Welcome again to the heady world of Invisible Sun and the fantastic city of Satyrine! Last time we looked at the vance, spellcasters who memorize spells like D&D wizards. Today we’re looking at another type of spellcaster in the world of Invisible Sun, the magical forgers known as makers.
How Makers Use Magic
While I used my own character as an example vance, in this post I’ll be using the pregenerated maker that comes with the Black Cube: an enigmatic woman called the Red Shaper in a spider-legged chair. If you’re following along in the books, the Red Shaper is an itinerant (that is, established) empath of the order of Makers who shepherds minds. She’s got a lot of abilities to sway people’s minds, including some spells to directly meddle and a clock which she crafted herself that makes her more attractive. These spells come from her Forte (“Shepherds Minds”) and a few secrets that she knows, but most of her magical ability comes from crafting objects which takes time. It’s a multi-step process using the following flowchart.
Kind of a lot, huh? It’s relatively easy to use, though, and the GM only needs to be familiar with it in a general sense. Since maker’s aren’t going to be crafting things in the middle of combat, this flowchart will happen in the background and possibly even between sessions (in keeping with Invisible Sun’s aesthetic that it is a game with realistic views of your time commitments and schedule). When a maker like the Red Shaper wants to craft an item, she follows the steps of this flowchart over the course of days or weeks: the base timeline for making an item is two days per level, possibly getting longer if you fail steps.
The Red Shaper’s Talking Amulet
Let’s say, for the same of interest, that the Red Shaper wants to create an amulet to talk with her friend no matter where they are in the city. There are courier services and mailboxes, but this is going to be a private, untraceable means of communication. Starting at step 1, the Red Shaper’s player consults Invisible Sun’s list of effects by level found in the game’s third book: The Way. In this case, the Red Shaper is trying to create telepathy at limitless range which is a Level 6 effect (this will actually make an amulet that will work anywhere in the universe, not just Satyrine, so… bonus!) and that will take twelve days to complete if everything goes well. If she wanted to, the Red Shaper could make the depletion range smaller (allowing the amulet to be used more often) but she’s content to leave it at 0-4 for now. This will require some Level 6 materials too and the player consults the list of goods in Book 1: The Key for ideas, eventually settling on ebonwood. This will cost 150 crystal orbs which all but wipes out the Red Shaper’s savings as listed on her character sheet. Hopefully her friends are suitably appreciative.
With the right materials on hand, the Red Shaper attempts her first challenge which is a simple Level 1 task. She rolls with no Bene spent and gets a 4; easy peasy. That success moves her along the path of the flowchart and prompts her to add a Level 1 ingredient to the amulet. Looking at the goods list again, the GM allows her to add some glass which she already has in her workshop. Now she’s up for her second challenge which will be Level 2 this time. She brazenly opts out of Bene again and rolls a 0. Bummer. This isn’t the end, though, it just means she needs to add a catalyst of the current challenge level (two) and then attempt a new roll at Level 3. The Red Shaper adds some powdered redweed (a Level 3 catalyst according to the goods list, costing another crystal orb) to the construction and this time she spends an Intellect Bene from her pool reducing the Challenge to 2. She rolls a 4 which is more than enough to pass.
Failing the original roll, though, means the amulet will gain a minor side effect. Book 3: The Way has a number of these and the GM and player agree together on item grows cold to the touch when used, an effect similar to the Red Shaper’s own Quirk and just an unpleasant bit of magic. Returning to the main branch of the flow chart, the Red Shaper has to add a new ingredient of the current level (three) and this time her player opts for a crocodile heart that she buys in Satyrine’s markets. This costs 50 glass orbs (half a crystal orb) which isn’t a lot but now the Shaper is down to 23 ½ crystal orbs of her original 175 in savings. Still, she’s got enough to continue and makes her next roll, this time at Level 4. She spends a Bene again, bringing the Challenge to 3, and rolls a 5!
The amulet is coming along and (using the twice-level-in-days formula) she’s spent over a week on it so far. She could shave some days off by increasing the Difficulty of the checks but the Red Shaper doesn’t have a lot on her schedule at the moment and can afford to take her time. She needs to add a Level 4 ingredient to the amulet at this point and the player decides on mummy dust which is an enigmatic enough substance. That’s going to cost 5 crystal orbs which she can just about afford, then the Red Shaper has to make a Level 5 check. She spends a Bene from her Intellect pool to reduce the Challenge (an expert reader below pointed out that you can’t add extra Sortilege dice with making otherwise she’d use that too). She rolls a 9 which can beat a Challenge 4 and so the Red Shaper succeeds again. She adds a Level 5 ingredient (gravel trod by a king for 10 crystal orbs), and makes one more check at Level 6. She spends Bene, gets an enhancement from Sortilege, and even calls in a favor from someone to help in the lab. The final Challenge is 4 and the Red Shaper rolls a 6 (hooray!).
The amulet is all but done at this point, but she still needs to finish it off to get the final product. The Red Shaper could just cap it off at this point and let the magic sort of knit itself together, in which case it would create a random magical effect of Level 6. She’s pretty invested in seeing this through, though, which means she needs a power source of Level 6. The listed one is cold trapped in a crystal which suits her just fine (you could always make up your own) but the real problem is that a Level 6 power source costs 50 crystal orbs and the Red Shaper has fewer than nine to her name.
She can earn more, but the clock is ticking since she needs to start the next stage within six hours of completing the last. The player and GM sit down for a short Narrative Mode session at a coffee shop as the Red Shaper takes on a personal mission for a patron in Satyrine and comes back with some scars, the enmity of an egotistical bull-demon, and a reward of 80 crystal orbs. Phew! She swings by the market on her way back home and picks up the needed crystal, then fits it into the amulet. One more check is required at Level 7 and she pulls out her tricks again, even using some fine-crafted jeweler’s tools from a fellow Maker, and rolls two dice against Challenge 5. The results are a 0 and an 8, so after a harrowing twelve days of working in her lab the Red Shaper has her amulet with just a minor side effect of getting a little frosty!
If she had failed in the home stretch, by the way, the Shaper would have ended up in a mishap which could be anything from an explosion, to summoned ghosts, to “someone the Maker knows and likes dies.” There are twenty different ideas provided and limitless imagined options, but it’s clear that you do not want to let a mishap occur either by failing your final roll or continually failing during the creation process.
This is an involved process and a lot of bookkeeping. I like doing that over written play (or by emails) but would find it overwhelming to track in person. Your mileage may vary, though, and you could make a simple chart to keep track, even running several different projects at the same time. It’s also a little sloshy that there’s a definite overall time (twice the effect’s level in days) but undefined step time (do rolls really take two days? can you do other stuff in between rolls while things “simmer?”), though that allows the narrative to take the forefront which isn’t so bad.
Overall, though, I quickly started feeling like this process was getting away from the Red Shaper which made it dramatic. It’s also as it should be, though, since Level 6 is the upper cap of what se can produce as a second-degree Maker. It would have been a little easier if she picked something within her wheelhouse (she’s great at cloth working and metalworking, but I picked a wooden amulet because I’m dumb) and there are circumstances that could improve it at the cost of a little story (which came in somewhat with the quick mission-for-money at the end). In the end, though, it was very satisfying to have this item created and I’m not even playing this character! I imagine makers rely on their Forte powers and inventory a lot on adventures along the Path of Suns but having this little creation game going on in the background is really pretty fun.