Part 3: Mystical Powers
Now it’s time to talk magic because, outside of technology, this is the edge used by various cultures in a fantasy setting to manipulate their surroundings. It’s also the spectacular reason for anything in a fantasy setting. You can say “It’s Magic” and people just accept it… right??
Magic in fantasy settings has traditionally been broken into two types: Arcane and Divine.
Arcane magic is the manipulation of energies infusing the world using rituals, materials, gestures and special phrases. This is the traditional wizard and sorcerer style magic. This type of magic is usually a dominant force in fantasy settings. No one enjoys the destruction of a fireball more than the caster.
Divine magic is powered by a character’s faith and devotion to a specific deity or philosophy. So the character is simply a conduit for the power granted by this greater being or the strength of their belief in a specific philosophy. Divine magic has always carried the stigma of only being valuable due to the restorative powers granted to divine casters. Being the relegated to the party life-battery can be a hard role to play.
A third type of ‘magic’ called psionics has been around for quite some time in fantasy role playing games. It’s essentially the manipulation of your surroundings through the force of will. It’s very similar to arcane magic except that, traditionally, psionics do not require special materials, gestures or words to work.
Some may argue that psionic powers are more science fiction than fantasy in nature so they really don’t mesh well with a fantasy setting where everything has magic flowing around it. Psionic powers are a good excuse for science fiction characters having access to ‘magic’ of sorts. That doesn’t preclude the same abilities from being valid in a fantasy world.
In 2015 Paizo released their take on ‘psionic’ magic through their Occult Adventures source book. In this case ‘psionic’ has been shifted to ‘psychic’ dealing more with spirits, manipulation of elemental powers and mesmerizing others minds. I like both systems and think they can co-exist.
Beyond the worship of the divine and the studies of arcane scholars lies the mysterious terrain of the mind, accessed through psychic magic. – Occult Classes Intro text
In Andrus I want to use all these mystical powers but skew more toward the psionic and occult style magics than the arcane and divine.
I started by deciding that manipulating arcane power is an unpredictable and potentially dangerous process. Leaning on the established mechanics of spell failure I set a price for failing to control the energies required to generate an arcane spell effect. If you lose concentration the energy lashes back and will cause damage not just to the caster but potentially those near them. This makes arcane magic dangerous to everyone and establishes a reason that arcane spell casters are regarded with suspicion and could even be outlawed in extreme cases.
Divine magic was just about as simple; I eliminated pantheons and deities. No deities equals open season on domain influences. Instead of limiting domain selection based on an idyllic figure how about a cultural component? Asian cultures revere ancestor spirits. Other cultures believe that everything in the world has a spirit. Why require a deity to determine domain access? Traditional clerics on Andrus select one culturally distinct domain and a second, non-conflicting, domain reflecting their personal philosophies. Other divine casting classes follow the same process but many only get a single domain. I may specify acceptable cultural domains as i write up the various cultures.
Psionics, as published and revised by Deamscarred Press, stand as-is and are a more common type of mystical power found throughout Andrus. From Maje (Psions) to Ley Healers (Vitalists) the power of an individual’s will relies on no outside influences. However, it’s still considered magic for the mechanics of the game and is therefore subject to dispel and anti-magic effects.
The Paizo Occult materials are too good not to use. The Kineticist is an obvious conversion of the ‘Last Airbender’ style power, manipulating the elements using the power of your mind and discipline. The spirit oriented classes are just too creepy and cool as hooks for stories, various cultures and non-player characters.