22 June 2021

Earthdawn 4E: Rules Variant 25 - Updates Part 2: Illusionist Spells

This is the twenty-fifth Rules Variant, part of an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.

Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

This is part of a significant update to better align things with lessons learned and best practices. The primary focus is updating various effects to static Difficulty Numbers, but this is not where it stops and it includes abilities outside that scope which require some attention.

These updates rely on previous updates to Combat Options and Stances and Social Abilities.

This series of rules variants entirely replaces and is incompatible with Chain Casting and Lowering Mystic Defense optional rules. This includes talents which include the text regarding always generating at least one success. Updates for those abilities omit that text.

As I discussed in my Renewable Spells variant, Chain Casting was new as a formalized concept to Earthdawn finding the right balance was tricky. This incorporates the concepts in that rules variant directly into the spells. Lowering Mystic Defense was a kludge to fix an oversight. Static Difficulty Numbers are a more consistent way to achieve the same effect while still allowing for the chance of failure, however small.

As a general rule, if someone is casting a spell to effectively replicate the effects of a Continuous extra thread or chain casting, they should be paying Strain at each casting. This is poor form on their part.

 Spellcasting doesn't have a Strain cost for mechanical reasons (though I considered it for a while) because it's unnecessarily punitive to spellcasters. However, this doesn't give them free reign to cast spells all day long. Harnessing magic in that fashion is tiring even if the mechanics don't reflect that. Treating it as though it's not a big deal is silly and a bad faith argument. Even as closely tied as system and setting are in Earthdawn, it's still a game and cannot accurately reflect every aspect of the latter. Which is where the people playing are expected to fill in the gaps. 

Illusionist Spells


Continuous: Allows the spell to be maintained on the targets as long as the spell remains in the spell matrix it was cast from and the targets start the scene with the spellcaster. Only one continuous instance of a given spell can be maintained at a time. Continuous spells never generate additional successes from Spellcasting. The spell must have a minutes or greater duration to be affected by this extra thread. If a spell has “Increase Duration (Minutes),” this must be woven as an extra thread as the spell is being cast.

Continuous spells cannot benefit from improved spell knacks or Karma abilities.


First Circle


Assuring Touch

Threads: 0

Weaving: 5/10

Casting: 6

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank rounds

Effect: +2 to Mystic and Social Defense, and Willpower tests against frightened

Keywords: Willing.

This spell increases resistance to fear. The Illusionist thinks positive thoughts, murmurs something reassuring like “everything’s going to be okay,” and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, the target feels a faint assuring touch on their back and gains +2 Mystic and Social Defense against abilities that cause the frightened condition and +2 to Willpower Resistance tests if allowed against an ongoing frightened condition.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+Circle), Continuous, Increase Duration (Minutes), Increase Effect (+2), Increase Range (+10)


Best Face

Threads: 1

Weaving: 5/10

Casting: 6

Range: Touch

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: +2 to Disguise Self and associated tests

Keywords: Illusion. Willing.

This spell disguises the target’s identity. The Illusionist splashes water or cologne on the target’s face and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, the target’s face changes to match a face envisaged by the Illusionist. The target gains +2 to Disguise Self and Charisma-based tests to convince others of the false identity and persuade them to act according to that misperception. Any social tests against target are Sensing tests (p. 266).

The spell only affects the target’s head and neck, including hair and ears. The maximum possible size difference between the target’s face and that being mimicked is doubled in any dimension—the Illusionist must find another way to disguise obvious differences. The target’s voice is unchanged, so good luck with that.

The target may use Disguise Self as a default skill if they don’t possess it. If the Illusionist is copying a specific face, they must have seen that individual within the last month. This spell costs a Karma Point or 1 Strain after the first time it is cast in a scene.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+1), Continuous, Increase Effect (+2)


Cloak

Threads: 0

Weaving: 5/10

Casting: 6

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: +2 Stealthy Stride

Keywords: Figment. Willing.

This spell masks a character, making them less noticeable to others. The Illusionist quietly touches the target and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, the target becomes semi-transparent and gains +2 Stealthy Stride and may use Stealthy Stride as a default skill if they don’t possess it.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+Circle), Continuous, Increase Effect (+2), Increase Range (+10)


Encrypt

Threads: 0

Weaving: 5/10

Casting: TMD

Range: Touch

Duration: One day

Effect: Makes text incomprehensible.

Keywords: Illusion.

This spell makes a selected tract of text jumbled and unreadable. The Illusionist runs their hands over the text and then makes a Spellcasting test against the Mystic Defense of the text (minimum 6). A grimoire’s Mystic Defense is equal to the Dispel Difficulty of the highest Circle spell it contains. If successful, the text becomes incomprehensible to anyone other than the Illusionist. Anyone attempting to read the encrypted text must make a successful Languages, Patterncraft, or other appropriate Action test against the Sensing Difficulty.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+1)

Extra Threads: Increase Duration (+1)


Monstrous Mantle

Threads: 0

Weaving: 5/10

Casting: 10

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank rounds

Effect: +2 close combat Attack and Damage, and Physical Defense

Keywords: Illusion. Willing.

This spell improves a character’s combat prowess by making onlookers believe they transformed into a monster. The Illusionist makes snarling and growling sounds and makes a Spellcasting (10) Action test. If successful, twin helixes of light appear around the target, rotating and spinning into the form of a monstrous humanoid creature, typically increasing in size, and gaining unnatural characteristics such as axes, tentacles, or giant pincers for hands. The target gains +2 to close combat Attack and Damage tests and Physical Defense.

The illusion does not give the target any special attack forms or abilities. Any physical tests interacting with the target or perception tests against them are Sensing tests. For example, Attack, Avoid Blow, and Spot Armor Flaw tests.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+Circle), Increase Effect (+1), Increase Range (+10)


Trust

Threads: 1

Weaving: 5/10

Casting: TMD

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: Gives target the friendly condition

Keywords: Condition. Impairment.

This spell inspires a character to trust the Illusionist. The Illusionist smiles and nods toward the target, then makes a Spellcasting test against the target’s Mystic Defense. If successful, the target gains the friendly 4 impairment condition as long as the Illusionist and their allies treat them similarly.

The target becomes aware of the manipulation when the spell ends and this is unlikely to make them favorably disposed toward the Illusionist and their allies in the future, imposing at least a -5 penalty on appropriate Action tests.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+1), Increase Effect (+2), Increase Range (+10)


Unseen Voices

Threads: 0

Weaving: 5/10

Casting: 6

Range: 20 yards

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: Creates unseen voices

Keywords: Concentration. Figment.

This spell creates hidden voices to distract characters. The Illusionist mutters quietly and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. One voice is created per success. These voices can sound as the Illusionist desires, including animals and sound effects (each is a separate voice). The Illusionist may use the Mimic Voice talent with this spell to replicate specific voices. In which case, use the Mimic Voice talent as usual.

The voices repeat what the Illusionist mutters arranged among the voices to the Illusionist’s choosing using no more than Circle×10 words. Each different sound effect is a word for this purpose. If the Illusionist concentrates, they can control what the voices say in real time. If they stop concentrating, the voices either return to the original script or become silent at the Illusionist’s discretion. The Illusionist doesn’t gain any special ability to hear what is being said in the vicinity of the voices. 

Inspection of where the voices are coming from reveals the effect is a figment and there is nothing compelling those in the area to believe the voices. That depends on the Illusionists ability to create a convincing scene for their purposes.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Increase Effect (+2 voices), Increase Effect (+10 words), Increase Range (+10 yards)


Second Circle


Displace Image

Threads: 1

Weaving: 6/11

Casting: 6

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank rounds

Effect: Projects the image of the target

Keywords: Concentration. Illusion. Willing.

This spell makes others ignore the target by displacing the image others see a short distance. The Illusionist traces an outline of the target, touches the shoulder of the outline, and makes a Spellcasting (6) test. If successful, an outlined figure shrouded in a shimmering blur appears drifting 4 yards away, quickly transforming into an identical image of the target. The target is no longer visible in their actual location, the illusion having displaced his image.

Attacks made against the image have no effect, and the Illusionist must concentrate to maintain the facade. Each round they don’t concentrate gives all attackers a cumulative +5 to Sensing tests against the illusion. Action tests against the image are also Sensing tests.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+1), Increase Range (+10)


Innocent Activity

Threads: 1

Weaving: 6/11

Casting: 10

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank rounds

Effect: Covers up true activity

Keywords: Illusion. Stationary. Willing.

This spell masks a character’s activity. The Illusionist waves their hands about as if painting on a large canvas and makes a Spellcasting (10) Action test. If successful, onlookers only see an image of the target performing an apparently innocent activity appropriate to the setting. If the target moves from their current location, the illusion is broken. The target may otherwise perform any action, even attacking an opponent, during the spell’s duration. Any obviously inexplicable phenomena as a result of action on the part of the target, such as voices, spells, or attacks, allows those in the vicinity to make appropriate tests as Sensing tests. If successful, the onlooker sees through the illusion and the spell ends for everyone. If failed, the onlooker concocts some other plausible explanation for what happened.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+1), Continuous, Increase Duration (Scene), Increase Range (+10)


See the Unseen

Threads: 1

Weaving: 6/11

Casting: 6

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: +4 to Awareness tests to detect hidden things

Keywords: Willing.

This spell allows the target to better see hidden things. The Illusionist lightly touches the target’s eyes and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, the target gains +4 to sight-based Awareness tests made to detect hidden characters or objects.

The spell does not enable the target to see things they cannot normally see, such as Horrors lurking in astral space, although it helps when combined with a talent or ability that allows such astral viewing.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+Circle), Continuous, Increase Effect (+2), Increase Range (+10)


Third Circle


And Then I Woke Up

Threads: 0

Weaving: 7/12

Casting: 6

Range: Self

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: +4 to Sensing tests

Keywords: Willing.

This spell enhances the ability to perceive the truth of things. The Illusionist claps their hands loudly and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, they gain +4 to Sensing tests.

This does not increase the test result for any purpose other than Sensing tests. This spell costs a Karma Point or 1 Strain after the first time it is cast in a scene.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Continuous, Increase Effect (+2)


Nobody Here

Threads: 3

Weaving: 7/12

Casting: 10

Range: Self

Duration: Rank minutes

Area of Effect: 2-yard radius

Effect: Makes onlookers ignore a group

Keywords: Illusion. Stationary. Willing.

This spell hides the targets from others. The Illusionist concentrates on the thought of “nobody here” and makes a Spellcasting (10) Action test. If successful, onlookers ignore everyone in the area. Targets who exit the area become visible, though they can regain their invisibility by returning to the area.

Other characters who walk into the area don’t benefit from the illusion and make an Awareness Resistance test as a Sensing test. They gain +3 if a concealed target manipulates the environment in a way that requires explanation, such as moving books in plain sight, opening or shutting doors, and so on. The onlooker gains +5 if a concealed target makes physical contact with them. If successful, the illusion is revealed for that observer. If failed, the onlooker’s sensory feedback is magically suppressed—their senses detect visible characters, but the knowledge is suppressed by the spell. If a concealed target causes damage to another character, the attacked character is no longer affected by the illusion and any onlookers immediately make an appropriate Sensing test with a +5 bonus.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Continuous, Increase Area (+2)


Phantom Warrior

Threads: 1

Weaving: 7/12

Casting: 6

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank rounds

Effect: Creates three images of the target

Keywords: Illusion. Willing.

This spell forms three phantom images of a character, making them more difficult to hit in combat. The Illusionist moves their hands in slow, abstract patterns, then points at the target and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, two identical images of the target appear, remaining within 1 yard of the target at all times, occasionally overlapping as they move around. The images do not move in complete sync with the target—one image may swing a sword high, another swing low, and the third thrust home, while the target adopts a defensive stance. The images confuse opponents and the target’s attacks are more difficult to defend against—the target gains +1 per image to close combat Attack tests and Physical Defense. Tests made against the target that interact with the images are Sensing tests.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+Circle), Increase Effect (+1 image), Increase Range (+10), 


Fourth Circle


Great Weapon

Threads: 0

Weaving: 8/13

Casting: 6

Range: 10 yards

Duration: Rank rounds

Effect: Opponent is harried 2

Keywords: Illusion. Willing.

This spell makes a Size 3 or larger melee weapon appear bigger and more dangerous than it actually is. The Illusionist makes threatening overtures and makes a Spellcasting (6) test. If successful, opponents facing the weapon are harried while adjacent to the wielder. Action tests made against the wielder or weapon are Sensing tests.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+Circle), Increase Effect (+1), Increase Range (+10 yards)


Notice Not

Threads: 2

Weaving: 8/13

Casting: 10

Range: Touch

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: Creates an illusion the target isn’t there

Keywords: Illusion. Willing.

This spell masks a character, making others ignore him entirely. The Illusionist quietly touches the target and makes a Spellcasting (10) Action test. If successful, onlookers ignore the target and subconsciously move out of the way to avoid their presence. If the target interacts with anything in the area, onlookers may make Sensing tests as appropriate. Anyone actively aware (such as guards) may make Awareness Action tests as Sensing tests.

Any intention to cause violence results in the spell ending immediately. This spell explicitly does not protect against any form of astral sensing (e.g. Astral Sight). This spell costs a Karma Point or 1 Strain after the first time it is cast in a scene.

This spell costs a Karma Point or 1 Strain after the first time it is cast in a scene.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+1), Continuous


Fifth Circle


Eye of Truth

Threads: 1

Weaving: 9/14

Casting: 6

Range: Touch

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: +4 to Sensing tests

Keywords: Willing.

This spell allows seeing beyond the veil of illusion with near-absolute clarity. The Illusionist rubs clean, clear water over the target’s eyes, and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, the target gains +4 to Sensing tests. This does not increase the test result for any purpose other than Sensing tests.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+Circle), Continuous, Increase Effect (+2), 


Illusion

Threads: 3

Weaving: 9/14

Casting: 6

Range: 10 yards

Duration: 1 hour

Area of Effect: 10-yard radius

Effect: Creates figments

Keywords: Illusion.

This spell creates illusory effects. The Illusionist makes a Spellcasting (6) test. If successful, they create an illusion up to the area of effect in size. The illusions are simple and cannot include Namegivers or other complex images. For example, an illusory door could swing a few inches, but not open or close entirely. An illusory banner might wave in the breeze, but could not be removed. Those who interact with the illusion make Sensing tests using abilities appropriate to the activity.

This spell costs a Karma Point or 1 Strain after the first time it is cast in a scene.

Success Levels: Additional Illusion (+1)

Extra Threads: Additional Illusion (+1), Continuous, Increase Area (+10), Increase Range (+10)


Presto!

Threads: 1

Weaving: 9/14

Casting: 6

Range: 10 yards

Duration: 2 rounds

Effect: Links two small openings

Keywords: Illusion.

This spell connects the openings of two small containers just large enough for someone to put their hand through, such as a hat and a jar, within range. The Illusionist must be holding one of the containers and the other must be visible. They wave their hand over the object, chanting magic words, and make a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, anyone can reach through the opening of the container they are holding and their hand emerges either from or into the distant container. They may pull any object that could feasibly fit through the opening of the mini portal. The openings are linked by a poorly understood warping of astral space; the warping is real, but the spell takes a number of shortcuts which rely on the premises of illusions to bend magic in ways which can be broken to disrupt the link. A successful Sensing test destroys the links and ends the spell.

This spell costs a Karma Point or 1 Strain after the first time it is cast in a scene.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2 rounds)

Extra Threads: Increase Duration (Scene), Increase Range (+10 yards)


Sixth Circle


Astral Shadow

Threads: 2

Weaving: 10/15

Casting: 6

Range: Touch

Duration: Rank minutes

Effect: Conceals target from astral space

Keywords: Illusion. Willing.

This spell makes living beings in the physical world more difficult to see in astral space. The Illusionist waves a silk veil over the target’s face and makes a Spellcasting (6) Action test. If successful, the target is easily missed when viewed in astral space and the illusion must be sensed. Locating the target using astral sensing abilities, such as the Astral Sight talent, is a Sensing test. Apart from obscuring their presence in astral space, the target doesn’t gain protection against spells or Horror powers, such as Horror Mark.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Additional Target (+Circle), Continuous, Increase Effect (+2 Sensing Difficulty)


Chosen Path

Threads: 3

Weaving: 10/15

Casting: 6

Range: Touch

Duration: One day

Area of Effect: 60-yard radius

Effect: Compels a choice at a fork in the road

Keywords: Illusion.

This spell makes others follow a path of the Illusionist’s choosing when they are presented with a choice of directions. The Illusionist considers a path (e.g. a set of doors, a branch in the road, etc.) visible to them, indicates their choice, and makes a Spellcasting (6) test. If successful, others believe they chose a direction when faced with the choice at the same location, but they selected the path determined by the Illusionist. The deception becomes apparent once they are out of the area. If targets backtrack and take the correct path from the same point, they make an appropriate test as a Sensing test. If failed, they are diverted the wrong way again.

This spell costs a Karma Point or 1 Strain after the first time it is cast in a day.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+1)

Extra Threads: Increase Area (+10), Increase Duration (+1), Increase Effect (+2 to Sensing Difficulty)


Flying Carpet

Threads: 3

Weaving: 10/15

Casting: 10

Range: Touch

Duration: Rank minutes

Area of Effect: 4 sq. yards

Effect: Creates a classic transportation mode

Keywords: Concentration.

This spell enchants a carpet or other piece of cloth to be a flying platform. It can be no larger than four square yards. The Illusionist vigorously shakes the carpet and makes a Spellcasting (10) test. If successful, the material animates, floating several inches above the ground. It can carry one person regardless of their mass. The Illusionist may concentrate to verbally control the carpet. The carpet is not intelligent and is easily confused, so commands issued to it must be simple, limited to a couple words at best. The carpet normally flies a few inches above the ground at Movement Rate 12, but can fly as high as 100 yards if commanded to do so, rising 2 yards vertically for every 2 yards of horizontal movement.

The carpet uses the Illusionist’s Physical and Mystic Defenses and if the carpet takes damage, the spell ends. An extra thread for Continuous makes this suitable for overland travel. Every additional 4 sq. yards of carpet allows an additional passenger. This increases the amount of fabric enchanted, it doesn’t increase the size of the available fabric.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Continuous, Increase Area (+4), Increase Effect (+4 Movement Rate)


Seventh Circle


Silent Stampede

Threads: 4

Weaving: 11/16

Casting: 10

Range: Touch

Duration: Rank minutes

Area of Effect: 2-yard radius

Effect: +4 to Stealthy Stride tests

Keywords: Willing.

This spell silences the sounds made by a group, including movement, talking, breathing, etc. The Illusionist wanders around the group touching each target and makes a Spellcasting (10) Action test. If successful, any sounds made by the target group are suppressed—the gain +4 Stealthy Stride. Targets may use Stealthy Stride as a default skill even if they don’t possess it. 

This spell costs a Karma Point or 1 Strain after the first time it is cast in a scene.

Success Levels: Increase Duration (+2)

Extra Threads: Continuous, Increase Area (+2), Increase Effect (+2)


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