Dead... and Back is a survival horror Role Playing Game. The Anarchy Zones is its official setting - aliens, reanimates, and the ruins of 2055 America.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So, What About... Magic?

The Anarchy Zones is based on hard science, well crunchy at least - it gets soggy if you leave it in milk too long. But not all horror settings are that way, and D&B is supposed to handle suspense in general, even if the blog is mostly for the AZ.

To keep things simple, there are three main concepts for the magic system.  First, is to keep things simple - rather than adding another attribute or pool to look after, D&B magic uses the resources already on hand. Secondly, it is based on the idea that like affects like. And finally, magic is an extension of the caster.

These ideas are untested prototypes, so use at your own risk - then tell me about it.

The First and Second Ideas

Casting magic and fighting the will of the universe is fatiguing, so the basic currency of supernatural abilities is Deadening. However, like affects like, and if you want to affect a living thing - blood and Animus must be spent. Anything that is going to last more than a few moments is a mighty contest of the character's will against the universe, so spending lucidity increases the duration.

Magic tends to be at the same scale of its cater - so a magic attack is probably not going to destroy a tank, but an illusion will fool the crew. Attempts to use strength at a distance will simply mirror the magician's muscles. Lucidity can be spent to increase the power - but that is limited.

In more concrete terms, spending a point of deadening will let you affect some inanimate object at a distance, for a few seconds. Spending multiple points will add to the effect, but don't affect duration. To harm or heal a person, a point of animus is spent (wounding the caster) and with additional animus spent adding two extra dice to the roll. (Drawing from you own body is powerful stuff!) Either way, the effect occurs for only a short period of time - about a combat round. Lucidity can be spent to successively increase the duration by a factor of four. (10-40-160 (two min+) - 640 (ten min+) and so forth) At the tenth iteration, the effect simply becomes permanent, though the caster is probably gibbering insane by that point - since all of it needs to be spent at once.

Circles and wards have a place in this system as well. An area consecrated to the user, and set up symbolically of its purpose allows a magician to combine the attributes of multiple people. For example, a room set up to look a bit like a surgical theater with overhead lights, some metal trays, and something that looks like an anesthetic canister and the appropriate symbols would allow a medically inclined mage to preform healing spells drawing on the animus of others without loosing an excessive amount of blood after the first two patients. This combined effort ability also means that a coterie is the far more sane (literally and figuratively) way to permanently enchant an item.

The Third Idea
Although no relation to Anderi Shakharov's Third Idea (ie the Teller-Ulam device at the core of Hydrogen Bombs), it is a a great power not to be underestimated.

From a mechanics point of view, a characters attributes are the base skill for using a type of magic. Exerting force at a distance - use Strength, Wits is used to create an illusion use Wits, and Technique to preform surgery without tools.

Perhaps more important is the affect on role play. No two casters magic can take the same form, there is no generic "magic missile" or "cure light wounds". They can do the same thing but never the same way. Perhaps one person sings songs that command bones to heal and the other has little men jump from their hand to stitch the wounds together.

So for example, Dominic wants to make a lethal guardian to block an entrance-way. To harm living things, it takes animus, and since he wants this extra dangerous, he spends two instead of the only one required. Drawing from the depths of his will and sanity to fight the universe, he spends five lucidity to have it last for (10x4x4x4x4x4 =10,240 seconds/170 min) just under three hours. Being a big and physical guy, the apparition is formed from strength and appears as an angry poltergeist - light and motion banging about the corridor waiting for anyone to enter and be attacked by and attack equal to three dice of aim. (At d8 for human scale, since its a human casting.)

Gregory is trying to get a small passenger aircraft repaired quickly. He reaches for his guitar and sings a song about flight and freedom, the refrain begging the spirits of air to assist. Two others join hands and sing along. Spending a point of lucidity to work on the scale of the aircraft, he then borrows four more - two  from the each of the others in the circle for more time, and two points of deadening. Little faeries spring into existence. They work together for about three hours (the same as Dominic's poltergeist, but with less drain on the individual) with a profeciency equal to Gregory's tech plus two. However, they need the proper parts to work with - actually wishing a replacement engine into existence would've taken at least twice as much lucidity.

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