In true sword-and-sorcery style, magic in ZeFRS is a shadowy and unnatural force - one into which only the most daring, obsessed, or mad inquire...
Who Can Use Magic
Anyone can learn magical skills, but not everyone wants to. The quest for magical knowledge involves spending long hours in musty libraries, poring over crumbling scrolls searching for scraps of information humanity was never meant to have. The wizard's growing intimacy with unnatural forces exacts other, grimmer tolls on mind and body. Once the forbidden knowledge has been gained, anything less than perfect application has the potential to destroy the user. And crucial bits of information have usually been lost to the ages...
On top of all that, the citizenry of the typical sword-and-sorcery world consider magicians suspect at best, demonic at worst. A career in magic is not going to win you any friends.
Magic cannot be learned like regular talents. Many magical talents have prerequisites that must be met, and each exacts a price from those who learn it. Furthermore, simply learning a magical talent is only the beginning; each spell to be case must subsequently be learned individually.
Some magical talents require other, mundane talents as prerequisites. Without prior knowledge of them, the teachings of that branch of magic would be incomprehensible. Magical talents' prerequisites, if any, are listed along with the talent itself in Talents and Weaknesses.
Each magical talent demands a long period of study, numbering at least in months, before it can be used. The description of each magical talent in Talents and Weaknesses gives the length of study necessary to begin learning effective spells with that talent. To learn the talent, the prospective magician must spend the specified length of time doing nothing but studying. She may travel and participate in adventures, but the time spent on those activities does not count toward time spent learning the talent.
Tolgan has undertaken the study of Mind Control. He must study for six months before he can even attempt to use this talent. After three months of study, he discovers that he needs to make a monthlong journey to a far city to consult rare books in a reclusive sage's library. On arrival, he still needs to study for three more months before he can begin to use Mind Control.
Upon learning his first magical talent, a character acquires a rating of 1 in Obsession "talent", which falls under the Insight Talent Pool. Every time the character learns a new magical talent or a new spell, his Obsession increases by 1 point. Obsession may also increase as a result of using certain magical items.
Obsession is a measure of how fixated the character is upon gaining new magical knowledge. Every time the character has the opportunity to acquire more magical power, he must make a resolution check against his Obsession rating. On a Heroic (red) result, the character gives in and will do whatever he must to gain the power.
Obsession can be worked around, but never ignored; if it possible to sate the character's lust for magic without harming his friends, he will do so. But if injuring or betraying them can't be avoided ... well, sometimes a magician just has to do what he has to do...
In almost every case, learning a new magical talent inflicts a new magical weakness upon the student. Prolonged intimacy with unnatural forces gradually warps mind and spirit into something no longer entirely human. If a magical talent specifies that its students acquire a magical weakness, choose one from this list:
- animal aversion
- endurance loss
The weakness takes effect immediately on completion of the course of study in the new magical talent. For a complete description of each weakness, see Talents and Weaknesses.
Mere knowledge of a magical talent is not enough to produce magical effects. It simply prepares the student to learn spells that fall under that talent's rubric. Researching a spell is no easy matter. The spell will require obscure, costly, and probably immoral components that must be gathered from remote and inhospitable locations.
There is no standardized spell list in ZeFRS. Each magical talent describes the sorts of effects it encompasses. When a magic-using character wants to learn a new spell, the character's player will describe to the referee what the spell should do. The player and ref will then settle on what must be learned or acquired for the character to use that spell. Then it's up to the character to track down each item.
Tolgan, not satisfied with controlling men's minds, has taken up Alchemy. The ref tells his player that Tolgan read of a deadly blood-reversing poison in fragments of an ancient Hsihsian book. Reversing blood sounds good to Tolgan (whose Obsession rating is apparently already well up there), so he sets off on a six month trek across the Dromedian Desert to find the complete tome. On arrival, he finds the formula for concocting the poison. Now he needs to gather the ingredients - deadly black orchid from the fetid Janghari Swamps. If he survives the quest to find the orchids, he can then prepare the lethal poison.
Types of Magic
There are many different types of magic, each conferring different powers, demanding different prerequisites and exacting a different cost. The types of magic are:
- mind control
- natural magic
- physical laws
Each type is detailed in Talents and Weaknesses.
Magical Talent Ratings
Upon learning a magical talent, you may assign it as many points as you can pay for, just as with any other new talent. The magical talent rating can also be improved like other talents'. The magical talent's rating is used to make resolution checks whenever a magician attempts to cast a spell.
Tolgan has completed his course of study in Mind Control, and has enough points saved up to immediately buy it at a rating of 5. After long hours of further study he has also learned his first spell, one that lets him erase himself from a person's sight. When he casts it, the spell will have a rating of 5.
Living beings who have spells cast upon them have a chance to resist. A magician casting a spell on another being subtracts the being's Magic Endurance or General Endurance rating from his magical talent rating of the caster when making the resolution check to see whether the spell takes effect. On a Failure (white) result, the spell or item does not affect the target. On any other result, the effect takes hold.
Tolgan wants to sneak past an armed guard into a private laboratory. He casts his erasure spell on the guard, who has a General Endurance of 2. His adjusted rating when making the resolution check is 3 (base rating of 5 - guard's rating of 2).