Runequest Thursday #162 - Witchcraft system and spells!

Clint Staples

A while back, I wrote up a quick set of rules for a new magic system for Runequest, that I called Witchcraft. The idea behind my witchcraft is that witches and warlocks are people that seek out potent magical entities and bargain with them for magical tutelage. I think it is a great concept for a magic system, and gets away from the School of Wizardry approach. Witchcraft is personal, and idiosyncratic, both for the witch and in the eyes of the prospective magical tutors. Witchcraft provides a host off possibilities in play as witches quest for information, seek out tutors, arrange bargains and fulfill the terms that have been set for them.

Earlier this week, I decided to revisit Witchcraft. The original post gave the system and a handful of spells. As of today I have expanded that to twenty-three spells. I have also clarified the system some. The idea behind Witch spell is that the spells are more personal and less subject to manipulation than, say, Sorcery, but that in some ways they can be more powerful too. Witchcraft channels the natural and supernatural abilities of powerful magical creatures, spirits and monsters into a form that a human can manifest. Witchcraft is as primal as it is personal. And unless two witches have had the same tutor, or were raised in the same "family" of witches, there is every likelihood that they will have few, even no, spells in common. 

So what does Witchcraft look like in the world?

I imagine witches to be more isolated than sorcerers. They have less need for togetherness, probably live closer to the natural world and the supernatural creatures and spirits that inhabit it. They could well be lone practitioners, perhaps have a single apprentice, or they might be part of a family tradition of witches, possibly shunned but just as likely respected locally, even consulted on eldritch matters. Most witches are probably humble in origin, and in terms of power. Only a comparative minority would be of significant power, most being content with more homely spells that can ease a difficult existence.

An “average” witch might have relationships with a number of local spirits of middling to low power, visit with them periodically and exchange services comfortably, like old friends. More potent creatures, however, are required for powerful spellcraft, and such beings would exact a greater toll for their tutelage.  

The canny witch will maintain good relations with her tutors, so that they might be approached repeatedly for information and spell knowledge. Only the foolish or desperate would betray a tutor, or exact a bargain that left one hostile. Skills of especial use would be Insight and Influence.

What sorts of creatures make good tutors?

Besides demons, a witch or warlock might have as tutor a powerful spirit, a magical creature like a dragon or troll, elemental beings, even vampires. It is even possible that a witch might learn magic from a god that normally is served by a cult if the cult is elsewhere, or if the witch can manage an "introduction".

You can find the complete (for now) system for Witchcraft as an attachment to this post.