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Raw Mana Manipulation

by Adam Curtis

I've read just about every post concerning my rough draft for the idea of magical parrying/ Raw Mana Manipulation, and everyone had very interesting comments, such as giving it a new arcane base on power points or mana points, keeping it closely based on the current system, and even making it the eighth secret craft of Glantri (I *really* liked this suggestion. Go ahead and try it). After the considerable feedback, I think I may have a base for a functional new skill out of Glantri that's incorporated various ideas kicked around thus far.

First, I'll write about how I formulated/refined my idea for Raw Mana Manipulation thus far, then I'll write up Raw Mana Manipulation as it might appear in Gazetteer 3, then invite more comments to further tighten up the rules.

I originally wanted a way to lengthen magical duels since D&D/AD&D rules for magic can easily end duels with a single spell. Within the current mechanics, all I could come up with was a modified form of the dispel spell that had a casting time of 1 (for AD&D), only a quick somatic component (for AD&D), and could be used on any spell as it was being cast. It wasn't very creative or fun, and it would require the use of spell slots much needed for other spells.

So I came up with four guidelines for magical parrying to solve the above problems. The means would make use of magic (naturally), it would need almost no casting time so the practitioner actually had time to disrupt the enemy's casting, it would require no lengthy prep time like standard magic, and it would not require spell slots. Obviously my original idea didn't meet the last two specifications, but I at least wanted the solution related to the current metaphysics of D&D/AD&D.

So I came up with the idea of simply grabbing raw, unformed mana (the magical energy used in spells), concentrating it, and channelling it at the target caster. As any little alteration in a caster's delicate gathering of mana for an intricate spell will make the spell completely fizzle, the above bombardment of unformed mana would theoretically disrupt the spellcasting.

I then looked at other things that could be accomplished in the same way. If one accepts that mana so quickly gathered could be very slightly altered almost instantly, several things come to mind. Cantrip-like things that wizards love to use for dramatics could be conjured without wasting spell slots. Also, the slight alteration of mana into a physically harmful substance, like fire or electricity, could serve as a quick magical attack without using an actual spell.

So then I posted the idea for Raw Mana Manipulation under the name "Magical Parrying". Here're the essential parts of it with any necessary explanations on theory and what I changed/added to/from the original post after getting feedback.

What it is: Raw Mana Manipulation is essentially working with mana (i.e. magical energy) to achieve various magical effects without the laborious preparation required of true spellcasting.

Where/who can use it and where is it learned: Only mages (and elves for D&D. Foresters may *not* as their powers come from very rigid and narrow training provided by Vyalia Elves in Thyatis) may use Raw Mana Manipulation considering spellcasting is far easier to learn, and no other class can cast spells not contingent upon immortal/deific help. Theoretically bards could learn it, but almost none of them formally study magic. Only the Glantri School of Magic teaches this skill. Unlike other complimentary courses taught at the school, the student must earn three levels while studying it to perfect its use since it's a far broader subject than those covered in other courses offered (not to mention that it's potentially much more useful than the other courses, but that requires play testing to find out).

What Raw Mana Manipulation can do: through pulling raw mana out of the air, compressing it, and discharging it, the released mana can disrupt enemy spells as they are cast. By slightly altering gathered mana, minor, cantrip-like spell effects may be achieved. By quickly gathering a large amount of mana and slightly modifying it into a harmful substance, the mana may be used as a magical attack. I originally said 1d4 pts of damage per level of wielder (max 10d4) could be achieved, but there's a general consensus that it would be too powerful, so I took a lot of the punch out of it (see below).

Limiting this skills usage: if mana manipulation didn't have any drawbacks, obviously its practitioners would use it way too much (magic duels would likely last way too long). So achieving the more difficult and useful effects of mana manipulation must come with a price to discourage overuse. My solution is that using mana parries and mana attacks lowers constitution considering quickly drawing together mana and working with it would be physically taxing in a world that normally requires loads of time to throw a spell. Some pointed out it would have little practical effect as long as the mage stayed above a constitution of 2 (the attribute rating I designated as the "instantly fall unconscious" point). Therefore, I'm adding cumulative penalties for constitution as it dips lower and lower (see below).

Skill roll: I didn't include details on this in my last post. After much thought, I determined that not only intelligence would be necessary for mana manipulation, but wisdom and dexterity would also play a role in its usage because I believe it'd definitely take a higher level of intuition and sheer agility to grab raw mana out of the air and work with it right there than it does with normal spellcasting which requires lengthy preparation. So while the skill roll will be based on intelligence, no mage (or elf in D&D) can learn Raw Mana Manipulation without minimum scores of 10 in dexterity and wisdom.

Magical parry effects on enemy spells: some thought an outright negation of the enemy spell on a successful skill roll was too powerful, so I've also weakened parries a little bit (see below).

Now I'll write out exactly how Raw Mana Manipulation might appear in Gaz 03 under "Complimentary Courses".

I'm going for the simplest explanation of the mechanics possible, so I will provide little or no detail on the metaphysics behind it beyond the intro, and I'll also subdivide the entry for further clarity. As these rules are for both D&D and AD&D, a few rules will be specific to one system or the other since one system may require rules the other system does not account for (such as casting time). D&D specific rules will be encapsulated with ## while AD&D specific rules will be encapsulated with %%: ________________________ *Raw Mana Manipulation*

This course teaches the student how to draw upon mana (a name for magical energy used in spells) and use it to create magical effects without the painstaking preparation required of normal spellcasting. Unlike normal spellcasting, Raw Mana Manipulation is very inefficient creating magical effects and is much weaker than normal spells in general. However, the versatility and speed of Raw Mana Manipulation makes it a tool that may achieve effects normal spellcasting cannot.

Compared with other complimentary courses, Raw Mana Manipulation requires much more study to master all its aspects. Those studying it must gain three levels during the period of study to master it.

Prerequisites: Only Mages #and Elves (Foresters cannot learn this skill)# may learn Raw Mana Manipulation. As this skill requires a greater degree of intuition and agility than normal spellcasting, a student must have at least a 10 in wisdom and dexterity to learn this skill.

%Casting time and components: It takes 1d4 segments to produce any effects through Raw Mana Manipulation.

Verbal and somatic components are required to use this skill (no materials required).%

Use of the skill always counts as the user's action for that round. All skill rolls are based upon intelligence.

Raw Mana Manipulation has three uses.

Cantrips: With a successful skill roll (based on intelligence), the user can produce effects similar to those of the Cantrip spell (detailed in AD&D PHB).

Unlike the Cantrip spell, effects are limited to those that serve dramatic purposes, those that impress, startle, or serve as benign warnings. Creating a small puff of wind to flicker a candle upon entering a room or making a normally quiet floor squeak as someone crosses it are considered dramatic effects. Increasing the duration food keeps from spoiling or forcing a merchant to fumble a wine sample into his most valued customer's face are not purely dramatic effects; they have very obvious effects beyond drama. As always, the DM has final say about what is allowed under the above rules.

Mana Attacks: With a successful skill roll, the user may draw together a large well of mana and slightly alter its form into physically harmful electricity. This attack mode is not as efficient as a lightning bolt spell regarding mana consumption, so its effects are notably weaker. The resulting energy discharge has a range of 25 feet and only affects one target who may save versus magic for half damage. Damage done equals one point of damage per wielder level (maximum 20 points damage). #Elves count each attack rank attained past C as two more levels when figuring out damage.#

Magic Parrying: This skill will not work against innate magical abilities, innate spell abilities (such as those dragons wield), circle spells of the Glantrian secret crafts, or Raw Mana Manipulation.

Magic Parrying involves drawing together a concentrated well of raw mana. The user then channels it at a single enemy spell-in-casting to disrupt its delicate structure. On a successful skill roll, the parry successfully disrupts one incompleted enemy spell within 100 feet enough to automatically halve damage on damage spells (a saving throw v. magic may be made to further reduce damage to 1/4). Non-damage spells successfully parried give the parried spell's target a +4 bonus to save v. magic.

If the user makes the skill roll by 8, the target spell is completely negated regardless of whether it is damage or non-damage. A skill roll of 1 always achieves this effect.

%If the user cannot complete a magical parry before or at the opposing spell's completion, the spell is unaffected and the user still loses his/her action for that round.%

#If an opponent begins casting a spell, any PC or NPC with this skill may attempt a Magic Parry if he/she has yet to act in the round regardless of initiative before the spell goes off.#

Drawback: Grabbing mana and crudely working it through pure will is much more taxing upon endurance than casting a thoroughly prepared and efficient spell. Therefore, whenever a character attempts a Magic Parry or a Mana Attack (Cantrips are excluded here), the character loses two points of constitution regardless of success. Penalties listed below mount as the constitution of the skill user drops (NOTE: penalties are not cumulative. They show what penalties are suffered upon reaching the specified level of constitution).

The user suffers penalties when his/her constitution drops to 3/4, 1/2, and 1/4 his/her original constitution score with fractions rounded up. So for example, a user with an original constitution of 15 would suffer penalties at 12 con., 8 con., and 4 con.

3/4 original con - The user begins to feel fatigued, but not too seriously. -1hit/dam, +1AC, +1 initiative

1/2 original con - The user feels tired and light-headed. -2hit/dam, +2AC, +2 init., 1/2 movement.

1/4 original con - The user is at his/her physical limits and ready to collapse. -3hit/dam, +3AC, +3 init., 1/4 movement.

At con 2 or 1 - The user immediately falls unconscious. Should his/her con somehow fall to 0 or lower, the user instantly dies.

A heal spell (which won't restore con and hit points at the same time) or a wish will fully restore all lost constitution to its original level. Otherwise constitution will regenerate at 1 point per day. Those with a constitution of 16, 17, or 18 regenerate 2 points per day.

Final note on the above drawback: the penalties for the depletion of constitution are not too serious in a magical duel (IMO good), but are extremely crippling in most other settings.