Magic In Midgarth

   Midgarth was an older d20 setting. In most ways it was pretty standard, although loosely based on the Byzantine Empire and Mediaeval Russia, rather then on Feudal Europe like so many other d20 settings. Unlike most d20 settings, however, magic was relatively scarce.

   Magic In Midgarth

   Midgarthian Magics are – at least when compared to the powers available in many other realms – relatively weak. Normal spellcasting is limited to a maximum of level two. Higher level effects require either drawing on the unnatural energies of other realms – a difficult, dangerous, and corrupting practice – or finding other ways to reduce the effective level of the desired spell.

   Extradimensional Energies are the easiest, and by far the most potent, way to reduce the level of spells. A would-be magus can reduce the effective level of a spell by up to 5, and commit it permanently to memory, by giving up permanent attribute points equal to the reduction in spell level.

   Casting such a spell radiates alien energies into the environment (warping and twisting it), produces extremely disturbing “special effects”, and – if the caster sacrificed three or more attribute points to the spell – forces the caster to save against the spell (using a Will save if a save is not normal for the spell) or pick up a point of Corruption. As an example, a dedicated magus might have given up two points of strength to forever afterwards be able to cast “fireball” as a L1 spell. The price of such power is very, very, high.

   Spiritfyre – energy drawn from the astral realms – is the next most potent method of reducing spell levels. A “point” of Spiritfyre can be used to reduce the level of a spell by two, although this is not cumulative with other extra-dimensional energies. Astral travelers and spirits – including those manifested in the material world – may draw on (Cha Mod) points of Spiritfyre per round. Material beings may, through dreams and ritual, collect up to (Cha Mod) points of Spiritfyre per week. For good or ill, however, no more then one point of Spiritfyre may be spent on any single spell.

   Characters may accumulate up to (1D4/Feat) points of Spiritfyre – and may also acquire additional dream-related Feats (Spirit Speech -> Spirit Sight -> Spirit Allies, or Dream Shaping -> Dream Entry -> Dream Gear -> Dream Questing). Shamans tend to make extensive use of Spiritfyre, and of venturing into the spirit world.

   It must be noted that the spirit world includes heavens, hells, abstract realms, and many other metaphysical realms on it’s deeper levels, and the realms of dreams in its middle reaches – but the “shallows” are a spiritual mirror of the physical world. What happens there has a subtle influence over the physical realm, but generally not an instant one. Those wielding Spiritfyre tend to be pretty odd, as well as being open to spiritual influences and difficulties. It tends to be the domain of specialists and of those who were “chosen” whether they liked it or not.

   “Lesser” methods of reducing the effective level of a spell include;

  • Conditional; This spell only works under special conditions – when cast at a crossroad at midnight, when the “stars are right”, during a storm, with the targets true name included. “Negative Conditions” are a variant; such a spell doesn’t work when some common circumstance is in effect – E.G. versus sentient targets, people carrying iron, or some such. Rare except for special-purpose rituals.
  • Corrupting; This spell leaves unnatural “residues” of some sort in the caster’s body or mind (usually 1d3 points, regardless of spell level). While such residues dissipate at a rate of one point per week, if the total ever exceeds the casters Wisdom or Constitution (whichever is lower) it resets to zero – but the caster must make a DC 20 Will or Fortitude save (depending on which limit was exceeded) or move one step along his or her particular path of corruption. Such progress is generally not reversible. Paths of Corruption normally have five steps:
    • Minor: The character is warped or changed in some minor, but visible, fashion – but gains a bonus magical Feat or minor ability chosen by the game master.
    • Notable: The character gains another bonus feat or minor power at the cost of some isolating, or difficult to conceal, price.
    • Major: The character is twisted or warped in some major fashion – usually suffering some notable penalty or social ostracism – but gains no benefit from it.
    • Grand: The character becomes a monstrous creature, such as an undead or other horror. He or she generally can no longer function socially.
    • Total: The character loses his or her mind, becoming an NPC monstrosity.
      • “Common” paths of corruption include “Infernal Radiance” (you becoming a radioactive lich), “Madness” (you get insanity combined with arcane power), “Darkness” (you’re becoming a dark power in your own right), and “Servitude” (you’re becoming a servant of some supernatural entity. This is not necessarily “bad” – but involves giving up a lot of free will).
  • Foci; The spell requires complex alchemical mixtures, rare materials, the body parts of monsters, or extremely expensive preparations. This stuff is never easy to come by. Scholarly wizards commonly employ Foci, but few magi without laboratories and fixed bases or operation do so. This also tends to be pretty expensive.
  • Patrons; This spell calls on the aid of some powerful magical being. Such aid may be gained on a one-shot or on a continuing basis, usually in return for sacrifices, adherence to a specified philosophy or code of behavior, or undertaking missions on behalf of the entity. Various entities aid various types of spells. Priestly magi will often rely on a Patron’s aid – but will lost that aid if they fail to adhere to the dictates of their religion.
  • Ritual; This spell requires minutes to hours to cast, as well as assorted minor props. While inexpensive, such equipment is bulky and time-consuming to use. Religious magic is especially notable for employing rituals.
  • Vitality; This spell drains life force (Usually about 2D4 points) which can only be recovered via rest and time. Additional feats allow spellcasters to drain this from a Sacrificed Creature -> From the Land -> From entities in the area, or from the charges of magic items (the items powers must be relevant to the spell being cast. A “Wand Of Wonder” is ideal). Adventurous and Black magi are notorious for using vitality-based spells. It’s quick and simple – if painful.

   No more then three such lesser methods of reducing spell levels may be used in any single spellcasting. They may, however, be applied as a part of the spell’s formula, in which case the would-be caster needs no special talents, or mages may learn how to apply them to “pure” formula – a trick that requires taking each method as a Feat.

   Magic And Society :

   The “Common Folk” are at least roughly familiar with simple magic – the level zero and level one spells available to those with minor occult talents, village healers, minor priests, and so on. They may even have heard of the somewhat greater magics available through Ritual and Patrons. They tend to fear and distrust anything beyond that – often with good reason. The availability of extradimensional energies makes it possible for would-be mages who lack the skill, and the self-discipline, to use magic wisely to still cast truly powerful spells. The fact that such energies tend to drive their wielder’s insane as well simply adds insult to injury.

   The direct casting of second level spells, as well as options like Spiritfyre, “Conditional”, “Corrupting”, “Foci” and “Vitality”, are reserved for rare specialists. Magical training is generally a matter for secretive apprentice-master arrangements – and those few rulers lucky enough to have access to a genuinely powerful court mage must take what they can get.

   As a summary, on Midgarth:

  • Level zero and level one spells are relatively common.
  • Level two spells are usually reserved for specialists.
  • Lesser Limitations (Conditions, Corruption, Foci, Patron, Ritual, and Vitality) allow the casting of spells of up to level five.
  • SpiritFyre can increase these limits by two spell levels.
  • Extradimensional Energies can increase these limits by five spell levels.
  • The most powerful spells – those of levels eight and nine – are thus only available through the user of corrupting extradimensional energies.
  • Archmagi are invariably more then a bit mad and variously enfeebled; most mages content themselves with lesser magics.
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