This article originally appeared in Pyramid #8

Bubble Over -- More Witchcraft in the Hero System

by Scott Paul Maykrantz

Editor's Note: We were happy to run Scott Maykrantz's excellect article in Issue #6 detailing withcraft in the Hero Systemtm. The only problem was, we had to cut out some good stuff to make the article fit! Now that we're thicker (you did notice the eight new pages, didn't you?) than ever, we can fix that. Enjoy.
Here are some more optional rules to add to a spellcasting system. If this spellcasting system doesn't suit your tastes, adjust it. It's easier to tweak an existing set of rules than design your own from scratch.

Power Increases

To make witchcraft more powerful, start with a few minor adjustments. For starters, you can make spells easier to learn: give all learning rolls an automatic +5, and shift the spell-learning table one step up the Time Chart.

Or, alter the rules for Limitations. Require one Focus per 100 Active Points, not 50. Prohibit continuous Limitations. Make the minimum Limitation Bonus -4. Prohibit the -1 variety of Side Effect.

You might adjust the END cost of spellcasting to make witchcraft less powerful. The 0 END Advantage can be optional, or even prohibited. If 0 END is prohibited, you can require Increased END Cost for all spells.

Or make witchcraft more difficult to learn. Shift the spell-learning table one step down the Time Chart. And penalize all learning rolls by -5.

If an interruption occurs, the spell ends. This does not count as an unsuccessfully cast spell -- no Side Effects occur. The caster himself can "interrupt" the spell by quitting before it is complete. Because all spells are Independent, a spell with a successful ritual and no continuous Limitations cannot be interrupted -- its effects will go on until it is Suppressed, Dispelled, or has run its course.

The cost of the skill is the cost of the average of the two rolls. This must be a whole number. When the skill is used as a normal Knowledge Skill, use the average of the two rolls.

The player of the split-skill character must have a reasonable rationale for the imbalance in expertise with the spell.

Delano Crowley (INT 16) has See Hex 14-. When he learned the spell, his sources focused much more on the preparation than the ritual. Delano's player and the GM agree that the skill roll should be 16-/12-.

If Delano's INT was 18, his minimum roll would be 13, forcing the split spell skill roll to be 15-/13-.

Ley Lines

Ley lines are joined in a grid identical to latitude/longitude lines, closer at the poles and more spread out along the equator. The important difference, however, is that the poles of the ley line grid constantly shift around the planet in a complex pattern. Some occultists and groups track ley line movement -- few are successful. To find or track a ley line, a character must have the KS: Ley Line skill.

Ley lines shift to a completely new configuration every month. After a shift (which takes about an hour), the poles can be located at any two opposite points on the globe. The exact location of the poles can be charted using special mathematical tables (in modern times, on a computer) or spells. These tables or spells are always used with the KS: Ley Line skill.

Once every few years, the ley lines alter their shifting pattern. When this happens, occultists who track the ley lines must reset their tables or spells. Some of them claim that this periodic alteration in the pattern is part of a larger pattern, and have spells or tables for the larger pattern as well. Whether this truly works or not is unknown.

Detecting and Using Ley Lines
A character on a ley line who makes an EGO or PRE roll will become "aware" of the ley line. The character can then (and only then) use the ley line's Power. Modify the "awareness" roll by anywhere from +5 to -5, depending on the character's proximity to the line's middle. For example, a character near the middle would have a bonus of +3 or +4. A character on the edge would have a -5.

Each ley line has the Aid power. The Active Points in Aid is equal to the Active Points in the Power Aided by the ley line. To do this, the Power must have the Special Effect: Magic.

The ley line's Aid cannot have any Power-specific Modifiers: it always fades at 5 points per Turn, the maximum amount cannot be increased, and it cannot be limited to increasing a Power to starting levels. No Power can be Aided a second time on the same ley line in the same month.

There are a few convergent points that never move -- after the shift of the ley line grid, the location is always on a convergent point. Trackers of the shift pattern use these unusual, constant points to help them track the grid.

The two poles are ultra-powerful convergent points. A pole can offer any amount of Aid, subject to the will of the GM. These locations are incredibly dangerous; if the use of an Aided Power fails, there can be severe repercussions (like the Side Effects of a miscast powerful spell). A successful "awareness" roll on a pole can cause shock or a brief loss of reality.

Ley lines can also be boundaries of supernatural power. For example, the Bermuda Triangle might be bounded by ley lines. This would allow a skilled ley line scholar to chart the Triangle after each shift of the ley grid.

These uses can be in addition to the basic Aid of ley lines, or one of these uses might be the only power of ley lines. It's up to you.


Places of power are created by enchanting a location with a spell, creating a geographical magic item. The enchanting spell that is used must be designed for this specific purpose -- it is not used for any other effect.

Some places of power are "attuned" to a single magic type -- pagan spells, white magic, ceremonies of a particular cult, etc. These places of power offer Aid only to those types of magic Powers (this is a -1/2 Limited Power).


Profane names are required in spells that summon other-dimensional creatures. The profane name is usually the creature's real name; a careful character will use other titles in non-spell situations, like "The Great Nether One" or "He Who Never Sleeps." If these substitute names are used with regularity, the profane name may be known only to a chosen (careful) few.

The precise effects of use of a profane name are up to the GM. Uttering the name outside a spell can give the character a new Disadvantage: Hunted (or Watched) by the named entity. The character will learn that he is Hunted/Watched at the worst possible moment. In this case, the GM should have a complete description of the creature and any minions it might have.

The most common effect of the utterance of a profane name is to bridge the gap between dimensions. When used in a spell, the spellcaster wants to bridge the gap (usually, the spell also binds the summoned creature). But, in any other situation, the creature may show up on Earth free from the binding magic of a spell. The creature can wreak havoc . . . starting with the character who uttered its name. The character must also become cursed, or afflicted with a supernatural disease.

To make the players' lives easier, never present a profane name without giving them a chance to know the consequences of uttering it. The PCs might be warned by an NPC, read a warning in an old tome, or know the legend of someone who once said the name and then died a horrible death. Once the PCs have been warned, they can decide for themselves if they want to say the name. For added security, you can also make the name difficult to pronounce.

Magical Residue

Residue comes in the form of liquids, gases, sounds, strange objects, or normal objects that have been moved. Some kinds of residue can be campaign standards -- an example would be the infamous "slime" of the Ghostbusters movies. Most residue, however, is random. The GM decides what type of residue appears (see below), where it is found, and how long it lasts. Residue can be predetermined, or random.

Mundane residue is detectable by natural senses, yet noticeably unnatural. For example, this could be a brimstone smell, a sticky black stain on the floor, or the bones of an other-dimensional animal. Legerdemain evidence is also noticeably unnatural, but it is detectable only through mystic Powers, spells, and supernatural senses. For example, this might be a magical aura, an ethereal goo, or the constant cackling of inhuman voices which can only be heard by a transdimensional spell.

All residue types must be superficial -- nothing can be as significant as something created by the Change Environment Power. The size of the residue (whether it is an object, essence, odor, or liquid) is up to the GM. However, this does not effect the intensity of the residue -- a tiny stain of demon blood can be much easier to find and analyze than an entire room filled with "evil essence."

To determine the principal duration of a bit of residue, just choose a category from the Time Chart, starting at 1 hour and extending up to 5 Centuries. As a general guideline, divide the Active Cost of the Power that left the residue by 7 and count that many steps down the Chart. When the time has passed, the residue begins to evaporate. At the start of the evaporation, the majority of the residue disappears (about 99%). Now jump down the Time Chart two steps -- after this point, the residue is completely gone. This second duration begins immediately after the principal duration. This second duration is the extended duration of the residue.

The GM can also make a particular character's (or item's) Power have certain dependable residue results. This can be part of the Power's Special Effects, or -- if the Power is part of a spell and the residue has a detrimental effect on the characters or area when the spell was miscast -- it can be part of the spell's Side Effects. In this case, the GM gives the Power a particular residue type, size, location, and/or duration. The GM can select any of these four traits to be constant, and leave the remaining traits random.

The GM decides that a certain supernatural creature's magic Teleport Power has residue of a particular type, size, and location -- after the creature disappears, it leaves a glowing outline of itself where it was located. The duration of the outline is random.

If the residue is past its principal duration, all detection/analysis abilities are at half value; thus, a Deduction skill with a roll of 14- would have a roll of 7-. Apply other modifiers from +5 to -5, depending on the degree of detail the character is searching for, the size of the residue, the conditions in the area of the search, any tools the searcher might be using, and extra time (use the Time Chart if applicable).

Article publication date: August 1, 1994

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