Glorantha is an innately magical world. The gods actively work to influence the affairs of humans and others. Most intelligent beings can cast some type of magic, whether through innate abilities, minor spirit magic, channeling the Runes themselves with mighty Rune magic, or manipulating Runes using esoteric sorcery techniques. Adventurers use magic in their exploits, and magic should feature in most conflicts.
Magic, more than other rules, requires application of common sense, as rules cannot cover every circumstance in play. The gamemaster’s word is final when describing its effects. Each type of spell differs somewhat, but the following guidelines are useful for any type of magic.
# Casting a Spell
Spells are handled like other abilities, with a D100 roll to determine success or failure. A roll equal to or below the spell’s chance of success means that it is successfully cast. Rolling over means that it is not. It may be that the caster was distracted, could not focus, the spirits were not listening, or that their god was not sufficiently convinced of the adventurer’s need. Critical and special results usually have no effect.
# Boosting a Spell
# Resistance Roll
Many spells pit the caster’s POW against the target’s POW in a resistance roll. An adventurer may try to augment their chance of success with the resistance roll by using an appropriate spell or through meditation (see below).
If an entity has no POW, use its magic points instead.
# Increasing Casting Chances
There are various means of increasing the chance of casting a spell, whether Rune or spirit magic. The most important are augmenting with skills, meditation, and rituals.
Augmenting with Skills: Skills such as Dance, Sing, Perform, Languages, etc., may improve casting chances, as with other abilities (see Augmenting Abilities). If only 1 melee round is spent performing the skill, the chance of success with the augmenting skill is halved. If the character spends 2 melee rounds performing the skill, the chance of success is normal. As with Meditation (following), distraction can cause the augment to fail.
Meditation: The sole purpose of this meditation is the casting of the spell and it does not yield additional magic points. While meditating, the adventurer can take no other action. If injured, roll INT×3 or the concentration is broken, and the adventurer must start over to get the bonus. If the roll is successful, the adventurer gets the bonus.
Rituals: These take on many forms, and let the caster focus their spiritual energy, increasing the chance of success. The caster can eat and sleep while performing ritual practices, but can do little else. If taking time away to do something else (adventure, get sick, give birth, etc.), the ritual is paused. The spellcasting roll happens at the completion of the ritual. If successful, the spell is cast, and the caster spends their magic points or Rune points. A ritual usually takes one hour per point in the spell.
The following table shows the benefits of Meditation or ritual practice when attempting to cast a spell:
# Increasing Spellcasting Chance
|+5%||1 melee round||—|
|+10%||2 melee rounds||—|
|+15%||5 melee rounds||—|
|+20%||25 melee rounds||—|
|+25%||50 melee rounds||—|
An adventurer can meditate for one full hour, attempting no other skill rolls or spellcasting, remaining immobile and without communication. If a distracted (gamemaster discretion), the adventurer must perform a successful INT×3 roll to resist losing one’s focus.
A successful Meditation roll yields 1 additional magic point up to the normal maximum, plus any restored through normal rest and recuperation. A special success adds 1D3 and a critical success yields 1D3+1 magic points. If the roll fails, the adventurer recovers no additional magic points, and a fumble causes the loss of 1D3 additional magic points. After a fumbled Rune roll, a day must be spent in meditation and reflection on the Rune, but no roll is required.
# Spell Matrices
A spell matrix is a type of magic item that allows a user to cast a specific spell, even if they do not possess that spell. To use one, the owner must be in physical contact with it, casting it as if it were a normal spell (strike ranks, etc.). With a spell matrix, the user only rolls POW×5 to see if the spell succeeded.
A spirit magic spell matrix requires the user spend 1 magic point per point of the spell, just as if casting it themselves. The spell matrix can be reused as desired.
A Rune magic spell matrix costs the normal magic points required for the spell, if any, but no Rune points are spent. The item must be recharged in a Worship ceremony appropriate to matrix’s owner.
If successful, the spell is cast as if the user cast it (using their own POW for a resistance roll, if required).
# Spirit Magic
Spirit magic is the most basic and common magic found in Glorantha. It concerns communication with the spirits that reside in the natural energy currents of the world and is practiced in one form or another by nearly every Gloranthan culture and religion. To cast a spirit magic spell, the caster concentrates their will and alters the spiritual energy currents to create an effect. This done through spending magic points. For this reason, while powerful, spirit magic spells (sometimes called ‘battle magic’) are of short duration—usually two minutes— and drain magic points from the user.
An adventurer has a POW×5 chance of successfully casting a spirit magic spell. If the roll fails, no magic points are spent. The adventurer may try again next melee round. If their concentration is broken before finishing casting a spell (such as taking damage), they cannot cast the spell and must try again. However, no magic points are lost in the attempt.
Spirit magic spells are either instant or passive. Once cast, the caster need pay no further attention to them and they continue to work, regardless of what the caster does next.
Adventurers may not have access to some of the spells described here, as these fall outside their current abilities.
# The Focus
Spirit magic spells require a focus, a visual token of the spell. Contact with the focus concentrates the caster’s magical energies and makes the spell work. Foci can be tattoos, ritual scars, trinkets, jewelry, etc. Runes may even be carved into the intended target of the spell, such as a weapon’s hilt or blade. Casting a spirit magic spell without a focus takes two melee rounds, the first round spent in visualization of the spell’s focus and its intended target.
# Magic Points
Magic points are the quantity of life energy an adventurer spends when casting spells. Every spell costs a certain number of magic points to cast (the value is in parentheses for non-player characters). A number after the spell’s name such as ‘Heal 2’ means the spell has multiple levels, and can be cast at full or partial strength (‘Heal 1’ or ‘Heal 2’). Some spells can have more magic points added to overcome a Countermagic or Shield spell. Additional points in a spell do not count for its effect other than when opposing or overcoming other spells.
An adventurer with 0 magic points falls unconscious until their magic points return to 1 or more. Magic points return at the rate of one quarter the character’s total POW every six hours but can return faster with the Meditate skill (see Meditation).
# Resistance Roll
All targets, except voluntary ones, resist spells cast at them and need to be overcome (POW vs. POW) using the resistance table. An adventurer may try to augment their chance of success with the resistance roll by using an appropriate spell or through use of the Meditate skill. Use magic points when there is no POW listed.
# Spell Strike Rank
To determine a spell’s strike rank, total the caster’s DEX strike rank plus the magic points of the spell, minus the first, plus any boosting magic points. The total is the spell’s strike rank.
Spirit magic has two ranges: touch (T, where the caster must touch the target) and ranged (R, 50 meters). For touch spells, touching the clothing or armor of the target is usually sufficient, unless the spell description declares otherwise.
The duration (D) is how long the effects of the spell last, from the strike rank the spell was cast. All temporal spirit magic spells last two minutes (ten melee rounds). Instant (I) spells cause effects only on the strike rank on which they were cast.
Certain spells have permanent effects.
# Rune Magic
An initiate of a cult can cast the Rune spells known to that cult. The caster relies on power supplied by that god to cast the spell. When an adventurer casts Rune magic, the caster acts as the deity. The caster imitates the deeds of the deity and thereby evokes the deity’s power. The caster always exhibits some form of manifestation of the deity while casting the spell: they might appear to grow larger, burn with an inner glow, crackle lightning from their fingertips, or even start to physically resemble the deity. The more Rune magic cast, the more the deity manifests in the world.
The rules cannot accommodate every single potential circumstance or situation a spell can be used in, and the gamemaster should interpret them according to common sense, playability, and in light of the god’s wishes. A Rune spell is the god manifesting their will into the Mundane World through the Runes as directed by the adventurer, so rule accordingly.
# Rune Points
Rune points are gained by permanent sacrifices of POW to one’s god, enabling access to cult Rune magic. Once spent, they must be replenished before they can be used again. They are only replenished through worship of the adventurer’s deity on a holy day and through participation in cult rites.
The gamemaster will determine when an appropriate holy day occurs. Participating adventurers belonging to the cult (or an associated one) must sacrifice magic points: 1 for lay members and 2 if initiates. Once the ceremony is complete, each participating adventurer must roll the Worship skill appropriate to their cult. Every additional magic point sacrificed adds +10% to the chance of success.
On a seasonal or high holy day, a successful Worship roll replenishes all spent Rune points if belonging to that cult, and if unsuccessful, the adventurer receives only 2D6, up to their normal total. A member of an associated cult receives 1D6 Rune points if successful but replenishes no Rune points if the roll is a failure.
On a minor holy day, a successful Worship roll restores 1D6 Rune points to cult members, and no Rune points if unsuccessful. Associated cult members gain no benefits from these services.
See Gods and Cults for more information.
# Casting Rune Spells
To cast a Rune spell, during the Statement of Intent the player must say what spell is being cast and at which target(s). The adventurer must have enough Rune points to cast the spell—the cost of each spell is given in the spell descriptions (following). The caster recites an invocation to the god, either aloud or in the mind, to call upon that god’s attention and power. Rune magic spells always take effect at strike rank 1.
The adventurer must then roll against their Rune affinity of the spell being cast. If the roll succeeds, then the spell takes effect, and the Rune points are spent. If the roll is a critical, the spell costs no Rune points.
If the casting success roll is greater than the Rune affinity, the spell is not cast, and the Rune points are not spent. If the adventurer was boosting the spell with additional magic points, they lose 1 magic point. On a fumble, the spell fails, and the adventurer loses the Rune points for the spell.
Casting a Rune magic spell prevents an adventurer from casting any other Rune magic or spirit magic spells that round. The sole exceptions are Illusion spells and Extension, the latter of which is cast at the same time as the spell it is intended to extend. For more information, see the description of these Rune spells.
# Stackable Rune Magic
All Rune magic spells have an initial Rune point cost that allows one casting of the spell. Rune magic spells can be stacked (combining several castings into one) if the spell is described as stackable, or marked with a + after the cost. This provides a much more powerful effect when the spell is cast. There may be a ceiling to the maximum allowed to be cast together. All Rune points are cast at their intended target(s), in a single melee round and take effect at strike rank 1.
# Common Rune Spells
Most cults teach a variety of practical spells to every new initiate that joins. These are standard across most cults and are called common Rune spells.
Common knowledge spells are Command Cult Spirit (usually an elemental), Dismiss Magic, Divination, Extension, Find Enemy, Heal Wound, Multispell, Soul Sight, Spirit Block, and Summon Cult Spirit (usually an elemental).
All adventurers who are initiates of cults know them, as noted on the adventurer sheets.
# Characteristics of Rune Spells
Unless the spell description says otherwise, all Rune magic spells are passive with a duration of 15 minutes and a range of 160 meters.
A Rune magic spell is always twice as strong as a spirit magic spell of the same point cost. Thus, it takes 2 points of Dispel Magic to dispel a 1-point Rune magic spell.
# Rune Spell Descriptions
The following Rune spells are provided for adventurers and nonplayer characters. Many more exist. Adventurers may not know some spells here, as they are outside their current abilities. Each spell is described with the following qualities:
Rune: The Rune associated with the spell. Roll this Rune’s affinity to cast the spell. The Magic Rune (R) means the spell can be cast using any cult Rune. If more than one Rune is listed, the caster may choose which to use.
Cost: The spell’s Rune point cost, usually 1, but sometimes more. A ‘+’ means the spell is stackable. Additional Rune points provide greater effect. A Rune spell with a cost range like 1–3 can be cast for 1, 2, or 3 points, determined by the player before casting. Non-player character Rune spell costs are presented in parentheses, such as ‘Berserker (2).’
Type: The spells’ qualities and limitations. Spells are usually ranged (160 meters) and temporal (lasting 15 minutes), so these indicate exceptions.
Ritual: Cannot be cast during combat.
Self: Affects caster only.
Touch: Caster must touch target.
Instant: Spell happens instantaneously.
Active: Caster must continually think about the spell to maintain its effects.
Cults: The cult teaching the spell. “All” means that all cults know some version of this spell. Spells may be learned from associated cults the adventurer is not a part of.
Description: The spell’s effect, potential targets, and other information.