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It’s an addiction that damages your body, and you pay for the privilege. The cancer wants to eat you and YOU LET IT.
They’re glamorous, because movie and television stars smoke, but they’re also egalitarian. Pipes and cigars are status symbols, but the rich man and the poor man both smoke ciggies.
They’re macho, because soldiers, criminals, and other tough guys smoke, but they can also be sexy and alluring if an attractive woman clamps one into a holder.
They bring people together, because if you’re smoking, someone will almost always walk up and ask you for a light, or bum a smoke. But you’re usually outside when that happens, because people don’t like smokers indoors.
Mystically inclined smokers who acknowledge and relish these paradoxes are known as Chimneys in the occult underground, and just like their mundane counterparts, have a stigma attached to them. Because while everyone knows a great-uncle who smoked into his 90’s and never had a cough, Carcinomancers aren’t so lucky. Their mystic power derives from the harm they’re causing their bodies. In a very real sense, Chimneys are using their life energy to power their magic, and anyone who trades their health for power in a concrete, measurable way just isn’t right in the head.
Carcinomancers also have a distressing tendency to regard their friends in the same way they regard their smokes: disposable. After all, the magick is in the using, not in the saving…
Generate a Minor Charge: Smoke a pack of cigarettes in a place where it is socially forbidden (a hospital, the non-smoking section of restaurant, etc).
Generate a Significant Charge: Smoke two unfiltered cigarettes at once and voluntarily add 1% to your Addiction score or debilitating skill. Yes, this does mean getting a Significant charge is easier than generating a minor one. Go on, light up, burn that candle at both ends. *
Generate a Major Charge: Cause irreparable harm to another through non-magickal smoking: addict a child to cigarettes, give a friend emphysema, burn down a house by smoking in bed, tutor another in the path of Carcinomancy.
Taboo: If you succeed at rolling Addiction, you must smoke at least one cigarette or lose all your charges. Additionally, if anyone ever asks you for a cigarette, or something to light it with, you must comply, though you are not obligated to perform magick to meet his request.
Symbolic Tension: Chimneys pay money for something that destroys their bodies, and will one day kill them. Power is useless if you’re dead.
Random Magick Domain: Carcinomancy is about consumption, and to a lesser extent the drawing together and the driving apart of people, usually to facilitate the spread of addiction. This typically works better on groups than on individuals, and strangers better than people whose names are known. Anything that encourages intimate anonymity and/or the use (or misuse!) of precious resources is possible with this school.
Starting Charges: Newly created Chimneys have no starting charges. Best start working on that addiction right away…
Addiction: Every Chimney starts with a Soul skill named Addiction at the same level as his Carcinomancy skill. The GM can call for a roll against this skill whenever he feels it appropriate, usually during moments of tension or boredom, or if you’re offered a smoke. If you fail on the roll, nothing happens, but if you succeed, you MUST smoke a cigarette within the next few moments or break taboo. Matched success causes your addiction score to increase by 1%; an OACAWA raises this to 5%. Conversely, matched failure and BOHICA decrease it by the same amount. If this trait ever exceeds your Soul score or reaches 100% (whichever is higher), you gain a debilitating skill.
Debilitating Skills: Usually this is a Body skill, such as Cough Up a Lung or It Only Hurts When I Breathe, though sometimes Speed (I Get Winded Walking Up Stairs), Mind (I Can’t Think Without A Cigarette) or Soul (I’ve Got a Tracheotomy And Speak With a Robot Voice) may be used at the GM’s discretion. This skill starts at 10%, and is rolled whenever the GM feels that your condition would make performing a task harder (such as a Wracking Cough right when you’re making an impassioned speech). Much like with Addiction, you want to fail this skill. If you succeed, however, your task difficult increases by a percentage equal to the ones place in your debilitating skill. So if your Wracking Cough was at 20%, you’d take a –10% shift, but if it was 21%, you’d only take –1%. * *
You may only possess one such debilitating skill at a time. If it ever exceeds the stat to which it belongs, it begins to decrease the stat on a point-by-point basis (and therefore the maximum of all skills under that stat). When you reach 0% in a stat, you’re dead from cancer (though you’ve probably retired from adventuring long before then).
Carcinomancy Blast Style: Anyone struck by a cancermantic blast starts to wheeze, shudder, and cough up bloody phlegm as cancer starts to eat his internal organs. Suffocating from lungs full of tar is slow and painful, and will require a Violence-2 stress check from onlookers. If this does not kill the target, then the “cancer” will go into remission*** -- unless the victim is another cancer mage. Should that happen, the sum of the dice (regardless of whether the blast was minor or significant) is added to the mage’s debilitating skill. Carcinomancy is about eating your own body for power, and so another Chimney’s blast will actually use your power against you.
Carcinomancy Minor Formula Spells
1 minor charge
After casting this spell, the mage can ask anyone for a small amount of something, and they are compelled to give it to him. The item given must be small (no bigger than a rolled-up newspaper or loaf of bread) and cost less than a dollar. Thus, a Chimney could Bum a smoke, a soda, or change to make a phone call, but not a pack of cigs, a beer, or a cab ride.
2 minor charges
This is the Carcinomancy minor blast. The mage blows a cloud of smoke at the target’s face, who begins coughing, wheezing, and possibly spitting blood.
It Makes Me Look Cool
2 minor charges
Wreathed in a halo of lazily curling smoke, illuminated dramatically by the cherry red glow of the cigarette, the cancer mage looks damn attractive/ imposing/ mysterious/ dramatic. After casting the spell, the mage’s next social roll is at +20% shift.
1 minor charge
The mage can light up any time, anywhere, as long as there is something to smoke and enough oxygen to burn. You could have a soaking wet cigarette, no more fluid in your lighter, and be standing in hurricane force winds, and still be able to smoke.
3 minor charges
Flick ash in the direction of your target, and they are forced to make a Soul check. Failure results in them suffering an immediate craving for a substance of your choosing, which they immediately set about satisfying. Depending on the craving, this may also force a Self-3 stress check.
Packing the Tobacco
1 minor charge
Tap a pack of smokes sharply and receive a hunch.
Carcinomancy Significant Formula Spells
Ahhh... That's Smooth
3 significant charges
Take a moment out of your busy schedule to have a quiet puff. So what if you’ve been running for your life for the last twenty minutes, and you saw your friend’s face get eaten off by an unspeakable servant? The important thing is that you’re having a nice, relaxing smoke right now. Make a mind roll and give yourself psychological first aid, so long as no longer than an hour has passed between the failed stress roll and this spell.
Ash In Your Lap
2 significant charges
Light a cigarette while looking at a vehicle. When you stub the butt out, the operator is forced to make a Driving (or relevant skill) check or lose control of the vehicle. Adjudicate damage based on Appendix B: Car Chases from Lawyer, Guns, and Money.
1 significant charge
Effect: Light a cigarette with another and get a +10% shift to any action. Get an additional +10% for additional significant charges spent, to a maximum of +50%.
One Last Cigarette
3 significant charges
Smoke a cigarette before certain doom affects you. As long as the cigarette is burning, you may use Carcinomancy in place of any other skill. To prevent abuse, the GM should roll 1d10 for the number of turns the cigarette will burn.
3 significant charges
If you’ve ever wanted to be as popular as Typhoid Mary, this is the spell for you. Light up among friends, relatives, business associates – anyone who isn’t a stranger – and if they fail a skill roll, you may divide your Debilitating Skill by 1+ the number of people who failed. This is a great way to extend your lifespan at the cost of those you care about. Lots of fun at parties! Make a Self-7 test while you’re at it, you heartless bastard.
Third Man on a Match
2 significant charges
This is the Carcinomancy significant blast. Light three cigarettes with a single match, then fling the third at your target. Your victim will give a sharp, loud cough that sounds rather like a gunshot, and then clutch his chest.
Carcinomancy Major Effects
With a Soul check, see everyone's addiction of choice and the degree to which it rules their lives, even if they don't know it themselves. Start a fire that destroys a forest or consumes a city block. Addict everyone within a building. Turn a pack of cigarettes into artifacts that deal significant damage to whomever smokes them (A smoking gun, if you will). Never run out of cigarettes, no matter what the circumstances.
* I know what you’re thinking: Why would anyone choose to generate a minor charge when it’s easier to get a significant one and break it apart into 10 minors? The answer, of course, is that minor charges don’t require you to increase your addiction, and are therefore safer to generate. Safer = more work and less payoff. I fully expect that newly created chimneys will go nuts with significant charges for a while, until the harsh reality of addiction bites them hard. By that point, their addiction score should be well above their magick score and probably flirting with their Soul. Then they’re start playing it safe, but by then it’s far too late…
** Yes, this encourages folks to increase their debilitation by generating a significant charge. See above paragraph.
*** Rules for long-term disease are beyond the scope of this article, but if the GM wants to go for it, be my guest. Chimneys are hated for a reason.
Casca | profile | Jul 21, 05 | 11:34 am
Special thanks to Greg Stolze, Timothy Toner, and Benjamin Lee, who gave feedback and criticism.
Casca | profile | Jul 21, 05 | 11:36 am
both groovy and evil.
I have an ex-girlfriend that would have a stroke if she saw this (her parents are avid smokers and it drives her batty). That means the school has been very well designed. Bravo!
Nihohit: I suppose it depends on how a GM defines "irreparable harm", thus making it as easy or as hard as he likes. Ultimately, I feel it comes down to roleplaying as opposed to simply satisfying a condition.
Casca | profile | Jul 21, 05 | 6:08 pm
I have to say, this is a bloody marvellous idea. However, there's just one thing: I don't quite understand the description of Second-Hand Smoke. As far as I can tell, you spend the charges, light up and after the specific cigarette you spent the charges on is finished, then you get to divide your Addiction skill. Now, just a couple of mechanical queries: what if the people you were around when you lit up left your presence, and then failed a skill check? Would they count then? The same goes for people who walk into your disgusting clouds of smoke after you started the spell, do they count? And finally, why the Self-7 check? Surely all you're doing is adding magic to something you do anyway - smoking around other people and watching them fuck up?
Regis2001 | profile | Jul 25, 05 | 9:31 am
I went back and re-read Secondhand Smoke, and am appalled at how unclear I was, and perhaps more importantly, about a typographical error I made. It should be Soul check, not skill roll.
Casca | profile | Jul 25, 05 | 11:38 am
This is great. Definitely going to use this.
Engelous | profile | Aug 14, 05 | 7:50 pm
When you can't increase your Addiction any more, you increase your Debilitation instead.
Casca | profile | Aug 23, 05 | 7:41 pm
A few of my friends are looking at the site, and as a smoker, I believe you should include a new minor spell. Ritual of summoning: use one minor charge to summon a mode of public transport, upon which you CANNOT smoke. The cigarette must get to the point where it is too far burnt to nip, and not far enough to just throw away without a self check. What do people think?
Sounds a litle too specific for a formula spell, but sounds dandy for a random magick effect (drawing people together while you reek of smoke).
Casca | profile | Sep 03, 05 | 10:52 am
On the whole, this is a well made school. However, the name is inaccurate, as there are many, many different ways to get cancer, and the first Major effect seems like it could be a Significant spell.
Anon | profile | Oct 11, 07 | 1:44 pm