All life is magic in Earthdawn. And because "Blood is life," blood can be used to power many kinds of magic. As a result, blood magic is also known as life magic. The various uses of blood in magic are described below.
The most basic form of life magic is strain. You give up a small amount of your life to power one of your talents or knacks. Whenever any action requires strain, that means you deliberately take real damage to do that thing. In particular, many talents require strain. This will always be noted in the talent description.
Blood charms are small, alchemically treated items that provide a variety of powers in exchange for a small amount of life. A blood charm is attached directly to the skin where it causes a small amount of permanent damage, and requires at least 24 hours before it becomes active. Most are one-shot items; if their power is used, the charm becomes inert and falls off. If not used within a year and a day of being attached, it will usually become inert and fall off anyway, and at that point the damage it causes can be healed.
Absorb Blow: An Absorb Blow charm causes two points of permanent damage. Its power is invoked as a free action, whereupon it gives a bonus of 12 to Physical Defense, and absorbs up to 12 points of damage from the next blow the character takes. Once it absorbs damage (regardless of how much or little) it is destroyed. 100 sp.
Astral Sensitive Eye: An Astral Sensitive Eye is placed over its wearer's eye and destroys it, causing one point of permanent damage. It cannot be removed and the damage can never be healed. The character can use either Perception or Spellcasting to look into astral space at will. When they do, they can see the astral presence of any object within 10 yards with Spell Defense less than or equal to the test result. If the test rolls all 1s, the wearer takes a point of strain. 325 sp.
Blood Knuckles: These cause two points of permanent damage. Blood knuckles are small stones usually set into the wearer's knuckles, though they may be set into any striking surface, such as elbows, knees, feet, and tails. Blood Knuckles add 2 steps to any unarmed combat damage test except for Claw Shape. 180 sp
Blood Matrix Charm: This charm causes two points of permanent damage. A Blood Matrix Charm is attuned to ONLY one spell. It cannot be reattuned to another spell. Using the spell in the matrix causes two points of Strain, but otherwise, it is used as a normal spell matrix. 100sp/circle of spell
Death Cheat: This charm causes three permanent damage points. When the wearer dies, it grants him a Recovery Test with a 5 step bonus. If this test reduces the character's damage to less than his Death Rating, the character is revived. Use makes the charm worthless, but some will wear a used death cheat and make up stories about how they died in order to impress the gullible. 450 sp.
Desperate Blow: This charm causes four permanent damage points. Its power is invoked as a combat option to grant a 6 step bonus to an Attack Test or Damage Test, at its wearer's discretion. This causes the charm to fall off. It can be reattached, but first the wearer must recover four points of damage in one recovery test. This is also available as a tattoo; the character cannot heal the permanent damage from a Desperate Blow tattoo, and must use a Recovery Test to recharge it after each use. 275 sp.
Desperate Spell: This charm causes three points of permanent damage. Its power is invoked as a combat option to grant a 6 step bonus to a Spellcasting Test or Effect Test, at its wearer's discretion. This causes the charm to fall off. It can be reattached, but first the wearer must recover three points of damage in one recovery test. This is also available as a tattoo; the character cannot heal the permanent damage from a Desperate Spell tattoo, and must use a Recovery Test to recharge it after each use. 300 sp.
Elemental Fends: These charms cause three points of permanent damage. Their power is invoked as a free action, and grants the user a 4 point bonus to spell defense for 4 rounds against ONE type of elemental spirit's powers. When used, the wearer decides whether to let it be destroyed and fall from his body, or to spend a point of Strain to recharge it. Earth fends cost 200 sp, Air fends cost 250 sp, Water fends cost 300 sp, Fire fends cost 350 sp, and Wood fends cost 400 sp.
Garlen Stone: This charm is unique in that it is swallowed, rather than attached to the skin. It causes 4 points of permanent damage and cannot be removed without killing the user. Once per day, the character may take 2 strain points in order to use his next Recovery Test to heal a Wound instead of damage. Once used, a Garlen Stone is unusable until the character has healed all Wounds, except for Permanent Wounds. 250 sp.
Horn Needle: This charm causes three points of permanent damage. By paying one point of Strain, the wearer can gain either a 5 step bonus to a Toughness based test to resist disease or poison, or else a 5 point bonus to Spell Defense to avoid disease or poison. He must pay the strain each time he wishes to use the bonus. 450 sp.
Horror Fend: This charm causes two points of permanent damage. Its power is invoked as a free action. It grants a 3 point bonus to both Physical Defense and Spell defense for 2 combat rounds. This bonus is only effective against Horrors and Horror Constructs. Once used, you may either spend one point of strain to keep it attached to your body, or let it fall from your body, destroyed. This is also available as a tattoo. The damage from a tattoo cannot ever be healed, and it causes one point of Strain each time it is used. 200 sp.
Initiative Booster: This charm causes four points of permanent damage. The character can gain one bonus step of initiative for one round for each three points of strain he is willing to take. He may gain as much initiative as he wishes, as often as he wishes, as long as he is willing and able to pay the strain. If he takes as much Strain in a round as his Wound Threshold, he takes a Wound and must make a Knockdown Test. 600 sp.
Karma Charm: This charm causes three points of permanent damage. Each is attuned to a specific Talent, which cannot be changed. Also, this Talent must be available as a Discipline Talent to at least one of the Disciplines. By taking 2 points of Strain, the character may use a point of karma on one test for the Talent that the charm is attuned to. These charms do not grant the Talent to the wearer, nor do they make it into a Discipline Talent. They cost 300sp x the lowest Circle the Talent is available as a Discipline Talent.
Strength Booster: This charm causes two points of permanent damage. For each 2 points of strain the character is willing to take, he may add 1 step to any Strength-based test, except for damage tests. He can use it as often as he wishes, as long as he can take the strain. If he takes as much Strain for a test as his Wound Threshold, he takes a Wound and must make a Knockdown Test. 300 sp.
Targeting Eye: A Targeting Eye is placed over its wearer's eye and destroys it, causing one point of permanent damage. It cannot be removed and the damage can never be healed. The wearer can get a 2 step bonus to any Attack Test using a missile weapon or a throwing weapon, by paying one point of strain. 450 sp.
Wound Balance Charm: This charm causes three points of permanent damage. The user can give himself a 3 step bonus to any Knockdown test by paying 1 point of Strain.
Talent pushing involves deliberately inflicting Strain on yourself equal to your Wound Threshold. This will cause a Wound, but you will not have to make a Knockdown Test in order to remain standing. Further, you will not take the damage until immediately after you finish the action where you are pushing. If you wish to be able to heal the Wound normally, this will give you a 1 step bonus to the Talent or ability of your choice. If you are willing to keep the Wound for a year and a day, you get a 3 step bonus. In either case, you can heal the Strain normally.
Blood may be used to seal promises. Usually, these promises involve equal exchanges. Unfriendly characters may enter a blood oath, but not characters who hate each other. Blood oaths must be entered voluntarily, but the influence of magic or drugs (including alcohol) does not affect this. They are binding regardless of intent or circumstances. They last for a year and a day, at which point they may be renewed if the parties to it wish.
Violating a blood oath will cause several permanent Wounds. These last for a year and a day from the time the oath is broken. In order to heal these wounds ahead of time, you must first heal all normal Wounds, and then take a healing potion. This will grant you a recovery test with a step equal to your toughness step plus 8, which is made against a Difficulty Number of 24. If you succeed, you heal the permanent Wound; otherwise you heal damage equal to the recovery test result.
Healing a Blood Oath Wound in this manner will leave a runic scar, which cannot be removed, though it can be hidden with illusion, costumes, or makeup. It is easily recognized as the mark of an oathbreaker, and those able to read magic will be able to read the name of the one betrayed.
The Blood Peace Oath is a truce between any two characters. A character may swear Blood Peace Oaths with as many others as he wishes, though each will cause the same amount of damage. Each swears to do the other no harm, and not to allow the other to come to harm through his own inaction. The specifics will vary with the wording of the oath. Each will make a cut to his weapon arm (t'skrang often cut their tails), let some of the blood collect on the knife, and then hold his knife onto the other's cut as he swears. This oath causes 2 points of damage.
As the sun shines upon the earth, so shall light illuminate my deeds. All people shall see that I, Par, mean no harm to Nar. I shall take no action to harm Nar, or those of his blood. I will not knowingly allow harm to befall Nar or those of his blood, by my own inaction. All people shall see that I honor my promise.If neither of them breaks the oath during the year and a day that it lasts, they can either swear it again, or heal the damage. If they continue to swear, they will receive a legend point award. If they do not re-swear the oath, then they can heal the permanent damage and they each will recieve a 1 point bonus to their Death Rating for as long as they are faithful to its terms. The place where they took damage will become the color of silver, gold, emeralds, or rubies.
If one of them breaks the oath, the two points of damage he took becomes permanent, and he releases the other from the oath. He also takes a Wound where he cut himself to swear the oath. This Wound follows the normal rules for a Blood Oath Wound.
The Blood Promise Oath is a promise to exchange deeds between any two characters, with an attitude of Unfriendly or better. A character can not swear two Blood Promise Oaths at a time. Each makes a cut over his forehead and another over his heart. This causes four points of damage, which will not heal until the promise is fulfilled. Each wipes the blood from his forehead with his left hand and from his chest with his right, and then joins hands with the other as he swears.
These oaths must be carefully worded. They should match each other as closely as possible. They must include the Names of those swearing, the deeds they will perform, a time limit in which to perform them, a single Talent or skill that will be used to perform the deed, and a promise to meet at some point within a year and a day.
Arkanabar needs the sword Inarkan's Edge, kept somewhere in Sky Point. He's dealing with Pheynt, an illusionist who knows Sky Point well, as he sells slaves there. Pheynt does not want to try to lead the flashy t'skrang hero through Thera's greatest military stronghold in Barsaive, and Arkanabar (for a wonder) realizes that he won't be able to go to Sky Point and get it on his own. Pheynt has need of a stalking mantis arm, a death moth antenna, and a giant spider fang, but he has aboslutely no desire to go to the Servos Jungle to get them. So they swear these blood promise oaths.
"I, Arkanabar, promise to travel to the Servos Jungle. There I shall obtain for Pheynt a stalking mantis's arm, a death moth's antenna, and a giant spider's fang. I shall use my Melee Weapons talent to slay these beasts. I shall be diligent in my efforts. I shall not tarry, nor accept any other deed, until I have done so. I shall obtain them before the Winter Solstice. I shall then return here to give these things to Pheynt. With Pheynt I mix my blood in promise."
"I, Pheynt, promise to travel to Sky Point. There I shall obtain for Arkanabar the sword Inarkan's Edge. I shall use my Spellcasting talent to befuddle and confuse those who would stop me. I shall be diligent in my efforts. I shall not tarry, nor accept any other deed, until I have done so. I shall obtain Inarkan's Edge before the Winter Solstice. I shall then return here to give the sword to Arkanabar. With Arkanabar I mix my blood in promise."
The Talents or skills named are increased by one step by the life magic. This is regardless of whether they are used in fulfillment of the oath or not. When the promises are both fulfilled, the damage of the oath can be healed, and the skin where it was taken will take on the appearance of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, or topazes. Alternately, a character can keep the talent or skill increase and only be able to heal two points of damage; the other two will remain with him forever.
A character who breaks his promise will never be able to heal the four points of permanent damage. Also, he will take two Wounds, one on his forehead and the other over his heart. These follow the normal rules for blood oath wounds. The other character must still perform his deed and return to the meeting place, and then has the choice of maintaining either full health or the one step bonus.
This is the most powerful oath known, and it creates the deepest bond. It may only be sworn with one other character. Each must show unstinting loyalty and dedication to the other, for at least three years, before it can be sworn. Whether behavior has been mutually loyal is generally the GM's call.
Both characters make a cut over their heart and another on their forehead, which causes four points of permanent damage that will never heal. The first wipes blood from his forehead with his left hand and places it on his friend's forehead as he recites the first part of the oath, followed by his friend. Then he wipes blood from over his heart with his right hand and places it on his friend's chest as he recites the second part of the oath, again followed by his friend. Such oaths will vary, but nearly always contain such elements as these:
First Part: "As the sun shines each day, so shall I think of you. As the stars shine each night, so shall you be constantly in my thoughts. As night follows day, so closely shall we share our separate lives. I shall know you as completely as you shall know me. This I swear to you.
Second Part: "As the blood of my heart touches yours, so shall I know your feelings. As your heart beats against my hand, so shall your feelings touch mine. My loyalty shall be yours. My courage shall be yours. The strength of my heart shall flow through your veins. When there is need, I shall be strong for both of us. This I swear to you. We are blood sworn."
The Blood Sworn Oath gives great power to those who swear it. They get a 2 point bonus to one attribute, and a one point bonus to a second, neither of which may be Toughness. They gain the Blood Share Talent, which they can use to share damage with each other. This talent does not count towards circle advancement. It is more powerful than other Blood Share talents, in that one can use it to raise the other from the dead.
To do so, the live character's Blood Share rank must at least equal the number of days his partner has been dead. He may make a single attempt reduce his friend's current damage to less than his Death Rating. Even if he succeeds, both lose one point of Death Rating, permanently.
They also gain one rank each of Thought Link and Empathic Sense when communicating with each other. If their Discipline does not include these Talents, they gain them at Rank 1, but can never increase them or use them to communicate with anyone else.
Of course, with such great power comes great responsibility and risk. The Blood Sworn promise to serve, protect, and be loyal to each other for the rest of their lives. If one of the Blood Sworn fails to uphold his oath (GM's decision), he suffers seven Blood Oath Wounds. Six of these will become normal wounds after three years and three days, though they can be healed as normal Blood Oath Wounds before that time. The seventh, over the heart, can not be healed by any known magic and will last until the character dies, and will mark him as a Blood Sworn Betrayer until that time.
This is the most extreme form of life magic known. It is generally only used by those who are doomed, because using sacrifice magic means deliberately channeling your entire life force into its power. Because the life is given willingly, there is no way to restore it to one who dies by self-sacrifice. I am pretty lenient about allowing characters who ought to be dead or unconscious to use this kind of magic.
For your character to perform a Dying Act, he must be conscious and capable of acting. You must declare his intention to perform a dying act. This puts all of his remaining Karma Points into ONE test, and this test must be for his next action. Once you roll for the test, he dies. If you decide when the test comes that you do not want it to be a Dying Act, the character takes three Wounds that last for a year and a day. They can be healed in the manner of Blood Oath Wounds, but the Difficulty Number is 36.
Aerilynn, an elf swordmaster, Helix, a windling air sailor, and Jaden, a human troubadour, are stuck in the bottom of a freshly-dug ten foot deep pit; a gloating, serpentine Horror lurks at its top. They have been put there while unconscious, and have none of their weapons, but they still wear their armor and are not tied up. The Horror offers to free them if they will do it a service, and to slay them if they refuse.
Len, Helix's player, says, "Helix is going to do a Dying Act. He's going to fly out of the pit and make an aggressive attack using his Acrobatic Strike talent, unarmed, and he's going to spend a karma point on it. But his dying act will be his damage test on the Horror." Al, the GM, says, "Okay. How many Karma Points does Helix have?" Len replies, "Fifty-three." Len gathers the dice for the attack test--step 19, plus a d10. He rolls a 36, gaining an armor-defeating hit. Then comes the damage test, at step 7 (4 for strength, unarmed, plus 3 for Aggressive Attack) with an extra 52d10 for all of Helix's remaining karma. The Horror sustains well over 300 points of damage as Helix flies into its mouth and out its tail, where he lands a blackened ruin.
If, however, Len had asked what was around the Horror, he would have been told, "Well, all your weapons are sitting right there on the ground." He could have chosen to break off his Dying Act, hand Aerilynn and Jaden their weapons, and hoped that they could have overcome the Horror. However, Helix would have sustained three Wounds that would have been difficult and expensive to heal, and had to deal with them throughout the fight.
A dying character can choose to curse a person, place, or thing. This is a major curse and it will have serious effects. The curse may reduce the victim's attributes, talents, or skills; cause some scarring, transformation, or blight; or diminish the usefulness of an item. Alternately, it may seal an area off as a magical ward does; if this is the case, its detection difficulty, disarming difficulty, and so on, will be equal to the character's Thread Weaving step. If player characters pronounce dying curses, they and the GM will collaborate to come up with appropriate effects.
The character pronounces the curse and dies. The curse need not take effect immediately and it may take years or even generations to come to fruition.
Sometimes a character who is dying will choose to create a True Pattern for a place or thing. He declares his intention to do so, describes what sort of legacy he wishes to create, and dies. If the True Pattern will be given to a place, it must be a place intimately associated with the character, such as the site of his birth, home, or death. The place will develop Pattern Items and Key Facts, which the knowledgeable will be able to use to weave threads to the place. The Key Facts will always have to do with the character creating the legacy and what he did there. See Thread Magic for more details.
If he creates the True Pattern for a thing, it becomes a Legendary Item. Many adepts who died fighting Horrors chose to create a legacy weapon when facing certain death. For such weapons, Key Facts will always include the adept's Name and that of the Horror that killed him, and one of the weapon's Deeds will be to defeat the Horror, or perhaps a similar Horror if it was not unique (for example, a wormskull). Note that "defeat" does not neccessarily mean "slay," particularly when the Horror has both physical and astral bodies.
A dying character can ask anyone in attendance at his death to take up a Dying Oath. Both characters must enter the oath willingly and knowingly. The surviving character swears the oath and if the dying character feels it is appropriate, he dies.
All of the dying character's remaining Karma Points are put into a special pool for the surviving character to use. He may use one of these points on any test that helps him to fulfill the oath, regardless of whether it's a test he can normally aid with karma or not. However, these points cannot be replenished, and they provide the character with his normal karma step.
Obviously, this kind of oath is the stuff of legend, so taking and fulfilling this kind of oath will increase one's legend. However, if the surviving character fails to fulfill the oath, he loses the ability to regain karma for a year and a day.