Can it be? Back to posting every day? We shall see..
Anyway, this is the Occultism skill I mentioned yesterday, had to go in and tweak it a bit overnight. In my current campaign, I’m using rules options 2&3 (the Doctor and possibly the Archaeologist appear to be going for it). Should be fun.
Edit: added a new mechanic inspired by Fractalbat
Inspiration: Johnathan from The Mummy, countless Mediaeval dabblers and fools, Enlightened dilettantes, &c..
Note: this post is preserved for the Archives, but my current rules are available here
This skill allows the character to cast up to 3 cantrips (if used) or a single first-level spell once per day, per level of the skill. This limit applies only to successful casting (see below). The character must roll against his Occult Lore skill each time he casts. If the roll fails, the character may chose to burn HP (or years of his life..) at a rate of 1:1 for each point of failure. This expenditure does not cause System Shock. He may also attempt to cast again at a later time, with one exception: if the roll is a 6 (or double six for a fully Skilled character) on a Summons of ANY kind, the summoning is successful, but horribly botched. The character automatically fails the initial save vs Magic, and his Control roll is penalized by -5. The character may understand 2 cantrips or one first-level spell (of black or white magic) for every point he invests into this skill. He does not automatically gain a new spell on increasing the skill, but must instead learn the new spell(s). To learn a new spell, there are two options. First, the caster can roll for inspiration on unknown spells immediately after encountering them – if he has the materials (a spellbook or scroll, or witnessing the spell being cast) and a free slot: this uses the same rules as Language rolls. He must still transcribe the spell within 24 hours (this takes about 6 hours of dedicated work, plus the writing materials). Otherwise, a relevant grimoire must be laboriously prepared and annotated – treat this as researching the spell included, using any bonuses for high intelligence and for having the spellbook to hand. Lay Occultists have not yet grasped the ability to force a twisting creation of Magic into their minds and prison it for future use; Magi have their mental hotel filled to capacity already, and prefer the safer prisonment of a page. Thus, to cast these spells, Occultists must use great tomes of magic detailing the rituals and motions to be performed, etc. These are twice the size of a standard “dungeon” spellbook. Each spell takes a Turn to cast; cantrips require a full minute of preparation and incantation. The Occultist may use scrolls as would a Mage or Cleric, but must roll against his skill in Occult Lore or fail. If a 6 is rolled, roll again: a 4 or more indicates that the Winds of Chaos or the Lords of Law are angered by his meddling. The character is struck by a curse, and their scroll will be consumed. Any other failure does not destroy the scroll, but the character must have a few moments of rest and study to attempt the rune again. The character may not “burn” HP or years to force the scroll to work. Finally, an Occultist may use rituals of divination and identification on magic items. Each attempt takes an hour and 100sp worth of sacrifices and materials; it generates an impressive smell, and summons local spirits for help. Wise dabblers (is there ever such a thing?) will choose safe places with (hopefully helpful and knowledgeable) spirits available. The DM should add such modifiers as he deems appropriate for contacting specific spirits, better-quality sacrifices, the local spirit and undead population, etc. A successful summoning/divination counts as the daily spell. If the caster rolls a 6, he will get false but logical information (got a bored and/or annoyed spirit today). Failure merely requires another attempt, but the magic circles must be redrawn and new offerings prepared (costing another hour and 100 more sp in materials). If the skill roll passes, the caster is told of one power – generally major powers or abilities first, curses last – or given a cryptic divinatory phrase that helps unlock the item’s powers. The GM should skip information they already know about the item (although it makes a suitably frustrating answer to a failed divination roll, as well)
An Occultist who reaches 6 pips in the skill may make the appropriate obeisances, selling his soul to Law or Chaos, and gain the abilities of a first-level Cleric or Mage. From this point forward, he must give half his earned experience into the new class. He may also choose to remain but a dabbler; yet the twin spectres of failure and his galling inability to advance in knowledge and skill will one day drive even the most vacuous, vacillating of hearts to the madness outside Men’s Earth. A character who is aligned with the forces of Law or Chaos may not use spells of the other power, but Neutral Occultists can play off of both.
Rule 1: Clerics and Magi do not gain this skill (this leaves the skill as the domain of Specialists and new classes)
Rule 2 (Higher-magic campaign) Magi gain Occultism 3 at 1st level, and progress in it as a Dwarf would in Architecture (note: this ruleset does not have a maximum known spell pool. Also, the character does NOT gain bonus spells on start, nor upon gaining levels of Occult Lore)
Rule 3: Any player with a Starting Skill may sacrifice it to gain Occultism 2.