Legend Catchup - "Sorcery As Transgression"

The following post appears on the Mongoose Publishing Legend fantasy roleplaying game forum. It discusses a theme which ran through one of my more recent dreams.

Sorcery As Transgression

I always wondered about the stigma attached to sorcery in these games - Legend and its venerable predecessor (RuneQuest) - and the only thing I can think of is that it's not the sorcery itself that is evil, wicked and transgressive.

It's just politics.

To that end, in my setting there are two things which mark sorcery as a somewhat transgressive art. First of all, sorcery spells are capable of doing all of those things Divine magic is capable of. And more, besides, because - say - Divine magic is incapable of creating a permanent enchantment.

Second ... Divine Magic is sorcery.

All those worshippers making Pacts to the deity are reciting the words to some very ancient sorcery enchantments which funnel their dedicated POW into a vast astral bank, which can be tapped by the sorcerers operating at the highest levels of their cults. Their sorcery effects, which to all intents and purposes we call Divine spells, are set up in advance and cast over those who pray for them; later, when they are out in the field and casting their Divine spells, they activate the trigger words which launch the prepared sorcery effect.

Once activated, the spell is discharged - which is why the spell vanishes, requiring that the devoted adventurer come back to the Temple to "pray" (as in "pay") for a new one. A very profitable venture for the sorcerers running these little scams. And of course, these particular sorcery spells cannot be used with personal Magic Points, because they are dependent upon the astral Magic Points in the cloud, this astral Magic Points battery as it were, and their Magnitude and other parameters are preset by the sorcerers and optimised.

Over the years, perhaps, the descendants of the original sorcerers may well forget that these spells are a scam, and start truly believing that they are working the will of their god.

And then along come these freewheeling sorcerers with their Sorcery and Manipulation skills, their true Will a mark of independence from and defiance of the gods, their ability to Concert cast and pool their power together, and - of course - the same kinds of spells that the priests in their churches claimed as the purview of their gods alone. All of the gods. The Temple of Love priests see sorcerers casting Love Goddess spells, and almost immediately afterwards hurling down a War God spell, showing a total disrespect for the demarcation between deities.

The true believers, those deluded dupes, will bluster about blasphemy - and those who are in on their little godly scam will see themselves potentially being put out of business, as people flock to the sorcerers, glad to be able to gain their services for simple hard currency, without that awful price of having half their soul sucked out of them into a Pact.

Cue priestly bruxation, anger, outrage, denunciations, scheming, conflict.

Well, that works for me - and a godless setting suits me just fine as an atheist.

The story continues, with some crunchy discussion of Divine and Sorcery spells.

The thrust of my article is that the "power of the gods" is actually a collective pacting of dedicated life force energy expended on a daily basis by thousands of followers, and held in a sort of astral collective Magic Point cloud computing version of Dropbox, ready to be tapped by all the priests of the various religions, who funnel that neutral Magic Point energy through god-shaped lenses to produce their various "miracles" - and that all of this arrangement is actually something set up by sorcerers generations ago, as a way of keeping the mundane public happy with spells on demand without having to tap their own natural energies to do so: the public would supply the "fuel" for their own petty little miracles.

I could see the fun one could have with a sorcerer who discovers the true origins of Divine magic, learns that it has nothing to do with the gods at all ... and then comes up with a sorcery spell that cuts off the Divine spells from their astral Magic Points cloud.

A Divine magic off switch.

One morning, none of the Divine spells work any more. Anywhere. None of the prayers works. Devotees wake up with their Pact skills inaccessible, and all their Magic Points intact. Then the priests start sending for the adventurers ...

I got a reply, to the effect of "What if the priests came up with a Divine spell that turns off sorcery?"

My reply to that was this.

I actually don't like that idea - as a Thelemite, the True Will always triumphs over surrender to the Other and subsumption of your will to suit another's purposes (something your Adventurers should hold dear, even if they are all mundanes). Just because magic is alive still doesn't mean that gods exist.

The only thing I'd do in such a setting would be to have some sort of device cast Accursed Aura from Arcania of Legend: Blood Magic over an area kilometres across. It's an area effect spell which suppresses magic of all kinds, reducing the spells' Magnitudes by an amount equal to its own Magnitude - a 2 Magnitude Accursed Aura would cause Magnitude 1 and 2 spells to cease functioning, and they could never be cast within the bounds of the spell. A Magnitude 3 spell would be reduced to Magnitude 1, and so on. Only, this one has a natural Magnitude (actually, Intensity, as in 1 point per 10% of Sorcery skill, round up) of 7.

The characters could investigate, only to discover that the "Accursed Aura" was actually caused a sorcery enchantment, perhaps an obsidian statue about the size of a carriage clock: and the Accursed Aura effect was a concert cast sorcery spell with an Intensity of 7 and its own Magnitude of 1, set to 20 kilometres radius, and a duration of one lunar month.

That's what makes sorcery so transgressive - they keep calling out the priests' scams, and the priests are disgruntled because they know that they're running a scam.

A bit crunchy towards the end, but basically the idea is that it's all sorcery; even the stuff that's supposed to come from the gods. And even if the priests have got something that is supposed to neutralise sorcery - that, too, comes from sorcery.

And the dream it came from? All I remember was part of it - when the people of Greentown, from The Blood Path, woke up and discovered that somebody had turned off all the gods, and no Divine magic worked any more. It felt like a disaster movie - The Day The Earth Turned Secular, sort of thing. For a fantasy game, that would be a disaster.

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