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Sumath

Spell Manifestations

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Hi everyone, I've just returned to Runequest (and role-playing) after a 25-year break (you know how it is, you walk out of the door, and quarter of a century goes by...); this summer I joined a role-playing group, and started rolling dice again and it was just like riding a bike. So when I became aware of RQG I bought it, then the Bestiary, Screen Pack and Glorantha Sourcebook. Planning to GM in 2019.

So, let me get to the point - one of the things that Runequest is sometimes criticised for is that magic can feel a tad mechanical, rather than magical. One of the reasons for this (I feel) is that the spell descriptions can be quite austere, particularly around what the spells look, sound or feel like. I started thinking about this, and wondered whether this is maybe because some magic, particularly Spirit Magic, is provided by such a wide range of cults (and therefore cult spirits), so it's difficult to ascribe a generic 'look' to spells that will fit with all cults that provide them. There's also the fact that some people may not want showy magic in their game. But in the spirit of YGMV, I started thinking about how spells might manifest depending upon who is casting them (or rather which cult's spirits are powering them).

For example, a Bladesharp spell cast by an Orlanthi might manifest as an intermittent crackle or spark about the blade which, when swung, makes a whistling wind sound through its arc, leaving an evanescent ribbon of cloud in the wake of the sword tip. A Humakti's Bladesharp might cause the sword to turn a deep orange, whilst an echoing hiss reverberates from it as it severs the enemy's limbs. Meanwhile, an initiate of Maran Gor or Babeester Gor casting the spell might wield an axe whose edge appears to shimmer with rare earth metals, as a sound like a distant quake thrums from the weapon when it crunches into a foe.

Obviously, not all spells are amenable to such pyrotechnics, but as a GM I thought it would be good fun to have some go-to ideas of how common Spirit or Rune magic might manifest from the hand/mouths of different cultists. The manifestation doesn't change the spell effects, just makes the spell feel more magical, iconic or epic. Sun-worshipper Speedart spells providing a sunbeam along which the arrow flies, Aldryami arrows sprouting thorns on impact when the Speedart enables a successful hit etc.

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For me, the caster's cultic associations don't necessarily have anything to do with the way their Spirit Magic manifests. An Orlanthi could pay a Humakt priest to teach them Bladesharp, or a Praxian Shaman to find and bring hither a spirit that knows 'enough' Bladesharp. It'd be where the spell is learned from, if anywhere, which would determine its 'special effects'.

Rune Magic, on the other hand, is so closely tied to Cult and Rune that there should definitely be influence from both on how the spell manifests itself when cast.

I have seen differing opinions on which of Rune and Spirit Magic is the 'showier', and haven't been able to find a definitive assessment in the core rules of RQG. How showy any given magic is has implications on your game: if (for example) Truesword is subtle, no one knows to dispel it with a couple of MP until someone starts coming apart at the seams. If it's showy, and recognisable, it becomes an obvious target for a point of Dismiss Magic.

 

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I suppose I've always felt subtle magic to be a bit at odds with the mythic setting of Glorantha. That's not to say that there can't be subtle magic, just that in a setting powered and understood through runes it makes more sense for me that most magic is notable when it occurs.

With regards to Spirit Magic, mostly you'll be learning it from your own or associated cults, probably within the same pantheon, so for me there is a common thread. Whilst you could learn it from a Shaman, they would still have to go and find a spirit that was right for the individual to learn it from, which I interpret as meaning a compatible spirit for that cultist, as well as a spirit who knows the right spell.

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Another possibility would be to connect those showy effect with the level of spirit magic. Low level spells could be almost undetectable (1-2 levels?), and higher ones could be quite spectacular.

I think I’m liking this idea.

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I remember in the old RQ4 playtest, spirit magic was called the leftovers of the spirit world. To show this, there was a big table of effects that the GM could roll on each time a spell was used so it looked radically different each casting. Like the first time you cast shield it could appear as a blue glow with a sharp pop, and the second time it could be a purple and gold shell of energy smelling like a slab of bacon.

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In our Glorantha only Sorcery is subtle at all. A Boon of Kargan Tor is undetectable without magical sight. Whereas Spirit Magic like a Bladesharp 1 is a little glowy, 6 is shiny. Divine Spells like Truesword are for SURE recognizable to anyone that's familiar with the cult of Humakt, bright, shiny and recognizable. We leave most of the specifics of the actual 'spell effect', if you will, to the imagination of individual players.

We also have sort of standard descriptions that get a point across when we see an unkown threat that is DEFINITELY magiced up, like seeing a death cultist across a battlefield with a GLOWING purple sword likely indicates truesword for our Glorantha. Our GM sometimes also uses language that paints spells like their cults. Like, a Lunar assault force would have lots of glowing red equipment from the Lunar School Spells they are covered in.

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18 minutes ago, HreshtIronBorne said:

Divine Spells like Truesword are for SURE recognizable to anyone that's familiar with the cult of Humakt, bright, shiny and recognizable.

In that case, does one point of Create Image produce enough of a similar glow to fool people into believing you have this magic up?

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It has for sure happened to us in the past. In our current RQG campaign we are relatively early on still. Just a few years in, which isn't nearly as many experience rolls as RQ3. Lol. In some of our older campaigns our PCs have been seriously duped by clever magicians many times.

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On ‎12‎/‎25‎/‎2018 at 1:55 AM, Joerg said:

In that case, does one point of Create Image produce enough of a similar glow to fool people into believing you have this magic up?

I think that makes for interesting combat both ways - never quite certain that what you're seeing is a particular spell, and getting the chance to fool others with fake magic. Although if someone really does want to wade into a fight with an illusory image on their weapon, instead of a Truesword, that's their funeral.

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5 minutes ago, Sumath said:

I think that makes for interesting combat both ways - never quite certain that what you're seeing is a particular spell, and getting the chance to fool others with fake magic. Although if someone really does want to wade into a fight with an illusory image on their weapon, instead of a Truesword, that's their funeral.

Except if the enemy runs away, by fear of the mighty spell (TM).

Kloster

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Personally, I play that spells cast on things are visible, but not to any great extent. You can see that a sword has Bladesharp as it looks sharper, whatever that means. Bludgeon makes weapons look heavier, Truesword makes them look shinier and so on.

However, I don't have targeted spells having a substantial visual effect. So, in my games, you don't see a streak of magic coming from someone and then feel a 1 point of damage to a random body part. Instead, I play that you know when you have been targeted by a spell, but don't necessarily know where the spell has come from. 

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On ‎12‎/‎24‎/‎2018 at 4:07 PM, Sumath said:

I started thinking about this, and wondered whether this is maybe because some magic, particularly Spirit Magic, is provided by such a wide range of cults (and therefore cult spirits), so it's difficult to ascribe a generic 'look' to spells that will fit with all cults that provide them. There's also the fact that some people may not want showy magic in their game.

One of the things the illustrations in RQG highlight is how "visible" the magic is.  

p.4 - Harmast's hand glows green with some spell and below the troll summons a darkness elemental.

p.242 - Yanioth casting some magic, perhaps an enchantment.

p.261 - casting a Firearrow

p.312 - Vasana with what is possibly a Bladesharp spell with crackling lightning effects

p.333 - warrior with Lightning spell from his sword

I usually have detect spells manifest as glowing eyes.  Farsee has similar effect.  Protection, Countermagic, etc. all are varied colored glows around a character.

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44 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

I usually have detect spells manifest as glowing eyes.  Farsee has similar effect.  

Ooh, I like that. Could work for Second Sight too.

Apparently, the illustration of Yanioth on P 242 is called 'Yanioth summons the Earth Elemental', although she's presumably binding it into something rather than having it physically manifest...

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This is taken from the Quickstart (p20):

"The caster always exhibits some form of manifestation of the deity while casting the [Rune Magic] spell: they might appear to grow larger, burn with an inner glow, crackle lightning from the fingertips, or even start to physically resemble the deity. The more Rune magic cast, the more the deity manifests in the world."

I've always taken that Rune Magic is highly visible, you are channelling your deity after all and he/she/it wants that fact known (exceptions may by some Darkness cults). Spirit Magic also has minor special effects, glows, crackles, hums etc,

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1 hour ago, Psullie said:

This is taken from the Quickstart (p20):

"The caster always exhibits some form of manifestation of the deity while casting the [Rune Magic] spell: they might appear to grow larger, burn with an inner glow, crackle lightning from the fingertips, or even start to physically resemble the deity. The more Rune magic cast, the more the deity manifests in the world."

Like the blue guy on the rulebook cover.

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On 12/26/2018 at 11:07 AM, PhilHibbs said:

Like the blue guy on the rulebook cover.

kinda/sorta [gr]...

I followed many versions of spells manifesting arguments over the years and I must say I am a fan of how the effects are now incorporated into the rules but exactly how is left to the imagination of the GM and the players and I suppose the theory of MGF as well.

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