Shadows of Fate
In Rokugan, magic is a very real thing. Spirits of the elements dwell in everything and shugenja are trained to get the spirits to do their bidding. In addition, monsters stalk the lands, and society is keenly aware of the Shadowlands, where nightmares walk about in putrid flesh. Although the term spells is generally used to describe the abilities of shugenja both in game terms and within the world of Rokugan, in point of fact it is incorrect. The invocations used by shugenja to accomplish incredible effects are ritualized prayers that invoke the kami in a carefully researched, specific manner. Because the kami lack free will, as mankind understands it, they tend to respond in roughly the same manner each time a specific prayer is invoked, hence the relatively static effects of the spells.
Spells are listed with a set difficulty (except for Attack, Defense, and Recovery spells). To cast a spell, you simply roll the associated element and attempt to beat the difficulty. Some spells have special effects that can be invoked by “spending” shifts of success. Rokugani spells are actually prayers and invocations in a mystical tongue which the kami can understand. All shugenja study this speech as part of their schooling. These prayers are complex, and most shugenja must read them from scrolls in order to cast them properly. This is why shugenja normally must have their spell scroll in hand while they cast, so they can read off the prayers correctly. Because kami must hear the prayers, spells are normally spoken aloud. It is possible to conceal a spell, however, by muttering the prayers under one’s breath. This would require the Stealth skill.
The Arcane Ladder
For magic, it’s difficult to say what should constitute a “mediocre”, “fair”, or “legendary” spell. Hence, we have the arcane ladder, ranking the difficulty of spells according to the sort of effect they might produce. Simply add together the factors of the spell in each column to determine the difficulty for casting. The consensus of the group comes first. This is only a guideline.
This table is only for static targets, so Attack, Defend, and Recover will be addressed separately. Generally, this table will be used for Overcome or Create an Advantage.
Divinations provide sensory perceptions or knowledge about something, or provides perception or knowledge to somebody else.
Abjurations protect something from harm.
Illusions are false creations
Destructions remove obstacles.
Commands involve pressing an existing being or phenomenon to do your will.
Alterations change the essence of a target.
Creations summon things that are not present, either by creating them or calling them from afar.
Complexity is a subjective matter. Creating a solid block of iron would be fairly simple. Creating a Katana would be complex. Changing a Hunger Kami to a Thirst Kami would be simple. Changing a Hunger Kami to a Rock Kami would be complex. Warding a room against all human beings would be simple, warding against all human beings from Kagoshima named Tetsuya would be complex. And so on. Complexity also has a restriction associated with it as well. You must have at least 1 rank in a skill to use a “Moderate” complexity spell, and at least 3 ranks to use a “Complex” complexity, and 5 ranks to use a “Master” complexity.
Connection is a measure of the caster’s metaphysical distance from the target. Shugenja can cast spells on targets they cannot see by holding a part of the target (a lock of hair, a branch of a tree) or personal item owned by the target. Casting by knowledge alone is more difficult, but not impossible. Of course, a failure could mean the spell targets someone or something entirely different. If the spell has a range of Touch the target does not have to be willing – but the defender can roll Fight or Athletics to avoid being touched during the casting of the spell. His roll is essentially added to the difficulty of the spell, and failure can mean that they avoided the attack or the spell caster failed to entreat the kami properly – either way.
Duration can sometimes be difficult to assign. Especially the difference between “Instant” and “Permanent”. A general rule of thumb is that the difference between the two is how long the effect remains magical in nature. Summoning a weapon happens in an instant, but beyond that the weapon is mundane and remains as such permanently. If the weapon was mundane in every way, this would be an instant spell. “Instantly” opening a magical portal that remains permanently, however would be permanent as the portal will always be magical.
Targets applies only when the spell targets a person or creature.
Size applies when the spell targets or creates an object or area.
|Practice||Targets||Size||Connection (* with stunt only)||Complexity||Duration|
|+0||Divination||self||cat||touch (same zone)||simple||exchange/instant|
|+1||Abjuration||1 target||human||sight (nearby zone)||scene/day|
|+2||Illusion||room full/1 zone||car||personal item*||moderate||session/week|
|+3||Destruction||building full||house||intimate knowledge*||story/month|
|+4||Command||town full||airplane||second-hand knowledge*||complex||year|
Note: I’m still adjusting this table, as such most Air and early Maho spells will need to be re-pointed out.
Mitigators can be used to reduce the difficulty of a spell.
Ofuda is a small charm that can be hung in a home (or an amulet called an Omamori which offers personal protection) that aids in warding an protection. Using one in an Abjuration reduces the difficulty by one.
Brew Potion recovery spells can be brewed into a potion. Doing so reduces the difficulty by 1. The brewing process takes 2 hours per difficulty of the spell.
Dreamweaving Any mind-affecting spells reduce the difficulty by 1 if at least half of the targets are asleep, and by 2 if all of the targets are asleep.
Ritual Magic Can reduce the difficulty of a spell by 1 by spending 10 minutes in ritual to prepare the spell, or by 2 by spending half a day.
Concentration If a spell requires concentration, no other spell can be cast while concentrating on this. If the character is unconscious it ends automatically. if the character takes Physical or Mental shifts (stress or consequences combined) equal to their Will score, the concentration is interrupted and the spell ends. Requiring concentration reduces the difficulty of the spell by 1.
Maho Blood magic, explained below, can empower spells from any school. Certain spells, however, can only be cast using blood magic. Those spells, and the rules for casting them, are described below. Maho spells have their difficulty reduced by 2 – blood magic is an easy path to power…but it has a price.
Maho-Tsukai are Onmyoji who learned a secret art of Blood Magic – an art originally taught by Oni. Part of this technique involves permanently etching a tattoo on ones skin. The ink is made with liquefied taint itself – effectively permanently tainting the Onmyoji. Once this is done, however, the caster can empower their spells by using their own blood. It is said there are powerful Maho-Tuskai who can even us the blood of others to power foul rituals. To become a Maho-Tuskai, one must take an aspect declaring so. They then must spend 1 refresh to take the stunt Blood Magic. Additionally, they gain one rank of Taint. Note: Blood Magic will not be available to starting characters.
|Shugenja||Shugenja aspect||Select an element. You are now an Shugenja, and can cast spells from that element at no cost. You may cast spells from another element at the cost of 2 mental stress per casting. Using your opposing element requires 4 stress.|
|Extra Element||Onmyodo stunt||You may select a second Governing Element. Casting spells from this element now only costs 1 mental stress. You cannot select your opposing element.|
|Blood Magic||Maho-tsukai aspect, in-game discovery||Take a mild or moderate physical consequence, representing your sacrifice of blood. Add +2 or +4, respectively, on your next Onmyodo skill roll. This must be done at the time of casting. You receive 1 point of taint.|
|Blood Source||Blood Magic Stunt||May source blood from another intelligent, living creature. Must be helpless or wiling. They suffer the consequence and both caster and blood source suffer the taint.|
Below are the existing spells. New spells can be researched, but it takes time.
There are a handful of spells that can be cast with any element.
Air is enigmatic and mercurial in all things, and represents empathy and intuition. The spirits of air can be capricious and mischievous, but their wrath is that of the storm. Air spells control winds, illusion, and mind-altering affects.
Earth is eternal, unchanging, and unmoving. It is the element of endurance and resistance. The spirits of Earth are quiet and impassive but can be roused into brief moments of terrible violence.
Fire is the element of dynamic change, energy, and destruction. It is the element of motion and illumination. Spirits of Fire are capable of mending what has been broken, or destroying all in their path.
Water is the element of rapid change and alteration. It is the inexorable force that can carve mountains over thousands of years and the capricious storm that batters a ship one instant and gently carries it to its destination the next. Spirits of water can enhance the movement abilities of those they bless, or bolster their strength in other ways.
Void is poorly understood by the mortal mind, for it is both the presence and absence of the other four elements. It is the state of all elements existing together simultaneously, and yet it is also the emptiness that exists between them. It is thought and consciousness, a result of the divine spark that exists within humans through their creation by the forces of the Celestial Heavens.
Maho (blood magic) is a dark and sinister form of magic which calls on the corrupt power of kansen – evil elemental spirits born from the power of Jigoku. Unlike normal Rokugani magic, which requires one to be born with the ability to speak with the elemental spirits, maho can be cast by anyone who can learn the incantations – indeed, the kansen themselves are known to whisper their spells into the ears of those willing to listen. This dark magic is widely employed by the Lost and creatures of the Shadowlands, along with members of the Bloodspeaker Cult and numerous individual maho-tsukai who stumble across its secrets. Because it represents “easy power” that lies outside the bounds of the Celestial Order, maho tends to be especially alluring to the ambitious and the downtrodden – a samurai who forsakes Bushido for personal gain, and embittered peasants who’s dreams of a better life drive them to darkness.