Tuesday, October 15, 2013

ACKS: Sorcery!

In a previous post, I'd expanded the ACKS "caster types", and thereby the categories you can spend build points on in custom classes, with the Ovatic type, which would include things like Druids and other nature/world oriented spellcasters.

Now, let's go the other way. It is a staple of Sword & Sorcery that the priests and clerics are the same sorts of charlatans the wizards are; they just dress theirs up in damnation or salvation, depending on the flavor. They're a specific oddity of DND. In fact, Delta's DND Hotspot put up a post while I was working on my own that shows this very thing revealed through OD&D's Gods, Demigods and Heroes itself, as pointed out by Geoffrey McKinney of Carcosa - it was apparently tough to justify the class from even mythological sources.

I'm inspired by Crypts & Things' combination of the Cleric and Mage into one class; the Magician.

As a bit of balance, the general spell list is then split out into three classifications of magic - "White", which are generally the clerical spells, and spells that would align with the side of Law, "Grey" magic, which gets into the more "wizardry" selection - a lot of the utility spells and non-direct-damage spells fall into this area. Finally, "Black" magic contains direct damage spells, necromancy, and any sort of summoning or planar movement/communication (which in the setting includes invisibility).

The assumed setting in C&T is strongly typed as Swords & Sorcery, and therefore the spell list is divided into how 'unnatural' each spell is. White magic operates as normal; casting a Grey magic spell causes HP damage, and Black magic calls for a Sanity check - also, even memorizing a Black magic spell causes CON damage (equal to the spell level) if they do not sacrifice a sentient creature per spell being memorized. The Sanity mechanic is simple, and not terribly punitive.

It's a good strong Law vs Chaos framework, where Chaos is winning.

I'm attempting here to blend the Cleric and Mage together to some sort of middle-ish ground, it's possible some decisions may be too generous for some, particularly in spell & XP progression.


In the ages lost to history, there were the serpentmen, who ruled the planet through dweomercraft; binding the lesser races and their own creations to their will.

The secrets of sorcery were no secrets at all, however; plainly written in the stars of the sky and the lay of the earth. Man, true inheritor of the world, bided his time in secret, having the Power but waiting for the Time. Eventually, the serpentmen overextended, and caused catastrophe; weakened, they fell. Their names now history, their great works buried, they are forgotten to most.

Man made attempt to further master the Art, sometimes to poor end. Empires rise and fall, civilization ebbs and flows from enlightened Spring to tyrannical Winter. The quest to channel the power of sorcery for ends good or ill rides eternal.

There are no meddlesome gods holding back secrets from the faithful; nor do those same gods deny access to certain forms of magic from the infidel. The secret structures of the multiverse are laid out for any of the enlightened to see; to what purpose one bends these forces is upon their soul alone - often, dissolution is the best a soul can hope for.

Sorcery Value

The Sorcery Value determines the extent of the class's sorcerous power. Assign 0 to 4 Build Points to
the Sorcery Value, noting down powers and XP cost.

Sorcery 1: A value of 1 gives the class the ability to cast spells and engage in magical research as a sorcerer of 1/3 the character's level, as shown in the Effective Level By Value table.

Sorcery 2: A Sorcery Value of 2 gives the class the ability to cast spells and engage in magical research as a sorcerer of 2/3rds the character's level.

Sorcery 3: A Sorcery Value of 3 gives the class the ability to cast spells and engage in magical research as a sorcerer of the character's actual level.

Sorcery 4: A Sorcery Value of 4 gives the class the ability to cast spells and engage in magical research as a sorcerer of the same level. Available spells are multiplied by 1.33, rounded.

The XP cost for each Sorcery value follows that of the Mage. After 8th level, a Sorcerer requires an additional 150,000XP for each level.

Sorcery Saving and Attack Throw Progression

The Sorcerer takes Petri. & Para., Blast & Breath, Staves & Wands, and Spells from the Mage. It takes Poison & Death partially from the Cleric (the progression is slower), representing the inner fortitude the Sorcerer develops from harnessing magical energies.

Sorcery Strongholds

A class constructed with a Sorcery value of 2+ may choose either the "Fortified Church", "Cloister" (from the ACKS:PC Priestess) or "Sanctum and Dungeon" stronghold type, or any other stronghold type marked for use by spellcasters of any type.

The Sanctum stronghold type may fit better with Sorcerers following the classic 'Wizard' archetype, ruling alone from a tower or other structure, and cycling through apprentices as time passes.

The Fortified Church or Cloister works better for those whose quest for power may spawn cults or other fringe organizations, or an established religion which includes some use of sorcery as an acceptable or encouraged behavior.

Sorcerous Repertoire and Rituals

Sorcery is based on the same foundations as the Arcane, in that it will require the management of the spellcaster's Repertoire, and extra spells are gained from a high Intelligence.

It uses the Arcane limits for Rituals - up to 9th level. Sorcerers may perform advanced dweomercraft of all types allowed to Mages and Clerics, such as cross-breeds, constructs, and necromantic rituals.

Sorcery Spell Progression

Presented is one of many possible options. The table is a "best of" of ACKS' Arcane and Divine spellcasting tables. 

Use the Arcane or Divine table if you'd like, or my Ovatic table. Do a best-of or averaging with any two or all three.

As in all things, the choice is up to the resident DM. This document is proceeding with the idea of attempting to average-out the capabilities of the Mage and Cleric into something new, with the caveat that it will err towards the  Mage side when logic dictates, as it would with XP progression; but be somewhat permissive.

Dividing the spell progression for values of Sorcery less than 3 will follow the same rules as for Arcane.

Sorcery & Armor

Sorcerers may cast in whatever armor they are proficient with.

Sorcery & Magic Items

There are a handful (ok, one I've found so far) of magical items in the ACKS core rulebook that may need some massaging.

Rod of Resurrection: At a minimum, eliminate the Cleric/Bladedancer entry, using the Mage entry for all types of sorcerers. Alternatively, if the sorcerer has a connection to the divine through the taking of possible Turn Undead proficiencies, allow them to resurrect at the Cleric/Bladedancer cost. The same choices can be made for who can use the item.

The Change in Class

So, what happens to our existing classes under this?

The Mage gets quite a boost, actually. Sorcery 4 grants him more spells and a faster road to the 4th and 5th level spells, plus gaining the ability to have Divine spells in his repertoire at a advantageous level.

The Cleric gets a bit mugged. A Fighting 1, HD 1, Sorcery 2 build maxes the cleric out at a 9th level of spellcasting ability, with a 3/3/3/2/2 spell load, as compared to 6/5/5/5/4. It's about half, but it's still the same maximum level.

On top of that, it loses the built-in Turn Undead.

In return, though, it gets a lot of Arcane spells, but also the unlimited, but costly, "repertoire" spellbook system.

The Bladedancer fares the same, as does the Dwarven Craftpriest, though he maxes out at 10th level as a 7th level caster, at 3/2/2/1/1 spell load.

The Elves make out well, if you keep the 1:1 ratio between Sorcery progression and Elf progression, as do the Zaharans. Gnomes get a slight boost - they'll go 1/3 level Sorcery at Gnome 2/3, and then 2/3rds level at Gnome 4.

Dropping into some ACKS specific things, Nobirans get turned around completely, and the Wonderworker most so. Instead of being Nobirus 2/Arcane 4, they'd likely be Nobirus 2/Sorcery 4, thereby having a virtual Sorcery 6.

If we keep our "thirds" progression (1/3, 2/3, 1), rather than (1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1) as Arcane does, that gets us:

Nobiran Wonderworker: Nobirus 2/Sorcery 4 - spell multiplier of 100%, max level 12 (Nobiran Heroic Spirit).

At level 12, he'd have a spell load of 10/10/8/8/6/4.

That's....rough, but, if we just straight add up what the Wonderworker gets by default:

Arcane: 4/4/3/3/3/2
Divine: 5/5/4/4/3

Total: 9/9/7/7/6/2

That's one less at spell level 1 through 4, with the additional restriction that all his spells are sourced from an arcane-style repertoire. That cuts the number of spells he has access to almost in half - his Divine "repertoire" had 10 spells in it by itself, each level!

Whence The Cleric? 

Speaking of, where does the concept of the armored, faith-powered spellcaster lie?

The major thing we lose here by dropping the Divine category is the acquisition of Turn Undead.

If that's important to your world, add it back. We know from the ACKS:PC Turn Undead at half-level value is worth a proficiency (see Grey Lore, etc.) A Turn Undead proficiency with no added value but the ability to take it twice, the second time for full-cleric Turn Undead would probably be simplest. That would be a good way to unlock the use of Divine Power for spell research/etc.  as well...let's do this:

Lesser Pact: You have reached an agreement with an otherworldly being, possibly a god. You may Turn or Control undead as befits your alignment and that of the being as a default Cleric of half your level. You may also utilize Divine Power, as explained in Chapter 7 of ACKS.
Greater Pact: You have solidified your relationship with an otherworldly being. You may Turn or Control undead as befits your alignment and that of the being as a default Cleric of your level. You must already have a Lesser Pact in place with the same being. 

Stopping here, we leave Sorcery as a simple marriage of the divine & arcane, not looking to challenge any of the default DND assumptions about spell types - that Protection from Evil isn't different from Fireball, from a moral perspective.

The fictional source does do so, however, and so does Crypts & Things. We'll look at that next.


  1. Minor nitpick - you specify in the Sorcery 1 description that it's 1/3 of level, rounded down, but on the table it appears to be rounded up (1 at 2nd, 5 at 14th).

    Other than that, looks mostly good. I rather like the idea of rolling all casting into one category (for settings like, for example, Magic the Gathering). Cleric does indeed get the shaft, though... there is probably some more design work to be done here.

    1. Fixed by removing the 'rounding' text. I didn't say it anywhere else, so. :) Good catch.

      In the next post on this I'm working on I expand Turn Undead a bit to include turning "demons" and corrupted sorcerers with a modifier; and there's also rules for sorcerers getting corrupted via "black" magic that makes sticking with "white" magic it's own reward.

      There's probably something to be stolen from DCC RPG's Patrons/etc. that could be added in to boost the cleric archetype a bit.