Ars Incantâtio
This detailed magic supplement was designed by Larry Bullock for use with Risus: The Anything RPG which is freely provided by S. John Ross at the Risus: The Anything RPG site and is based in large part on Ars Magica © Atlas Games (check it out for a great game of magic; what is here is based off the 2nd edition of the rules which is what I currently own). Latin translations acquired at Latin-English-Dictionary. The sample clichés were liberated from TSR's Alternity.

modern magic system

Fantasy (can work with any) 
Tone: Player Discretion (works for any) 
Campaign Options: Hooks and Tales, Pumping Clichés, Double Pumps 
Points/Dice: 10 Dice 
Description: Enter a world where magic (incantâtio) is both feared and studied; a world where you can perform miraculous things (and then be hunted down for it). Try to create a safe haven for magic, or try to erase it from existence. The choice is yours.

The World
Earth. Circa now. The world in all of its glory has been hiding something for ages. Magic exists and there are people who know how to use it. 

Throughout history, the general population has feared magic; thought it was the spawn of the devil. They have hunted down those who posses any magical ability. 

Spell casters have set themselves apart from the rest of the population. Some strive to benefit all of mankind with their research. Others seek to control humanity. And still others just want to live their lives out in peace. 

Most people in today's world deny the existence of magic; relegate it to fairy-tale stories. Science has come up with all sorts of explanations to explain magical phenomenon. They've even gone as far as surpassing magic's destructive capacity — biological and chemical weapons, nuclear missiles, etc.

However, some people recognize the value of magic and seek to exploit it (for the same motives that have driven people for centuries). Some things never change.

Spell casters learn magic by taking magical powers as clichés.
Here are some sample clichés for those who might hang around with spell casters but not have any magical ability themselves. As usual, the players are free to come up with more (or liberate them from other games — the ones here were liberated from TSR's Alternity) with GM approval.
  • Body Guard - protecting another from harm, using whatever means necessary. 
  • Brawler - someone who likes to fight, sometimes using dirty tricks to win 
  • Corporate Security Specialist - protecting a company from thievery 
  • Law Enforcer - police procedures, legal representative 
  • Martial Artist - Karate, judo, etc. 
  • Mercenary - military knowledge and procedures available to the highest bidder 
  • Soldier - military discipline and knowledge 
  • Ambassador - agent for a government or other body in a foreign land 
  • Cleric - religious person; performs weddings and other ceremonies 
  • Entertainer - uses some skill to entertain the masses 
  • Trader - finding deals, selling stuff 
  • Bounty Hunter - hunting down people for profit 
  • Explorer - find things that were supposed to be hidden 
  • Gambler - understands games of chance 
  • Reporter - finding information, interviewing 
  • Spy - breaking into places, illegally acquiring information/stuff 
  • Computech - computer geek, good at programming, general computer skills 
  • Doctor - medical professional 
  • Engineer - good and designing and building stuff 
  • Hacker - breaking into computer systems 
  • Pilot - flying a plane 
  • Scholar - knowledgeable about libraries, finding information in them 
  • Scientist - study the natural laws of the universe
Magic in Ars Incantâtio is a fairly complex endeavor. To become a powerful spell caster takes years of hard work and dedication. It is full of many risks.

In order for characters to be able to cast spells, they must have dice in a mode that they want to use. It is also quite useful to have dice in the token you wish to affect.

Both modes and tokens must be purchased as double pumped clichés. Rare is the spell caster who is skilled in more mundane tasks.

Modes represent your character's methods of carrying out spell casting. Spell casters focus their attention on modes that interest them.
  • Convertoto - transform. Convert something into something else.
  • Eradoto - scratch out, erase / destroy. Remove something from the face of existence. Usually reserved for those with evil intent.
  • Generoto - beget, engender, produce, create.Create something from nothing. The power of creation itself.
  • Imperoto - give orders, command / to rule, hold sway.Everybody wants to rule the world. This power gives dominion over its token.
  • Sentioto - perceive, experience, hold an opinion.Learn about life, the universe, and everything.
Siniblus the Sorcerer
Converto: [3] Genero: [2] Incendia [1] 
Hooks: Siniblus cannot cast spells without using a wand.
Tale: Siniblus was born and raised on a vineyard in the south of France. His parents were spell casters, and he inherited the ability. His sister, unfortunately, did not and is considered the black sheep of the family.Description: a laid back, blue jean wearing kind of guy. In his early 20s. Clean shaven. He wants to appear respectable. Looking to get out from his parents shadow, he has set off to start a new safe haven.

What forces of nature you have practiced spell casting on or have affinities towards. Your specialties so to speak.
  • Aeris - air, atmosphere, ether, weather.Air control.
  • Animus - soul, spirit, intellect.That certain something that defines life. The hearts and minds of people everywhere.
  • Aqua - water.Water, water, everywhere.
  • Bestia - animal, beast.Non-humanoid animals and creatures. Nice doggy.
  • Corpus - body, corpse.Humanoid creatures (living and/or deceased). If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?
  • Imago - image, likeness.Illusions: fooling the senses of others for fun and profit.
  • Incendia - fire.Burn, baby, burn.
  • Planta - shoot, sprout, twig, sprig. Plant life; how does your garden grow?
  • Terra - earth, ground, land, country, soil.Good old terra firma. Don't get caught between a rock and a hard place.
Spell Casting
Spell casting is no more difficult than combining a mode with a token. In Risus terms, the mode of a spell is teamed up with the token of the spell. The team leader for a given spell is the mode used for that spell, even if the token has more dice. This is due to the fact that a spell caster can combine a mode with a token that has no dice (tokens do not get any free dice for instances of non-participation; a spell caster can always participate in the use of a token; however, spell casters cannot participate and get no free dice for instances where they do not have dice in the mode of a spell).

Siniblus the Sorcerer, feeling a bit thirsty, wishes to change water into wine. This would require a Converto Aqua spell.Siniblus has Converto: [3] and Aqua: [0] (remember, a spell caster doesn't need a rating in a token to cast a spell on it). However, since Siniblus has no ranking in Aqua, he will have to rely on his dice from Converto to meet or exceed the difficulty of the spell.

If the spell caster's roll meets or exceeds the difficulty level set for the spell, it casts successfully. For purposes of contests, the roll used to beat the spells difficulty also counts as the roll for the contest.

However, if the spell caster's roll fails to beat the difficulty level, the spell is botched in some way. The GM in encouraged to describe the results based on the difference between the difficulty level and the result. Some samples are provided below.

Spell Books 
It is assumed that spell casters have a spell book where they store information on their most common spells (specialized descriptions for the player's mode/token combinations) with effects noted. Players are free to come up with various spell lists on their own that will match the type of spell caster they wish to create.

Players do not have to worry about not being able to cast a spell that is not in their spell books; they can always cast any spell using spontaneous magic as long as they have the required mode.

Difficulty Levels 
The difficulty level for a given spell is based on many factors: casting time, duration, range, and area of effect. Consult the following chart to determine a base difficulty (add the number in the difficulty column for each category). Note: The difficulty table is not very linear. It's a guideline for GMs in setting a spells difficulty level.

Base DifficultyCasting TimeDurationRangeArea of Effect
0>1 monthinstantselfnone
11 monthminutetouch1 foot
22 weeks1/2 hour5 feet10 feet
31 week1 hour15 feet30 feet
41 day6 hours30 feet60 feet
512 hours12 hours45 feet120 feet
66 hours1 day90 feet240 feet
71 hour1 week180 feet480 feet
81/2 hour2 weekssight960 feet
915 minutes1 month1 milevillage
10instantpermanentacross townsmall town

Siniblus' base difficulty for turning water into wine is 14 (Casting Time: instant + Duration: half an hour + Range: touch + Area of Effect: 1 foot). Definitely doable, but he should probably take some difficulty adjustments.

The difficulty of a spell can be lowered based on things that make the spell harder to casts. Below are some samples. The GM is encouraged to help the players come up with more.

Difficulty Adjustment
-1requires gestures
-1requires spoken words
-1requires common material component
-2requires rare material component
-3prepared spell (from spell book/scroll/etc.)
-3extremely simple spell (grew up casting this one)
-2very simple spell (common apprentice spell)
-1simple spell (everyday spell)
-1spell research (cumulative/week of study)

The GM is also encourage to lower the difficulty by as much as 50% for spell casters that cannot cast spells without some sort of artifact (a magic wand for example).

Siniblus grew up on a vineyard in the south of France. He's been making wine for a long time using a prepared spell passed down in his family for generations that is in his spell book. The spell has a material component of a grape, and a verbal component (vinum). This moves his difficulty to 6 (14 - 3 - 3 - 1 - 1). Since he has the hook of only being able to cast spells using a wand, the difficulty becomes 3. A simple difficulty to meet with 3 dice (without having to resort to pumping).

Prepared Spells Guidelines 
A prepared spell is a spell that a spell caster has taken time to ensure that it has become part of his bag of tricks. This may take the form of a potion or magical scroll; or something more permanent like in a spell book. In any case, the spell is set up to function in a fairly specific set of circumstances.

A prepared spell should have limits upon its use (a certain number of times per day for consumable spells (potions) or one shot spells (scrolls); or the spell caster may take the risk of damage/theft of more permanent prepared spells (spell cast from books, magic items, etc.)).

Sooner or later, players will want to make their own prepared spells (who wants to risk their spell books while out adventuring). Players should be allowed and encouraged to create their own prepared spells. Creating the item takes 2 steps. The first step is to prepare the item to hold the spell (requiring a Converto spell against a base difficulty of 10 for non-permanent solutions (scrolls, potions, etc.) and 20 for permanent solutions (magic items, etc.)). The spell caster must then cast the new spell into the item to be actually used at a later time. The difficulty adjustment for research (-1/week of research) usually ensures that the players can eventually make whatever prepared spells they wish (if they are willing to wait for it).

Items are given the mode and token at the rank used to create them. At the GMs discretion, non-spell casting players may use these items (or spell casting players may want to use them to prevent taxing their own modes and tokens).

Note: prepared spells can only take advantage of pumping if it is being used by its creator, otherwise, no pumping for prepared spells.

Spells in Combat
Spell casting is a very difficult endeavor, even under controlled conditions. Trying to cast spells in a combat situation is extremely risky. There is a base increase to the difficulty set by the GM (depending upon how dangerous the campaign is). A recommended adjustment would be +3 to difficulty of a spell.

Siniblus is engaged in combat with an angry mob (3) — he didn't want to share his wine. He decides to use Genero [2] Incendia [1] to create a fireball. The base difficulty is 20 (Casting Time: instant + Duration: minute + Range: 30 feet + Area of Effect: 10 feet + combat adjustment) — odds are against Siniblus unless there are some adjustments.In this case, Siniblus has a fireball spell prepared on a scroll that he made (-3) that requires spoken words (-1). The adjusted difficulty is 8 (16/2 for the use of the wand).

For spells that have a duration greater than instant, the initial roll for the spell caries over for the following rounds. Anyone caught in the spells area of effect must use the original roll as a target number to avoid the spell's effects.

Siniblus gets lucky on his roll for his fireball spell and gets a 12 (2 + 1 + 3 (he pumped Genero [2] 1 die) + 6 in Incendia [1] so it is added in per the team up rules).

For the initial round (and all rounds following that are within the duration of the spell), anyone caught in the area of effect must beat the 12 to avoid the effects (catching fire, etc.).
At the GMs discretion, damage causing spells can use the following rule: damage = 1⁄6 of the roll, rounded down. In Siniblus' case, his roll on the fireball would do 2 dice of damage/round.

Botched Spells
Woe be to the spell caster who really screws up. Here are some samples of what might happen (feel free to create more):

botched spell examples
Difficulty Level — Roll Result

What Happens
<=0successful casting
1-3no effect
4-5minor special effects; lights, sounds, etc. fitting in with spell attempted
6-8minor damage to spell caster (-1 die to mode used)
9-11major damage to spell caster (-2 dice to mode used)
12-14accidentally summon a demon (who's none too happy about it)
15+spell caster is ashes (it was nice knowing you)

Safe Haven
Spell casters need a place to hang up their hat, perform their research into the arcane, and just relax with like minded individuals. This is the purpose of the safe haven.

A safe haven is a place maintained by the spell casters who live there. It is like a character, but it is owned and maintained by those living there.

There are certain clichés that are required for all safe havens:

Required Safe Haven Clichés 
  • Income - a rating of how much money may be in the safe haven (either through selling of magic or other means) 
  • Fortress - a rating of how protected the safe haven is from attacks 
  • Library - a rating of how likely spell casters are to find information they are researching 
  • Laboratory - a rating of how good of a set up spell casters are going to have to create things 
  • Artifacts - a rating of the chance a prepared spell is already stored at the safe haven Staffa rating of support from non-magical people (servants, staff, etc.)
A safe haven gains dice in its required clichés by having its members giving up their dice upon advancement. For every dice a player gives up from advancement, they may add 1⁄2 a die to the safe haven (i.e. it takes players' giving the safe haven 2 dice to raise a value 1 die). However, the cliché affected must be agreed upon by all members of the safe haven. 

Siniblus and 3 other spell casters have begun working on their safe havenn.After their first foray in the world, they all decided to forgo their personal advancement to get their safe haven going.Wanting a safe place with a chance to do research, their fortress ends up like this: Income: (0), Fortress: (1), Library: (0), Laboratory: (1), Artifacts: (0), and Staff: (0). Basically, they've got a decent-sized apartment (with a good lock on the door) and a small room for a lab.

The last step is for the members of a safe haven to determine its direction and set its house rules (any required oaths, etc.). Some ideas for directions are: improvement, a need to belong, mystery (either hiding or uncovering), power, death, etc. The players will need to agree on a direction/purpose for the safe haven.

Adventure Ideas
  • Hunted - A corporation or government is hunting down spell casters, but to what purpose
  • Hidden Land - A gateway opens to a fairy realm. Who opened the gate? Why?
  • World Series - A contest is held to determine the best spell caster in the world. The players may be involved, or they may be investigating some of the shenanigans going on around the contest.