Michael's Note: As with Beast Magic, his section has been heaviliy re-written. As I said before, I have done the best I can to preserve the 'flavor' of the original material, while also making it workable within the confines of the HERO System rules.
Chinese paper charms (called ofuda in Japan) are probably the most powerful enchantment magic school available and are a major element of the 3x3 Eyes universe. In game terms they behave almost like Fantasy Hero magic scrolls and talismans, but the nature of their power is different, and so is the way to activate and use that power.
Basically, paper charms and wards are rectangular pieces of paper with complicated writing on them. True Chinese paper charms are drawn with a brush made of peachwood and a pigment made of red cinnabar, which is believed to have strong magical properties. They are always written on either yellow or red paper using either red or black ink, and in a special script called Thunder Writing or Celestial Calligraphy.
Paper charms work somewhat different from scrolls, as they are stand-alone magic items. When a paper charm contains a spell, anyone may activate it, regardless of knowledge, magic aptitude, and magic resistance. Like scrolls, charms containing a spell will lose their power after one usage, usually burning into ashes or the ink fading. This behavior can be modified, however. Charms are special enchanted items, and as such may be permanent or reusable.
Paper charms are usually activated either by sticking them to something—which will be the target of the magic, or in very rare cases, by being touched by the subject. Thus, to start a fire, a mage would draw the charm and stick it to something combustible, which will start to burn.
Ranged spells are available to paper charm mages. For example, the paper charm magic version of a fireball (i.e. an Energy Blast with the Explosion Advantage) would be a paper charm the mage would throw at his target. Once it hit the paper would detonate into an expanding ball of fire.
In Chinese lore, one could also burn the charm and drink the ashes mixed with some liquid for improved effect. It is up to the GM to rule whether this is true or not, and for what charms it should work. Also, remember that if there IS an improved effect, the caster must pay for it in some way (perhaps though extra Active Points with the appropriate Limitations [Extra Time, Gestures (must drink), and so on]). Some spells might actually work better visually if done by the "burn the charm" process. Spreading the ashes of a paper charm designed to "purify the earth" (either a Change Environment or a Transform) over the target area would look much better than sticking a charm to the ground. Of course, other spells might backfire if their charms were burned. Knowledge on whether to burn or not a charm, and how to use its ashes, is always learned along with the spell itself.
Some permanently active charms are actually wards (especially those made by priests to fight supernatural evil), and do not need to be touched by the subject to work (but sticking a ward to a spirit's forehead might prove to be a highly efficient and painful way to get rid of it). Wards can be created in any number of ways—one of the best is an Invisible Force Wall that stops only demons or other supernatural creatures (usually a -1 limitation). Other wards can be Triggered RKAs, with the Trigger activating if the target creatures cross the area where the ward is sitting. Some supernatural creatures may have Physical Limitations preventing them form passing certain wards, and others may have Susceptibilities to touching or otherwise coming in contact with such wards. In addition, the Sanjiyan and Wu are as susceptible to some of these wards just as any other demon or spirit.
To use a properly made charm, just trigger it (sticking it to the subject is the usual Trigger) and the spells contained in the charm will then be activated immediately. Either the GM or the PC can define other Triggers. The GM rules what is the default Trigger for a certain paper spell, and this Trigger should be the same for any other character in that game.
Spells with the No Range limitation (meaning they require the caster to touch the subject) either require the charm to touch the subject, or both the magician and the charm to touch the subject. Obviously the target can try to destroy the charm so as to stop the magic, or try to avoid the charm's triggering. This means all charms should be bought as Foci, and can be Blocked (in Hand-to-Hand combat), or Missile Deflected (if thrown).
Spells with a the Advantages of Continuous, Uncontrolled, or Delayed Effect, or the Limitation of Extra Time require the charm to be kept in contact the subject. Removal of the charm will abort the spell, either preventing it from initially activating, or ending the spell before its duration is up. There can be exceptions, which are left to the GM's discretion. A paper charm spell cannot be made Continuous and kept running via END from the caster. They can be made Continuous and Uncontrolled and feed from an END Reserve (which is set at time of creation).
All permanent or long-duration spells (anything bought as 0 END and Persistent) made with paper charms require either the charm itself, or the "shade" produced by one, be kept touching (i.e. be stuck) to the target. The "shade" of a charm is insubstantial, looks like either an ethereal version of the charm or it's writing, and may be used on ethereal beings such as an air elemental. Applying the advantage of "Affects Desolid" to the charm best creates this effect. Removal of the charm or the dispelling of its shade will cancel the spell.
Paper charms can be defined as "cursed", refusing to be taken off the victim, or to have its shade dispelled. This effect can be achieved in a variety of ways. Difficult to Dispel and Sticky are two good options for building a "cursed" paper charm.
It is recommended paper charms be built with some sort of Side Effect that is activated if the charm is damaged before being Triggered. Low power charms (defined more by usefulness as opposed to active points) should simply burn, while powerful charms (such as a Summon or Healing charm) may backlash, releasing pure magical energy. This backlash should be expressed either as an Energy Blast or RKA. Paper magicians carrying lots and lots of pre-made charms "just in case I get attacked by a mob" might suffer serious injuries due to a cascade of backlashes.
Drawing charms requires the character purchase PS: Calligraphy at a reasonable level (such as 13- or better). This is a prerequisite to paper charm magic; there is usually no need to do actual Calligraphy skill rolls. Magic Skill: Paper Charm magic is also required. All paper charm writers must take KS: Celestial Calligraphy. Some GMs may require the character to purchase Celestial Calligraphy as a 1-point language as well.
A Character could use another suitable script to write paper charms other than Celestial Calligraphy. This is an optional rule, and as such it is subject to the GM's will. It was included to allow characters such as Haan Hazrat, a very powerful paper mage from the 3x3 Eyes manga who always used a variation of the Devanagari script to draw charms. It also allows Japanese miko (Shinto priestesses) and similar characters to use Japanese characters to draw up their ofuda.
Usually only the proper paper and ink are effective when drawing paper charms, but the GM might allow certain characters to use any readily available materials to draw a charm. This ability requires GM permission, and will cause a penalty to the spell rolls, ranging from -2 to -10 depending on the materials and the GM's will. Such an ability makes an already powerful mage much more versatile, as proved by Haan Hazrat when he escaped a cell using its door as the surface for drawing a spell. Some GMs may decide that spells drawn this way are less effective then properly written and prepared spells.
Each paper talisman spell should be learned (bought in character points) just like any other spell. If someone wants to be able to cast a paper version of a (for example) fireball spell and a 'normal' fireball, he will need purchase the spell twice—once as a regular spell, and the other as a paper charm spell.
To create a paper charm, the mage must first write the spell on a sheet of paper. The time needed to complete this operation depends on the spell. Most combat spells (i.e. any spell with an Instant effect) require about 10 minutes to draw. Continuous spells, which can last anywhere from a Turn to several Minutes (or even Hours), can take an hour to eight hours to draw. GMs may want to define this as an Extra Time Limitation on the spell being cast, which can then be Triggered by throwing (or otherwise using) the charm. However, in many cases the actual Extra Time Limitation ends up not being a limitation, since the mage can safely cast the spell in the comfort of his home where he is unlikely to be disturbed.
All relevant dice rolls should be made when the spell is drawn. END is spent at this time as well. Interrupting the drawing of a paper charm should result in a loss of END and materials. The mage needs to start over with fresh inks and paper. He shouldn't normally be allowed to partially draw a charm and then come back and finish it later (unless the GM decides it won't affect the course of action).
Paper Charm mages are not the only ones who can create powerful paper charms. Holy persons and priests (such as Shinto priests or priestess, Buddhist monks, and Taoist priests) may know a few paper charm spells. However, they still need to purchase the proper Magic Skill and all other relevant Skills.
Priests and monks must draw the charms using proper materials as well as Thunder Script (i.e. Celestial Calligraphy) (or Japanese if the GM so chooses). The GM should also add more prerequisites if so desired, such as "Only If Serving The God's Purposes". Only some priests or monks should be able to draw charms—those of strong faith and conviction, those who are truly enlightened, or those with the right training. Conditions very few monks (or priests) will be able to meet.
The charms drawn by priests and clerics are also limited in scope—only wards against evil or the undead should normally be available to them, although the ever-popular ghost-busting ofuda (seen in countless anime) is certainly possible. Another suggestions would be banishment or exorcism spells, as well as good luck charms and wards to keep away evil spirits. However, these later items should be fairly weak. See the Fantasy Hero Grimores for ideas on what would make a good paper charms for priests. Most anything under the "Divine Magic" heading would work, for example. One suggestion for a banishment spell would be enough dice of Dispel to dispel the Active Point cost of a Summon power that could summon the creature being Dispelled (did you follow that?).
All these priest-made charms should take a lot of time to draw (at least one hour) to be effective, but are usually 0 END. The priest should make his Magic Skill roll after drawing the charm. Failure to make the roll means the spell is useless, but this will not be noticed at the time of drawing the spell (unless the character takes the time to double check the charms). If the character ever rolls and 18, then the spell will pass inspection but contains an internal flaw that renders it useless (and maybe even harmful). Paper charms made by priests without Magic Skill can only be drawn in high Mana areas, such as those found on some alcoves of a few monasteries, very few—and old—Shinto shrines or other of the few true places of power scattered around the globe. The GM should remember that there is no reason for a Priest using Paper Charms not to be a fully fledged paper charm mage, with the proper Magic Skill and using the normal rules for paper charm magic, which are much more effective.
Return to 3x3 Eyes Hero