Friday, March 5, 2010

Goodbye Spell Books

A part of the excitement of Holmes YX is that the magic isn't Vancian any more. In Yezmyr sorcerers don't use spell books. The very environment is deeply imbued with the essence of magic. Sorcerers bring forth magical effects through complex vocalizations and gestures. (There are no material spell components.) Spells are learned behavior, passed on through a long standing oral tradition between master and apprentice. While it is possible that a given sorcerer will make notes of an arcane nature, one does not learn the process of tying shoes by reading a treatise. No, spells are taught.

Scrolls are also a relic of the past on Yezmyr. Vancian systems use scrolls as a means of finding spells as treasure items. Moreover, these systems use scrolls as enablers: they provide for the invoking of spells which the caster either does not know or does not have memorized. Holmes YX uses a spell point system for sorcery. Spells are not memorized. Instead, they are invoked directly from the magical fabric of reality. This takes time, however, especially as spells become more complex. In order to counter this, sorcerers developed spell containers.

Spell containers are magical devices that are capable of holding live spells. These devices come in a near endless variety of forms—from gems and rings to daggers and swords. In addition to spell containment, some of these items also function as spell point adders or even multipliers. Most containers can be used only by sorcerers, but there are some that can be used by anyone. This latter class serves dutifully as 'scrolls of protection.' A layman can utter the command word and make the necessary gestures in order to invoke the protective magic imbued within the container. Such general purpose spell containers are always 'used up' once invoked.

Spell containers are very powerful items in the hands of a capable sorcerer. In effect, they are reusable scrolls. Containers can store a preset number of spell points worth of live magic, varying from container to container. The storing of spells is equivalent to casting, so spell points are subtracted from the caster's pool while he is loading up the container. When cast, the contained spells go off instantaneously. Moreover, casting contained spells does not draw from the caster's spell point reserve. Lesser spell containers are used up after several (or even one) use, depending on the quality of the container. Greater spell containers can be reused indefinitely.

Stored spells may also be 'consumed.' Instead of casting the spell, it is transferred directly into the sorcerer's mind. A contained spell used in this manner is effectively learned, making this an alternate means of spell acquisition. This process is still subject to the rule governing the chance to know a given spell, however. If the consumer is not capable of knowing the spell, then the spell will remain in a contained state.

It is with this move that I make the final blows against Vancian magic in my campaign. Magic in the World of Yezmyr is now its own thing. I am excited to see how this unfolds in play.


Sean Wills said...

Sounds good, I'll be interested to see how this works out

cyclopeatron said...

Cool! A bit reminiscent of Jorune's Isho, which is a good thing. Spell containers are a great idea - I like!

Blair said...

Rolemaster? You're creating a regular Frankenstein Monster here!

Yesmar said...

I've never played Rolemaster before. But yes, Frankenstein's Monster. The spell point system I lifted pretty much straight from D&D 3E. Sacred cows are for butchering, friend. I must confess that I first heard of spell point adders and multipliers in MERP, and I suppose that is very close to Rolemaster, seeing as they are both from ICE. The spell containment thing I came up with myself, however.

Yanantil said...

MMMM, Beef! :)

Dave Morris said...

I don't know how accurate it is to call the old scroll-spell system "Vancian". It's characteristic of the magic in Dying Earth, true, but even in Rhialto the Marvellous we're seeing other ways it can work, including advanced tech. Outside of the DE universe, Vance has spirit-magic (The Miracle Workers) and faerie magic (Lyonesse) so I think the better adjective for what you're describing would be Gygaxian. Just coz Gygax said he based D&D magic on Dying Earth doesn't make Jack Vance culpable :)