zilch / agony









Zilch magic is rune-based. A spellcaster learns a handful of master runes, as well as a great number of minor marks and sigils. Runes are represented by 26 Scrabble tiles; minor marks are not represented in game terms. One to three runes can then be combined to form a spell, with various minor marks used to shape the specific spell effect. This runic spell is then cast by charging it with mana, which is represented as a Diamond chip cost.


You can learn a max number of runes equal to your Diamonds. A low Diamonds score may mean you will be unable to cast some of the greater runes. Some of the greater runes also have prerequisite lesser runes that must be learned first. Rune knowledge can be innate (inherent to the caster herself), inspired (received through prayer, meditation, contemplation of an arcane focus), or inscribed (recorded in spellbooks or prayer books).

Casting Spells

Casting: To cast a spell, the caster uses the cast combat action. A caster must have at least one empty hand (unless channeling the spell through a held magically-conductive item, such as a staff, wand, or holy symbol) and must be able to move and speak. If currently bound, Helpless, or otherwise unable to meet these requirements, the caster may cast the spell mentally: make a Diamonds test. (CS: cast the spell as a std action; S: cast the spell as a full action (or abort without a chip cost); F: spend chips but the spell fails harmlessly; CF: spend chips but suffer a magical mishap).

Casting a spell costs a number of Diamond chips equal to the cost of each rune in the spell. A rune's cost is equal to the letter's Scrabble point value; see below. More complex spells can be cast by combining runes in combination spells and Rituals. Certain spells may allow you to spend additional chips for a greater effect.

Duration: A spell effect has one of the following durations:

For spells with duration, identical spells do not stack. Instead, only the strongest effect applies.

Range of Effect: A spell has one of the following ranges

Saves: Some spells offer the target a save when they are exposed to the spell's effect. Saves can be based on any of the four Suits:

Saves vs spells are very hard (-5 modifier).

Most saves are made as a free action when the spell is cast. However, some spells are resisted. This means that, if the victim fails the initial save, she may still make another save as a standard action during each of her turns to end the spell. A few spells can be resisted as a free action; often this occurs when you interact with the ongoing effects of a spell.

For some spells, a successful save only reduces (rather than eliminates) the spell's effect. Some spells do not allow a save, but instead require a Suit test of the victim to determine the effect.

A spell's victim may always choose to forgo a save or Suit test (though it would take a successful Diamonds (Spellcraft) check to ID the runes of the spell before choosing to save). Doing so is treated as a failure of the save or test.

Items and objects do not get a save unless held by a creature, in which case the creature saves for the item. Enchanting an item requires you touch the item and so automatcially fails if it is held by an unwilling target.

Magical mishap:

Rituals: Some spells require a ritual to cast. These spells take a full encounter of their own to prepare and cast--usually 10 to 60 minutes. They may also require certain costly components, special conditions, additional casters, etc. Like resting, they have a chance of being interrupted in a Dungeon, which means any casting costs are expended but no benefit is gained.

Runes and Spells

The following abbreviations are used in spell descriptions:

E - Energy
Ef = Fire
Ee = Electricty (Air)
Ec = Cold (Water)
Ea = Acid (Earth)
Cost: 1, Freq: 12.

Channel the raw forces of the cosmos in a flashy but relatively weak display. There is a separate rune for each of the four elemental energies: Fire, Cold, Acid, or Electricity. Fire opposes Cold and Acid opposes Electricity. The same target may not be subject to non-instantaneous effects of opposing energies; attempting to do so will dispel the existing effect. Non-opposing energies can stack, however. For example, see the EI spell: a victim could suffer both a Cold and an Acid Shroud at the same time--thus taking 2 dmg each turn. However, attempting to add a Fire Shroud would simply dispel the Cold Shroud. Being subject to any instantaneous energy spell would have no effect on the Shrouds though. When used in rune combinations, an E rune usually provides only a source of elemental enery, doing at most 1 dmg.

EI - 3 dmg plus +1 dmg per extra pip spent.
EM - controlled shot which its unerringly (Select target).
  [Blast ability falls in the middle of E and EM: save for 1/2 dmg]
ExYEy - Welds two opposing energies together, which cancel out and deal 3 force dmg.
A - Abjuration
Cost: 1, Freq: 9.

Provides protection, primarily in the form of shielding form physical harm and resistance to the elements, particularly the 4 elemental energies. To a lesser extent, offers security, warning, protection from the intent to harm, and, in combinations, limited and specific protection from raw magic.

I - Imbue
Cost: 1, Freq: 9.

Enchant or increase the power of a object, especially for the purposes of causing injury. Used in combinations to bind magic to an inanimate item or object or, occasionally, to amplify or stabilize a purely magical effect.

O - Obstacles
Cost: 1, Freq: 8.

Conjures vaporous thin substances sufficient for minor tricks or to inconvenience others in battle. Most of these spells can affect an Area or a target from a distance. (For true creation of matter, see P.)

N - Nature
Cost: 1, Freq: 6.
Animal = non-Humanoid Beast N - Talk to Plant/Animal (though animal may not want to talk to you.) NS or ND - Commune with Plant/Animal - Read its thoughts Charm Plant/Animal Summon Repel N - Entangle - N - Nature Sense - In a natural setting, know direction, coming weather, danger sense (physical danger to you: something coming, something ahead. Savage beast, quicksand, trap). Works in caverns but not worked dungeons. NDN - Commune - Tap into the web of life around you out to a Far distance. As N, plus know what living and undead are within Far distances in a natural enviroment and their general state (healthy, hurt, sick, fearful, etc.)
R - veRve
Cost: 1, Freq: 6.

Increases natural abilities in living creatures by manipulating the interface between body and mind. The effects are subtle, seeming to affect the target's talent, force of will, or luck. The rune is used in combinations to manipulate or enchant living creatures with magic that normally affects only objects. For more drastic physical changes, see W. Does not allow for negative modifiers; for that, use drain effects, such as from ???

T - Transmissions
Cost: 1, Freq: 6.

Affects levels of sensory information, particularly light. That is, can raise and lower light levels or sound or scents, affecting the world rather than the sensor. To change or shape what is seen or sensed, see G.

L - Lifeforce
Lp = Positive life energy
Ln = Negative life energy
Cost: 1, Freq: 4.

Two runes: Positive or Negative. uses positive energy to harm Undead creatures and heal living creatures, restoring 1 HP for each point of "dmg". Ln uses negative energy to heal Undead creatures and damage living creatures.

S - Subconsious
Cost: 1, Freq: 4.

Affects only transient mental processes, such as physical desires (hunger, thirsty, sleepiness, pain), mood, and emotions. At best (such as when used with D), this rune can access moment-to-moment surface thoughts or sensations (which are often fuzzy).

Group (know direction and distance and status of up to pip creatures; can communicate in whisper to them and they to you, but not to each other)

Charm: Allows access to and crude manipulation of a target's ideas, beliefs, opinions, and personality (alignment). This rune allows the caster to subtly place a single idea or belief in the target's head. This may be difficult to impossible if this new idea conflicts with existing, fundamental beliefs held by the target. The nature of the planted idea may be limited by whether the caster is arcane or divine. When accessing (such as with D), allows you to access language comprehension and a general sense of the victim's personality as a whole. (To actually mentally control a target, manipulate her memories, or seek out a particular belief or memory, see Va.) Cx2 = Charm (makes creature your friend, open to your suggestions; until your harm or betray it; actions by your allies or suggestion give it a chance to save; call a swarm to do your bidding)

U - Undead
Cost: 1, Freq: 4.

Two runes: Turn or Rebuke. But control the behavior of undead creatures, but in different ways. Ut uses either positive energy to drive away or harm undead. Ur uses negative energy to awe and control undead. You must always present your holy symbol in one hand to cast a U spell. +Cp to also affect Evil creatures in the same way; +Cn to also affect Good creatures.

D - Divination
Cost: 2, Freq: 4.
Most basic is detection: (seek certain specific class of items: magic, substances (like gold, food, water, poison, etc), creature types, traps, secret doors, etc.; thru thin barriers, like wooden doors, chests, containers, wall-hangings, etc. DJ = Scry DQ = Scry across planar barriers rD - ID runes involved, but not charges or activator; read magic (CS on Spellcraft can do the same) rDI - Identify (though glammer will decieve) rDYD or DGaD - True Identify
G - Glammer
Cost: 2, Freq: 3. Pre: T.
make an object appear as something else of the same type; produce a figment; G: Invisibility (standing still) GT?: Invisiblity (but spell ends if subject makes an attack) GTG?: Invisibilty (any actions) GI - Magical aura to remove aura or make an item seem magical mask from scrying
B - Barrier
Cost: 3, Freq: 2. Pre: A.
Walls, wards. Invisible force by default, but must only instantaneous or by concentration Wx2 = Wall (invoke wall of fire (3 dmg), stone (push aside targets), ice (2 dmg and holds targets inside; can test Clubs to break free), wind (with wind horizontal or vertical), etc. 2 squares wide, Diamond long. Can be line or circle around self.) Hold back a given Type/Subtype. Resisted to approach? Force Globe -conc- You are immune to any physical or energy attack. Generally any Spades-based save succeeds, but works against some select spells that deal damage. +1 Chip to include one more Adjacent Square).
C - Consecrate/Desecrate
Cost: 3, Freq: 2. Pre: U.
(instant: undead with Clubs less than Diamonds flee/are charmed by you; ritual on altar or single body: bodies in range do not become undead nor decompose, undead may not enter area; bodies in range become mindless undead [of lvl?]).
M - Move
Cost: 3, Freq: 2.
Mx2 = Move levitate, fly, floating; directing attack; feather fall; water walk; freedom of movement
P - Produce
Cost: 3, Freq: 2. Pre: O.
Px2 = Produce: light temporary object (including armor or weapon); summon creature/mount
F - Foresight
Cost: 4, Freq: 2. Pre: D
Move to detect? Prophesy (or Legend Lore). Dream-like images. Always tells you some some useful clue, but may be obscure or require interpretation or further investigation. will rarely give you clear answers to what you seek. Repeated castings on the same topic often give the same vision, though the vision may change slightly over time. (In short: GM's call, but use to give player's hints.)
H - Hurl
Cost: 4, Freq: 2. Pre: M.
Damage force/telekinetic attacks.
V - Volition
Cost: 4, Freq: 2.
Resisted 1/2: paralyzed; otherwise, dominated.
Wa - Were
Cost: 4, Freq: 2. Pre: R or N.
polymorph; size change; natural weapon, climbing skill, wings, water-breathing, etc.;

Changing size: I like the idea of little fairies having little fireballs and ogre mages and dragons having big blasts. However, need to balance shapeshifting ability. Thus, just W does not change Mass: still weigh the same and take dmg as if your normal size? Need +P to change that too?? Deal with this in H rune--looks like I'm already on the right track there.

Y - Dispel
Cost: 4, Freq: 2. Pre: I or A
K - Mass ("Kilo")
Cost: 5, Freq: 1
Kx1 = Mass (a spherical burst up to Diamonds diameter for a given spell, to be paid separately. May choose center. If self, may choose whether or not to be included in effect.) (Can use Blank if splitting Scrabble set between more than 1 caster.)
J - Jaunt
Cost: 8, Freq: 1
X - Select
Cost: 8, Freq: 1
(as K, but may choose which targets are affected, up to Diamonds)
Q - Quest
Cost: 10, Freq: 1
Z - Zenith
Cost: 10, Freq: 1. Pre: B.
Arcane: As B, but deal Diamonds dmg. Life: Touch to raise dead. Death: Touch to deal Diamonds dmg.

Rune Combinations: The above list is only a sample list. Additional spells and rune combinations can be proposed by casters when trying to achieve a particular spell effect. Keep the following in mind when adjudicating this:

Magic Items

Enchanted (Magical) weapons deal an extra +1 dmg. Up to two compatible Energy effects may also deal +1 dmg each. (See E for more.) Enchanted weapons may also have various special effects.

The DR of a Shield stacks with that granted by Armor. An enchanted (Magical) armor or shield grants +1 DR. Enchanted armor and shields may also have various special effects.

Special Materials

Believed to fragments of the firmament and fundament, adamantine is a nearly-black metal found as nuggets deep in the earth or in meteorites. It can only be melted by extreme heat, such as that formed by an elder fire elemental, a great dragon, or ancient runic forges on powerful fire leylines. Once heated, it can only be shaped with adamantine tools or magic. Adamantine itself cannot be broken or sundered and is immune to rust, corrosion, or normal elemental damage. It can be used to sunder weapons or shields as a special attack. While it can be the subject of spells, it cannot hold a permanent enchantment. Overcomes armor DR... -2/adamantium?
Formed by lightning strikes in swamps containing will-o-wisps. Long crystals, pale green with blue-yellow highlights within. Can be shaped into blades, though Heavy need to be reinfored with silver so they don't snap when swung. Very brittle and will shatter if struck against any hard surface. However, act as a magic weapon against Incorporeal targets, and can affect Ethereal targets. If enchanted, full damage to Incorporeal or Ethereal targets.
Affects creatures corrupted form their true/pure form, such as lycanthropes, devils, and vampires. Alchemial process. Immune to rust.
Cold Iron
Immune to magic. Cannot be enchanted or manipulated or affected by magic. Effect on shifting, chaotic creatures. Loses this effect if coated in silver. As manacles, can prevent a caster from using magic.
Witch Lead
Lead poured over a gold and silver weave. Magic cannot pass through it. Thin, moldable. Can be used to line a small room or container making it impervious to magic.