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Writing 'Gandalf is here'...

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‘If there are any to see, then I at least am revealed to them,’ he said. ‘I have written Gandalf is here in signs that all can read from Rivendell to the mouths of Anduin.’



I've been pondering how to achieve this 'attracting unwanted attention' aspect of magic, as is done in MERP 2nd edition. In that, each time you cast a spell, there's a risk the shadow-forces notie and send someone (or something) to investigate. Castling spells in oneo fthe havens (Rivendell, Lorien, etc) is pretty safe, but in the Wilds it's risky, and in lands dominated by the shadow nigh suicidal.


The best I've come up with is using a complication as a side effect (6E1 p394).


Side-effect, always occurs, only effects environment near caster (side effect is Hunted by Shadow-forces, Infrequently, More Power, NCI, Liimited Geographical Area, Harshly Punish), -1/2


The Infrequently could be adjusted upwards for more powerful spells; the limited area is intended to make havens safe.



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If you have Magical Sense or use Detect Magic you can spot another mage, magical doohickey or use of magic. If you have analyze you can tell a very lot about the spell and the caster.


For every 10 active points the detector gets a +1. Range penalties apply.


I even allow users to detect magic back in time with a -1 for each step on the time chart.


Gandalf, or any magic user perhaps, can/ perhaps must take a hunted by Dark Forces or Forces of Good.


It works for me.

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I did something like this in a modern fantasy/monster hunter game many years ago. Any time you threw around a lot of magic there was a chance the extra dimensional Big Bads would notice. The base chance of being noticed was low (5% IIRC) but increased by 1% for every 10 AP over 30 AP used. So you can use a lot of low-power stuff without worrying about it too much, but a lot of high-power spells will eventually get you noticed. I built it as a Side Effect, but it was mostly just “how magic works” in that world.


Of course that assumes there’s only one entity/group capable of noticing. In a more traditional fantasy setting, it might work better to say everyone with magesight (or whatever) a PER Roll to notice magic being used, with bonuses based on the AP involved, and scaling range modifiers to whatever distances you like (ala Megascale). Someone with Discriminatory/ Analyze can also tell the difference between Gandalf vs Sauruman.


If you handle it that way it becomes a two-edged sword, because the PCs can also tell when powerful magic is being used. I’m not sure I’d even bother statting it out as a Side Effect, since it’s likely to help as often as it hinders, but YMMV.

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I'd do it as a campaign rule, and not a limitation on his magic.  Certain types of spells exist in that world, certain types don't.  Flight and teleport spells (anything to cut the adventure short, actually) don't exist there.  Same with mass invisibility and the like.  Since Gandalf can't just magic them to their destination, stealth is of great importance.  In keeping with the style of Lord of the Rings, magic shouldn't just provide the answer.  Magic in combination with wisdom and secret knowledge of how the world works gives you the answer.  And it should take a while as well, things move slowly in that world.


Wizards and certain creatures sensitive to magic would have some form of magic detection.  Detect: magic, discriminatory, maybe tracking (but probably not necessary).  Traces of magic would linger even after you were gone, like leaving a scent.  You can get away with casting low level stuff, because there are enough magical beings around that any of them could have left those traces.  But if you go throwing around higher level magic, there are fewer and fewer beings who have the ability to cast that sort of thing.  I'm sure he left quite a mark at the gate leading into Moria, blasting away with every kind of spell of opening that he knew.


Process of elimination gets you to Gandalf.  Sure, one or two uses of high powered spells maybe you can get by with.  There are powerful entities out there.  You wander by, and recognize that powerful magic was used in this place, not more than 10 days ago.  Who could have done it?  Maybe it was Tom Bombadil, or a group of elves, or any of a number of different groups.  There are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world, after all.  I'm sure there are some powerful nice things as well.  But the more you do it, the more you identify who you are.  Each spell is a piece of the puzzle.  Bombadil isn't going to go into Moria, Saruman spends most of his time in his tower, etc.  Eventually there are enough clues that it becomes obvious it's Gandalf.  He's one of the secret movers and shakers of the world, so you know if he's running around throwing high level spells, something important is happening.  Put 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 together, and you realize everything that's going on.

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Thanks for the input, folks. Much appreciated. Sounds like the "noisy" limitation is exactly what I was looking for - and is very close to what I've recreated through the Side-effect: Hunted.


It could go as a campaign rule, rather than a limitation - but so could Gestures and Incantantions. I'm inclined to use it as a limitation.


The magical sense would work - and that was my first thought when looking at this earlier. I've been trying to get away from that, however, as I really don't want to consider rolling for every shadow-creature that may be in range. Side-Effect: Hunted keeps it simpler in play.


There is a weakness, in that it isn't reversible (at least, not as written) - the forces of good do not necessarily detect the magical workings of the shadow-forces. For the purposes I'm thinking of, that's not a major issue. In a more egalitarian world, perhaps Magesight (a magic-detecting sense) would be the defining feature of a mage or magical creature ("They say she has the Sight.") I've used that in other campaigns.


The advantage is that it lingers for some time on an area (not the mage) - a couple of weeks or so, depending on the mage's REC. This means the response may not be immediate, and abstaining from magic offers a way of letting the trail go cold, if the mage is travelling.

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Other things you might think about.

​Distinctive Features: Mage.


Maybe even Martial Arts type Style Disadvantage so that people would know you are a Pyromancer and then they could guess what spells you can do. What you can't do, weaknesses etc.


Analyze Style would come in handy.


KS: Magic, Famous Magicians, Magical Styles, famous magical Artifacts etc. could all be complimentary rolls. Stealth, concealment etc. could all be bought specifically for magic to hide your traces. 


One thing you might consider for extremely sneaky or subtle mages is Invisible Power Effects, Invisibilty, Darkness v magical scrying etc. 



And lastly as my mind explodes with the possibilities you can use Martial Arts for Magicians who regularly go into mystical combat (Doctor Strange movie!!!!) 

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