Eclipse – A City On A Hill

Today it ‘ s a question that I forgot about for quite some time. Fortunately, it apparently wasn’t too vital…

Using the Eclipse system of 10th and higher level spells, where would you peg a Creation (?) spell that allows the caster to make a small town or something equally impressive, yet has a duration other than instantaneous or permanent and the caster can dispel parts without dispelling the whole.


Cities have always been among the greatest and most complex human achievements. Even the great monuments are mostly parts of cities; there are (or were) the Pyramids of Giza near Cairo, the Pharos of Alexandria, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon… some set a bit apart, but all fundamentally built and maintained by the people of the cities they were associated with. Philosophy, science and engineering, warfare, literature, and rulership may color the great tapestry of history – but tale of human civilization is fundamentally the history of cities. Great nations are little more than collections of cities and the areas they dominate. On the human – and perhaps on the cosmic – scale there are few acts more impressive than founding or raising a city. That tradition reaches across time, from the near-mythical acts of Romulus on to the most modern of groundbreaking ceremonies.

Raising a city is also one of the great acts of magic. In myth and legend ruined cities are raised from dust, either as shades of the dead past or as horrific citadels of the undead. Cities of refuge are raised by acts of magic – or, in more modern tales, by equally magical nanotechnology. There are cities of illusion and more-or-less real mirrors of existing cities.

Still, in a setting where transhuman adventurers may shatter mountains with their swords, call planes of existence into being, and rise to replace the elder power of creation, raising a city with little more than a transcendent act of will is well within reach.

Oddly enough, one of the easiest ways to conjure up a city is to actually do it. The malleable stuff of interdimensional space is so easy to mold that mere dreams can do it, and drawing things across those spaces is so easy that mere first level spells can do it routinely – with enough leftover power to throw in extra functions as well. Simple, low-cost, magical devices such as a Handy Haversack create, organize, and hold open tiny extradimensional realms for mere conveniences sake. All you need do to conjure up a building or a city is to reach into the interdimensional aether, shape it, and draw your shaping into reality.

To do so, simply use the Spacewarp Spell Template from The Practical Enchanter. Properly applied, you can use it to generate spells that will squeeze buildings or even entire cities into an existing landscape. For some possible spells in such a sequence consider…

  • Sheltering Cavern (L3): This quick incantation opens a handy, if dead-end, cavern in some convenient solid surface – an extradimensional space that’s stable enough to handle containing the bags of holding, portable holes, and the other minor dimensional distortions that so many adventurers haul around with them. If you need a convenient spot to duck that avalanche, then this is the spell for you. Spacewarp (2), Stable against minor portals (bags of holding, etc, +1), Finite Boundaries (Original World).
  • Secure Shelter (L4): This standard SRD spell is an old standby for wilderness camps – and can be built like this: Spacewarp (2), Minimal Features (simple furnishings, basic alarms and barriers, possible Unseen Servant, +1), Stable +2 (the shelter can contain gates, portable holes, and similar dimensional distortions without difficulties), Finite Boundaries (original World), Long Casting Time (-1). Very similar spells can be used to create an oasis, a pit of flames, a handy workshop, or even a small pillbox-fort.
  • Mage’s Mansion (L7): Another SRD classic, this spell is handy for more luxury-prone high-level types. Spacewarp (2), Increased Size (+1), Furnished (+1), Supplied (+1), Servants (+1), and Barriers (+1). The base version has finite boundaries (walls), but a variant with finite boundaries (walls opening onto the original plane) is pretty trivial.
  • The Hidden City (L9): Calling forth an entire small city (or a fortification) is just a bit harder. It’s Spacewarp (2), lasting 1 Day/Level (+1), Increased Area 50/level radius (+3), Furnished (+1), and Stable +2 (the city can hold gates, portable holes, and similar dimensional distortions without difficulties). This will produce a well-furnished – but essentially empty city. Variants with additional features will either wind up creeping into the spell level 10+ category or will call for expensive components, lengthy casting times, or other methods of holding their spell level down. Throwing in Supplies (stocking the bars, putting grain in the granary, and so on) adds +1 level. Adding walls, locks, alarms, and other basic defenses adds +1 level (Traps, +1). Throwing in either a modest number of powerful creatures or a city populace costs +2 levels (Servants) for one or the other or +3 levels for both. Adding other features… simply falls for adding appropriate modifiers from the Spacewarp Template. Given that the area of effect is a great deal larger than that of a normal Dispel Magic, even a successful attempt at dispelling will normally only remove a portion of the city or fortification. If the variant chosen includes an appropriate magically morphic planar trait, the caster will be able to use specialized sub-magics to change various features of the city. In any case, such a city can either be located in its own pocket dimension or it can be bounded by the caster’s original dimension.

There are, however, other ways – which are sometimes quite useful.

Fabricating a city from available materials is quite possible, and has the advantage of inherent permanency – but is harder than simply conjuring up a city. Worse, the effects tend to be limited by the caster’s skills (rather than by his dreams) unless additional magic is included to obviate that limitation. In any case, when using this method it’s advisable to draw up some basic plans first. The fourteenth level Construction spell will handle this sort of project, and already includes a Divination component to compensate for any lack of skill on the caster’s part. Variants for lesser projects are possible; a twelfth level version will suffice for a large manor house and outbuildings, a block of tenements, or similar mid-range project. A mere tenth level version will suffice to build a mage’s tower (and makes a suitable ‘I made Archmage!’ announcement) or a modest stone mansion – and a mere eighth level conventional spell will suffice to build a decent house (although if all the caster has to work with is dirt, adobe bricks will have to do). However, if you’re unhappy with the available materials, this sort of spell won’t help a bit.

Versions that skip the divination component are generally a level lower -but are so much less versatile and useful that they’re almost never researched.

Illusory cities – pretty much by necessity – include enough shadow magic to give them a good deal of reality. Otherwise they’d give themselves away as soon as a visitor tried to step up onto a curb. The major problem with an illusory city is that they have to be directed. Make a real block stone and it will fracture properly when struck, respond to gravity and inertia properly when thrown, and react to further spells properly. An illusory block of rock… needs either constant attention or some fairly complex rules. Even if you make it partially real with Shadow Magic, you have rules to provide; a shadow magic block of stone could be representing pretty much any kind of stone, or be hollow, or many other things.

The Grand Mirage.

  • Level Sixteen
  • Conjuration, Divination, Illusion.
  • Components: V, S
  • Range: LOS
  • Casting Time: One Standard Action
  • Saving Throw: Will Partial
  • Spell Resistance: No

The Grand Mirage affects a radius of one-quarter mile per caster level and produces an 80% real change in the environment within that area. The environmental change may include plants, animals vermin, and even first and second level commoners, NPC class figures as desired (as well as common citizens for populated environments and need not be consistent throughout the area of effect; if the caster wants half the area to become deep ocean, to become shallows, and the remainder to become beachfront, so be it. If he or she wishes to include rains of sharks, workshops full of elves making toys, or many attractive young adults on ‘spring break’, that works too. The Grand Mirage can be dispelled – but dispelling one chunk of it has no effect on the rest.

Cities are founded, they grow, they prosper – and, eventually, they die.

And what dies can be recalled by the necromantic arts.

The Shadow Of Days Gone By

  • Level Thirteen
  • Divination, Illusion, Necromancy
  • Components: V
  • Range: LOS
  • Casting Time: Ritual
  • Saving Throw: None
  • Spell Resistance: No

This mighty spell evokes a city or a region that once existed in a particular region, but which does no longer – allowing modern visitors to see sights long gone, hear extinct tongues, speak with sages millennia dead, to taste dishes long forgotten, and to study books long since dust. The recreation will endure until the sun sets upon it three times, and then will return to the dust from whence it came. During that time all the glories – and all the dangers – of a past age will rise once more. Knowledge and mundane items acquired in the city – such as food, or recipes, or even books – will remain, as will minor magical devices, such as potions and wands – but major items of magic will vanish with the city.

The Charnel Realm

  • Level Fifteen
  • Conjuration, Necromancy, Transmutation
  • Components V, S, M (a dark altar must be raised)
  • Range: LOS
  • Casting Time: Ritual
  • Saving Throw: None.
  • Spell Resistance: No.

This horrific spell imbues the very essence of a land long gone with dark malice and negative energy – raising a horrific realm of the undead. Ever-decaying and accursed buildings loom, elder libraries are filled with dark secrets and horrific spells (no matter what they were like originally), and the deceased people and creatures of the land will walk again as undead – many of them fully sapient and accepting of their horrific state. Undead law enforcement will impose twisted statuettes of death, decaying courtesans will offer their malign favors, and undead butchers will assemble deathly abominations. The caster does NOT gain control of the realm or its creatures, but the caster – and up to (Charisma) designated companions – will be accepted by the realm and its horrors as residents, as if they were undead themselves.

Still, while truly evil masters of dark forces may find such a city congenial, and perhaps take it as a lair, few others will find any attraction in the prospect. Unfortunately for the world, the effect is quite permanent and cannot simply be dispelled.

6 Responses

  1. Thank you. The illusion version will help in my 1e setting where nations of illusionists hide in plain sight, manipulating others from beside the scenes.

    And the others are giving me ideas for locations that are created by artifacts or demi-gods.

  2. […] is discussed further in Playing with Extradimensional Spaces. There also may be some useful bits in THIS article on magical creating cities. The Genesis spell / power and Pathfinders Create Demiplane […]

  3. So… the duration of The Grand Mirage is Permanent, the one of The Shadow Of Days Gone By is 3 days and the one of The Charnel Realm instantaneous, right?

    • Pretty much – although technically the Shadow of Days Gone By only gets the full three days if you time the conclusion of the casting ritual for just after sunset. Of course that can be quite a long time if you’re on a planet with long days or can do something to keep the sun from rising on the city…

  4. […] be penetrated by True Seeing. Again, it’s probably not worth it. Some of the spells from the “City On A Hill” article might help as […]

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