Linear Warrior, Quadratic Sorcerer: the Action Point economy in Runequest 6

July 11, 2015
Fighter_Mage_Silhouette by qhudspeth

Fighter Mage Silhouette by qhudspeth (Deviantart)

One of my insights from running a Runequest game for a year, is just how important the Action Point economy is in the game. I’ll also add a bit at the end about counterspells.

The Basics

Runequest VI has as a basic premise, combat is a dangerous activity that is usually resolved in a few Combat Rounds. A one on one fight should take about three Combat Rounds to resolve.  A Combat Round is assumed to be roughly five seconds in time.  Within the Combat Round there is a sequence of Turns. Each Turn in Strike Rank order, each character with Action Points remaining can do one Proactive Action. Strike Rank is determined once at the start of the combat.

The menu of available Actions is pretty comprehensive. Proactive Actions usually involve the character initiating movement or an attack, but also includes delaying an action. Reactive Actions are usually defensive (Counter Spell, Evade, Parry) but also include Interrupts if you took a Delay Action in your turn.

There are also a number of Free Actions (making a Perception check if unengaged, dropping a weapon, signaling, a short phrase of speech, using a luck point) the most tactical of which is Ward Location. Ward Location allows you to change the location(s) being passively protected by a weapon or shield (shields cover 2-4 locations depending on size, with a human body having seven locations). Warding has to be done before attack rolls are made. Because passive blocks are always successful, warding is a useful way to protect a wounded location, or for low skill characters to improve their chances of defending themselves.

Runequest 6 employs differential successes in combat, which grant Special Effects (rather than the old school critical/impales). There is a large menu of Special Effects, depending on whether the skill roll was offensive, defensive, what the type of weapon used was, and whether or not the success was a critical, or if the opponent rolled a fumble. Crucially, if you make an attack on someone, and land a blow when they do not react to the attack with a defensive skill check, they automatically fail, granting you one bonus Special Effect.

Because you can get Special Effects when defending, it is usually worthwhile to Parry an attack, hoping to both mitigate potential wounds, and to use Special Effects to impair the future combat performance of your opponent. In Runequest VI RAW, an Evade defensive action leaves you prone on the ground. As it costs an Action Point to rise to your feet, and because being prone reduces your skills by half, parrying is preferred to evading. For my own campaign, as it features musketeers with firearms and almost no shields, I allow characters to remain standing after Evading with an appropriate Combat Style trait or if they have used the Acrobatics skill in place of the Evade skill.

So a common pattern is:

  1. Character A attacks Character B
  2. Character B parries the attack (both characters have now spent one Action Point)
  3. Character B attacks Character A
  4. Character A parries the attack (both characters have now spent two Action Points)

Old School

When I played Runequest II or III campaigns, characters generally got one attack per Combat Round, and could react defensively up to three times (one parry with a weapon, one block with a shield, and one dodge out of the way). Multiple attacks or defensive action required a skill greater than 100%. So if you ran into more than three opponents you were in a bit of trouble. In Runequest VI block is no longer a reaction against a specific attack, it has become a passive action against all incoming attacks.

How Many Action Points Do You Get?

Action Points are calculated during character generation, based on the combined score of the Dexterity and Intelligence attributes:

  • less than 13 = one Action Point
  • 13-24 = two Action Points
  • 25+ = three Action Points

If creating characters with a point buy system, most players will choose to make their characters competent by ensuring their Dexterity and Intelligence scores are average 13+.  If for some reason you choose a lower combined score your character will be substantially less effective in combat. If you only have two Action Points you will act one third as often as the other players, and your character is much more likely to be overpowered and injured.

There are a few other ways of adjusting how many Action Points a character gets to use:

  • Personal and Party Luck Points can be used as Action Points. Luck Points are a one use resource (in my campaign I allow Luck Points to refresh after the party spends time carousing)
  • The Swiftness Gift in the Cults & Brotherhoods chapter grants an increase of plus one Action Points (and should usually come with a commensurate taboo or geaes to influence the character’s actions. In my campaign I have only allowed the player who has eschewed the use of all magic to take this Gift)
  • the Formation Fighting combat trait, in situations where 3+ people are coordinating their efforts, reduces all of their opponents Action Points by one. My players hate this. They do not fight in formations or have this trait, so when they run into a formed unit, they suffer accordingly
  • Characters with the Mystic talent to enhance Action Points. This costs 3 Magic Points per +1 Action Point. This can be stacked up to Mysticism skill/10 (the number of available Magic Points is more likely to cap this than the skill is at high levels of skill). These bonus Action Points can only be used for defensive actions in combat (Parry or Evade). Note that while Mystic talents cannot be countered by magic, anything that disrupts concentration, such as a wound in combat, requires a Willpower check to maintain concentration on each Mystic Talent
  • Campaign House Rule, a Vordar (Dark Elf) gains one Action Point when they land a blow that kills an opponent (but may have to make a Willpower check to avoid a berserk rage).

I scanned the other magic chapters in the rulebook, but from what I can see no other spell grants bonus Action Points.

Situational Influences on the Action Point Economy

Charging into combat is a bit weird, because rather than taking one Action, it takes an entire Combat Round. So a character with more Action Points spends longer getting into action than the character with less Action points.

If you are surprised, you cannot defend until your turn, and cannot perform any offensive actions for the remainder of the combat round. Ouch, I only just noticed the round duration, I had previously thought that the prohibition against offensive actions only lasted for one action.

If you suffer a Serious Wound (reduced to zero hit points or below in a hit location) you cannot attack or cast spells for 1-3 actions.

The Outmanoeuver Action allows you to make an opposed Evade skill check with all of your opponents. So you spend one Action Point, and all of your opponents must also spend an Action Point. Any opponent who fails to beat the manoeuvering character’s roll cannot attack them for the remainder of the Combat Round (i.e. none of their Action Points can be spent to attack you). While its not a sure thing, this is an obvious action for a heavily outnumbered character to take. Further, if you beat all of your opponents rolls, you can choose to engage one foe for the remainder of the Combat Round, or Withdraw from the fight completely.

A number of Special Effects take the form of requiring the affected character to spend Action Points to recover combat effectiveness:

  • Disarm forces an opponent to either spend one Action Point to Ready another weapon, or one Action Point to pick up the dropped weapon, and a second Action Point to Ready the recovered weapon (the musketeers in my campaign will often have a secondary weapon like a dagger already in hand, and may choose to just continue fighting with that)
  • Stun Location, if a bludgeoning weapon hits the head, the character is insensible for a number of actions equal to the damage inflicted, while a hit to the torso staggers the character so they can only defend for a number of actions equal to the damage inflicted
  • Pin Weapon, requires an Action Point to attempt to free the weapon or shield that is pinned (with an opposed roll of Brawn or Unarmed Combat).

Linear Warrior, Quadratic Sorcerer

First, please take a quick look at this article which shows you where I got the Linear Fighter, Quadratic Sorcerer line from. This is something that goes all the way back to D&D.

In Runequest VI, sorcerer’s can shape spells by:

  • combining two or more spells together
  • extending duration
  • increasing range
  • boosting magnitude (which makes the spell harder to counter)
  • or increasing the number of targets

For every ten points of Shaping Skill you can do one of these effects.  So a Sorcerer with 90% shaping skill could cast the Wrack spell, use one point of Shaping to boost the range to 1m x Power attribute, and then use eight points of shaping to affect 9 targets. There are a few other sorcery spells in Runequest VI with one-off attack effects, that can usually be resisted. Wrack, however, is a lot like Emperor Palpatine’s purple lightning in Star Wars.

As a Combat Action the Sorcerer can attack the targets, using their Invocation skill for the spell as an attack roll. So if the Sorcerer above has a 90% invocation skill, they will hit more often than not. The only resist option is Evade, which requires expending a Combat Action, and may not succeed. The amount of damage done depends on the caster’s skill, at 40% its just 1d4 of damage that worn armour does not protect against, but at 90% skill its 1d10 damage (and enough to seriously wound most characters). At least the hit location is random every time!

As you can see, the Wrack spell breaks the Action Point economy of Runequest VI. For an upfront cost of around three action points to cast the spell, the Sorcerer can keep in every future Combat Action wrack all of their targets (if some of their targets die, they cannot switch to new targets with Wrack).

A warrior with a sword can stab one person at a time for each Action Point they spend, regardless of skill. Unless you get a critical hit (one tenth of skill on a d100 skill check roll) and take the Bypass Armour special effect worn armour reduces the damage done. If the lone target defends, they use one Action Point.

The sorcerer with can wrack multiple targets at a time for each Action Point they spend. Thinking of the example above, the Sorcerer will probably hit eight of their targets each turn. If the targets all have high Evade skills, e.g. 80%, then the Sorcerer will only harm one to two of the targets. But by spending one Action Point, the sorcerer has forced their opponents to spend eight Action Points, or collectively suffer roughly 44-45 damage. There is nothing else in the game that is as effective in combat as the wrack spell, short of perhaps the Theistic Earthquake spell, or a horde of Animist fetch spirits (see below). Some of the single target theistic spells are powerful, such as Sunspear which can nuke a single target for ((Skill/20)d6) damage in all seven hit locations, but they only get to do that once for the Magic Point/Casting time cost.

You can see why the reaction of the players in my campaign is to immediately attack any sorcerer they encounter, and to kill them dead, dead, DEAD as fast as possible. Any time a sorcerer is casting a spell, the presumption is that it is Wrack and it must be stopped at all costs. Doing anything else risks Total Party Kill.

If I were to reboot my campaign, I think I would prohibit or change the Wrack spell to be less horrific in potential effect on the action point economy.

…and the Animist’s Horde of Fetch Spirits

A skilled animist can have quite a few Fetches with bound spirits on them. These can be broken to release the spirits to attack the animists foes. Each spirit then has its own actions to attack a target. If you are not an animist, and if you do not have one of the small number of spells that defend against spirits, you defend with half Willpower. Its pretty trivial for a spirit to devour a low willpower character’s soul. A powerful Animist could release a dozen spirits in one battle, which is a huge boost in the number of effective attacks they are launching.

As you can understand, my player characters hate animists with a a passion. I have one as a recurring villain in my campaign.

A sorcerer can do something similar by Evoking an other planar entity, or by a Draw (creatures) spell.

For player characters, each fetch costs one XP to create per point of spirit intensity. So burning up your fetch spirits in combat is going to be a significant decision. I’m not aware of any other mechanic in Runequest VI where XP can be spent for a one use resource.


Runequest VI no longer uses a Resistance table for determining if something like one spell overcomes another spell. Instead the magnitude of spells is compared, with magnitude usually being based on one tenth of the casters skill. The spell then either completely succeeds or utterly fails.

The folk magic spell Avert can always be used to counter another folk magic spell, but has no effect on non-folk magic spells.

Sorcery has the Neutralise Magic spell, which negates a single spell or theistic miracle with an equal or less magnitude for the duration of the spell, or can counter an incoming hostile spell. Sorcery spells, however, can be quite weak, as the points of shaping that could be used on magnitude, are more often placed into shaping duration, range, and the number of targets.

Theistic casters may have Dismiss Magic, which eliminates a combined magnitude of spells equal to its own magnitude. Miracles will usually have substantial magnitude, as its equal to caster skill/10.  Can also counter an incoming spell.

So a magic user with 80% skill is not just relatively stronger than a magic user with 70% skill, they are absolutely stronger. The magnitude eight spell will always counter the magnitude seven spell. The magnitude seven spell can never counter the magnitude eight spell.

This makes my players terrified that their spells will be countered, and so anxious that their own counter spells will fail, that they prefer not to counter enemy casting at all due to the assumption that an enemy caster has a higher skill than they do, and so a much greater chance of having a greater magnitude for their spells.

Perhaps I should throw a small horde of low skilled magic using opponents at them next time. A GM should never be too predictable.

Post-apocalyptic Coperative Magic

May 31, 2015

I am exploring two ideas at the moment. One is a world setting built for the players to use cooperative magic.  The other is thinking about how to best express a post-apocalyptic setting in the capricious d100 game engine called Runequest.

The story of the shaping of a second age 

After thinking about the pitch feedback, I decided that the two strongest ideas were “shadow magic” and to frame the setting with post-apocalyptic themes.  So the flying city is the last flying city, and the key role player characters do is scavenging items from the ruins below.  In the fallen age, magic is less powerful, and only by burning old magic items can the flying city sustain itself in the air.  This could lead to some interesting decisions for the players, e.g. if they have a bad run below, which of their existing artifacts do they turn over as tribute?

The need to burn old magic as fuel is a driving conflict within the setting, but its possibly not the most important conflict. That could be more around influencing what the world will look like once the last of the old magic is gone, and the last city has fallen from the skies.

Shadow Magic

I have a Manichean inspired conception for the world, in that the world was created by the simultaneous acts of both a powerful source of “light” and a powerful source of “darkness”.  The resulting world of shadows is an imperfect and flawed creation, but with strong links to both the Heavens and Hells.  I did a quick set of Fractal Terrain maps, and found one that was both a Pangaea style super-continent and looked a little like a tree, with one long spine of mountains and several branching sub-continental regions. So I decided that the world tree is physically present in the world – you can see both the divine and infernal planes from the surface of the world, and you can climb the world tree in either direction to reach them.

The overview for the world history, is that one tribe of pastoral nomads conquered most of the world, and then proceeded to conquer both Hell and Heaven (for which flying fortress cities were useful). Unity in the empire was encouraged through promises  of a second age in which the imperfections of the world (such as disease, death etc) would be eliminated.  The infernal and divine magic resources were then used to usher in a golden age. I am imagining a medieval society that gets a Moore’s Law of magic, with the benefits of magic doubling every few years, until the apocalyptic crash occurs.

Varmic Familiars

One way I want to link the shadow magic to player characters, is by turning their shadows into magic familiars. The idea here is that characters are special due to fragments of spirits attaching themselves to their souls as babies, whispering secrets to them in their crib, and teaching them magic as they grow up. Which works fine until puberty, when the fragment tries to free itself by possessing the character’s body.  At this point the character either destroys the mirror soul, binds it as a servant, or turns into a monster.

I derived the word Varmic from the word Varmint. I imagine the shadow familiars as small creatures, intangible, but with a shadowy shape based on that of a small creature. Personality wise they are like troublesome, mischievous children.

I want to borrow the lackey rules from the musketeer game All for One, and allow the other players in the group to play the Varmic familiar. This would be encouraged with XP, e.g. successfully exploit your master’s passions to get them into trouble.  This also allows the group to split up to fulfill a mission, but to all still be present and taking part in the flow of action.  In the Runequest (RQ) rules, Varmic familiars could be handled in a way similar to the Fetch spirits of the Animism school of magic.  I would allow them to become tangible for short periods of time, so they could push a lever, shift an object, or similar minor deeds in an emergency.

How to make cooperative magic work?

I want to combine express cooperative magic by using the themes of shadows and of weaving, so when people are spell casting they are visibly weaving together threads of light, darkness, and shadow. There are quite a few interesting myths relating to weaving, which can be easily adapted to help make the setting interesting. Part of my campaign research has been to look up translations for words relating to weaving, carpets, fabrics and tapestries.

In the RQ game system, Sorcery magic is the system that is easiest to adapt to cooperative magic. I think the simplest way to do it would be to:

  • change Combine shaping by limiting each player to combining one spell, i.e. to combine two or more spells together you need more than one caster
  • allowing multiple players to contribute Action Points (AP) towards the time cost of casting the spell – this would allow sorcery spells to potentially be completed much faster than in the RQ rules-as-written (RAW), giving players a major reason to cooperate (and would also mitigate situations where the party is ambushed without prepared magic defences)
  • allowing each player to contribute to the magic point (MP) cost of the spell (potentially important in a setting with low MP regeneration)
  • allowing each additional caster to augment the chance of the spell casting succeeding (an augment bonus is 1/5 of the skill%).

Usually in RQ RAW you only get one augment, allowing multiple augments to stack definitely makes a cabal of mages more powerful. You would also quickly reach a point where the chance of spell failure dropped to the minimum (5%) and the chance of a critical success would go up a lot (which mainly effects the MP cost of the spell by reducing it).

Another way to potentially handle this within the RQ rules is as a Task.  Usually a Task requires four successful skill checks (with a critical success being worth double, and a fumble reducing the score by one). So as each player spends an AP, they make their skill check and move the spell closer to completion.

This is still a complex way of resolving things, and I think keeping some index cards/notepaper around to write the spell shaping down onto would be a good idea to help track everything.

As players master each circle of magic (reach 95% skill, a long-term campaign goal) they could gain the ability to manipulate more than one thread of magic at a time.  So they can start combining their own spells, but it should still be useful to work with the other players for faster/cheaper casting.

What makes a world feel post-apocalyptic?

I have been thinking about how to influence the feel of a post-apocalyptic setting through the game mechanics. Web searches for ideas mostly directed me towards articles for writing novels rather than designing games.  They key insights I got from these were that you should establish:

  • what the apocalyptic event was
  • how much time has passed since the event (if its not actually over then its still the apocalypse, not the post-apocalypse)
  • what the world looks like now
  • what the threats to survival are
  • what are the strong characters trying to do, is there a purpose beyond survival?

Useful, but not quite what I was looking for.  It does suggest that there is some dramatic tension in having a flying city surviving, when the background suggests it should fall.  So it could be a meta-plot for the campaign, that the city will ultimately fall, and all its treasures be lost, but exactly how this happens is something for the campaign to determine in play.  This might also work with my thought to adapt the 13th Age Icon system to have major NPCs with two dramatic poles, and the option mid-campaign to for the NPC to make a choice between one of the two poles.  For example a Paladin in rusted armour might have “do the right thing” and “defend the city” as dramatic choices (for player characters, they key would be to have two or more Passions that are in contradiction to each other).

I had some hazy memories of Gamma World (too gonzo) and Twilight 2000 (too bleak), but its hard to ignore Apocalypse World (AW), which I grabbed a copy of through Bundle of Holding a while back.  AW is a narrative style game that downplays setting, and focuses on characters, with the GM strictly instructed to not have a pre-planned story.  For me, that relegates AW to convention play. While I like sandbox settings, I just prefer game systems that are closer to the old school simulation approach.

Looking through the AW character playbooks I pick out the following themes:

  • the world is violent and full of dangerous people, you must fight to survive
  • gasoline, bullets, vehicles, and bases are important resources
  • government has collapsed, its an age of petty warlords
  • things break, even though fragments of beauty remain
  • barter economy.

Now looking at the advice for the GM I pick out the following themes:

  • barf forth apocalyptica – nothing is too over the top
  • look through crosshairs – everything is a target, anything can be destroyed, there is no status quo
  • fuckery and intermittent rewards – the apocalypse twists things to bad outcomes, so the player characters do not always get a good reward for their efforts.

There are other themes and principles, but they are more specific to the style of game AW is built for.

Putting the post-apocalyptic theme into RQ mechanics

RQ is a system in which characters are always vulnerable, so little needs to change for a violence filled world. If you wanted to be harsh, you could eliminate Luck Points, or make Luck Points one use resources.

Resource scarcity for RQ characters tends to be expressed through wealth, equipment and MP. Focusing on MP, I think a post-apocalyptic setting should be one with slow recovery of MP.  Borrowing from the health recovery rules I am thinking of:

  • first regenerate 1-3 MP at the end of the next day
  • then regenerate 1-3 MP at the end of the next week
  • then regenerate 1-3 MP at the end of each following month, until full MP is restored.

This system means that using a few MP is something that is easy to recover from, but if you have to go deep into your reserves, then it could take months to fully recover. A downside is that its a bit more paperwork to administer. On the plus side, it would reward sharing the MP cost of spells through cooperation. The group as a whole is stronger if everyone contributes 1 MP, than if one character spent 5 MP.

In reconciling government collapse, with the continuing civilisation in the flying city, I think this can be handled through Passions.  Start by prohibiting Passions that focus on organisations, and require characters to focus their Passions on individuals. No one is loyal to the memory of the Old Empire, they are loyal to the Immortal Empress or the Unborn Emperor.  No one believes in the Old Church, they believe in the promises of a new prophet.  On the ground, use a “points of light” framework for outposts of order, and surround them with wastelands.

Things break. When players fumble, break things. This means actually using the rules for weapon damage. Further to this, allow all weapons to apply the Sunder special effect to armour.  The purpose of armour is to get you through the next battle.  If you want shining armour, you have to work hard for it.  Special items should have limited charges. Emphasise fragility by making resupply uncertain, if they don’t buy that item of wonder when they have the chance, then make sure they never see it again.

Barter economy. The Old Empire debased the currency so much that a hoard of 1,000 silver coins is worth 10-25 silver in terms of current units of account.  So worthless no one will want to carry the stuff out of the dungeons. Better yet, avoid giving the characters coins. Just give them stuff, which they then have to trade for other stuff.  Old items are valuable because they cannot be made any more, and because they can be turned into Rune Dust.  Rune Dust is the commodity sought by the flying city, to keep the bound demons and angels alive so the city does not fall.  It is also required if the characters want to enchant objects, or to make one use items with Alchemy.  So its the gasoline/bullets of the setting.

Post-apocalyptic cultures

RQ started the tradition of splatbooks with the complex cultures developed for the races in Glorantha, and this attention to cultures and plausible villains has remained a hallmark of the RQ game.  So a post-apocalyptic setting is not necessarily something that plays well to this strength, as the apocalypse by definition is a civilisation ending event.  What can be emphasised is cultural change.

The world keeps changing, even if the last flying city is a little bubble of preserved stasis.  There will have been invasions and migrations.  If a world spanning empire has been destroyed, then in the vacuum that follows new powers will rise.  If the old Gods were burned to fuel the Old Empire’s magical economy, then there are new Gods trying to fill the void.  It will still be worthwhile developing the pre-apocalyptic cultures, as a touchstone for reference. “Like the old Jennati merchant princes, but with cannibalism!”

I think that is enough for this post.  Did I miss anything that you feel should be included in a post-apocalyptic setting?

The Red Eye School of Sorcery

December 31, 2013

Continuing with my campaign development over the holiday break.  My plan is to eventually develop five orders of sorcery, along with some religious cults and mystic orders, for use by player characters.  For this school of sorcery, I started with the Scholastic Order template on page 308 0f the Runequest VI rules and then modified it a bit.  The background is loosely inspired by some of the Odin myths, and I have subverted the standard trope of the reclusive nerdy mage, by making the order a bit more interested in the pleasures of the flesh.

The Red Eye School of Sorcery

The most obvious sign of a Red Eye mage, is that one of their eyes is missing, usually as part of a deliberate initiation ritual. A true master of the school can be recognised by the fact that both of their eyes have been removed! Note: the missing eye(s) cannot be regenerated by any magic means. Eye patches are often worn, and prosperous members of the order wear red coloured robes made from expensive fabrics, and for formal occasions a cloak of raven feathers. If they have a staff, it is usually white.

The first eye removed by this order is deliberately destroyed in a magic ritual that creates a charm for the sorcerer that makes them harder to be found by tracking or scrying (increase the difficulty level of such skill checks by one level). The loss of an eye makes all sight based perception checks one level of difficulty harder.

The Red Eye school originated in the Moon Age, a sorcerer known as Sarak of the Wandering Eye was exiled from Mal’s Court after making the mistake of propositioning all three of Mal’s daughters at a Ball. In the Shadowlands he was trapped by the Queen of Thorns (after mortally offending her in a botched seduction attempt) and impaled on the Whistling Thorn Tree. Trapped on the tree, with his life’s blood staining his previously white robes, and carrion birds circling around, Sarak endured pain and agony. Eventually the Raven flew in close and bargained with Sarak teaching him a song that would free him in exchange for a morsel of flesh. While Sarak felt tricked when Raven took his eye as the “morsel”, he was free to continue his wanderings, fumbled courtings, and led a long life of research and discovery.

Sarak’s book of knowledge is known as the Veiled Volume, and it is written in a language taught only to members of the order, and it can be read by people who are blind.

The Red Eye Order rose to prominence in the Rebellion age, when people rebelled against the tradition’s and restrictions of the Shining Court. Red Eye sorcerers were happy to share their discoveries of different ways of doing things, and quite happily broke with old conventions. It has largely retained a presence in the Imperial Court, apart from a period of suppression during the time of the Harem Emperor’s, and is responsible for tuition of the Imperial family and maintaining the Imperial library.

The order continues to be involved in significant research, discovery and exploration … along with some of the major court scandals. While scholastic, its members are not known for denying themselves the pleasures of the flesh, if anything they experiment with discovering its limits of endurance.

Magic Points

A Red Eye sorcerer regenerates magic points after the sun has set for the day.


Truth and Magic.


Insight, Invocation (Red Eye), Language (Blind)*, Lore (Any), Perception, Shaping, Willpower.

Spells in the Veiled Volume

Abjure (Pain), Evoke (Razantar), Eye for an Eye (Castback), Intuition, Mystic (Hearing), Perceive (Magic), Raven’s Song (Neutralise Magic), Raven’s Wings (Fly), Red Light*, Sense (Knowledge), Wandering Eye*.

Red Light Spell

This spell can be used to illuminate an area with a red light, emanating from a point chosen by the caster. The light is just sufficient to read by, but will not disrupt vision at night time (unlike a bright light). While the red light persists, the caster can augment their Seduction checks with their Invocation (Red Eye) skill.

Wandering Eye

This spell is used to animate an artificial eye crafted by the Sorcerer (as well as delicate cogwheels and mechanisms the eye usually requires wings from a small magical creature and a small ruby). A lens or monocle is also crafted to go with this. In use the spell is similar to Project (Sense), although the physical eye can be detected and destroyed, but the receiving view piece can be shifted between different people.

Gift – Summon Ranaztar of the Thousand Eyes

When the sorcerer is inducted as a full member of the Order, the masters will summon Ranaztar to oversee the ceremony. If Ranaztar detects disloyalty in the heart of the Apprentice, it will devour both of the Apprentice’s eyes, and then the Masters will expel the apprentice. Otherwise Ranaztar assists the Masters in destroying the eye the Apprentice will sacrifice. When the sorcerer becomes a Master, they can summon Ranaztar and sacrifice their remaining eye (which Ranaztar adds to their collection) in exchange for one of the following gifts:

  •  +1d6 INT
  • a Lore skill at 100% (this cannot be Forbidden Lore).

A master sorcerer of the Red Eye can attempt to summon Razantar at any time, provided they can gift it with the eyes of magically powerful people or creatures.


Novices and apprentices are required to assist higher ranked members of the order, and often spend long hours copying library manuscripts. Adepts and other high rank members are obliged to assist anyone who comes to them with a novel problem (although a gift is customary after the problem has been dealt with). There is an old Imperial Law requiring all children in the Imperial family to be tutored by a Red Eye sorcerer, although given the rate at which past Imperial tutors have been executed, exiled or imprisoned by the Emperor’s, this is not a popular duty. The order as a whole is hostile to the puritans in the Covenant, supporting imperial campaigns against them.

The Ghost Hands

November 20, 2013

Mucking around with some ideas for a Runequest VI campaign setting, one of which is that I want all the cults and brotherhoods that the players could join to have something questionable about them, even when they are socially accepted and seen as “good” for civilisation.

The Ghost Hand School of Sorcery

The most obvious sign of a Ghost Hand mage, is that one of their hands has been amputated, usually as part of a deliberate initiation ritual. A true master of the school can be recognised by the fact that both of their hands have been amputated! Note: the missing hand(s) cannot be regenerated by any magic means.

The amputated hand is kept and preserved, as it allows the school to track down any aberrant apprentices. Once the member is a trusted adept, the hand may be returned to them for animation as a familiar (with the enchant spell), the completion of which is one of the markers of the rank of mage.

The Ghost Hand school originated in the Moon Age, when an exile from Mal’s court known as the First Hand wandered the shadowlands and bartered the sensation of pain for knowledge from demons and other creatures of shadow. The first amputation granted him insight sufficient to trick a demon who had bound his soul.

The Ghost Hands rose to prominence in the Founding age, when mortality struck and people did not know what to do with ghosts. The Ghost Hands had some knowledge of the spirit world and were able to drive off or destroy the first wave of ghosts. While other ways of dealing with ghosts are now known, the order retains some prestige from this event. Nomad Shamans hate Ghost Hand sorcerers, and delight in continuing the amputation process if an unlucky sorcerer falls into their hands.

The order continues to research ghosts and spirits, and the methods for defending against them, and driving them off or destroying them. A few renegades have been found who used forbidden knowledge to dominate ghosts for their own nefarious ends.


Death and Magic, although the order refers to Death as the Shadow rune and tends to embellish it somewhat in the order’s manuscripts.


Invocation (Ghost Hands), Lore (Ghosts), Shaping, Willpower.


Banish, Bypass Armour, Enchant, Ghost Hand*, Mark, Mystic, Repulse (Ghosts), Spirit Resistance, Transfer Wound, Wrack (soul).

Ghost Hand Spell

This spell creates a ghostly hand, in the place of the sorcerer’s missing hand, that can pass through solid material, and is capable of manipulating objects. All apprentices are taught this spell after their initiation amputation ceremony is completed.  This spell is unique to the Ghost Hand order, and greedy apprentices who have tried to sell the secret have found themselves being choked to death by invisible hands.

Gift – Summon Karach 

Karach is the shadow demon who once enslaved the First Hand. This gift may be granted to exceptional Mages, but is more likely to be granted to Arch Mages who have proven themselves to be beyond temptation. Among other powers, Karach can cast Sculpt (Shadow). The first time he is summoned, the character must successfully bargain with him, trading the demon a permanent point of magic in exchange for knowledge (which can be represented by bonus experience rolls). This magic point is regained if the character amputates their remaining hand.


Novices and apprentices are required to assist higher ranked members of the order. Adepts and other high rank members are obliged to give aid to anyone who is afflicted by ghosts (although a gift is customary after the spirit has been dealt with). The order as a whole is hostile to nomads and their ghost wielding shaman, supporting imperial campaigns against them, and so as individuals Ghost Hand sorcerers are quite prejudiced against nomads