The dark (and not-so-dark) arts are part and parcel of the Buffyverse, where anyone with the right books can summon forces from the beyond. Of course, calling on these occult powers does not mean your character can control and use them with impunity. More often than not, magic has unintended consequences. But the real kicker is that even succeeding does not mean everything works perfectly. There is always a price, both for success and failure. You have been warned.
In practice, spells can be divided into two types:
Spell research is generally a crucial solution to a dilemma which the PCs are facing. The player doesn't need to have a particular spell in mind or worked out. Instead, she should simply declare that she is researching a spell for use towards a particular problem. This often has to be more specific and nuanced than a general utility spell. Research will result in a spell which is more powerful in effect, but which often has requirements on how it is cast. After starting research, anyone in the group should feel free to discuss ideas on what the spell should be like.
The research is resolved as an Intelligence + Occultism roll. Other characters who have at least half the best character's total can contribute. The number of successes on this roll will be added to the subsequent spellcasting roll. However, each point of bonus requires some restriction on the resulting spell. Impromptu spells can be cast with a few words and a gesture. Researched spells are usually more involved.
|+1||Requires a magic circle and candles, or similar accouterments|
|+1||Takes a while to cast, 15 minutes or more|
|+1||Rare ingredients which need played-out attention to track down|
|+1||Requires an additional person|
|+2||Requires 3+ people, or 2+ casters with Sorcery|
Each spell has a Power Level. This determines the overall strength of the spell — the higher the Power Level of a spell, the more difficult it is to cast properly, and the more damaging the consequences of failure. Additionally, spells have Requirements — the ingredients or ritual components needed to attempt the magical endeavor. Finally, spells have an Effect. This is usually descriptive ("all the body hair is removed from the victim," for example), but can also include rules concepts like damage inflicted, area affected, and duration.
Once everything is in place, casting a spell requires a roll using Willpower and Occultism (plus Sorcery levels, if the character has any). Drama Points can be used normally to increase the spell's chance to succeed.
|Power Level||Combat Effect|
|1||5 damage (weak punch); parlor tricks|
|2||8 damage (strong punch); cosmetic effects|
|3||12 damage (popgun); hold/delay 1 turn|
|4||20 damage (shotgun); hold/delay 2 turns; deafen|
|5||30 damage (grenade); hold/delay 4 turns; disable a limb|
|6||45 damage (car); hold/delay 8 turns; blind|
|7||60 damage (truck); hold/delay a while; cripple|
|8||90 damage (cannon); bind indefinitely; teleport|
|9||120 damage (bazooka); rat-ify; enslave|
|10||180 damage; banish to other dimension|
Witches, meaning those with true power (or in this case, the Sorcery Quality), have an advantage when casting spells. Characters add their Sorcery level to any spellcasting roll. If the roll fails (i.e, the total is less than nine), the spell doesn't work — the ritual simply fails. Generally, there's no other down side here; your character just wasted some time, candlepower and pretty speechifying.
If successful, the roll's Success Levels are compared to the spell's Power Level. If the number of Success Levels is less than the spell's Power Level, something magical happens — but it may not be exactly what the caster intended. The spell's intent may be twisted or perverted, and the caster may be injured — or even killed — as the magicks draw on her life force to fulfill their purpose. You can decide what happens, or you can roll on the Spell Side Effect Table.
|Spell Side Effect Table
Roll D10 and add to the Spell's Power Level.
|4 or less||Phew! Lucked out, and the spell still works.|
|5-7||The spell is delayed. It appears the spell failed, but it will work normally at a time of your choosing (ideally, a dramatically appropriate time).|
|8-10||The spell works, but it's less effective than expected. The duration, damage or effect is halved (if not applicable, then the spell is delayed as above).|
|11-13||The spell works, but the caster is damaged by its energies. The magician takes five Life Points of damage per Power Level of the spell.|
|14-15||The spell affects the wrong target (you decide who gets to be the lucky recipient).|
|16+||Spell has a completely unexpected effect. The magical energies run rampant, often causing physical damage to the area or summoning dangerous entities from beyond our reality. This can also happen if the spell is disrupted during a critical point.>|
If the roll results in Success Levels equal to or greater than the spell's Power Level, all's well and the spell works. Unless, of course, the spell takes an unexpected turn no matter how many Success Levels were rolled. In some cases, a spell might work too well. But no good and true Director would do something like that, now would they?
Every successive spell cast without a significant period of rest (at least two hours per spell Power Level) suffers at least a cumulative -2 penalty. So, the second spell of the day is at -2, the third at -4, and so on. Only powerful Witches can cast multiple spells in a row, and even then they'll probably have to burn some Drama Points to keep it up. Even worse, using the same spell more than once adds an additional -1 to the penalties above.
Example: Suzi, a White Hat Witch, attempts a relatively simple warding ritual to protect a young girl from the forces of darkness after her. The Ward has a Power Level of 3, which with Suzi's Base Spell Modifier (Willpower 4 plus Occultism 3 plus Sorcery 3 equals 10) should be a cakewalk. Unfortunately, Suzi has already cast two spells in helping free the girl from the Big Bad's clutches, so she's at -4 for this third spell of the evening. So instead of cake, we have very difficult pie. She needs to match the Power Level in Success Levels, which means a final score of 13 or better. She rolls a five, for a total of 11. Good enough for something to happen, but not necessarily what she was intending. You roll a 12 and compare that result to the Spell Side Effect Table. For a spell with Power Level 3, this means the Ward takes effect, but the energies also rebound on Suzi, causing 15 points of damage. Ouch!
Some spells have continuing effects (curses, for example) or may even be permanent (some transformation spells). Cancelling their effects requires access to the spell itself (ideally taking it directly from the magician's own books) and a spellcasting roll as above with the effective Power Level of the spell reduced by one (it's easier to undo a spell and return nature to its natural state).
There is another way to stop an ongoing magic effect — find the caster of the spell and get her to stop the spell, say by cutting off her head or turning her into a sports trophy. Either way, continuing spells stop working, but permanent ones may not. For this reason, and others, wholesale slaughter is discouraged.
Most spells require the caster to recite a formula or incantation out loud, or perform some type of ritual. All that hooha takes time. Witches can cast some spells almost instantly, with only a single word or phrase, or even just a simple gesture. This won't work on spells that require a very specific ritual and cannot be speeded up, but some can be cast in a few seconds (as an action in a Turn). Whether a spell can be quick cast or not is detailed in that spell's description.
Witches can move objects with the force of their will. To use this power, the Witch rolls and adds her Willpower and Sorcery levels. Each Success Level in the roll becomes a point of "Strength" for the telekinetic effect. So, if the roll results in five Success Levels, the Witch could move an object as if she had a Strength 5 — good enough to pick up a grown man and slam him against a wall. Lifting and tossing things around requires no additional rolls, but precise tasks (guiding a key into a keyhole, staking a vamp) require a Perception and Dexterity roll, or a roll using Dexterity and an appropriate Skill (staking the vamp would use Getting Medieval). These tasks have a -1 penalty because the Witch is manipulating the object at a distance. Tossing small objects at someone also requires a Willpower and Sorcery roll, and must overcome the target's defense roll. The damage value of such an attack is two times the Success Levels rolled.
Two or more Witches can combine their power to move very large objects. Witches working together roll as above, and add their combined Success Levels to determine the Strength of the effect.
This power does not last long. Each turn after the first, another Willpower and Sorcery roll must be made, at a cumulative -2 penalty. So, the second Turn, the roll suffers a -2 penalty; on the fifth Turn, a -8 penalty is incurred. This penalty applies to all further uses of Telekinesis until the Witch gets at least three hours of rest between uses. This ability is good for throwing a few things around, but your character can't go all Carrie with it.