Magic in The Armistice Arcane
While this event is about a collection of sorcerers and hunters forming a treaty, magic within the Armistice Arcane is a backdrop, not the main event. This is a game of intrigue, high drama, emotional intensity, and Gothic Romance, not a showcase of magical power.
With this in mind, the use of magic between characters within the game will rarely need the assistance of one of the game designers, as all parties must consent to the effects.
Types of Magic
At times, it is easiest to define a concept with examples of what it is not. Magic within the realm of the Armistice Arcane game does not function as it does in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Universe, or as found in most tabletop roleplaying games. There is no spell list, nor a simple recitation of words to accomplish an immediate desired effect. Instead, magic in the Armistice Arcane is more nebulously defined, though potentially much more powerful.
There are four general types of magic, each with their own strengths and limitations:
The most common form of magic can be found in lengthy, tiring rituals, whose effects are usually strengthened either by working in conjunction with others in ritual circles or by channeling power from ley lines. The trappings of these rituals vary by practitioner and their training, but all follow the same principles at heart. The most common uses of ritualized magic is to accomplish wide-ranging and long-lasting effects, such as manipulation of ley lines, summoning and binding spirits or creatures, and charming, cursing, hexing, or warding people or places. Rarely do rituals cause direct harm, but a powerful curse could undo the fortunes of entire families, lasting for generations. This is the type of magic most often performed in the United States by groups like the Theosophical Society, the White Horse Adventurer’s Club, the Beacon Hill Players, and the Order of Cernunnos. Each of these groups however, vary in their focus, which is detailed in each of the individual character sheets for players in these factions. In general, you would not look to the Society to attempt to bind the creatures of a forest to defend a sorcerer, nor would you look to the Players to summon the dead.Not everyone can learn to cast ritualized magic, and those who do always have some inborn level of ability. Within a few months of learning sorcery, it is obvious if they will stand among the strongest in the world, or if they will barely be capable of participating in a ritual circle. These inborn limits cannot be breached by any known power. You either have the power, or you don’t.
There are some arcanists who were born with an instinctive, natural ability to manipulate the world in a highly specific way. The Talented can learn to practice ritualized magic, though they rarely become exceptional in its use. Indeed, many of the Talented do not even receive training in ritualized magic, so while they can lend their power to a ritual circle, they can not lead it. Within the United States, Uncle Theo’s Cirque du Freak is known for its collection of the Talented among its ranks, though the Beacon Hill Players have dazzled more than one audience with a Talented performer.
Foul, horrific, and frightening, blood magic is a forbidden practice among all the known factions within the United States. Unlike ritual magic, which can often take hours to perform, the effects of blood magic can be immediate and vicious. There are two known drawbacks which both prevent its common usage and cause those who use it to become outcasts, often quickly hunted down by the Sentinels: it requires death for fuel, and it can only be cast by those who have bound themselves to some sort of daemon. The larger the death, the more powerful the effect, but the truly frightening works require a human sacrifice. Blood magic is widely considered to be a vile and corrupting practice to be rooted out wherever it is found.
The Esoteric Institute of Louisiana:
In the last century, the boundaries between magic and science have been pushed by the world’s foremost minds, and their findings have yet to be given a name. The machines they craft are wondrous to behold, and if it were not for their inherent limitations, they would have changed the world. Through massive amounts of toil, both physical and mental, they can build machines to perform marvels—but only those who are magically capable can use them. Flying machines, alchemical potions, life saving medicines, and thought-projection are only some of the potential possibilities of this form of magical experimentation. But regardless of the machine, they are inert in the hands of the mundane, which has prevented the world from becoming radically altered (so far).
The characters possess only the magical abilities listed on their sheet when the game starts—no more, no less. If your character possesses a Talent, it is defined in your ‘About Your Magic’ section, and if you have been trained in ritualized magic, it will mention that as well.
We also have some characters who are neither trained, nor possess Talents, but instead have been altered by a brush with the supernatural. Given the name The Eclipsed, these characters count as magically aware, but are not themselves capable of performing rituals. Much like untrained Talented, they can participate in ritual circles, giving their strength to the work, but unlike the Talented, they cannot learn ritualized magic themselves.
Forbidden and Morally Questionable Magics
Other than blood magic, there are three types of sorcery that deserve special attention for the general way in which they are perceived by the magical communities—chronomancy, necromancy, and mind control. Almost unilaterally, mucking about with time is considered taboo, for obvious reasons. Benign or passive applications, such as viewing the past or attempting to divine the future (an incredibly difficult prospect at best) are relatively harmless, but any attempts to travel through time are considered insanely dangerous and are strictly forbidden.
Necromancy, in particular, is filled with gray areas. Magics dealing with the line between life and death are naturally the subject of many moral and ethical debates. Few arcanists are concerned about speaking with the dead, as seances and spiritual channeling are some of the most common forms of ritualized sorcery in the United States. Raising the dead however, is usually seen as akin to practicing blood magic; a dangerous and reckless practice that often has disastrous and unintended consequences. The propriety of the different forms of necromancy, however, like animating cadavers, creating relics from bones, or binding spirits into people, are all hotly debated topics.
Lastly, using magic to control the thoughts and/or actions of another human being is widely considered to be an abhorrent act. American sorcerers tend to (nominally at least) put a high value on the sanctity of free will, and look poorly on those that would violate it. That is not to say that it doesn’t happen, but wary arcanists tend to whisper that careless and wanton use of such magics are a sure way to bring the Sentinels down on one’s head.
Consent and Your Magic
As per our consent mechanics, all magical effects within the game require the consent of all parties to be used. Many characters however, possess some abilities to discern motives, secrets, or desires of other characters. Those with these powers should be judicious in their use. While our ‘Play to Lose’ ethos encourages the revelation of secrets, we want these to be revealed at the most dramatically appropriate moment. To that end the player on the receiving end of such magic will typically have the final say on what precise piece of information is gleaned by the user. Players with such abilities should be looking to assist others in telling their stories, rather than attempting to gather as much information as possible, as quickly as possible.
It may be tempting for many players to create a list of contingency spell effects that they have set up before the game (usually called “precasts”) to assist them during the events of the game itself. For ease of gameplay, we will not allow such effects to be in play—mostly as there are several dozens of inventive, intelligent players that we have no desire to attempt to outwit. We couldn’t if we tried.
Instead, two explanations cover this decision. First, it has been decided among the leaders of the various magical factions to come to the event mystically “unarmed,” so to speak, as a show of faith. Any sort of offensive magic is prohibited, and will be prevented from being brought to the event itself via wards. Second, the characters are assumed to have taken a certain reasonable level of defensive precautions like personal wards or practice at resisting magics. This is taken into account as part of the consent-based conflict resolution in Armistice Arcane. Players get to decide how any magic effects their own character, if at all, and simply being capable of mystically defending against such things is included under that umbrella.
The Institute players may carry props that align with their particular scientific flavors, but death rays, mind probing devices, acid flasks, and other such powerful artifacts have been left at home. If you have questions or are concerned about the line between interesting gadget and precast magical effect, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What do I do if, instead of another player, I want to cast magic on the world (weakening a physical structure, moving leylines, warding a location, etc.)?
A: Find a one of the Storytellers (Corey, Kathy, Jaimie, Mark, Rob, or Scott), or your faction’s GM. They will assist with the ritual and note any effects (those you intended, and those you did not). Many such rituals will require a great deal of time to enact, and may thus be outside the scope of a weekend event but may still have long lasting consequences.
Q: Can I summon a demon/dead person/creature/etc.?
A: If your character sheet says that you know how, then you can. If not, you can try to find someone in game who does know how. Keep in mind that certain kinds of magic are pretty taboo and there may be others out there who, if they hear about you wanting to do it, are going to react negatively.
Q: Can I have learned this magic spell/style/ritual before game?
A: If your character sheet doesn’t say you know it, then you don’t know it coming into game, otherwise consider it a goal.
Q: Where is a list of available spells
A: Magic doesn’t work that way. See above for questions about spells and rituals.
Q: Can I do this spell right now?
A: Probably not. Most magic requires extensive preparation. If you are able to perform magic that will provide an impact on the game itself, those details will be in your character sheet.