Skip Navigation Links
High Fantasy HERO
Campaign GuidelinesExpand Campaign Guidelines
Abilities / Spells / ItemsExpand Abilities / Spells / Items
Race PackagesExpand Race Packages
Profession PackagesExpand Profession Packages
PsionicsExpand Psionics
MagicExpand Magic
Shrike High FantasyExpand Shrike High Fantasy
Conversion Styles
D&DExpand D&D
WarhammerExpand Warhammer
World of Lone WolfExpand World of Lone Wolf
From Shadowcat
From CorvenRen
From CourtFool
Misc Fantasy Characters
Contact Webmaster
Skip Navigation LinksContent>Magic>Magic Systems>Vancian (Fire & Forget)>Variants>Sortilege
Prepared Casting Gestalt Casting Spontaneous Casting
   Base System: Wizardry    Base System: Arcanis Magnicus    Base System: Sorcery
Variant: Sortilege Sortilege Package Deals Sortilege Spells
Sample Sortiligist: Thrymri  (Spontaneous MP Model)
VARIANT: Vancian Magic System
The style of Magic described in this document is not a complete Magic System with it's own mechanics; instead it is intended to extend, override, and/or change the look and feel of a more fully described Magic System, which is referred to as a "base Magic System".
This document will reference one or more fully described Magic Systems below.  To use this variant with one of those Magic Systems, simply use the reference document in its entirety with the exception of sections that have been "overridden" by this document, as indicated in the section headers below.
EXPOSITION: by Killer Shrike
Many societies have given rise to the existence of masters of music and lore, entertainment and edification, poetry and scorn. History and mythology gives us Skalds, Bards, Ollams, Scops, Rhapsodes, Udgatr, Minstrels, Troubadours & Trobairitz, Trouveur, Minnesänger, and Griot as examples, which in turn inspired the D&D Bard and similar riffs in some other fantasy RPG's.
However, the D&D approach gives us nothing more than a watered down wizard / rogue hybrid with little in the way of distinctivness, and while I liked the class for roleplaying reasons when I played D&D (my first AD&D 1e character was a Bard in fact) I always felt like it could be done better, that the archetype deserved a truly unique approach to magic that was subtle and very tied into social interaction.
Back in 2002 I sat down to do just that, in the HERO System. Using the underlying Vancian Magic System I had already designed to handle D&D style volume and level / fire and forget oriented magic as a base framework, I conceptualized a Magic System that used Interaction skills as a grouping / themeing mechanism instead of the D&D tropes of "schools" like "Necromancy" and "Abjuration". The Interaction skills are quite useful in their own regard even without tying "schools" of spells to them, and it made for some powerful synergies for a practitioner of this sort of magic; to be good at casting spells based on say Persuasion, a practitioner would also organically end up with a pretty high Persuasion skill roll for instance.
After some discovery and thought I settled on a model of 8 Interaction Skills with 15 spells each and a core "Performance" based skill that represented the practitioner's ability to entertain / perform normally, and settled on 60 spells for this core skill (it was originally 45, but I bumped it up to thicken up the middle spell levels with additional options). After settling on the core mechanical design, I imagined the idea of the Star of Interaction (detailed below) and the pursuit of the 8 Interaction skill branches as a kind of advanced study and in-play goals / acheivement path.
A few details here and there, and I had a good end result that I think is very serviceable as a distinct, competitive alternate style of magic for "bard" type characters to pursue. Not as overtly damaging, flashy, or flexible as say a Wizard, practitioners of this style of magic excel in other directions such as subtlety and manipulating the hearts and minds of people. In terms of social power, they have a far more nuanced and deep repetoire and are quite frightening in their own understated way. I've said it a few times but it can't be overstated, this magic system is insidiously subtle; many of its effects aren't even detectible at all.
I personally put the Magic System to good use as the system of the Machtig Skalds in my World of San'Dora setting. The sample character provided is a PC from that campaign. The Skalds are an important but enigmatic caste of Machtig society, and their quirky magic heightens their aura of mystery and repute. The concept and approach proved to be a big success with the players, and enriched the campaign greatly. Perhaps it can do the same for your campaign...
Also, note that while the system is primarily intended for "high" fantasy due to its overall low-key nature it can be adapted for lower fantasy; some of the more overt Performance based spells can be removed or watered down and the rest of the spells provided should be sufficiently muted to scale down without alteration. I also later did another pass on a more purely music oriented magic system in the form of Troubadourus, which is more "low" in its normal state and might serve in this regard as well.
Sortilege is a subtle Magic System hinged around the performance of music, poetry, tales, and yarns, satire and praise givings, and the subtle forces of social and personal interactions. It offers an exciting opportunity to portray a very roleplaying oriented archetype that is adept at latching on to the details of a setting and squeezing it for every drop of flavor and versimilitude it is worth.
NOTE: Practitioners of Sortilege (SORE-ta-LIJE) are collectively called Sortiligists (SORE-ta-LIJE-ists).
Practitioners of Sortilege, Sortiligists tend to be cozeners, tricksters, entertainers, and egotists. Their brand of magic lends itself towards arts that manipulate the mind and senses, or are based on sound.
The basic concept of Sortilege may be implemented with each of several base Magic Systems as described below.
To implement Sortilege with Spontaneous Casting use the rules set forth in the Sorcery document, except where overridden below. Thus, the Sortilege School Skills given below replace the Sorcery School Skills, the guidelines given for creating Magic Items replace the guidelines for doing so in the Sorcery document, and the Packages provided replace those provided for Sorcery.
To implement Sortilege with Prepared Casting simply use the rules set forth in the Wizardry document, except where overridden below. Thus, the Sortilege School Skills given below replace the Wizardry School Skills, the guidelines given for creating Magic Items replace the guidelines for doing so in the Wizardry document, and the Packages provided replace those provided for Wizardry.
To implement Sortilege with Gestalt Casting use the rules set forth in the Arcanis Magnicus document, except where overridden below. Thus, the Sortilege School Skills given below replace the Arcanis Magnicus School Skills, the guidelines given for creating Magic Items replace the guidelines for doing so in the Arcanis Magnicus document, and the Packages provided replace those provided for Arcanis Magnicus.
Some settings could support Sortiligists built on all three of the base Magic Systems described above concurrently without any ill effect. This might be used to represent several rival traditions of Sortiligists magic, or some other similar situation.
OVERRIDE: Means to Power
Sortilege effects due not escalate into the massive power levels of some other forms of Vancian Magic, as indicated below.
Sortilege Spells are ranked by Spell Level; some GMs may prefer to refer to this concept in variant ways, such as Spell Circles, Spell Houses, or Spell Ranks to avoid confusion stemming from the overloaded use of the word "Level", or simply to add more flavor. Each Spell Level starting at Spell Level 0 has 15 Active Points more than the Spell Level before it.
Sortilege Spells only go up to 105 Active Points by default, but individual GM's might waive this restriction in their own campaign.
OVERRIDE: Restrictions
There are a number of restrictions which apply to this type of Magic Use, as follows.
Vancian Systems can not require Skill Rolls to be cast, but they can require Skill Rolls to take effect. This is a subtle distinction, but essentially it means that a Spell is always successfully cast, is detectible unless it is otherwise undetectable, and a Charge is expended by it's casting. However once cast Spells might not be able to affect their target unless a Skill Roll is made.
As an additional limitation, all Sortilege Spells require an appropriate Sortilege Skill Roll to take effect.
Make the following modifications to keep the listed costs given in each of the base Magic Systems consistent.
Modify the VPP Control cost as follows:
  • Add RSR: Magic Skill Roll to the VPP Control Cost at the -1/4 Level
  • Reduce the Variable Limitation to "Must have -1/2 in Limitations from (Extra Time, Concentration, Incantations, Gestures); -1/4".
Modify the VPP Control cost as follows:
  • Add RSR: Magic Skill Roll to the VPP Control Cost at the -1/4 Level
  • Remove the Variable Limitation
Modify each MP Reserve as follows:
  • Add RSR: Magic Skill Roll to each MP Reserve at the -1/4 Level
  • Reduce the Variable Limitation to "Must have -1/2 in Limitations from {list}; -1/4".
Sortiligists don't go in for mystical passes and obvious arcane motions, but many Sortilege Spells require subtle body language, dramatic posturing, or dance as part of their casting.
Sortilege Spells may (but do not have to) use the "Complex" option for Gestures described in Fantasy HERO on some of their Spells which require complex dances, playing an instrument, or using subtle body language.
Complex Gestures: Described on page 254 of Fantasy HERO for Hero System 5th Edition; Complex Gestures impose an additional -3 penalty to any Required Skill Roll.
The most common trait of Sortilege is subtlety. Most Sortilege Spells are interwoven with conversation, speaking, singing, humming, or some other form of seemingly innocuous vocalizing without the need for obvious magical intonations and suchlike.
Almost all Sortilege involves conversing with a target, telling a rhyme or a riddle, singing a tune or intoning a flowery verse. Many Spells are hidden or interwoven into any random tale or song. Further, most Sortilege Spells are unobtrusive and difficult to detect.
Thus, Sortilege Spells use the Voice Range option for Incantations described in Fantasy HERO.
Voice Range: Described on page 133 of Fantasy HERO for Hero System 5th Edition; unlike normal Incantations which must be obvious "words of power", this form of Incantations can be disguised as normal conversation, singing, or other vocalizing but the targets of the Spell must be able to hear the Incantations clearly.
Sortilege Spells may (but do not have to) use the "Complex" option for Incantations.
Complex Incantations: Described on page 255 of Fantasy HERO for Hero System 5th Edition; a Complex Incantation imposes an additional -3 penalty to any Required Skill Roll.
OVERRIDE: Magic School Skills
Sortilege is conceptually arranged around an idea Sortiligists call the Star of Interaction. At the center is the Nexus, and Eight Pinnacles radiate outward from it like rays from a star, never touching but sharing a common source.
The center of Sortilege is the Nexus of the Pinnacles and its heart is called Ylo (EE-low). Ylo is the source of Sortilege's power, and it's pulse ripples outwards into the Pinnacles. Ylo is represented by a Power Skill called Performance; this is the foundation of the Magic System and is always the first Sortilege School Skill learned by a practitioner.
Radiating outward from Ylo are the Eight Pinnacles, which are advanced, specialized knowledge in specific uses of Sortilege. A student must often perform some service to be inaugurated into knowledge of a particular Pinnacle by other Sortiligists. Very few Sortiligists know Spells of all Eight Pinnacles; those who can claim such a distinction are known as Sortispexus and are often sought after as instructors by less learned Sortiligists.
The Eight Pinnacles are Alo (A-low), Dib (DEEB), Fas (FAHS), Ulb (OOLB), Nar (NAHR), Wos (WOSE), Vex (VEX), and Ina (EE-nah). Their use is described in the Spell School Skills section below.
School Skill Focus

The Nexus

Ylo Performance
(Power Skill; PRE)
General purpose Sortilege Spells. Can also be used as a proxy for playing Musical Instruments, Singing, Acting, PS: Musician, and PS: Dancing by a Sortiligist.
A utilitarian collection of Spells allowing a Sortiligist a broad range of capabilities. The primary Skill in Sortilege

The Eight Pinnacles

Ina Animal Handling Spells that deal with affecting Animals.
A specialist subset of Spells which primarily influence and/or compel loyalty from Animals.
Vex Conversation Spells which subtly manipulate others via engaging them in seemingly innocuous conversation.
Subtle specialty spells that can have powerful effects on the minds of others.
Wos High Society Spells which deal with blending in and dealing with personalities.
This branch of Sortilege deals with mingling, mixing it up in social situations, and looking good for the masses.
Dib Interrogation Spells which compel and extract information.
This branch of Sortilege is the "hardest" subset of the generally subtle art. Little can stand between a Sortiligist that has mastered Dib and information they wish to gain
Alo Oratory Spells which inspire, educate, effect, and entertain the masses.
One of the more generally benign outlets of Sortilege, these Spells involve sharing knowledge, entertaining, and rallying people around the Sortiligist, though it does have some aggressive Spells as well.
Fas Persuasion Spells which sway and finagle, convince and confuse other people.
One of the more useful specialties of Sortilege, these Spells are all about bluffing, fooling, and convincing others to see things the Sortiligists's way.
Nar Seduction Spells which revolve around manipulating people via their libido.
One of the more obscure branches of Sortilege, and also the one which is most reviled by those who are not fond of the art; these Spells focus on sexuality, appearances, and clouding minds.
Ulb Trading Spells which deal with mercantilism and bargaining.
This functional specialty of Sortilege enables a Sortiligist to dominate any trade negotiation or bartering session, get the best possible deal at all times, and seal deals with a magical geas.
Sortilege does not  interact with Spellcraft; Sortiligists may not use Spellcraft, and other Magic Users may not use Spellcraft to learn Sortilege Spells.
Spell List
A complete Spell List is provided for Sortilege, as are prefab (hdp) files for HERO Designer.
Creating New Spells
Sortilege is intended to be a "closed" Magic System; the 180 Spells provided are the sum total of the Spells available. However, individual GM's are free to allow new Spells to be added if they see fit.
Creating New Magic Items
Sortilege is primarily an oral form of Magic and not easily encapsulated into an inanimate object. Thus Sortiligists do not create Magic Items by default, though a GM could override this if they wished.
OVERRIDE: Package Deals
A number of Package Deals for Sortiligists are provided here.