Fate Core Elemental Magic
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These rules, by PK Levine and Christopher Conrad, were inspired by S. John Ross' elemental magic rules. Be sure to print out a few copies of the associated game aid:
- Cheat Sheet and Spell Tracker -- a handout for use during play
Elemental Magic in Fate Core
The world is made up of four elements and floats within the fifth. The four base elements are Earth, Water, Air and Fire, while the noble and mysterious Fifth Element is Ether. Mages are those who can manipulate one or all of these principles, either in their raw form or in their evolved manifestations in living beings.
EARTH: Body, Shapes, Health and Physical Needs
Earth Magic is the magic not only of soil and metal and rock, but also of the physical body, of plants, and of health and physical needs. Any attempt to reshape a body, directly alter health for good or ill, grow or kill plants, and so on is Earth Magic.
WATER: Soul, Spirit, Empathy and Auras
Water Magic is the magic not only of water and other simple fluids, but of the soul and spirit. Spells that contact the soul and see its state (revealing auras), and spells that summon and direct spirits, are Water Magic. Most weather magic is both Air and Water.
AIR: Intellect, Logic, Technology and Design
Air Magic is the magic not only of wind and lightning, but of the intellect and its creations and manipulations of the physical world. Spells involving electricity, technology, and intelligence are all Air Magic, as are magics related to mind control, contact, and reading.
FIRE: Emotion, Passion, Inspiration and Creation
Fire Magic is the magic of flames, heat and cold, and of darkness and light, but is also the magic of emotion, passion, inspiration and creativity. While Air is the magic of design, Fire is the magic of creation; a painting is subject to fire magic while blueprints are subject to Air. Fire magic can inspire deep emotion.
ETHER: Time, Dimensions, Raw Magic
Ether is the element of mystery, time, and magic itself. Magic that changes perceptions or positions in time, space, or planar dimensions is Ethereal magic. This includes astral travel, divination, demon summoning, teleportation, and the creation of pocket realities. Spells involving raw magical force, or the manipulation of other spells are also Ethereal. Actual time travel or changing the past retroactively is impossible.
See "Counterspells" below for an explanation of the arrows.
Mages and Magic
Creating a Mage: Being a mage requires an appropriate aspect (which does not have to be part of the high concept) and the special stunt, “ Practitioner” (fill in the blank with an appropriate descriptor). Once both conditions have been met, the mage can buy any or all of the five skills above. You must have an elemental skill at Average (+1) or better to use it; magical skills cannot be used at Mediocre.
- Note: The above fits a campaign where mages are rare and knowing magic is thus an advantage that few others have. In a setting with extremely common magic, omit the need for the stunt — just the aspect will do.
Defending Against or Resisting Spells: When targeting another person, they defend with the most appropriate skill (GM’s call); e.g., Athletics against a missile spell or Will against mind control. The GM may modify this to reflect how difficult the spell is, inherently. For other uses, the GM will set the passive opposition.
- Counterspells: When a mage is targeted by a spell, they may defend normally or cast a counterspell of the appropriate element: Ether counters anything (even itself), Water quenches Fire, Fire feeds off Air, Air erodes Earth, and Earth absorbs Water. This counts against the available spells for that day, but gives the mage +2 to defend or lets them defend using the elemental skill, whichever is better.
Improving your Spellcasting: Mages or their allies may use non-magical skills (usually Lore or Will) to create advantages for their personal spellcasting. Note that you may only create an advantage once per spell, and the invocations only apply to the specific spell for which they were created. They are usually lost if the mage casts a different spell first (e.g., if you psyche yourself up to cast Fireball, then you cast See Invisible instead, it's hard to stay psyched for Fireball), though if the advantage represents drawing a ritual circle or gathering mystical ingredients, it can stick around longer.
Spells Per Day: For each element, the mage can safely cast a number of spells per day equal to his skill in that spell. For example, if he has Earth at Good (+3), he can cast three Earth spells per day without consequence. If he casts a fourth, he takes 1 stress; a fifth, he takes 2 stress; a sixth, he takes 3 stress, and so on. This does include counterspells (above). Represent this with a row of boxes for each element; once you run out of boxes, every further tick adds stress! This stress must be dealt with normally, via personal stress boxes or consequences (you cannot “concede”!); if the mage is taken out from his own spell, the GM determines what that means.
Mages who don’t take every magical skill can cast additional spells safely (before having to move to the stress track). The bonus comes from avoiding the countering element:
- If you don’t take Air, you can cast twice as many Earth spells.
- If you don’t take Earth, you can cast twice as many Water spells.
- If you don’t take Water, you can cast twice as many Fire spells.
- If you don’t take Fire, you can cast twice as many Air spells.
- If you don’t take Ether, you can cast +1 spell for every other element (before any doubling).
- If you take only Ether, you can cast twice as many Ether spells.
Example: Xyzzy knows Air (+3), Earth (+2), and Water (+2). He didn’t take Ether or Fire. Because he lacks Ether, he may cast three Earth spells and three Water spells per day without stress (+1 to each). Because he lacks both Ether and Fire, he may cast eight Air spells per day without stress (+1 to Air for no Ether, then double that for no Fire).
Creative Fusion: When casting a spell, if you can justify it (to the GM) as being covered by two elements, you may use the better skill level of the two and choose which of the two elements it’s considered for the purpose of using up your free spells.
Improvisational Casting: By spending a fate point, you may treat any spell as falling under whichever element you like. For example, you could cast a “strengthen body” spell (normally Earth) as if it were a Fire spell, even though it has no obvious connection to Fire. For roleplaying purposes, you should explain why this is the case!
(Situational Bonus): This is not the name of the stunt, merely a class of stunts – come up with your own cool name! You get either +2 to rolls to cast one element or +1 to cast any spell (choose one!) in a certain, narrow circumstance or situation. For example, +2 to cast Earth spells when your bare feet are planted firmly on the ground outside (on stone or soil). Or +2 to cast Fire spells the turn after you’ve taken a physical consequence. Or +1 to cast all spells when playing an instrument and singing loudly about the spell you’re casting.
Slow Build: You get +2 to rolls to create advantages for your personal spellcasting, but only in a conflict (where actions are at a premium).
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