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.

13 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 […]

  7. I mean, on reflection this definitely isn’t how doctor strange’s magic works (occasionally he cast spells that are explicitly just stuff that another mage created and called by there own name), and several of the entities that he invokes are actually his enemies, who seem to have just created the spells with the only requirement that they do the appropriate incantation, usually involving there name.
    Still, a workable magical system with good plot hooks.

    • I fear that’s a standard thing with comic-book characters. Each new writer tends to have his or her own take on the how a characters abilities work, what their limits are, and how they want to adjust their power level – and it tends to be even worse with magic-users. Just as bad… each writer tends to simply ignore or retcon the bits that he or she does not like in the prior material. Of course, given that Marvel Comics officially uses a sliding timescale to keep their characters topical, we know that they don’t really feel that self-contradiction is a big thing anyway.

      So here (ignoring the all-too-numerous alternate universe versions) is a quick look at Doctor Strange through the years!

      Back in 1963, Dr Strange was “The Master Of Black Magic” and often called on what were later established to be malevolent entities when he wasn’t using artifacts. He became the Sorcerer Supreme after he had to kill off The Ancient One (although the Ancient One has been back in body or spirit plenty of times since). He was also a pretty good martial artist, but that too has been an on-again off-again thing over the ensuing fifty-six years of publication. There really wasn’t much to be consistent with yet at this point since the writers were still deciding what he could and could not do to suit the plots.

      After a while, the writers started defaulting to a reasonably well-established set and division of powers – personal magic (low-end psychic powers, astral projection, and so on, which used your own mental energy and could tire you out. It didn’t seem to usually require talking or gesturing though), Universal Magic (mostly utility and basic energy-manipulation stuff that anyone could draw on ambient magic to use. If you were good at it, you could store up a reserve of energy to support bigger stuff. It usually seemed to call for gestures), and Invocation Magic (calling on entities for really big spells, this usually seemed to require gestures and complex invocations. On the other hand, you could apparently gesture and recite your invocation to invoke a shield in nanoseconds if it suited the plot). This was the version that made it into the original Marvel Super Heroes game. It’s also the version I used to represent Magick.

      Along the way I think that he tapped into the Cosmic Axis for a bit, but that was only mentioned a few times – as was drawing on the magic of places and dimensions – and that might have been an alternate version. It was a long time ago. Still, the The Dire Wraiths (all mages) were quite big on the Cosmic Axis granting Earth’s inhabitants cosmic importance and power.

      Some adventures involving Eternity established that being the Sorcerer Supreme was cosmic role that covered Earth’s entire dimension and all it’s galaxies.

      For a while Strange used white magic – powered by inner purity, meditation, and detached self-discipline. That went downhill fast until – against Urthona – he had to blow up all his talismans, which apparently crippled his magic somehow (I’m not sure how it crippled his inner purity) and unleashed all kinds of cosmic horrors on the Earth.

      He then studied yet another kind of Black Magic under Kaluu. It was powered by stealing life energy from other living things. He also used the Wings Of Needless Sorrow (an ancient accursed talisman that hadn’t been destroyed) for a time because he was too corrupt to use the Amulet Of Agamotto. (Even Dormammu didn’t think much of THAT activity).

      For a very little while he wielded Chaos Magic – the stolen powers of Arioch (Yes, Elric and the Eternal Champion series are apparently canon to the Marvel Universe) and then Shuma-Gorath – but he gave that up really fast and went back to using White Magic.

      His talismans then came back, conveniently putting an end to the cosmic horror problems – but that apparently wasn’t really a big thing. The fact that he’d spent some time creating new talismans to hold back the cosmic horrors was then never really mentioned again.

      When the great powers tried to draft him into the War Of Seven Spheres he renounced calling on such entities, and so lost all his major powers.

      A bit later, not wanting to use his personal-magic inner powers because he was infected by the elemental power of Salome’s Dance (he COULD use that for magic, but it damaged him), Strange gathered up loads of earthly artifacts to create the Gaian Forge, which channeled the power of the Earth into his magic (despite the fact that Gaia was well established as another divine being that he’d presumably renounced calling on. Oh well).

      That got him sucked into the War Of Seven Spheres (despite no longer having any such obligations?), during which he overloaded and destroyed the Forge – and so was returned to Earth with no powers at all (what happened to his personal and universal magic was never explained).

      He tapped into the Syzygy to get Catastrophe Magic and used that for a time (along the way acknowledging the existence of many, many, other forms of magic) – but this was later retconned away (“there’s no such thing”) with no real explanation. On the other hand, the underlying rules of magic have changed several times under various writers, so that shouldn’t be a big surprise.

      Later on there was an invasion by anti-magical science aliens who had destroyed many other magical worlds and who gravely damaged Earths ley lines and almost put Strange out of work – despite his drawing on the power of the entire dimension and the invasion being limited to Earth (later it was retconned so that the rest of the universe was not affected, but how this fit in with magic being a universal force and Sorcerer Supreme being a cosmic role was never explained). For a while he used (and used up) traces of magic left over in items to try and fight back. The war wasn’t won until Loki jumpstarted the ley lines again though.

      He also had to deal with a retcon that gave all magic a physically-damaging “price”. Along the way that established that countless people had been sacrificing themselves to support his adventures all along, turned ALL magic into Kaluu-style Black Magic, and kind of eliminated his need to have ever renounced Kaluu’s teachings in the first place.

      He briefly used the magic of Yggdrasil as a power source. Why he stopped using it entirely later on (instead of just cutting back) was never explained. Maybe this ties into his later asgardian-trained magical artificing? Oh well. He took his job back from Loki anyway.

      Strange later went questing to other worlds for magic and started forging his own devices (which he’d apparently never thought of doing before despite doing it before). Oh, wait. There was someone using of his old style of magic taking his place and identity on Earth, who had apparently been appearing in his place in other comics (and possibly movies) while he was busy. It was Casey Kinmont, a character who got suddenly dropped from with a change or writers about ten years ago (just after Strange swore to keep searching until he rescued her).

      Oh, also, Mordo – after reconciling, dying peacefully, and ascending to the higher planes with the Ancient One – is back as a malevolent sorcerer. So much for death and redemption arcs.

      Dr Strange also (in no particular order)

      Used the Darkhold to destroy all Vampires without losing his soul, but never tried that stunt again. The vampires later came back anyway because he accidentally made his brother into one.

      Created two alternate versions of himself (one with hypnotic powers and one with blasting magic). The blasting one eventually married Clea in the Dark Dimension.

      Was prevented from returning to Earth as long as someone was using his form (despite not having a problem with that at other times).

      Made everyone in the world think he was dead (including other mystics and throwing in tapes and records of his funeral – although this was not the only time his identity got erased to allow for secretive adventures).

      Had a personal crisis and turned the Sorcerer Supreme job over to Brother Voodoo. And over to Salome. And I already mentioned that time with Loki. Come to think of it, he’s lost and regained that job a lot of times.

      Got possessed a bunch of times, sometimes for quite lengthy periods.

      Had problems with his hands that kept him from making magical gestures (thus limiting his power again).

      Ate Zom and used its power for a bit.

      Sold his soul to become a reality-warping “Black Priest” using yet another magic system. Apparently it didn’t really stick after that plotline though. Maybe he only rented out his soul?

      Helped destroy and rebuild the multiverse.

      Then, of course, we have multiple movie versions. There’s the (odd) 1978 version, the animated 2007 version (in which he eats Dormammu), and the current cinematic version.

      So… we have quite a few different, often contradictory, versions of Dr Strange to choose from.

      This form of magic pretty much represents the War Of Seven Spheres (non-Forge) version in which all his powers were derived from invoking otherworldly beings – mostly because that’s one of the more interesting forms of his magic and because it’s one of the few points in his development when we’re given a definite statement on how it all works (even if it doesn’t agree with what other writers have had to say).

  8. […] art of calling on mystical entities to empower your spells directly is quite versatile – if still limited to the type of effects that any specific entity is able […]

  9. […] Entreaty Magic (87 CP), is built using the Path Of The Dragon. It involves making some fairly major commitments – but tying your character into the setting is generally a good thing and it can be fun to imitate Dr Strange in many ways. You’ll want to think carefully about what entities you’re calling on though. […]

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