Apr 24, 2018

Into the Depths: The Long-Awaited Magic Rules

I'm writing up some magic rules for Into the Depths finally. I'm drawing on a bunch of ideas that Beloch of Papers and Pencils (Magic Words), and Courtney Campbell of Hack & Slash and Benjamin Baugh (Spell power as trappings) have each developed, but using variations on those ideas within as simple a system as possible.

Here's the draft text of the Into the Depths magic rules. The list of magic words itself is forthcoming, I'm still deciding how fine a grain I want on the terms, and what selection will be most evocative and useful for referees and players thinking of coming up with their own.


1) Initiation: To cast spells a PC must be inducted into a mystery cult. A PC can only be a member of one mystery cult at a time but can abandon their old tradition and join a new one by undergoing a new induction. Levels don’t carry over from one cult to another. A PC learns two magic words (referee's choice) when they join a mystery cult.

2) Knowledge: PCs can know a number of magic words equal to their character’s level (not level of initiation). They can know a number of magic spells equal to their character’s level.

3) Creation: All spells are combinations of words. PCs can use as many words in a spell as they have levels of initiation into their mystery cult. Words cannot be used twice in the same spell. It takes one day of work to create a new spell, or to replace one a PC already knows with a new one.

4) Learning: PCs learn new words by finding them on adventures or experimenting on their own time. If a word is found on an adventure, only one PC can learn it. If a PC develops a magic word, they can teach it to others for whatever price they want.

5) Casting: You can cast as many spells per day as you have types of trappings at hand. If you get more types of trappings over the course of a day, the number of spells you can cast increases. Lose some, and it decreases (losing uncast spell slots first). Rare trappings may grant more slots than usual.

6) Effects: Negotiate with referee during spell creation. A typical spell targets one thing within 30m and either causes 1 instantaneous change or has effects that last 1 hr.

Magic Trappings

This is a selection of possible trappings, not an exhaustive list. Each type of trapping grants one additional spell per day.

Assistant / Apprentice Must also be initiated into same mystery cult. Can be another PC. Must spend an action helping cast.
Bric-a-Brac An accumulation of wizardly garbage: Stuffed alligators, jars of spider legs, etc.
Drugs / Mana One-use, usable only once per day. Save or hallucinate. Small item.
Familiar Counts as henchman who is of no combat value and full of sass. Unbuyable, must be recruited.
Grimoire A magical book full of cryptic suggestions, bizarre claims, and unsettling illustrations. Cost based on title.
Idol The creepier the better. Not normally portable.
Locus / Sanctum A sanctified and prepared location that focuses mystical energy. Not portable.
Obsession Unbuyable. Spell gained through obsession can only be cast to effect object of obsession.
Panoply / Regalia Priestly or wizardly robes, hat, etc. Cannot be worn with armour.
Sacrifice One-use, usable only once per day. Sacrifice a sentient being’s life. Usually unbuyable.
Staff / Athame Counts as two-handed weapon (staff) or small weapon (athame). Must be in hand when casting.
Talisman A cauldron, mirror, amulet, etc. that serves as a focus. Must be used to cast the spell.

And then, from the experience rules, because someone will ask if I don't mention it:

"3) PCs can be inducted into a mystery cult or magical tradition. This takes 3 months of training under a master, 10,000 SP, and completion of an initiatory task to be determined by your master. Gaining more levels of initiation requires a PC to complete more tasks and pay an additional 10,000 SP and spend three months training each time.

4) It takes one month and 2,000 SP to develop a new magic word of the PC’s choice, if a PC is capable of casting spells."