Sorcery requires the most theoretical explanation in non-game terms, so the bulk of what follows is an in-depth examination of those concepts.
What can Sorcery do?
Sorcery reshapes reality in a very immediate and impressive manner. It has major disadvantages of scale and speed of preparation, however, and in the need to adjust one's spells for new conditions before they can be used. Where an Advanced Pattern Master could turn Shadow Earth into Care Bear Land fairly easily, a Sorcerer would blow himself up doing the same thing...after spending months to years casting the spell. On the other hand, Pattern won't let you throw lightning bolts or fly.
Sorcery can do almost anything that isn't the realm of a stronger Power, and if you possess a stronger Power, you can learn to integrate that Power with Sorcery. It has the major imitation that it can never reach out of the shadow it is used in, unless combined with a higher Power.
Things Sorcery does well:
Establish psychic contact with people in the same shadow, especially if they are in line of sight. This contact can then be used to monkey around with their minds or yank things out of said minds.
Shield against psychic contact
Find things within the same shadow
Divine information about something in the same shadow, including beings of Reality.
Summon, re-direct, destroy, or control energy
Mould shadow into new forms
Move things within the same shadow
Defend against Sorcery and Conjuration and Power Words (ie, against Magic)
Dispel other spells.
Create spells which trigger themselves on a pre-set condition (such spells will quickly unravel or fade if moved into a different shadow and are usually used to trap places you want to keep enemies out of)
Things Sorcery can't do by itself:
Conjure matter from nothing (the realm of Conjuration). This doesn't preclude summoning a desired object from elsewhere in the same shadow, however.
Permanently prevent a Shapeshifter shifting forms.
Move the Pattern, Summon Primal Chaos, Primal Order, or Shadow Storms.
Affect spells racked on a Power Framework.
With Basic Sorcery spells must either be instantaneous (such spells can have permanent effects, like turning people to stone), suspended until a trigger condition is met (wards), operate continuously in the same location until they gradually degrade, or they require that the sorcerer maintain the effect by concentration in order to direct it. Advanced Sorcery enables the sorcerer to create self-directing spells which can be given simple instructions and left to work on their own without requiring concentration.
Casting Times For Sorcery
For simplicity's sake, magic is here defined according to roughly how powerful the effect is, which defines how long it takes to cast a spell and what level of magic the shadow must support in order to sustain it.
Petty: 1-3 seconds casting time: Changing your eye colour. Lighting a candle. Picking a simple lock. Turning water into carbonated water. Creating a flash of light. Make someone look at you.
Minor: half a minute: Sending a telepathic message across a room. Changing your hair colour. Lighting a barbeque grill. Turning water into Coke. Generating a five foot radius sphere of light. Make someone think about you.
Average: Five to ten minutes Sending a telepathic message across the castle. Generating a taser-like effect with lightning. Changing your skin colour. Lighting a person on fire. Turning water into wine. lighting the entire courtyard. Make someone like you. Fly at running speed. Teleport short distances. Create magical shields to repel attacks.
Difficult: 1 hour Sending a telepathic message several miles. Blasting several people with fire or lightning. Impersonating someone. Turning water into liquid mercury. lighting a small town. Make someone love you. Teleport long distances. Fly at horse speed.
Challenging: 3-6 hours Send a telepathic message anywhere in a shadow. Teleportation within the same shadow (Those with Trump or Pattern can also build spells to teleport anywhere they've ever been). Blasting a small crowd. Turning water into gold. Lighting a large town. Make someone worship you as a god. Create nigh-invulnerable force fields. Race cars.
Hard:1-3 days Reshape Castle Amber to your will. Level the walls of a city. Blow up small armies with magic. Turn air into gold. Illuminate an entire nation. Race jet planes.
Incredibly hard: 1-4 weeks Mind control dozens of people at once. Blow up large cities. Turn Kolvir into a Kwiki-Mart. Teleport dozens of people at once to different destinations. Light up an entire continent.
God-like: 1-4 months Do anything you can imagine to any shadow dweller in whatever shadow you're currently in. Do almost anything to any person with blood of Reality, if you can overwhelm their psyche backed up by their Reality Power, which isn't easy.
Weak spells are quick and easy. But most spells take long enough to cast that when you're under stress, you'll die before you finish them. That's what racked spells are for. Sorcerers can rack spells in specially prepared items, casting them in advance, then storing them until needed.
Racked spells do have several disadvantages. They decay over time and you periodically will have to recast them if you don't use them fast enough. The stronger the spell, the quicker it unravels. This means you can't spend a few years in a quick time shadow racking spells, then bring them out to crush your enemies, because most of them will unravel by the time you finish the last ones.
Secondly, racked spells require a certain amount of fiddling with in order to actually be released somewhere other than where they were cast. Crucial components, called 'lynchpins', have to be reconfigured to make them work. The more powerful the spell, the more tweaking, in general. Still, this makes releasing them a matter of seconds instead of minutes, hours, or days.
Finally, don't forget you're still going to need a source of magic for them to draw on; racked spells won't work in a shadow with no magic or with magic which is too weak.
Advanced Mages can rack from a few spells (Chaos Psyche) to a Dozen of more (Amber+ Psyche). Mages with Conjuration can summon themselves up a spell rack when they need one. Crazy mages with Shapeshifting can rack multiple spells in their head, although this is dangerous. Other methods of Spell Racking may also exist.
Smart mages carry a magical 'battery' of some kind with them wherever they go, so that if they're desperate, they can draw on it to perform spells if necessary. These batteries have the major flaw that other mages can easily detect them, which can make stealth past a mage tricky. Also, broken batteries explode, which is never fun.
External Power Sources
The safest, but least reliable source of power is external power sources. Every shadow where magic works has sources of magical energy. Sometimes it collects in foci points, and in other shadows, it is evenly spread throughout the shadow. Depending on the nature of local magic, this power is tapped in different ways, and learning these ways is the most time consuming aspect of adapting to different shadows. Many shadows are non-magical and have no such sources of magic at all.
It takes about a week for a Chaos psyche sorcerer to learn how to adapt his spells to use local power sources. With Amber psyche, a day will suffice. Every ten points above that halves the time (10--12 hours, 20--6 hours, 30--3 hours, 40-90 minutes, etc). This enables the sorcerer to fill in the needed 'magic of shadow' lynchpin during casting. This is only possible if the sorcerer has a Real Power (or has some other way to study the nature of Shadow). This is usually only necessary when one moves a substantial distance across shadow, or if the shadow in question has been moulded to change its laws. For example, all of the shadows which make up the Golden Circle share the same laws of magic as Amber, and thus there is no need to tinker with one's spells within that area. Chaos is the same way, although a fair number of Houses of Chaos tinker with local magic rules to give them an advantage on their home ground.
Desperate mages can power their magic using their own life force. The emphasis here is 'desperate'. You are feeding off your own Endurance, which tends to quickly become dire. Spells powered by personal power can be cast anywhere, even if the shadow doesn't normally support magic.
Human Endurance: One makes you tired. Two make you exhausted. Three makes you fall down.
Chaos Endurance: You can manage two spells without significant penalty. Each two after that moves you from tired to exhausted to unconscious.
Amber Endurance or Higher: At Amber, as chaos rank, but by threes. At higher ranks, you can increasingly use petty magics at will without tiring significantly.
Human Endurance: A single minor spell makes you exhausted. After two you pass out.
Chaos Endurance: You can manage one spell without significant penalty. Each one after that moves you from tired to exhausted to unconscious.
Amber Endurance or Higher: You can manage two fairly easily. After three, you are tired, after five you are exhausted, and after seven, you pass out. At higher ranks, you can increasingly use minor magics without tiring significantly.
Human Endurance: A single average spell leaves you on the verge of collapse. A second one without getting proper rest will kill you.
Chaos Endurance: Each one cast moves you from tired to exhausted to unconscious.
Amber Endurance or Higher: You can manage one fairly easily. After two, you are tired, after four you are exhausted, and after six, you pass out. At higher ranks, you can increasingly use large numbers of average magics before you collapse.
Human Endurance: A single difficult spell puts you on the verge of death. You will need medical help.
Chaos Endurance: The first spell leaves you exhausted. The second one would drive you to the verge of death.
Amber Endurance or Higher: A single difficult spell leaves you tired. A second one leaves you on the verge of collapse. A third one would kill you. At higher ranks, you can handle more of these, but you'll still drain quickly.
Human Endurance: You drop dead.
Chaos Endurance: You pass out and can't even try to cast a second one.
Amber Endurance or Higher: You totter about on the verge of collapse after just one. A second one would kill you. At higher ranks, you can handle more Challenging magics before passing out or dying, but it's still not wise.
Human Endurance: You don't just die, your entire body is consumed and crumbles to dust. And the spell fails anyway.
Chaos Endurance: You sink into a coma, and sleep for weeks to months. When you awaken, your endurance sinks to human.
Amber Endurance or Higher: You pass out and sleep for days. At higher ranks of Endurance, you don't sleep as long, and at really ludicrous levels (80+), you only reach the verge of collapse.
Human Endurance: You completely evaporate as if you had never been, but the spell fails regardless.
Chaos Endurance: You drop dead.
Amber Endurance or Higher: You sink into a coma and drop to Chaos endurance after about six months nap time. If you have 10 or more points in Endurance, you simply lose ten of them.
Human Endurance: You explode within a second of trying to cast it. Out of control energies explode around you in some much weaker form of the effect.
Chaos Endurance: You burst into flames and burn away to ash. Spell fails.
Amber Endurance or Higher: If you have 0-4 points in Endurance, you drop dead and nothing happens. If you have 5-20 points in Endurance, you spend two years in a coma and wake up with Chaos Endurance. If you have 21-30 points in Endurance, you wake up in a year at Amber Endurance. If you have over 30 points, you lose 30, and wake up after six months of coma.
What are some defences against Sorcery?
Invasive magics can be resisted with Psyche. Pattern, ShapeShift, and Trump can be used defensively to prevent invasive magics working and to reduce the effects of non-invasive magics. Sorcerers can also defend against each other's magic by using counterspells. This comes down to a psyche vs. psyche battle as to which succeeds. In some shadows, items or behaviours which ward off magic may exist.
Basic Sorcery cost 10 points, Advanced Sorcery costs an additional 5 points.
Some Example Spells can be found in this Amberite Grimoire
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