Eclipse – Entreaty Magic, Superheroics, and Tricksters

This power package request is for a “Doctor Strange” style Sorcerer – albeit perhaps one with more limited use of their abilities so as to fit into a standard fantasy universe.

Well, while comic book mages tend to have a variety of minor powers that they use all they want to, their forte is the well-chosen and highly specific spell, usually involving gestures, peculiar incantations, and calling on various magical entities. Has a swarm of demonic horrors gotten loose? The Mage throws the protective circle which gives everyone a few moments to get things organized, his or her companions hold back the demons while the mage works on the grand spell of sealing, and the demonic horde is sealed away again just barely in time. They’re powerful, but it generally takes a few moments for them to bring that power to bear – and it’s at least implied that major magic is not to be thrown around indiscriminately. Spider Man may punch out dozens of thugs and wrap them all up in webbing, but the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak are reserved for major situations.

So how can we build that kind of magic? I shall call it…

Entreating The Infinite

The user may call upon the aid of supernatural beings, channeling their powers into the physical world. Sadly, this is subject to some major limitations:

  • The user may only develop links with a limited [(Cha Mod + Level)/2] group of mystical entities, each of which only grants effects related to it’s field of influence. In addition, the user must pick a reasonably coherent group of entities to invoke:
    • For example, a Cthulhu Mythos mage who gained his powers from the Necronomicon might call on…
      • Azathoth for chaotic spells of transformation and destruction.
      • Cthalpa for powers of vulcanism and the deep earth.
      • Cthulhu for telepathic and mind-manipulating effects.
      • Nyarlathotep for divination, dark knowledge, and curses.
      • Shub-Niggurath to summon monsters, induce mutations, and manipulate fertility,
      • Ubbo-Sathla for healing and shapeshifting.
      • Yog-Sothoth for spells related to teleportation, gates, and dimensions,
    • An ancient, mummified, priest of the Old Kingdom might call upon…
      • Anhur for battle enhancements, hunting, and combat.
      • Anubis for spells of Death, Creating/Controlling/Destroying the  Undead, and communicating with the Dead.
      • Imhotep for spells of healing, construction, and architecture.
      • Isis for spells of Force (Magic Missile, Shield, Etc) and Magical Manipulation (Dispel Magic, Antimagic Sphere, counterspells, etc).
      • Khonsu for lunar magics, such as shapeshifting.
      • Ra for spells of solar might and rulership.
      • Shu for magics of the Air and Winds.
    • A Marvel Comics mage apprenticed to Doctor Strange might call upon…
      • Agamatto for spells of truth, light, and the manipulation of raw magical energy.
      • Cyttorak, for spells of force and binding.
      • Denak to summon monsters and constructs.
      • Ikonn for illusions.
      • The Seven Suns of Cinnibus for blasting and light effects.
      • The Seraphim for spells of protection.
      • Watoomb for spells of air and transport.
  • Each such entity grants a pool of (Cha Mod + Level/2) spell levels worth of magic to draw on. Unfortunately, renewing those pools is a slow process: the user may make an appropriate Knowledge skill check once per day to gain (check result/2) spell levels through some means (meditation, prayer, study, minor rituals, ceremonies, chanting names of power, or whatever suits the user’s style). Gaining points faster requires serving one or more entities. Minor services will half-fill a pool, major ones will fill it entirely – although no one entity will do more than completely refill the associated pool in any one day no matter how many services the user performs. For some examples….
    • You could serve Isis by regularly teaching magic. That’s a minor service when it comes up (even if you may often need to dispel some students mess). It’s a major service if you have to rescue your students from dangerous witch hunters. If it’s more than a few days between adventures your Isis pool will automatically start full.
    • You could be protecting some relic, gate, or place of power. That’s minor if you’ve just got to keep an eye on it and regularly take precautions, major if there’s a serious assault on it.
    • You could just undertake missions. Perhaps Anubis wants you to hunt down some undead? This kind of thing is usually major every day for the duration. Minor missions tend to be future setups… “go to this address and leave 10 GP in a bag stuck to the door with a silver nail before you depart”.
    • You could commit yourself to advertising your patron. Do you regularly talk about how wonderful it is and try to get other mages to call on it? Probably minor, unless this sort of thing is likely to get you hunted down or killed.
    • Do you adhere to an oath to hunt down monsters which threaten children? Minor when you need to investigate, major when an actual fight comes up.

Thus, for example take Erebus Herensuge, an eighth level magus of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh with Charisma 18. He can call on six different Lovecraftian Horrors, each of which can provide him with eight levels of spells (for a total of 48) – but his Knowledge Arcana skill of +12 will only get him back an average of 11.25 spell levels per day. Fortunately, a Minor service will get him four spell levels in the appropriate pool and a Major one will get him eight – and he is…

  • Responsible for recruiting more Cultists for Azathoth. Basic recruiting activities are a Minor service, but recruiting an influential or powerful person is a Major service.
  • The organizer for ceremonies honoring Cthalpa, tossing sacrifices into any convenient volcano, apparently bottomless sinkhole, or the depths of an abandoned mine. That’s Minor whenever he can get together with the cult, or Major when they can offer a truly worthwhile sacrifice.
  • Aiding Nyarlathotep by slipping eldritch tomes and disturbing occult lore into libraries and other locations. Minor if it’s something people have to hunt for, major if it’s blatant – such as adding terrible mystic secrets to an “ornamental” public mural.
  • Helping monsters interbreed with humanity to honor Shub-Niggurath. Minor if it’s just making it easier, such as by covering up an odd birth, Major if it’s enabling a serious horror to create some dark spawn.
  • Breeding slimes and oozes in honor of Ubbo-Sathla. Minor if they lurk in the depths, major if they come out for a major attack. They also help get rid of anyone who survives being dropped into a sinkhole…
  • Encouraging the installation of Teleportation gateways in the city in honor of Yog-Sothoth – Minor for enabling, Major for finding a way to use them to summon horrors from beyond into town.

Erebus is going to be making a lot of trouble just to keep the magic flowing. He’s also quite likely to try to toss any player characters who happen to be investigating his activities into a sinkhole or old mine he’s filled with slimes, oozes, and other monstrosities, and thrown various treasures into – but then dungeons need to come from SOMEWHERE. Similarly, he leaves mythos tomes about to drive people mad (while also stocking the libraries with the dangerous lore needed to defeat him) and turns monsters loose in town. He’s very handy for a game master to have around!

A player character is more likely to take things like teaching, guardianship, and missions – but that sort of thing will automatically provide them with motivations, connections, reasons to go on missions, and involvement with the setting. I usually consider that a good thing.

  • Entreaties can be interrupted like any other form of spellcasting, although the user is perfectly free to throw in metamagic (Still, Silent, etc) to avoid such issues. They can even throw in an extra +1 to make an effect swift or +2 to make it Immediate (thus allowing comic book mages to throw up those reflexive shields they love to use).

So to actually build this, take:

  • Path of the Dragon/Shaping (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP)
  • Pulse of the Dragon (Summons Magical Energy), Specialized and Corrupted (involves Entities, Limited Pools, Knowledge Checks, Services, and Interruptions as above) plus Heart Of The Dragon (Shapes Magical Energy provided that it under the user’s control). While the number of entities, and the pool size, is always limited as above, the ability to cast higher level spells costs increasingly more. To summarize the calculations, the ability to make entreaties of level…
    • One requires Pulse (Corrupted for Increased Effect, Specialized for Reduced Cost, 3 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 6 CP), for a total cost of 12 CP and a minimum level of one.
    • Two requires Pulse (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect – automatic control and 2 spell levels, 6 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 12 CP), for a total cost of 21 CP and – as per the general rule on controlling magical effects – a minimum level of three.
    • Three requires Pulse II (Specialized for Increased Effect – automatic control and 3 spell levels, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 12 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect, 18 CP) for a total cost of 33 CP and a minimum level of five.
    • Four requires Pulse II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect – automatic control and 4 spell levels, 18 CP) plus Heart III (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 28 CP) for a total cost of 49 CP and a minimum level of seven .
    • Five requires Pulse III (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 28 CP) plus Heart III (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect, 42 CP) for a total cost of 73 CP and a minimum level of nine.
    • Six requires Pulse III (Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect – 6 Spell Levels and Automatic Control, 42 CP) and Heart III (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect, 42 CP) for a total cost of 87 CP and a minimum level of eleven.

Unfortunately, Pulse III is as high as it goes. While it is possible to take Heart higher (at ever greater expense), it would probably be simpler to take Mana with the Spell Enhancement option to allow for the occasional really powerful spell at higher levels. Still, if somebody wanted to commit to paying for this package at 8 CP per level through level eleven – basically converting it into a limited spell progression – that would be entirely reasonable.

For comparison, this really resembles a specialized version of Sorcery. Eleven levels of Sorcerer Spellcasting with similar Specialization costs… 88 points instead of 87. The sorcerer will have less flexibility, but doesn’t have to divide his or her spells into a bunch of specialized pools. That looks like it’s going to be reasonably well balanced.

  • In any case, the caster level of such effects is equal to the user’s level, the saving throw DC’s against them are based on the level of the spell and the user’s Constitution, and they overcome magic resistance with a roll of (1d20 + caster level + Con Mod). If the user is casting counterspells they will tend to be specifically tuned, requiring a spell of only (target spell level – 2) – but he or she can only counterspell things with appropriate themes.

And that gives us the standard comic-book mage: debonair, knowledgeable, personable (high charisma), and very tough (high constitution) for a more-or-less-normal human being with flexible magic that they nevertheless rarely use for anything minor.

If you want to be the Sorcerer Supreme, you’ll also want the Superheroic World Template and the Four-Color Superhero Package (24 CP). If you want to have a special relationship with a particular patron or group, a few more points in Augmented Bonus (Add a second characteristic modifier to your Charisma modifier with respect to a particular entity) will do it nicely.

For the minor powers? I’d go for a bit of Witchcraft. After all, a level eleven character will have at least 288 CP, and this magic system will cost less than a hundred of them even with a special modifier or two. Twenty or thirty points worth of Witchcraft can provide a wide variety of minor tricks to use when you don’t want to expend your limited supply of Entreaties.

Now, if you just want to be a trickster… don’t bother going past second or third level spells. You’ll still get decent-sized pools and more entities to call on as you go up in level, but it will be pretty cheap – and still gets you some built-in involvement in the game.

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9 Responses

  1. …Really? It seems like it would make more sense just to buy dweomer / thaumaturgy skills that correspond to patrons and maybe corrupt them with extra service limitations, or have rite of chi limited to usage in service to patrons. I mean, why buy path of the dragon if you aren’t getting unlimited usage?

    • Mostly because it looked to me like the simplest way to represent an indefinitely-large magical pool coupled with the potential for an instant recharge. Most other methods you’d need to keep paying as your level kept going up to enlarge a pool that it would become increasingly rare for you to actually be able to fill – and would make it very hard to arrange for the instant-fill when you started in on a major service. This way, even if you’re level 30 with a +10 Charisma modifier and a rather large pool, when you throw yourself into a major service you can get your “pool” instantly refilled.

      I could build this basic ability in several other ways of course, (the next article will also be on “partial casters”) but the fact that the “pools” are really just a limitation on “unlimited use” allows their values to be essentially arbitrary made this one look easiest, at least to me.

  2. Hm, it looks like a half-dozen or so patrons is around the right amount. So something like the Zodiac would divide the various effects a little too much. I did wonder if perhaps you’d want a group that didn’t have a strong unifying theme, so as not to rule out any individual type of effects as being against the overall slant of the group, but if the Cthulhu Mythos can be made to work, something like the Seven Heavens could as well, I suppose.

    As a note, is a character using this build supposed to add their Constitution modifier to checks to overcome spell resistance? It’s usually just your caster level + 1d20.

    • Well, in theory you could have more than a dozen Patrons – but you’d need a high level and/or a very high Charisma modifier to get there. I just put down seven on each list because I rather like using the number “seven” in magical lists and because it seemed like enough. Still, there’s no reason why you can’t have a near-duplicate (for the kinds of magic you like to use the most) or patrons who are concerned with very narrow fields.

      Using the Cthulhu Mythos is indeed a bit of a stretch – but they’re broadly familiar to practically any gamer and well suited to my evil cultist example, so why not?

      And in this case they are indeed supposed to be adding their constitution modifier to overcome spell resistance. It’s a small part of the “increased effect”, based on the theory that it’s less “you are casting” then “you are channeling as much of what a far greater power is casting as you can handle”. Ergo a small bonus to blasting through mortal defenses.

  3. […] Entreaty Magic Package (87 CP), allowing you to mix some comic-book style sorcery into your stealth. A powerful option if […]

  4. […] you want a full-out Spellcaster-Ninja, you might want to take the Entreaty Magic package (88 CP). It’s nicely flexible, and full of unexpected tricks, while holding down the total amount […]

  5. If you are going to have the ‘8 cp per level’ as a way to purchase the progression, is there any reason why you couldn’t just keep buying it past level 11? If so, what would that look like?

  6. […] article on Entreaty Magic presented a way to build yet another magic system – in this case a freeform system of calling […]

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