Design For Living - Powers - Sorcery

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Cost: 15 Pts

Game Mechanic Prerequisite: None, although Amber level Psyche and Endurance are useful.

Story Prerequisite: Training.

Sorcery is the ability to manipulate magic and cast spells. It's not a very common Power in Amber, but is widespread in the Courts of Chaos. It is also more common out in Shadow, where there are a variety of sources of magical power.

You need a teacher to be able to learn Sorcery. This is a good hook to hang a Supernatural Friend or Enemy.

Two uses of Sorcery

There are two ways to create magical effects using this minor Power. Both require a source of magical energy. The first way is bind the energy fairly precisely into a spell. The second way is to directly manipulate the raw magical energy to create the effect.

Spells take longer to cast, are less draining on the caster, use less energy from the source, and can be 'hung' until needed. Spells are constructed out of micro-spells and lynchpins. Advanced Sorcery provides more of these basic tools to create spells. Some Advanced spell effects cannot be duplicated with raw energy.

Raw energy is faster, more exhausting for the caster, wastes some energy from the source, and must be used immediately.

Magical Energy Sources

No sorcery can be done without a magical energy source. In most Shadows, some kind of cross-Shadow awareness is necessary to spot a nearby such energy source (usually Logrus, but Pattern works as well). Once the source is located, 'Tap Power' is used to draw energy into the spell or raw effect the sorcerer desires.

If a sorcerer wishes to use magic in a Shadow where no sources are available (e.g. Amber), she can use one of two approaches. Both approaches require a magical source in a different Shadow.

The first approach, using preparation and spells, is to hang the desired spells in the second Shadow, travel to the first before they dissipate, and then cast them.

The second approach is to create a cross-Shadow link between the source and the target (e.g. using a Logrus tendril) and manipulate the raw energy (either into a spell or directly). Note that the sorcerer need not be in either Shadow for this to work, as long as the link between the two Shadows passes through them.

Either approach has limitations, of course. Hanging the spells beforehand is the general practice, because it is less obvious. The drawbacks are that the sorcerer must be fairly certain what spells they are going to need.

Drawing energy across Shadow is more flexible, but is also more draining, and worst of all, is very noticeable. Anyone near the sorcerer, the source, the target, or the link through Shadow, who can see cross-Shadow, will be able to detect the flow of energy, and possibly be able to tamper with it.

If the link is cut, the sorcerer will not be able to use the energy any more, but a potentially worse experience would be a sudden energy surge.

Attribute Tips for Sorcery.

Although Psyche is crucial for powering Sorcery, don't neglect the Attribute of Endurance.

Casting spells is time consuming and physically draining. A less-than-Real Endurance will limit the number of spells you can create before dropping from fatigue.

This is even more true for the sorcerer who indulges in the manipulation of raw magical energies.


This is the more common of the two ways of using sorcery.

Spell Hanging and House Cleaning

A lot of elder Amberites have full knowledge and power of Sorcery. Most of them rarely use it. Spells have to be studied, prepared, maintained, refreshed, and constantly studied.

All in all, a lot of trouble. Frankly, it's just too much bother.

A careful, well-prepared sorcerer should have a dozen or so spells on hand at any given time. Which means spending about twenty hours a week on nit-picky maintenance.

How would you feel about spending twenty hours on the same chores, week after week? How would you feel a year later? A century later?

More important, what kind of person would spend centuries on this kind of busy work?

Immortals, like those with the Blood of Amber, aren't thrilled with that kind of busy-work. Especially when every pleasure imaginable is out there in Shadow for the taking.

Even megalomaniacs, plotting to conquer everything and everybody can spend their time more productively by researching real power like Pattern, Logrus and the like.

How Spells Work

Sorcery operates differently from Power Words (characters who plan on engaging in magical combat would be well advised to get both). The big difference between Power Words and Sorcery is time. It takes anywhere from ten minutes to several days to cast a spell. The way around this is to prepare spells in advance.

Which leaves two main problems.

First you can only 'memorise' one spell at a time. Even then you've got to concentrate on the spell constantly. If you take a nap, get hit in the head, or work on other magic, the memorised spell is going to be lost.

Which means the only practical way of storing prepare spells is by putting them in some kind of container. Storing, or 'hanging' spells isn't something you can do just anywhere.

Spells are basically a weaving of power and information, and they only last in an appropriate receptacle. The magical container must be either a living thing, capable of remembering the spell, or a magical artefact containing power that can be forced into the form and structure of the spell.

Second, the other problem with prepared spells is that they are very specific.

A completed Invisibility Spell designed to cloak someone on Shadow Earth, will do nothing at all if cast in another Shadow.

A Lightning Bolt Spell readied for casting in the Courts of Chaos will be a sparkly dud in Castle Amber.

A spell designed to bind a human of Shadow Earth is harmless against a Noble of Chaos.

A magical barrier cast to keep out Pattern energy is transparent to the tendrils of the Logrus.

No problem, if you happen to know exactly what, where, by, when and how your spell is going to be used. Not likely, eh?

The way around this is to prepare spells that aren't quite complete. Instead of preparing the entire spell, you leave out a few key instructions, which can be filled in when the spell is finally released. We call these instructions lynchpins.

Lynchpins and Spell-Casting

I lined up the spoken signatures and edited them into a spell. Suhuy would probably have gotten it down even shorter, but there is a point of diminishing returns on these things, and I had mine figured to where it should work if my main guesses were correct. So I collated it and assembled it. It was fairly long - too long to rattle off in its entirety if I were in the hurry I probably would be. Studying it, I saw that three lynchpins would probably fit, though four would be better.

I summoned the Logrus and extended my tongue into its moving pattern. Then I spoke the spell slowly and clearly, leaving out the four key words I had chosen to omit. The woods grew absolutely still about me as the words rang out. The spell hung before me like a crippled butterfly of sound and colour, trapped within the synaesthetic web of my personal vision of the Logrus, to come again when I summoned it, to be released when I uttered the four omitted words.

Blood of Amber

Lynchpins are the words you use when triggering a hung or memorised spell, defining last-minute conditions.

The most common lynchpin is Magic of Shadow. This defines the type of Magic present in a given Shadow. Without a specific description of the Magic of the environment where a spell is cast, no spell can work.

Other common lynchpins define the target of the spell, the duration, and the conditions for turning the spell off.

Although lynchpins make stored spells flexible, they have advantages.

Lynchpins take time. Each lynchpin adds time to the Base Casting Time. Lynchpins also add time to the unleashing of a spell. The more lynchpins there are, the more opportunity there is for others to interfere in the spell.

Psyche and Spell Casting

Your character's Psyche isn't crucial with many Magic Spells. However, the 'Invasive' spells, those that must enter an opponent's body, require a contest of Psyche.

Spell Building

Aside from the 'Basic' spells, you can create and name your own spells. See the following section on Magic Creation for more details. Any spells that you overhear, you may also attempt to memorise and imitate, though this can be dangerous.

Mind links and Magic spells

If the sorcerer has established a mind to mind Psyche link, either through the willing or unwilling-but-helpless co-operation of another, it's possible to release any of the spells through the linked mind.

The spell can be cast on the subject of the link, or, using that person's mind as a conduit, as if the Sorcerer were present on the scene.

While a simple matter, most Amberites are highly suspicious of having spells cast through their own Psyche, first because the spell could turn out to be a direct attack, against which they'd have no defence. Secondly, because Magic can be rather unpredictable in the hands of inexperienced users.

Sorcery and the Logrus

Logrus Wielders and Advanced Logrus Wielders have a huge advantage over other Sorcerers.

That's because the Logrus itself can be used for 'hanging' spells. In addition, spells can be cast out along a Logrus Tendril. In other words, the Logrus Wielder can send out the Tendrils, seeking a distant object or Shadow, and, when contact is made, spells can be cast out of the end of the tendril, located at the object.

Personal 'Style' and Sorcery

Each character brings their own unique signature to spell-casting. On the one hand this means that Sorcerers can come to recognise distinctive spells and discover spells created by Sorcerers they know well.

The other aspect of personal style is that characters can create their own special effects. This can be built into spells, or used as another lynchpin, defining the character's trademark.

Sparks, smoke, lights, glitter, radiance, or glow can be complemented by a unique colour, scent, sound, or whatever.

Each Sorcerer should pick a unique mark, such as a green flame, and stick with it. Personal special effects are harmless, but can serve as a good warning to others.

Sorcery Sight

The Sorceror has the ability to see magical energy sources and flows. In some Shadows these are visible to 'normal' vision, in others only Sorcerors can see them. In rare Shadows, magical energy sources are invisible even to Sorcerors, and a Major Power is required to spot them.

This Sight is in addition to normal sight, and appears differently to different practitioners. Additional colours are often involved, colours not seen by normal vision.

Tap Power

The caster learns to 'plug-in' to a nearby Power Source. The caster attunes their spells so that they draw directly from an external Power, such as Constructs and natural Shadow Power Sources. The source of Power that is Tapped can be anything not antithetical to the caster's magic i.e. for a character with Pattern Imprint, it wouldn't work with something which is primarily Logrus-based or draws essential energies from this.

This power is primarily visual: the sorceror gains an extra 'magical' sense which operates alongside vision. Sources of magical power can be seen in the local environment by concentrating on using this power. The level of power available can be roughly estimated using this sense: the colours are brighter, perhaps.

The overall level of magic in a Shadow can be determined after a long period of examination and testing.

This sense can in now way be used to detect the level of Reality of an object or a place. It only detects the level of inherent magic energy.

Note that the greater the sources of Power the correspondingly greater Psyche which is required to maintain control. Real ranked Psyche can maintain control over most Power sources. Loss of control can result in anything from the spontaneous and random 'firing' of all the caster's hung spells, to an internalisation and explosive combustion of the Power.

The SG may limit the number of spells and/or spell effects which may be powered by a particular source.

Wield Power

This allows the caster to create a spell effect in minimum time from the raw energy of a Tapped Power. This is a lot faster, but a lot more wasteful, and more tiring than prepared spell casting.

Most effects, especially those related to combat, can be generated fast enough to use in combat. The speed with which the caster can generate these effects is based upon their Psyche and this is compared with attacking Attributes to see who goes first.

These effects are more easily dispelled/countered than are properly prepared spells, and should be considered a full two ranks lower for purposes of affecting another with Psyche.

Creating a spell effect with raw energy is as tiring as a minor shape change.

Cast and Create Spells

This includes the example spells as well as any personally created spells that use the standard Microspells and Lynchpins. Additional Microspells and Lynchpins are considered part of Advanced Sorcery.

An example of an original spell that does not require Advanced Sorcery would be modifying the Pressurised Lava spell to be a burst of flame or a jet of steam or a barrage of ice chips, and so on.

Without Tap Power, using creating spells requires a Shadow with an ambient background level of magical energy. Such Shadows are rumoured to be common near the Courts.

Spell Rack

A single spell can be stored in the mind or Named and Numbered spells in special items. This ability can be used to create a spell from a Shadow power source, hang it in the mind, then move to another Shadow (without the power source) to cast the spell.

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