New Notes on Magic

Created by Brett Hegr
[ Return to the Magic Section ]

The Palladium Fantasy RPG® is a very good source for magic information. It is a bit incomplete in spots, but it is what some of this information is based on. Other cool books to check out on magic are Mystic Chinatm, Rifts® South America book two, England, Africa, and the Conversion Book. If you are looking for a listing of magical goods, try this one.

Note: In this file (and many others), I'll be making a reference to Nightbanetm World Book Three: Through the Glass Darkly. I'll occasionally just refer to it as TGD, so get used to seeing it (the book rocks for magic campaigns).


Types of Magic
Casting Rates
Changing and Learning
Magic O.C.C.s

Circle Magic
Glyph Magic
Magical Destabilization
Magic Skills (new page)
Magician Slang
Ritual Magic
Save Throws
Specialized Magic
Spell Design
What All Magicians
Can Do
(new page)

Types of Magic

African Chants: Found on page 86 of Rifts® Africa, these chants are equivalent in magic strength to rituals. They are useful incantations for villages when there is a lot of magic energy avaliable.

African Rain Magic Rituals: These are on page 92 of Rifts® Africa. Rain Makers are pretty much the only character class that can learn these spells, though a few non Rain Makers with a lot of skill in rituals could learn some.

African Witch Spells: Page 74 of Rifts® Africa list the special spells that only those witches can learn. To get more use for your books though I'd say that most any standard witch or necromancer should be able to learn a few of these spells.

Aspect Magic: Magicians can cycle their magical energy in a 'feedback' to fuel the development of special powers!

Battle Mage Spells: The contract between Myrimidion Press® and Palladium Books® was cancelled, so there won't be any more Manhunter® books. Battle Mage spells are normal spell incantations and most anyone can learn them, but it will be hard to find a teacher for most characters. Some spells I created can be found here.

Biomancy: Rifts® South America book one is the source of information on Biomancy (see pages 61 and 64). Biomancy is magic that allows the user to turn creatures and plants into useful things (without harming them) via a link to nature. Most magicians can't learn this kind of magic (dabblers are one exception).

Bio-wizardry: This is the manipulation of other life forms for selfish and evil magical purposes (this is where it differs from Biomancy). You can find loads of data on bio-wizardry in Rifts® Atlantis page 106.

Blue Flame Spells: These begin on page 190 of Rifts® South America book two, page 30. There are few non-Larhold practicioners, and the Blue Flame is a pretty much unknown and unused cosmic force. The spells themselves are quite powerful, however.

Chi Magic: Found on page 70 of Mystic Chinatm. This is eastern spell magic, and functions differently than western spell magic because it manipulates Chi (life energy). Chi Spells can be transcribed into Celestial Calligraphy, the eastern version of scroll creation.

Circle Magic:

Darkness/Shadow Magic: The Nightbanetm book touches on this slightly, but I expanded on the idea in the given link.

Dolphin Magic: I know very little about this magic, but it can be found in Rifts® Underseas, book one.

Fleshsculptingtm: In Through the Glass Darkly, see page 20 for the O.C.C. and page 63 for their special spells. This is a powerful magic that be used to either harm or heal. Most Fleshsculptortm spells are ritual magic.

Glyph Magic: See description below

Magi Magic: These magic spells are of use to studious magicians.

Metamagic: A science of magic that is founded on the manipulation of the laws that govern how spells operate!

Mind Magic: Spells that affect the mind and/or have effects much like those of psionic powers.

Mirror Magic: In Through the Glass Darkly, see page 21 for the Mirrormagetm O.C.C. and page 71 for their special spells. These mages know how to draw on mirrors to perform magical feats, breach the Mirrorwalltm, and mystically spy on others!

Mystic Herbology: See the Magic Skills page. Anyone who can use this magic is able to use herbs, plants, mosses, and fungi to make magical brew. See page 22 of Rifts® England for full details.

Nazcan Line Magic: The complete description can be found in Rifts® South America book two, page 30. It is very, very uncommon outside of South America. It is so unlike other kinds of magic (except diabolism) that it must be considered a separate type of magic. Diabolists can pick up the magic art form easiers, followed by circle masters, then spell slingers.

Necromancy: Necromancers are magicians that specialize in the dead, undead, and occasionally demons. There are descriptions found in Rifts® Africa (page 105), Palladium Fantasy RPG®, Rifts® Mystic Russiatm, the Riftertm #4 (I think), and also my additional spells in this file.

Ritual Magic: See description below

Rune/Ward Magic: Diabolists are the principal practicioners of this magic form. To use this magic takes the full understanding of rune magic, memorization of the 19 power words and the runes themselves, and the knowledge of the requirements, rules, and dangers of rune writing. Rune magic can be found in the Palladium Fantasy RPG®, but a section on advanced rune magic is in Rifts® Atlantis (page 126).

Spells of Communion with Wormwood: These are on page 82 of Rifts® Wormwood, and are useful only on the planet Wormwood. They allow citizens of the planet (and its invaders, too) to manipulate the living planet into generating useful things (such as water, food, shelter, walls, protection, symbiotes, parasites, etc.)

Spell Magic: This is the most common form of magic. It only takes an understanding of magic and the mastery of meditation and one's own mystic energy. Most magic users are spell slingers of one sort or another. Spell magic can be found in almost any main book for a Palladium game genre.

Temporal Magic: All data on this type of magic is in Rifts® England on page 74. It is a power magic that specializes in the manipulation and warping of time, space, and dimensions.

Time Lord Spells: Begins on page 48 of Transdimensional T.M.N.T.s®, and is true temporal magic in that users can travel back and forth through time.

Warlock Magic: Warlocks gain their magic power from one (and sometimes two) of the elemental forces. All their magic is drawn from and based on these forces. Descriptions of the spells can be found on page 62 of the Rifts® Conversion Book One and in the Palladium Fantasy RPG®.

Casting Rates

The Rifts® RPG states that:
Two low level (1-6) spells can be cast per melee.
One mid level (7-10) spell can be cast per melee.
One high level (11-15) spell can be cast per two melees.
Some incantations must be performed as a ritual.
This is a good basis, but there's got to be exceptions. In the first statement, on low level spells, it works out that one spell can be cast per two or three melee actions. Simple spells from levels one and two should only require a single melee action to cast. Most combat spells should also require one melee action to cast - spells like Time Slip, Call Lightning, Armor of Ithan, Fire Ball, Magic Net, Multiple Image, etc. Some spells might have a stated casting time in the description, and that should be used instead.

Rituals take preparation, and much more time than spells:
A simple (level 1-2) ritual will only require 1d4 minutes to perform.
A low level (3-6) ritual will only require 3d6+2 minutes to perform.
A mid level (7-10) ritual will require 5d4+10 minutes to perform.
A high level (11-15) ritual will require 1d6x10+15 minutes to perform.
Some rituals might have a stated time in the description - if so, go by that.
Runes, mystic symbols, wards, and all symbol- based magic must be created before use and should take 3d4 minutes per simple symbol and 6d4 minutes for complex ones. Activation of such symbols is almost always quick and simple - a single melee action is needed to do so.

Most Nazcan Line Magic takes a few melee actions to create, but some patterns are as difficult as circle and rune magic. The specific amount of time each pattern takes to draw is listed in its description.

Magic circles also require preparation beforehand - look here for the time required to do so. Activating them requires power words, and sometimes sacrifice and/or a specific object or action. If the circle needs nothing but power words to activate, it requires only one melee action to use. If sacrifice or some other special restriction exists the invocation of the circle requires more time - if the standard duration of invocation isn't listed, assume it requires a melee round.

Most magic potions, powders, elixirs, etc. take a melee action to ingest and have an instantaneous effect unless otherwise stated. Most magic items only take a melee action (maybe two) to activate, since the magic energy and its function is already resident in the object being used.

Changing and Learning Magic O.C.C.s

The official word can be found at the official site, under the title 'Dual O.C.C.s' in the Oops! section. However, the dual O.C.C.s title is a misnomer - the rule given is for switching to a new O.C.C. and sticking with it. I give a very, very brief rundown geared toward magic users here:

After the character has attained second level in the initial O.C.C., the player may opt to switch O.C.C.s. When training begins, the character is at the 0th level in the chosen O.C.C. To acquire first level in the new O.C.C., the character must gain an amount of experience points equal to third level in the magic/ psychic O.C.C. chosen (time spent as an apprentice to a master). These experience points are not added to the character's experience total (they don't count for anything but apprentice time). All,, hit points, save throw bonuses, and other increases are based on the new O.C.C. - any abilities gained in the previous O.C.C. remain. Remember, an integral part of this class change is the finding of a willing teacher to be an apprentice to.

What do you do if... you have a player who wants an actual dual- classed character? I have this suggestion - give the character a new experience table. Instead of using the ones for the know O.C.C.s, make level progression more difficult. For a dual- classed character I'd suggest using the Dragon experience table from Rifts®, where second level takes 3000 experience to attain. For a triple- classed character use the Vampire table from the Vampire Kingdom book, which requires 5000 experience points to get to level two. This system has two benefits - the first being that all experience counts toward leveling and none of it has to be 'split up,' and second in that when a level is attained all the character's O.C.C.s increase by one level.

This is all fine and dandy for permanently swapping O.C.C.s, but suppose a magician only wants to learn some of the special powers of a different magic O.C.C.? Sounds cool, but there aren't any official rules to cover it. Here's what I've come up with. GMs should be restrictive with this - it's easy for a player to get carried away and destroy game balance. I think it would be best used as a reward for good role playing.
  1. The character selecting new magical abilities and powers must be a magic user.

  2. To gain all special powers of an O.C.C., the character must attain first level in that O.C.C. by the standard process outlined above. This is more time consuming and restrictive early on, but more educational too.

  3. To gain a single special power of an O.C.C., the character must first have access to learning for the power - most likely a tutor. Next, the character must gain a level and sacrifice any new spells, bonuses, and extra gained at that level - don't add any of these to the character! Skills, hit points, and anything else unrelated to the magic nature of the character are unaffected. The idea is this - instead of getting stronger in the special bonuses and department, the character gets smarter and can do something new. When the sacrifice is made, the character (who has been studying off and on over the last couple levels) is able to use a single power from a different magic class.

  4. The special power being learned cannot involve any psionic abilities, mutant abilities, etc. Only magic- related abilities can be acquired. It is not possible to select the spell knowledge of an O.C.C., the learning of new spells, O.C.C. bonuses, or level as a new power - otherwise, players would be aiming for massive spell knowledge, excessive bonuses, and way too much

    Learning powers from a totally unfamiliar magic O.C.C., such as a Techno- Wizardtm learning how to raise the dead like a Necromancer or a Biomancer learning to create Cybermagictm technology, should be regulated by the GM - I'd suggest not allowing it in any form.

    The powers of the Ley Line Walkertm are related to magic energy in general, and thus any magician could learn a couple Ley Line Walkertm tricks. This is the only O.C.C. that has this high an accessibility.

  5. Learning powers from an O.C.C. based on a different source of power and philosophy is not possible. Hermetic spellcasters, like Wizards, Sorcerors, and Ley Line Walkerstm could never learn the secrets of mystic- types like Mystics, Warlocks, Animal Shamans, Witches, Priests, etc. or vice versa. Heavy specialists like Techno- Wizardstm, Cybermagestm, Fleshsculptorstm, Mirrormagestm, Metamages, and Enchanters could learn a few things from a few related O.C.C.s but never develop the powers of Warlocks and Mystics unless they change O.C.C.s.

  6. Learning the 'class skill' of another O.C.C. is possible, but difficult. If the character has no class skill, he has no restrictions and can learn any skill. If the character knows a class skill, he cannot learn a new class skill unless it relates to the one(s) already possessed. Secondly, the character must give up the new spells, special bonuses, and additional for two experience levels (the one just gained and the next one gained). Note that none of the O.C.C. powers are gained - just the class skill. Some O.C.C. powers might have to be acquired before full use can be made of any class skills.

    Thus, a Shifter and Temporal Wizard could learn each other's tricks. A Techno- Wizardtm could learn to develop Cybermagictm devices. A Fleshsculptortm could learn about machines and pick up a few Cybermagetm tricks, a Warlock might be able to bond more strongly with an elemental force and gain powers similar to a Witch, etc. As long as there is some sort of fundamental similarity between the O.C.C.s, special skills can be learned from both.

    A Shifter (whose main skill is manipulating rifts) wouldn't ever be able to learn about a Stone Master's stone- manipulating power, or a Techno- Wizard'stm magic- machine making skills, or a Necromancer's capacity to bond with dead flesh (unless he changed O.C.C.s). But, the Shifter could learn things about Temporal magic and Mirror magic (both involve manipulating cosmic forces) and even astral plane and Dreamstreamtm related O.C.C.s, since the Shifter is no stranger to alternate dimensions and planes of existence.

    Note: The 'class skill' is a pretty vague term. It is applied to the special talent or capacity of an O.C.C., such as the ability of Cybermagestm to bond flesh and machines and the Shifter power to manipulate rifts. The class skill is usually stated in general with no hard stats, and is sometimes not included in the list of O.C.C. powers. GMs should be aware that letting a character learn a class skill can be very unbalancing to the game, but also very fun for everyone involved. Classes with no class skills have the fewest restrictions and the best chance of becoming powerful - these would be the Sorceror, Wizard, Ley Line Walkertm, the Dabbler, and the Metamage.

Circle Magic

First things first: spell incantations and rituals that use a circle or a pentagram (or some other geometric figure) are very, very simple circle incantations and are not discussed at length here. They do not often use the inscribing of symbols within the barrier pattern (the circle or whatever figure is drawn), and are thus easier to use and much less powerful than a true magic circle. The Palladium Fantasy RPG® has a full description of magic circles.

There are two main types of circles: Power circles and simple circles. Power circles are very strong circles and/or have a single strong effect. Simple circles are ones that have a single moderate effect such as protection, enchantment, or summoning.

All Circles: Rendering the circle maker unconcious has a 76% chance of cancelling a circle's effects. Otherwise, the circle will function to the maximum duration. Circle magic has a save difficulty of 14 for those who haven't studied circles, but only 12 for those who have. A person with experience will probably have bonuses to their circle magic strength. It takes 30 to 45 minutes to draw an average (non-power) magic circle, but varies according to the complexity of the circle.

Protection: Takes 15 to 20 minutes to create the average circle, and a melee action or two to activate it. Protection circles affect only those inside the circle. Those inside the circle can use magic and missile weapons to attack from within the circle, but are also vulnerable to those same attacks. The creature that protection is provided against must roll a 16 or higher (plus the circle maker's circle strength bonus) in order to enter the circle without taking damage. Failure means the creature immediately takes 2d6 points of damage per melee.

Enchantment: Anything inside the circle is enchanted for a time when the circle magic is activated. These circles can be used again and again by anyone who knows the magic words and has the magic energy and experience to use them. They take 45 to 60 minutes to create, and usually a minute or so to activate. The enchantments have varying durations.

Summoning: A summoned creature(s) usually appear within 2d6 melees. As long as the summoner and any watchers stay in the circle, they are totally safe from the summoned creature (it cannot attack anything in the circle. This creature must immediately make 3 of 5 rolls against the summoner's M.E. (roll a 1d20 and add in any M.E. bonuses of the creature). Failure means it is totally subservient (but will never the caster its true name). Success means the creature has free will, and the caster has a 70% chance of sending it back to where it came from. Failure on this means the creature will hang around for another 2d4 hours. At the end of this period, the creature has a 90% chance of returning home.

The creating of a summoning circle takes 30 to 45 minutes, while activation requires one to three minutes (usually). Most summoning circles must be re-drawn every time a creature is to be summoned.

Summoners can command one lesser devil, demon, faerie, minor elemental, ghost, or large animal per every two levels of experience. These beings challenge the mental control once every two months. One greater demon, devil, elemental, entity, or angel can be commanded per four levels of experience and will require mental battles every two weeks. Roll for each and every creature commanded. The Kukulcan is the only kind of dragon that can be summoned. Note that angels will commit suicide before killing, even harming or stealing from an innocent (77% chance). Also, by writing the true name of the creature to be summoned in a circle, a specific creature can be summoned.

Power: These circles have a much larger radius than the simpler circles. They take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, but some take even 90 and 120 to do! A circle affecting those on the outside must be sealed, and sealing a circle of power makes it cause 4d6 damage per melee to those beings whose true names aren't inscribed inside the circle. Reactivating these circles takes 4 to 12 minutes, but may not be possible for all circles (some circles must be freshly drawn to use).

A sealed circle of power causes 4d6 damage per melee to those beings who enter the circle and don't have their true name written in the circle. One more thing: preparing the circle and saying the power words (activation words) wrong will have dangerous and unpredictable effects.

Glyph Magic

A glyph is a mystic symbol that acts similar to a ward, but calls upon the powers of an entire cosmic force when disturbed. Runic (magical) scripts are based on the same principle as glyphs, in that a symbol has magical power. Glyphs could be considered a 'super- rune,' that can be written to perform a guarding action with various levels of response, and to do so with power drawn from a particular elemental or cosmic force. This depends entirely on the knowledge and magical energy capacity of the caster - very few people know all of the secrets of even one glyph, let alone several. Incomplete knowledge abounds. The Old Ones are whispered to have been the creators of glyphs, as a way to bring a fresh supply of magic energy to them even while they slept. But talk of waking the Old Ones just by playing around with some magical symbols is foolishness anyways, right?

Creating a Glyph

The creator of the glyph can cancel it at any time, and never sets off the glyph when he does the things that the glyph prevents others from doing. If someone triggers the glyph when the creator of it is in the area, he is not affected by it. He can also mentally command it to not take effect if he is within the area of the glyph's effect when it is triggered.

The caster's casting level, but not spell strength, is transferred to the glyph also. So, the magical effects created by a 6th level mage's glyph would function at level six strength, but would not benefit from the mage's magic strength bonuses.

When creating a glyph, the mage should try to have as much magic energy as he possibly can. he chooses to use can be made to strengthen the glyph - there are no limits. A glyph cannot be expanded later time, so the stronger you can make it the better. However, it is possible to 'refresh' the glyph at a later time by paying half the original creation cost. Powers cannot be added or removed, but the glyph's magical strength can be 'upgraded' to the current level of the creator. Thus, a glyph can be maintained over time and can grow in power (but not in ability).

Save Throws

Glyphs are more powerful than normal runes, wards, and other magical symbols (even circles). Saving against glyph magic takes a roll of 16 or better for most people, but only 14 or better for anyone with knowledge of mystic symbols.

Other People

A glyph can usually be designed to allow others to bypass the glyph's protection and be protected by the glyph if they are near it. This involves the incription of the authorized persons' true names near or in the glyph. This cost 5 for each person besides the glyph creator. Names can be inscribed and erased by the creator of the glyph as time goes on, without having to re-create the glyph.

It is also possible to designate a person as a bearer of the glyph for 10 The process of doing so is the same as above, and provides the bearer with the same priveleges as above. However, a bearer is also able to use the abilities of the glyph - usually done when a glyph is put on a piece of armor or a weapon (or even a medallion or cape). A bearer uses the abilities at half of the glyph maker's level upon creation of the glyph.

Glyph Statistics and Abilities

Glyph features can be programmed to act any time a certain action occurs, but once they are set this way they cannot be changed. The creator of a fire glyph on a door to his den, for instance, might have powerful enemies and children to deal with. He could set up a loud flame screech (alarm) to react to things that kids might do (open the door, push it, or toss balls at it) but it could also summon a fire elemental if attacked by steel weapons.

These are abilities, statistics, and powers that are possible to perform or are common to all glyphs:

Range: Touch for drawing/ casting, the glyph and it's powers have a range of 30ft per level of the caster (this applies to all powers, even if they mimic a spell).
Duration: One year per level, or permanent for five times the total cost of the glyph.
Casting Time: Ten minutes, plus ten per power that is added.
Effective Level: Equal to the glyph maker's at the time of creation when a glyph is defending itself, but only half that level when a bearer is using the glyph's powers. Note: Anybody out there feel like coming up with some cool glyphs? I have an example of one in this file. If you like the ideas (like I do) found in Through the Glass Darkly, glyphs are excellent candidates for living magic as described on page 33. These sentient glyphs would create a human manifestation and use the powers of the glyph to perform whatever task they were intended for. A glyph used to protect a mage's study would probably evolve into a powerful guardian over many years (or by way of the mage's tampering).


Save throws for magic illusions has always been pretty basic - you roll a save throw vs magic just like every other spell. But illusions are not like other magic in that they affect a physical area and the mind of the viewer, not the body. It's more a matter of perception and art than of overriding the body's defenses. So this is the idea I came up with and I plan to use it from now on in my own adventures:

Dispelling Illusions

To dispel an illusion, a magician must have first saved against it successfully. He can then use a Negate Magic spell to get rid of it. Some illusions (mostly those under level ten) can be dispelled by piercing the illusion with an object made of iron (at least 84% pure). The illusion must save vs magic (a 16 or better) or is instantly destroyed. These can be purchased from some alchemists and magic dealers, who might also enchant them with additional power.

Creating Illusions

Whenever a mage creates an illusion, the base perception difficulty is set at 10. To make it a more effective illusion, the mage can add his spell strength or the appropriate skill divided by 15% (whichever is greater). The mage must have a skill related to the illusion object in order to create it. Demolitions would be necessary for creating a bomb, Art: Painting to create an illusionary picture, Pilot: Tanks and APCs to weave an illusionary Patton II tank, Read Sensory Equipment for making a false radar signature, etc. For common objects (lamp, chair, table) just use double the mage's spell strength.

Note that the mage must either have a replica to work from or a detailed memory of the object to create, otherwise the spell strength is halved for the illusion. If creating an illusion of an object or person he is familiar with, add a 2 to 8 point bonus depending on the level of familiarity. Seeing the person/ object once or twice would result in a +2 bonus, while a family member or friend would be a +8 bonus. A mediocre degree of familiarity would get a bonus somewhere in between those two values.

Save Throws vs Illusions

Whenever someone views an illusion, they must roll over the difficulty on a 1d20. The viewer can add either his perception bonus, his appropriate skill divided by 15%, half his bonus to save vs magic, or half his bonus to save vs psionics (whichever is greater or more applicable). He can also add to this highest number his bonus to save vs illusions. If someone is familiar with an object or person being imitated, add another 2 to 8 point bonus depending on the familiarity. Seeing the person/ object once or twice would result in a +2 bonus, while a family member or friend would be a +8 bonus. A mediocre degree of familiarity would get a bonus somewhere in between those two values.

Example One: A mage named Aryn is using the Mask of Deceit spell to cover his identity and make himself look like a certain senator. His Disguise skill is pretty good (65%), as is his spell strength bonus (+3), and he fools most people. Then he runs into the senator's aide, who just happens to be a bright boy with a perception bonus (a +2). The aide is also pretty familiar with the senator and gets another +4 bonus (he's met him more than a few times but doesn't know the man like his own father). So now it comes down to the save throw. Aryn's base difficulty is 10, plus his Disguise skill bonus of +4 (65% divided by 15% is rounded down) and his spell strength bonus of +3. The resulting difficulty is 17! The aide has a total bonus of +6, but suffers a -4 penalty due to the Mask of Deceit spell. He's only got an effective bonus of +2, and he rolls 1d20. Aryn nods and walks by confidently as the aide, who rolled a 13 after bonuses, smiles and continues on his own way. Success!

Example Two: Aryn is being pursued by another mage and attempts to create an illusion to scare the mage away. He uses the Apparition spell, and creates an image of a dybbuk that he once saw. Since he doesn't have the Lore: Demons and Monsters skill, he can only add his +2 bonus to the illusion for a perception difficulty of 12. The pursuing mage sees the illusion and gets his save throw. The mage has a bonus of +1 to save vs illusions, but no other bonuses to save vs magic or on perception. What the mage does have, however, is the Lore: Demons and Monsters skill. His skill is 84%, which translates to a +4 bonus (just shy of a +5). His overall bonus to save vs the illusion is +5, and with a roll of 11 he saves quite easily. The pursuing mage notices that Aryn forgot the smaller pair of arms beneath the large pair on his illusionary dybbuk, and ignores it as he continues his hunt.

Living Magic

This is a concept covered in Through the Glass Darkly, pages 33 to 36. It involves the 'what-ifs' when a magic spell fails, when a rift appears, how thought affects magic and vice versa, etc. I mention it because it gives the Palladium magic system something new and interesting.

Magical Destabilization

This is one of the many dangers of tampering with magical energies. Magic is a force of nature, and when ignorantly or improperly applied the balance it resides in is disrupted. Sometimes the disruption repairs itself quickly and easily, so a caster may get off lucky if destabilization occurs and was combining or simulcasting a couple low level spells. The magical effect may dissapate, cause a flash of light and a loud bang, or even backfire on the caster. The stronger the spells that are "bent" (a metamage term for altering magical forces), the more powerful the magical disturbance and the more likely a dangerous result. The experiment that rifted Atlantis off the planet is just one example of what can happen when powerful, stable magics are tampered with.

What Causes Destabilization

Destabilization is an uncommon and usually unnatural occurence. It results from the casting of metamage spells, the bending of spells (see the Magic Skills), and from ley line storms. Normal and unaltered spells do not contribute to the destabilization of an area and are usually safe to use. However, no form of magic is safe to use when an area is already destabilized.

Range of Destabilization

Destabilization commonly affects a circular area with a radius equal to the total level of manipulated spells combined squared. So, a simulcasting of two fourth level spells would destabilize a circular area with a 64ft radius and causes +2d4% to the destabilization (in this case, a 7% increase). If another casting creates a destabilization also, the destabilization spreads to the largest size. With the previous example casting, two fifth level spells would destabilize a 100ft radius, an increase of 36ft over the original 64ft. The effective destabilization percentage also spreads across the largest area, and with the two spells simulcast another 4% was added. Everything within 100ft of the mage who simulcast the spells has a destabilization level of 11% now.

Reduction of Destabilization

Destabilization decreases, on the average, by 1d6+9% (10-15%) per melee round. In areas with rampant magical energies this restoration rate can be lower (even nonexistent) and possibly take longer. Wise metamages don't bend spells during a ley line storm. Magically controlled environments like Center (of Phase Worldtm) and stone pyramids generally have a higher stabilization rate than the surrounding areas (at least double). Mages with the metamage spell of Alter Magical Stability (a level 14 spell) can also control the rate some.

Special Cases for Destabilization

There are really only two special cases - 0% and 100% destabilization. If the destabilization chance ever reaches 100% (very unlikely and rare, unless intentionally caused), the surrounding area is immediately destabilized with very harsh consequences. For the 0%, there is no chance at all and a roll is not necessary. In fact, I'd suggest that GMs and players don't roll for destabilization until it reaches 25% or more. GMs could also opt to not require rolls for low level spells, level three and under. This way, game play isn't bogged down by rolls on unlikely odds and minor spells.

When Destabilization Occurs

Whenever a spell is cast (any spell), the player must also roll percentile dice. A roll under the chance of destabilzation will cause the spell energies to 'burst.' Every time a spell bursts, the destabilization chance drops by 1d6% time the spell level(s). The results of a spell bursting are up to the GM, but should always be proportional to the level of destabilization. Some possible destabilization effects include:

Magician Slang

Bend - To alter or reshape a spell energy, whether done by metamagic or by skill.
Bomb - When a spell bursts and causes a large amount of physical damage.
Burst - This happens when an area is destabilized and a magic spell causes a magical disruption in the area.
Fizzle - A spell that causes a destabilization and simply evaporates harmlessly without any interesting effect. Has also been used as a derogatory term describing a neophyte or washed-up mage.
Fuse - To combine spells through improvisation to create a new spell.
Glamour - A pre-rifts term for an illusion.
Light Show - An eruption of light and energy created by a spell bursting. Relatively harmless.
Loose Spell - This is a spell that the casting magician has lost control over. Most loose spells function to full duration, then vanish.
Mystic - This is the general term for a magician that uses magic power bestowed by some unknown force (whether a Warlock, a Priest, a Witch, or whatever). For these magicians magic is about intuition and emotion, not hours of studying.
Necro - A shortened term for Necromancers, animated dead, zombies, mummies, or necromancy in general.
Scrip - A verb, 'to learn a spell by copying it from a scroll.'
Sorceror - This is a magician that specializes in common spell magic, but knows enough about magic to learn a few tricks from other disciplines. His study is hermetic - time is spent researching, reading, and theorizing.
Warlock - A magician whose magic is drawn from one or two of the elemental forces.
Wild - A spell goes wild when it is cast and does not produce the exact desired effect (maybe stronger, maybe weaker, maybe the wrong target, etc). Unlike a loose spell, the mage doesn't lose control over the wild spell.
Wizard - Same as Sorceror.

Residual P.P.E.(tm)

Spellcasting has a tendency to cause small amounts of magic energy to fragment and 'coat' an area. This stray can build up and create a variety of strange mystical effects if not periodically cleaned or reclaimed. It can also attract supernatural entities and other beings, and sometimes even latch on to living beings! This is why taking magical safety precautions is so necessary - a magician's domicile can become chaotic from the unclaimed fragments.

Removal of Residual

The easiest and most common way of dealing with it is through the use of the Magi spell of Cleansing (or creating a Cleanser as described in this file. Most alchemists and a few priests will cast this spell (or have an equivalent ritual, potion, or divine power) on a person, place, or thing for a payment/ donation of 100-1000 gold (or credits) depending on the person and circumstances.

Ley line storms, moving water, forests, earthquakes, and thunderstorms have the effect of recycling magic energy back into the natural world, breaking up residual and 'recycling' it. Meditation in such an environment is an effective and easy means of freeing oneself from any fragments that might be attached to objects or people.

Effects of Residual

This is a table of random effects that GMs might find useful at some point. For every two days of standard spellcasting in an area (at least two spells per day) add 1% to the roll on this table (that's how you run into the more dangerous and rare effects). Roll once a week for effects against an area, once a month for each special magic object or magician (if at all), and often when faced with areas like enchanted lakes, faerie forests, and dragon's lairs. Whatever table element is rolled will remain until the area, target object, or afflicted magician is mystically cleansed.
01-20 No effect: The stray magic energy doesn't cause any problems this time.
21-30 Spell Echo: 1d20 minutes after casting a spell, a first level version of that spell will randomly (as in the target is random) manifest itself in the area of its initial casting, as long as sufficient magic energy is present to be drawn. This drain is pretty much automatic, whether drawn from a storage battery, a magical haze, a child, a pet, non- sentient supernatural entity, senile wizard, etc.
31-40 Magical Haze: The casting of spells has caused everything in the area of casting (or a magician's clothes and jewelry) to become magically charged to a small degree. The haze is barely visible as a bluish- white glow. Magicians can draw off 1 per two levels of experience per hour from the area/ possessions. If this isn't drawn on, it will tend to build up - each week of existing haze triggers a +3% bonus when rolling on this table, plus this magic energy can fuel other buildup effects.
41-50 Law Weakening: All casters of magic (or the single afflicted wizard or magic object possessor) lose a -3 on their spell strength when casting certain kinds of magic (just illusionary magic, just barrier spells, just body affecting spells, etc).
51-60 Stray Thoughts: Residual causes the people in the area (or a person, if that is the focus) to have distracting thoughts (ones that belong to the original possessor of the!) Every time a skill is attempted, the character must roll a save vs insanity. Failure means a -5% penalty is incurred on that roll.
61-70 Mystic Drain: Magic usage causes an additional 1d4 to be lost (poof! gone!) in addition to the magic's casting cost. This energy will eventually fuel wild magics in the area and attract supernatural creatures.
71-80 Random Spell Effect: A single spell cast often in the area (or by the caster) will take effect at random, when enough magic energy is accumulated to activate the spell.
81-90 Creature Attraction: A minor supernatural being migrates to the area. This will probably be some sort of psychic, astral, or Dreamstreamtm entity with anywhere between 1 and 50
91-100 Law Breaking: The Laws of Magic are warped and broken to some degree, causing the caster of any magic spell, circle, ritual, etc. to roll against his Principles of Magic skill (a penalty is the GM's option) to successfully cast magic. Failure means the magic goes wild.
101-125 Stray Thoughts: As before, residual causes the target or those in the area to think strange things. Every time a skill is attempted, the character must roll a save vs insanity. Failure means a -10% penalty is incurred on that roll (can't focus). Everyone in the area will think about depressing, irritating, or out- of- character things, resulting in a -1 to M.E. and -2 to M.A. while affected, and meditation becomes difficult (half the normal rest,, and is recovered).
126-150 Random Psychic Effects: Every six hours, the area's inhabitants (or the afflicted caster) must save vs magic - failure means that the stray triggers latent (or even existing) psychic power and causes a random minor psychic power to take effect equal to a first level psychic. People in the area might report bouts of miraculous healing, seeing auras or strange visions, levitation, recovery from illness, being able to hear another's thoughts, etc. In some cases, this can be scary or dangerous - especially if supernatural forces have been attracted to the area.
151-175 Creature Attraction: A major supernatural being migrates to the area. This will probably be some sort of psychic, astral, or Dreamstreamtm entity with anywhere between 51 and 150 or a variety of supernatural abilities (like minor demons and minions).
176-200 Chance of Failure: Any time a spell is cast in the area (or by the afflicted magician), there is a 2% chance per spell level of the spell inexplicably failing! Also, spells like Energy Bolt and Fire Ball suffer a -2 to strike penalty.
201-250 Law Disruption: All casters of magic (or the single afflicted wizard or magic object possessor) either lose a -2 on their magic strength when casting any magic, lose 25% of the range of the magic, or lose 1d4 levels in strength (for combat and defense spells). Roll randomly or choose how/ when this affects magicians.
251-300 Mystic Afterimage: Magic energy binds itself into a physical form and takes on independent thought! The magic might make itself a copy of the spellcaster, or will possess an animal or child to create a Channeler- type character, or will become a copy of someone or something the caster or area's inhabitant thought about a lot, etc.

Ritual Magic

This is just a brief word on rituals. A ritual is basically a mixture of spell, circle, and alchemic magic in varying amounts. Some rituals are entirely spell based outside of the drawing of a circle. Others might require some common magical components. The effect of the basic usage of several magic types is to create one overall magical effect. It takes no great expertise in circle magic to draw a pentagram on the floor and toss some demon blood into it.

The main point is this: rituals have a bit in common with all magic, so any spellcaster, circle maker, or diabolist can learn ritual magic.

Save Throws

It makes sense to me to break magic up into the following groups and apply the stated restrictions (in other words, I got bored and suddenly saw an unclear topic in the Palladium magic system). A bonus to save vs magic (from P.E. or O.C.C. bonuses) can be applied against all forms of magic. However, some mages might have bonuses listed to save against specific forms of magic (such as necromantic, shadow, fire, etc.):
Spell Magic: Base save difficulty of 12, plus any spell strength bonuses. No special things to remember, other than that most forms of magic qualify as spell magic.

Scroll Magic: Scrolls are simply spell incantations written with magic. The scroll does not get the spell strength bonus of its creator, so all scroll magic can be saved against with a roll of 12 or better.

Ward/Rune Magic: Base save difficulty of 14. A person with experience might have bonuses to ward/rune strength (as opposed to spell strength).

Circle Magic: Base save difficulty of 14. A person with experience might have bonuses to circle strength (as opposed to spell strength).

Ritual Magic: Base save difficulty of 16. A person with experience might have bonuses to ritual strength (as opposed to spell strength).

Glyph Magic: Base save difficulty of 16. A person with experience might have bonuses to glyph strength (as opposed to spell strength).

Line Magic: Base save difficulty of 12, plus any line magic strength bonuses. Experts with lines have bonuses to cast line magic.

Alchemal Potions: Base save difficulty of 12. No magic strength bonuses can be used to save.

Mystic Herbology Potions: Base save difficulty of 14. No magic strength bonuses can be used to save.

Chi Spell Magic: Base save difficulty of 12. Those with experience get bonuses to cast Chi Spells.

Celestial Calligraphy Magic: Base save difficulty of 10. No spell strength bonus can be transferred to Celestial Calligraphy.

Mind-Altering Magic: Spells like Domination and Charm spells should be saved against as a psionic attack, but instead of adding M.E. bonuses add in the save vs magic bonuses. So, a master psionic would only have to roll a 10 so save against a Domination spell but his P.E. of 12 and ignorance of magic don't give any bonuses. Consider this a special sub-class of magic and all spells, magic circles, spells, runes, and objects follow this rule.


Most Palladium books cover scrolls, but I want to try to include some important and little-known updates and also fill in some gaps.

Scroll Conversion

This can only be done by a literate mage, who must read the scroll (which activates it), translate it (80% or better literacy in the language the scroll is written in, or get a real good translator), and copy it down before the scroll's effect occurs. The base skill for learning a spell from a working scroll is 10% +2% per level of experience in Rifts®, but it's 8% per level in the first edition of the PFRPG. I'd suggest that, for across the board equality, you go by what follows in the next paragraph.

All mystic mages (which includes warlocks, witches, priests, and anyone who learns spells by 'enlightenment' and not hermetic study) are unable to translate scrolls. They lack the perspective on magic that makes this skill possible. All other magicians can translate a scroll into a viable spell formula with a base skill of 10% plus the I.Q. attribute, +4% per each additional level of experience. However, a -2% penalty should be imposed per level of the spell in the scroll. If the conversion attempt fails, the translator is left with no scroll and an incomplete (and probably unstable) spell formula, the casting of which can have embarassing, destructive, inconvenient, or deadly side effects. Further research on the spell will be impossible until the character gains another experience level (or another 25,000 experience points, whichever comes first), at which point research into the spell can be resumed.

A successful scroll conversion results in a complete spell formula, a valuable asset in the complete understanding of the spell - add a +10% to +25% bonus to the success roll of figuring out the existing magic. If the spell formula is incomplete, the GM should give a -5% to a +15% bonus to the roll (depending on how botched the formula is). The spell formula will still have information useful in figuring out the spell, but it can't be used for a casting (much too dangerous). The mage can use a complete spell formula as directions to cast the spell, but must rely on a hardcopy of the formula to do so - until he learns it and knows it well enough to cast from memory.

Scroll Reading

Since scrolls have the magic energy built in, it is possible for anyone to use them. However, to read the scroll a person must have literacy of 55% or more in the language in which the scroll is written. It also doesn't matter if the scroll is read silently or aloud - either way, the scroll takes effect. All words of the scroll must be read, or else the words vanish from the scroll without being invoked and the spell is invalidated. The fact that the words vanish when the scroll is read, whether they are spoken or not, is what makes it so difficult to copy down the vital information in the scroll.

Purchasing Scrolls

Wizards and clergy don't often sell scrolls, but will trade, give, and grant them. Alchemists and other magic dealers usually sell scrolls for 200 gold (or credits) per spell level plus 100 gold per level of spell strength. These rates double for spells fourth level or more, triple for spells eight level or more, quadruple for spells twelfth level or more, and quintuple (times five!) for a spell of level fourteen or fifteen. Not that you'd ever find a shop that sells scrolls of spells that are more than level ten, but just in case you were wondering. Alchemist might decide to alter the price even more, based on quantity purchased and the spells involved.

Creating Scrolls

Something I noticed when I just read the Create Magic Scroll spell description in the Nightbanetm RPG (see page 146). It says that computer- literate mages can create digital scrolls! The magic energy is transcribed into text information, which is read as a normal scroll. These scroll computer programs can be moved just like all computer data can, but copies cannot be made - they are self- deleting archives. Creating a scroll requires a literacy of at least 70% in the language of choice. To put a scroll onto a computer disk requires a Computer Operation skill of 70% or better also. One last thing - a scroll requires one hour per level of the target spell to create.

Specialized Magic

There are three basic kinds of magician. Some tap into magical power from a higher source - Witches, Priests, Warlocks, Shamans, and mystics all fall into the general Mystic category. Some magicians have a broad understanding of magic in general, use their knowledge and force of will to create magic, learn magic based on what are called 'hermetic techniques,' and primarily study common spell magic - your basic Sorceror or Wizard (I consider the terms equivalent). Wizards have the capacity to learn and understand most kinds of magic, but rarely have the drive to master a specific school or discipline of magic.

The last category is for the groups of magicians that focus their magical talents in a specific direction - these magicians are the Fleshsculptorstm, the Cybermagestm, the Techno- Wizardstm, the Mirrormagestm, the Diabolists, Necromancers, and Summoners (among many others). Their magic is a mixture of odd philosophy, weird science, and/or allegiance with cosmic or supernatural forces (as opposed to bondage to). The defining quality is that all have a strange ability that sets them apart from all other magicians. I refer to these magicians collectively as Specialists.

Specialist magicians have learned magic by adhering to a strict set of beliefs, pricinples, and teachings. This way of learning gives the specialized mage the ability to perform to a rare and/or difficult form of magic, but also makes magical endeavors outside of the focus of the specialization very difficult. While Wizards can generally read a spell formula and know what to do, a Specialist doesn't often have the same expertise or training in basic spellcasting and would have to study the spell formula before being able to use it. Thus, Specialists almost always have to reverse- engineer a Wizard spell formula and recreate it based it on the principles of their particular specialization.

Some magic might be beyond the capacity of a Specialist's form of magic - a Necromancer would probably never be able to learn a Mirrormagetm spell (completely different philosophy of magic) or how to develop Cybermagetm devices. Necromancers don't have the knowledge needed to fuse magic, flesh, and machine. But, a Necromancer would certainly be able to pick up a couple Fleshsculptortm spells because both schools of magic focus on the control over flesh to some degree. Specialist mages also can attempt to develop a specialized version of an existing magic spell - try the rules in the next section.

Access to Specialized Magic

These are basic restrictions that should be applied when a magician is trying to learn the secrets of another school of magic. The first four were taken from page 39 of TGD and I expanded them to include some things that seemed important.
  1. No Wizard or Specialist can invent an entirely new specialized spell unless that category of magic is fully understood - at least first level proficiency must have been attained in the special magic O.C.C. that uses the specialized magic.

  2. When a Wizard desires to learn a Specialist's spell, or vice versa, consider the spell to be learned five levels higher than it actually is (some spells might be exceptions to this). So, a level two Mirrormagetm spell would be as difficult for a Wizard to learn as a common seventh level spell incantation. The specialized magic spells also require double the normal to cast.

    After a Wizard knows six spells from a specialized magic discipline he gains enough familiarity that the specialized magic spells are only considered two levels higher for learning purposes. The spells are still difficult, but the Wizard knows what is going on. He can also cast the spells at the normal cost. For a Specialist still learning to cast common spell magic , the same holds true.

  3. No spellcaster may take a specialized spell as a free spell gained upon achieving a new level of experience unless explicitly stated in the O.C.C. description. To learn a specialized spell requires independent research or tutoring. In some cases a spellcaster may not be able to learn common spell magic without a tutor, which reflects the limitation of studies normally part of the O.C.C. Mystic magicians, due to their intuitive use of magic, may or may not follow this rule and could select any spell or ritual (up to the GMs discretion).

  4. Each time a magician attempts to learn a spell that is specific to a different kind of magician a roll under the I.Q. on a 1d20 must be made. Failure means the magician may not study that spell until another experience level or 25,000 experience points is gained (whichever might come first).

  5. Magicians who do not use spell magic can learn spells, but have similar limitations - this applies primarily to circle masters, Diabolists, and herbalists. For the purposes of learning new spells, I go by the assumption that one 4th to 6th level spell is approximately equal to the standard rune that a Diabolist would learn and also to a simple magic circle.

    A Specialist of this type, one with no training in casting spells, would have to attempt to figure out an existing spell. For the Specialist's first attempts at this, I'd even impose another -5% penalty to the success roll (inexperience). Once the character succeeds in learning one spell, all others can be learned without the inexperience penalty of -5%. All spell magic cast by the non- spellcasting magician costs double the normal until the Specialist has learned eight magic spells - after that, the process is familiar enough that it is cast at normal cost. Circle and rune users rarely study spells other than common ones. For them, the circles and runes are the main course and common spell magic is the dessert.
Example: A standard rune might take a Diabolist 3-4 weeks to learn, and that would be equivalent to a comparably- experienced Sorceror trying to learn a 4th to 6th level spell. The Diabolist is trying to learn a simple Invisibility spell (3rd level), but would relatively as difficult as learning a eighth level spell for the Sorceror. Next is to do the math for the success rolls, counting the spell being learned as a 8th level one. It would take him about eight weeks of research on the spell formula and a week of testing. Though the Diabolist, a Specialist in runes, normally has no knowledge of using a spell formula to create magic he will have a chance of doing so sucessfully.

Spell Design

Although time consuming, the process of spell design is worthwhile. First, simulcasting and improvising spells can be dangerous when magical forces get destabilized. Designing a stable spell greatly reduces the possibility of causing magical destabilization. The second good point about it is that a stable spell will use less energy than its improvised counterpart. An improvised spell burns off the excess in holding the spell energies together. Lastly, special spells can give a mage an advantage in combat. This is rooted both in using spells that the enemy has no knowledge of and hence, no defense, and in intimidation value. In magic using environments fireballs are common. What is uncommon could be lightning balls, or flaming darts, or exploding fireballs, or fireballs that burn black flames, etc. And best of all, if a mage is in need he can always consider selling his secrets for something very valuable. Unfortunately the resources for spell creation can become costly, besides the fact that it is a very time consuming process. If you want the 'official' word on creating new spells, see Through the Glass Darkly page 36.


The base cost should be 20,000 gold (or credits, or whatever) per spell level from one to five, 25,000 gold per level from 6 to 10, and 50,000 per level for 11 and beyond. Add +10% for offensive magic and +20% for summoning and metamorphosis magic. These costs are based on the purchasing costs found on page 164 of the Rifts® RPG.

Don't forget about the costs to set up a laboratory and study and get access to magical libraries. Resources needed should be equivalent to the level of the spell, perhaps 5% to 10% of the cost based on. The quality of resources could either increase or decrease the possibility of success.

I've recently chosen to look at this from another viewpoint: Why is it so expensive? Sure the creative magician needs to invest in some magical safety precautions, but is that why is it so expensive? I figure all that a spellcaster needs to do to make a new spell is to break out a few reference materials, get some paper and pens, prepare some safety precautions, come up with some formula combinations, and experiment!

A mage in the process of developing a spell will usually work on it for 12-15 hours a day, sleeping and eating the rest of the time. All I can figure he really needs to spend money on is day- to- day survival, a few texts relevant to his project, some magical components and stuff, coverage of the fees for using a guild's libraries and consulting other mages (basically paying for a bonus on the next practice roll), and a maid or two (depending on how messy the mage is).

Time Requirements

The time it takes to research a spell formula is equivalent to two weeks per spell level, more or less depending on complexity and resources. Once a formula is developed, the testing begins. This could take anywhere from a few days to years. It all depends on how your GM wants to deal with time in his campaign.

Success Rolls - This brief listing is a compilation of the rules in TDG, pages 36 to 41.

The Final Touches

To unlock the finer details of the spell formula once it is generalized, the creator must have the neccessary to cast the spell. He or she should cast the spell a number of times successfully, rolling under their skill level for spellcrafting. A low level spell shouldn't take that many castings to get right (I'd go 1d4 castings), while a medium one would take a few more (1d4+2), and a very high one several times (1d6+2). Good research will drop the number of castings needed.


The results of a failure should match the type of spell. If a mage was trying to figure out a spell to change the color of water, he could fail and turn his clothes, eyes, himself, or the container holding the water a different color. If he was experimenting with a spell to summon and control a creature and failed, he might actually summon the creature but not have any control over it. GMs should be logical, reasonable, and let the character live to learn what he did wrong. The results of a failure ultimately depends on the spell, preparation, any magical or mundane securities the magician took care to place, luck, and the GM's discretion.

GM Information

Whenever I create new spells for these games we love so much, I always think first about the approximate level of the spell I want to create. I try to use ranges, durations, damages, and costs from spells of the same level or one higher or lower. I also look at similar spells to help give me an idea of a way to gauge the power and usefulness of a spell. When working with a player to develop a new spell for a character, a GM should consider the following things when determining the requirements for a successful spell creation: