Found Some Hidden Treasure

I reinstalled Evernote on my phone last night to take a look at its ability to search handwriting in an image and I discovered a note from several years ago regarding the magic system for my setting. It’s kind of a testament to how my brain latches on to concepts and recycles them without me remembering it, but there are some additional cool concepts in there I’d only half-remembered. I’m throwing the contents of the note up here, lightly edited and cleaned up. The intended system is Fate Core.

Arcanological theory holds that everything has a number of Virtues, which can be manipulated through the use of arcanological energy that is focused and channeled through specific patterns called Sigils. Sigils are divided into a small set of Greater Sigils, and lesser Sigils that modify them in specific ways. A combination of Sigils creates an arcanological circuit.

There are six well known Greater Sigils which nearly all circuits will incorporate, and an unknown number of Lesser Sigils (more are being discovered by arcanological researchers all the time). As an aside, the word “circuit” is mostly used in academia, and circuits are often referred to simply as Sigils, as well as glyphs, wards, or runes. From here on out, Sigil refers to the entire circuit.

  1. Energize. Provides energy to the Sigil.
  2. Addition. Adds an aspect to something.
  3. Nullification. Removes or suppresses an aspect.
  4. Amplification. Enhances or amplifies an existing aspect.
  5. Transformation. Changes an aspect into another aspect.
  6. Trigger. Allows for the Sigils to be activated in sequence, allowing for more complex effects.

The act of creating the Sigil typically requires an expenditure of energy (i.e., a Fate Point) in addition to actually creating the physical symbols. The amount of power available and the materials used for constructing the Sigil determines its permanence – single use Sigil such as charms and wards stop working once their innate energy is used or they are removed, while more permanent ones like tattoos, carvings, architecture, etc. are effectively  permanent and will work as long as they have a source of arcane energy.

In game terms, manipulating these Virtues means changing, adding, or removing Aspects, either through Create Advantage or Overcome actions. Each Sigil has three factors that determine its complexity (and hence difficulty) and the amount of power required:

  • Significance
  • Quality
  • Resonance

Significance is simply the degree and scale of the change, and directly impacts how complex of a Sigil will be required. The number of existing aspects that the Sigil must interact with also contribute to the significance – it’s harder to reduce or predict the side effects of the Sigil ‘s use when it is introduced to a complex system. Quality is both how well the Sigil was created and the quality of the materials used – in other words one that was hastily scribbled onto a piece of wet paper using a raw chunk of arche is very low quality, while a Sigil built into a cathedral using precious metals and precision measurements is high quality.

Resonance is merely how the Sigil’s effect interacts with its subject. For example, a Sigil to make a blade sharper results in lower resonance than a Sigil to make a fire burn cold instead of hot. Quality is a factor of both the significance and quality of the Sigil. Simple Sigils often do not have any resonance effect (or it is extremely trivial), while complex ones are guaranteed to have it. The resonance effect is often expressed as an Aspect, although it can also manifest as stress taken, additional Fate Point expenditure, etc. If the resonance is such that it has to be managed in some way (such as stress) and it cannot, it can lead to side effects that can cascade out of control.

I’m pretty pleased I stumbled across this, since it fills in a lot of gaps (and saves me having to rethink concepts). Now back to my putzing around with cultural descriptions!

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