1879: Mechanics: Creating a KAV
The key to the freewheeling yet clearly defined magic system for 1879 is the Known As Variant, or KAV. This concept allows us to have a unified base spell list, in one chapter, and yet have dozens of Lodges all inventing spellwork in parallel. Magic has just returned to the world, abruptly, so of course there’s a lot of people working on it, figuring out how to use it, and they’re not all in communication with each other. The telegraph is efficient but it doesn’t support discussion forums. Letters carry more information but they’re slow to propagate and dedicated to single-channel communication. National borders get in the way. Some magicians who would like to coordinate their efforts don’t even have a common language. The end result is thousands of people around the planet, all inventing the same wheel at the same time by different methods, and coming up with their own tools and terminology in the process.
At the heart of it, though, a wheel is still a wheel, whether you call it a rotational carrier or a spoke-based rolling support. There’s only one Bolt spell in the Base Spell list, that provides the mechanics for focusing energy into a destructive targeted blast. Everything else is Style, and that’s where the KAV comes in.
By overlaying the Style of a Lodge on the Base Spell, we create the KAV, and populate the spell list of the Lodge. Let’s have a look at how this actually works. First, the guidelines for creating a new KAV tell us that the easiest way to make a new spell is create a KAV of an existing Base Spell.
- If the Lodge already knows a KAV of the Base Spell, the KAV AP cost is reduced by half, rounded down. There is no further reduction if the Lodge knows multiple KAVs of the Base Spell. Thus, if the Lodge already has Lightning in their shared grimoire as a KAV of Bolt, creating Firehose is at half AP cost.
- The Known As name for a KAV can be anything appropriate to the Lodge. Generally, the name is either a reference to the KAV’s creator (Roamer’s Magnetism), or a descriptive term (Lightning Bolt), or a reference to the belief system of a Faith (Verathragna’s Blessing). The name of the KAV should fit the Style of the Lodge.
- KAVs cannot add more than +1 Step of bonus to the Casting Test of the Base Spell, and cannot reduce the Target Number for the Casting Test by more than 1. Anything more than this requires developing a new Base Spell.
- KAVs cannot provide more than +1 Step of bonus to the Effect of the Base Spell.
- KAVs may extend a Base Spell with a single target to a group, but must use the highest Mystic Defense in the group as the base for the Target Number, adding a minimum of +1 for each additional target. The KAV causes additional Strain equal to the Tier of the spell per additional target. Thus, a Journeyman Tier spell would cause 2 points additional Strain per target after the first. A maximum of Rank additional targets may be added.
- A Step bonus to the Casting Test and/or Effect of the KAV must be paid for, either by restricting the target of the spell (e.g., elves only), requiring an additional component (e.g., holy symbol), or increasing the Strain cost by +2 per bonus Step.
- Additional effects, such as ongoing damage, must be paid for by an increase in the Strain cost.
With all of that in mind, let’s build a KAV of Stun for the Galvanic Order.
- We can safely assume that a Lodge as big and well-established as the Galvanic Order already has a KAV of Stun on their books, and that what we’re doing is coming up with a new way of delivering it. This cuts the base AP cost for creating the KAV from 100 (for an Initiate Tier spell) down to 50 APs.
- We’re going to make a reference to an early electrical apparatus in the name of the KAV, and a pun, because we’re dealing with a Lodge created by 19th Century physicists and math nerds from Germany, and puns should be expected. We’ll call it Leyden’s Jar.
- Requiring a material component and reducing the Range to Touch give us bonuses to both the Casting and Effect Tests of +1 each. The Mage has to have a metal rod fitted with a glass jar at one end, but this can be a very small device, one that could be concealed in a voluminous coat-sleeve. Touching the target with the business end of the metal rod delivers the effect.
- Adding in the Harried penalty for the subsequent round bumps the Strain up by +2 points. This reflects the jarring effect of an electrical shock. We then discard that Strain increase by restricting the KAV to a single target instead of it being an area effect like the Base Spell.
With all that in place, and having incorporated the Style of the Lodge throughout, we now have:
Casting Difficulty: TMD
Casting Time: 1 round
Effect: Rank + WIL +1
This spell does non-lethal damage to the target. The magician touches the target with a brass rod fitted at the base with a glass jar, the rod no less than six inches in length and the jar large enough to hold one ounce of salt water, and makes a Spellcasting Test at a +1 Step bonus against the target’s Mystic Defense. If successful, make an Effect Test for the amount of damage done to the target. Mystic Armor protects against this damage. No Wounds are done, no matter how far over the target’s Wound Threshold the damage goes. Any damage past 1 point over the target’s Unconsciousness Rating is discarded. If the target remains conscious, they are Harried for one round, and take a penalty to all Actions equal to the number of successes scored on the Spellcasting Test for Rank rounds.
There’s a bit more to creating a KAV than this somewhat abbreviated version. Full details will be in the forthcoming 1879 Players Companion. Until then, though, this should give you some idea of how to create new KAVs for your spellcasting characters.