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Matrix magic and charms

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Was reading some old runequest stuff.  They mention magic items with a matrix.  What is that?

What's a charm?  

How could you module these items in Mythras?

 

 

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I can't speak for charms.

In classic RQ, Battle Magic spells (basically what Mythras calls Folk Magic now) were automatic. You spent some magic points, and the spell activated. However, you were very limited as to how many spells you could know: You could only know points of spells equal to your INT. So if you had an INT of 13; You could have Bladesharp-4, Heal-4, Ignite (1), and Protection-4, and that was it. Once learned, that was your spell list. To get a spell out of your head took help from a shaman or priest. 

A matrix was a way to know additional spells. A matrix stored the spell knowledge for you; so for example if had a matrix for "Detect Silver" you had access to that spell, in addition to what was in your head. The other advantage of a matrix was that it could be passed around the party, and anyone could use it. Given other aspects of the game, a Healing-6 matrix was often an early found item (and a very valuable one).

RQ3 (Avalon Hill RQ) expanded on the matrix idea; with matrices that did things like store magic points, and so on. 

You could easily leverage a matrix into Mythras: Allow it to hold a spell, and provide a skill percentage in Folk Magic, which it uses instead of the user's skill.

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Note that this could easily unbalance a low-magic campaign.  Before you go down this road, do sort out what level of magical gear you're truly prepared to deal with...because that is where you are likely to end up, if any of your players are at all Gamist. ;)  I don't mean to suggest that you should avoid matrices, but I feel it's important to know where you're likely to end up if you don't take precautions.

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Note that this could easily unbalance a low-magic campaign.  Before you go down this road, do sort out what level of magical gear you're truly prepared to deal with...because that is where you are likely to end up, if any of your players are at all Gamist. ;)  I don't mean to suggest that you should avoid matrices, but I feel it's important to know where you're likely to end up if you don't take precautions.

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Matrices were discussed in RQ2, and in RQ3 they were used interchangeable with Enchanted Items. I always felt the rather objective term of 'matrix' may have been a God Learner title, and perhaps many of the more theistic or animistic cultures referred to these items as being 'enchanted', instead of being a 'matrix'. Basically a matrix is an item which holds spells, and grants the user to cast those spells as if they had the knowledge to do so.

Given how long these games have been in existence, like many people I ended up playing Glorantha with a mix of RQ2/RQ3/BGB, as well as my own homebrew rules. So this is one of those YGMV posts.

Glorantha strikes me as a mix of a high-magic AND low-magic setting. Everyone can cast some folky low-magic (which fulfills the role of Feats/Talents in more pulpy settings), and the more proficient and prominent people (Runemasters) have access to more potent magics. With magic being known everywhere, sometimes limits need to be placed so not to detract from the importance of the Runemasters.

One thing I did stipulate in my Glorantha was that matrices/enchanted items had to have their spells imbued into either Crystals or Truestone in order to contain permanent magic. This excluded unique magical items which had magical properties created from magical resonance, or were holy/mythic items from other Planes etc (so this gave a rationale for many of the unique items from RQ2 Plunder, for instance).

When enchanting an item other than Crystals or Truestone, the item was merely 'charmed', and only held one-use magic, which was expended upon use. For permanent magic which could be replenished, the item needed to have POW, which Crystals and Truestone have as natural properties.

So for charms, our characters had to roll under their spell casting skill and their Enchant skill, and spend double MP, and then the item was charmed with a one-use version of that spell that anyone could use (unless specific additional conditions were placed on use, an extra MP per condition).

For permanent enchantments, the character had to transfer a number of POW into a crystal or piece of Truestone. The POW equaled the MP used in the spell, and they were also required to roll under their spell casting skill and their Enchant skill, and then the crystal had a permanent version of that spell. The crystal had its own POW, which was the maximum that could be filled with POW from the character used for a spell.

In its natural state, a crystal's POW could be used as additional MP for an attuned character; but this POW could also be 're-purposed' if a spell was imbued into the crystal. So for example, a crystal with POW 7 would have naturally been able to be used as an additional 7MP to an attuned character. But it could also be re-purposed to contain Heal 3 and Befuddle 2, with 2 POW left-over 'unenchanted'; thus being able to be used as an additional 2MP supply for the attuned character.

So I often had crystals built into items, and decreed if the item was associated with the intended purpose of the magic, then that spell was easier to enchant into the item. So a crystal which held Bladesharp 3 would often be crafted into a sword, for instance.

This led to crystals being quite valuable, as they had all the typical properties of RQ2/RQ3 Crystals, as well as the exclusivity of being able to hold permanent spells. This also kept the game from getting bloated from every commoner running around with heaps of magic items. Given that crystals are actually the crystalline formation of the Blood of Dead Gods, it really felt quite Gloranthan.

I should point out that this was not my idea. It seemed to develop in the minds of many, I have read it before numerous times in mailing lists, forums, game table discussions etc. I was unsure if any of the official writers elaborated on it or not, but it was a great way not to overbalance the magical economy, yet still felt very Gloranthan.

Edited by Mankcam
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10 hours ago, Mankcam said:

Matrices were discussed in RQ2, and in RQ3 they were used interchangeable with Enchanted Items. I always felt the rather objective term of 'matrix' may have been a God Learner title, and perhaps many of the more theistic or animistic cultures referred to these items as being 'enchanted', instead of being a 'matrix'. Basically a matrix is an item which holds spells, and grants the user to cast those spells as if they had the knowledge to do so.

Given how long these games have been in existence, like many people I ended up playing Glorantha with a mix of RQ2/RQ3/BGB, as well as my own homebrew rules. So this is one of those YGMV posts.

Glorantha strikes me as a mix of a high-magic AND low-magic setting. Everyone can cast some folky low-magic (which fulfills the role of Feats/Talents in more pulpy settings), and the more proficient and prominent people (Runemasters) have access to more potent magics. With magic being known everywhere, sometimes limits need to be placed so not to detract from the importance of the Runemasters.

One thing I did stipulate in my Glorantha was that matrices/enchanted items had to have their spells imbued into either Crystals or Truestone in order to contain permanent magic. This excluded unique magical items which had magical properties created from magical resonance, or were holy/mythic items from other Planes etc (so this gave a rationale for many of the unique items from RQ2 Plunder, for instance).

When enchanting an item other than Crystals or Truestone, the item was merely 'charmed', and only held one-use magic, which was expended upon use. For permanent magic which could be replenished, the item needed to have POW, which Crystals and Truestone have as natural properties.

So for charms, our characters had to roll under their spell casting skill and their Enchant skill, and spend double MP, and then the item was charmed with a one-use version of that spell that anyone could use (unless specific additional conditions were placed on use, an extra MP per condition).

For permanent enchantments, the character had to transfer a number of POW into a crystal or piece of Truestone. The POW equaled the MP used in the spell, and they were also required to roll under their spell casting skill and their Enchant skill, and then the crystal had a permanent version of that spell. The crystal had its own POW, which was the maximum that could be filled with POW from the character used for a spell.

In its natural state, a crystal's POW could be used as additional MP for an attuned character; but this POW could also be 're-purposed' if a spell was imbued into the crystal. So for example, a crystal with POW 7 would have naturally been able to be used as an additional 7MP to an attuned character. But it could also be re-purposed to contain Heal 3 and Befuddle 2, with 2 POW left-over 'unenchanted'; thus being able to be used as an additional 2MP supply for the attuned character.

So I often had crystals built into items, and decreed if the item was associated with the intended purpose of the magic, then that spell was easier to enchant into the item. So a crystal which held Bladesharp 3 would often be crafted into a sword, for instance.

This led to crystals being quite valuable, as they had all the typical properties of RQ2/RQ3 Crystals, as well as the exclusivity of being able to hold permanent spells. This also kept the game from getting bloated from every commoner running around with heaps of magic items. Given that crystals are actually the crystalline formation of the Blood of Dead Gods, it really felt quite Gloranthan.

I should point out that this was not my idea. It seemed to develop in the minds of many, I have read it before numerous times in mailing lists, forums, game table discussions etc. I was unsure if any of the official writers elaborated on it or not, but it was a great way not to overbalance the magical economy, yet still felt very Gloranthan.

We used something very similar in our games, as you outlined, with a more esoteric explanation on why it was possible. We also renamed the POW stat to Spirit (SPI) which generated Power (POW) instead of MP as it felt more intuitive to the game and original mechanics in play to us. Excerpted from our house rules;

"When the god's war occurred, many deities and their followers were killed. Unlike deaths on the mortal plane, the bodies of the slain would transform. 
The very blood of deities and heroes would crystallize while their bones would harden into elements of bronze, copper, gold, silver, tin and  various other metals before crumpling to pieces. (The Copper Sands are said to be created from the bodies of followers of the Earth God in the area).
 
From these crystals, a spirit memory of the fallen would sometimes remain, containing a vestige of the fallen's SPI and, at times, their POW. Crystals that still retain a fragment of the fallen's SPI are known as POW Crystals. Those that have no SPI came to be known as Dead Crystals.
 
The remains are sometimes found by characters and highly sought after for their intrinsic worth as gateways to a deity's or hero's POW. It is rumored that if a large enough portion of POW crystals and ur-metals were located, a deity or hero might be reformed.
 
Crystals found, come in two forms. Power crystals and Dead crystals. Power crystals will carry a trace of the deity's SPI and are able to recharge their POW as a living character but must be attuned to in order to use. These crystals come in various ratings and are worth more than a Dead Crystal.
 
Dead crystals are those crystals that no longer have a lingering SPI memory of a Deity but will still store POW up to their limits. POW must be transferred from a character and stored in the crystal but unlike a Power Crystal, will not self recharge and do not require attuning to. 
 
Characters may carry the same number of Power crystals as bound spirits and does count against that number. Dead Crystals do not unless used to bind a spirit into.
Both Crystal types may be used to bind a Matrixed spell.
 
Matrixed spells are created by overlaying a spell onto a Crystal and using that Crystal as a spell foci. Matrixed spells allow a character to cast a spell as if known and in active memory without either being necessary.
 
An Active matrix is a Matrixed spell that is overlaid onto a Power Crystal. An inactive matrix is one that is overlaid onto a Dead Crystal. Matrices may be attached to objects to create usable magic items.
 
An inactive matrixed spell item does not count toward bound spirits count but an active matrixed spell does. Truestone, a dead portion of the Law rune, may also be used as an active matrix and will not count against bound spirit numbers. It is the only rune that may be found uniquely as a tangible item."
 
This was a unique divergence from the rules for our game and together with a modified Cheng variant, battle magic level limits (1//3 SPI for intensity and battle magic spells bought as a spell instead of a fractured partial level), binding and spirit stat changes, created our YGMV and became the norm as you said.
 
It's also interesting to me that many grognards came to similiar rule changes.
 
 
 
Edited by Sayerson
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15 hours ago, Matt_E said:

Note that this could easily unbalance a low-magic campaign.  Before you go down this road, do sort out what level of magical gear you're truly prepared to deal with...because that is where you are likely to end up, if any of your players are at all Gamist. ;)  I don't mean to suggest that you should avoid matrices, but I feel it's important to know where you're likely to end up if you don't take precautions.

RQ2 restricted battle magic spells to the INT of the PC, which means that PCs are very restricted in the number of spells they can learn. Binding spirits helps, as the Spirits' INT can alsoi be used, but you are restricted to CHA/3 in Spirits and the Spirits are unbound if you die, even if you are resurrected. So, Spell Matrices are very useful as they provide access to spells without having to use spirits.

We found that having access to a lot of spells did not unbalance a game at all. It just made PCs more versatile. 

RQ2 restricts many Battle Magic Spells to 4 points, which means that having a Bladesharp 4 Matrix is not particularly game-changing. RQ3 removed the limit, so a Bladesharp 4 with a Spell Enhancing Crystal produces Bladesharp 8, which can be game-changing, especially when combined with other spells. Spells such as Countermagic or Healing are also not restricted, so combining these with Crystals can produce very large Countermagic spells and very effective Healing spells. The Healing spell is potentially game-changing as a PC's limb can be restored completely with a large Healing, but that is probably a good thing. A large Countermagic (Soltak Stormspear had a Power Enhancing 9 Crystal and Countermagic 9, so could cast Countermagic 18, which became Countermagic 26 when combined with Shield 4) means that few NPCs can affect the PC with spells, but is that game-changing?

Where it does become potentially unbalanced is if you allow Spell Matrices to become the base for a spell that can be manipulated, in RQ3. Worshippers of the Red Moon can enhance Battle Magic spells, so starting off with Bladesharp 4 and adding 4 points makes it a Bladesharp 8, put it with a Spell Enhancer and you can get Bladesharp 12 (or 16 depending how you count). Sorcerers in RQ3 can take a Sorcery Matrix and manipulate it, potentially achieving a large and powerful spell. However, these are RQ3 considerations, not RQ2.

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Keep in mind that "unbalancing" only applies if only one side has access to the ability. You shift the balance, but you only unbalance if you do not give the other side equal abilities.

For example, the last Mongoose RQ2 game I was in, the GM found a "broken rule" that vastly increased the combat magical power of some of the PC's. However, none of the NPC's we fought ever used that rule against us. The GM had created an imbalance that vastly favored PC's who used a combination of Divine and Common magic. I will add that combat was such a small part of that campaign that we really didn't care about it.

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On 5/27/2017 at 7:03 PM, Sayerson said:

It's also interesting to me that many grognards came to similar rule changes

Yes, especially seeing that many of us only linked in with the greater rpg community within the last decade or so.

As a high schooler and uni student, geographically I had limited access to the original fanzines and posts back in the 1980s and 1990s. Like many others, my group of rpg friends were isolated to our own experiences, as most other gamers we came across weren't into RuneQuest back then. 

With the increasing presence of the internet in the 2000s I stumbled across some prominent fan sites as well as the online Gloranthan Digest; although most of the posts was archival by that time. So it's really only the last decade that I have been able to directly access the wider Gloranthan community through online forums such as this.

It's always fascinating to see where the differences lay, but more often than not I see that we have often approached certain concepts from similar directions. 

BTW I remember when the term 'grognard' was almost derogatory, meaning someone who was a 'stale old gamer'. It seems since the OSR we have embraced the term, encompassing it to mean 'rpg consultants'. Or perhaps its just because we ARE actually stale older gamers now, heh heh

Edited by Mankcam
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8 hours ago, Mankcam said:

BTW I remember when the term 'grognard' was almost derogatory, meaning someone who was a 'stale old gamer'. It seems since the OSR we have embraced the term, encompassing it to mean 'rpg consultants'. Or perhaps its just because we ARE actually stale older gamers now, heh heh

'Seasoned' gamers, thaaank you. Lol. 

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On 5/27/2017 at 6:23 AM, soltakss said:

RQ2 restricted battle magic spells to the INT of the PC

Yes; so did RQ3 (Spirit Magic), which is what I played for many years, before Mythras.

Quote

Where it does become potentially unbalanced is if you allow Spell Matrices to become the base for a spell that can be manipulated, in RQ3.

This is sort of what I had in mind.  Our RQ3 game was centered around Sorcery and Theism, and sorcerers would invariably create items with bound INT and POW spirits, into which spell knowledge was transferred.  You can see where this leads.  This became rather Monty Haul, after a while (though not as bad as actual AD&D).

Quote

We found that having access to a lot of spells did not unbalance a game at all. It just made PCs more versatile. 

>> pachristian added:  Keep in mind that "unbalancing" only applies if only one side has access to the ability. You shift the balance, but you only unbalance if you do not give the other side equal abilities.

That's a fair point.  My thought was that the players might seize upon the idea before the GM did, creating a (temporary) imbalance--followed by an escalation ("arms race") that would either never end or result in the demise of the campaign.

My point, then, was that if either the players or the GM don't want that sort of situation, then the game will be spoiled.  If both groups don't mind, fine.

This is just a restatement of the usual advice:  Unless everyone is on the same page, probably the fun will be spoiled, so be mindful.  Meanwhile, if everyone keeps on the same page, then even unintended consequences of play probably will not spoil the fun.  It's not really so difficult to achieve in practice, I think, but it bears mention.

 

Edited by Matt_E
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