Runequest Thursday #79 - Pact Magic!

Clint Staples

What follows is the beginning of my system for Pact Magic, which I will develop and test going forward. Use it if you wish, but understand that it is not in its final form, and will likely change in playtesting.


Pact magic is another way of accessing magical power using Runequest. In the absence of an established cult, or shamanic or sorcerous training, one might stumble upon Pact Magic. It is an ideal magical form for a Spirit Lord to bestow on a follower, and should come with some heavy strings. As written, even without, Pact Magic is both more powerful, and much more limiting, than normal battle magic. It is also perfect as a means to allow magic doe a character that does not want the normal structure of a cult. It can also be temporary, granting Magical power for POWer, so long as the pact remains.

As might be expected, Pact Magic requires a Pact – in this case a pact with a magically potent entity, such as a godling, spirit lord, or similar. You can only have a single pact at a time, and you cannot keep Battle Magic or Sorcery spells in your mind while you have a Pact (any such as remembered, but unavailable while you have a pact).

To gain a pact, you must find an entity potent enough to create and enforce one, and magical enough to grant you magic because of it. The pact itself is ritual, which can be extemporized by GM and player, but must involve the sacrifice of at least 1 POW permanently by the supplicant. If the supplicant is accepted, he will receive in return knowledge of the same number of Ranks of Principles as he sacrificed POWer, drawn from those possessed by the entity (more on that in a bit).

The Pact creates a new Magical Skill, beginning (INT+POW) + 2 x Pact POWer. So if the supplicant had INT 12, POW 13, and had devoted 3 permanent POW to the Pact, he would begin with (12+13) +2x3 = 31% in his Pact Skill. This skill can be raised via experience and training in the usual fashion.

As Pact Magic rises, so too does the Rank of the supplicant, and the Ranks of Principles available.

Supplicant: 50% Pact Skill or Below

  • No more than 2 Ranks in any Principle
  • No more than 6 POW devoted the Pact

Acolyte: 70% Pact Skill or Below

  • No more than 4 Ranks in any Principle
  • No more than 12 POW devoted the Pact

Scion: 90% Pact Skill or Below

  • No more than 6 Ranks in any Principle
  • No more than 18 POW devoted the Pact
  • The Rank of Scion may confer additional benefits, and always requires greater adherence to the wishes of the Entity, which takes an active interest in the doings of its Scion.

Pact Magic does not teach anything so limiting or coherent as “spells”. Instead, the supplicant is taught the underpinnings of magic, and deals with the raw power of the cosmos as understood by the entity she serves.

Each entity has certain aspects or elements with which it identifies or sympathizes. These are referred to as Principles. Simple entities might have one Principle, such as that of Darkness, Death, or Life. More complex or potent ones might have two or more principles. POWer devoted to the Pact is spent to gain insight into one or more of these Principles. So a supplicant with 4 POWer in a Pact with Scylla - whose Principles are Storm, Curses, and the Sea - could spend up to 2 points in any of the three Principles, for instance: Storm 1, Curse, 2, Sea 1.

The supplicant may thereafter cast any spell that partakes of that Principle, at the Rank known, by paying the POW as if casting the spell and succeeding at a Pact Skill check. Supplicants should go through the battle magic or common magic lists with the GM and decide which spells are available to each Principle.

Benefit and Restrictions:

As one progresses through the ranks of service, one retains an increasing portion of the attention of the entity of the Pact. Such that it takes greater interest in how its gifts are being used. Canny supplicants learn quickly that they are most consistent (temporary +20% bonus to their Pact Skill) in their access of Principles if they do the bidding of, or behave similarly to, the Entity of the Pact. Thus, an acolyte of Scylla will find that her manifestation of a Principle is easier when doing Scylla’s bidding, or when acting in accord with Scylla’s personality, likes and dislikes. Similarly, if acting against the wishes of the Entity, reduces the facility with which one can manipulate the Principles (temporary -20% reduction to their Pact Skill).

Any modifier is assigned by the GM on a roll by roll basis.

Art for this post is by the rightly famous BROM!