Alloy: Sorcery Part 1
Sorcery is the most versatile, powerful, controlled, diverse, dangerous, segregated form of magic available to any character in the Alloy game system. On the one hand, a sorcerer picks how much power, and thus how difficult his spell casting will be. This is extremely versatile, powerful and controlled. If you need an abundance of power in order to deal with a small group of enemies or tear down a wall, you can get it. But you’re not stuck trying to hammer everything in sight. Sorcery can be a blunt tool, or a precise one, with power or finesse available at need. The fact that sorcery was created by opinionated scholars who thought their way was the best and zealously guarded their secrets, at least at first, means that different paths are very different from one another. I would go so far as to say that playing an Elementalist in one game, and playing a Thaumaturge in another is different enough that the average player won’t grow bored just for exploring the same character archetype. It is dangerous because while the other magics can get you into trouble, it is very difficult for them to harm you. This is not the case with miscast sorcery spells.
Sorcery is the study of magic and its manipulation by mortal beings using various techniques and skills. Some sorcery is verbal, others mental, still others use meditation, and others physical gestures or physical training to produce magic. No two paths of sorcery are extremely similar, neither in outlook nor capabilities.
While sorcery can be taught directly, master to student, it is often taught in lodges or schools in civilized countries. Still, this depends upon the circumstances of the student. A gifted student, or one with a mentor can often complete the training in 3 or 4 years, but even a rank amateur can become a competent sorcerer in 6 to 8 years of hard study.
Most sorcerers train for half a decade or more adding lore from other disciplines to their repertoire before heading into the world to make a name for themselves. Once a sorcerer has a decent grasp of his chosen path, he can apply himself to learn a different one. This subsequent training is often faster, taking only months to complete for the most dedicated of students.
The reason behind this is that most sorcerers are taught how to understand magic by their first path, and this knowledge is helpful once they begin to understand the basics of another path. Some paths are so disparate that few could really grasp the mindset of each simultaneously, and that knowledge is detrimental to learning that other path. Still, most sorcerers are capable of compartmentalizing the theory and training behind a magical art so that they can perform its spells alongside those of another path.
Academic mastery of arcane magic is divided into multiple schools because each approach is at least slightly different. Each mastery of sorcery is known as a path which consists of a list of spells broken out into tiers to show relative strength. The path also has casting rules, universal limitations, and parameters written out.
One of the parameters is a spell progression. Sorcerers can learn more spells than they can master, and any sorcerer attempting to cast a spell they haven’t mastered is at increased risk of a magical backlash. Also, any character attempting to cast a spell they know which has a tier higher than their path rank suffers a penalty. The path’s spell progression shows exactly what a character gains for earning each rank of the associated sorcery skill.
Because of the very nature of sorcerous magic, it is not possible to stumble across an esoteric spell from days of yore and in a week or so of study master it. Sorcery requires a specific mindset, and practice. While many sorcerers start multiple paths, no sorcerer alive has mastered half the available paths.
This very difference is the reason that sorcery paths are self-contained, and that spells have unique names, even if they have similar effects to other spells.
Casting a Spell:
The mechanics of casting any spell are the same. The sorcerer chooses a spell to cast, picks a Power level to cast it at, makes any modifications he chooses to make, and then attempts to best the TN in order to manifest it. If the spell can be actively resisted, the target can attempt to do so, and their own successes subtract from the Power of the spell. If the spell has enough power level to continue to manifest, it affects the target at its current level of power. The attribute and skill combination required differs by sorcerous path, although the most common attributes are Intellect or Resolve and the most common skill is Discipline.
Modification: Sorcerers may increase duration by one degree, but only one degree normally, by sacrificing 1 Power from their spell. Likewise, range may be increased by one degree per point of Power, with no real limit. Individual spells may allow multiple targets to be targeted as Power increases, but sorcery by default does not increase areas, change effect shapes or add new targets. This choice must usually be made before the spell is cast, so if a spell’s range is to be increased from Short to Long, it will effectively increase the TN by 2
A sorcerer can attempt to cast a spell on a tier which is higher than his current sorcery path rank as long as he has learned it. Most sorcery paths give knowledge of the spell tier one higher than the current rank of path mastery, but some give knowledge of the entire tree at once or in blocks. In all cases, attempting a spell of a tier higher than your path rank gives you a penalty equal to the difference in rank and the tier of the spell.
Example, Prestyn is a Rank 2 Sorcerer of the Elementalism Path. If he attempts a Tier 3 Spell he suffers a -1D penalty to the roll. Gambol is a Rank 3 Sorcerer of the Black Arts Path, which means he knows all of the spells up to Tier 6. If he were to attempt to cast the Tier 6 spell Living Dead, he’d have a -3D penalty.
When casting a spell either the spell succeeds or fails, but when the result is unfavorable something else happens as well. When a spell goes awry, it is said to backlash. This can happen on a critical failure or a marginal success for a mastered spell, the only difference is that it occurs after the spell is cast in the latter case. However, when a caster fails to inexpertly cast a spell a backlash occurs regardless of dice pool quality.
Each branch of sorcery lists out what the backlash effect is, but in general the Game Master can always make it worse. Novices who are casting low power versions of lower tier spells often feel chastised when a backlash happens but they are almost expected. Expert casters are often given a potent setback if they suffer a backlash because they otherwise happen so rarely.