The Problem with Magic

Rifts (R) Earth a land teeming with magical energies. I got one question...WHERE?!? Sure theres the leylines (TM), nexus points (TM), rifts (R), demons and monsters and spell casters and what not, but whats the big deal? Looking over the magic section and those on Ley Line Storms (TM), magic really isn't that powerful. At least not compared to the technology found present on Earth. Not only that, but magic really isn't that magical. A person spends the P.P.E. and something happens. Its almost too perfect. If theres skill percentages for skills, why not magic? And besides, magic alweays seems to produce the same results for whoever uses it. The Nightbane (R) sourcebook "Through the Glass Darkly" does an excellent job touching on the surface of this fact, but more needs to be done. (On a side note I would reccommend this book to anyone who uses any magic in any Palladium RPG). While it extrapolates well on magic being able to be a life unto itself, it totally neglect that magic in a more futuristic day setting is not much without the element of surprise. Not that magic is weak by any means. With intelligent use of spells like carpet of adhesion, armor of ithan, seal, superhuman speed, fleet feet, call lightning, and mystic portal my 8th level line walker was able to take out 2 3rd level SAMAS power armors with a Wilks Laser Pistol. However, here we see again a need to rely on technology with a power surpassing that of magic because of superior range, damage, and payload.

Remedying the Situation

Here are a couple home grown rules about magic that would safely explain why magic really scares the CS and its huge robotic armies. Other than the fact of summoning demons, dragons, and those that would-be gods/alien intelligences, the CS has little to fear from the average spell casters. Even when working as a group, human mages are ineffectual against a technological terror such as the CS. These rules should help balance it all out.

Skill in Casting magic:

This issue was addressed in Nightbane: Through the Glass Darkly with the Principles of Magic skill, so I will not reprint it here. Also look at the magical proficiencies and deficiencies.

Casting spells and attacks per melee:

As a household rule low level magic (1-6) takes one melee action to cast. Mid-level magics (7-10) take two (2) melee attacks to cast. High level magic (11-15) will take three melee actions to cast. In those rare instances that a caster has enough power to cast a Spell of Legend as a spell and not a ritual they would take 4 melee attacks to cast.

Decreasing P.P.E. costs and spell power:

Sure a person can decrease a spell's power, but who would want to do that in most life and death struggles? Sometimes a kill is much better than an overkill and not a lot of force needs to be put into a magic spell. A half strength spell option I make available to my players such that it would cost half the P.P.E., but for half the duration, range, damage, effects, etc. For example, a blind spell at half power would not totally blind a person, but rather impair the vision (blurry, half range, difficult to see, but not impossible). Furthermore with spells cast at half strength, the opponent will get a +6 to save. Even on healing spells cast at half power when the results are desired, there will still be a saving throw, but at no bonus or penalty to save. A succesful save means no effect. Half strength spells are also not available to medium and high level magics (7-15 and spells of legend). Rituals also cannot be cast at half strength.

Increasing P.P.E. reserves through personal sacrifice:

Sometimes a caster may not have enough P.P.E. to cast a spell or ritual. Not only that, but many are opposed through blood sacrifice of other creatures. However, blood sacrifice of the self may be an acceptable alternative. First the mage must cut him or herself with a superficial wound. About equal to 1 S.D.C. (M.D.C. if a Mega-Damage Creature). Through that cut the character may retrieve as many P.P.E. as Hit Points or personal M.D.C. However, the amount of P.P.E. taken is subtracted from M.D.C. or Hit Points as well. It is a basic 1-to-1 conversion. P.P.E. is not doubled because the character is not dying.

Alternative P.P.E. increase through persoanl sacrifice:

Instead of the very basic rule presented earlier, there is a slightly more complex way to use persoanl sacrifice. A large, deep cut is made in the caster doing 5 S.D.C. or M.D.C. The caster can access 25 points of P.P.E. per pint of blood he or she wishes to sacrifice. Of course, blood does not replace that quickly. See the section in Rifts World Book 1: Vampire Kingdoms for loss of blood. Also see the Blood Loss table in the Rifts Main Book.

Increasing spell power and P.P.E. costs:

Like I said above, magic seems to be rather weak in this new world. To make magic something to be truly feared I allow spell stacking. What this means is that a person can cast the same spell multiple times in the same attack to do greater amounts of damage. This would work sort of like a pulse weapon of shots firing so fast it is practically one blast. A spell can only be stacked with itself (cannot cast call lightning, blind, apparition, and ignite fire in one go), and the stacked spell must all be at the same target (again like a pulse blast rather than a machinegun spray). Also a spell can only be stacked as many times as the level of the caster (Level 1 is no stacks, just the spell, level 2 is the spell and a stack, level 3 is the spell and 2 stacks, etc.). A stacked spell will be increased in all dimensions (range, damage, etc.) per the amount of times it was stacked. However, stacking spells might be too powerful for anybody. While it might be fair thata 15th level spell caster should be able to do more level than a 2nd level caster, there should be some backlash for this overuse of magic energy. The spells that have come about have been tested for thousands of years and probably as efficient as it can be for that kind of spell. Therefore stacking, or putting in more energy is probably going to take its toll on the spell caster more than just the higher P.P.E. cost. The following table should be used when a spell is stacked more than twice in one casting. From the number rolled, subtract the character's ability to save vs. coma/death and match that number to the table below.

  01-09%  No ill effect on the spell caster.
  10-19%  Mage is slightly disoriented, but O.K.  Loses initiative, 
    and is -1 on all combat skills for the remainder of the melee.
  20-29%  The Chills:  Mage feels the life drained from himself and 
    feels a resulting cold.  -3 on all combat skills and -15% on all 
    skills for 3D4 melees.  Also loses 1 point of damage (S.D.C. or 
  30-39%  Slight P.P.E. Burn:  The excessive amounts of P.P.E. 
    coursing from the character at one time takes its toll on the 
    spell caster in the form of a light first degree burn (like a 
    sunburn).  The burn is sensitive to temperature and touch.  The 
    burn will likely be on the face of the spell caster, especially 
    around the mouth and lips, even if it was a fire ball shot from 
    the hands.  1D4 S.D.C. or M.D.C. (whichever is appropriate).  Also
    will be -2 on all combat actions for the next day or so.  Magical 
    or psychic healing can help this situation though.
  40-49%  Multiple P.P.E. Burns:  Just as above except the burns are 
    all over the character's body.  The character will be uncomfort-
    able in any position and may lose sleep and concentration because 
    of it.  4D4 S.D.C or M.D.C., -4 on all combat bonuses, -20% on all
    skills, -1 melee action for 3 days.  Magic and psychic healing 
    will restore the S.D.C./M.D.C., but the penalties will remain 
    until the 3 days have passed.
  50-59%  Minor Temporal Shift:  The character is suddenly sucked out 
    of space and time and replaced an instant later within a couple 
    inches from where he or she just disappeared from.  The experience
    is like the suddenness of decompression on astronauts as the 
    P.P.E. rips at the person from the inside out.  The experience is 
    certainly survivable, but painful and disturbing. The character 
    will lose 4D6 S.D.C./M.D.C. and will be -6 on all combat bonuses, 
    -2 melee actions, and -25% on all skills for the next 5 days.  
    Magic and psychic healing on this damage will have no effect.
  60-69%  Bloody Lacerations:  The P.P.E. shoots out of the character 
    resulting in cuts and bruises across the entire surface of the 
    character's body.  This is extremely painful and disturbing, not 
    only to the spell caster, but to those who have to look at him.  
    6D6 S.D.C or M.D.C., -6 on all combat bonuses, -3 attacks per 
    melee, and -30% to all skills for 7 days.  This time can be 
    reduced by half with medical treatment (including magical and 
    psychic), but half the damage cannot be recovered until the 
    duration is up.  Also until healed, the character will have a -4 
    to their P.B.
  70-79%  Heavy P.P.E Burns and Deep cuts:  The P.P.E. burns the 
    character is it bursts forth, through the character's skin, into 
    the spell.  1D6x10 S.D.C. or M.D.C. damage, -8 to all combat 
    bonuses, reduce melee attacks by half, skill performance is at 
    -40%, and reduce P.B. of the character by 6 points!  The effects 
    of this will last for 2 weeks (half with medical attention) and 
    only half damage can be recovered until the duration has ended.  
    The character should seek medical attention right away because 
    the chartacter is presently bleeding profusely.  Check the blood 
    loss table in Rifts RPG.
  80-89%  Major Temporal Shift:  The character is sucked out of this 
    dimension for 2D4 minutes, although to the spell caster only an 
    instant has passed.  The character will also be teleported 4D4 
    miles away and 2D6 feet off the ground or underwater.  The 
    character will lose 2D4x10 S.D.C. or M.D.C., -9 on all combat 
    bonuses, reduce melee actions by half, and -50% on all skills.  
    This condition will last 4 weeks (half with medical attention).  
    Only half the damage can be recovered until the duration has 
  90-97%  P.P.E. Explosion:  A radius of 4 feet around the spell 
    caster per level of the spell is suddenly ripped by a P.P.E. 
    explosion originating from the spell caster.  The explosion does 
    1D4 S.D.C. or M.D.C. (depending on what it hits) per level of the 
    spell.  This means that a fourth level spell will affect a 16 foot
    radius around the spell caster and will do 4D4 S.D.C. or M.D. to 
    the structures within the blast radius.  The mage suffers five 
    times the damage and suffers from blood loss (see Rifts RPG).  
    He will also be -6 on all combat bonuses, have half melee 
    actions/attacks, and skill performance is reduced by half (round 
    down).  This damage can be healed normally.
  98-00%  Death:  The caster suffers a sudden heart attack and dies 
    from the force of this spell.  The P.P.E. that doubles at death is
    also pumped into the spell increasing the effects of the spell 
    greatly.  Resurrection by any means is -30% to succeed.  There 
    will also be a P.P.E. explosion around the spell caster that does 
    double damage and radius as mentioned above.

Level Advancement:

Instead of stacking, consider the old standby of increasing the ability per level of experience. I think it is only fair that a high level caster could cast the same spell and get better results so the rule I prefer to use is that range and damage is increased by the figure listed every level of experience if not listed to do otherwise.


This is the ability for multiple spells to be cast at once. Each spell takes up the same number of melee actions as it normally would, but in this case the two effects combine for one dramatic effect. A spellcaster can only multi-cast at half their level of experience. Which means a character cannot start multi-casting until level 4 (the spell and its compliemt and both must be below level 6). At level 8 the character can multi-cast 1 mid-level spell and 1 low level spell or 3 low level spells. At level 12 the mage can cast one high level spell and one low level spell, or two mid-level spells, or 4 low-level spells at once! For example, a level 6 practioner of magic could cast fire ball and ignite fire in the same spell provided that the target is within range of both spells. This would take up 2 melee actions, but could also provide for an interesting development rather than just the damage from the fire ball. If multi-casting is present, than both spells must be directed at the same target and the target must be in range of both spells.

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