Spell Research is not an activity that most Magi ever indulge in, as it is both time consuming, costly, and risky. The spell lists of the Great Orders are generally static, remaining unchanged from one town to the next, or from one generation to the next. Nevertheless a dedicated Mage (or Sage) may sometimes devote the time to inventing (or re-inventing) an obscure magic. Occasionally an outcast Mage cut off from new spells will be forced to do the same.
Spell Research involves designing a new spell from first principles. Even if the object is to develop a spell that already exists (e.g. a lost spell, secret spell of a particular group, or even a standard spell that the Mage cannot access) it still must be invented anew. To do this the Mage must discover what arcane mental patterns are required to channel energy to produce their desired effect, and then work out what gestures, words, materials and mental states are needed to create that pattern.
In game terms spell design involves the following steps:
The first step is to design the effect that you want to produce. If you are attempting to re-invent an existing effect then you can simply refer to the Spellbook, otherwise you must decide what the spell is to do, and then pick appropriate keywords and duration. At this step you must make sure that the spell is plausible, and fits within the limits of the Order and setting. While many a Mage might desire a Rank 1 spell that inflicts 100 Lethal damage, that is not in keeping with the spells that exist in the game.
The Mage Animus wishes to design a spell that gives the Black Order a ranged attack similar to Sunspear. He envisions a simple spell that creates an obsidian missile that can be hurled like a javelin, inflicting 2D4 damage with a base range of 10 and using the Mage's Javelin or Magic skill to hit. He calls this spell Darkspear. Although somewhat more powerful than other Black Order spells of low level, Darkspear is not unreasonable, so it's a plausible line of enquirey for Animus.
Here are some Guidelines for spell effects and power.
From the guidelines we can see that Animus is trying to design an Attack spell, with the Aimed keyword. Looking at the keywords we can see that the Black Order gets +1 Research Difficulty for aimed spells. We can also see that since the base range is over 8 we need +1 Fatigue and +1 Casting Difficulty. There is nothing else especially odd about what Animus wants to design.
Once you have designed the effect you need to pick the spell's Energy Level and Rank. Some of the keywords you chose may have set a minimum EL or Rank.
The more powerful the spell, the higher the Rank. Common spells that affect only the Mage or close targets, cause small amounts of damage or other minor effects, provide a resistance roll or defence, or have short durations, may be Rank 1. For each of these limits you break, add another Rank. For example a spell that causes a large amount of damage to one close target would need to be Rank 2, as it breaks one limit. A spell that affects a whole town and lasts a cycle would need to be Rank 3, as it breaks two limits. If your spell would be more typical of another Order, add 1 Rank. Newly designed spells, without the benefit of centuries of refinement, tend to be a higher Rank. Always err on the side of caution if you are unsure.
Most spells have 1 Energy Level, which means that they have a spell pattern that most Mages can easily comprehend and requirements (gestures, words, thought patterns) that they can execute in just a couple of minutes. If your spell requires complex setup, such as selecting multiple targets, entering a trance, arranging items, or sending your mind to a distant place, then it is probably 2ELs. Some spells are 2 Energy Levels because the effect is particularly complex, and demands serious mental gymnastics of the caster. Spells of 3 Energy Levels or above are much rarer, and tend to be item creation spells, or other magics which have long and involved casting requirements. You should only set the Energy Level at 4 or more for spells that create major and long lasting effects, such as golems, permanent alterations of the magical field and so on.
Earth Cleric spells tend to be of higher Energy Level than other Orders. Most Earth Cleric spells have 1EL more than standard.
Animus' Darkspear spell is very similar to Sunspear, which is a Rank 1 spell. However throwing aimed attacks is a Red Order speciality, not a Black Order one, so this should be Rank 2. Since this is a simple combat spell, without a complex effect and requiring no materials, then it is clearly a 1 Energy Level spell.
Once you know the spell's Rank and Energy Level you can calculate the Fatigue and Difficulty. Some of the keywords you chose may have imposed additional fatigue or Casting Difficulty. Work out the normal costs first, and then apply the modifiers. The following is a table of the defaults per Circle.
|Energy Level 1|
|Energy Level 2|
|Energy Level 3|
Most spells have a Fatigue cost of EL x 3 + Rank, so a spell of Rank 2 and EL1 would cause 5 Fatigue. This cost is a reflection of the complexity of formulating the spell and the magnitude of the energy that needs to be channelled. Spells with very low powered effects (not necessarily simple ones) have reduced fatigue, as do spells that give energy (such as Power of the Red Order). Reduce the fatigue from the standard if this is true. Spells that create something have increased fatigue costs, up to a maximum of double the normal cost. Reduce Fatigue cost by 2 if the spell is Extended with fatigue and has a base duration of 1 round.
Casting Difficulty is the modifier to the Channel roll applied when casting the spell. Most spells have a Difficulty of EL x 2 + Rank, so a spell of Rank 2 and EL1 would have a Difficulty of -4. Very few spells have a Difficulty of 0 or less (i.e. a bonus to your Channel). High Difficulty is a reflection of challenging procedures and complex pattern. The higher the Difficulty the longer you need to hold power, and the more control you need over it. A spell with a simple effect for it's rank should have the Difficulty lowered by 1 or 2 points, while one that is challenging for it's rank should have it raised by a similar amount. If the Difficulty after modifiers for design and keywords is more than 5 over the standard for the Rank, it should probably move to the next Rank up and have the Difficulty modifiers lowered by 4.
Many spells have slight variations in Fatigue and Difficulty for their Rank. For example spells intented to be used in combat often have lower Fatigue and higher Difficulty. In general you can lower Fatigue by 1 by raising Difficulty by 2, and vica-versa. Larger scale variations increase Reasearch Difficulty by 1. Many standard spells are more efficient than this, a reflection of centuries of refinement.
Animus' Darkspear spell is Rank 2 and 1EL, so it has a standard Fatigue cost of 5 and a Casting Difficulty of -4. The spell design tells us that we need to add +1 Fatigue and +1 Difficulty, so we arrive at 6 Fatigue and -5 Difficulty.
Once you know out of character what spell you are designing you can finalise the design in character. This process requires a Cycle, and a successful Int + Academics / Sorcery roll. If you fail, make another roll after another cycle, until you succeed. If you pass you have designed the spell and can assign the Research Difficulty. The Research Difficulty is based on all of the calculations done so far. It equals :
10 + 3xRank + Energy Level + Modifiers
Where the Modifiers are accumulated from the spell design and Keywords you chose. You can try and lower the Research Difficulty by making compromises if you wish, as follows:
It is easier to design a spell that already exists, or is a slight variation on it, than to make a wholly novel effect. You may need to design an existing spell if you are an outcast denied access to the Orders. Modify the Research Difficulty by the following factors if the new spell is the same, or similar to, an existing spell which you could cast (i.e. it is of the right Rank and Order).
|Replicate existing normal spell||-2 Difficulty|
|Replicate existing restricted spell||+0 Difficulty|
|Modify a spell you know||-2 Difficulty|
|Modify a standard spell||-1 Difficulty|
|Modify an existing restricted spell||+1 Difficulty|
If this is still too high you will need to redesign your effect.
Animus has finished the design of his Darkspear spell, and is ready to put it together. Animus has Int 12, Academics 2 and Sorcery 6, so he needs to roll anything other than a 20 to put his design together. He rolls a 10 and can proceed. We know that his spell has Rank 2 and EL1, which gives us a base Research Difficulty of 17. Because Darkspear is an Aimed spell in the Black Order there is a further +1 Difficulty, for a final result of 18. Darkspear is a modification of an existing spell (Sunspear) but not one that Animus can cast, so he gets no modifier for this. Since Animus has a working Sorcery skill of only 18 he considers weakening the spell somewhat to make research easier, and decides that the spell needs a material focus in the form of a small Obsidian chip worth 5. This reduces the Difficulty by 2 to 16.
Once you have conceived of and designed the spell you can begin to research it. Research is difficult, costly, risky and most of all time consuming. Researching a spell requires long experimentation, repetitive practice, endless tweaking with gestures and words, note taking and trial and error. Most combinations of gestures, words, materials and mental states don't produce any effect. New patterns are very difficult to arrive at. A researcher will spend much of their time drawing diagrams, meditating, or pouring over other spells (or tablets and inscriptions and marks in the sand).
You cannot Research a spell you could not learn. Your Int + Academics / Sorcery must equal or exceed the spell's Rank + 10 or you cannot begin, although you could pass your design concepts to another Mage to pursue.
Most Magi conduct their research in dedicated scriptoria or research labs, surrounded by tablets, scrolls, crystals, sacred iron, slaves, rare materials and arcane tools, but in theory a sufficiently dedicated Mage could design a new spell in a blasted cave in a desert. The only hard requirements are Sorcery skill, time, and a freedom from distractions. You cannot make a research roll in a cycle in which you were struggling to survive (see Survival rules), wounded, or in which you cannot dedicate at least half of each day to your work.
Although you do not require complex materials, costly tools, and assistants, you can certainly benefit from them, and will likely suffer if you have to do entirely without. Tools are the best help, giving you a bonus on every research roll in return for a large initial outlay. Library access does something similar, enabling you to consult other spells and research notes. Materials and Assistants give you a bonus on a single roll in return for a one-off Wealth or Status cost (make a normal Wealth or Status roll to get help). The following table summarises these effects.
|No Lab||-||-2 Research Skill|
|Basic Lab||6 (Wealth)||-|
|Lavish Lab||11 (Wealth)||+1 Research Skill|
|No Lab tools||-||-4 Research Skill|
|Mundane Lab tools||8 (Wealth)||+0 Research Skill|
|Basic Lab tools||14 (Wealth)||+1 Research Skill|
|Rare Lab tools||17 (Wealth)||+2 Research Skill|
|No Helper||-||-1 Research Skill / roll|
|Slave Helper||4 (Status)||+0 Research Skill / roll|
|Wizard Helper||9 (Status)||Research assist rating for 1 roll|
|Mage Helper||Mage's Status||Research assist rating for 1 roll|
|Basic Materials||8 (Wealth)||+1 Research Skill for 1 roll|
|Rare Materials||10 (Wealth)||+2 Research Skill for 1 roll|
|Wound Quality||-||Cannot research|
With his design finalised Animus can begin work on his new masterpiece. Animus has Status 9 (he is a little bit of an outsider), and a Wealth of 6. He spends some time setting up a lab in which to work. A lavish lab is beyond him, but he aims for a basic one, needing to roll a 10 or less (Wealth 6 vs. Cost 6). He rolls a 9 and sets up a basic lab. Animus really wants some basic lab tools, but they are beyond his finances, without them he has to suffer a massive -4 penalty. Instead he spends a Treasure 2, and 1 Wealth level to try and get some mundane tools (tablets, quills, rock crystals). This gives him Wealth 10 vs. cost 8, requiring a roll of 12 or less. He succeeds and gets his basic equipment, though his Wealth drops to 5 afterwards. Luckily with Status 9 a Slave helper (cost 4 status) is easily affordable, so he makes sure he has a slave to do the heavy lifting in his lab. Animus ends up with a lab that has no bonuses or penalties.
Research requires making multiple rolls of :
Intelligence + Academics / Sorcery resisted by Research Difficulty
You will normally make 1 roll each cycle. Apply the results as follows:
|Critical||Add 1 total success for each success, reduce Difficulty by 1|
|Pass||Add 1 total success for each success|
|Fail||You make no progress this cycle|
|Fail with multiple failures||You make no progress this cycle, raise Difficulty by additional failures or accident|
|Fumble||Project ruined, or accident|
When you accumulate total successes equal to the spell's Research Difficulty, you have successfully invented it.
Animus begins his long-term work on his spell design. His Int + Academics / Research is 19, and his Research Difficulty is 16, so he needs to roll a 13 or less to succeed on his research rolls. After 1 cycle he rolls and scores a 10. This is a pass with 1 success so he accumulates 1 total success. He now requires only 15 more successes to complete his work.
If you fail your Research roll then something has gone wrong. You make no progress towards your goal, and run the risk of ruining your project. A single failure merely indicates no progress, anything else indicates a serious problem. You may either raise the Difficulty of the project (which means you need more successes and are less likely to succeed on a subsequent roll) or suffer an accident. If you choose to raise the difficulty it means that some aspect of your understanding, or spell design, has proven to be seriously wrong. Your line of research is flawed, and the goal is harder than you anticipated. Repeated failures can end up in a design so unwieldy and mis-conceived that you might be better abandoning it and starting over.
If you choose to have an accident instead you take a significant risk. For each failure you absorb you must suffer one of the following effects:
You should decide exactly what form this accident takes, and can only suffer a plausible effect (i.e. if you are an outcast with no contacts you cannot lose Status, if you don't have any lab tools you cannot destroy one). Possible accidents include: a fire in your lab, an explosion, a channelling backlash, accidentally summoning a demon, damaging vital equipment, collapsing from exhaustion, contracting a fever from overwork, being condemned for your illicit experimentation.
Should you fumble a Research roll you are in dire straits. You either suffer a catastrophic accident or your entire design is ruined and you must start again at +2 Research Difficulty. A catastrophic accident requires you to suffer twice as many accident effects as you might otherwise be required to do.
After 3 further cycles (5 cycles since he decided to start on a spell), Animus has accumulated 3 total successes, and is moving slowly to completion. On the 4 cycle of Research he rolls a 19! This is a failure by 6, giving him two failures. Animus must choose whether to raise the Difficulty by 1, or suffer an accident. He decides to raise the Difficulty by 1.
The following cycle he rolls against a 17, requiring a 12 or less. Instead he rolls an 18, another failure by 6! Once again he has the choice of raising the Difficulty to suffering an accident. Animus doesn't want to give up on his line of research (raising the difficulty), and instead chooses to suffer an accident. Some possibilities include his Slave being killed, losing an attribute, status or wealth point, having his lab burn down, or taking a wound. Animus cannot afford to lose his lab (he can no longer afford to replace it), and does not wish to lose any attributes, so he chooses to suffer a wound. While attempting to perfect one part of the spell's pattern Animus accidentally half conjures his Darkspear, but impales himself with it as it manifests inside him!
Animus must put his project on hold until the hideous wound has healed (takes at least 2 cycles on top of the one he just wasted), and takes to his bed to recover.
Assuming the mage completes his research without accident, or abbandoning the project, he has a finished spell, recorded on tablets or in a spellbook. Once complete the spell can be taught to others as normal. If the spell ended up compromised, someone (the same Mage or a different one) can attempt to refine it by inventing a new version based on the current one.
The Orders of the Eternal Empire are suspicious of innovation and change. When a Mage embarks on Spell Research they will be viewed with distrust, and may find themselves shunned or avoided. If the Mage has duties it can be hard not to neglect them. Many a Mage has abbandoned Spell Research because of the condemnation of their peers rather than any failure of theory. Nevertheless if they do succeed then it is a very noteable achievement. Gain Status equal to the Rank of the Spell invented.