The magic system of Heart of the Empire is designed with flexibility and customization in mind. Mages get very few 'pre built' special skills. Instead, they receive what are called 'Spell Components'. Examples of spell components are Fire, Target-Short, Splash-Medium, Duration-Hours, Status-Inflict, and many others. Spell components can be identified through +rpinfo. They have the word COMPONENT, just like that, all capitals, in the description. They also show fields for shock, casting, element, and damage, which will be explained later.
Spell Component - A spell component is any special skill that can be added to a Spell Chain to create an effect. 98% of all spell components are completely ineffective if used alone.
Spell Chain - A spell chain is a collection of spell components that form a specific effect. All spell chains, unless specifically said otherwise by the components there in, must have some form of target, ranging from target-self (which is good when you want to affect yourself, or touch range), all the way up to target-extreme (which lets you affect things a few miles away).
Every spell component is made up of several parts that define what it does, what it costs, and how it goes about doing it.
Here is a crude example of a spell +rpinfo.
By Item [Fire] We can see that the spell's name is fire. The type shows us that it is indeed a special skill.
In its description, COMPONENT is very clearly defined. However, if this was missing, we can look further below to the additional information and see that it has shock, casting, damage, and element as fields, which also tells us that this is a component.
The description tells us what this component does, it adds heat and/or fire to a spell. Useful for frying things in classical fire ball format, wouldn't you say?
Shock - The shock value of each component is how much strain it puts on the caster to put out the energy needed to fuel the component without pushing too much at once and going into mana shock (a period of time that you can't cast magic and are in a lot of pain). All the Shock values of the components add up to make the shock value of the entire spell chain. To resist shock, you automatically roll (Magery+Willpower)/2 + Arcana+Arcana/Shock. If you score as many or more successes as the shock value of the spell, you suffer no shock. The worse you fail, the more damage you take, and the longer you remain in mana shock and are unable to cast.
Casting - Casting is the modifier for how long it takes to get a spell off. Like shock, the casting time of all the various components are added together to form the total modifier. Every 5 is an entire round lost, if you manage to get -5 or greater though, your spell is instant and goes off instantly, despite any initiative checks (Still takes an action).
Damage - Damage is the multiplier for how much damage you do compared to the successes you got in casting the spell. This spell has a damage of 1, therefore, for every success, you get 1 X that much damage. Components have a damage from 1 to 3 as a rule. Some components have negative damage, and actually reduce the amount of damage any spell with them in it will inflict. Only the highest damage will count for a spell, however multiple instances of that same damage level will produce higher damage. For example, fire+fire works, fire+fire2 is just the same as fire2, but is harder to cast.
Element - The element of a component is its 'flavor'. Fire, earth, air, white, black, and others are possibilities. This only has an impact if the target has some sort of weakness or strength against the element, or, the spell is designed to work with elements somehow. This can have many RPed out effects as well, but I leave that to your imagination.
Now that you know how to read and interpret spell components, let's move on to actual chains. Here are some rules to keep in mind when forging a spell chain.