Burning Earthsea

First, there was an early discussion here: http://www.burningwheel.org/forum/showthread.php?814-Earthsea-style-Magic. I don’t want to do necromancy into that one.

Second, I haven’t read the Magic Burner yet, nor a single one of the supplements (I cannot buy them in my country cause lack of stock and lack of money, xD).

Now, the idea.

Earthsea as a setting would require a lot of Lifepaths and at least one Emotional Attribute (I’d like to call it Balance, but I do not know how to create it, so I leave it to others).

The idea of this is to mimic the stories happening there, making some changes without knowing anything not core or free to download.

So, here it is.


The magic of Earthsea is based in the True Language of the Making. In this language, if something exist, is has a True Name, and it IS this Name, and the Name IS it. This makes me think: is it a word for “birds”, or “hawk”, or every specie, race or individual have its own name? How does it work if pronounced?

Based in Tales of Earthsea’s final essay, I can guess that every individual have a Name, and its Name contains his race, specie, and kind of living-or-not-living-thing it is. It’s like its sub-atomic, atomic, molecular, and such organization’s structure are contained in the Name of a thing. If you know the True Name, and you know the True Language, you know everything that concerns the thing you are naming.

But there must be “general” words in the True Language. Like Bird, or Stone, or River. And, since they are words IN the True Language, they have some power. So, if I want to affect a stone, I can say in the Language of the Making: "Stone” and I will affect it, but at a lesser magnitude than if I say that stone’s particular Name. Let’s say that I only can change or modify the “essence” of a thing if I know it complete True Name, and I can change the “accidental” aspects or properties of that thing if I know the “general word” that signify it. So, if I say “Stone” I can move it, break it, and such things, but I cannot make it a diamond. That needs the True Name of that particular stone. The same stands for Humans, Dragons, and the like.

So, Illusions, for example, work with these “general words” and a lot of syntax. They are not “real things” because they have not True Names, but they have properties because they are nonetheless words in the True Tongue: they smell and taste like the real thing would, but they cannot feed you (their essence are words, you are eating words).

Assuming all this things, I’m going to the mechanics.

All things that exist have a Name. If it is a character (whether PC or NPC) it has a free and obligatory Die Trait that is its Name. It works like this:

You have a True Name that is you, and you are it. It has a rating that is the sum of your lowest Mental Stat and your lowest Physical Stat. This rating is the base Obstacle to knowing your Name for someone who has the Naming Skill.
If someone knows your Name and enunciate it (whether writing it in True Runes or pronunciating it) you are considered to have lost a Duel of Wits with him. If you also know his name and say it, then it’s like a tie in a Duel of Wits. The number of successes above the Ob of saying a Name can be used to reduce the compromise of the Namer.
In the fiction, it means that he said your True Name or something that is a part of you -like your stock or your culture. A Major Compromise means, for example, you cannot attack him nor run away. A Minor Compromise would mean you cannot do anything your Namer doesn’t want you to, and no compromise at all means he can do whatever he likes with you -except you say HIS Name, in which case he has not power over you without using the True Language.
To say someone’s Name in order to defend yourself from being manipulated needs not the Naming skill, but it has no greater power than that defense.

So, if I say your Name with no extra successes, then I win with a Major Compromise, but if I have 3 extra successes I don’t have to take a compromise at all.

Now: the Naming and Arts skills. These will need some more space, so see you in the next post.

True Language of the Making aka Naming.
This skill represents the knowledge that the character has of the True Language of the Making.
If the Character is Gifted, then he can use it to make Magic, and every time he rolls Naming he will keep track of the 1s that have been rolled for the GM to know (see the special rules for this later). If not, then it’s only a wise-skill.
Obstacles: see the True Language of the Making rules, following this.
FoRKs: the High Arts skills, the Base Craft skills, Symbology/Rune-Crafting, Obscure History, appropriate wises.
Skill Type: Sorcerous.
Tools: No (but Yes if rune-crafting).

Naming Magic
This Magic Sub-system is unfinished and based in the previous post. This is what I have:

When you use the True Language of the Making you are doing something (for more theory about this, google J.L. Austin’s theory of Speech Acts). You are doing Magic.

To affect something, you have to know its True Name. To know something’s Name, you have to make a Linked Test that will take weeks or maybe months, depending on the type of research you do. The base Obstacle for each test is the True Name rating of the thing you want to name. If it has no defined Name yet (like a child before his Naming Ritual), you have Double Obstacle Penalty.
The first test has to be Aura Reading, with appropriate wises FoRKing in. You can Research or Meditate before if you want, like a previous, also linked, test. You can also Circle someone who might know that name you are looking for.
If you fail the Aura Reading test, you add all the margin of failure to the Ob of the Naming test that follows.
As stated before, the next skill to test will be Naming, with the appropriate skills being FoRKed (all the Masters of Roke name this skills: Windkey for winds and weather, Hand for illusions, Herbal is for plants and healing, Changing is for transmutation of bodies and matter, Summoner for summoning spirit of the dead or alive people, not Namer because it is this skill -xD-, Petterner for intentions and meanings, Chanter is Obscure History, Doorkeep is let or not let the entering in somewhere to someone) and Base Crafts (Healing for animals and other non-speaking living things, Finding is to discover or to tie or to make something or someone return, Mending for, well, mending things), or appropriate wises. Almost always, the only skill being FoRKed will be Finding (to find that thing’s Name), but common ones will be Herbology for discovering a plant’s name, Animal Husbandry to know an animal’s one, and such. Obscure History may be used to know mythical Names, like Dragons ones, and the like.

If you want to cast a spell, then you need to test simply Naming, plus appropriate FoRKs, plus one die if you know the name of the things you want to affect (to). The Obstacle will be formed following the Abstract Spells rules (free download in somewhere, xD, if I do not remember wrong). You cannot use a facet if you didn’t FoRKed the right Skill in the casting test.

Then you have to test for Balance (like Tax, but different…). The Obstacle of this test is the Margin of Failure of the casting test plus the number of 1s rolled in it. So, the more dice you roll, the more unbalanced will become the world.

You have not direct penalty if you fail this roll. But the GM will use the Margin of Failure of this test like successes in the Natural Effects scale, in the Sorcery Chapter if I’m not wrong; or if he has something planned, he can use that Margin of failure to intensify the planned side effects of the spell.

As a rule, any wizard, sorcerer, witch, or magician may add any amount of dice to the Balance Test. For each die he or she adds, Forte AND Naming will be reduced in one die.
The reduction in Forte is Optional and works in the same way than it does in the Sorcery Tax rules: if Forte is reduced to zero, the character is unconscious, and below zero, the character takes a wound equaling the Balance Test Obstacle in pips for each “negative” die of Forte.
The reduction in Naming works in a similar way than it does in the Resources mechanics: it is reduced one die if the Balance Test was Routine, two if it was Difficult and the Margin of Failure if it was Challenging.
If Naming is reduced to zero, the Naming skill will reduce PERMANENTLY one exponent point and one extra for each two “negative” dice. If it reaches zero again, its shade becomes one step darker. If it was already Black or it is now and “negative” dice remains, then the Character is no more Gifted. Period. (SPOILER: this is what happened to Ged in Selidor, but he does not die; as he must have had at least a G6 Naming skill, we must assume he used at least 20 dice [6 for reducing Naming to 0 one time, 12 more to reduce it to 0 a second time, one more to make it Black shade, and one more to loose Gifted] but he didn’t die, and assuming an Obstacle of 10, a Forte of 5 and a MW of 11, he would have received 15 Traumatic Wounds, so 12 of them would become Mortal Wounds… but in the books he barely get unconscious, xD. So that’s why the Forte reduction is optional. Another way is to divide the reduction between Naming and Forte, so you have two hard choices instead of an impossible one…).

Now, here it comes the Emotional Attribute: Disequilibrium. The Margin of Failure in the Balance test will count as the Obstacle of a Disequilibrium test, so letting the world became more and more unbalanced will get you to 10 exponent Disequilibrium, thus loosing your character. Since I do not know how to create this, I ask for help here. It would represent the “madness” of the character, becoming more and more selfish, isolated, and alien as his acts destroy the Balance of the Making (like Cob in The Farthest Shore).

Questions, helpings, insults, all are welcomed, :).

I’m thinking also in working in Circles mechanics to hide your True Name if you have strong Reputations, or to make everyone know it but not being really affected by that (like Lebannen). Also, you could hide it by a particular Spell… wich I’ve to build later, xD.
Some other rules seem necessary, like Dragons becoming Humans and visce-versa. And specific rules for rune-crafting, and Enchanting mechanics tied to the runes…

It looks like you’ve put a very great deal of thought into this. Quite impressive.

I would try to comment, but my experience with Earthsea has been unfortunately limited to the Studio Ghibli movie.


I would try to comment, but my experience with Earthsea has been unfortunately limited to the Studio Ghibli movie.
You can comment nonetheless; you can always give me ideas or help me with mechanics I have thought wrong.

No-one is interested in this? Or is it my poor English? Maybe I just exposed the wrong way, or I am too excited and impatient…

Burning Wheel is very far from the system I’d choose for Earthsea. For Earthsea, I’d probably use FATE or Houses of the Blooded. Or, maybe, hollowpoint.

I am totally interested.

I’m digesting a bit, mulling it over.

There are circination rules and summoning rules I think you may be able to adapt to earthsea. In fact Magic burner would really help you with this. There’s a lifepath “speaker of names” which I think was specifically designed for an earthsea type setting.

I really want it, but since I live in Argentina (South America) it’s imposible for me to purchase it. I don´t even have a credit card, so internet buying is not an option, :/.