth), and do not know how much damage they have sustained (this information is kept secretly by the GM; when a berserker runs out of physical ability score points, he just drops dead).  Berserk rage lasts until there are no further apparent conscious targets, or until the subject is slain.  Particularly tragic or poetic actions (killing one's wife, brother, or liege lord, for example) may also end the rage immediately as the target comes to his senses.

Cataclysm - Formidable (-6) Druidism + Int, 10-60 hours.  After a long and painful ritual, you cause a natural disaster in a nearby area, such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, or volcanic eruption.  If the area was already prone to such a disaster (ie, you're on top of a geologically active area), then the check is Very Difficult (-4).

Design notes:
Both of the divine skills are strong support skills which highlight the differences between Education and Intuition.  One of my goals with Liturgy was to move clerics away from the "Armored wizards who call down Flame Strikes and crap" and to emphasize the importance of the temperaments of each deity - the Trickster God's blessing doesn't provide a bonus to attack unless it's a backstab, the War God won't help you weasel your way out of things, and so forth.  With Druidism, similar concerns manifested themselves with shapeshifting, which has been historically pretty damn broken.  I think this fix should suffice; skinwalking allows druids to use animal forms, but leaves their own bodies vulnerable, while shapeshifting itself is difficult, especially for combat forms, and damage persists across them, so that if you're badly wounded as a bear and you shift to human form, you will likely perish.

To part 3 - black magic

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