Alloy: Channeling Magic Part 1
All fantasy role-playing games seem to have a core of magic use, but Alloy is built modularly so any of these three subsystems can be excised if you really want to go low fantasy or real word fantasy. The first subsystem is the Channeling subsystem, which represents divine power. Note, this is separate from Faith, and Belief. I treat channeling as the ability to funnel power from entities of great power into the world, but there could be many explanations for how that power was acquired. A character could make a pact with a demon, and instead of demon summoning sorcery he gets a direct, but diluted, form of power. Furthermore, it could be that the gods only give power to the worthy, and whether someone can buy the Bonded trait in the setting requires Faith first, or at least the appropriate backstory. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the explanation is for the game mechanics to function.
There are 3 main ways to invoke this power: ask for an intercession (a miracle), perform a rite as a prayer for quick results, or perform a rite as a ritual for more potent or permanent results. The former depends entirely upon the character’s Resolve attribute and Discipline skill. Choosing an entreaty that the entity would gladly wish to grant is a good way to improve your chances, but you can ask for anything. Whether it is granted is up to the dice result and the Game Master. The second puts control directly into the hands of the player, as rites still depend upon Resolve as their base, but the skill assigned differs depending upon the way they are performed. The strength of this form of magic is that it is a collection of moderately finite effects the hero can call upon at any time, and the result is almost always the same if they succeed. Extra successes don’t make an attack hurt more, a healing rite heal more damage, etc. It is moderately predictable, which makes it ideal for beginning players and the fact that intercession exists allows for those game defining moments which otherwise belong to the sorcerers, dragon riders etc.
Taking on the Godhead
Whenever a channeler wishes to utilize their gift they first have to open themselves to the flow of power. Human priests refer to this process as taking on the godhead. It involves opening the floodgate within their mind which is their personal connection to the higher powers, and finding themselves in the eruption of euphoria and exultation. Once they have regained themselves, they can channel that power into effects to aid themselves, their allies or harm their enemies.
This process can take beginners hours of time, where it seems they are catatonic with a pleasant expression plastered on their face. For practiced channelers it takes no visible time at all, however to the channeler they are suspended in the river of power and it is tempting to forget their reasons for adopting this state.
Once the character again perceives the world around them, they find that everything feels more real to them. Their senses are enhanced, but nothing overwhelms their delicate sensibilities. The world simply appears to be painted with brighter colors and filled with more pleasant scents, although they can smell the fetid stink of a swamp if they wish to, and they can hear the hiss of a snake over the songbird’s melody.
Taking the Godhead is a 1 AC action which requires no roll normally. If you are attempting to take the godhead inside an area consecrated to the opposite of your own faith, you must succeed at a Resolve + Discipline test versus the TN of the Consecration, as if you were a supernatural creature. If you are capable of doing so, the effects of the Godhead override any negative emotions you would feel from the consecration.
The character gains +1D on all Perception based tests, including Insight tests, but the euphoric feeling confuses the channeler’s pain receptors and dulls his reflexes slightly. Any character actively channeling the godhead suffers +2 Damage from all attacks, although wound penalties are lowered by 1 for the duration of the effect’s persistence as well.
Taking the Godhead
AC: 0 TN: 0/Varies on opposed consecrated ground
• +1D to Perception tests
• Takes +2 Damage but lowers Wound Penalties by 1
• Can perform rites (as prayers or full rituals) and can ask for Intercession
All rites can be performed as full rituals, which often gleans their full potential power, or as prayers. Full rites take up to four times as long as a prayer, but most prayers have a limited scope (such as only the channeler himself) or are less powerful. The character must succeed at a Resolve + Discipline test to enact a Prayer, and at Resolve + Research tests to enact a Ritual. To succeed, he must roll versus the TN of the rite’s form, as rituals often have higher TNs than prayers.
While the process of enacting any rite requires lengthy actions, it is the intent that is behind them which is most important. There is often prayer or chanting that accompanies any attempt to perform a rite, and many channelers move their arms in sweeping patterns of motion, but none of this is necessary. Once the channeler learns a rite, he can enact it by making the plea silently, and using the correct frame of mind and pattern of divine energy. It takes a long time to learn rites, but once they are known the actual production can’t be stopped by binding or gagging the channeler.
Mechanically, failing to perform a rite has no consequences except wasted time. Story wise, it may affect the types of intercessions they are granted while they are failing so regularly. Likewise, the influence of the divine lingers, and those channelers who have been granted intercessions find it harder to perform rites for a time. Thus, they suffer a half of the same cumulative penalty to perform rites as they do to ask for an intercession. The higher powers use their link to the channeler to manifest the miracles they ask for, but rites are still easier to produce because the channeler is helping himself.
Characters who do not wish to be affected by a rite can resist by making an AC 1 reaction roll of Resolve + Discipline against the channeler. If the channeler’s roll bests both the rite’s TN and the target’s number of successes plus 1, the rite manifests. Resisted rites simply fail. They are all or nothing effects. Likewise, the target’s resistance has no bearing on the amount of extra successes achieved, or what effect they have.
Modifications: Channelers who are practiced in the enacting of rites often extend their effects to affect more targets. The character can increase the TN of the rite by up to 3, with +1 TN netting an effect area of 2-4 people, +2 allowing the rite to affect a medium sized group (5-10), and +3 allowing it to cover a large group (11-20). The character can also voluntarily raise their TN by 2 in order to overcome resistance to his rites. If he achieves the necessary successes to enact the rite with the extra +2 TN, this lowers the target’s successes on their resistance roll by 2.
Asking for Intercession
Intersession is literally asking for a miracle. The player decides what they need, makes an in character statement amounting to an appeal to their higher power or philosophy, and makes a Resolve + Discipline test versus a TN based on the level of the intercession sought. The request, it’s terms, the powers that be’s opinion of the necessity of the request, the powers’ personality, etc. are all taken into account and this can amount to a +3D or -3D modifier to the roll. Note: Some entities prefer different Attributes than Resolve, that is just the assumed default.
The action of asking for an intercession is an AC 10 task, although someone can rattle off a few quick words for AC 3 and a cumulative -1D penalty. Channelers are never guaranteed that their intercession will be answered, nor how it will manifest if it is answered. However, if it is answered there are a few game considerations. Firstly, intercessions can perform the impossible. The character wouldn’t have asked a vastly more powerful being to expend effort on his or her behalf otherwise. So healing is total, destroying a target instantly puts them in critical condition or banishes them, returning someone from the dead has no drawbacks or limitations, etc.
Each time an intercession is granted, the channeler suffers a cumulative -1D penalty for all further requests that day. They suffer half this value, rounded down, as a penalty to perform rites as well. Once the character has had a long rest, and performed his or her devotions this penalty resets to 0.
The following miracles exist as examples.
Enhancement: These often have a TN of 2 or less. These blessings only affect the adept, or believer allies in his immediate presence.
Outward Effect: These often have a TN of 3 or less. These blessings and minor miracles affect even non-believers, but they are not extremely flashy, nor are they capable of manifesting far from the adept himself. The effect emanates from him or her body, and suffuses a small area nearby at best.
Manifestation: These often have a TN of 4 or more. These miracles can be quite flashy, and there is no question that the adept’s entity is with him when he receives one.
Miracles are often set, that is, exceptional success is no better than marginal success because the caster has nothing to do with powering the effect. Because of this, targets often cannot resist the force of this magic either. Still, the ever climbing penalty for repeated use means that priests often ask for enhancements, which tend to last longer, rather than simple smite my enemy manifestations, or they stir fervor in fellow believers to get great results without actually taking on the godhead.
If the character makes a selfish request to an altruistic entity, that is a big penalty. If they fail after doing so, that might represent a manifestation of punishment against the character. The entity might take away the character’s bond temporarily, or put an injunction on performing rites or asking for intercessions. He might gain a seeping unhealable wound which keeps him Wounded indefinitely. The Game master is encouraged to make any punishment fit the particular brand of hubris or abuse exhibited.