A Discourse on Circe's Magic System

by Pug

Circe takes a very different approach to magic, making it much more flexible. Instead of simply raving about the stuff it does, I will tell of its highlights in more detail and then editorialize a bit about their possibilities.

True Patterns

All things, living or not, have a true pattern associated with them. An object's true pattern is a kind of index, identifying it uniquely in the universe. Knowing an object's true pattern simplifies the use of magic on the object; in some cases a given spell cannot be cast without knowing the target's true pattern. The true pattern is hidden in the depths of the aura. To view or alter the true pattern, it must be brought to the surface of the aura (or a hole made through the aura). This occurs naturally in the course of a creature's life whenever his true nature changes (for example, at life or death.) Different cultures and different magic traditions have come up with ways to alias one's true pattern through the use of songs, names, symbols, or numbers. These are referred to as one's true song, true name, true symbol, and true number, respectively, even though they are not a direct representation of the true pattern. The alias contains enough information to allow the spellcaster to determine what the true pattern actually is. Additional information is frequently needed, such as parentage, race, place of birth, etc. The details of the requirements depend on the type of alias and the culture's practice.

It is possible (though rare) for one's true pattern to be changed. If the individual is in the presence of a massive amount of focused magical power the individual can be re-imprinted with a new name, like it or not. Also, many cultures practice renaming an individual after the completion of a very important or heroic deed. In a few cultures a priest or wizard will rename a sick or ensorcelled individual in order to prevent further damage from spirits or other malevolent beings.

Because personal items and parts of oneself (hair or nail clippings, a bit of blood, or a finger, for instance) tend to hold an imprint of one's true pattern, it is possible to divine part of one's true pattern from them.

Magic Power Rating

All beings have a Magic Power Rating (MPR). For new apprentices and all non-spellcasters, this rating is zero. Increasing this rating is very challenging and dangerous process. The MPR is the number of mana points the character can draw upon from any source per round and channel through his body to power his spells. Drawing upon more than this amount of mana forces the spell caster to make essence checks to avoid taking fatigue damage, physical damage, or worse. Mana is present in all living things, but the most common "pool" that mana is drained from is the ambient mana in the surrounding area, which varies.

Casting Spells

In Circe, one can cast a spell on the fly, without any preperation. How this will be implemented in-game is not yet decided, but a script would probably make it slightly easier. This allows total flexibility. These are called Improvised Spells. The price for this flexibility, however, is paid in reliability, as they are riskier than Formulated Spells. Formulated Spells come in three flavors. The first is Direct, which are simply spells that have been designed prior to casting. The second is Hung, in which part of the spell is cast prior to when you want to use it, and the rest is cast when one wants the spell to take effect. The last is Invoked, which are like Hung spells, but another person (or being) casts the first part of the spell.

Spell Countering

For battles in which one mage faces another, they may use the techniques of Draining mana, Dispelling enchantments or maintained spells, throwing negative magical energy at their opponent, and set up magical Wards.

This is just a basic overview of the Circe Magic Rules. There are also detailed technical sections of how to cast spells using lightning, sound, and many other things. However, these wouldn't be very helpful being in this article. The great potential of the Circe magic system is its freedom. Mages can (and are even expected to) design and make their own spells. It will hopefully be commonplace for a mage to sit in his laboratory or study for weeks at a time perfecting his new spell, getting it just right, optimizing it just how we wants it. Yes, it will make being a mage more challenging, but it will also make it far more rewarding. Novice mages that are not good in their art will probably not last long, and those who are good will work hard and become very uniquely powerful. So, magery becomes rare and unpredictable - i.e. truly Magical, and powerful mages become very loathe to die after working so hard on their spells.

In addition to this, Circe allows much flexibility in the spells themselves, providing many little parts that can be stuck together. For instance, let's say I want to create a spell to change a person into a toad. First, I would want to reduce their size into at the most 10% bigger than a toad. Then, I would want to metamorph him into the shape of a toad, and probably add a flash of green light. Having identified these goals, I would work on creating the spell to be practical to how much mana I could expend. After I finished the spell, I would likely hang it and keep it ready for when I needed it. So, if some fat guy on the street yelled "Hey, skirt-wearing noodle-head!", I could point at him and snap my finger, and he'd be engulfed in a flash of green light and be replaced by a chunky toad. The process would probably be quite painful, as well.

So, the Circe system, which will be used in Dural, has many fun possibilities. I know that I can't wait to play a mage, personally. If you have questions or would like more information about Circe and its handling of magic, there is some info at on our website. Also, feel free to email Bryce at bryce at neptune.net, who made Circe. Happy casting!