Ponies Of The Eclipse – Starswirl The Bearded

And for today we have a special request from Alzrius…

Star Swirl The Bearded. Pillar of Sorcery. A pony who invented more spells than anyone else in history.

So what do we know about his various abilities? He…

  1. Is stated to be “the father of the amniomorphic spell”. While this implies that it’s a thing that he invented but left to others to develop fully, all we really know about the spell is that it might be a pun. (Amnio = Pot, Morph = Shaping, ergo “pot shaper” – making Starswirl the Bearded a Hairy Potter).
  2. Created a Dimensional Travel spell and device that apparently risks destroying the world if overused. Putting it into a mirror with very limited access apparently helped, but still made quite a mess later – at least until Twilight fiddled with it.
  3. Created a Destiny Switching spell that really messes up peoples lives and needed revising by someone who understood what they were doing to work properly. It MIGHT have been designed to combine ponies powers or to allow him to ascend into alicornhood or for any of several other things. Who knows?
  4. Created a Time Travel spell that was very limited use, apparently only caused closed casual loops, and which didn’t work very well. It was left to Starlight Shimmer to turn it into something more useful.
  5. Dumped the Sirens into another world for the people there to deal with. This has been shown in two versions – one involving several unsuccessful musical battles against the Sirens, the other apparently simply using his dimensional portal spell. In either case, it made a lot of trouble later.
  6. Is stated to be more powerful than Twilight – although how they’re measuring “power” is never defined.
  7. Generated a pretty good shield bubble, although the Pony Of Shadows seemed to readily shatter it.
  8. Taught various students. Whether or not he taught them WELL is quite another question.
  9. Was an arrogant insensitive jerk and really messed things up with Stygian.
  10. May have moved the sun and/or moon (there are some serious problems with the accounts), but this too apparently did not go very well.
  11. Used a candle to light the way in a cavern. Why he didn’t just make magical light is unknown. Even presuming that it was early in his career… making light seems to be a basic part of being a Unicorn.
  12. Apparently managed to turn the Changelings loose by monkeying with things that he should have left alone (something of a personal theme there).
  13. Apparently became friends with Scorpan (despite not really understanding friendship). That’s a bit weird, but maybe they had some mutual hobbies or something.
  14. He probably had a high constitution, since he seemed pretty enduring and didn’t seem to slow down much with age.

Secondarily…

  1. Given that Twilight is a fan and that Starswirl made a lot of spells, it wouldn’t be too unreasonable to guess that some of the spells she’s studied were his creations. So he might have made one or more of the Mustache, Musical Breeze, or other minor spells that she’s learned. Sadly, we’ve no further evidence on this front – and even if we did, it’s not like most of those are fabulously impressive spells. Perhaps they were early efforts?
  2. Twilight Sparkle stated that “everypony knows that Star Swirl was an expert at everything from transfiguration, [to] dimensional calibration, [and] teleportation”. On the other hand, most ponies have never heard of Starswirl, so this goes wrong in the first two words. Given that Starswirl is a legendary figure and that Twilight is a blatant fan, this statement needs to be regarded with some skepticism.
  3. In Princess Twilight Sparkle and the Forgotten Books of Autumn (a decidedly secondary source), Moon Dancer mentions the spell “Star Swirl’s Seven Safeguards”. Perhaps he felt a need for a lot of safety precautions? Of course, we’re never told what this spell did or if it worked properly. It could have been pretty much any set of defensive spells.

So… Starswirl The Bearded. Amazingly powerful magical genius? Or sloppy jerk of a magician who consistently fouls everything up? Perhaps both? After all, they’re hardly mutually exclusive – and there is something that connects them. We are explicitly told that Starswirl never understood friendship. And isn’t “Friendship is Magic” a bit of a theme on the show?

In Equestria, failing to understand Friendship is failing to understand Magic.

And with that we have consistency; Starswirl had experience. He had raw power. He had intelligence. He was experimentative and inventive – but he was a solitary medieval-style wizard. He used rules-of-thumb, ill-understood and unconnected theorems (some doubtless quite wrong), and intuitive leaps to design his spells – so it’s not surprising that his forays into designing major spells had considerable problems. It’s the same reason why so many cathedrals collapsed (often more than once) while they were being built; the architects were trying to scale up from smaller buildings by rule-of-thumb, rather than really knowing what they were doing.

So:

Starswirl The Bearded.

ECL 7 (including +1 ECL racial template) Unicorn Pony Sorcerer.

Starswirl was unlucky. While he was born with an enormous well of magical power, it was actually too much; it overwhelmed the instinctual spells that Unicorns usually had available and left him unable to do anything EXCEPT have wild surges long past his early childhood. As a foal, Starswirl was forced to study magic intensively, and explore exotic methods of casting spells, simply to keep up with other Unicorn foals and get some use out of his power. Still, while he wound up socially isolated, that intensive focus allowed him to eventually learn to harness his raw power – and to channel it into an ever-expanding array of powerful effects, far beyond what any normal unicorn could ever be expected to master.

As an adult, Starswirl found himself respected, but still isolated and without friends. Worse, his somewhat erratic greater abilities often frightened those around him. Unsurprisingly, he took to wandering – exploring foreign lands, meeting people that he hadn’t frightened, seeking out ever more exotic magic, and cultivating his power.

He would return to Equestria more than a century and a half later, to find the population arguing and the realm under siege by various perils. He helped move the sun and moon, took apprentices, taught a youthful Celestia and Luna, and eventually passed on his celestial duties to them – and when they took charge took to wandering the land helping to drive back the monsters. He would eventually be recruited by Stygian as one of the Pillars of Equestria – but his old inability to deal with people fouled up that relationship as well, leading to him and the other pillars being quite unnecessarily trapped for somewhat more than a thousand years (timekeeping was sort of difficult while Discord was in charge: various accounts place the duration of his reign at anywhere from “about an hour” to “several thousand years”. He apparently saw no need for the passage of time to be at all consistent).

To summarize the low-level adventurer template, those affected get:

  • A -3 penalty on unskilled skill checks.
  • Very slow level advancement, by direct session-based character point awards rather than experience points. Succeeding in goals helps, but killing things and taking their stuff does not.
  • The status of valuable trouble magnets – they’re rare and find trouble everywhere they go.
  • A +3 bonus on five skills which suit their backgrounds and training. Sadly, this cannot be applied to active magical skills.
  • Extra hit points equal to [12 + (2 x Con Mod)].
  • Two minor special talents. For the full list see the Template, for Starswirl we’ll take Evasive (a +2 bonus to his AC) and Enduring (providing him with a +1 bonus on his Saves).

To summarize the Basic Pony Modifiers:

  • Quadruped. In general ponies are slow and have trouble moving while using tools or weapons.
  • Attribute Modifiers: -2 Dex, +2 Con. An additional +2 Con and +2 Chr are dispellable magical bonuses.
  • Damage Reduction 9/- versus both Physical and Energy Attacks, only DR 2/- versus melee attacks by living creatures.
  • Endure Elements. Ponies pretty much ignore the weather.
  • Ponies heal 1d8+1 damage per round three times per day.
  • Ponies are always treated as having lots of pockets, even in the nude.
  • Ponies get minor cartoon effects, such as hair that responds to moods, blushing through fur, and so on.
  • Ponies may begin or participate in spontaneously choreographed musical numbers that provide bonuses for group tasks.
  • Have a base pool of 1d6+3 Mana, regaining 1d6 with an hours rest up to three times a day and 1-2 points per day regardless.
  • Get a +2 Racial Bonus to Perform/Sing

Here we have a small problem: a Basic Pony’s Mana is “Specialized/only usable with innate racial talents” and “Corrupted/no natural magic option”. The Unicorn Template buys off the Corruption, but Starswirl needs to be able to use his Mana with learned abilities – so he needs to replace that racial specialization with with Corrupted / Only usable for Spell Enhancement” at a net cost of 2 CP.

To Summarize The Unicorn Subrace Modifiers:

  • Occult Talent provides their usual minor spellcasting – but in Starswirls case this is Blocked.
  • Immunity/Being unable to Concentrate on more than one thing at a time (covering up to three tasks and/or spells of up to level three at any one time).
  • Upgrade their basic Mana supply with the Spell Enhancement Natural Magic option.
  • Metamagic: Amplify / Only applies to Occult Talent abilities.

This is another item that needs upgrading. In Starswirls case it needs to apply to both his Path Of The Dragon effects and Inherent Spell – but since he’s taking them to build his own magic system that’s allowable. It will, however, cost another 4 CP.

  • A +2 Racial Bonus to Knowledge/Arcana (2 CP).
  • +2 Intelligence/-2 Strength.
  • One Bonus Feat.
  • Executive, Corrupted for Increased Effect (add the user’s Int Mod to his or her effective level of use)/requires 2 Mana/hour to power. Unicorns are good at coordinating groups, and can provide substantial bonuses.

Basic Attributes: Str 8 (-2 Unicorn = 6), Dex 12 (-2 Pony = 10), Con 18 (+2 Level +4 Pony = 24), Int 16 (+2 Unicorn +2 Age = 20), Wis 10 (+2 Age = 12), Chr 8 (+2 Pony +2 Age = 12). (Pathfinder 25 Point Buy).

Starwswirl is Old, even with his extended lifespan. He thus would normally suffer –3 to Str, Dex, and Con while gaining a +2 to Int, Wis, and Cha. Fortunately for him, he is capable of casting Greater Age Resistance daily – effectively negating his aging penalties.

Available Character Points: 168 (Level Six Base) +10 (Disadvantages: Incompetent (-3 on all Social Skills), History, and Blocked (Starswirl does not get the usual innate Unicorn spells; he had to develop them), Compulsive (defender of Equestria)) +30 (Unicorn and L1, L3, L5, and L7 Bonus Feats) = 208 CP.

Basic Abilities (95 CP):

  • Hit Dice: 12 (L1d12, 8 CP) +29 (L2-L6d6, 10 CP) +26 (12 + 2 x Con Mod Template) +49 (7 x Com Mod) = 116 HP.
  • Skill Points: 17 (Purchased, 17 CP) + 45 (Int) + 18 (Fast Learner) = 80 SP
  • BAB +3 (18 CP), +2 BAB Specialized (only with spells and rays, 6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude +4 (12 CP) +7 (Con) +1 (Tem) = +12
    • Reflex +3 (9 CP) +0 (Dex) +1 (Tem) = +4
    • Will +3 (9 CP) +1 (Wis) +1 (Tem) = +5
  • Proficiencies: Light Armor (3 CP) and Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Initiative: +0 (Dex)
  • Move: 40 (four legs, 20 on three or less).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) + 0 (Dex) +2 (Tem) +4 (Armor; Chain Shirt Equivalent) +3 (Martial Art) = 19

Normally I’d note some of his usual attacks here – but Starswirl is very much a primary caster, so they really don’t matter much.

Other Abilities (113 CP):

  • Racial Ability Upgrades (Noted Above, 6 CP).
  • Block (Arcane) with Master (DC reduced to 15) (12 CP):
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Adept (6 CP): Half Price for Craft (Alchemy), a Ray Mastery Martial Art, Spellcraft, and Survival.
  • Adept (6 CP): Half Price for Knowledge/Arcana, Geography, History, and the Planes.

Skills:

  • Craft (Alchemy)+9 (4 SP*) +5 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +17
  • Heal +4 (4 SP) +1 (Wis) = +5.
  • Intimidate +3 (3 SP) +1 (Cha) -3 (Incompetent) = +1
  • Knowledge/Arcana +9 (4 SP*) +5 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +17
  • Knowledge/Geography+9 (4 SP*) +5 (Int) = +14
  • Knowledge/History+9 (4 SP*) +5 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +17
  • Knowledge/Nature +9 (9 SP) +5 (Int) = +14
  • Knowledge/The Planes+9 (4 SP*) +5 (Int) = +14
  • Linguistics +9 (9 SP) +5 (Int) = +14
  • Perception +9 (9 SP) +1 (Wis) = +10
  • Perform (Singing) +5 (5 SP) +1 (Cha) +2 (Pony) -3 (Incompetent) = +5
  • Profession (Sailor) +4 (4 SP) +1 (Wis) = +5
  • Ray Master+9 (4 SP*) +5 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +17
  • Spellcraft+9 (4 SP*) +5 (Int) +2 (Unicorn) +3 (Tem) +2 (Syn) = +21
  • Survival+9 (4 SP*) +1 (Wis)
    • Specific Knowledges: Equestria In The Pre-Discordian Era (1 SP), Races Of The Pre-Discordian Era (1 SP).
    • +3 Skill Specialties: Spellcraft/Spell Research (1 SP), Spellcraft/Celestial Manipulation (1 SP), Knowledge/Arcana/Exotic Magical Systems (1 SP).
    • Martial Arts Abilities (9): Attack +2, Defenses +3, Synergy/Spellcraft, Mind LIke Moon, Inner Strength, and Healing Hand. Starswirl isn’t much of a healer, but in an emergency he can do a bit of it. It is extremely draining if he does too much though.

This comes to 80 skill points.

  • Occult Contacts x 3 (Celestia, Luna, Scorpan, 6 CP). Starswirl may be a cranky old man, and has had is arguments with all three of these folks – but they know him, will listen to him, and generally feel that he’s owed something. Note that, if Scorpan is no longer around, Starswirl will soon pick up a new powerful contact – most likely Twilight Sparkle.
  • Privilege: Crown Stipend (3 CP). Starswirl is effectively retired, and his (reasonable) expenses are covered by the Equestrian Crown.
  • Create Artifact (6 CP). Starswirl is capable of creating potent magical devices, but it usually involves quests and enormous amounts of trouble.
  • Mystic Link with Communications, Specialized and Corrupted/his notes and journals automatically record a great deal of information about his adventures, notes on his various spells, and other information. Even when he has little time to update them, they are generally quite complete. Sadly, there is no direct communication, they tend to require extensive study to decipher, and important bits may be scattered all over the place – although as long as any fragment of his journals survives, the rest can always be found and recovered (2 CP).
  • Life Extension: Immunity / Age (Uncommon, Major, Minor, 4 CP). Starswirl has lived a great deal longer than the average pony, and has a good long time to go.
  • Action Hero / Invention, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to invent spells, spells with base levels beyond what a Unicorn could use “naturally” (via Occult Talent) are invariably flawed – with dangerous environmental side effects, being partially uncontrollable, or other similar problems, spells are very difficult for others to study and learn (20 CP). At level six this means that he’s had a total of 510 action points to spend on creating spells.
  • Shaping and Pulse Of The Dragon, both Specialized / only as prerequisites (6 CP).
  • Heart Of The Dragon, may cast L0 and L1 spells (powered by Mana), Specialized and Corrupted / can only cast spells that he has personally researched (at a cost of 1 Action Point per L0 spell and 2 per L1 Spell), while he may use additional Mana to boost the effects as Unicorns usually do, each additional boosted spell in the sequence must also be researched – albeit as a L0 (if starting with a L0 effect) or L1 (if starting with a L1) effect (6 CP). As usual for a Unicorn, he needs to have his horn free to cast his spells.

Known Level Zero Spell Sequences (0-3 Mana, 4 AP per sequence, 13 sequences – 52 AP).

  1. Message. (Boosted: L1) Enhance Backround Music, L2) Whispering Wind, L3) Gust of Wind).
  2. Dancing Lights. (Boosted: L1) Light, L2) Scorching Ray, L3) Fireball).
  3. Daze. (Boosted: L1) Daze Animal, L2) Daze Monster, L3) Daze 1d4 Monsters),
  4. Detect Magic. (Boosted: L1) Identify, L2) Greater Detect Magic, L3) Witness).
  5. Spellcraft Mastery (+3 competence bonus for ten minutes per level). (Boosted: L1) Ray Mastery (+3 Competence Bonus to hit with Rays for one minute/level), L2) Sidestep (+2 Competence B0nus to all Saves for 10 minutes/Level), L3) Celestial Intervention (+30 Competence Bonus to Spellcraft rolls to manipulate the heavens in realms where this is possible)
  6. Moustache. (Boosted: L1) Disguise Self, L2) Disguise Other, L3) Adjustable Disguise).
  7. Drench. (Boosted: L1) Hydraulic Push, L2) Flurry Of Snowballs, L3) Hydraulic Torrent).
  8. Alter Scent. (Boosted: L1) Cleansing Sphere, L2) Instant Campsite, L3) Nauseating Trail.
  9. Breeze. (Boosted: L1) Alter Winds, L2) Gusting Sphere, L3) Wind Wall).
  10. Lullaby. (Boosted: L1) Sleep, L2) Calm Emotions, L3) Deep Slumber).
  11. Virtue. (Boosted: L1) Phantom Blood, L2) Heroism, L3) False Life (Lasts up to one day).
  12. Sift. (Boosted: L1 Detect Chaos, L2) See Invisibility, L3) Arcane Sight).
  13. Dust Cloud, (Boosted: L1) Grease, L2) Glitterdust, L3 Ash Storm).

Known Level One Spell Sequences (1-4 Mana, 8 AP each, 9 Sequences = 72 AP):

  1. Dispelling Touch (Boosted: L2) Dispelling Ray, L3) Dispel Magic, L4) Ruin Delvers Fortune).
  2. Greater Mage Hand. (Boosted: L2) Telekinetic Volley, L3) Telekinetic Maneuver, L4) Mass Unseen Servant).
  3. Obscuring Mist (Boosted: L2) Fog Cloud, L3) Stinking Cloud, L4) Hallucinogenic Smoke).
  4. Benign Transposition (Boosted: (L2) Baleful Transposition, L3) Dimension Step, L4) Dimension Door)
  5. Stand (Boosted: (L2) Dimension Hop, L3) Swipe (Pathfinder), L4) Dream Walk).
  6. Wizard’s Pack (The Practical Enchanter) (Boosted: L2) Knights Move, L3) Blink, L4) Dimensional Anchor).
  7. Barrier (Immediate Action, 5×5 Force Wall absorbs up to 20 damage, similar to Stone Shield). (Boosted: L2: Barrier Dome (As per Barrier, but protects a small group), L3) Greater Barrier Dome (as per Barrier Dome, but up to 40 damage), L4) Lesser Globe Of Invulnerability.
  8. Magic Missile (Boosted: L2) Spiritual Weapon, L3) Force Punch, L4) Resilient Sphere).
  9. Spell Focus (+3 to Caster Level for next spell), (Boosted: L2 Alchemical Tinkering, L3, Amplify Elixir, L4: Silent Arcane Concordance).

Starswirls Greater Magics are bought as Mana-Powered Inherent Spells. While these can be boosted as usual for Unicorn Ponies, each effect costs one mana per level of the effect (instead of 2 + 1 to 3 for boosts). must be researched at a cost of (2 AP per level of each spell in the sequence), and becomes unstable and dangerous once he exceeds what he can safely cast (ECL / 2, Rounded Up – currently 4). His Inherent Spells are thus considered Specialized.

Amniomorphic Magics (6 CP, 80 AP):

  • Mana-Powered Inherent Spell I: L3) Cosmetic Shift (permanently alters minor details, such as hair color). (Boosted: L4) Elemental Body I, L5) Geniekind, L6) Sonic Form).
  • Mana-Powered Inherent Spell II: L4) Aspect of the Wolf. (Boosted: L5) Baleful Polymorph, L6) Extended Polymorph (lasts 10 minutes/level), L7) Greater Age Resistance.

Dimensional Magics (12 CP, 192 AP):

  • Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Corrupted/costs 1 Mana per spell level, not just 2 (4 CP): L3) Dimensional Grotto (The Practical Enchanter, Spacewarp with the Supportive modifier). (Boosted: L4) Greater Blink (this version costs 1 extra Mana), L5) Teleport, L6) Baleful Teleport)
  • Mana Powered Inherent Spell II, Corrupted/costs 1 Mana per spell level, not just 2 (4 CP): L4) Bard’s Escape (Pathfinder, costs +1 Mana). (Boosted:, L5) Precipitate Minor Breach, L6) Mass Planar Adaption (Pathfinder), L7) Greater Teleport).
  • Mana Powered Inherent Spell III, Corrupted/costs 1 Mana per spell level, not just 2 (4 CP): L5) Plane Shift, (Boosted: L6: Tactical Teleportation, L7) Teleport Object, L8) Maze).
  • Mana-Powered Inherent Spell IV: L6) Tides Of Time (Limited Time Travel; Creates Closed Casual Loops only), L7) Gravatic Sphere (60′ Radius), L8) Destiny Exchange (the cutie-mark exchange spell). L9) Time Stop.

Starswirls spell lists cost a total of 396 AP and contain some 112 spells. He has enough AP left to have created another 64 cantrips and additional 25 first level spells (albeit with no further boosted versions unless you buy him some more action points), for a total of 201 spells (“More than two hundred spells!”). It also contains a number of spells at the higher end that are beyond what he can safely control even if he didn’t have that limitation already built in – which makes them very likely to go wrong indeed. Personally, I’d assume that he has the full list of level zero and level one Hedge Magic spells, another 31 assorted Cantrips, and four more first level spells of choice.

Equipment: Equestria is normally considered to be a world of Literary Magic Items – allowing the use of Charms, Talismans, and Relics. Starswirl doesn’t seem to use any Relics – and Charms and Talismans are kind of redundant for him; he doesn’t need minor magical conveniences, he has an immense array of magical powers with no real usage limitation. A few bits of normal equipment (most notably the pony equivalent of a Chain Shift and various basic supplies) can be presumed, but Ponies usually aren’t too big on equipment either. I could make his Bells minor relics of some sort – perhaps they’re relics that provide protection from particular major threats – but there’s really nothing to justify it.

In Equestria, with the Superheroic World Template in play, Starswirl is on the boundary of demigodhood. Sure, his most potent spells cost him some of his personal Mana to cast (and so can’t be used very often even if they DID work reliably) – but he’s a powerful, experienced, superheroic mage. He’s not quite up to competing with Dr Strange, Dr Fate, the Dread Dormammu, Black Adam, or the superheroic versions of Merlin and Morgan Le Fey – but he’s definitely up there with Magick, Agatha Harkness, Mordred The Mystic, Shaman, Zatanna, and the other second-tier types. About all he needs is the four-color template and a couple more levels and he’d break into the top tier.

Without the Superheroic World Template this build really will not work unless you tack on three to five levels devoted to building up a nice big Mana Pool and lots of Rite Of Chi to recover it – at which point you have a rather specialized mage who mostly uses lower-end spells but who has access to a few higher-level and quite expensive spells in emergencies. That’s not even a particularly exotic build.

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4 Responses

  1. I know two things about Starswirl the Bearded:
    (1) His name is Starswirl.*
    (2) He has a beard.

    (*Although I am not opposed to the idea that his family name is actually Thebearded**.)

    (**Pronounced “Chumley”.)

    ACtually, I did like the idea of a truly great wizard – but whose spells were still being worked on, corrected, or improved an eon later. That’s a cool concept! Any of us should be so lucky! If they’re still working on your stuff that far into the future, then you’ve got to have done something right.

    In DnD terms, I suppose you can ask who was more impressive – the guy who invented Meteor Storm, or the dude who invented Fireball. Sure, the 9th spell is bigger, flashier, and way more powerful… but it’s still building on the basic plan developed for a lowly 5th-level Wizard, who probably made a far greater leap in understanding to get there.

    • I have always been fond of worlds where magic improves over time just like pretty much every other part of civilization. Sure, you can justify the “fading embers” trope – magic is being used up, the gods are no longer powering it, and so on – but I think it’s much more interesting for there to be new magical developments, just as there are new developments in weapons and engineering, and for those new developments to impact the history of the world.

  2. A very nice write-up! I quite like how Star-Swirl’s magic is different from the standard spellcasting used by other unicorns. It abets the idea that, as the Pillar of Sorcery, he’s different from other wizards (since “sorcery” isn’t really a term you hear used for ponies, aside from Mage Meadowbrook).

    My one question is what spell he’d have used to open a free-standing portal to another dimension, as per what we saw him do in the flashback in Shadow Play – Part 2 to banish the Sirens. Precipitate Breach doesn’t quite seem to work like that, and neither does plane shift.

    • Most “modern” unicorns do seem to rely on raw talent don’t they? I’d say that that comes with a much more integrated society; in a culture where there might only be dozen unicorns – half of them kids – in a hamlet, and the next hamlet is a long and dangerous trip away… then each hamlet needs to be magically self-reliant. Each unicorn will need to learn a fair chunk of utility magic – for preserving foods, preventing infection in wounds, fireproofing thatch, and so on – even if they really aren’t that good at most of them. Modern Equestria, however, can afford specialists. If you’re REALLY good at that fireproofing spell your cutie mark will provide your credentials – and you can easily afford to take the train, visit each of a twenty villages for one day a month, and still spend at least half your nights at home. So Starswirl got a minor disability that forced him to study and excel – eventually wildly surpassing peers who were more talented but put far less work into it.

      As for his “portal” spell, I considered writing up a more limited variant of gate – but there wasn’t any evidence that he had full control of where it went, it didn’t seem to summon anything, you couldn’t see through it, and it either dropped or was dropped as soon as some creatures went through. Planar Breech seemed like a good match in principle – it kind of looked like it was affecting the area – but it was fast and quickly closed. Ergo I took it as Plane Shift – trading unpredictable effects on the surrounding area for some range. Having it make a “portal” that closes immediately after a small group moves through it is really just a special effect; it’s still “send a small group on a one-way trip to another plane”.

      So it was take your pick of “his spells are often a bit weird and a little unreliable”, “Mage Meadowbrook gave him a Conjure that boosted his magic a bit”, or “Rockhoof takes some artistic license in his storytelling”. Personally I’d either go with “Mage Meadowbrook made some specialty items to boost her friends just like the protection potion” or just drop Maze in favor of a personal portal spell.

      Although “Rockhoof is an unreliable narrator” has it’s points as well; after all, the sirens are ranged magical attackers. Why would all three so quickly decide to give physical chase to an acrobatic pegasus instead? And why did they head straight for that ominous black portal instead of staying well away from it? Wouldn’t they have to be complete idiots to do that?

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