Runequest Thursday #4: A New Sorcery (Part 2)

Clint Staples

In Runequest Thursday #3: A New Sorcery (Part 1), I posted the first part of the system I developed for sorcery in my ongoing Runequest River of Cradles campaign. In it, I gave you the basics for the System, and Sorcery Skill and its uses, as well as how to cast and manipulate spells, the Sorcerer's Staff, etc. In this article we will get into the meat of things, Spells and how they can be manipulated.

We have already talked about the Manipulation Limit - the limit of what a particular sorcerer can do with the magic he knows, based on their Intelligence / 3 [rounding up]. So Sivastri the sorceress, with a INTelligence of 16, would have a Manipulation Limit of 5. That means that she can learn up to 5 levels of any variable sorcery spell, and non-variable spells with a total POW cost of 5 or less. Further, it means she can decide, case by case, how to spend the levels she knows, or even whether she casts at full POWer. Each level of the spell, up to her Manipulation Limit, or the Levels she knows [which ever is lower] may be allotted to alter certain aspects of he spell when it is cast; things like, duration, range, number of creatures affected, which are detailed in the spell write up. Duration of non-instantaneous spells is always subject to manipulation.


Spell Descriptions - General Notes

  • SPELL RANGE  - Listed for each spell, commonly: Self, Touch, 10 Yards, 30 Yards, 60 Yards, 120 Yards. 
  • FREQUENCY - Only 1 spell can be attempted at a time.
  • Runic Descriptors – each spell has one or more [Runes] associated with it. These may affect other sorcery effects or spells.
  • DURATION – The base duration of a spell is listed under its description. Subject to the Manipulation Limit, extra levels of a non-instantaneous spell can be used to increase the duration of a spell up the Duration Track even multiple times:


Duration Track:

1 round > 10 rounds > 15 minutes > 1 Hour  > 2 Hours  > 4 Hours  >  double each further increment.



Sivastri knows Conjure/ Dismiss Sylph 4, and decides that she needs the constant service of a level 2 Sylph for an extended period, since she hopes to use it to carry her overland. Normally the Sylph could carry her [SIZ 10] 1000 yards in 10 rounds [2 minutes]. Sivastri’s destination is ten miles away [17600 yards]. Her Manipulation limit is 5, so she could extend the summoning of his level 2 sylph by 2 increments [up to the maximum level she knows of the spell] on the Duration Track, to 1 hour. This will be enough time to make the trip, assuming nothing untoward befalls her, and will require the expenditure of 4 POW. In fact, she decides to save a POW point, and cast a level 3 version of the spell, for a level 2 sylph and extend it to 15 minutes. This will take her about 15,000 yards of her journey. She think walking  the last mile and a half into town is more prudent than a gaudy demonstration her power.



Common Spell List






Spell                           Rune[s]                                             Cost [Lunars]

Blast                           Fire                                                                 500

Change                      Man, Beast                                                    1500

Con/ Dis Elemental   Fire, Air, Earth, Water, Darkness, or Lunar    1000

Control                       Mind, Mastery                                               1500

Countermagic            Magic                                                              500

Dispel Magic              Magic                                                              500

Enhance/Disminish    Man                                                               1000

Fire/Frost                   Fire, Ice                                                          1000

Heal/Wound               Man, Beast                                                     1500

Illusion                       Light                                                                1000

Invisibility                   Light, Darkness                                               1000

Lift                             Movement                                                        1000

Light/Dark                  Light, Darkness                                                500

Lightning                    Light, Air                                                          1500

Perception                 Mind, Air                                                           500

Protection                  Telekinesis                                                        500

Resist                         Magic                                                              1000

Seal/Unseal               Movement                                                         500

Sharpen/Dull              Movement                                                         500

Speak to Mind            Mind, Communication                                     1000

Teleport                      Mind, Man                                                       1500

Vision                         Mind                                                                1000

Wall                            Earth                                                               1000

Wards                        Magic                                                               1000



The Spells [Up to Conjure / Dismiss Elemental]


Blast [Fire]                                   Range – 120 Yards                      POW Check - No

Duration – Instantaneous

This spell immediately creates a magical blast of intense light directed at a single target. Roll against the spell chance, reduced by any defense the target may have. A success is a hit. For each level of the spell used, the target takes 1D6 damage to its total Hit Points. Armor in the location will reduce the damage, but the spell cannot be parried with a shield or weapon. Protection or a Resist Fire spell will reduce the damage done. Countermagic will also affect Blast.



Change [Man, Beast]                       Range – 30 Yards                  POW Check - Yes

Duration – 10 Rounds

This spell will affect 5 SIZ points of a target per leve, which may be the caster if he wishes. Each additional level increases the SIZ of target that may be affected, and enough levels must be used to equal or exceed the total SIZ of the target. The spell forces the target into another shape. The new shape must be in the same kingdom  (animal, vegetable, or  mineral)  as  the  original target. For instance, a troll cannot be changed into a tree, but it can be changed into a frog. The frog would have all the attributes of the troll, including the SIZ, although the sorcerer could use levels to reduce the SIZ of the Frog for the duration of the spell. Finally, the conditions for life in the new form must be present: the spell cannot change a man to a fish in the desert, though he might change to a fish in a river or a sea.

The target of this spell cannot use the exotic abilities of the new shape if it has any. The troll would not be able to breathe fire if he were changed into a dragon, nor would he have the intelligence or knowledge of a dragon, but he will be able to use its physical abilities, such as flying, or claw, at 25%.

The Target of the spell has its Physical Attributes reduced to those of the new form, but its mental attributes are unchanged. If the new forms physical attributes are higher, the sorcerer can devote levels in the spell to maintaining those attributes. Each level will maintain a higher attribute[s] by up to a total of five points. 

Additional levels of this spell can be used to affect more than one creature instead of a single larger one, or may temporarily reduce or increase the SIZ of the creature by up to 5, or extend the duration of the spell according to the Duration Track.

Note: A Changed Sorcerer cannot cast spells while changed unless the new form possesses speech for vocalization and hands for gestures. If the form is capable, the sorcerer still has all spellcasting rolls reduced by 20% while transformed. Any skills that the sorcerer has normally that the new form shares [let us say, a claw attack, for example] are also reduced by 20%.



Sivastri, who knows Change 4 [See below for the details of the Change spell], wishes to change her own form to something more powerful in melee, that can also fly. She decides on a gargoyle. At SIZ 10, Sivastri needs to devote 2 levels to transform her SIZ of 10 into a rather diminutive SIZ 10 Gargoyle.This leaves her two Levels of her Change 4 to Manipulate the spell. She could increase the duration by up to 2 positions on the Duration Track [see below], from the base of 10 rounds, to 1 Hour. She could also use the levels to increase her SIZ by 10, making her the same SIZ as a normal gargoyle, but the spell will last for the base 10 melee rounds. She decides to spend 2 levels to maintain some of the gargoyle' strength and size, maintaining each by 5 points. Her STRength of 13 is raised to 18, her SIZ of 10 to 15 for the ten rounds of the spell. She is small and weak by gargoyle standards, but able to fly and fight, and gains the other normal abilities of a gargoyle for the duration of the spell. Hopefully she will not need to cast spells in that time. She also is grateful for the training she has done with claw attacks, which will offset some of her unfamiliarity with the new form [her claw attack, that she has gained through long hours of practice, is at 68%, but is reduced by 20% in gargoyle form].



Conjure/ Dismiss Elemental [Rune Type as elemental type known]   Range – 10 Yards             POW Check - Yes

Duration – 10 rounds

This spell conjures a specific type of elemental, specified when the sorcerer learn the spell. Any elemental conjured will have 3D6 POW and 3D6 DEX, and SIZ equal to 1d6 per level of the elemental. It has no INT and must be directed with the attention of the magician, taking one combat action to change the elemental's instructions. All elementals are affected by magic and are immune to poison. Their hit points equal their SIZ. Aside from these aspects, each elemental has different abilities.

Note: The Elemental Interaction Table does not display well in this column width. So I have indcuded it as a separate pdf. The link is just below the image above.

Elemental Interactions

                 Earth                             Fire                            Air                          Water                         Shade                 Lune

Earth ]     Combat                      Mutual Dest.             No effect                   Level                          No effect           No effect

Fire   ]     Mutual Dest.             No effect                   Level                          Mutual Dest.             Level                  Mutual Dest.

Air     ]    No effect                   Level                          No effect                   No effect                   No effect           Level

Water]     Level                         Mutual Dest.             No effect                   No effect                   No effect           Mutual Dest.  

Shade]      No effect                   Level                       No effect                   No effect                   No effect           Level

Lune  ]     No effect                   Mutual Dest.             Level                          Level                        Mutual Dest.    No effect


No effect – Elementals have no effect on each other.

Mutual Destruction – The two elementals compare hit points. The one with the fewer points is destroyed, the other is reduced to the difference between the hit points. If the elementals have the same hit points, both are gone.

Level – Compare the level of the elemental to the level of the target elemental. An attack is made using the resistance table. If the attack is successful, the target elemental is destroyed. Two elementals automatically attack each other at the same time on the resistance table, which can lead to mutual destruction.

Combat – The elementals at tempt to attack and parry one another, with whatever attacks they might possess.


  • A sorcerer cannot conjure more levels of elemental than his Manipulation limit. Additional simultaneously conjured elementals are progressively harder, reducing the Summon Skill roll by a cumulative 10% and + POW cost per level of additional elemental. Thus an INT 17 Sorcerer [Manipulation limit 6] could conjure a level 3 elemental, then conjure another level 3 elemental the next turn, but the second elemental would be conjured at -30% to his roll and a cost 6 POW instead of the usual 3.
  • Roll SIZ/ HP for each elemental on summoning. Each time it damages or attacks a target, subtract 1 HP from its total [Its SIZ does not change] for each die of damage added. Thus if a SIZ 12, level 3 Salamander does 3d6 damage to a target, its own HP drop by 3 immediately. Similarly a SIZ 9 Sylph could add 3d3 to arrows or thrown weapons, three times over three rounds, before being dispersed. If the effect is not rated in dice, subtract 1d4+1 HP.
  • Elementals can manipulate their own forms, or their element, at will, under the direction of their controller, roughly equivalent to their own SIZ. This can be used in combination with skill rolls. So a SIZ 10 gnome could move 10 SIZ of earth, roughly 3 cubic feet, or 1 cubic foot of stone, at its full speed, excavating as the controller directs, or building if the controller has an applicable skill. A fire elemental of 10 SIZ could swallow a campfire, putting it out, recovering up to 10 lost HP; or heat a sword blank to the appropriate temperature for the hammer. These sorts of tasks are open-ended and comprise the most common use of elementals in the world. Often, the duration of the conjuration is extended for these sorts of purposes.


Air The Sylph

A sylph is a whirlpool of air, which will occasionally form into transparent humanoid shape. It can:

1.   Carry an object through the air at 5 points of SIZ per level of sylph for 1000 Yards in 10 melee rounds.

2.   Knock down 3 points of SIZ per level of sylph.

3.   Destroy a salamander or Lune by comparing its level against the level of the salamander on the resistance table and making a successful attack.

4.   Ignore damage from  physical  weapons,  even  those  with

       Sharpen spells.

5.   Be added to a missile or thrown weapons to increase the chance of hitting by 5% per level and add 1d3 damage per level.

6.   Move   without   burden   at   36   Yards   per   melee   round, quadrupled if moving at full speed.

7.   Carry messages on scraps of paper up to a Mile away in 10 melee rounds.


Fire The Salamander

A salamander usually appears as a lizard-like shape of fire. Constantly   active, even   while   being   held   in   place   by   its summoner, it can :

1.   Engulf a single target in flames, doing 1D6 damage per level of salamander. Armor and Protection spells protect against this attack.

2.   Ignite inflammable objects it touches, so they will burn on their own, doing 1D4 flame damage per round in addition to the salamander’s fire damage.

3.   Be damaged by physical weapons, but damage them in turn at 1D6 per level of the salamander.

4.   Absorb flame damage from other sources, including the Fire spell, to heal its wounds, 1 point of damage for 1 healed Hit Point..

5.   Destroy a Sylph or Shade by comparing its level against the sylph’s on the resistance table and making a successful attack.

6.   Mutually annihilate the hit points of an Undine, Gnome or Lune until only one survives.

7.   Can be added to a metal weapon to do an additional 1D6 of damage per level of the salamander plus the damage of the weapon, consuming the weapon’s hit points at the same time, as in 3, above.

8.   Move at 24 Yards a round, which triples when moving at full speed.

9.    Salamanders can be damaged by the Frost spell.



A gnome with 12 hit points meets a salamander with 14. Consulting the elemental Interactions chart, we see that the salamander and gnome will mutually destroy each other's hit points. The gnome becomes a puddle of slag; the salamander has 2 hit points.


Earth The Gnome

The gnome always forms into a vague man-like shape. It can:

1.   Hit physically for 1D6 damage per level of gnome at 15 x Level%.

2.   Be damaged by physical weapons, but the attacker must make a roll of POW×5 or less on 1D100 or the weapon takes the same amount of damage back to itself.

3.  Find the nearest source of metals or gems within POW in yards, as specified by the summoner.

4.   Destroy an undine by comparing its level to the undine’s on the resistance table and making a successful attack.

5.   Mutually annihilate hit points with a salamander until one is gone.

6.   Move 12 Yards a round over or through the earth, which doubles when moving at full speed.

7.   Excavate or move earth equal to 1 cubic foot per 3 SIZ of the gnome at its normal speed.


Water The Undine

The undine will manifest as a tower of water and occasionally take the shape of a beautiful human female. It can :

1.   Engulf one target to drown it at 1D6 points/melee round. Each melee round the target may match its POW against the POW of the undine on the resistance table to keep its breath and not be drowned.

2.   Be damaged by physical weapons, but take half the rolled damage and cannot be impaled.

3.   Carry an object or person through the water at 5 points of SIZ per level of undine for a mile in 10 melee rounds.

4.   Wash away a gnome by comparing it s level against the level of the gnome on the resistance table and making a successful attack.

5.   Mutually destroy a salamander’s or Lune’s hit points until one or the other is destroyed.

6.   Be added to a weapon to let it move normally underwater.

7.   Move unencumbered 36 yards per melee round in water, and 6 Yards on land.


Red Moon - Lune

A Lune is an eldritch egg-shaped patch of scaly, shadowy red, with a tail or tentacle. It can:

1.    touch one target with its tentacle to inflict Madness. Each melee round the target may match its POW against the POW of the Lune on the resistance table to keep it’s Sanity. On a fail, roll on the Madness chart below.

2.    Be damaged by physical weapons.

3.    Carry an object or person through shadows, darkness or Red Moonlight, at 5 points of SIZ per level for a mile in 10 melee rounds.

4.    Destroy a Sylph or Undine by comparing Levels and making a successful attack.

5.    Mutually destroy a salamander’s or shade’s hit points until one or the other is destroyed.

6.    Carry messages any distance under the light of the Red Moon.

7.    Move unencumbered 36 yards per melee round under the light of the Red Moon, 18 at night and 3 during the day otherwise.

8.     Destroy Spirits by comparing its level and making a successful attack.


Madness [A target overcome suffers the effects rolled; Each round the target may roll POW vs. the Lune's POW to recover from Madness]

This spell must overcome the target’s POW to be successful. If the victim is overcome, then the priest rolls 1D100 again with the results below. If the victim is not overcome, roll 1D100 and add 50:


01-05   Insanity. Temporarily lose 1d4 INT; Roll again on the Madness table for the effect. If 01-05 is rolled again, victim loses 1 INT Permanently and develops a psychosis.

06-20   Catatonia [Collapse as if in a coma; cannot be reached magically, or physically].

21-80   Paranoia [Attacks the nearest person immediately, loosing their next action].

81-100 Delusion [Befuddled, allow player to describe the delusion].

101-150   No effect.


Darkness - Shade

A shade is a roiling cloud of shadow, which may take on a vaguely humanoid form. It can:

  1. Obscure a natural light source [and the light it sheds] such as a torch or campfire, sustaining damage to itself equal to 1d6 per die of damage the item would do.
  2. Travel instantly from one shadow to another within 1000 yards.
  3. Carry an object at 5 SIZ per level of the Shade, instantly from one shadow to another within the SIZ of the Shade in Yards, at the cost of 1d6 damage per trip.
  4. Attempt to smother a salamander or Lune by comparing its level to that of the other elemental.
  5. Grant a single individual +10% to Stealth per level of the Shade.
  6. Move itself with a 90% Stealth roll when not in direct light.
  7. Engulf a living target that does not possess the Darkness rune, causing Demoralize on a successful POW attack, at the cost of 1d4+1 damage.
  8. Move up to 24 yards per turn in shadow, 9 normally, 3 in bright light.


Dismissing Elementals

The user of this spell may also use it to attempt to dismiss an elemental of any type the user knows how to conjure. He must overcome the level of  the  elemental  with  the cast  level of Dismiss Elemental on the resistance table.



Sakar knows Conjure/Dismiss Salamander. A level 4 salamander is conjured against his party. Casting Dismiss Elemental 3, he compares his level 3 Dismiss against the level of the salamander on the resistance table, a 45% chance. His player rolls 39, and the attacking salamander is gone and he spends 3 POW.


Next time: More spells - Something like, from Control to Healing - stay tuned!


Disclaimer: This is not intended as any sort of challenge or complaint against Basic Role Playing, Runequest, or any other game system or license. I hope you will like it, try it out, and even let me know how it went. Also, I apologize for any issues in layout. The abilities of the blog posting system were challenged repeatedly with this post. Know that i did my best. But dammit Jim, I'm a writer, not a software person.