Here we want to provide a collection of answers to questions we have been asked on cons, on online forums or via email.
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Answer: Malmsturm is a fantasy setting that for the most part belongs to the Sword & Sorcery subgenre but also contains elements from subgenres known as Dying Earth and Science Fantasy.
Answer: There is a wide variety of human peoples and cultures in this world, but something like elves, dwarves or orcs is unknown. Nontheless, it is quite possible to play non-human characters or meet them – be it mutated madformed from the slums of the empire, monstrous white-furred savages from the icy polar wastes or even a semi-corporeal shapeshifter from the green jungles of the north-west.
Answer: Yes, in various forms, from the sorcerer that subdues and enslaves spirits, over miracle-working preachers, to rune casters and dæmonologists.
Answer: Maybe. In any case, there are countless religions and sects – and in some temples in the empire things are worshipped that seem to be very alive …
Answer: Not very far anymore. In the North you will rarely find anything that goes beyond what we had in real world europe before the crusades, in the Waismark little more than in northern europe before the discovery of the new world – and even in the empire not more than anywhere between Cairo and Kyoto before the end of the thirty-year-war (or the Ming dynasty). However, anywhere you may stumble upon marvelous relics of a technologically very advanced past – relics that are seldom functional anymore and even more seldom understood.
Answer: The alchemists and technosophers of the empire surely know a variety of explosive substances, but those are not used for firearms, even though some old thermal weapons, using flammable liquids or gases, still exist here and there.
Answer: In most regions you will find a similar flora and fauna to the respective climate zones of our world. Anachronisms are numerous, though, so that creatures exist in the North which are long extinct in our world, while the big continent-like island on the equator of the world of Malmsturm is even said to house dinosaurs. Also, there are some unusual life forms – like forest wyrms or ice whales – that possibly originated from age-old experiments of the empire or even older civilizations. Yet, malformed magical horses or superintelligent flying reptiles with a virgin princess obsession are not a thing in the world of Malmsturm.
Answer: Hell no. From the moment in which players and GM begin the first adventure the development of the world is entirely subject to their decisions and desires.
Answer: No. There are, however, multiple relevant open questions and puzzles in this world, but their solution is also completely in the hands of the players and the GM – although the books will not lack possibilities, suggestions and rumours for possible solutions.
The seyder always casts his magic via rapport, by having spirits work for him or directly manipulating the mind of intelligent beings. For all four kinds of actions (overcome, create an advantage, attack, defend) this is always handled with rapport, and arcane stress is only optional, if he wants a bonus on the die roll. That renders the seyder and other great traditions rather powerful, since almost anything can be solved with rapport: fighting, defending, creating advantages, manipulating people … where is the limitation here?
Answer: The texts about how seyders cast their magic not only serve as descriptions, they also show the limitations of the respective traditions magic within the fiction. If a seyder has spirits in his vicinity to manipulate he is indeed very powerful. But therein also lies the limitation. In Fate you should always heed the fiction first before you use the rules, and if the seyder has no spirits around to command, casting his magic will become rather difficult or impossible altogether.
Does the seyder have to use an action to subdue a spirit (via overcome) in a conflict, before he can use his magic to attack or defend in a later exchange?
Answer: That strongly depends on the circumstances, or rather the fiction. Are the spirits in this place particularly willful or unruly? In that case he will surely have to overcome their resistance first and will only subsequently be able to use them for magic. If the local spirits are neutrally or well-disposed towards the seyder, he should usually be able to cast magic right away. Situational aspects of the scene can help you with this decision. They are good indications for wether you should just say »Yes!« or apply the rules (see Fate Core p. 58).
… But theoretically a spirit, commanded by the seyder, could perform all manners of actions. Fetching objects, spying on buidlings and so forth?
Answer: Yes, the seyder can make up any task the subdued being should perform for him. But by no account does that mean that it has to be good at it. So when the seyder is sending forth a controlled being you can apply the advice about improvisation from chapter 6 (Malmsturm – The Foundations p. XX): »Say yes, compel an aspect or demand a die roll!«. If you think the being is suited for the mission, say yes. If you think that the scene is just running far too smoothly right now, compel an aspect (e.g. the high concept of the seyder) and let a complication emerge. Otherwise, you consider which skill is required for this mission and determine a skill level for the controlled being. You could, for instance, treat the spirit like a follower for this purpose (Malmsturm – The Foundations p. XX). Then you perform a check with this skill level. If you think that the seyder and the spirit are working together on this task, you can also apply the teamwork rules (Fate Core p. 174).
In my group someone wants to play a poisoner. She wants to possess a poison for her weapon that causes fear and one that puts people to sleep. How do I describe this with the rules?
Answer: One option would be to describe both poisons as stunts like its done for the spagyrant (Malmsturm – The Foundations p. XX).
The fear-causing poison you could, for example, put like this: »Once per scene the character can, with a successful attack, cause a mild mental consequence on the target.« Unnamed NPCs are instantly taken out by this, because they can’t take consequences. Supporting or main-NPCs are surely weakened.
With the sleeping poison you can either draw inspiration from the night drink of the spagyrant (Malmsturm – The Foundations p. XX) or maybe you formulate the stunt like this: »Once per scene the character may try to slip a dose of sleeping poison in a meal or drink. If she succeeds the sleeping poison causes an automatic mild physical consequence.« That means you can instantly take out unnamed NPCs and supporting or main-NPCs may, for instance, suffer the automatic mild physical consequence deep slumber. Aspects are true, so this NPC is sleeping. On the other hand it is not (necessarily) taken out, as per the rules. This means it stays capable of acting in a limited sense. If he is attacked, for instance, you might let him wake up. In this case you could rephrase the consequence to »sleepy«.
If you want to know how long the sleeping poison will last, you can use the healing rules (Malmsturm – The Foundations p. XX). In this case you make a physique check for the »sleeping« NPC against +2 (mild consequence) +2 (self-healing) = +4. On a success the consequence is treated and you rephrase it to something like »sleepy« and at the end of the next scene it is gone. If the check fails the NPC stays asleep.
Are there any limitations to the abilities of the demon summoner, which seem to allow him to solve almost anything with magic?
Answer: I will paint with a somewhat broader brush here, since this question basically corresponds to all great traditions.
Before I go into detail with Malmsturms magic rules, here’s a few basics (Fate Core p. 185):
The golden rule: »Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it.«
The silver rule: »Never let the rules get in the way of what makes narrative sense.«
The important point is: Both rules put the shared fiction first! I always think about an action on the fictional level first and then I look at the rules and pick suitable mechanics. Doing it the other way around (a common mistake) quickly leads to problems with the Fate rules. Furthermore, the group should be on the same page concerning what makes »narrative sense«. Hopefully this was discussed before the start of the campaign, otherwise you can resort to genre conventions and/or pre-existing settings.
Building a bridge to Malmsturm: What’s »fictionally reasonable and adequate« in terms of magic has been defined in a general (Malmsturm – The Foundations p. XX to p. XX) as well as a more specific sense (the lesser and great traditions). The key is the schematic on p. XX (purpose – aim – path – means – price). Every kind of magic that does not fit into this schematic on the fictional level is neither »reasonable« nor »adequate« for Malmsturm. And we’re still on a completely narrative level here and didn’t even look at game mechanics.
Let’s go further into detail and have a look at the great traditions: They differ, on the narrative level, by their choice of »means« (as per the schematic). In a list this makes:
The above-described »means« of the great traditions are not just fanciful decoration, they define on the fictional level which kind of magic a practitioner of a great tradition is able to cast. If the means are unavailable or unsuitable to the intended magical effect the respective »spell« can not be cast.
Example: If a Galder is in a place without spirits, he can’t perform magic. A priest without followers is utterly powerless.
Concluding with the dæmonologist and his limitations:
On the fictional level the dæmonologist must either summon dæmons or raw energies from other dimensions.
This means in order to do this the dæmonologist has to be in a place in which other dimensions are accessible. In conclusion the power of a dæmonologist is strongly coupled to the frequency with which such places occur in your scenario or campaign. Besides, »raw energy« is most definitely not suitable for all kinds of magical effects. Subtlety and delicate manipulation are basically excluded. If one resorts to summmoning dæmons, they must, of course, first be persuaded to serve the dæmonologist.
In terms of rules mechanics dæmonologists are restricted in mental conflicts, since their magic can neither cause nor soak mental stress (p. XX). Additionally, dæmonology is the only great tradition that is unable to treat both mental and physical consequences with its key skill (p. XX).
How does the dæmon companion of the dæmonologist work?
According to p. XX the dæmon companion is an extra, where the details depend strongly on how powerful the companion is supposed to be. At the players option the dæmon is either a contact or a follower.
A dæmon as follower (p. XX) costs one or more of the dæmonologists stunt slots and is fully under the players control.
A dæmon as contact (p. XX) has to be mentioned in one of the dæmonologists character aspects. Ideally you phrase the aspect so that it already contains the »terms of contract« of the pact. Except this aspect there are no further costs for the character. The dæmon is, however, under the control of the GM, hence it has its own will. If stats for the dæmon are required, it can be created as a supporrting or main-NPC (Fate Core p. 218). A concrete example can be found in Malmsturm – The Foundations on p. XX in Xilebo the stonecrusher.