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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Token Magic

In my Failures of 2009 post a few days back I made mention of Token Magic, a system I implemented in a heavily house-ruled AD&D 2nd edition game I ran a while back. One of my readers commented that it sounded interesting, so here it is, cleaned up and (hopefully) in a system neutral format.

Token Magic

Token magic refers to the art of placing magical energies into specially created constructs and imbuing these items with specific magical effects. The resulting item is referred to as a token. A token does not have to be an item; it can be a picture (glyphs), a series of words (scrolls), a weapon, or something else entirely. Any magic using character can create a token, provided they have sufficient skill.

There are two broad categories of tokens. Normal tokens are imbued with a limited amount of energy and have a fixed number of charges. When the charges are used the item shatters and is destroyed. Permanent tokens contain their own source of power and do not wear out.


To create a magical token, a magic user must have at least Good magical ability. Spell casters can only create tokens that reproduce magical effects they can create.

The Creation Process

There are several stages required to create a token:
  1. The creator must research the components that will contain the spell desired.
  2. The container must be created.
  3. The container must be infused with energy.
  4. The container must be enchanted with the desired spell.


The spell being cast determines what sort of components will be required to make the container. Component research is a secret test of the character's alchemy skill versus the rank of the spell token being created and requires approximately two days of uninterrupted research per spell rank. The cost of components is proportional to the rank of the spell being imbued. As a guideline the material cost of a token is one rank below the power level of the spell being contained (a Great power spell would require Good cost materials). Note that some components might be very rare and difficult to obtain, particularly for higher rank magic.

Container Creation

Once the components have been gathered, the caster must create the container. This requires at least two days of work per spell rank crafting the special features of the container, plus any standard creation time (i.e. a sword might take several days to forge, after which it can be worked on by the mage). Basic containers can be made by a craftsman and then enhanced by the mage, but the final crafted features of the container must be done by the mage. This is a secret test of an appropriate artistic skill versus the rank of the spell being imbued.

Container Infusion

Once the container is (theoretically) complete, the creator must infuse it with energy. The amount of energy channeled into the container is limited by the power available and the creator's ability to infuse that energy. Infusing is time consuming; each two ranks of power require an hour of work to channel. A caster may work for as long as they desire on channeling energy into the token, pausing to rest and regain strength, etc. The maximum energy a particular token can contain is determined by its quality and the power of the spell being contained. Generally more powerful enchantments are more difficult to maintain and thus fewer charges can be held.

The energy required for each token charge is determined by the spell effect desired, the success of the character's alchemy and artistic ability rolls, and their channeling success. The caster will never know exactly how many charges an item has, but a reasonable estimate for a single charge is twice the desired spell's rank.

Channeling energy carries a certain amount of risk. Failed channeling attempts can damage the token, drain the caster of energy, knock them unconscious, or have other effects. Damaged tokens are made useless, though it may be possible to salvage components for use in another attempt.

Container Enchantment

The last step of the token creation procedure is imbuing the specific spell effect desired into the token. The difficulty of this test of channeling skill is one rank higher than the rank of spell being imbued, and failure may have negative consequences. Enchantment takes a full day of preparation.

Permanent Tokens

There are additional steps required to make a permanent token. These procedures are highly dependent on the type of caster involved and are not detailed here.

Work Environment

Each phase of the token creation process requires significant focus and effort. The creator requires a private and quiet environment with appropriate tools available for the task. Work can be paused for rest, but no other activity is allowed. The creator can take breaks between the creation phases without penalty however. Note that an infused container awaiting enchantment will slowly bleed energy until the enchantment is complete.
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