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Chapter 7: Magic

7.1 The Technique of Magic

The Avatar system of magic allows anyone to attempt practically anything, although in many cases the chance of success is negligible or non-existent. Magic is all about making the impossible achievable. In order to do this, sorcerers use Schools of Magic to provide technique, and also create spells and rituals to tailor the technique to a specific task. Whilst it is not essential to have a Spell prepared in order to cause a particular effect, spell creation certainly makes the task easier.

Whenever a magical effect is invoked, the magician experiences Backlash (see section 7.3, below), which has a disorienting effect. Backlash is what prevents people doing whatever they like, whenever they like. Backlash is similar in principle to physical damage, and the Backlash rules are related to the physical damage rules.

7.2 Schools of Magic

In each world of Twilight there will be different operating Schools of Magic, each with its own Skill attached to it. Remember that a School of Magic is a method of casting magic - a particular style of magic. A wide variety of effects are possible using each School, and it is possible to create effects by combining different Schools.

Certain tasks could be attempted by more than one path. For example, a Fireball could be considered an Alteration, if some material component was used, Elementalism, or even Summoning. A list of suggested Schools of Magic is given in Table 8, with descriptions in section 3.16.

7.3 Casting and Backlash

Every magical effect has a Task Difficulty, much as ordinary physical tasks do. However, unlike for normal Tasks, a sorcerer does not roll for Task Resolution. Instead, they roll 2d6 on the Backlash table (Table 42) and modify this according to the difference between the Task difficulty being attempted and their own Skill in whichever School of Magic they are using. For each block of 5 their Skill exceeds the Difficulty, the roll is reduced by 1, and for each block of 5 the difficulty exceeds their Skill, the roll is increased by 1.

Table 42: Backlash
Roll Code Effect
Under 0 N No Effect
0-2 F Fazed
3-5 L Lightly Disoriented
6-8 S Seriously Disoriented
9-13 M Major Disorientation
14-17 MM Extreme Disorientation
Each additional block of 4 above 17: +M to Code

As with wounds, two Effects of a lower Rank add up to one at a higher Rank (e.g. two L's make an S), with the exception that four F's are equivalent to one L. The amount of Backlash a person can suffer is given by Table 43, below (which parallels Table 27, the Wound State Table).

Table 43: Mental State Table
Phase Stunned Insane Coma
Up to 1 - - L
2 - - S
3 - S L
4-5 - S S
6-7 S L L
8-9 S S L
10-11 S S S
12-13 M S L
14-15 M S S
16-17 M M L
18-19 M M S
20 M M M
21 MM M L
22-23 MM M S
24 MM M M
25 MM MM L
26-27 MM MM S
28 MM MM M
29 MM MM ML
30-31 MM MM MS
32 MM MM MM

If casting an incantation results in the caster being stunned or worse, the spell generally fails. Someone who is stunned is disoriented, and incapable of doing anything for 1d6 rounds. Someone who is insane suffers an immediate insanity (which may or may not prevent them casting further magic). Once coma is reached, they have fallen comatose. In both the latter cases, a permanent personality disorder may result (see section 7.5).

Two major factors that affect the result of Backlash rolls are the Local Phase and the Hazard (see section 7.17 and section 7.18). The Local Phase modifier is a constant value which is added or subtracted from the Backlash roll. The Hazard represents how stable the relationship between Shadow and Twilight is. Hazard is expressed as a number from 1 to 6. If any of the dice rolled on the Backlash table come up this value, they count at this value and are rolled again.

For example, Sarakiel is attempting to cast magic using Alteration, one of her Schools of Magic. Her Skill in Alteration is 30, and the Local Phase is -1, with a Hazard of 4. The Difficulty of the effect she is attempting is 25. Sarakiel's Skill exceeds the Difficulty by one complete block of 5, giving a -1 to her Backlash roll. The area is also -1, for a total modifier of -2. She rolls on Table 42, getting a 2 and a 4. Ordinarily, this would be a total of 4 (4 +2 -2), and would cause a light disorientation, but since she rolled a 4, she has to roll another die. This comes up 5 for a total of 9 - an M. If this third die had come up a 4, the total would have been 8, and another d6 would have been rolled. Sarakiel has a Phase Attribute of 12, giving a Mental State Code of M S L. The M result causes her to be stunned, and therefore the effect fails.

7.4 Tentative and Reckless Magic

In addition to the regular method of casting magic, there are two other approaches. The first, tentative magic, attempts to minimise the risk involved. In tentative magic, the magician initially only rolls 1d6, and includes any appropriate modifiers. They then have the choice of either carrying the spell through to conclusion, in which case they roll a second 1d6 and add 2 to the total, or aborting the spell, in which case they take the Backlash indicated by the single die, modified accordingly.

Tentative magic is useful if the spell caster is unsure whether or not to try casting the spell, and the spell itself is not very difficult. In general, if the spell is difficult, the extra +2 Backlash penalty is too prohibitive for tentative magic to be a viable option.

When it is absolutely vital that a spell succeeds, reckless magic provides an all or nothing option. Here, rather than rolling 2d6 for Backlash, the magician rolls 3d6, but the spell only fails if the sorcerer is reduced to a coma.

Reckless magic is useful when the spell caster absolutely needs the spell to succeed and is prepared to take the consequences. The extra die tends to send most wizards insane, but at least the spell succeeds.

7.5 Insanity

The danger of Insanity is a risk all magicians take. Because magic involves an alteration in the way an individual thinks, this can result in the development of personality disorders and derangements. As a result of Backlash, a sorcerer can become temporarily disassociated with their body: their mind is lost in Shadow. The effect of this experience will vary wildly. Whenever a sorcerer is reduced to the Insane Mental State, roll 3d6 and consult the Insane column of Table 44. Similarly, when a Coma is reached, roll 2d6 and consult the column for Coma.

Table 44: Insanity Table
Insanity Coma Result
3-4 2 Rationalisation
5-6 3-4 Insight
7-9 5-6 Temporary Catalepsy
10-13 7 Temporary Delirium
14 8 Temporary Phobia
15 9 Phobia
16 10 Neurosis
17 11 Psychosis
18 12 Insane Insight

Rationalisation:
This means that the experience has had a positive, calming influence on the individual, and any personality disorders may be reduced to a certain degree (usually by one level - see below).
Insight:
The magician has gained some piece of knowledge as to the nature of Shadow. As a result, they gain a Development Package (see section 3.21) in whichever School of magic led them to this Insight.
Temporary Catalepsy:
Sufferers of temporary catalepsy become totally withdrawn from the outside world. The magician falls into a trance and their body becomes rigid. They are totally unable to communicate until they recover.
Temporary Delirium:
In general, this causes the subject to babble incoherently and stumble around in an uncontrolled fashion. They will be almost completely incapable of communicating intelligibly until they recover.
Temporary Phobia:
A phobia instills an acute fear of something into the subject, ideally something associated with the circumstances which caused the temporary phobia. This lasts for several days.
Phobia:
is the same as temporary phobia, except the effect is permanent. In general, a person with a phobia is completely rational except when confronted by the object (or situation) they fear.
Neurosis:
An acute personality disorder. It is advised that players and GMs cooperate to determine which neurosis an individual suffers, since it will have a profound effect on the character. Suggested neuroses are given in section 7.6.
Psychosis:
This is similar to Neurosis, but covers a different set of problems. As with Neurosis, the GM and player should consider carefully which psychosis to inflict. Suggested psychoses are given in section 7.7.
Insane Insight:
Much like insight, except it is triggered by a traumatic, disturbing experience. One side effect is that as well as gaining a Development Package, the individual becomes slightly more insane (one of their disorders should increase by one level - see below).
Any one person may develop a number of phobias, neuroses and psychoses but, in general, when the first of these disorders is determined, any future results will make that disorder worse. Each disorder therefore has a certain level associated with it.
Level 1:
The disorder is at a minor degree. It may start to manifest itself within the personality all the time, or just under certain conditions, most commonly when the individual is casting, or has just cast, some form of magic.
Level 2:
The disorder starts to impose itself all the time, in a minor degree, and to a great degree when magic is attempted, or under certain specific conditions.
Level 3:
The subject is recognisably insane. Although they may still have aspects of their original personality, their Insanities tend to dominate most actions. When invoking magic, the individual triggers an extreme insane period which may last for some time.
Level 4:
By now, the subject may be too deranged to be used as a player-character. These people are frequently unable to cast magic, or lack any incentive to attempt to cast magic. In some cases, the subject may still be able to use magic, but their insanity will dominate the form and content of this magic.
Level 5:
The sufferer experiences a complete nervous breakdown, and will probably die. They can no longer be played as a character.
When Neurosis or Psychosis is rolled for the first time, an appropriate insanity should be chosen, and it begins at level 1. It may be intensified by rolling neurosis / psychosis again, or by rolling insane insight (which will increase one insanity by one level), and reduced by rolling rationalisation (which decreases one Insanity by one level).

Each level of an insanity will affect the character's Demeanour traits, Affinities and Aversions (see section 3.8 and section 3.9). For example, a character who began to suffer from claustrophobia would gain a Concept aversion to Enclosed spaces.

The descriptions of neuroses and psychoses give suggested changes in Demeanour traits, corresponding to each level of the insanity. Each time the character advances a level in an insanity, they should consult the description of the Demeanour traits for that level. For each trait listed, they should alter their own Demeanour by one position. That is, if the trait is already possessed, it does not change; if neither of the opposing traits are currently expressed, the character gains the trait; and if the opposing trait is currently possessed, the character moves to the neutral position, losing the opposed trait.

For example, the description for Level 1 Non-violent Mania says that the insanity is characterised by Capricious and Impulsive character traits at this level. A certain character who has just become manic is currently Predictable but neither Capricious nor Persistent. They would change to being Capricious, from being neither, and lose their Predictable trait, becoming neutral in this pair of traits.

In addition, because insanities push people beyond the normal limits of their personality, it is possible to develop insane traits with some disorders. These are Demeanour traits which are so intense that they go beyond the normal extent of that Demeanour trait. If an insanity can raise a Demeanour trait to being an insane trait, it is listed in italics at the earliest level at which it can do so.

Insane traits will reveal themselves in every action of the character. The character will tend to project these traits before any normal traits they have. If decisions have to be made, the outcome will generally be dictated by the insane traits, even when that decision goes against logic or common sense. Because insane traits extend beyond the usual extent of a Demeanour trait, they may also cause the character to become obsessed with their insane actions. For example, a Paranoid character may worry about acting in a Paranoid fashion, therefore becoming even more Paranoid. An Hysteric who gets so tense worrying about certain people or actions bringing on her insanity may actually trigger that Hysteria.

Please note that the insanities provided should be treated as suggestions. Any Demeanour trait can in theory be raised to become an insane trait, and this can be used to generate other psychoses and neuroses. The distinction between the two types of disorder is very narrow, and depends more on physiological differences in the brain than perceivable behaviour. When deciding if an insanity is a neurosis or a psychosis, the following simple criterion can be used: if it's morbid or involves panic, it's probably a neurosis, otherwise it's a psychosis.

Many of the listings only give traits for up to Level 2 or Level 3. For each level above this, apply all of the levels to the character again. For example, let us consider the character in the example above. If he advances to Level 2, he will become insanely Capricious and will move one position in the Cautious / Reckless axis. If he is currently Cautious, he would become neither.

At Level 3, all the traits (Capricious, Impulsive and Reckless) are applied again. He is already insanely Capricious, so this does not change, but is neither Impulsive nor Persistent, so he becomes Impulsive. Similarly, because he is currently neither Cautious nor Reckless, he would become Reckless at Level 3. At Level 4, no further changes would occur.

Insanities may be cured or worsened by people using the Mentalism School of Magic. No-one may perform such a task on themselves, and it is never easy to make someone `sane'. If an attempt is made, the GM should restrict the operation to a success lowering the derangement by one level, and include the possibility of the insanity getting worse in the event of a failure, with the additional danger that the Mentalist may actually begin to suffer from the insanity themselves. Reducing the level of the insanity will affect the character's Demeanour traits, but the details should be determined by the GM, who may wish some residual effects to remain.

A character's insanities will affect how they cast magic. Like many other matters dominated by personalities, the details are left to the players and the GM to determine. However, it is easy to see, for instance, that a person who is suffering from Paranoia and is hence insanely Suspicious is likely to start developing magic solely based around protecting themselves, and a person who is insanely Altruistic is going to concentrate on magic which benefits others over and above themselves.

Similarly, a character's insanities may affect other aspects of their being. For example, an person suffering from a Violent Mania may develop a form of Berserker Fighting style, even if this will decrease their abilities in combat. Naturally, all details should be worked out between the player and Gamesmaster.

7.6 Neurosis

The following is a list of possible neuroses, including some suggestions as to how a character's personality should alter as the insanity progresses. Where traits are listed in italics, this indicates the earliest Level at which that trait can become an Insane trait. If a trait is not listed in italics for a particular insanity, it will not be raised to an Insane trait by that insanity.
Paranoia:
A conviction that no-one can be trusted, and that everyone is out to get you. It is often accompanied by delusions of self-importance.
Level 1: Suspicious, Fearful
Level 2: Suspicious, Secretive
Level 3: Abeyant, Selfish, Perfidious
Anxiety:
A problem which causes the subject to suffer in stressful situations. When placed under pressure, the subject becomes unable to do anything practical. The specifics will depend on the personality of the character in question.
Level 1: Abeyant, Fearful
Level 2: Fearful
Level 3: Abeyant, Incurious
Hysteria:
This causes heightened emotions, often resulting in the subject getting over excited about all manner of events, no matter how trivial. An hysterical person may also act in an uncontrolled manner under pressure.
Level 1: Emotional
Level 2: Emotional, Capricious, Impulsive
Level 3: Capricious, Reckless
Mania:
A derangement characterised by intermittent periods of irrational and often violent behaviour.
Non-violent:
Level 1: Capricious, Impulsive
Level 2: Capricious, Reckless
Violent:
Level 1: Capricious, Violent
Level 2: Violent, Reckless
Manic Depression:
A problem consisting of alternating periods of manic behaviour and total depression. These bouts may be punctuated by periods of relative normality. A tendency to slip away from social contact is usually also evidenced.
All Levels: Alternating moods of Mania (violent or non-violent) and Melancholia.
Melancholia:
This causes the subject to suffer an uncontrollable and continuous state of depression. They frequently have little motivation and may shun social contact.
Level 1: Pessimistic
Level 2: Pessimistic, Abeyant, Incurious
Level 3: Abeyant
These templates represent simplifications of neuroses, aimed at creating character effects that can still be role-played by the non-insane player. They are not intended to be completely realistic interpretations of the real life mental problems they are based upon.

7.7 Psychosis

The following is a list of possible psychoses, including some suggestions as to how a character's personality should alter as the insanity progresses. Where traits are listed in italics, this indicates the earliest Level at which that trait can become an Insane trait. If a trait is not listed in italics for a particular insanity, it will not be raised to an Insane trait by that insanity.
Psychopathic:
Psychopaths become violent quite frequently and are capable of almost any act of brutality. Psychopaths may or may not have a rationale to explain their behaviour to themselves.
Level 1: Angry, Violent
Level 2: Violent
Level 3: Bold, Intrepid
Megalomania:
A condition in which the subject becomes obsessed with a lust for power and grandiose schemes. This is often accompanied by delusions of grandeur.
Level 1: Arrogant, Avaricious
Level 2: Avaricious
Level 3: Arrogant
Superiority Complex:
The individual believes that they are far more important than anyone else. This differs from megalomania since the subject lacks the desire for ultimate power, and simply remains within the comfortable illusion of their own superiority.
Level 1: Arrogant
Level 2: Arrogant
Level 3: Selfish, Perfidious
Inferiority Complex:
The complete reverse of a superiority complex: the subject believes their own life is worthless. Amongst the possible resulting behaviours, they may seek out a role model and attempt to serve them.
Level 1: Modest, Conformant
Level 2: Modest, Abstemious, Altruistic
Level 3: Abeyant, Chaste, Forgiving, Loyal
Schizophrenia:
A complaint which causes a breakdown in the relation between thoughts, feelings and actions, usually accompanied by delusions. A schizophrenic is likely to act in ways which seem random.
Level 1: Impulsive
Level 2: Impulsive, Emotional
Level 3: Random change of Demeanours, chosen by Gamesmaster.
Split personality:
A special case of Schizophrenia where the individual has developed one or more separate identities. These identities may or may not be aware of each other.
Provide a separate set of Demeanour traits for each personality. In general, separate personalities should be as diverse as possible (there is a tendency towards polarisation in split personalities) and it is recommended each personality contains fundamentally different traits.
Like the neurosis templates, these represent simplifications of psychoses, and should not be considered entirely realistic interpretations of the real life mental problems they are based upon.


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Last Updated: April 16th, 1999