Sunday 29 May 2022

ANIMA: MOSAIC Strict Spirit Magic

What's This?

I'm fond of the free-form magic system that was included in PARIAH Volume 1 and have written multiple posts about using hit dice in a similar way to GLOG magic dice, a number of ritual magic posts (including this one) and an attempt at summarising free-form spirit-magic for the post-kickstarter crowd

Fond, yes, but not in love... and perhaps it's time to take some advice from Jim Parkin (via William Faulkner) and kill my darlings...

Aside: MOSAIC Strict?

Michael Prescott set the MOSAIC Strict brief in this post made in August February last year: essentially a set of modular rules that can be plugged into any rules-light/FKR or free-form ruleset to cover a specific scenario or procedure. 

It was only while halfway through streamlining these words that I realised they may well qualify as MOSAIC strict. For the sake of brevity I won't offer further explanation here: suffice it to say that I was drawn to the idea of something that could "plug-in" without a vast amount of mechanical "buy-in" from players (including the GM). Nonetheless, for those interested I explain why I think this set of magic rules qualifies as MOSAIC Strict at the end of the post.

Spirits in a Material World

I think this is the electronic musician SBTRKT.


The characters occupy a world of sapient spirits. “Magic” is the process of appealing to and bargaining with spirits of the Here & Now (or other entities apparent to them) such as:
  • a magpie roosting in the branches of a dead ash

  • the warm gusts of wind heralding a tropical storm

  • the craftsmanship invested in the fine bone knife

  • a mote of flame flickering at the fire’s embers

  • the vague smear of ghost haunting their vision’s edge

Instructions to these simple spirits must be 6 words or fewer in length and they cannot exceed the limits of their form (a magpie cannot lift an elephant, for example). The GM determines how the spirits respond by rolling....

  • 2d6 if the spirit is neutral to the PC (spirits of the Here and Now such as birds and mammals).

  • 3d6, drop lowest if the spirit favours the PC e.g. a pet, personal item or bonded spirit (see below)

  • 3d6, drop highest when spirits disapprove of the PC, common with spirits beyond the Here & Now (see below)

The spirit reacts in a hostile manner.
It seeks to harm the supplicant or hinder their plans.  

The spirit ignores the request completely and passes on. 
The supplicant may not request anything of that spirit again today.

This request has the spirit's attention.
It is willing to fulfil it, but at an appropriate  cost to the supplicant.
Unlike spiritual debt (below) this cost is incurred immediately. 

Without comment the request is fulfilled, as best the spirit is able.

The spirit exceeds expectations, fulfilling the request to a far greater degree than might be expected. 

Remember: no matter how good the roll, the spirit is limited by its own power and intelligence.


The PC may improve the reaction by one step if they enter into the spirit’s debt

In the case of minor spirits, roll 1d6 on the SPIRITUAL DEBT table below to determine the forfeit to be paid. Those indebted to Greater Spirits and Demons (see below) should roll 2d6 and 3d6 respectively.


A plain thank you is all that is required. If it doesn’t already, the spirit now favours you.


Share your rations with the ground — or any germane part of the landscape.


Make a simple shrine to the spirit within the next week. Leave a basic offering.


Spill your own blood before the next sunset.


Sacrifice a small mammal or bird in honour of the spirit within one day.


Gather a special flower/mushroom/mineral from a remote area before the month is out.


The spirit will return one month with a new request. Roll again at that time.


Leave a valued tool or weapon at the first shrine you encounter.


As ‘3’ but return in another month. Add something valuable to the shrine.


Before a week has passed, remove (1d6) 1-toe 2-3 finger 4-5 eye 6- hand


Sacrifice a valued pack animal. Alternatively track down a fierce beast and steal its skin.


Seek out the spirit’s rival and destroy it before the next full moon.


It longs for a child of its own. How can you help it fulfil this dream?


Willingly give the spirit your true name before the coming of the next season.


As ‘9’ but return a third time and remain at the shrine as its keeper until your death.


Choose: before the year is out, give up your own life or that of someone you love.


With your followers build a great palace of timber. Burn it down with all of you inside.


One year hence, take on the role of the spirit’s champion for the rest of eternity.


There comes a time when one must reach beyond the realms of ordinary human perception (the Here & Now) to entreat spirits of greater sophistication and power. Conversely, there are basic entities too removed from the human experience to engage in meaningful communication: cold, slow stone for example, or the gentle hunger of green plants.

To reach out to these beings the sorcerer or shaman must alter their perception in some way. Entheogens, music, fasting, flagellation or some other ritual methods grant insight into parallel realms. In game terms this can be played out as a physical journey, a psychedelic journey into unfamiliar territory:

  • Hallucinogenic mushrooms growing in auroch dung are a window into the Dawn : a fecund world of endless growth where the veil between illusory change and genuine transition is thin as the skin on a drum, the music of which permeates this carnival of perpetual sunrise.

  • Ritual drowning enables shaman to journey into the Beyond Realm of the Deep One, a nightmarish abyss populated by drowned fisherfolk, sulphurous vents and tentacled horrors that nonetheless harbours great magic and wisdom.

  • Soup made from the saliva-nests of cave stirges engenders understanding of their surprisingly complex history and culture; in larger dosages the insectoid rulers of the Dusk —an endless sandstone labyrinth lit by a dying red sun—make their presence known and interrogate curious travellers.

  • In Death we all must traverse the Realm of the Dead prior to our next life (whatever that might be). The truly cunning can bring themselves close enough to the brink to glimpse whatever secrets it might hold.

  • The Moon speaks in subtle whispers to the dreams of mortals, and with great practice dreamers can navigate the jasmine gardens and mercury lakes to find artistic inspiration or regain forgotten memories. Others ride the backs of giant owls or smoke the sweet resin of the sleepflower.
The greater the dose, the further the imbiber strays from the human experience, and the weirder and more powerful the entities they encounter. Beware of wisdom unearned: there may be horrible physical, mental and spiritual consequences to such journeys. It is not unknown for travellers to pick up unwelcome psychic parasites... or worse.... before their return.


As well as encountering powerful entities through journeying to other realms, these Greater Spirits can be conjured by:
  • ...uttering their true name
  • ...performing a complex sorcerous ritual
The conjurer makes their request, though their request may be more complex than the 6 words reserved for basic spirits. If its true name was uttered, roll for their reaction with favour Otherwise this is determined by the quality of the conjuration ritual.

Greater Spirits take on the forms listed below, and might also possess additional magical powers:

  • Beautiful young people with additional bestial characteristics, awake all night until Dawn, skilled in illusions, charms and shape-shifting.

  • Ghostly wraiths the colour of Moon or else great moths the size of eagles, whispering inspiration alongside spells of sleep and forgetfulness.

  • Fiery elementals serving the Sun-in-Heavens energise and inspire as well as desiccate and destroy.

  • Insectoid monks and reptilian academics teach complex engineering and literacy from dead civilisations of the future past Dusk.

  • Baleful fragments of beloved ancestors bear lost knowledge from the Realm of the Dead, or can be entreated to drag the living back with them.

Only the most reckless or desperate would engage in rituals of summoning to entreat the mightiest of spirits, known to some as demons. These include among their number the great animal spirits walking the Here & Now, the ghosts of slumbering volcanoes and the denizens of blighted places.

Proud and suspicious of humans, it might be best to meet them on their own terms than to summon them hither with a finger-click.


  • Spiritual Debt that is reneged upon results in curses. To lift the curse, the original debt must be repaid twice over (roll for a second debt).
  • Bind a spirit to a tool/weapon/pet/corpse/articulated effigy through sorcerous ritual to create magic items/familiars/golems/the undead.
  • Consider the trace violence or conflict leaves on a place- can that memory be consulted and even entreated, long after the protagonists have left?
  • An object valued by a sapient spirit develops a soul of its own. Separated, it yearns to be reunited with its master, and this yearning can be manipulated.

* * * *
Here are the rules for your tabletop:
Print out this JPEG and fold it in half: instant ZINI!

If you want to support me financially, you can make a donation and download a PDF here:

If you don't want to support me financially but still want to download a PDF there are community copies at

MOSAIC Strict or not?

Here follows my assessment of whether this meets the criteria for MOSAIC Strict. Please let me know where your interpretations diverge from my own in the comments below:


This is not a complete game (though it could be used as a universal resolution mechanic). Players will still need to come up with means of creating characters, worlds and resolving conflict etc.


The above rules are not compulsory to play a particular type of game. Groups might feel that a LeGuinian magic system chimes more with the tone they are attempting to set, or even The Magic of Names by Thomas Manuel.


Fewer than 1400 words in length by my reckoning. This was actually quite difficult to achieve.


This relates to my personal declaration that these rules are MOSAIC Strict.


There is no reference to other game mechanics within the text. It does, however, referencing worldbuilding elements taken from PARIAH, which I discuss below...


This set of rules was clearly inspired by PARIAH, but if one had never picked it up (or read anything else on this blog) would they be entirely mystified by the content above? I think anyone comfortable in the world of free-form RPGs, FKR or narrative games would feel very comfortable utilising these independent rules without reference to any other document.

Post Script

I had R.A.K.I.M playing in my head as I wrote out the last section, someting like...

M-Modular pieces that's how we do it
O-Optional because you're free to choose it
S-Short and sweet
I'm independent
C-Coreless, Crutchless not Co-Dependent!
I'll fetch my coat...

Post post script...

If you enjoyed reading about MOSAIC STrict, I've written some more stuff about it (including a combat ruleset, woo hoo!) over on ICONOCLASTIC FLOW


PARIAH free ruleset:

Magic hit dice:

Chosen arrow ritual:

Show me then the truth of its nature (ritual):

Ritual magic in PARIAH:

Free-form magic:

The "Jimterview"- interview with RPG designer and blogger Jim Parkin:

MOSAIC strict:

Animal Spirits I:

Genius Loci post II:

Hearth Spirits:

Spirits of the Dead:

The Dusk Realm:

The Beyond:

Nightmare Fruit:

LeGuinian Magic System:

Rakim — R.A.K.I.M

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