Tian Xia Sorcery
Sorcery comes from a being’s essential nature. Demons have blood, spirits have their ghostly essence, and other magical creatures have what makes them inherently magical as a bond to sorcery. Mortals can have a sorcerous bond only through being a descendant of a demon, by committing a ritual that infuses them with such essence, or by bargaining for power from a powerful supernatural being.
Both benevolent ("light" or "healing") and malevolent ("dark" or "profane") sorcerers use the same rules and have access to the same abilities - the difference is purely how they use the tools they have. Some techniques and rituals are more helpful or vile, but simply having the power to curse someone does not make a being evil nor does the power to heal make one good. A heroic sorcerer might curse a killer or demon to punish them for their crimes, while an evil sorcerer might heal loyal minions and allies so they can better serve their interests.
Cost: A sorcerous bond (high concept), a sorcerous element (stunt), and a telltale sign (extra).
- Sorcerous Bond: The character's high concept must explain where the power comes from; e.g., Draconic Lineage, Demon in Human Form, or Dark Powers Bargained For.
- Sorcerous Element: Choose one of the elements below and purchase "(Element) Sorcery" as a regular stunt.
- Telltale Sign: There is some physical giveaway of the sorcerer's nature. Eyes may be unnaturally green, skin has a hint of scale, voice carries a hiss or sound of metal, and so on. See the suggestions under each element, and note the specific sign under your Extras. Unless the sorcerer takes pains to hide this, people with high Chi may notice and realize his true nature. (See p. 29 of Spirits, Beasts & Spells for rules.)
Note that characters can also acquire sorcerous power in play from powerful supernatural beings, either permanently or temporarily.
- Trade one Refresh to learn two techniques allowed by the element. (If you know kung fu, you may instead take one allowed sorcery technique and one kung fu technique.)
- Trade one stunt to learn one technique allowed by the element.
A sorcerer who has mastered eight sorcerous techniques, including all three techniques of her element, has access to another option . . .
- Trade the Refresh from a major milestone to add a second sorcerous element, as an "(Element) Sorcery" stunt.
. . . however, doing so also requires the sorcerer to bond with another source of power, in-game. She may be able to wield Storm Sorcery thanks to being descended from a dragon, for example, but adding Fire Sorcery will require a deal with a demon. This new bond will usually alter another of the sorcerer's aspects, though that is not a strict requirement.
A sorcerer who achieves the same level of mastery with both elements could seek out yet another bond and learn a third one . . . in theory. A third bond requires far more supernatural power than the first two, so the GM and player must work together to determine what must happen in-game to make this possible.
These are not the classic five elements as scholars understand, but more akin to mystical affinities or even families of powers. All sorcerous bonds inherently belong to one of these elements. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. These grant no automatic or inherent bonuses, but they make excellent and consistent justifications for Create an Advantage actions.
Earth sorcery is tied not just to rock and stone but to the hidden places of the earth. Powerful practitioners of this style of magic can even become as stone to resist damage and weather overwhelming force, but they lack the flexibility of storm or flash of fire sorcery.
- Telltale Sign: Those of earth often have rocky or ashen skin.
- Basic Powers: Earth-bonded are able to find hidden truths—they often say, “The ground cannot lie.” So long as an earth sorcerer touches the earth, she has an innate sense of everything else connected to the ground: where people are, which crates are empty and which conceal something heavy, structural supports and faults in a building, and so forth. This lets the character use Notice and Investigate to find clues others could not. The sorcerer does not know who is standing behind a door or the title and contents of a book hidden in a locked desk, but she knows that those things are there.
- Available Techniques: Earth Sorcery lets the practitioner learn General Techniques and Earth Techniques. They may also acquire Iron or Stone Kung Fu techniques as though they were sorcery techniques.
Fire sorcery is fast, powerful, but inconstant. It can generate heat and flame to both protect and harm, but it lacks the enduring defense of earth or adaptability of storm sorcery.
- Telltale Sign: Those of fire often have a red hue to their skin or the faint hint of sulfur.
- Basic Powers: Fire or heat cannot impact or harm the fire-bonded. They are not unaware of temperature changes and flame, just invulnerable to them. A fire sorcerer cannot have such aspects invoked or compelled against him. Attacks primarily based on fire have no effect on him. A fire-bonded can always choose to extend this to his clothing and personal effects, or allow them to be burned away for dramatic effect.
- Available Techniques: Fire Sorcery lets the practitioner learn General Techniques and Fire Techniques. They may also acquire Lightning Kung Fu techniques as though they were sorcery techniques.
The opposite energy of fire, frost can burn a foe or shelter a practitioner who has mastered its secrets. It is an insidious force, capable of freezing physical forms and emotions alike, though it lacks the endurance of earth and is in many ways the antithesis of nature sorcery.
- Telltale Sign: Those of frost often have pale skin or breath that always slightly fogs.
- Basic Powers: Cold or ice cannot impact or harm in any way the frost-bonded. They are aware of temperature changes and the dangers but are invulnerable to them. Such aspects cannot be invoked or compelled against a frost sorcerer. Attacks primarily based on ice have no effect on her. Frost-bonded can walk over any icy or snowy surface without problem leaving no footsteps behind.
- Available Techniques: Frost Sorcery lets the practitioner learn General Techniques and Frost Techniques. They may also acquire Iron or Storm Kung Fu techniques as though they were sorcery techniques.
Nature sorcery is flexible and vibrant, attuning a sorcerer to the flow of life found in plants, animals, and wild places. It surpasses many other styles for its ability to manipulate one’s environment without destroying it, but lacks the raw destructive power of fire or storm sorcery.
- Telltale Sign: Those of nature often have skin that hints at an animal—typically scales, fur, or feathers — or some other bestial feature.
- Basic Powers: The wilds extend hospitality to the nature-bonded, giving a sense of deference. Nature sorcerers can commune with nature for information, allowing them to use Investigate or Rapport with animals and plants. Nature-bonded may even ask for gifts from nature, though like any hospitality, it can be abused. The natural world is also quick to inform a sorcerer when he is about to cross a line.
- Available Techniques: Nature Sorcery lets the practitioner learn General Techniques and Nature Techniques. They may also acquire Forest Kung Fu techniques as though they were sorcery techniques.
Soul sorcerers learn to attune and commune with spirits and affect the immaterial as if it were flesh and blood. This path is ill-suited to dealing directly with the inanimate, unlike earth, fire, or frost sorcery. However, it is powerful in its realm and can allow a practitioner to affect such things indirectly by interacting with spirits related to places and natural phenomena.
- Telltale Sign: Those of soul often have features that mix youth and age, like young skin contrasted by wrinkles around the eyes and on the hands.
- Basic Powers: Soul-bonded see invisible things and know the true nature of those they perceive — whether someone is a normal mortal, sorcerer, demon, spirit, or other being—and if they have low or high Chi. That is, unless they disguise themselves through illusion or other magic, which must be contested with Notice.
- Available Techniques: Soul Sorcery lets the practitioner learn General Techniques and Soul Techniques. They may also acquire Ghost Kung Fu techniques as though they were sorcery techniques.
Storm sorcery is one of the flashier and more immediately powerful styles. However it lacks the focused destruction of fire and the enduring effects of nature or earth.
- Telltale Sign: Those of storm may have wind-burnt knuckles and face, ever-damp hair, or other traits associated with exposure to harsh weather.
- Basic Powers: Weather does not slow or stop the storm-bonded, nor does it dull their senses — a storm sorcerer hears perfectly through the roar of wind and sees just as well through a monsoon’s downpour. She can use Rapport to ask favors of a storm, such as permitting comrades to pass through unharmed or assault a pursuer.
- Available Techniques: Storm Sorcery lets the practitioner learn General Techniques and Storm Techniques. They may also acquire Lightning or Storm Kung Fu techniques as though they were sorcery techniques.
Sorcery is not a skill in and of itself, but a power that extends the range of many skills.
- Chi can be used to address sorcerous afflictions on the character.
- Crafts covers understanding and enacting sorcerous rituals (see below).
- Investigate and Notice benefit from an intimate awareness of the supernatural world. Things that a normal mortal might not be able to detect may potentially reveal themselves.
- Lore covers esoteric sorcerous knowledge beyond that which a non-sorcerer could know.
- Social skills (Deceive, Empathy, Rapport, and Provoke) are not at a disadvantage against supernatural beings.
In addition, each element has a set of "basic powers" which rely on the sorcerer's standard skills. For example, Storm Sorcery allows one to use Notice to hear voices carried on the wind, to use Rapport to speak with storms, and so on. Many sorcerous techniques (below) expand them even further.
Sorcerous Rituals: A sorcerer can use Crafts to work potent rituals. Doing so often requires some combination of accomplishing certain deeds, obtaining supernatural aid or objects, making sacrifices, and lining up the perfect day and/or time. A powerful ritual might let one ward a location against demons or spirits, heal grievous injuries, alter an important memory, or learn the location of an artifact. A mythic ritual might summon and control a powerful demon or spirit, craft a supernatural prison, compel a dead Kung Fu master's spirit to reveal their secrets, or bring about famine or plague. A world-shattering ritual might raise the dead, steal a captured god's power, or cause an earthquake. For full rules, see pp. 38-40 of Spirits, Beasts & Spells.
Shentong Rating: Unlike any other ability, sorcery is heavily affected by an area's Shentong rating -- a measurement of its feng shui and supernatural power. See below for more on that. Many sorcerers overcome this restriction with henchmen, or study Kung Fu or other arts to protect them when their magic is restricted.
The sorcerer does not start with any techniques for free, but they can be added per Improving Sorcery, above.
Elemental techniques that inflict stress or aspects do not easily affect sorcerers and other beings of the same element. Most gain a +2 bonus to defend against such techniques, but fire- and frost-bonded are simply immune thanks to their basic powers.
- Simple Shapeshifting*: The sorcerer can twist his Chi so well, he can even shift into another shape. If human, the character can use this to appear as a different person. Nonhumans can transform to and from a single human shape. Shapeshifting costs a fate point and lasts for a number of hours equal to the sorcerer’s Will rating before he is forced to transform back. The character can transform back at any time by choice, which does not cost a fate point. Sorcerers and exorcists can attempt to pierce the shapeshifter’s guise with Notice or Empathy, which the sorcerer Defends against with Deceive.
- Cursed Touch: The sorcerer can curse another, bending their Chi with a touch by manipulating magical energies or with the aid of minor spirits. This must be more than a passing brush of the hand or punch with a fist, though a simple clasping of hands is adequate. Create an Advantage, rolling Will against the target’s Chi. Success grants an aspect relating to the curse inflicted. The exact nature of the curse is up to the sorcerer, but common curses sicken, weaken a limb or a particular sense, trigger hallucinations or distracting visions, or simply cause bad luck. The curse can manifest right away or within the hour, as the caster desires. Those trained to spot such assaults (including all sorcerers and exorcists) may notice immediately. Others do not notice until the effects set in. The sorcerer can dismiss the curse as a simple thought; otherwise, a healer can rebalance the target’s Chi as though addressing a mild consequence.
- Inner Wellspring: The sorcerer can flow her Chi into another, to rebalance and heal. She can use Chi to address any physical or mystical consequence or aspect. She can even choose to take a mystical or emotional ailment from another; accepting that consequence in the appropriate or higher slot or assuming an aspect as a mild consequence. The transferred consequence is considered addressed by this action, so the sorcerer needs only live with it until it naturally goes away.
- Spirit of Truth: Sorcerers with this Technique pierce through illusions and other mystical deception, sensing Chi on a much deeper level than most. The sorcerer gets a vague feeling when someone or something nearby uses magic to hide or deceive. Further, the character has +2 to Empathy and Notice rolls to Overcome an Obstacle against them.
- Ripples in the Earth: The ground speaks to every earth-bonded through their feet. One can use Notice to sense when others are approaching as she feels their footsteps, and use Investigate to uncover more information — how many people are approaching, what rooms or caverns exist nearby, any underground streams, and similar feats of perception. This stunt gives +2 on these rolls, and allows the sorcerer a roll (at no bonus) even while asleep.
- The Rock Turns All Blows: When the sorcerer succeeds at charging her Chi Armor, she gains an additional free invocation. Non-mystical blades cannot cut her. They can still inflict stress as a normal Attack, but they get no advantage of any aspects or other benefits from being a blade, cannot be used to poison her, or similar effects.
- Unmoving Pillar: While touching solid earth, the sorcerer adds his Chi to Physique actions to Overcome an Obstacle or Defend against being grappled, shoved, or otherwise moved. Even earthquakes, boulders, and other acts of nature cannot move him so casually.
- Ball of Flame: The sorcerer can redirect or throw fire. Use Shoot to Attack. If the Attacks tie or miss, wherever it lands is On Fire, which has a free invocation. (This has no effect if it was already On Fire.) This technique can also create fires at a distance without specifically Attacking, though pinpointing a specific spot at a significant distance requires a Shoot roll.
- Fiery Armor: When channeling Chi Armor, the sorcerer is sheathed in flame. While the character has a free invoke on Chi Armor, attackers take 1 stress when Attacking (whether they succeed or fail) unless they are immune to fire or are attacking from distance. Even a spears-length is enough avoid the stress, though that spear may become engulfed in flame.
- Firewalker: The sorcerer can walk into one fire, and appear in another fire within line of sight. If both fires are large enough to engulf the fire-bonded, this costs an action. If either fire is smaller, this also costs a fate point, as the sorcerer must exert burning energies to travel through such a small space.
- Hands of Frost: The sorcerer can freeze another’s Chi when Attacking in melee. If a target suffers more stress on a single close physical Attack than their Chi rating, they also take the Chilled aspect — without any free invocations. They move one fewer zones and lose ties on Fight and Athletics Defend tests until they address this aspect with warmth. (Fire sorcerers and fiery beings overcome it automatically at the end of their next turn.) The frost-bonded can also use icy powers to Create an Advantage in a variety of ways.
- Heart of Ice: The sorcerer’s Chi is truly ice, numbing him to the manipulations of others. He has +2 to Defend against social interactions (namely Provoke, Rapport, and Empathy). The frost-bonded can touch another person and convey this chill to them, moving this benefit from himself to them. They can Defend with Will against the sorcerer’s Chi, if they desire. If the sorcerer transfers the benefit ability, he loses the benefit and cannot regain it to transfer it to another until he has a few minutes to rest and regain it. Gifted targets lose this benefit at the end of the scene or when the frost-bonded regains it, whichever comes first.
- Snow Wisp: The sorcerer can briefly turn into a snow flurry, becoming an incorporeal being that physical weapons cannot harm. The frost-bonded automatically does this on a Defend success with style, which lets her ignore the next physical attack as long as it happens before the sorcerer's next action. She can also choose to become incorporeal at will. The effect only lasts for a moment, and the sorcerer cannot control her movement while in this form — she is at the wind’s mercy.
- Master of the Forest: The sorcerer can call upon the spiritual nature within plants to do her will. She can command vines to entangle foes, speak to the spirits within to gain insight they may possess, tell dense foliage to allow her passage, and so on. Roll Will when using this technique to Create an Advantage.
- Tiger Monarch: Animals are mystically connected to the sorcerer. Most wild animals regard him as an alpha, and he can call upon them as allies. The nature-bonded can also bond with a willing normal animal, allowing it to transfer its senses to his and to communicate with him over a distance. This bond takes a few minutes to forge and lasts a number of hours equal to the sorcerer’s Chi rating. A nature-bonded can only have one bond at a time, but can dismiss it with a thought.
- Unseen Hunter: In the wilds, the sorcerer naturally moves without leaving a trace, though she can choose to leave a trail if she desires. In any such locale, while the nature-bonded’s Chi Armor has an invocation available, she can use it to blend into her surroundings. This lets her use it to justify Stealth even in unlikely situations, and invoke it to aid such rolls.
- Blend into Walls: The sorcerer can move through walls and other non-living things, though she cannot sink into the ground or fly for very long. Moving through matter quickly requires overcoming the material with Athletics, at a difficulty Good or higher. By spending a fate point, the soul-bonded can bring a willing person with her.
- Fade into Mist: The sorcerer can use Stealth to remain unseen, even if someone is staring right at him, by appearing to turn into mist. This does not make the soul-bonded truly incorporeal. Normal mortals use Chi or Notice to spot the sorcerer, whichever is lower. Sorcerers, exorcists, and the like can use the higher of the two skills.
- Ghost Fist: The sorcerer’s very fists can exude hostile spiritual energy. When Attacking in melee, bypass any physical armor and advantages that are purely physical, which does not include Chi Armor. The soul-bonded can touch and Attack ghosts and other incorporeal beings and objects.
- Kindred of Air: The sorcerer is one with air spirits. She can will herself to be without weight, allowing the air to pick her up, carry her away, and to land safely from any fall. Controlling where she flies is not trivial, though; use the Drive or Athletics skill (player’s choice) to direct air spirits to where the storm-bonded needs to go. Additionally, the sorcerer can request air spirits to help her Overcome an Obstacle or Create an Advantage, such as blowing something into her reach or making a noise. These are Rapport actions, and cannot be used to Attack or Defend unless the interaction takes place in the middle of a massive windstorm.
- Raging Armor: The sorcerer’s Chi Armor takes the form of a raging storm around him. If the storm-bonded succeeds with style on a Defend, rather than generating a boost, the Attacker takes 1 stress as the tempestuous Chi shreds at them. The sorcerer can also use his Chi Armor to add to an assault, provided the target is within the reach of his fists. Fire cannot hit the storm-bonded while his Chi Armor is active.
- Sea is my Fist: The sorcerer can command water as a weapon, shaping it into a deadly strike. Even a pot of water is enough to allow for a Fight roll at a distance — not Shoot, because it is not an Attack coming from the character. With a large body of water (a vast lake, raging river, or harbor) the storm-bonded can Attack everyone in the same zone, or focus all of that power on a single target to get +2 to the Attack.
Shentong: The River of Magic
Different places in the world of TianXia have varying degrees of supernatural allowance, known as a Shentong rating. This relates to a place’s feng shui — the flow of chi within the land. This rating greatly affects Sorcery (including Kung Fu techniques that were learned as sorcerous techniques!), though it has no bearing on other abilities like Alchemy or Exorcism. TianXia Geomancy is the art of detecting and (gradually) altering a place's feng shui and thus its Shentong rating.
Shentong ratings come in five levels. Within a city or wilderness, there can be weaker or stronger spots (usually only by one level). Similarly, some places are particularly weak or strong for one sorcerous element, during a particular day or event, and so on. This will be represented with an aspect.
What This Means
Effects on Sorcery
There is no chi flow allowing for magic, including that needed to heal magical beings. It takes considerable effort to keep a place choked, as chi wants to flow into such voids, so only small places can remain this way for long.
No sorcery is possible. Purely magical beings are weakened. Sorcerous techniques do not count for Jianghu Rank.
There is enough chi flowing into the area to allow a small amount of sorcery to happen.
Sorcery cannot succeed with style, and attacks do at most 2 stress. No more than two sorcerous techniques count toward Jianghu Rank.
The chi flows as nature intends, with nothing blocking it or causing it to wellspring.
Sorcerous actions have no limitation or benefit.
Feng shui causes chi to pool like a spring. The area has an aspect marking it, such as Bone-Chilling Fog or Vibrant Plant Life.
Sorcerers get one free boost in this location per session, usable only for sorcery.
If a Rich area is a spring, a Wild area is a geyser, ever-bursting forth with power. These places are unmistakably supernatural in their nature, with aspects to match.
All sorcerous actions have an inherent +2 bonus. Individual areas may have specific benefits, either in addition or as a replacement.