Common Spirit or Battle Magic in WOD: Glorantha


For me back in the day the ubiquity of battle magic was something that made RQ and Glorantha significantly different and better than the other games of the time, and to keep the same look and feel  to the world it needs to keep its prominence, and see a world where magic is as common a response to a problem as technology is our world.

Keeping spirit/battle/folk magic front and centre needs to be key to any Gloranthan system, and this needs to be the case in the WOD storyteller mash up.

There has to my knowledge never been any link between spirit magic and runes within the game mechanic, there is a linkage between runes and spirit magic in the game world and it would be good if the game mechanic would reflect it.

I am aiming for a system where characters with high traits in runes associated with a particular spirit magic spell find it easier to cast and their spells are more potent when they do. Where characters without  associated runes can still use the sprit magic spells but their magic less powerful.

Base Spirit Magic Mechanic

The premise of the system is this

  • All characters have variable points in various runes( usually 1 to 5)
  • All characters have variable point in various battle magic spells (usually 1 to 5)
  • All spirit magic spells have a native rune associated with them
  • Casing any spirit magic spell costs a single quinessence point.

When casting a spirit magic spell the caster can choose to

  • Amplify his battle magic spell through a rune of his choice.
  • Use his knowledge of the spell only

If a character chooses to amplify his spell through the use of his runes, the following mechanic kicks in

  • A players dice pool is the sum of the traits in battle magic and the traits in the particular spell
  • The target difficulty of the roll for the spells effect is set by relevance of the rune chosen to the spell and the target effect or situation.
    • Difficulty 5 – Native rune
    • Difficulty 6 – High relevance
    • Difficulty 7 – Slight relevance
    • Difficulty 8 – Tenuous relevance
    • Difficulty 9 – No relevance
    • Difficulty 10 – Opposing Rune

If the character chooses not amplify the battle magic spell

  • The dice pool is the character trait level in the spell
  • The difficulty will be a standard 6

As with all WOD storyteller systems the number of dice rolled over the difficulty is the number of success on the test.

For Example  Jema the Chalana Arroy Healer has a trait of 3 in the spell heal and 2 in the life rune. If she choose not to amplify the spell with her Rune she would roll 3 dice with target numbers of 6, so a 2, 4, and 8 rolled mean she has one success.

However if she were to amplify the spell with her rune she would roll 5 dice with a target number of 5, meaning a 3,5,7,5,8 would give her 4 successes.

Ricca the Ernelda priestess has Heal 3 and Earth 4, if she were to amplify with her earth rune by channelling the healing power of the earth into her target she would have a dice pool of 7 and difficulty of 6 as it is a highly relevant rune in an appropriate situation.

Alric the shaman has Heal 2 and Spirit 5, he can amplify his heal through his spirit but it is only slightly relevant so he will have a dice pool of 7 but a difficulty of 7.

Shoga the Deathlord has Heal 2 and Death 5, if he was to try to amplify the heal spell through a death rune, the difficulty would be 10 due to opposing nature and he is as likely to damage his target as heal him.

Runes and Relevancy

The spell descriptions listed below all list native runes and runes with high relevance, however some guidance on other runes.

  • Elemental runes – Elemental runes are either native, highly relevant but only become relevant if the physical element is present and could be manipulated to the effect desired. More often they are neutral, but sometimes are opposed when opposing spells native to other elements.
  • Power Runes – Power runes are brought into play when associated to the effect being sought and tend to be highly relevant or opposing runes,
  • Form Runes – Form runes usually become slightly relevant when the target of the spell relates to the form.
  • Condition Runes – Condition Runes slightly relevant to lots of situations especially spirit, magic, infinity, luck and fate which can be used in most situations.

However these decisions should be taken by the storyteller in game time.

Effects of Spirit Spells

Spirit Magic in Glorantha has traditionally worked with one of  work with one of three game mechanics;

  • Buff – Bonuses are given to various skill checks and combat actions
  • Opposed Roll – An effect takes place on a third party if an opposed roll is won
  • Instant effect – Things just happen.

These three mechanics need to be considered in the new system.


  • One spirit magic buff can be cast a round in addition to a characters main action.
  • A character maybe affected by different buffs at the same time, but not of similar types (defensive, offensive, anti magic, movement, stealth, communication, etc).
  • Each success made will be added to all rolls of a certain type for the duration of the scene.
  • The dice roll affected will be determined by the spell and can be found in the spell table.

Opposed Roll

  • These spells take an action to cast.
  • Opposed rolls are made when casting spells over targets who wish to resist. The Target will almost always resist with their willpower at a target of 6.
  • If a spell succeeds the amount successes of the caster over the defender determine the strength or length of the effect of the spell.

Instant Effect

  • These spells take an action to cast.
  • One success is enough for an complete success, extra success dive more detailed information

Hopefully this creates a spirit magic system that reflects the best of old Gloranthan RQ, works in the storytellers system and gives runes more an prominence in the system.

Spell Type Native Rune Associated Runes Effect & Notes
Abacus Eff Truth Mastery, Law Count of Items
Smith’s Boon Buff Fire Earth Extra dice to craft skill roles all for metal working
Babel Res Illusion Disorder, Man, Chaos Confuses targets language for round per success
Bandit’s Cloak Buff Illusion Darkness, Moon Extra dice to stealth rolls
Bearing Witness Buff Truth Mastery, Man Extra dice to questioning skills rolls
Beast Call Res Beast Communication, Mastery Summons target animal
Becalm Eff Harmony Man, Illusion, Life Allows subject to sleep peacefully, calms out all other mental effects one per success
Befuddle Res Illusion Illusion, Disorder, Moon, Chaos Confuses Subject for one round per success
Boon of last night Eff Darkness Illusion Creates circle of darkness
Bladesharp Buff Death Air, Movement Extra attack dice on slashing and impaling weapon rolls
Bludgeon Buff Death Darkness, Disorder, Earth Extra damage dice on crushing  weapons
Cauterise Buff Fire Life, Harmony Extra dice for healing skill rolls
Chill Eff Air Darkness, Undead Cools items and or people
Clear Path Eff Plant Movement, Fire Allows free movement through all undergrowth
Co-ordination Buff Movement Man, Air, Mastery, Extra dice on all dexterity based checks
Countermagic Buff Magic Spirit, Luck, Fate, Infinity Extra dice on WP resist again spells
Darkwall Eff Darkness Earth, Moon, Illusion Magical Darkness in a wall
Demoralise Res Man Man, Darkness, Disorder, Moon Reduces target dice poll by 1 per success on offensive actions
Detect X Eff Truth Magic , Spirit, Life, Man, law Detects stuff, one extra substance per level
Disruption Eff Disorder Death, Chaos, Air, Fire Damage equal to number of successes, no armour on rolls
Dispel Magic Eff Magic Spirit, Luck, Fate, Infinity, Disorder Removes on point of on-going magic effect per success
Dragon’s Breath Eff Dragon Dragonewt, Fire Fire attack of damage equal to success aggravated damage
Dullblade Res Harmony Disorder, Darkness Increase difficulty on target weapon wounding by one per success
Endurance Buff Man Earth, Life, Beast Extra dice on all non combat endurance checks
Entertainer’s Smile Buff Communication Man, Harmony, Illusion Extra dice on performance checks
Extinguish Eff Darkness Air, Earth Extinguishes fire
Fanaticism Buff Beast Man, Air, Disorder, Chaos Loose parry action, each success adds dice to weapon attack and parry
Farsee Buff Light Beast, Air, Man Increased vision and extra dice on visual perception
Fate Buff Fate Luck Boost or reduce next dice pool by number of successes
Firearrow Buff Fire Death, Disorder, Chaos First point makes damage aggravated, all others add one damage
Fireblade Buff Fire Death, Disorder, Chaos First point makes damage aggravated, all others add one damage
Glamour Buff Communication Man, Illusion Extra dice on all charisma rolls
Glue Eff Stasis Earth Fixed item in place, each point give 3 dice in resistance strength
Golden Tongue Buff Communication Man, Harmony Extra dice on all communication rolls
Heal Buff Life Man, Harmony Each success heals a health level
Ignite Eff Fire Air Sets something on fire
Iron hand Buff Beast Man, Death, Disorder, Chaos Extra dice on natural weapon attacks
Light Eff Light Fire Light
Lightwall Eff Light Fire Light wall
Lucky Buff Luck Reroll one dice per success on next failed test
Mason’s Boon Buff Earth Stasis Extra dice on all masonry craft skills
Mindspeech Eff Communication Truth, Air, Man Communicates with one person per success
Mobility Buff Movement Air, Beast Increases movement rate by var
Parry Buff Stasis Air, Death Extra dice on all parry roles
Pierce Buff Death Fire, Air Extra damage dice on all damage roles for impaling weapons
Protection Buff Stasis Earth Extra soak dice for each success
Push/Pull Effect Movement Air Moves stuff
Repair Effect Stasis Harmony fixes broken item
Second Sight Effect Spirit Spirit, Law magical aura of all creatures and items, allows invisible creatures to be seen
Shimmer Buff Air Illusion, Movement extra dice on all dodge and avoidance roles
Slow Res Stasis Man decreases movement of target
Speedart Buff Air death, Light, Fire extra to hit dice on missile rolls
Strength Buff Man Beast, Earth, Life extra dice on all strength rolls
Spirit Bane Buff Spirit Mastery Creates circle of protection from hostile spirits, success increases radius
Thunder’s Voice Buff Mastery Air, Communication Increases voice volume and extra dice to intimidation and leadership rolls per success
Understanding Buff Communication Man Extra dice on all language roles
Vigour Buff Earth Man, Life, Stasis, Beast Extra dice for stamina rolls
Warmth Effect Fire Fire, Light, man Keeps caster warm each magnitude adds extra person
Water Breath Effect Air Water, Life, Man Allows target to breath Under water

9 thoughts on “Common Spirit or Battle Magic in WOD: Glorantha

  1. Hi.

    I like the idea, but I think it gets a little away from RQ’s original rules and ideas that fights are tough, and magic is handy – but common magic won’t always be enough.

    How about – Rune and Spell levels do still help increase dice pool, but each spell costs quintessence to the amount of points being used to power the spell (as per RQ rules – a 3 pt Bladesharp still costs 3 points). Only a single success is needed (unless you implement a rule that for a Bladesharp 3, you need 3 successes). If we take the additional rule, then it make the following change more playable – for each success over the required number, you deduct the amount of quintessence lost (minimum of 1).

    I’d also stick in some limitations – Healing doesn’t affect aggravated wounds (mirroring the way that in RQ it doesn’t heal severed limbs, etc) – unless you have Heal or Harmony/Life at 4 dots.

    Battle Magic Lore (or Common Magic Lore) skill could be an additional skill for spells for which the character doesn’t have an associated Rune… but if you have the rune, the quintessence cost is reduced, and you can use extra successes in different ways. Eg, if you haven’t associated to the Life rune, you can still use Battle Magic Lore and the Heal dots to cast Heal 3. If successful, it costs 3 quintessence points, and heals instantly. (if it was a duration effect, it would last 5 minutes). If you have the associated Rune, and decide to use the Runic casting, then extra successes can lower the quintessence cost of the spell, or extend the duration, etc.

    This mechanic then allows for Sorcery to become usable. Retain the standard Manipulation skills – Intensity, Duration, Distance, Target. Each manipulation dot (plus the spell dots) adds to the dice pool if being used (yes, this does mean some HUGE dice pools for super-experienced sorcerers). For each manipulation being used, a success is required (plus the 1 for the base spell). Maximum number of manipulations equals the dots in that manipulation. So, if trying to cast Venom (3 dots) with Intensity (4 dots), and Targets (2 dots), the dice pool would be 3+4+2=9 dice. If 4 successes are rolled, then 1 goes to the spell, and 3 are left over to decide whether to use for increased Intensity or increased Targets. Each manipulation (successful or not) costs 1 quintessence – meaning that it costs power to add to the dice pool!

    Manipulation effects should probably be exponential… so, 1 dot in Targets is 1 extra target, but 2 dots would be 4 targets, 3 dots is 9 targets etc. For Duration, might need tweaking – otherwise, you’d never hit the 20+ years from the first version of RQ sorcery rules :p

    Probably also needs a Sorcery Lore skill – number of dots is the maximum dots for both Spells and Manipulations.. so, Sorcery Lore 2 means only 2 dots in each spell and manipulation.

    Other limits could also be imposed – such as maximum number of Manipulations equal to dots in the spell… so, Venom 1 could only have 1 Manipulation effect, while Venom 3 could have 3 manipulation effects… showing the level of mastery of the spell learned).

    If you take the above, then you have a fairly good reflection of RQ’s systems (I’ll go comment on Divine Magic).


    BE well!

    1. This mechanic also means that you don’t max out variable spells by buying only the first point of it 🙁

      Heal 1 should only heal 1 health level – regardless of your ability to cast it.

      We’re not all Lunars in a Glowline, you know! :p

    2. OK lots to comment on here, sorry about the wait for a reply as well;

      OK on Power/Quintessence cost it costs the level of the spell, not the spell plus rune. So strong runic associations gives you magic longevity as well as power.

      Effect is based on number of successes, so with boosting spells adding the number of spell success to the dice pool of the relevant skills.

      I had thought of mixing in the old sorcery system for using success for extra duration or range as well as successes.

      1. “Effect is based on number of successes, so with boosting spells adding the number of spell success to the dice pool of the relevant skills.”

        That sort of makes variable spells… not so variable any more. In as much as, a Heal 1 (or Bladesharp, or Protection, or any other) reliant on the dice roll, rather than the spell purchased. Personally, I liked the idea of having to know different levels.

        Also, if that’s the case – how do you determine level of the spell, and then the cost of it?? If success = spell power, then every spell would have variable quintessence costs on each casting – depending on how well you roll.

        As I said, if you allow successes to equal bonuses to the stack, it’s making it the same as Lunar magic and Sorcery…

        1. They are still variable but its not all or nothing role any more.

          So a warrior with death 4 and Bladesharp 4 roles 8 dice for spell.

          Giving an average of 4 a successes, but a range of results from none to 8, that is much more variable. I think that is a more believable outcome than failing or a 4 points boost.

          Magic points/Quintessence are spent on the spell portion only, so in above case the warrior would use 4 magic points for the role, not magic point dependent on the result of the role.

          This means characters with high Runes can conserve Magic points/Quintessence and still use effective battle magic.

  2. Also, Mongoose RQ required characters to “integrate” a rune before they could learn to cast spells associated with it, and also used a skill based off the rune, not a general casting skill.

    I, personally, didn’t like that idea (since it cost 1Pow per attempt) although I did like the Rune-Touched powers that came with it.

    So, in your system, how does one acquire a rune?

      1. I’m curious as to how you would ‘justify’ the runes – that’s all. In the first few RQ editions, they were either not there, or you had to go on a Heroquest to integrate.

        1. Sorry for the late reply…

          Runes have been part of Heroquest for a number of years and are integral to the latest version of RQG. The belief amongst most Glorantha fans is that they have been implicit within the setting from the start.

          The way WOD: Glorantha differs from RQG is that Runes define many aspects of you character in WOD:Glorantha they are fundamental to magic, but don’t effect skills and stats outside that scope.

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