Alloy: Magic System Overview
Magic is the invisible force which binds the world together. It is behind the very existence of all worlds known and unknown. Winds stir because of magic, fires ignite because of magic, plants grow and people live because of magic. It is this force, accessible to only a few, which empowers the firmament above and the earth below.
When a mortal makes study of the universe and gains mastery of portions of this power he can accomplish great deeds in the name of sorcery. When a channeler makes a connection to a higher power, whether one of the elemental realms, a god or demon, he makes a pact to utilize that power for his own ends.
There are even people capable of feeling the forces of nature in their very bones. These attuned individuals are known as natural mages or witches and warlocks. In some cases entire races possess this linkage, although few master it.
Various people call supernatural power different names such as the Flow, the Wave of Life, Mystic Winds, etc., but they are all referring to the same essential thing. They mean that there is a resource which exists everywhere which can be tapped, and accessed by mortals to perform great deeds.
They often carry cautionary tales about misusing this force as well, as draining all the Wave or scattering the Flow would cause irrevocable damage to the world itself. Most humans simply refer to this source as magic, and as most worlds are human dominated, we will refer to it as magic throughout this section.
Magic, whether extra-dimensional, pulled from the environment or innate, is a physical force in the world. That means that concentrations of it can be felt by attentive people and its lack of presence, if such a region were to exist, would be noticeable as well.
When someone casts a spell, performs a rite or uses a talent it pools this resource and it is noticeable. Likewise, when an intercession is granted to a channeler, it is quite blatantly magical.
Any character can attempt a Perception + Insight test to sense active magic in their immediate vicinity. Sorcerers can use their Sorcery rank and Channelers and characters with Birthrights can use Discipline instead of Insight. Extra successes achieved mean you can classify the effect somewhat: channeling, sorcery or natural magic, and whether it is offensive, defensive, transformative, utility based or informational. This is objectively determined, it is not based upon intent. A spell which conjures a flame which could be used to light clothing on fire or serve as a torch, or start a campfire is a utility spell. A spell which conjures a flame which lances out at a target is an offensive spell.
The TN to detect the presence of an ongoing magical effect is 2, or 3 if the effect is subtle. If the source of the magical effect is taking pains to hide their spell or rite by taking a penalty to their actions, this makes it a TN 1 higher to detect.
Thus, sensing that someone is cursed with bad luck or bodily transformed into an animal form is TN 2. Sensing that someone invisible is nearby or that someone is being mentally dominated is TN 3. These rise to 3 and 4 respectively if the caster hides his work when casting.
Note, gods, immortals and demons granting intercessions often hide their work as they use their channelers to spread worship of themselves. Even so, when personally involved with a conflict, they often choose to be blatant.
What does this mean in game? It means that when you stumble across a doorway locked with ancient magics, you can feel it. You know after looking for and failing to find a hidden switch that the door won’t open due to brute force, or that it won’t open at all without the right password, or spell. It also means to the sorcerer asked to cast that spell that it may require a higher level of power to affect such a door.
Likewise, if you interact with an ensorcelled noble at a party, and you are able to sense beyond the fact that magic is active on his person, you might notice that the noble has offensive sorcerous magic upon him, which might lead you to notice that he is being Dominated.
All rites, spells and talents share a few factors in their entries. For the purposes of this discussion all such abilities are referred to as powers, and all such people who invoke powers are referred to as the user. Aside from Action Costs and Target Numbers, they have Range and Duration statistics.
Range is always expressed as Self, Touch, Close, Short, Medium, Long or Unlimited. With the exception of Touch, Self and Unlimited these correspond exactly to the descriptors for ranged combat. Self means that the power only affects the user. Touch means that the user must succeed at a Agility + Brawling test versus the target’s Dodge to affect them. When making modifications for extended range, the user travels along this continuum, making a power that is normally only effective on himself a Touch power, then a Close power after that, etc.
Duration is expressed as Instant, Concentration, Sustained or Indefinite. An instant power lasts no longer than the phase in which it goes into being, but those effects can be permanent. A concentration based power begins working during the phase in which it is used, but can be continued via the Maintain Effect maneuver so that it continues into the next round. A Sustained power lasts until the end of the scene, the day, etc. The description will give you a predetermined time period as a base. Indefinite powers last until they are canceled in some way.
AC: 1, TN: Varies, Close/Ranged Combat
A character who uses a power can maintain its use over multiple rounds by using this action at least once per round. The difficulty is determined by the number of Concentration duration powers being maintained. The TN starts at 1, and increases by 1 per 2 additional powers being maintained (1 power TN 1, 3 powers TN 2, 9 powers TN 5). The action cost does not go up no matter how many effects the caster maintains. Failing this roll has a graduated result, meaning that you lose 1 effect per point you miss the TN by. The caster gets to choose which effects he lets go in most cases, but in the throes of combat, and other life and death struggles the GM may choose one randomly or simply pick one.