Friday, February 24, 2012

Fantasy Traveller - Black Magic

Rounding out the five magic skills for Fantasy Traveller is black magic.  While wizards manipulate subtle arcane forces, sorcerers channel raw power, clerics ask favors of their deities, and druids command natural spirits, the black mage draws on the forces of darkness to accomplish effects including necromancy, the binding of demons, trapping souls, blood magic, curses and hexes, and similar.  Powerful black mages can achieve immortality via lichdom, raise armies of undead to do their bidding, and crush kingdoms beneath terrible plagues...  but, for every black mage who reaches such heights of power, ten succumb to weakness, temptation, and inattention, and are slain by the powers they wished to master.

Black magic runs off of Intuition and Education with similar frequency; performing the summoning ritual for a demon uses Education, but commanding it successfully requires Intuition.  Some black magic may also be governed by Endurance, for rituals and tasks which entail great pain for the caster.  Even more so than Sorcery, black magic embraces the philosophy of 'great power at great risk'; while failing a casting check in most schools is likely to simply cause the spell to fizzle, failing a black magic check often has negative consequences.  Failure to curse an enemy may curse you, failure to raise undead may cause damage to the caster as negative energies consume him, failure to summon a demon may summon something worse...  So it goes.  There is also the possibility that a failure, or even a success, will attract the attention of the powers of light, who may send their servants after the black mage.  This is a particularly good result to have occur on a check with effect -1; the spell may succeed, but has attracted the attention of powerful forces who take umbrage.

Example effects:

Place a short-lived hex on an enemy in combat - Routine (+2) Black Magic + Int, 1-6 seconds (significant action).  The target takes a penalty to a skill of your choosing equal to your effect plus one for 1d3 rounds of combat.

Raise a single humanoid as a weak undead servant - Average (+0) Black Magic + Edu, 10-60 minutes.  The effect of the check serves as a bonus to the power of the created undead.

Summon a demon - Difficulty varies by demon type, Black Magic + Edu, 1-6 hours.  The effect of this check serves as part of a task chain with the check to control the summoned demon, below.  Summoning an imp or other minor spirit is Routine (+2), hell-hounds Average (+0), succubi and nightmares Difficult (-2), vrocks and similar warrior-demons Very Difficult (-4), and balrogs Formidable (-6).

Control a summoned demon - Difficulty is one step harder than summoning, Black Magic + Int, 10-60 seconds.  The summoner may give one command, plus one per point of effect, which the demon must obey.  Not that wording is important, and compound sentences (or even compound objects) may be interpreted as multiple commands - "Kill Warlord Ugrak and his war council" is two commands, while "Kill everyone in Warlord Ugrak's tent" is one, but much less specific - if nobody is in the tent when the demon arrives, then none will be slain.  Commands need not all be given upon completion of the summoning, but the next command must be ready after the completion of the previous command.  Any command which entails long-term service, such as "Permit none but me to pass through this doorway" has a maximum duration of three months, after which the use of another command is required to retain that service.

Perform a blood sacrifice to aid in the control of a demon - Average (+0) Black Magic + Edu, 10-60 minutes.  Task chains with the Control a summoned demon task, above, but requires the sacrifice of a sentient.  Particularly succulent sentients, such as virgins and paladins, may grant a bonus to this check (bonuses for paladin and virgin do not stack; too much overlap).

Research how to become a lich - Difficult (-2) Black Magic + Edu, 1-6 months.  The effect of this check task chains with the ritual of lichdom, below.

Perform the ritual of lichdom, sealing your life force into an inanimate object for eternity - Very Difficult (-4) Black Magic + End, 10-60 hours.  If the caster succeeds, they're a lich!  If they fail by -1, they take 4d6 damage, ignoring armor, and if they fail by -2 or lower, they die outright.  Failure by -6 may have special, unpleasant consequences, such as having bound yourself into your phylactery and accidentally severing your link to your body, for an eternal conscious imprisonment.

Black magic is something which I have always found to be lacking in flavor in D&D.  Raising undead, bestow curse, and similar are just normal spells, with no particular risk attached to their use.  There is, from the rules of D&D, no particular reason that sane, right-thinking wizards shouldn't use such powers.  The increased risks associated with the Black Magic skill under these rules, as compared to Wizardry, serve as such a reason here.  With that risk, however, comes great power and great versatility, particularly with summoned demons as a means of gathering intelligence, acquiring items, and assassinating enemies.

Next up: career tables

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