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The Magic System
Available Classes of Magic (linked to the Sable site)
- Conjuration (as part of a Degree in Magic)
- Conjuration (as a Single Discipline)
The original Sable Magic System was designed to power a magical based society and the technology therein, in conjunction with actual technology, and is capable of rather more than the normal ADRPG version of sorcery. The Helgram Game uses this same principle. The magic itself comes from the internal power of the mage themself, rather than reliance on an external force, with the variations in spells and specialities being related to how the internal magical energy is directed. Because of this, Talented mages often need a higher endurance than many other practitioners of magic.
The “Talent” is the name for the genetic mutation that gives Helgram mages the means to cast their magic, and is therefore at the very heart of society. Some form of the Talent is present in about one in thirty people within the House, on average, with varying degrees of strength, although once in a branch or family line, it often runs true in successive generations. The higher the amount of Cornelian Blood a person has, the more likely they are to manifest the Talent, although even demons or Shadow folk have the potential to develop the Talent. On rare occasions, a person can learn spells if the Talent isn’t present but they have a particularly strong will, but they will only ever manage to attain the lowest degree of magical education, or are more likely become ritualists.
There are different levels of ability in this form of magic, but the basic theory is that for varying amounts of points spent over the basic 15, the mage’s potential is greater. Magic becomes far more rapid (instead of 45 minutes to an hour, casting time drops to from 10 minutes to just a minute or two to cast) and does not need lynch-pins. Spells can be racked mentally, with a maximum of 10-12 spells rackable at any given time, although these do need to be maintained. The time required for this varies depending on the skill and strength of the mage.
Magic can be used in a variety of ways, including:
- Powering everyday technology (eg “boiler” spells for anything from kettles to steam engines, light spells which can be turned on and off with a switch)
- Transportation across and between Shadows
- Long-distance communications
- Destruction (fireballs, lightning bolts, explosives, demolition, etc.)
- Defence (warding, personal shields)
- Scanning (restricted to the Shadow the mage is on or those nearby)
- Investigation/forensics (although these spells take somewhat longer to cast)
- Healing and magical and mental surgery
Magic, as learned by the Talented, is split into a number of fields of study. All students have a basic grounding in all areas, including magical theory, with partial and full specialisations coming with further study. An idea of what is covered in each grouping, and what is attainable at various levels, is detailed on the other pages in this section, although this is not an all-inclusive list.
With respect to whether spells can be used remotely (i.e. down a farseeing spell), these may work if the effect is environmental, depending on the spell and whatever warding may be on the target area, and things like getting a remote teleport destination would work, as it’s just looking and identifying a location. They do not work if the spell is invasive to man or beast (e.g. a sleep spell).
There is also a less common field of ritual magic, however there are tight restrictions on its use and anything darker than grey in nature is stamped out with the utmost force. Ritual magicians will not necessarily be Talented, although if they practice, they are expected to register with the House Helgram authorities. One of the specific sub-fields of ritual magic, blood magic, is banned except by special licence, and non-licensed practitioners are arrested and imprisoned or executed.
Learning Magic in House Helgram
Young Helgrams are tested for the Talent at the age of 13-14, when in the Lower House of the Academy. Any children who are found to have it are encouraged to study, although it remains optional. In addition, those who do not have the Talent per se, or who have failed to complete a full course of study, but have the strength of will to manage the simpler magics, are also encouraged to bring out their potential. Even the weakest mage has something to contribute to a magical society.
Tests are carried out by the Academy Testing Board, which comprises:
- Duchess Athena, Headmistress
- Rory Daveth-Helgram, Head of the Department of Magic
- Kalle Hendrake, Lecturer in Investigative Magic
- Fidelma Johns-Helgram, Lecturer in Mind Magic
These individuals are trained to look within the mind of a subject to see if the genetic trigger that will allow the Talent to develop is present. They are also trained to identified Sensitives who, once discovered, are immediately given a qualified mage or Sensitive mentor to educate them in the safe, beneficial usage of their ability.
In addition, on rare occasions the Talent can manifest spontaneously in children from age about twelve upwards, if the child is particularly strongly Talented. Normally this will only occur if the child is under serious stress, or in a life-threatening situation. Should such a manifestation occur, the other function of the Testing Board comes into play: board officials are empowered to temporarily block the Talent so that neither the child nor anyone else gets hurt by wild spells. Such a block can easily be removed when the child is old enough to go to mage school. As a note, children who do manifest the Talent early often go on to be the strongest mages in Sable.
During their studies in magic, would-be mages are taught to behave in a responsible way in their magical dealings, and are left with no illusions about the strict penalties they will incur should they ignore their responsibilities, or flaunt the laws governing mages and magical workings. On graduation, they are expected to swear an oath to uphold their responsibilities, and to obey the rules mages should live by, as set by the Council.
Students in the Academy’s Junior Common Room can choose to leave after completing their Bachelor’s of Magic level (five years), or can opt to stay on to take a Masters (another one or two years). After that, they may be invited to study for a Doctorate, or they can choose to return to the Academy at a later date. In the latter case, they will be trained by Academy staff, but would not be counted as Academy students.
On graduation, all mages are given a mage’s Signet, which acts as their licence to practise magic within the House. A new Signet is awarded at Master level, and again with their Doctorate. In addition to being the mage’s license, the Signet is the focus which the majority of mages use to store and rack spells if they cannot do so mentally. Signets are built by certain of professors at the Academy, and are personalised to each individual student, so that he/she and only he/she can wear and use that Signet.
Bachelor of Magic (BMg)
Studying for a Bachelor of Magic degree takes five years (assuming no resits), and usually takes place under the auspices of the Junior Common Room. This course gives the would-be mages a theoretical and practical grounding in all the various types of magic. In addition, they are taught the history of magic, study how it has become such an important part of society, and have instilled into them the responsibilities that must be undertaken when they graduate.
At the end of the five-year course, they will achive the degree of Bachelor of Magic. This is the level where 80% of mages complete their studies (call it 15pt level in most cases).
If, for any reason, a student should fail to finish their Bachelor’s degree, they would still be recorded with the Arcane Oversight Council as a potential mage, unless their Talent is blocked – either voluntarily, or as a result of disciplinary procedures. Failed students who retain an active Talent are also expected to be licensed, this taking the form of a silver band, worn on the little finger, which has no facility for racking spells. Such students often find employment in some of the magical manufacturing facilities or some other areas.
Magic for Non-Shifters
While somewhat rare, given the variable and not necessarily Euclidian nature of the Courts, there are some individuals that are unable to shapeshift, or for some reason have chosen not to learn even the basics, and are therefore limited to a single form. This is usually human, although not always. Such individuals will have been taught an extra module with spells that allow them to survive in those areas of the House and the wider Courts that are not compatible with the human physiology or their own particular needs. These include filter and conversion spells that make the air in their immediate area breathable; emergency spells for softening the landing if they suddenly find themselves falling; varying their mass in lighter or heavier gravity worlds; a basic hovering spell for worlds with no “ground”; etc. These don’t have much finesse to them (for example, the hovering spell doesn’t let them fly like a bird, or even move particularly far), but they should preserve the life of the mage until they can return to somewhere more compatible with their natural form. These should only be used in emergencies, and only affect the mage casting them.
Partial and Single-Track Specialisation
In the fourth or fifth years, if a student has showed particular aptitude, they may also begin to consider specialistions. They can improve their grounding to beyond what would be counted as “basic” level, say in matters of duration, concentration and range (GM agreement would be needed to work out the extent of these additions to basic level), or they may acquire one “partial” level class.
A logical extension of this which is beginning to gain traction is “single-track specialisation”. Several classes of magic have various different “tracks” within them – for example illusion covers areas as wide-ranging as basic illusions, pseudo-invisibility, theatrical magic, sleight of hand, etc; and investigative covers scanning, truth reading, criminal investigation, etc. Some young mages are now beginning to specialise in one of these tracks, rather than studying all of them equally. A single-track specialisation effectively means that a mage can choose to work towards partial and then full specialisation in, say, theatrical magic, while leaving all the other aspects of Illusion at less than basic level.
Master of Magic (MMg)
To return to study for a Masters allows the student to specialise further, but it cannot be reached without the Talent present and stronger than normal. This can be undertaken either as part of the SCR, or seperately as a returning student. It can take between one and three years, depending on how many areas the student wishes to study. The basics will be built upon further , the relevent grounding “lab” spells for the new specialisation will be taught – kind of a ‘toolkit’ for further study in that subject – and any partial specialisations they may have taken before will be studied further.
Masters courses include the mundane, as well as magical sides of the disciplines they wish to pursue: for example a student who chooses to specialise in structural magics (keeping buildings up, bringing them down) needs an understanding of the principals of civil engineering, or a would-be healer needs medical skills. Masters of magic are likely to have either one discipline at “full”, but no partials; or a couple of “partials” but no fulls. Maybe Only 15% of the Talented within House Helgram have the aptitude to study to Master level.
Doctor of Magic (DMg)
Multiple full specialisations only become available once the student decides to work for their Doctorate in Magic. This can be undertaken either as part of the SCR, or seperately as a returning student. This builds on the knowledge they have attained to partial specialisation, both arcane and the mundane courses to back up the arcane actions, for example, a student who decides to become a full fledged mage-healer or mage-surgeon would be expected to take courses as part of a medical degree, also.
Studying for a Doctorate takes a further two to three years, depending on the specialisation or specialisations taken. The mage is likely to end their Doctorate programme with either one discipline up to specific specialisation level; or two at “full”. They may also have one or two at “partial”. It is unusual for even the oldest mages to take more than two or three full specialisations in their lives, as it takes an amount of time to maintain the knowledge and keep up to date with the latest developments. Only about 5% of all Talented individuals within the House are good enough to reach this level of ability.
One major difference between magic in the Helgram Game, and magic in the Sable Game, is that Conjuration can be taken either as a class of magic, as part of a standard magical degree, or the student can choose to forgo studying magic as a whole discipline, and just concentrate on the Conjuration of items and creatures (the ability to conjure living creatures being one of the major differences). A course in Basic Conjuration takes three years, while the Advanced studies can take five years or more.
Conjuration is an alternative to a more standard magic degree. Player characters would not be taught both.
Occasionally, someone will be found who is either exceedingly weakly Talented – i.e their Talent isn’t strong enough even to train as the most basic kind of mage – or perhaps has a flawed Talent, which is strong but for some reason cannot be trained by normal means, but who demonstrates some kind of unusual affinity or ability. This may be an ability they have from birth, or it may develop in later life due to specific stresses or experiences. These individuals are known as Sensitives, although what specifically makes someone a Sensitive, rather than leaving them with just a weak or broken Talent, is still a matter of great interest and investigation amongst the magical community.
Sensitive abilities can take a number of different forms: examples include the ability to feel magical or other arcane emanations, to unerringly spot black magic and its practitioners, being particularly empathic as far as feeling strong emotions in others, an affinity for the psychic without actually being able to cast spells, being able to seek for something or attune to something and know where it is thereafter, or have what is known in common parlance as Second Sight. There are even some mages who demonstrate the characteristics of Sensitives, which has led to further debate on the nature of this particular ability.
The Arcane Oversight Committee
Magical infractions within House Helgram are dealt with by the Arcane Oversight Committee. This comprises:
- Grand Duke Ian
- Duchess Athena, Headmistress of the Helgram Academy
- Duke Daveth, Master of the Arcane
- Duke William, Keeper of Helgramways
- His Grace, Bishop Edward
- Janina Helgram, House Chief Counsel
- Gwenith Eleanor Helgram, House Infirmarer
The purpose of the Arcane Oversight Committee is as the governing body for members of the House that undertake arcane work, and especially magic. The idea is that all mages should live and work by a set of specific guidelines, which protect both themselves and the non-Talented, thus maintaining the status quo between the two sections of society. To this end, it makes the laws by which the mages live – over and above the normal rule of law in the House; investigates breaches of those laws (such as using spells recklessly, or mentally interfering with another person, either Talented or non-Talented); and dispenses justice when necessary.
Penalties for breaking the laws range from a temporary or permanent blocking of the Talent (there are a handful of mages in the House who are trained to be able to completely eradicate the Talent from one who has abused it, over and above the more common skill of blocking the Talent temporarily), to imprisonment and death for particularly heinous crimes such as ritual black magic and necromancy.
All mages have their own specific magical signature, which is a factor of the mage’s psyche and training/magical education. The Committee keeps a record of all signatures of mages who have graduated from the Helgram Academy. To attempt to change one’s magical signature is very difficult and technically illegal.