D20 and Megalithic Magic

Stonehenge

Image by vgm8383 via Flickr

Here’s another question from Alzrius…

A theme I see in a lot of stories about magic is that, for spells of truly great power or area, a wizard will build various edifices to help channel or spread the power around a vast area. Notwithstanding Heartstones or Wards Major, how would my arcane spellcasting character accomplish this?

There are two basic variations on here – finding a way to reduce the effective level of a very high-level spell and finding an way to stack a pile of metamagic onto a lower-level spell.

There are several ways to reduce the effective level of a very high level spell without reducing it’s effectiveness:

  • From Eclipse you can use a personal reserve of Mana to get up to -3 levels. “Only when you have an especially-designed megalithic structure to channel your power through” is probably both Specialized and Corrupted – so this option is relatively cheap, at least in terms of character points. Building your megalithic structure is NOT likely to be cheap or fast unless you cheat heavily with other high-level effects however.
  • From Eclipse again, you can use the Compact Metamagic to get up to -3 levels – in this case, probably by applying “taking ten times the usual casting time (-1 spell level) and “using outrageously elaborate or expensive spell components” (a huge megalithic structure, even if you erect it by magic, would count here; -2 spell levels).
  • From The Practical Enchanter you can use a Specific Power Amplification Circle to get up to -4 levels with a mere DC 30 spellcraft check (and, admittedly, possible side effects and a lot of time laying the thing out). Given how messy this might get if the “circle” is disrupted, it would also be very wise to go for the “inlaid” or “architectural” options (again, requiring either a great deal more magic or a lot of time).

Now, only the game master can say if you can combine them all – but there’s nothing inherently incompatible about them as far as the base rules go. Ergo, if there are no game master objections, combining those abilities would let someone with spellcraft at 20+, Mana, and the Compact Metamagical Theorem, take up to ten levels* off a spell by spending years building a dedicated structure to help channel the power. That should be enough for most things – although it doesn’t solve the problem of having to know the formula first so that you can take advantage of the Compact Metamagic.

*In theory, you could also take Sphere of Influence from Eclipse for an additional -1 spell level – but if you’re attempting to obtain godhood just for this, you’ve gotten a bit over-obsessive. Ten levels off should be more than enough for most things.

For another approach, you can simply build up the spell you need from smaller components via Lerandor’s Rule from The Practical Enchanter: according to that, if you need – say – a fourteenth level effect, you need only come up with some 16,384 specific first level spells designed to be chained together to produce that effect, and set up a way to cast all of them one after another. For that you’ll want Spell Storing with the Programmed option (to let them self-activate when some preset condition comes up) and Create Item with Artisan (to trade off gold costs for XP), Artificer (to reduce those costs), and as much Harvest of Artifice (to supply the XP) as you can afford and some way to cast custom spells without researching them – perhaps by using Theurgy or the Path of the Dragon (all from Eclipse). You’ll probably also want enough Spellcraft skill to build or design your workspace as a Generic +2 Power Amplification Circle (from The Practical Enchanter again; only DC 35 to reduce the number of enchantments you need by a factor of four!) and perhaps the Compact metamagic again. Then all you need to do is to set up all of your enchanted one-shot spell-storing dominos (“go off when the one before you in line goes off) and watch the pretty magical pattern emerge. That’s likely to take a very long time indeed – but it does work if you can manage to keep everything straight and some lout doesn’t move one of your talismans out of line.

Both of those will tend to take a really long time though. As an alternative, a would-be grandiose master of magic can  take a spell that he or she can already cast and stack enough power and area boosting metamagics on it to make it produce the desired effect.

That’s actually fairly easy; there are a lot of ways to add “free” metamagic to things. Sadly, the straightforward “Add Metamagic” spells from The Practical Enchanter won’t work here; they’re limited in the level of spells they can affect and we want to far exceed those limits.

From Eclipse we could use…

  • A Dominion Point can add +3 levels worth of metamagic to a spell. Sadly, you can only use one dominion point this way at a time – but it can be very convenient, and dominion points have other used too. Of course, to get Dominion Points, you’re going to have to run a Dominion (6 CP and however you go about gaining one).
  • Body Fuel with the Blood Magic modifier (12 to 24 CP). This can add up to +4 to +7 (depending on how often it was taken) levels of known Metamagics to a spell – if at a considerable personal cost.
  • Compaction, via the Compact Metamagic (6 CP). This can cover adding up to +6 levels of other metamagic, if at a considerable cost. I’d recommend starting with -2 for elaborate Components, -1 for a Place or Time of Power, and -1 for a ritual casting.
  • Glory with Finesse (12 CP) can add (a chosen attribute modifier) levels worth of known metamagics to a spell several times per day.
  • Hysteria (with the “Mighty” modifier, for 12 CP) can double the effect of a spell or ability within a broad field – but it’s expensive and very short term.
  • Mana, adding up to +3 levels of Metamagic (6 CP per 1d6 of Mana).
  • Mystic Artist with the Art of the Occult up to Spellweaver (24 CP) allows you to add up to (Cha Mod) levels of metamagic to a spell via a brief performance – or, if you’re using something like Architecture as your base, via using a building you designed for a work area. This is expensive, but Mystic Artist gives you a lot of other options to use.
  • Streamline (6 CP/Level) is pretty much the king of metamagical adders – once you know it you can boost all of your spells all the time – but it’s also rather expensive. Probably not the best choice for a once-in-a-great-while sort of thing.

Now, if you have to erect large, time-consuming, structures if you want to actually use any of those powers definitely counts as Specialized and Corrupted – and while I’d be reluctant to allow a mage to triple the effect of metamagical adders (it gets silly far too readily), reducing the cost to one-third is definitely an option. That way you could take the Compaction, Glory, and Mana options for a mere 8 CP (not much more than the price of a Feat), stand in your especially-designed wizards tower, and use a battlefield-scale effect to Polymorph that entire attacking army – or build a mighty ritual circle and invest some cash in ritual components to use Fabricate to turn that patch of forest into an instant fleet.

If you’re really determined – and good at Spellcraft – you can throw in an Add Metamagic spellcraft effects (from The Practical Enchanter) to toss on a little more Metamagic, once again probably using the architectural option; you wouldn’t want that kind of power going out of control because some idiot spilled some paint on your magical symbols.

Finally, we have the most direct options.

  • Battle Magic (Eclipse). Using this to cast a spell that covers an entire region requires one month, a major power source, and 10,000 GP worth of gear. The sticking point is, of course, “a major power source” – but a major artifact, imprisoned godling – or a power nexus with a structure on top that’s designed to channel that power – should certainly do. In some ways this is the cheapest and simplest option; all you need is a single feat and that “major power source”. High Magic (The Practical Enchanter) is fundamentally similar, but uses modified versions of existing spells rather than stacking metamagic on them.
  • Godfire and Runic Enhancement (Eclipse) both allow the user to add plenty of metamagic to another spell, and so should be mentioned for completeness sake. Of course, the one requires that you already be a god, and the other that you already be capable of using very high level spells – in which case, there probably isn’t much motive to be fiddling around with building structures to enhance or focus your abilities.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. It will be updated with Eclipse III when that’s done as well. The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Megalithic Magic. How to use massive structures to work very high-level effects. […]

  2. […] d20 and Megalithic Magic. Another approach to building magical amplifiers. […]

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