Something has recently occurred to me that caused me to revise me thoughts on GURPS Sorcery. With the threshold-limited and calamity system of magic I've yammered about before, the more frequently you cast spells, the more you fill up your threshold and the more likely you are to have a calamity. The more magical advantage crap you have, the more Quirks you have that show how sorcery has warped you physically. The basic gist of this system is that the more spells you cast, the more dangerous it becomes. Which is not consistent with the background. In core GURPS magic, magical energy comes from within you (Fatigue Points). Which is not the way Hekinoe sorcery works.
The intent/focus/goal/etc of my sorcery in Hekinoe is that the more powerful the spell, the more energy it takes, which causes it to be harder to control. When a sorcerer can't control the spell misfires happen. Sorcery is an external force of energy that a caster learns to draw on and use to perform spells. How often you cast spells is irrelevant. The energy overpowering you isn't a cumulative effect. When you summon sorcerous energies, it all flows towards you trying to force its way towards your goal and you have to restrain it, direct it, try and split some of the energy away from it. It's similar to electrical systems. You have a device, that device needs energy, but you can't plug in just anything. If you have too much/too powerful/etc electricity going to it, it shorts out. Or something. I'm not an electrician. Spellcasters use their willpower and training to attempt to direct this energy properly.
This realization has caused me to rework the majority of the way sorcery works in GURPS. I still want to stick with one -1 physical Quirk per 10 points of sorcerous crap. I like that. It's nice and simple. Spells and such will still use Will instead of IQ in Hekinoe as well. GURPS has an optionalish mana system to differentiate the strength of magical areas and the energy within them. I want to base the concept of this system on that. Normally, this mana system in GURPS determines who can cast spells and offers an instant return of energy to casters if they are in a high mana area.
How I want to do this is as follows. Certain areas have certain levels of sorcerous energy available in them. Like I said, sorcerous energy is an external force. It's not something that just hangs out within spellcasters. For instance, Fell Humans look like sorcery to detect sorcery. Karl Anglesmith does not, because he's not sorcery. Nel aren't sorcery either, but they're a special case. To continue: I'm going to break it down into simple tiered system:
Sorcerous Energy Levels
- Extremely High: 20
- High: 15
- Normal: 10
- Low: 5
- Extremely Low: 1
- Absent: 0
So what does that mean? Let's take your average place in The Known World, Kusseth City for instance. It has a normal sorcerous energy level. So let's say Karl Anglesmith wants to cast a spell there. The 10 means that as part of the first concentrate maneuver he makes to cast a spell, he can draw up to 10 points of energy to him to use to power the spell. If he wants to he can spend additional concentrate maneuvers drawing 10 energy per round to him. So let's say he has a spell he wants to put twenty energy into but he can only do it at a rate of 4 per round (spells determine how much energy can be put into them per round). So he spends one concentrate maneuver and draws 10 and puts 4 in as part of casting. Spends another concentrate maneuver on the next round to draw 10 more energy up, then spends the next four rounds/concentrate maneuvers putting the other 16 energy into the spell and casts it on the 6th round he's been casting this spell. So yeah.
Now, what does a caster do in an area that is absent of sorcerous energy? Nothing. He doesn't cast spells (unless he has some other source of energy, more on that later). Bummer. Luckily there aren't too many areas absent of sorcerous energy. Mostly just the middle of the fucking ocean, or places like Grenaldeen and The Grey Wastes. There's a two foot band about 1000 miles north of The Known World and 1000 miles south of Orcunraytrel, but then you move into extremely low whichever way you go.
So next is the misfire aspect. I'm going to do just like I did with Pathfinder, add in a check. So in GURPS, you roll 3d when making checks. a 3 or 4 is always a success and a 17 or 18 is always a failure, so we're going to fall somewhere in there. Remember, in GURPS you are trying to get below your skill level. Lower is better. I don't have this fully fleshed out in my head, but the gist of sorcerous unreliability is determined by continent (The Known World has a 5% misfire chance per spell level and Orcunraytrel has a 2% misfire chance per spell level in Pathfinder).
- Orcunraytrel: 15/2
- The Bottom of the World: 14/3
- The Known World: 13/2
- The South: 15/3
Ok, so what do those numbers mean? First of all, there are reasons for these variations. They are secret reasons. Sorry. Alright, so back to Karl in Kusseth City. Karl wants to cast fireball. This is a spell that does 1d burning damage per point of energy spent on it, up to a maximum of 1 energy per round for three rounds. So Karl cast a quick 1 energy fireball at some thugs. Costs him 1 energy and he rolls 3d to gauge his risk of misfire, and gets an 11. We're good. So what does the 2 mean. The 2 means that for every 2 energy beyond the minimum necessary to cast a spell, the Sorcerous Unreliability Level goes down by 1. So Karl casts another fireball, and spends three rounds casting it for a total of three energy. That's two extra energy beyond the minimum of 1 necessary to cast the spell, so he has to make a misfire check against 12 instead of 13. As a note, some enchantment spells to create sorcerous loot cost hundreds of energy. The highest tier of wish spell costs like 2000 energy. But again, this misfire check is only modified if you go above the minimum energy necessary to cast a spell.
So how does this system affect the Hekinoe problems of sorcerous objects exploding? I'll tell you, but be warned it needs some testing.The first part is that sorcerous objects only risk explosivity when in areas with a sorcerous unreliability level of 13 or lower. So every time a sorcerous object is used in a way that causes it to use its enchantment, it will roll against the same number as a spell in the area would. It reduces its reliability by 1 every few weeks. The number of weeks is the same as the energy used that increases the unreliability of spells. So Karl has a sorcerous gun, he's had it for four weeks. He shoots it at a dude in Kusseth City, which uses its enchantment. So when he attacks with it, he rolls against an unreliability of 11. Various materials can modify how stable an object is. Wolf-iron, for instance, improves the reliability of an enchanted object by 2. So if Karl had a wolf-iron enchanted gun in this example, he rolls against 13, not 11.
Like I said, that aspect of things isn't finalized. I might decide sorcerous gear starts at 15, instead of the native unreliability level. With how often you might be making attacks with enchanted gear, you could run the risk of getting an unlucky roll really quickly. But I suppose there is a reason sorcerous loot is cheaper and there is an upgrade system in my campaign world.
So what about flesh warping and such? I've outlined how that works earlier, but it only occurs in areas that have a sorcerous energy level of normal or higher, and only if the unreliability level is 13 or lower.
As an additional rule. There is a limitation for magic in GURPS that makes spell casting failures more prone to critical failures. The limitation is called Radically Unstable Magic. The first tier means that any spellcasting failure is a critical failure, but you can make an immediate check against the caster's skill level with the spell to turn it into a normal failure. So Karl has a skill level of 13 with fireball and rolls a 14, a critical failure in this system. Then he make a another 3d check against his skill level of 13 and gets a 12, turning it into a normal failure. The second tier turns all failures into critical failures, no recovery roll. Everywhere in Hekinoe has the first tier, while areas of extremely high sorcerous energy have the second tier. Since the first tier is applied worldwide to sorcery, it confers a -10% cost reduction to Sorcery 1+. So buying Sorcery 2 up from Sorcery 0 only costs Karl 18 points, instead of 20.
Some spells have super high energy requirements, and this is handled through something called ritual casting. There are also objects called powerstones. Powerstones can store magical energy. I like this system but how do I implement it in Hekinoe? First of all, there are only three types of material that can absorb sorcerous energy for storage purposes: beltanizine, Meroteth obsidian, and Necropolis obsidian. The process of making powerstones is outlined in a relevant section of a relevant GURPS book. I just want to deal with the quirks of the materials. Necropolis obsidian is perfectly fine, but beltanizine and Meroteth obsidian are a little risky. Beltanizine for instance has a completely random storage cap rolled by me when you first enchant it with the powerstone spell. Meroteth obsidian has a chance to use the energy stored within it to start growing, this doesn't affect its storage capabilities, but you can't exactly carry a one ton chunk of obsidian around with you on adventures, now can you? If you break it to chip it down to a more convenient size, you ruin it. Which is also a bummer.
I like this system. It makes more sense to me in terms of fitting the background material. The more sorcery you fuck with, the more likely a spell is to go bug nuts crazy on everybody. Looking at my Magic and Thaumatology books, there are a variety of critical spell failure tables and some are tied to specific colleges of magic, so I think that will be the best place to dig around for misfire ideas.