Amber: War of the Crossings
In an effort to make Sorcery more ‘Amberlike’, the rules for it will essentially be re-written. Sorcery is now an ability that can be purchased on a piecemeal basis, and Power Words are now an ability that improves Sorcery.
5 Points Initially + 5 Points Each School
Nearly all shadows have some magic in them, it is rare to find a totally magic-dead shadow, just as it’s rare to find a shadow so technologically dead that even swords aren’t sharp. Thus the Low-Magic expressions of Sorcery should be available nearly anywhere, though some shadows may only allow a few of the low magic abilities, not all.
Moving an object that has been altered by magic into a less powerful shadow, or moving a woven spell into a lower magic area has poor consequences for the magic. Often the magic will simply fail. Sometimes it is possible for the mage to sustain the magic, but not always. As a rule of thumb, magic has some chance to survive but in a less potent or less complex form when moving to a magic environment one step lower. Moving high magic effects to low magic areas almost always causes them to fail entirely.
There are two types of places that are special to magic users, a Ley Line, and a Nexus. A Nexus is a place in shadow where magic gathers and collects. They are typically found in magical or high magical shadows but can sometimes be found in low magic shadows as a special place where magic works. The way in which a Nexus is created or occurs is not well understood, but it seems to have something to do with the way Shadows interact with one another.
Magical shadows generate Ley Lines, which are lines of magical energy that can be tapped into, a place where the magic environment spikes a little bit higher than the rest of the shadow. Where these lines cross, a Nexus may form. Even more interesting is the fact that Ley Lines will traverse from one shadow to another, connecting magical shadows together in a web of sorcerous power. It is even postulated that the ley lines themselves are the source of magic, and it is because a shadow lacks ley-lines that it is a low-magic shadow. Whatever the case, a Nexus is a great boon to magic users, and many a stronghold has been built on a nexus so that the mage can power wards and other protective magics without worrying about the spells expiring.
Casting a spell in shadow is a trick that all shadow walkers who practice Sorcery can learn, though it may require some practice for mages who are experiencing their very first shadow walk. Spells may be cast in a few tens of seconds, when cast from only one Class of magic. Such spells are called Simple Spells, because they rely on only one School of magic, and are fast to cast. Simple Spells may also be prepared and hung as Ritual Spells. Ritual spells are spells that are prepared ahead of time in order to speed up the casting. All spells that draw on more than one school are considered Ritual Spells. It is possible to cast a Ritual without hanging the spell for later, but this is rarely done because Ritual spells take tens of minutes to cast, rather than tens of seconds.
To hang a spell, the caster casts the spell but omits certain key words, called Lynchpins. Spells may only be hung on items specially prepared to hold them, into a Nexus, or into one’s personal Eye of the Logrus. A ritual spell requires one Lynchpin for each School of magic it draws on, and at least one Lynchpin to define the conditions of casting. Spells that simply target a creature need only one condition lynchpin, which covers the local magic conditions and the target. Adding further requirements like triggers, delayed activation, duration, and the ability to cancel the spell in mid-stream add additional lynchpins. The exact number needed is up to the Storyteller, but in general most spells will require a Lynchpin for every 2 or 3 conditions applied to the spell.
Hung spells deteriorate over time, slowly if hung on an item or Nexus, much more quickly if hung on the Logrus. A Nexus can hold an unlimited number of spells, an item can generally hold around a dozen, and the Logrus can hold as many spells as the caster can keep separate, which is based on Psyche. Every day a spell must be maintained for about ten minutes, or twenty minutes if hung on the Logrus. Thus most mages hang a few useful spells that will take them no more than an hour or so to maintain a day, and otherwise rely on Simple Spells or Power Words to perform other effects.
Casting a spell that has not been properly maintained is a risky proposition. A day or two unmaintained and it might cast, but with unpredictable and dangerous effects. More than that, and the spell is probably lost and will have to be recast from scratch.
Once a spell is cast it is said to be Woven, be it a ritual or a simple spell. Woven spells persist for as long as the demands of the magic require, limited by what power they have to draw on. For instance, most attack type spells are a single-shot burst of magical energy that fades with the end of the attack. Other spells that protect the mage, or alter her surroundings will last as long as the mage or local shadow can sustain them. Woven spells that have a Nexus to draw on will last forever, barring the disruption of the Nexus itself.
Schools of Sorcery
There are five schools of Sorcery. Dimension, which controls movement; Energy, controlling forces energies; Life, controlling weal and woe for all living beings; Spirit, controlling raw magic and ephemeral concepts; and Transmutation, which changes and controls base matter.
Each School of Sorcery has different abilities, and those abilities are rated by how magical the shadow must be to sustain them. Learning one School of Sorcery grants a character access to all the abilities of that School, but it will be difficult or impossible to perform the greater expressions of that power in a shadow that is not magical enough to sustain such workings.
There are a few things that any School of Magic can do. With any School of magic, one can detect the presence of powers of that school. Also, any Sorcerer can devise a spell to blunt the effects of a spell of the same school and cast it either on the medium defined by the spell school, or his own person. The abilities described below should not be considered the totality of what each school is capable of, but rather an example of the range of powers one can draw on with that kind of magic. Even more spells can be created by combining schools, limited only by the local magic environment and the imagination of the Sorcerer.
Power Words are an ability extension for Sorcery. Many sorcerers find that once they’re out of hung spells, even ten to thirty seconds of casting is far too much time in a pitched battle. Thus the development of Power Words. A Power Word is a personal expression of sorcerous power that is practiced and honed by the Sorcerer until it becomes second nature.
A Power Word mimics the effect of a single Simple Spell, and can be cast by shouting a single potent word. This makes Power Word usage as fast as swinging a blade, though the spell inflicts fatigue on the Sorcerer normally. Power Words cannot be incorporated into Ritual Spells, nor can they be bound into Wards or Enchantments. Even for the same effect, the specific Word will be different for each Sorcerer.
When this ability is purchased, the Sorcerer gains one Power Word for each school of Sorcery he knows. Each separate word must be for a different school of magic, the ultimate reflexive expression of that type of power for the Sorcerer. When choosing a Simple Spell to convert into a Power Word, the Sorcerer must choose a high, typical, or low magic effect. Low magic effects will be usable nearly anywhere, but not very strong. Typical magic effects are useful in many places, and much stronger. It’s rare to choose a High magic effect for a Power Word, but it does make the caster very dangerous in environments that support such spells.
Power Words can never be augmented by the application of Aether, or any other effects that might push the limits of where a certain type of spell might be cast. They are already boosted, by compressing an effect into a single instant, and cannot be modified further. Some spells can never become Power Words, often those that cannot be cast quickly even as a Simple Spell. The Storyteller must approve each Power Word. As with other Simple Spells, the abilities listed under the Schools of Magic are not the only Power Words that can be created. Players are encouraged to be creative but not abusive when designing a new Power Word.