Thursday, October 23, 2014

d20 Rifts - The Source of Magic

Magic works pretty much as described in the Rifts sourcebook. That is, magic infuses the world, and is drawn primarily from the power of life. The surging, teeming forces of life in the ecosphere tend to flow into rivers of energy, known as ley lines. On most worlds, these ley lines are only able to be detected by those very sensitive to magic. On the hyperactive world of Rifts Earth, however, the ley lines are giant rivers of neon blue light, nearly half a mile across and half as tall. Where two ley lines meet, the energy surges together into a nexus. There are about a dozen locations in the Americas where scores of ley lines come together to form a super-nexus.

However, much of this is of only academic interest to the spellcaster. The most important thing to consider, for the purposes of this discussion, is how to convert the magical energy into practical results. To do this, we need to examine where the energy comes from, and the methods of casting it into a spell.

The Energy from which it Flows

The most basic energy comes from within each of us. Every living thing in existence has some degree of magical energy within them. It is that very energy that distinguishes a living being from a dead one. This is referred to as Potential Psychic Energy, or PPE. Different beings contain different amounts, depending on any number of factors, including size, intelligence, position on the food chain, etc. Refer to the specifics of your race to determine your base PPE. Humans have a base PPE of XXX.

Tapping into your own PPE requires special skill, natural talent, intense concentration, and no small amount of practice. In most people, the energy is simply used to undertake the everyday function of living. Mages and other practitioners, however, are able to channel that energy into effects both spectacular and subtle. As a result, they develop deeper reserves, and are better able to access the PPE they do have. Also, mages learn how to “over-charge” their bodies, allowing them to temporarily store up to twice their normal pool with PPE gained from other sources. This over-charge requires some concentration to maintain, however. If the mage is unconscious for any reason, including normal sleep, the additional PPE is lost.

Pulling Energy from Another Person

Even though mages frequently have a larger pool of personal PPE, it is frequently not enough to generate the effects that they want. Some mages learn the art of pulling power from other people. They can actually reach into another person, and use their energy. Except for very special, and often evil, mages, this can only be done if the person voluntarily gives up their energy. This is generally accomplished in a ritual fashion, mostly to focus the donor’s mind, and establish the proper timing. A mage may only coordinate a number of simultaneous donors up to one-third his caster level, rounded up. However, it is possible to set up a pyramid effect, in which a master mage coordinates a number of lesser mages, who in turn coordinate non-mages. Taking PPE from a donor takes a half action.

The ability to pull PPE from another person is frequently witnessed in another way. When a creature dies, all of its stored energy is released in a sudden rush. There is twice as much PPE released upon death as is available during life. Also, the energy is unprotected by a mind, and thus the mage need not gain permission to access it. The energy dissipates quickly, though, so the mage needs to be ready to receive the power. The energy from a death dissipates in a single round. The mage can harvest as much of the energy as they can hold in a half action.

It is important to note that children frequently have more PPE than adults. As we grow, much of the PPE is consumed. But, if a mage chooses to draw from an infant (too young to talk), he can pull four times the base racial amount. If he draws from a child (old enough to talk, but pre-pubescent), he can pull twice the base racial amount. This is the reason for child sacrifice. However, it is necessary to dispel one myth here. Sexual experience has nothing to do with PPE levels. A “virgin” sacrifice, so popular in cultural references, came about from a combination of looking for a pre-pubescent victim, and base titillation.

Pulling Energy from a Ley Line

A second source of magical energy are the ley lines themselves. As raw magical energy, they are ripe for use. However, channeling such raw energy is tricky, and not every mage is capable of it. If a mage can draw on ley line energy, they are able to draw a total of 10 PPE per caster level each session. This can be drawn all at once, or in several draughts. Drawing from a ley line is a free action.

It is important to note that ley line energy does have one significant advantage over other forms of energy. It can be formed directly into spells, without having to be drawn into the mage himself. Hence, it can be used, even if the mage already has a full allotment of PPE stored.

At nexus points, the amount of energy is radically increased, and concentrated. For every point drawn from the ley line (counting towards the limit above), three points of PPE are actually available to the mage. This is increased even further during certain important times.
  • Midday or midnight – Two additional points are added
  • Vernal and Autumnal Equinox – Seven additional points are added. 30% chance of rift.
  • Summer and Winter Solstice – Seven additional points are added. 40% chance of rift. At dawn and sunset, there is an additional flare, allowing for an additional 20 points (for 30 PPE for every point counting towards the total), but the chance of a rift increases to 70%.
  • Lunar Eclipse – All additional points are multiplied by 10. 77% chance of rift.
  • Partial Solar Eclipse – All additional points are multiplied by 20. 88% chance of rift.
  • Full Solar Eclipse – All additional points are multiplied by 50. 100% chance of rift.
These modifiers are cumulative, and only apply on a nexus point. Further, they are doubled at a super-nexus point (but so is the chance of a rift). So, if you can be on a super-nexus point, at noon, on the summer solstice, during a full solar eclipse, you can draw 12000 PPE per caster level. And, you’ll need it, as every magical beastie for several dimensions in either direction is going to be coming to that confluence, and drawing their own thousands of PPE.

Ley lines also increase the effectiveness of any spell cast on or near them. These bonuses apply to most of the “numbers” in the spell, including range, duration, damage, and the effective spell level. Within 500 feet of a ley line, all these numbers increase by 50%. On a ley line, they are doubled. On a nexus point, they are tripled. On a super-nexus point, they are quadrupled. During a solar eclipse on a nexus (or super-nexus) point, they are increased by a factor of 10.

Finally, being on a ley line increases the amount of PPE a mage recovers (even if that mage is not capable of drawing on ley line energy). Within two miles of a ley line, the mage recovers twice his caster level in PPE per hour. One a ley line, he recover three times his caster level. On a nexus point, he recovers five times as quickly. On a super-nexus point, he recovers ten times as quickly.

Pulling Energy from a Fetish

The third and final source of energy for a mage is energy that has been stored in a special vessel, typically referred to as a fetish. Technically, any mage can draw energy from a fetish. However, only some mages are trained in how to store the energy there in the first place, and most mages who do so “lock” the fetish so that others can’t take their power.

Each fetish has a limit to the amount of PPE it can hold. This is determined by all sorts of things, including how well it was made, and what it is constructed of. The easiest fetishes to use are made of gemstones. However, they are the hardest to lock. The best fetishes are made from the remains of powerful living creatures. This can be feathers or hair, but works best when it is bone or organ. Of course, the item has to be removed from the creature, while it is still alive, with a fairly specific ritual. Few creatures will willingly give up a bone, let alone a vital organ.

Once the fetish is constructed (a process we won’t go into here), any mage with the skill is able to add PPE to it. This is simply a matter of summoning up the PPE, and pouring it into the fetish, requiring a Knowledge (Spellcraft) check with a DC equal to the amount of PPE being added (the fetish also applies a bonus or penalty to this check). If the check fails, the PPE is lost to the environment. Note that it is quite possible to fill the fetish over several actions (taking a full action for each check), thus breaking the PPE load up into easily managed chunks. Once the fetish is full, it simply won’t accept any more energy.

To draw the energy out of the fetish is a free action, and requires no check if either the fetish is not locked, or the fetish was locked by the mage himself. If the fetish is locked by someone else, it requires a Knowledge (Spellcraft) check equal to the lock DC to access the energy.

Locking a fetish requires a lengthy ritual. The DC of the complex check is equal to the size of the PPE pool, plus five times the lock DC, and the interval for the check is one hour. Note that a fetish can be locked by several mages, each of whom could then freely access the magic within. However, multiple locks do not make it harder for another mage to gain access to the fetish.

Granted Energy

There is, technically speaking, one final source of magical energy. However, it is of a quite different quality. A powerful magical being can grant some of its own energy to a follower, allowing it to cast spells on the being’s behalf. This generally functions as a second personal PPE pool, the size of which fluctuates based on the whims of the being, rather than the desires of the caster. This second PPE pool regains PPE at the same rate, and at the same time, as the mage’s primary PPE pool. One important note is that PPE from this secondary pool can not be given to, or taken by, another caster, unless that caster also has a secondary pool from the same being.

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