Tékumel for Over the Edge, 2nd Edition Rules
First Draft (June, 2002)
Author’s Notes: Except for magic, OTE works well for Tékumel. After all, combat is pretty basic in most game worlds. Tékumel’s magic, however, is specific to its setting, and while it can be modeled to OTE without much trouble, it can be complex for persons not used to both systems. I believe the result is simple, and follows most of the OTE systems: the attacker rolls his characteristic dice, compares the result to the defender’s, and the result is multiplied to produce a damage score (or other effect). The seven pages of magic rules are simply details for this basic system. If there are any questions, remember that I’m trying to model the Gardásiyal rules in OTE terms, and this should provide guidance.
Follow the standard OTE rules, with the following notes and changes.
A. Social standing will be average, whatever level the GM has decided for the campaign. Higher social standing should be a trait; lower standing can be a flaw. (Social standing includes both clan and lineage.)
B. Species and nationality is assumed to be the average that the GM has decided for the campaign. Foreigner backgrounds (including nonhumans) must be indicated somehow (trait, descriptor, etc.). Foreigners will know their native language and customs, but may be unaware of Tsolyáni language and customs. Clear this with your GM before play.
C. Magical Ability must be noted as a central or side trait. If chosen as a central trait, one can be a sorcerer, sorcerer-priest, military sorcerer, laypriest, etc. If chosen as a side trait, one is usually more limited: psychic sorcerer (only), ritual sorcerer (only), human "battery," knows one spell, etc.
Central traits for magic implies connections, tutors, access to colleagues, etc. Side traits for magic implies mere magical ability, without other benefits.
D. Note if your character speaks any foreign or scholarly languages. Soldiers, merchants, administrators, or travelers may know foreign languages; sorcerers and scholars are likely to know modern and/or ancient tongues. Clear your choices with the GM before play.
E. Family. Note if your character is married, has children, has close relatives.
F. Hobbies. Your character may have hobbies, and these should be noted in traits or descriptions.
I recommend using standard OTE rules for a character’s secret and the most important person in his or her background. Tékumel has enough conspiratorial elements to make this work.
Weapons: Most Tékumel weapons can easily be fitted to OTE: knives, swords, axes, bows, two handed swords, etc. Use the standard damage rules. Steel cutting weapons get a bonus die. Enchanted steel weapons of all kinds get a +1 per enchantment, in addition to the bonus die.
Armor: Can be roughly classified into four types, not counting steel:
1 Light (leather) stops 1 point of damage.
2 Light chlén hide stops 2 points of damage.
3 Medium chlén hide stops 1 die of damage.
4 Heavy chlén hide armor stops 2 dice of damage, but with a -1 to all actions due to encumbrance.
Shields: Small shields give +1 to your defense roll; medium shields add a bonus die, large shields add an extra die, plus a penalty die to all non-combat actions when used. Actions in combat requiring agility will receive a penalty die.
Steel armor: Adds a bonus die to the defense, and a penalty die to all non-combat actions. (Combat acrobatics and agility will be hampered by steel armor.) Each level of enchantment adds +1.
Example: Síruchel hiSayunchúna is armed with a steel longsword, and armored with heavy steel armor and a large shield. All of these items are enchanted to +1. He is a 4 die warrior (sign: facial scars; hums martial music). On the attack, he rolls four dice, plus a bonus die, and adds +1 to the final result. On the defense, he rolls 4 dice for his warrior ability, an extra die for his large shield, with two bonus dice (one for the armor, and one for the shield), with two points added to the final defensive result. Síruchel is going to be very hard to hit! However, he takes two penalty dice to all actions outside of combat so long as he wears the armor, and if he needs to be agile in combat (such as dodging that toppling wall), he'll also take those two penalty dice.
Remember, each combat round is about 3 seconds long.
Characters are unable to use magic unless an ability to do so is specified. Usually, this is by choosing "sorcerer" as a central trait. (Remember, only those who choose "sorcerer" as a central trait can automatically assume the ability to use both ritual and psychic magic. If a character somehow gains magical ability in play or through experience dice, she should choose either ritual or psychic ability.)
Characters with magical ability must note the following information:
1 Level of ability This is the number of dice in that skill or ability. (Sometimes referred to as the sorcery characteristic.)
2 Magical resistance Automatically the number of dice in magical ability; beings without magical ability usually have 2 dice of magical resistance.
3 Pedhétl In OTE terms, this is the number of "shots" the character has.
Option 1 (Lower power games): Beginning characters, no matter how many dice in their sorcery trait, have 3 shots.
Option 2 (Higher power games): Beginning characters start with full Pedhétl: for every die of sorcery they have, they get 3 shots.
In either case, a player may choose to roll a die instead of accepting 3 shots, with the result being the number of shots.
Example: Alice has a character with 4 dice in sorcery. She could begin the game with 12 shots (the referee is using the high power Option 2), but chooses to roll one die instead. She rolls a 2, so she now gets 11 shots. Choosing to roll a second die, Alice gets a 5, so she now has a total of 13 shots. Alice decides 13 shots are fine.
4 Specific spells known During play, players may spend their experience dice to learn additional spells. During character generation, players get fifteen spell learning dice to be used only for learning spells (making them 3rd level, in Gardásiyal terms). See the learning spells rules, just below. All of these spell learning dice must be spent during character creation; any left over will be lost. Notice that this does not include the experience die all beginning characters get.
TOTE treats spells as skills. A sorcerer knows a number of dice in a particular spell, and the more dice the sorcerer has for that spell, the more effects she can do. (Having more dice in a spell is the equivalent of knowing the spell at a higher level in Gardásiyal terms: 1 die in a Universal spell means knowing the equivalent of U1 and U2 levels; 2 dice gives U3 and U4 levels, and so on.)
Limitations on learning or knowing spells
If you have 2 dice in a spell, you can choose to cast it for the 1 die effect or the 2 die effect. Even if cast for the 1 die effect, it is counted as two dice for range, duration, etc.
If there is no effect listed for a spell for a particular number of dice, then there is no effect. For example, the Zoic Domination spell has only two dice listed; while a character may learn it up to five dice, there are no additional effects beyond improving range and duration.
Some spells start with more than one die. (Example: Disenchantment begins at 2 dice.) Sorcerers must spend 2 experience dice to learn this spell at its lowest level. A sorcerer may have one die in Disenchantment, and spend another experience die later to learn it at 2 dice. A sorcerer who knows Disenchantment at 1 die cannot cast it.
Sorcerers may not know a spell with more dice than they have dice in magical ability. (That is, a four die sorcerer cannot learn any spell at five dice, except as noted below.) However, Universals count as one die lower, and Temples count as one die higher: that is, a four die sorcerer can have up to five dice in a Universal spell, but only three dice in a Temple spell.
Spells should not be learned at more than five dice; only the very most senior wizards can do this.
Sorcerers who are only capable of ritual magic cannot learn or use psychic magic and vice versa.
At character creation, sorcerers have 15 dice for learning spells. Each die spent gives one die of a chosen spell. Notice that characters must first learn ten of the eighteen beginner spells before taking any others, and no Generic spells may be learned until twelve Universals are known. (These limits must be adjusted if the character is only capable of learning Ritual or Psychic magic. In this case, the character must learn all of the appropriate beginner spells before advancing to Generics.)
Example: Dhúvash, a sorcerer-priest of the Temple of Ksárul, is a beginning character. He chooses the following spells:
2. Ascertainment 1 die
4. Control of Self 1 die
5. Disenchantment 2 dice
6. Domination 1 die
7. Elicitation 1 die
10. Healing 1 and 2 dice
12. Invisibility 1 die
16. Phantasms 1 die
21. Terrorization 1 die
So far, this counts as ten spells learned. Notice that Disenchantment counts as a single spell, even though it costs 2 dice to learn, and Healing counts as two spells because it was learned for both the 1 die and 2 dice effects. Dhúvash has spent eleven of his fifteen dice. For his remaining four dice, he chooses
15. Perception of the Energies 1 die
24. Warding 2 dice
30. Artfulness 1 die
Dhúvash has spent all fifteen dice on spells. (Any of these dice not spent during character creation would be lost.) He knows one Generic spell, Artfulness.
Sorcerers may apply experience dice to improving the following abilities:
1 Magical ability Improving magical ability will improve one’s ability to cast and resist spells, and raise the limits on learning spells. A sorcerer must have at least five dice of magical ability before they can try custom modifying spell effects. Boosting magical ability does not increase either number of shots or number of spells known.
2 Pedhétl Experience dice may be spent to buy an additional die of shots (or 3 shots, without rolling). No sorcerer may have more shots than 6x their number of magical dice. (eg. a five die sorcerer cannot have more than 30 shots.) Exception: some individuals with little or no magical ability may have relatively high Pedhétl; these individuals are treated as "psychic batteries" by senior sorcerers. Such individuals are created by having a trait in "psychic battery." These individuals are not allowed to have more shots than 6x the number of dice they have in "psychic battery." Notice that boosting Pedhétl does not change magical ability or number of spells known.
3 Learn more spells Each experience die spent on learning a spell gives the character one die in a chosen spell.
Under normal circumstances, a tutor is required to improve these abilities (in addition to the player spending the experience dice). Some exceptional individuals may be able to boost their magical ability or Pedhétl without an instructor, but learning new spells always requires some form of instruction.
Summary of TOTE magic use
To cast a spell, expend a shot, and roll your sorcery characteristic dice against an opposing roll. Most of the time, the opposing roll will be a secret roll by the GM; for Aimed spells (like Domination), the player will roll directly against her opponent’s magical resistance, which for non-sorcerers is usually two dice.
Notice that the determining characteristic of how likely the spell is to succeed is the number of dice in the sorcery characteristic. Having more dice in a spell generally influences the spell’s range, duration, and effect, but not the probability of succeeding with casting it.
Spell casting may be opposed or unopposed. Magically semi-barren areas are assumed to raise the cost of the spell, doubling the number of shots needed. Spells can’t be cast in barren areas at all, as there’s not enough energy. Referees may choose to increase the difficulty as well. Magically fertile areas reduce the cost of spell casting, either to half-shots, or they double the effect.
A person can tell when he is the target of an aimed spell. He may choose to resist or not. Defenders often don’t get a chance to resist areal or radius spells.
Spell resistance is based on one’s sorcery dice. The caster rolls her sorcery dice, and the defender rolls his sorcery dice. If the defender’s roll equals or exceeds the caster’s, the spell doesn't work. If the attacker’s roll beats the defender’s, then the spell succeeds.
If a defender has no sorcery skill, then he usually gets two dice to resist. Strong will adds +1 to the resistance roll, while a weak will subtracts one from it.
There is a -1 penalty to resist a Generic spell, and a -2 penalty to resist a Temple spell.
Enchanted armor gives a bonus to magical resistance for each plus on the armor, as do enchanted shields. (So an defender wearing +1 steel armor with a +2 shield gets a total of +3 to their magical resistance roll.)
If the defender chooses not to resist (as in a healing spell), then the spell is treated as Unopposed.
If there is no defender, or if the defender chooses to not resist the spell, it is unopposed. Under these circumstances, the caster rolls her sorcery dice against the difficulty of the spell or the situation. Typically, this is two dice.
Difficulty is usually related to the situation: the spell caster is running, can’t concentrate, is using old ingredients.
These spells are targeted on a specific individual, whether the spell has an area effect or not. They are essentially a ranged attack. Unlike regular ranged attacks in OTE, the defense roll is based on the defender’s magical resistance, as noted above. (Do include the effects for Generic and Temple spells, and for enchanted steel armor and shields.) Additional factors may add to or subtract from the defense dice; all of these are basic OTE rules, except for the modified distance rules.
1 Distance Spells cast at long range (divide the spell range into thirds; anything in the last third is long range) give the defender an extra die. Spells cast at touch range take away one die from the defender, but this reduction cannot put the defender below his basic magic resistance dice.
2 Cover If the defender is behind cover, he gets 1 die for being at least 50% covered, and 2 dice, if at least 90% covered.
3 If the defender is moving fast (running), he gets an additional die.
4 If the defender is dodging (using a defensive combat maneuver), he gets bonus dice equal to the number of dice normally rolled for agility.
Situations where visibility is poor (darkness, fog, etc.) add 1 or 2 dice to the defensive roll.
Most of the time, when an aimed spell misses, it has no further effect. Sometimes it’s important to know where a missed aimed spell actually lands. The difference between the attacker’s roll and the defender’s is the number of yards away the spell actually lands. Roll an additional d6 for direction: 1 = far, 2 = far right, 3 = close right, 4 = close, 5 = close left, 6 = far left. (Scatterplot is by sixths, going clockwise, with 1 being opposite the caster.) If there are any targets, friendly or hostile, within the new area of effect, they get to roll their magic resistance against the caster’s original roll to see if they were struck, using only magic resistance modifiers (do not count range or visibility: these new targets may dodge, duck behind cover, etc.). The original defender is considered to have already successfully resisted the spell, even if he is still within the new area of effect.
If the scattered spell ends up landing further away from the caster than the maximum allowable range for the spell, it is assumed to have been miscast, and it does not land anywhere.
Because spell effects are usually calculated by the difference between the attacker’s roll and the defender’s, a miss would usually end up with negative numbers, meaning it would never have an effect. Instead, for the purposes of calculating spell effects of missed spells, assume it succeeded by one point.
Some aimed spells target specific body parts. If so, the body part depends on the degree of success for the spell: Success of 1 - 5 points means a leg or a foot; 6 - 8 points means an arm or hand; 9 - 11 points means the abdomen; 12 - 15 points means the chest; a hit by 15 or more points means the head.
Attackers may aim for a specific body part. This adds points to the defense roll, with any miss meaning the spell missed completely. Aiming at the chest/torso gives the defender +1; aiming at a limb gives the defender a bonus die, and aiming for the head gives two extra dice to the defense. A success means the target body area has been struck; failure means a complete miss.
Example: Alésh, a 4 die sorcerer, casts a 1-die Dessication (G37) on Bálesh, a warrior without magical ability, 25 feet away. Because Alésh has only 1 die in Dessication, the spell’s range is 30 feet. Bálesh dodges behind a fallen pillar (about 50% cover). Alésh has 4 dice; she rolls a total of 16. Bálesh has 2 dice of magical resistance (normal), +1 die because he’s at long range, +1 die for getting behind cover, +2 bonus dice for dodging with normal agility, for a total of 4 dice + 2 bonus dice. He rolls 5, 2, 1, 1 for his regular dice, and 2, 3 for his bonus dice, for a final roll of 5, 3, 2, 2, or 12 points. Alésh’s 16 beats Bálesh’s 12 by four points. Dessication needs to know which part of the body was hit: 4 points means a leg or foot. A random roll says it was the right leg; Bálesh’s right leg is now withered, numb and useless for 4 x 3 = 12 minutes. With each round being 3 seconds long, that’s 240 rounds.
Radius spells Some aimed spells are directed at a target (and may affect multiple targets) while others are directed at the ground, and influence those targets caught within the area of effect. Treat Radius spells as aimed spells, but the attacker targets a place where the spell will land, rather than a living target. Because there is no defender, the "defense dice" are determined by the referee, based on the difficulty of the target, visibility, range, etc. If the spell fails, check for where the spell actually lands, as above. All targets within the area of effect may roll their magical resistance, as for an opposed spell (that is, no dodging, cover, etc.) Unlike aimed spells, if the spell misses, but the target is still within the area of effect, they are still affected.
Example: Chokákh, a 4 die sorcerer, knows the spell "The Web of Kriyag, lover of Spiders" at 3 dice. He casts it at a cowering bunch of four Mu'ugalavyáni hiding behind an overturned rowboat, 30 feet away. It’s night. The spell has a range of 30 feet, so this is long range. Chokákh rolls 18. The referee decides the spell is at long range, it’s night, and the Red Hat soldiers have 90% cover, giving the situation 5 dice of defense. (1 for long range, 2 for poor visibility, 2 for 90% cover). The referee rolls 5 dice for 21 points. Chokákh misses by 21 - 18 = 3 yards. A scatter roll of 3 means the spell lands nine feet short and to the right of the Mu'ugalavyáni. The area of effect for the spell is a circle (spell dice) x 3 feet diameter, meaning 9 feet. The Mu'ugalavyáni would just be at the outer edge of this area, but they have good cover, so the referee rules that the spell webs the boat, just missing the Red Hats.
Slow spells Another special type of spell is the "slow spell", which builds up damage gradually. The caster rolls her casting dice, and the defender rolls his resistance dice as usual. If the spell fails or is resisted, that is the end of the matter. If the spell succeeds, it takes effect one (already rolled) die per round, of the caster’s choice. It does not actually take effect until the defender’s resistance is overcome, and damage is more gradual as a consequence.
Example: Tlánis, (4 die sorcerer) casts a 2 die Hand of Kra the Mighty against Metláno, a 3 die sorcerer. She rolls 4, 4, 3, 2 = 13 points, and he rolls 2, 4, 4 = 10 points. The spell succeeds. In the first round (the casting round), Tlánis advances one die (a 4). This is less than Metláno’s 10 point defense, so the spell does no damage, but Metláno feels a slight tightness around him. On the next round, Tlánis advances a second die (4 again), which is still less than Metláno’s defense. On the third round, she advances the third die (3), which gives her a total of 11 points, one more than Metláno’s defense. The spell does x7 damage, so that’s 1x7 = 7 points of damage to Metláno from the pressure. On the last round, she advances her last die, which does 2 x 7 = 14 additional points of damage. Metláno has taken a total of 21 points of damage from the spell, stretched out over four rounds. Armor will defend, taking away its total damage from the total done. If Metláno were wearing 2 point leather armor, it would subtract 2 points from the first seven administered to him (in the third round), and thereafter be useless for this spell.
Notice that Tlánis does not have to concentrate to maintain a slow spell, although the players have to keep track of the dice! She can continue to cast spells at Metláno while her Hand of Kra squeezes him. If Metláno manages to cast a Disenchantment, dispelling the Hand, he takes only as much damage as the hand has already administered before the Disenchantment removed it.
Some spells with durations do not require a sorcerer to concentrate on them; others do. Spells in the list marked with an asterisk (*) require concentration to maintain. If a sorcerer has cast one of these, she can cast additional spells, but if she is maintaining two of these spells, she cannot cast any new spells until at least one of these spells have lapsed. The sorcerer can terminate these spells at any time (and they will automatically terminate if the sorcerer is knocked unconscious, etc.).
A sorcerer may hold a spell in readiness to cast. Each "prepared" spell counts as a durational spell held by concentration; that is, no more than two. Such spells may be held ready for as many rounds as the sorcerer’s magical ability (number of dice) x 4. Such "held" spells will grant the sorcerer a bonus die on their initiative on the round when they choose to cast the spell - provided they announce this intention before the roll.
A sorcerer may also choose to take extra time to prepare a spell beyond their normal casting time. For each additional round spent preparing, up to two, the sorcerer gains a bonus die on their cast. The caster may not "hold" such a bonus; the spell must be used immediately, or the bonus is lost (and the spell is simply held ready to cast). No other action may be performed for this extra preparation round.
Recovery of Pedhétl
Pedhétl is recovered after rest. After four hours of sleep, or six hours of calm relaxed resting, sorcerers roll their sorcery dice; the result is the number of shots recovered.
Loose Notes About Magic Use
Of course, all Tékumel spell casters are aware of how having metal on their person disrupts spell casting. Any spell-casting attempted while in contact with metal leads to a "short circuit," resulting in damage equal to a roll of the dice for the level of the attempted spell. (A 1-die spell does 1 die of damage to the caster, etc.) Of course, armor does not protect against this damage.
A botched spell cast (all 1s) means the sorcerer has lost all of her shots, and the spell has fizzled. No further magic may be cast in this location for a time - perhaps the Energies from the Planes Beyond have temporarily stopped flowing in this place; perhaps a device of the Ancients is preventing energy from getting through; perhaps there is a large quantity of metal nearby, disrupting the energies. Until this problems is located and fixed, no more spell casting is permitted in the area.
Some rare individuals are psychic dampeners. If a character with this trait stands within ten feet of a spell caster, she simply cannot cast spells. Notice that if the caster is outside of the dampening area, the dampener can still be targeted by a spell.
Note that most spells betray no physical manifestation beyond their effect, although people can tell when a spell has been cast. Sorcerers can usually tell who was doing the casting, and it is possible to detect their magical ability.
Really huge creatures, such as the Akhó, are too large to be affected by most spells. Rather than require multiple castings, TOTE simply grants them large numbers of magical defense dice, making them all but unstoppable by conventional magic.
[Optional: Radius of Protection: A sorcerer may be able to help defend friends. They may be considered to project a radius of power equal in feet to their sorcery trait dice x 3. If an aimed spell lands within their radius of power, they can attract the spell directly to themselves, becoming the target. They may then roll their own magical defense.