|Image derived from Wikipedia|
Reality is a war between the ordering force of civilization and the pure chaos of the wild maelstrom. The farther from outposts of order, the more raw untamed power seethes just beneath the surface. Those that tap this dangerous and sanity bending power are sorcerers, and woe follows in their path.
To work their magic, sorcerers must have chaos to shape. The more chaotic the location, the more power is available. The most dangerous areas, such as deep in the underworld or perilous wilderness are the most chaotic. A wonder worker’s mortal mind cannot perceive chaos directly. It cannot be seen, tasted, or felt. Thus, the character can only speak of chaos in metaphors: trickles, flows, torrents, leaks. But this is not chaos. The way that can be named is not the way. The referee will keep track of quantitative details.
Shaping chaos is dangerous. Sorcerers can’t control exactly how much power they draw. Once tapped, the power must be used quickly lest it consume the sorcerer. Any worker of wonders that ends a turn holding chaos must make a saving throw versus magic. Upon the first and second such failure, they manifest a chaos leak, and the chaos decreases. If there is a third failure, they are consumed by the chaos. Unused chaos may by burned off assuming the sorcerer is not in a stressful situation.
Chaos may be contested. As an action, one sorcerer may attempt to steal chaos from another. The target makes a saving throw versus magic. Upon failure, the target takes one point of damage and loses a trickle of chaos. The aggressor gains that same amount.
As an action, wonder workers may attempt to siphon off power directly from chaotic creatures. The target must make a saving throw versus magic, and upon failure the creature takes 1 point of damage and the sorcerer gains access to some chaos. The referee will track how much, and this may vary by creature. The chaotic entity so targeted is now linked to the sorcerer, and is usually enraged by the theft. This link may manifest in a variety of ways, and can often be quite dangerous to the wonder worker (thus, many sorcerers attempt to destroy the sources of chaos that they feed upon in this way).
Sentient life energy, taken without consent, may be used in lieu of chaos. A sorcerer may target any intelligent creature within the range of a dagger throw; the target then makes a saving throw versus magic. Upon failure, the target takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage, and the magic-user gains access to a trickle of chaos. In either case, the sign of sorcery will be upon the victim and the two will be connected. There may be other more violent and permanent methods to harness the power of sacrifice.
General considerations. Sorcerers may draw and cast in the same action. For all chaos manipulations (contesting, etc) the sorcerer must be within dagger throw range. An area has Nd6 points of ambient chaos available, where N is the dungeon level or distance in wilderness hexes from civilization. As alluded to above, those points will never be directly communicated to the player. Instead, the referee should use the following language:
- Trickle: 1d6 points
- Flow: 2d6 points
- Torrent: 3d6+ points
A sorcerer may attempt to draw up to 1d6 points per round. They may cast immediately, or hold the power and attempt to build up more (save against chaos leak as specified above). A spell requires 1 point of chaos per spell level (thus, a traditional fireball would require 3 points of chaos). Spells cast with insufficient chaos fail and require a save versus magic to avoid a mishap (see bottom of that post for one possible table). Casting rules could be reliable or require a casting check. All such effect tables (leaks, mishaps, overloads) should regularly be refreshed. Consider replacing used entries between sessions to keep things interesting.
An “area” should be approximately defined beforehand by the referee, but follows no strict rules. A small cluster of rooms or a subzone could be appropriate area sizes. Think about how many rooms your players can explore in a single session and go from there. Certain areas of power may break any and all of these rules.
Mechanical transparency or mechanical opacity? In the transparent model, the referee tells the player, you harness a flow of chaos, 7 points, and then the player is responsible for tracking those points and can make decisions based on that quantitative knowledge. In the opaque model, the referee tells the player something like: you can sieze only a trickle of chaos. Does this mean 1 point or 3? The player doesn’t know. The referee needs to track the numbers, which might be a hassle, but all else being equal the danger and mystery of magic will be reinforced by uncertainty. The above model as outlined assumes the opaque model, but I expect that it would work in both modes.
This is necessarily a rough draft. It has seen no play testing. I’m certain that some of the numbers, probably the offensive drain abilities, will need to be adjusted, and that the writing could be clarified. Also, I think side effects from extra ritual considerations would add to the system, along with some other consequences for deriving chaos from sentient suffering within civilization. Some corruption tables might fit. The ranges might need modification as well, but how much more interesting is it to suck unstable chaos from an enemy (that might blow up in your face) rather than tossing yet another magic missile? (And you wonder why sorcerers build their towers far away from the prying eyes of villagers and other busybodies.)