1879: Magic: Fetishes and Foci
In this post, we’re going to preview a bit from the forthcoming 1879 Players Companion, about fetishes and foci, new items for magicians that will shift game balance and change how spellcasters are played.
Fetishes and Foci
Priests and Shamans make fetishes to assist them in dealing with the spiritual world, and to take Strain when spiritual support is most direly needed. Priests, Shamans, and Mages create foci to enhance their magic, working as an arcane fulcrum to amplify the precision or effectiveness of a spell. Both a fetish and a focus provide assistance or advantage to the magician. The difference lies in how they work. Fetishes support. They absorb harmful energies, enhance the magician’s abilities in summoning, bargaining with, and banishing spirits, and provide extra healing. Foci augment. They hold mana like magical batteries, gather in more than a single magician can pull together on their own, and supply it when needed. Foci sharpen the magician’s ability to target spells, deliver extra punch, or expand the effect.
Above all else, a fetish must be based on the belief system of the magician, and the magician must draw their power from that belief system. The symbol is only worth what you put into it, after all, only holds as much value as you believe it does. Making a fetish is a spiritual practice. Mages, with their magic grounded in their belief in themselves, or in a rational system that requires no faith, only conviction, cannot imbue a fetish with the symbolic value, the Power greater than the fetish or the magician, that creates the effect.
Building a Fetish
How long it takes to make a fetish largely depends on how long it takes to make the physical component, which varies according to the symbology of its maker’s belief system. The button off someone’s coat, obtained by stealth, may be sufficient in and of itself for one practitioner. Another might spend days or even weeks carving wood, weaving cloth, working metal, painting and bejewelling and polishing an elaborate representation of a deity, to create the physical form that to them represents the abilities and domain of the Power they follow. The process of making the physical components is therefore dependent on the maker’s Faith and its belief system. An Artisan Test, or series of Tests, could be made against a Target Number set by the GM, if the player and GM feel it appropriate. The fetish maker may be required to make a Test using their Knowledge (Faith) Skill to get the details right. Other Knowledge Skills or Artist Skills may be used, again as the maker’s Faith requires. A Rule of One result on this Test may be ignored, or may destroy the materials, depending on the GM’s decision. As a simpler rule, a cost of £1 per Rating point can be assessed, or the equivalent in trade goods, effort, or other currency, representing the materials used, or £2 per Rating point if the fetish is purchased from someone else. A build time of 1 day per Rating point can then be assumed, or an equal amount of time finding the right item and the person making it. Thus, the physical component for a Rating 3 fetish would cost £3 to make or £6 to buy.
Regardless of how the physical component is made, the final stage is always the same, regardless of the Faith. The fetish maker performs a ritual that draws the desired virtue into the physical object, imbuing the fetish with its power. For this, a Spellcasting or other appropriate Skill or Attribute Test is made against a Target Number determined by the desired effect. The following sections discuss where that number comes from, dependent on the nature of the fetish. Additional Skill Tests may be required to imbue the fetish with a particular effect. These Skill Tests require more Strain than normal. Each type of fetish has different requirements, so see the below sections for more details. Note that the Create Fetish Skill Knack (see p.XX) must be known, whether or not the Spellcasting Skill is used in the creation of the specific fetish. Pay an additional cost equal to the Strain taken in the imbuement ritual in pounds sterling, double that if paying someone else to make the fetish. Thus, a fetish with a Rating of 3, that cost 6 Strain to create, would cost an additional £6 or £12 over the price of the physical component, with a total cost of £9 to make or £15 to purchase.
Fetishes are not permanent. They wear out with repeated use. Strain fetishes soak a number of points of Strain equal to their rating, then crumble to dust. On the average, healing or spirit fetishes are good for a number of uses equal to 18 minus their Rating. Thus, a Rating 15 healing fetish is only good for 3 uses before it burns out. This may vary according to the Faith and the individual fetish. If the fetish description does not specify a number of uses, the fetish follows this rule. Once a healing or spirit fetish has been used its maximum number of times, the virtue goes out of it, rendering it inert. Some Faiths allow for a fetish to be recharged, re-using the physical component and just performing the imbuing ritual again. Others do not. See the notes for individual Faiths.
A Strain Fetish absorbs Strain from its user, up to the Rating of the fetish. This may be taken all at once, or may be parcelled out as the magician sees fit. Thus, a Rating 8 fetish could soak 8 points all at once, one point eight times, or any combination that adds up to the Rating. The player simply declares that the magician is using the fetish to soak Strain from magical activity, and how many points. No Test is required. When the last Rating point is spent, the fetish crumbles away.
Mystic Defense: 22
Physical Armor: 6
Mystic Armor: 15
Barrier Rating: 24
Creation Target Number: 17
Creation Strain: 17
Effect: Absorbs a total of 12 points of Strain
Number of Uses: Special – may be used multiple times but loses Rating points with each use
Availability: Very Rare
Creating a focus somewhat resembles compounding a drug. The apothecary looks up the drug in the formulary, the book that lists the ingredients and process steps for creating a medication. Following those steps, using the materials specified and applying the apothecary’s Skill, creates the drug, which can then be used to change the patient’s condition – healing an illness or a wound, correcting an imbalance that produces madness, or relieving pain so that the patient can rest easily and heal on their own. While there is no universal formulary for foci, the methods of their creation being guarded much more closely than the trade secrets of the high street chemist, every magician who wants to make a focus starts with a formula, developed on their own through research, learned from a fellow Lodge member, or obtained by other (usually dangerous) means. By following the steps of the formula, the magician creates the physical component and then Enchants it with the desired power. While any magician can build a focus, generally Priests and Shamans prefer to create fetishes instead, partly due to the significance of a fetish as an object of Faith, where a focus requires no faith at all.
A spell focus aids the magician in spellcasting, providing its Rating as a Step bonus to one specific type of Test. Component cost for a spell focus is five times the Rating of the focus (maximum of 4), times the Tier multiplier for the Tier of spells (or specific spell) being boosted (Novice = 1, Journeyman = 2, Warden = 3, Master = 4), in pounds sterling. Hiring someone else to make the focus doubles the component cost.
Galvanic Enhancer (Specific Spell Focus)
Mystic Defense: 10
Physical Armor: 2
Mystic Armor: 3
Barrier Rating: 2
Creation Target Number: 9
Creation Strain: 7
Creation AP: 500
Effect: Adds +1 Step to the Effect Test for the Galvanic Arc KAV of Bolt
Availability: Very Rare
Notes: A specific spell focus created by members of the Galvanic Order, the Galvanic Enhancer boosts the Effect Test of the Galvanic Arc spell, including any Lightning thrower device that it’s properly attached to, but only for the magician that the focus is linked to.