Recently, we launched the Chronicle of Sorcery, a 48-page PDF detailing a system of player-controlled magic for the Chronicle System, the game engine that powers A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying.
Low Fantasy Sorcery
While it would have been easy enough to put together a system of sorcery in which the magician hucks fireballs and similar expressions of arcane pyrotechnics, we decided to hew closely to the low-fantasy feel of the Chronicle System’s inspiration: the world of Westeros. The rest of the mechanics already support a somewhat gritty setting, so it seemed wrong to depart from that.
To that end, the magics in the Chronicle of Sorcery are subtle. They often come in the form of unseen benefits, usually without flashy lights or puffs of smoke. They are often the kind of things that grant the additional edge needed by already-talented characters to accomplish the impossible, and doubters can (and should!) suggest that it was merely luck or simply the encouragement the superstitious receive from farcical magical shenanigans that led to the outcome.
That said, there are some impressive feats of magic, but they’re hardly common—or without cost. These are usually story-changing works of sorcery, the kind of thing one sees rarely in a low-fantasy tale, an expression of power that reminds us that low-magic doesn’t mean no-magic.
Destiny in the Character’s Hands
One of the most important mechanical elements in the Chronicle System are Destiny Points. These are resource players spend to improve the lot of their characters, a reflection of those strokes of luck and seeming deux ex machina that save protagonists even in truly gritty fiction. But these points are entirely player-based: characters don’t know what kind of Destiny they have.
As a result, it seemed only natural that our sorcery mechanics should use these Destiny Points as "fuel." They are already used to change the flow of the story, after all, and that’s the role magic should take in the milieu we’re emulating. But now, it is the sorcerer who is choosing to use Destiny (even if he doesn’t comprehend it in game terms like points, per se). Sorcerers are aware of their potential to transform the world around them, using occult means.
What’s In the Book?
The Chronicle of Sorcery book contains an introduction to the magical system we’re implementing for the Chronicle System, including the basic mechanics of spellwork. It also includes guidelines for developing new styles of magic—what the system calls Lores—and includes a handful of all-new Sorcery Actions used to accomplish magical tasks from ritual magic to warding against enemy sorcery to tirelessly researching the ancient spell that could turn the tide.
The book also includes a number of new Sorcery Qualities. There are sixteen entirely new Sorcerous Benefits, such as Sorcerous Initiation, Natural-Born Sorcerer, Blood of the Sorcerer-Kings and War-Mage I, II and III. There are also new Sorcerous Drawbacks, such as Familiar, Oathbound, and Sorcerer’s Aura.
We also include three Common Sorcerous Arts, magical techniques that can be learned by the practitioners of any of the Lores: the Art of Consecration, used to bless and empower people, things and places; the Art of Divination, used to cast for knowledge of the past, present and future; and the Art of Warding, magical techniques for battling and resisting the sorcery of others.
Finally, we also give a handful of new Holdings for your House Domain, allowing not just characters to benefit from sorcery, but allowing their Houses to do so as well.
Though this sourcebook includes the foundations of magic and some basic sorceries to introduce into your Chronicle System game, that’s far from all. In the coming months, we’ll be releasing entirely new Lores as PDF supplements, providing new systems of magic that use the core rules of the Chronicle System.
Our first three projects are Blood Magic, focusing on the dark powers of sacrifice and blood magic; Wortcunning, looking into the magics found in herbs and plants, including healing and the making of potions; and the secrets of Spirit-Whispering, in which sorcerers commune and possibly even bind spirits, risking their own bodies, minds, and souls to gain the power they grant.
Joe is a developer for Green Ronin’s Blue Rose AGE line. He has worked in the tabletop gaming industry for nearly twenty years, during which he’s been a fiercely outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion, both in the industry and in the games we make. He is also a novelist, with his first novel Sacred Band garnering starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. Both Sacred Band and his second novel, Shadowtide, are available now from Nisaba Press. Joseph lives in Portland, Oregon with his fiancé A.J.