The 2002 GameCube game Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is one of those games that is unequivocally art. Its story is an epic tale of Lovecraftian horror, its “insanity effects” are an innovation that remains unparalleled to this day, and its magic system is remarkable to the degree to which it’s defined within the context of the narrative.
It’s this last point that we’re going to look at more deeply here, using the rules from Eclipse: The Codex Persona.
Magic of the Ancients
In Eternal Darkness, all magic derives from the power of the Ancients, three primordial beings that were long ago banished from the universe. Each of these three godlike aliens has mastery over a different aspect of reality – Chattur’gha havng dominion over physical matter, Xel’lotath representing the twisting of the mind, and Ulyaoth commanding the magic of the planes. Notwithstanding power drawn from another Ancient, there are no other forms of magic to be found within the universe of Eternal Darkness.
The magic of each Ancient can be called upon to affect things within their area of control. In doing so, one invokes their name, identifies what it wants to be done, and the thing it’s to be done to; in other words, the spellcaster uses a name-verb-noun combination. So casting a spell to protect yourself from physical damage would be “Chattur’gha Bankorok (“protect”) Santak (“self”).”
In essence, this is a customized variant of the theurgy magic found in Eclipse.
Given that this magic is often used throughout the game to oppose them, one has to wonder why the Ancients let their power be used so freely. Perhaps they’re unable to regulate its use, their power “bleeding” out of them due to wounds suffered when they were banished – indeed, this power might be metaphysical “bloodstains” that were left behind when they were cast out.
Alternatively, the Ancients might allow the use of their power because each casting brings them a little closer to returning to the corporeal universe. In that case, even those who use their magic for just ends bring Creation a little closer to the Eternal Darkness.
The list of names (or rather, “essences,” since they describe the aspect of the noun that’s being targeted), verbs, and nouns available in the universe of Eternal Darkness are as follows:
In game terms, the use of an essence aspect to the usual noun-verb nature of theurgy means that you need to take skill ranks in each essence that you want to be able to use, as well as the theurgical nouns and verbs. Likewise, when making a skill check to use this type of theurgy, you add in your skill ranks in the essence used to those of the worst verb skill involved and worst noun skill involved.
Note that while you can still mix multiple nouns and verbs – going beyond the relatively simple level of theurgy found in the game – you can only ever use one essence skill at a time when casting a spell. The opposed nature of the Ancients means that you can never mix their powers.
Moreover, the nature of the Ancients is inimical to not only mortal life, but the entire structure of the cosmos. As a consequence of this, using their power is more difficult than that of the benign spellcasting in other universes – the DC for successfully casting a spell using this form of theurgy is 7 x (spell level +1).
The magic of the Ancients is unsubtle in its application. While it requires no verbal, somatic, or material components, a successful casting causes a glowing glyph of each word to appear in a circle around the caster’s feet (the color of each rune depending on the name used in the casting – red for Chattur’gha, green for Xel’lotath, and blue for Ulyaoth), and a voice speaks aloud each glyph as it appears.
When casting spells of 4th level or above, an instance of Pargon (see below) will appear and be spoken for each spell level above 3rd.
These visual and audial effects manifest only when the spell is cast, whether successfully or not, and vanish once the caster’s turn has ended. They can never be suppressed – doing so causes the spell to automatically fail.
The above rules apply to spells of 3rd level or below cast using this form of Theurgy. Beyond that level, the universe actively resists allowing more of the Ancients’ power to enter. Doing so requires having the strength to force more power through.
In game terms, any theurgic spell that would be 4th level or higher requires having ranks in the Pargon (“power”) theurgic skill. Pargon is not an essence, verb, or noun – rather, it simply denotes the level of intensity that one can bring to bear when utilizing the power of the Ancients; spells above 3rd level require having ranks in Pargon equal to (spell level +1) x 2. No additional check is required, and ranks in Pargon are not added to the theurgy skill check made when casting a spell.
Even with ranks in Pargon, however, this form of theurgy cannot cast spells above 7th level. Spells of that much power require special measures in order to bring forth the requisite energy – typically this involves great monuments being constructed, extremely rare planetary conjunctions, and/or large-scale human sacrifices. (Of course, the caster must still have the requisite ranks in Pargon for such a high-level spell as well.)
The fourth great Ancient, Mantorok is the one that banished the other three beyond the bounds of the universe. Dominant over all, it has since been trapped between dimensions, its flesh impaled by massive spikes enchanted with its own magic. Slowly dying – or perhaps already dead, but still active – Mantorok’s power nevertheless remains considerably greater than that of the other Ancients, for Mantorok represents all aspects of existence, rather than merely a part of it.
Casting a spell using Mantorok’s essence (which results in purple glyphs) skill allows for effects that are physical, mental, or magical in nature, as the caster chooses. However, each such spell requires double the number of spell levels that would normally be used; Mantorok’s overwhelming hunger requires a great deal of energy to fuel.