Thematic Magic

This section is adapted from the "Thematic Psi" section of the FuRPiG rule set, available here.

In thematic magic, you may do any kind of magic under a single skill roll, but you can only use the power when it is applied to your chosen theme. Thematic magics have levels; the harder a given trick in that theme, the higher the level you must reach before you can do it.

There is no fixed list of schools of thematic magic; players should select the theme and map out the levels with the GM when the character becomes dedicated to the theme. Note that the character is supposed to be dedicated to the theme — fascinated by it, making it a major part of their life. The character’s obsession with the theme is the channel that directs the magic.

The rest of this section gives examples of thematic magic. But even these examples are fluid. An ancient Chinese practitioner of Paper Magic could have a different list of tricks than an ancient Egyptian or a modern Western one. And even the lists given for the versions given are not exhaustive. If the player thinks of another trick for a given school, they should rank it honestly on the difficulty scale and add it.

Hawk Magic

An example of animal magic; magics for other species can be patterned off this. This theme includes a geas against harming a hawk except when fending off attacks on self, close kin or your own hawk, or as euthanasia. (A rather weak geas, but hawks play rough.) Violating the geas will cost you hit points in psychosomatic illness, the severity at the GM’s discretion. Characters with an animal magic should take Animal Mastery for that species and role-play a great interest in the species.

Oak Magic

Oak magic includes a geas of moderate psychosomatic illness for felling healthy oak trees.

Spider Magic

Spider magic includes a geas of moderate psychosomatic illness for killing spiders.

Wasp Magic

Wasp magic includes a geas of moderate psychosomatic illness for killing wasps.

Paper Magic

An example of a material as a magic theme. Suitable, perhaps, for a were-wasp, or, of course, a scholar, book collector or origami fancier. Paper magic includes a geas of minor prana loss against crumpling or defacing paper.

Electric Magic

Electric magicians (“electromancers”? “electronurgists”?) are basically preternatural electricians, and have much the same abilities you might imagine of an electrician robot, only done by psi. Any character, organic or robot, taking Electric Magic should also take mundane Electrician and work hard at it

Electric magic includes a geas of moderate prana loss against damaging electrical equipment.

Flesh Magic

The theme of Flesh Magic is living bodies. Flesh mages have Fleshkey TK and Lifesense clairvoyance. At low levels, they can do telepathy only when touching the target; at higher levels, they need to touch for the initial contact only; at mastery, they can do it by sense-shot, like “normal.”

Flesh magic includes a geas of severe psychosomatic illness, prana loss, and lowered success for using the magic to harm bodies of your own species and a geas of minor prana loss against harming any living animal.

These mages can produce objects made from the materials of their bodies, or of similar bodies, the more similar, the easier. Assuming the mage is human(oid), we would have:

Starting at the “moderate” level, the mage can produce a version of familiars, “casts.” The simplest form of cast is a duplicate of oneself. It is a hollow skin, magically inflated and animated, with a slit up the back where you exited. It lasts a full day, if not overused. If it has to exert itself, or as the end of the day approaches, it becomes somewhat withered in appearance. At the end of its span, it deflates, and the eyes, teeth and tongue disappear. Casts are tiring to produce.

As the mage advances, they can make casts that look like other people, or are smaller than themselves, then other mammals, then other vertebrates, then other animals.

Starting at the “tough” level, the mage can start making “shapeskins.” These are pelts or skins, disturbingly warm and slightly pulsating. Donning one transforms the wearer into a specific shape matching the hide. The further a shape is from your own, taxonomically, the harder it is to make a hide for it. Thus a humanoid mage can make disguises as other humans more easily than a wolf hide, which is easier than a bird.

Fire Magic

Fire magic includes a geas of minor prana loss for quenching fires.

Water Magic

Water magic includes a mild geas against fouling bodies of water.

Star Magic

Star magic ordinarily works only when stars are visible. Star magic is assisted by your "lucky star," and most star mages have such a lucky star.

Lucky Star

Your lucky star bonus gives you an increased chance of success in using star magic. It gives a smaller increase in using anything else that spends prana.

Mirror Magic

Mirror magic includes a geas of severe prana loss and lowered success for breaking mirrors.

Pythagorean Magic

Pythagoras is famous as a founder of mathematics and, in the Megiverse and Inkliverse, as a ghostly vampire, member of the Seven of Patmos. He is also the founder of the Pythagoreans, who survive to this day as a minor but international esoteric group.

He's quite annoyed about it, really.

Posthumously, Pythagoras tried to enlighten his followers about his latest discovery, probability. They couldn't assimilate it properly, and instead developed it into a numerological school of magic. This is what annoys Pythagoras. Modern Pythagoreans do know about probability theory, of course, but continue the magic.

Within the esoteric community, they often act as a sort of hired help. If the esoteric world was a Victorian community, Pythagoreans would be the sort of people hired to be paid companions, governesses, or tutors. They're social inferiors, they're there to do a job, but they also have a certain level of refinement that earns them a certain level of respect above that of the servants at large.

A major esoteric group, like a Cabal or an Order (though Orders often have issues with magic, and the Pythagoreans might well have issues with Cabals), would hire some Pythagoreans, mostly to do esoteric detective work, or as medics. They aren't powerful, and their divinations are easily blocked if you know to do it, but they're handy.

They are sufficiently low-powered that spectacular magic is very expensive or tiring for them. They are required to have an abstemious lifestyle. That and their usually high prana levels means they are usually very long-lived.

Besides health, they use their magic for gambling. Besides winning money, they can play for less usual stakes, such as health, rest, prana, luck, geases, knowledge, or skills. Not love, though, or other things that involve the volition of third parties. Not that it hasn't been tried. Strength can be wagered, but not, apparently, beauty or youth.

They do a lot of divination, using tables of numerical correspondences that are almost purely superstition and only have meaning through the placebo effect it has on their magic. In short, like an astrologer, they think they are "reasoning" their way to a divination, using their occult knowledge, when really their interpretations are being guided by unconscious magic. Their divinations tend to go like this:

"Did you realize that the base of the Great Pyramid goes around the equator of the Earth 256,781 times? Now, this is a pentagonal number, but the number of Earth is four, which is of course a square number. The ratio between the sides of square and pentagon of equal area are..." Ultimately leading to something like, "Which is equal to the Golden Ratio to within a tolerance of one over twice 256,781, proving the existence of a ley line 11.76 kilometers west of the Great Pyramid." Which is ballderdash, but the ley line will be there.

Pythagoreans also make great use of music and sound, and combine it with astrology. (Many Pythagoreans also practice straight astrology.) The ancient Pythagoreans, after all, are the ones who invented the idea of the "music of the spheres."

When you enter the order, you take part in a ritual, the climax of which is rolling an eight-sided die with alpha, beta, gamma, and delta written on the sides twice over, or one to four pips twice over. This determines how many numbers you get. (Four is the most sacred Pythagorean number after one and ten.) Then, for each number you get, they roll another eight-sided die, with pips for 2 to 9 or the Greek letters beta through iota. (No one is allowed to have one or ten as their numbers.) Duplicated numbers are given higher significance.

So every Pythagorean has one to four special numbers in the range 2 through 9. They use these numbers to seek omens. They are always seeking numerical omens, but those involving their own numbers pertain specially to them. Finding their special numbers in omens also gives them an extra charge of prana, as do their numerical chants and hymns.

Pythagorean magic includes a geas of moderate psychosomatic illness and lowered success for getting drunk, or eating meat or beans, and a geas of severe prana loss and lowered success for cruelty to animals, or voting in public elections.

Lucky Numbers

You can get prana from your lucky numbers in the following ways, where N is a lucky number:

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010