The Laws Of Magic Part V – Narrative and Naming

For those looking to read in order…

From behind them suddenly, closer than they imagined, they could hear the roar of Humperdinck: “Stop them! Cut them off!” They were, admittedly, startled, but there was no reason for worry: they were on the fastest horses in the kingdom, and the lead was already theirs.

However, this was before Inigo’s wound reopened; and Westley relapsed again; and Fezzik took the wrong turn; and Buttercup’s horse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit. . . .

-The Princess Bride

Destiny” has come up before, under Synchronicity, where it creates coincidences in accord with mysterious influences and the currents of fate. The tottering Empire which has set itself against the course of history WILL fall before one set of opponents or another. Sooner or later, the dikes or levees will fail and the floods WILL come. Eventually even the most fortunate gambler WILL lose. That’s “Destiny” of a sort – but it’s Actuarial Table Destiny. It will happen sooner or later – but any individual case may come up almost immediately or it may beat the odds for quite some time.

This isn’t that kind of Destiny. Magic sometimes uses the same word for wildly differing ideas – and what we’re talking about here is what might be more properly called Narrative Destiny. It’s not the sum of probabilities and influences on the world; it’s the force which says that the magic ponies WILL defeat the monster of the week because that is how the story goes.

Reality doesn’t have neat beginnings and endings. People rarely really get what they deserve, the causes of events go back perpetually and the consequences go on and on. People spin cages of words to turn what are basically-chaotic series of events into stories; but – in reality – stories don’t exist “in the wild”. They’re just a way for people to organize their perceptions, experiences, and acquired information. Two people can look at the same events and describe them vastly differently, right down to drawing entirely different conclusions from them.

In magic, however, Narrative Destiny is a major force. It’s the power that turns a mixture of randomness, influences, mistakes, and the accumulative effects of hundreds of people and factions pursuing their own goals in a mixture of erroneous and calculated ways, into a grand sweep of history – a coherent narrative with conventions that have the force of natural laws. And while magic can bend those rules, just as it can let you fly in despite of gravity… there is always a price to twisting the course of events away from their well-worn channel. Thus Narrative Destiny leads some people through near-inevitable sequences of events while others subvert its dictates, achieving goals that should have been utterly impossible in despite of the vast forces arrayed against them.

Narrative Destiny runs on cliches, tropes, and proverbs. It’s what enforces the conventions of stories. It’s the source of all those examples you find on TVTropes – and it’s another “force” that sneaks into almost every game pretty much unnoticed simply because most game masters try to have a bit more background and depth to things beyond “A bunch of people got together and started killing things and smashing stuff. They got away with this because they mostly did it out in the anarchic areas until they were so good at it as to be mostly unstoppable. Eventually they got bored because they’d smashed pretty much everything they thought needed smashing. Then we started a new campaign”. Game settings are filled with narrative conventions because they’re products of human minds – and that’s one of the major ways in which human minds organize their worldviews.

In RPG’s the prevalence of this form of magic marks a major division between game styles.

  1. A lot of games take a “realistic” approach; if you want to stick a knife into someone, and you can hide your intentions, sneak up on them, and stab them in the back, you’re more likely to succeed. That’s pragmatic, sensible, and – by most standards – pretty reasonable (if perhaps a little dull). Still, there is something to be said for scheming and trying to cleverly take advantage of every opportunity. It’s not all that exciting, but it can be very satisfying if you don’t mind the players constantly looking for ways to boost their odds instead of getting on with things.
  2. Other games may give you a small bonus for adding a bit more description and/or a small penalty for being boring. So you note the faint breeze which flutters the curtains, the anger which drives the attack, and the moment of focus as the attacker strikes – making the story inherent to the game and letting it influence the setting. Now it’s annoying when people get inconsistent about adding details, but as long as there’s some self-restraint amongst the players, this approach can add a lot of details and atmosphere if you don’t mind having to do a lot of on-the-fly adaption.
  3. In a few, announcing that you’re going to run at your target screaming your battle cry, vault over their head off a convenient rock, somersault in the air, stab them in the back to reverse your spin, and land on your feet will get you a bonus rather than reducing your chance of success. That’s dramatic, and stylish – if not genuinely exciting since there’s no actual gamble involved – but it really annoys the players who have a practical streak and are trying to be clever unless there’s some serious cost involved in bending the world to your will that way.

In terms of Narrative Destiny… the first option mostly ignores it just as the real world does. The fact that you’re a handsome prince trying to rescue your true love has little or nothing to do with your success of failure. That’s up to your skills, abilities, decisions, and chance. The second lets the world bend a bit to accommodate your narrative, but strictly caps how far it can go; you can bend the primary story to incorporate your personal one, but only so far. For the third option, there are few limits: the world bends to drama more than it does to mere physics and the “story” is likely to be whatever the characters say it is.

Honestly, there is no simple way of satisfying everyone here. Most game systems tend towards one of those three options – in part because option one is easiest to write rules for, option two tends to be a bit informal, usually operates on the social level, and is generally seen as “metagamey” (it does work well in rules-lite systems though), and option three really annoys the players who aren’t good at verbal dramatics and want firm rules to work with. Trying to write rules that can accommodate all three styles is possible – it’s the approach I took in Eclipse and there are various articles up about how to build characters who can influence the narrative and/or pull off insane stunts at the cost of not having those character points to spend on other things – but accommodating all those options requires either a really loose system (annoying one set of players) or a very complicated rules system (causing a lot of players to opt for games that aren’t so much work to make characters for).

Personally, I usually go for the complicated rules – even if that means I have to help a lot of the players make their characters – and option two. Letting the players add some details works just fine for me.

The simplest way to add this law of magic to a game more actively (without going entirely overboard) is to give characters some bonuses for citing and adhering to an appropriate literary trope. If the character is cluelessly noble and pure at heart, perhaps it does give them strength. An oath really does let someone surpass normal limits to fulfill it. True Love will cure anything. A blow stricken in vengeance is far more grievous than an apparently-identical blow stuck in doubt. That’s what the Fate Point rules in Runecards were about.

Naming is closely related to Narrative Destiny. After all… that random sword is just a sword, and could be replaced by any of thousands of very similar swords without changing anything much at all. Sure, there may be hundreds of trivial variations, but your game of choices equipment list and mechanics generally do not care about the makers mark, or the pattern of the steel, or whether or not the blade has an engraving of a creature on it, or the color of the pommel. A “short sword” is pretty much a “short sword” – unless, perhaps, a full-blown system of correspondences is in use. But even if one is, those correspondences will still be just a handful of discriptives hung on the basic “short sword” chasse.

Now “Sting” may have been pretty much a short sword or combat knife at base – but it was an elven-blade forged by a Noldor master-smith before the fall of Gondolin. It penetrated the skin of trolls, cut webs easily, and glowed in the presence of certain monsters. It may not have been all that powerful a magical blade – but it became a singular part of it’s bearer’s legend when it was NAMED.

In magic, names have POWER. A things name is a link to it, a way to draw on it’s power and authority. Have you ever heard the phrase “Stop in the name of the Law!”? What is it that makes that a phrase of power and authority? It’s personifying the “Law!” as an abstract entity of power that lends it’s authority to those who invoke it. “Halt! Police!” just isn’t quite the same somehow.

To give something a name… is to make it unique, to give it importance in the great tapestry of the universe, and so to give it power. As named items are woven into tales and become parts of great events, their power grows. A magician may inscribe a blade with potent runes, it may absorb a part of the power of a mighty foe as it is plunged into their heart, it may be blessed by the queen of the fey… but to some extent they are only giving expression to the power of the deeds that it has participated in.

Names grow. That sword may have started out a casual name such as “Taurin’s Sword” – but if Tuarin becomes a hero, it will soon be “The Blade Of Taurin”. Not too long after that, it might become the “Bane Of Ugarth” (a great troll that it was used to kill). Perhaps one day after that… it will be Straithbeor (“Demon Slayer”, the sword Taurin used to slay many demons during the overthrow of a dark empire), the Bane Of Ugarth, Blade Of The Mighty Taurin, King Of Umbria”. If it gets lost, it might be found again – and once it’s new owner learns it’s history, and shows himself or herself worthy, he or she can draw upon it’s power. If it is broken… reforging it will require a mighty quest, a great deed, or mighty magical ingredients – but once it is done, it will add “The Sword That Was Broken” to it’s name and the reforging will become simply another power-granting component of the weapons ever-growing legend. That’s why the Legendarium skill was written to work that way and why most of the sample Relics in Eclipse II have their own unique histories.

Games vary on this a lot. A very few – Earthdawn, some Arthurian games, and a few more – treat naming as a very big deal indeed. Most others really don’t pay much attention to it. The problem is that named items require their own legends and are generally unique and individual – which means that the game either has to have a specific setting and mountains of source material or the poor game master is going to have to put in an incredible amount of work creating treasures for both the PC’s AND the NPC’s. Thus most games have a list of generic equipment and items that can be readily traded around. Many even have random treasure tables. They may also have a list of unique and powerful artifacts, but it’s up to the game master whether or not to bring such a thing into play and to work it into the plot if he or she does.

Given that inherent problem… This one pretty much has to stay optional. You can set up a subsystem to handle it for those players who want to experiment with it and add some flavor to things (like Create Relic in Eclipse and the Sample Relics in Eclipse II or the aforementioned Legendarium skill), and introduce the occasional unique artifact / plot element – but unless you run a game where magical devices are simply terribly rare, precious, and almost impossible to create, you won’t have time to customize everything.

Eclipse d20 – Saelocfeax Of The Calamitous Eye

And here we have a requested character for the Atheria Campaign – where one noble mage-lord happens to be seeking a wife and another player is interested in bringing along some complications with the role.

Saelocfeax (Silken Hair), She-Who-Weaves-The-Darkness, The Accursed Exile

ECL 5 Host Of Parath, Exiled Would-Be Queen, and Mistress Of Banes

Saelocfeax tasted spite and cultivated bitterness. The tribes pride-king had chosen her (now-) hated older sisters to be his wives – but not HER – when SHE was stronger and more beautiful then either of them! Merely because she had been born to the Panther Totem rather than the Lion! Already their sons grew tall and strong. But that would change! Her power grew, and her treacherous sisters would regret how they had betrayed her! She would claim her rightful place and see them grovel before her!

And the heritage of Parath flowed within her veins, her desire to overthrow the order of the tribe calling forth its links to The Dragon, the ultimate power of chaos. Fueled by the Blood Of The Dragon, her minor magics grew strong, focused and channeled by rage and malice.

Her nephews she twisted with her dread curses, beguiled, and ritually bonded to herself – making them mere property, branded and gelded slaves bound to her will when she called them from the tiny pocket plane that held her possessions and permitted them to manifest to serve her. Her sisters, cursed more subtly with illness and sterility, and mourning the mysterious disappearance of their sons, grew wan and sick.

But – rather than turning to her as he should have done! – the pride-king unexpectedly called upon a seer and investigator, a fox-shaman who pierced her veil of shadows – and her “cover” as a minor healer. – and laid bare her schemes. A hunt was called upon her. She slew several of her pursuers and escaped of course – beneath the canopy of the forest the shadows that she called upon lay thick and ready to hand whether or not the sun was high – but her plans lay in ruins, pursuit was sure to follow, and the situation was intolerable. They DARED to turn upon her!

She passed into Dernmarik, where she might easily lose herself amongst its maze of paths. There, perhaps, she would find someone worthy of her beauty and power. But while she has found a fair number of minor adventures and useful things… she has not found that person – yet.

Description: While Saelocfeax can shift her appearance at will within the limits of the Disguise Self effect, she is – at base – a Black Jaguar Barbarian of Atheria. She’s a beautiful black-furred catgirl with green eyes, a voluminous fur cloak from one of the great predator-beasts of the Totemic Realm, and gold-and-emerald jewelry. She fairly often wears a loincloth and may or may not wear a breastband if the situation is very formal and she feels like accommodating that.

Birthright (No Cost): Atherian Totemic (“Barbarian” Birthright (Black Panther Barbarian, 30 CP / +0 ECL Racial Template): All abilities Corrupted (induces obvious animalistic features, powerful instincts according to their tribal totems, and difficulty in dealing with complex organizations and advanced societies).

Given that the Half-Price Attribute rule is in play in the Setting halve the attribute bonuses in settings that are not using that rule.

  • Attribute Bonuses: Str +2 (4 CP), Dex +4 (8 CP), Con +4 (8 CP), Ch +2 (4 CP).
  • Natural Weapons (Claws and Bite, Claws Primary, 1d4 base, 2 CP)
  • Occult Sense / Low-Light Vision (4 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Scent (Specialized: -2 on saves versus scent-based effects, 2 CP).
  • Birthright Disadvantages: Compulsive (Fastidious); Black Panther Barbarians – like most of the Feline Barbarians – are extremely intolerant of dirt and mess, and will insist on grooming, bathing, and being combed and pampered whenever possible (-2 CP).

Template: Saelocfeax has the Host Of Parath +1 ECL Acquired Template. As such, she gains:

  • Some Attribute Boosts (which she has expended on tapping into the Blood Of The Dragon).
  • The ability to claim creatures and objects under her control and store them in her personal pocket-realm.
  • An extended lifespan of youthful vigor.
  • Some personal enchantments – Speak With Animals, Surefoot, Immortal Vigor I, Endure Elements, and Fast Healing I – as long as she is below one hit point but still alive.

So how much stuff has Saelocfeax managed to tuck away? It would be simple in most settings – however much gold she’s invested in stuff – but Atheria not only lacks normal magical items but runs on Wealth Levels instead of counting gold pieces. So she can have what she wants for personal gear within the limits of her wealth level as usual. Ergo she can easily afford normal weapons and armor, common animals from Dernmarik, general supplies, and her listed retainers – but for things like buildings she’s got Action Hero / Crafting, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to “buy” mundane, large-scale, items (using Pathfinder’s downtime rules as a general reference). She has 25 AP so far). (2 CP)

  • A well-established camp, complete with a thorn boma, sweat lodge, tarp-covered infirmary area, various tents and light shelters, a smaller pen for animals (and slaves), and a portable forge (3). She used this before acquiring Aweyrgantorr (below), when it would be difficult to explain the sudden appearance of a fortified tower, or when she wishes to appear as a more-or-less normal traveling healer.
  • Three thick Thorn Walls – although one of them was on fire when she “put it away”, and will still be on fire (for the few minutes until it’s destroyed) when she pulls it out again. She usually uses these to block off attackers while she escapes (3).
  • Defensive Wall (Stone). This stone wall helped safeguard a small town before it was abandoned. It was a good deal of work to bind it to herself, but you never know when a chunk of wall will be handy (6).
  • Alchemists Shop (Alchemy Lab, Bedroom, Garden, Kitchen, Lavatory, Sitting Room, Storage, & Storefront) (3). This is used when she’s visiting a town, and wishes to do a little business without drawing TOO much notice. After all, everyone knows (at least in Dernmarik, the realm of reality shifting) that mysterious shops, selling alchemical potions and curses and such, tend to just appear and disappear again anyway.
  • Aweyrgantorr (The Cursed Tower), The abandoned tower was easy enough to consecrate to herself, for who would contest her claim save a few (rather tasty) nesting birds? It needed some serious work of course, but what else were slaves FOR when they weren’t waiting on you? (10 AP – most of her supply since level three when she acquired the ruin).
    • Base Construction: Defensive Walls (Stone), Fortification.
    • Basement: Cells, Forge, Torture / Slave Processing Chamber, Lavatory, Laundry / Slave-Baths, Storage, and Well.
    • First Floor: Gatehouse (with gauntlet and iron door), Artisans Workship (general tools, so no +2 bonus), Kitchen, and Bunkroom (Slaves and Servants),
    • Second Floor: Upper Floor of Gatehouse, Saelocfeax’s (luxurious) Bedchamber, Sitting / Dining Room and Nursery, Sauna / Bath, Audience Room, and Trophy Room.
    • Third Floor: Alchemy Lab / Magical Workroom, Infirmary, Greenhouse, Shrine (to herself), Armory, Spare Rooms (the original owners had a library and scrying room and such, but Saelocfeax – who’s magic is basically innate – has little interest in such things.
    • Roof: Watch-post, spaces for Ballistas (although none have been added yet; she knows nothing about siege engines and has no slaves or employees who know more).

Aweyrgantorr may still need some finishing up and various (skilled) repairs – but at the moment there are plenty of abandoned villages and such around to lift supplies and building stone from.

Available Character Points: 120 (L4 Base) + 10 (Disadvantages: Compulsive (luxury-seeking), Hunted (Sisters), Unarmored) +18 (L1, L2, L4 Bonus Feats) = 148 CP

Basic Attributes (28 Point 2.5 Point Buy): Str 10 (+2R = 12), Dex 12 (+4R +2 Level +4 Al = 22), Con 12 (+4R = 16), Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 14 (+2R = 16).

Wealth Level (3 CP):

  • Starting: Poor (0 CP):
    • +4 (8) Wealth bonus to Craft/Alchemy
    • +2 Wealth Bonus to Bluff and Gather Information
    • +3 SP in Craft/Alchemy, +1 SP in Profession / Forester.
  • Current: Well-Off (Acquired at level three, 3 CP).
    • Charms (3): Alchemists Flask, Bracers Of Force, and a Seeing Crystal.
    • Talisman (1): Barbarian Great Beast Fur Cape / Shimmermail.
    • Aide: L2 Minor Diviner / Bodyguard Fox-Barbarian (M).
    • Slaves: Seven L0-L1 Nephews (assorted youthful cat-barbarian eunuchs), Fox Maidservant, neutered Lab Assistant / Pageboy (Order Birthright), Otter-Barbarian Cook (F), Gelded Horse-Barbarian Masseur and (thanks to his being allowed the use of an Amulet Of The Stallion charm) her occasional lover, since horse-barbarians are very good at that and – as a gelding – there are no worries about her bearing a child by her pleasure-toy even if she forgets to use a contraceptive charm), and a Jackal-Barbarian Tanner/Leatherworker (F).
      • Yes, several of the local cultures routinely neuter male slaves – although it’s actually fairly readily reversible as well if they obtain their freedom or their masters decide to have it undone. 

Basic Purchases (70 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +2 (12 CP)
  • Hit Points: 10 (L1d10, 6 CP) +15 (L2-4d6, 6 CP) +5 (2d4 Bonus Dice, 16 CP) +18 (6 x Con Mod) +18 (Immortal Vigor) = 66
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +3 (Con) = +4
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +6 (Dex) = +7
    • Will +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +2 (Wis) = +4
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Shields (3 CP).
  • Skill Points: 12 SP (12 CP) +14 (2 x Int Mod) +16 (Fast Learner) +4 (Leveling while Poor, Craft and Profession Only) = 46 SP.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Shimmermail) +6 (Dex) +2 (Martial Art) +4 (NA) = 26
  • Initiative: +6 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30′.

Usual Attacks:

  • Touch/Ray Bestow Curse, Blindness/Deafness, Contagion, or Poison: +8/+8 Touch Attack (Twin Ray, +2 BAB +6 Dex), 1d6+4 Damage (Crit 20/x2) plus DC 18 Will (Bestow Curse) or Fort (other effects) Save to negate magical effect. Medium Range. May use Expertise to reduce her AC and raise her BAB or vice-versa.
  • Vampiric Touch/Ray: +8/+8 Touch Attack (Twin Ray, +2 BAB +6 Dex), 4d6+4 Damage, grants the user temporary hit points equal to the damage done for one hour, medium range, Crit 20/x2, no save. May use Expertise to reduce her AC and raise her BAB or vice-versa.
  • Claws and Bite:: Two Claws at +3 (+2 BAB +1 Str), for 1d4+1 (Str), Crit 20/x2. In theory she could also bite at -2 for 1d2+1 – but she certainly isn’t likely to bother when she can use her powers in melee without difficulty.

Other Abilities (73 CP):

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect (+2 SP/Level, 6 CP).
  • Adept (Sword Of Rey Martial Art, Move Silently, Survival, and Knowledge / Nature, 6 CP)
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • Evasive (Shaping) (12 CP). Her shaping effects do not provoke Attacks of Opportunity.
  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (L0 Effects) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Can only produce (Cha Mod + 2) specific L0 effects at Caster Level = Hit Dice (4 CP). Enhanced choices cannot be changed, the two basic cantrips can be given a few days. The Save DC is Con-Based.
    • Folmseronid, The Hand Of Treachery (L5, Reduced to L0 through the Blood Of The Dragon. Produces any one of the following effects as a touch or short-range ray attack: Bestow Curse, Blindness / Deafness, Contagion, Poison, and Vampiric Touch. (This is a fairly basic flexible magic effect – add +1 level to that of the highest level amongst a group of four to six at least vaguely-related lesser effects to get a spell that can produce any one of the lesser effects).
      • Split Ray Metamagic, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to the rays generated by Folmseronid, the Hand Of Treachery (2 CP).
      • Streamline, Specialized for Increased Effect (-2 Spell Levels on Split Ray) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / can only be applied to the rays generated by Folmseronid, the Hand Of Treachery (4 CP).
      • Metamagic Theorem; Extension, Specialized and Corrupted / only to extend rays by one range category, only for the effects generated by Folmseronid, The Hand Of Treachery (2 CP).
      • Streamline, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to pay for extending rays one level, only enhances Extension and only by one level, only for the effects generated by Folmseronid, The Hand Of Treachery (2 CP).
    • Swicdomeage, The Eye Of The Deceiver (L5, reduced to L0 through the Blood Of The Dragon, Produces any one of the following effects: Shadow Guise, Greater Invisibility (SRD), Greater Mirror Image (3.5), Hound Of Doom (3.5), Shadow Dragon Aspect (Pathfinder), and Shadow Step (Pathfinder). (This is a fairly basic flexible magic effect – add +1 level to that of the highest level amongst a group of four to six at least vaguely-related lesser effects to get a spell that can produce any one of the lesser effects).
      • Reflex Training: May automatically recast Shadow spells when they run out without it requiring an action, Corrupted/Shadow Guise only (4 CP).
    • Nothrepian, The Healing Touch (L1, reduced to L0 through the Blood Of The Dragon, produces any L0 healing effect, any particular effect will only work on a given target seven times per day. (This is a minor “Anyspell” effect, restricted to a specific type of low-level effects).
    • Two basic cantrips – most often Prestidigitation and Mage Hand since they’re both generally useful.
  • Leadership with Beastlord, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Animals Only, treating CR as Level (6 CP, Current 16 CR, two Barbarian Great Leopards (4), Dernarkian Timedancer Light Warhorse (1), 3 Dernmarkian Merchant’s Mules (3), Two Barbarian Rage Wolves (2), 6 CR of various minor creatures).
  • Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses, Corrupted / relies on must drain targets using her Vampiric effect to trigger it (8 CP).
  • Shapeshift, Specialized and Corrupted / Full Panther Form Only, reliant on Shadow Guise (2 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis: Sword-Of-Rey Martial art (3 CP).

Tier One Skills (27 SP):

  • Diplomacy: +4 (4 SP) +3 (Cha) = +7
  • Knowledge / Nature +7 (3* SP) +2 (Int) = +9
  • Knowledge / Religion +3 (3 SP) +2 (Int) = +5
  • Martial Art – Sword Of Rey Style: +7 (3 SP*) +6 (Dex) +2 (SE) = +15
  • Known Techniques (8): Defenses 2, Strike, Power 1 (+1d6 damage with Rays), “Sneak Attack” 2 (+4 Damage with Rays), Mind Like Moon, and Inner Strength.
  • Move Silently: +7 (3 SP*) +6 (Dex) = +13
  • Spot: +6 (6 SP) +2 (Wis) = +8
  • Survival: +7 (3* SP) +2 (Wis) = +9
  • Tumble: +2 (2 SP) +6 (Dex) +10 (Tem) = +18

Tier Two Skills (13 SP):

  • Balance: +3 (1 SP) +6 (Dex) +10 (Tem) = +19
  • Bluff: +7 (3 SP) +3 (Cha) +4 (Wealth) = +14
  • Climb: +2 (1 SP) +1 (Str) +10 (Tem) = +13
  • Craft / Alchemy: +7 (3 SP) +2 (Int) +8 (Wealth) = +17
  • Gather Information: +7 (3 SP) +3 (Cha) +4 (Wealth) = +14
  • Listen: +5 (2 SP) +2 (Wis) = +7
  • Speak Language: +0 (0 SP) +2 (Int) = +2
  • Languages Known: Ikunn (Native), Havril, and Illerian

Tier Three Skills (6 SP):

  • Jump: +7 (2 SP) +1 (Str) +11 (Tem) = +19
  • Profession / Seductress: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Wis) = +9
  • Profession / Forester: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Wis) = +9

Martial Art – The Sword-Of-Rey Style (Dex)

The tales of Rey speak of his legendary radiance during the day – and whisper of his shadow-self, the dark radiance of the night. The Sword-Of-Rey style seeks to emulate and tap into that fearful power, turning magical might into a corona of power and even the weakest of rays into powerful weapons. Students may take the right-hand path of light or the left-hand path of darkness, but both lead to the same destination in the end.

  • Requirements: Unlimited use of Rays, knowing of Rey’s existence and the tale of the fall of the Ancient World.
  • Basic Abilities: Attack (with Rays) 4, Strike (+1d4, may inflict Lethal or Nonlethal Damage with Rays), Synergy +2 (4) Alchemy, Defenses 4., and Power 1.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Mind Like Moon, Expertise (BAB and AC), Sneak Attack II (Modified: simply adds +2/+4 damage with Rays, for a bonus of 1d6+4).
  • Occult Techniques: Healing Hand, Inner Strength x2, and Light Foot.

Saelocfeax sees herself as a demigoddess. As such…

  • It is her right to have servants, be brought tribute, and live in luxury without having to go to the bother of managing a realm. She should be pampered and her whims indulged, not burdened with rulership!
  • It is her right to be deferred to, to be feared for her power, and to enslave her enemies!
  • She wants a worthy mate. Preferably a powerful, virile, hero-mage ruling a realm, who will give her many strong children and stand as her equal. She will want those children to do well and become great in their own right – but if a runt shows up… well, slave-collaring one or two along the way is only to be expected. Every realm in Atheria has a fairly high rate of child-failures for one reason or another. She’s used to the Totem Realms “died fighting or got eaten by a predator”, but she’s quite familiar with the Order realms “enslaved for being disruptive” (if only somewhat familiar with Hojin’s “killed in a magical accident”) and it’s really not much different. At least slaves get to live.
  • As long as SHE is dominant and gets plenty of attention, her children have the highest status and first call on resources, and her mates concubines are kept firmly subordinate to her, the larger the household – and thus the greater her mates display of dominance, power, wealth, and virility – the better. If her mate should bring home forty newly-enslaved young nobles… the more quickly the boys are castrated, the girls are spread and bred, and they are all installed in the harem and obediently saying “yes master/mistress!”, the better she will be pleased.
  • Selfrica – the Pride-King (well, leader of one of the more respected feline tribes) scorned her. She wishes to acquire both him and enough extra healing magic to skin him alive repeatedly. She’d like enough of his pelts for a chair cover, throw rug, and bedcover. After that… his genitals, tail, and claws can go on display in her trophy room and he can take up a lifetime career as her footstool and watch his neutered sons serve her.
  • She’d like to have her sisters as slaves as well, and her nieces by Selfrica to give out to followers as rewards – but has considerable less animosity towards them. They simply need to recognize her greatness and their proper place as her slaves, at which point her sisters will probably be permitted to join her husbands pride / harem as concubines.

Saelocfeax is a fairly-focused specialist; she has a limited range of powers, but she can spam them indefinitely, rather like a WOTC-style Warlock. Within her limits she is powerful and effective – although she’s also at the limits of the magical power that Atheria allows. Sadly, and despite what she believes, she’s not a particularly clever manipulator (spending more attribute points to gain another multi-use spell that – say – could produce the minor telepathic effects of Detect Thoughts, Glibness, Hold Person, and Enthrall could help with that a lot, but would be quite expensive). Worse, while she does realize that she can use a string of cumulative curses to bind her victims into slavery as she did with her nephews and/or make their lives extremely miserable, there are quite a lot of gaping loopholes in her abilities. She can probably slowly remove the conditions she inflicts by spamming healing cantrips to gradually weaken them, but she has no way to do it quickly. She will be hard-pressed to affect more exotic targets, she has no Reflex Training to escape bad situations, her physical combat skills are pretty poor, her self-healing is quite limited, and more – and being entirely self-trained she is almost entirely unaware of those weaknesses.  Still, a few levels gained in play – and the guidance of someone who actually knows that they’re doing (whether or not she’s consciously aware that she needs that) – may fix that.

Oddly enough, she’s not actively evil. There isn’t any philosophical underpinning to her actions, she doesn’t value pain and suffering for it’s own sake, and she prefers not to harm random innocents – but she is extremely self-centered, entitled, vengeful, and greedy, rather like a scaled-down version of a Greek Goddess. 

Atheria Eclipse d20 Update

Currently the Atheria game is running online, with a few changes from the original tabletop game – most notably the use of Skill Tiers, the availability of some exotic Templates such as the Host Of Parath shown below, the banning of a few powers that are difficult to run in play-by-post, and (as usual) plenty of exotic spells. Today it’s time for a few of them that get used in the next over-complicated character.

Skill Tiers:

Skills on Atheria are somewhat cheaper than on most worlds, since they’re divided into tiers depending on their complexity and usefulness in the setting.

  • Tier-One Skills are quite often useful and are generally quite widely applicable. They include Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Int)*, Hide (Dex), Martial Arts (Varies), Movement Skills (Land/Tumble (Dex)*, Air/Fly (Dex), and Water/Swim (Str)), Move Silently (Dex), Profession/Occult (Wis)*, Search (Int), Sense/Spot (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex)*, Spellcraft (Int)*, and Survival (Wis). On Atheria all Knowledge Skills (Int) are Tier One – partly because they’re important in general and partly because they include the knowledge of related magical rituals. Tier-One skills cost full price.
  • Tier Two Skills are occasionally useful or relatively narrow, but are replaceable by special abilities or relatively low-level spells. They include Appraise (Int) Balance (Dex), Bluff (Chr), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Control Shape (Wis), Craft/Exotic (Int)*, Escape Artist (Dex), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha)*, Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Open Lock (Dex)*, Perform (Specify) (Cha), Profession/Complex (Wis)*, Psicraft (Int)*, Ride (Dex), Sense/Listen (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Speak Language (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha)*.Tier Two skills are available for half cost. They can usually be Corrupted, but not Specialized without special permission.
  • Tier Three Skills are either rarely useful due to their narrowness or lack of applicability or can be easily replaced by a first-level spell such as Comprehend Languages. They include Autohypnosis (Wis)*, Burrow (Wis)*, Craft/Mundane (Int), Decipher Script (Int)*, Disguise (Cha), Forgery (Int), Jump (Str), Profession (Simple), Sense/Touch (Wis), Use Psionic Device (Cha)*, and Use Rope (Dex). They are available for one-third cost. As a rule, they cannot be Specialized or Corrupted further without special permission.
    • Skills marked with an “*” cannot be used unskilled.

Skill Modifiers:

  • Skill-enhancing Feats multiply their bonus by the Tier of the skill they’re applied to. Thus a character with “Skill Focus: Forgery” would be a master forger, gaining a +9 bonus on his or her Forgery checks. Virtually no one without a similar focus on spotting forgeries would be able to detect his or her work – and the feat is actually worth taking in an intrigue-heavy game.
  • Declaring Raises: A character may voluntarily raise the base DC by +5, +10, or +15 in advance – whether or not the GM has revealed it – to gain a superior/remarkable/astounding result. Unfortunately, failing to reach the modified DC negates the entire attempt. Raises may also be used to allow two skills that require move, standard, or full-round actions to be used at the same time – if, say, a character wishes to pick a lock while using sleight of hand to make it look like he’s fumbling with the key, and thus keep the six guards from getting overly suspicious.
  • Descriptions: Sensible, or really dramatic, descriptions of your skill checks are worth a bonus on the roll. Using your brain SHOULD help, and so should making the game more interesting.

Host Of Parath (32 CP / +1 ECL Acquired Template).

Of the thousand fragments of Parath Beastlord, it is believed that fewer than four score reached Atheria. Hundreds of others fell to the Dralithar and obliteration, many fled elsewhere amongst the Thousand Scales of the Dragon, and many were lost to the Dragon itself. Most of the lesser fragments that reached Atheria have slumbered across the ages, but now that the gates of Atheria have begun to open once more, those fragments are awakening – and some are linked both to the Barbarians and to the energies of the Dragon. And so, occasionally, some barbarian child will find themselves linked to Parath and developing this template. Unfortunately, all the powers of this template are Corrupted / the user also bears some of Parath’s predatory arrogance, will tend to feel that nothing can go wrong with his or her plans, feels entitled to power and luxury, and only respects the strong. Things that hunt the divine will be drawn to him or her.

  • Heritage Of The Divine: +4 to any two attributes (16 CP), +2 to any one attribute (4 CP). If desired, these may be expended on the the Blood Of The Dragon. Parath is scattered and fallen, but remains one of the Ancient Gods and a conduit of power beyond mortality. Even a minuscule fragment of that might is of note to mortals. (In her case, these points have indeed been spent on the Blood Of The Dragon). In settings that are not using the half-price attribute rule, halve these bonuses.
  • The Acceptance Of Sacrifice: Siddhisyoga, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / The user must actually have access to, and full control of, the item or being that he or she wishes to acquire and then must ritually bind it to the divine essence within himself or herself. Once this is done, he or she can bring it forth or dismiss it at will as a free action – but damaged items and injured creatures must be repaired or healed normally (although any creatures that have been acquired may work on it). If an item is destroyed – or a creature slain – it must be replaced instead (4 CP). That which is offered to Parath is offered to those who host him – and becomes one of their attributes if they offer it to themselves. (While Siddhisyoga is normally disallowed on Atheria since you can’t buy magic item functions with gold anyway, this limited variant is restricted to mundane items and creatures that you acquire). .
  • Life Enduring: Immunity / The Physical Effects Of Aging (Uncommon, Major, Trivial, 1 CP). Parath’s hosts do not readily weaken due to old age and live very long, healthy, lives unless otherwise slain.
  • Nobility Of The Beasts: Innate Enchantment: Speak with Animals (SRD, 2000 GP), Surefoot (SC, +10 Enhancement Bonus to Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble, do not lose your Dexterity bonus to AC when balancing or climbing, 2000 GP), Personal-Only Immortal Vigor (Practical Enchanter, +12 + 2 x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP), Personal-Only Endure Elements (1400 GP), and Personal Only Cure Minor Wounds (only triggers once per round if below 1 HP x.7 = 490 GP) (5 CP). Immunity/The XP cost of the Innate Enchantments in this package (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP). Parath’s dominion over the beasts lies fallow, but traces of it and of the vitality of an immortal echo still within the blood of his hosts.

Shadow Guise

  • Illusion (Shadow)
  • Level: Bard 4, Sorcerer/Wizard 4
  • Components: V, S
  • Casting Time: One Swift Action
  • Range: Personal or Touch
  • Target: You or Creature Touched (Maximum of Large Size)
  • Duration: One minute per caster level.
  • Saving Throw: Will Negates (Mostly Harmless)
  • Spell Resistance: Yes.

Shadow Guise infuses the targets flesh with the stuff of shadow. During it’s duration the user can reshape his or her flesh as a free action with limits equivalent to those of the Disguise Self spell – although both touch and sound are included as the user’s now slightly-less-than-real flesh is truly reshaped. Thanks to the subtle shifting of the user’s flesh to respond to his or her will and its tendency to reshape itself to avoid damage from attacks the user also gains a +4 Alchemical Bonus to his or her Dexterity and Natural Armor. Sadly, however, the user will also suffer a -2 penalty to saves against light-based effects.

Secondarily, if given a moment to prepare. the user can perform various parlor tricks – opening a small hole to drop a small object through his or her hand, “stabbing” themselves without injury, escaping handcuffs with a bit of selective squeezing and bending, scratching the small of his or her own back, displaying an apparent wound, acting as a contortionist, accommodating an exotic sexual partner, and so on.

Laws Of Magic Part IV – Purification and Personification

For those looking to read in order…

And now for Part IV – Purification and Animism / Personification

In “real” traditional magic Purification is a vital prerequisite for any major working. After all… since everything is connected, and there are all sorts of influences and correspondences everywhere, the first step in any major working (that’s anything that isn’t purely reliant on your personal power like “psychic” abilities and petty cantrips) pretty much has to be to clear away all of the magical influences that you don’t want getting involved. Otherwise… you’ll be incorporating all kinds of random influences into your magic. So the first step in anything major is to set up a magic circle or ward to keep outside influences out of your working – and the second is to cleanse your ritual area of any influences that are already present. The third, of course, is to specifically invite, summon, or add those influences you do want present. These days this is usually known as Casting The Circle.

Only then do you actually start in on what you want to do. Otherwise you’re risking having your working go wildly out of control and causing god-only-knows-what to happen. Classically, working without purification was risking much more than your mere life.

In legends and literature, purification is mostly a matter of personal purification. After all, having your characters stop to conduct various purification rituals before they do anything every little bit gets boring very, VERY, fast – and even entirely mortal (super-) heroes are generally capable of doing the impossible ten times before breakfast anyway. Why shouldn’t they get away with skipping the dull bits here too?

Conventionally, when it comes to personal purity in legends and literature…

  • “White” wizards are likely to have to refrain from sexual activity and/or most personal emotional relationships, or avoid certain foods, or follow strict rules to avoid “sin”, or take ritual baths (or possibly never bathe so as to avoid dissipating their personal energies), or spend time in a sweat lodge, or dance and chant, or any of a hundred other methods. In most such cases, the potency of their magic relies on how pure they are, although failure chances and such do show up in some cases.
  • “Black” mages tend to offload their need for purity on other people – which is why they’re big on virgin’s blood, child sacrifices, and stealing the power of untainted magical nexi and items. Thus they weaken and corrupt the sources they draw on – which they care little about because they tend to throw them away as they weaken and grab new sources of power. Black Magic thus inherently taints and corrupts both the area around the user and the sources of magic he or she draws upon.
  • Elementalists, “Nature Mages”, or “Priests” tend to just bind themselves to a particular source or type of power (and usually one they have a natural affinity for at that) or two – thus making it relatively easy to remain “pure” by not interacting with other kinds of magic. All those systems of freeform magic that only apply to particular fields probably work like this.

Which is at least one way in which the (rather boring) traditional generic ritualist – who can try to do almost anything at all given sufficient time in which to work – turns into the familiar specialist-in-a-field / “elementalist” / “necromancer” / whatever role-playing-game quick spellcaster who can keep up with the action but has a strictly limited variety and supply of spells.

Purification is even less important in most RPG’s though, simply because in such games most spells are preset, as with Amber’s “Hung” spells, d20’s “Prepared” spells, or World Tree’s “Grafted” spells. When the effects are set down in the game rules, active purification usually falls by the wayside. Why bother when that fireball wand is essentially every bit as “mechanical” as a grenade launcher?

With systems like that… if you needed to purify yourself, you presumably did it while you were getting your spells ready to go. Once a spell is hung, assembled, or grafted, it is pretty much independent of outside influences – just as a grenade will go off regardless of where it is when you pull the pin (at least barring really insane environments such as the surfaces of neutron stars or “antimagic” zones).

Still, there are echoes of the idea in most role-playing games; that’s presumably where cursed items come from – and it’s why half the powers of The Practical Enchanter’s Wards Major are normally selected randomly; the area covered by such a Ward is usually just too big to purify effectively before it’s enchanted.

Games that happen to have a (usually secondary) ritual magic system or adhere to “only blunt weapons for priests (so that they are not rendered impure by the intent to shed blood, like early AD&D) usually already include some nods to the idea of ritual purity – but if you want to emphasize it a bit more, noting that mages must spend some time every day in meditation to cleanse their minds, or spend a day of downtime not casting anything so as to purify the energies of their chakra every so often, or burn the occasional stick of special incense to let it’s smoke carry away malevolent demonic forces, or never speak an impure language, or whatever, as a part of being a spellcaster, will do it. You can even give it a small penalty to ensure that the players make a note to do it. 5% chance of spell failure per week missed to a maximum of – say – 10% per spell level – will be plenty of incentive for your spellcasters to find an hour or so a week for some purification ceremonies.

Personification is basically Animism – the belief that objects, places, creatures, and possibly even abstract concepts, have spirits of their own, are at least somewhat aware of the world, and can act in their own ways. From this point of view there is no sharp distinction between the spiritual and physical aspects of the world – or between mankind and the rest of the universe. Of all the classic laws of magic… it is perhaps the oldest and most universal. The idea is so widely held and inherent to most indigenous peoples that they often do not even have a word in their languages for it – or even for “religion”. It is unquestioned; Animism simply IS.

It’s true origin lies deep in infancy. Even infants as young as three months of age seem to realize that objects continue to exist when they’re out of sight. Soon after that they begin to understand that not much happens around them unless something makes it happen.

So what makes most things happen around an infant? Sometimes it’s wind, but most of the time it’s a creature – occasionally a family pet or other animal, but most of the time… it’s other people. Infants do tend to be kept safe, warm, and tucked away in quiet, stable, places after all.

It’s not much of a jump to the idea that when things happen… it’s probably people of some sort. Even if you can’t see them, bigger and older people do all kinds of marvelous things. They bring you food, they mend broken toys, they bring fire and keep you warm. So things like lightning, wind, the growth of plants, the flight of birds, the movement of celestial objects, and the great eruptions of volcanoes… are probably acts of even bigger and older people. Sure, some spirits (like some people) are relatively simple and are only good at a few things – but others, like the Great Sky Spirit, are vast and complex.

And, as children grow… a rich animistic overlay of gods, nature spirits, haunts, and fancies grows with them, cast over cold reality like a warming blanket. So you asked for what you wanted or needed. And if, in extremis, that failed you and you died… well, you didn’t pass on that experience. And those times when – against all odds – you succeeded, soon passed through storytelling into legend. What further proof could a member of a small tribe ask for?

Older human brains play into that worldview in another way. The brain is a survival mechanism. It looks for patterns, for ways to survive and prosper in the present – and to predict and influence the future. When the patterns are beyond it’s current understanding, and appear impossible to change to suit itself, stress sets in. The brain starts throwing preconceptions, fantasies, and wild ideas into the desperate effort to find a manipulable pattern.

And waiting there, from early childhood, in the minds depths… is Animism. From a time when life was controlled by mighty beings who did mysterious things for no reason that you really understood – but whom could be influenced to fulfill your needs when you made noise. Did you have a stuffed animal as a child that you talked to? Did you hide under the covers to keep the monsters from getting you? Have you sworn at your car or your computer while trying to get it to start? Then congratulations! You are a practicing animistic mage. Most of us are, if only because It’s VERY hard to get rid of the feeling that threatening that annoyingly balky piece of equipment with being thrown away will help somehow.

Animism is so deeply embedded in human cultures and thus gaming magic that it’s barely even noticed. Look at the setting of your game. Are their various gods of nature and natural phenomena? Are there elemental entities or storm spirits? Do magical items respond when commanded? Are there haunted places, sacred groves, spirits of the land, and great totems that control animals? Do older weapons have proper names and perhaps powers due to their growing legend? Can you speak to the spirit of a mountain or a river? There’s a reason why no one questions that sort of thing when it’s put into a setting. Every fantasy setting has some of that sort of thing.

About the only way that “Personification” elaborates on basic Animism is to say that Animistic Spirits tend to react in kind and can be channeled – and that this is an entirely valid way to deal with the unseen world. Are you a noble hero serving the equally-noble Sun God? Then the Sun God will tend to answer your pleas and will support you as you support him. Congratulations; you’re a Paladin. Do you demand that dark forces do your will and strike down your enemies? Then they will demand equally dark deeds and offerings from you in exchange. Do you attempt to gently persuade locks to open even if you don’t have the key? Then the locks may refuse, or gently ask for a few drops of oil in exchange, or try to talk you into going away – but the are most unlikely to demand anything much more burdensome. If you’re polite and reasonable… then so are they.

Purification and Animism can be left unremarked in your games of course – after all, they’re usually a part of the underlying assumptions anyway – but bringing them a little more into view does serve to hint at a vast, underlying, structure to your worlds magic – and in a way that most people are already primed to accept.

Laws Of Magic Part III – Karma

So why worry about classical “laws of magic” anyway? Why not just make up your own laws of magic?

That’s partly because – as many authors have shown – making up a coherent system of alternative physics is quite a lot of trouble. After all, human beings have been fiddling around with this set of rules for thousands of years and – as shown so far – the result still isn’t very coherent. That gets even worse in a game setting, where the players are going to be picking your efforts apart looking for any possible advantage that they can squeeze out of them.

Really, it’s mostly to give your game worlds some depth and make them seem fantastic. While it’s difficult to get away from having some mechanics in your game, it’s a lot more interesting if you can keep a sense of wonder and mystery in it as well. Like a movie, your scenes need a background – even if it’s the linguistic equivalent of a matte painting. And, like it or not, the “laws of magic” are a part of almost everyone’s mental library, are rich with associations, and somehow just seem reasonable. Some part of the human mind just seems to interpret things that way.

Thus slapping a superficial gloss of Correspondences (mostly in item descriptions), Sympathy and Contagion (mostly in spell components), the Doctrine Of Signatures (in the ingredients for potions and scrolls), Magical Circles (in summoning and a few spell names), Naming (mostly in Item Creation), Runes and Occult Symbols (in Glyphs of Warding and Symbol spells), over the fairly basic Vancian Spellcasting of first edition AD&D lent the magic system an underlying feeling of having laws and rules. It hinted that a system which was basically a list of handy game effects for wargames actually had deep mysteries and an occult basis that only the arcane spellcasters truly understood.

It didn’t of course, but that feeling helped make the setting fantastic and full of wonder. It helped make it feel “genuinely magical”.

Sadly, that same gloss of occultism was quite enough to convince quite a few people that AD&D – and many other games – involved actual magic, taught the players genuine occult lore, and led directly to the practice of black magic and Satanism. Those accusations were bad for sales since they upset young gamers parents – and so the natural reaction was denial. You can still see the disclaimers in the front of many older RPG’s – but denial of such “obvious” evil intent was, of course, taken as confirmation of it. The next step was, naturally enough, to strip that gloss away with the next edition. Of course, that also did no good – it was simply taken as confirmation that the authors were trying to hide their “Satanic” intent – but the nonsense gradually died away anyway, just as it usually does (see: Rock and Roll, Harry Potter, etc).

Unfortunately, by that time, the damage was done. Most RPG’s had pretty well purged all of their classical occult flavoring. The College Of Greater Summonings had vanished from Dragonquest, magical references had vanished from AD&D in favor of dry rules descriptions, and Champions included no setting material at all, filling the book with pure game mechanics. Some games held out – but an awful lot gave in.

That left us with playable games that – as a bonus – could be readily used as a basis for computer games. Unfortunately, along the way, they’d lost a lot of the classical fantasy “feel”.

Now I happen to LIKE that feeling of wonder, and having underlying, and somewhat mysterious, rules to how magic “actually” works – which is why the Baba Yaga RPG includes a somewhat snarky “Disclaimer” of it’s own:

Disclaimer: In the classic tradition of RPG’s, Distant Horizons Games notes that magic doesn’t actually work. If you think you can get somewhere with the “occult methods” given in this book – announcing what you want and rolling 3D6 twice – we reserve the right to laugh at you hysterically.

So that’s why these articles are taking a look at some classical “laws of magic”. It’s to help put some of that feeling back into games for those who miss it.

And to get back to that…

The Law Of Karma can be expressed several ways. The Threefold Rule says that what you send out returns to you threefold. Other formulations speak of “backlash”. Still others say that you must laboriously build up magical power before you can accomplish anything. Still others that you must burn your life force, or lifespan, to wield magic. Yet others claim that you are paying with portions of your very soul.

Perhaps the simplest expression is everything has a price.

Most games both embrace and utterly reject this.

  • Any notion that practicing harmful magic will ultimately lead the practitioner to ruin has almost completely fallen by the wayside, eliminating the Threefold Rule. That was inevitable from the beginning given that combat – and thus harmful combat magic – is a major component of most RPG’s. On the other hand, many fantasy RPG’s also want to have some clearly defined “dark magic” for the equally clearly-defined bad guys to use. This leads to ideas like “necromantic spells are inherently evil” – which is why d20 took healing and various other spells out of the field. But even then… if you want to be evil, and use “evil magic”, then there really isn’t any special price for it. Being evil just grants you access to some especially unpleasant powers. (A few games include special abilities that are restricted to the “good guys” too, but that’s a lot rarer).
  • Backlash – or “Drain”, or “Fatigue” or many other names – is a reasonably popular mechanic in games, but it’s mostly just a way to keep magic-users from utterly dominating the action. It’s only a cost in the way that burning some calories and a bit of fatigue is the “cost” of rearranging your furniture or digging a hole to plant a tree. RPG’s like Shadowrun, Ysgarth, Tales From The Floating Vagabond, and many more, all embraced various “fatigue” mechanics.
  • AD&D embraced the “you must laboriously gather up motes of magical energy and build them into prepared spells!” idea. That served to give magic a notable price and greatly limited its power as well; an adventuring wizard might have a fair number of spells prepared – but refilling that reserve could take days or, at very high levels, a week or more of doing nothing but prepare spells. While actually on an adventure, a wizard would be lucky to find the time to prepare – say – three first level spells, one second level spell, and one third level spell (two hours of study worth) per day. Casting anything beyond that was burning very limited reserves that you might not be able to refill for a long time. That was why every wizard wanted a wand or two, just as desperately as the fighter wanted a magic sword and magic armor. It was much easier to use a wand in combat than it was to cast a spell, they held enough charges to be used right through most adventures, and they could be recharged at home. Secondarily, AD&D embraced the idea that being a wizard required vast amounts of study and time – which might not be a cost to the player, but certainly was to the character. It even limited your chance to learn particular spells and the total number of spells a mage could ever know.

This make the AD&D magic system fantastic, and put a convincing price on being a mage – but enough of the players found playing a mage as the system was written so difficult that game masters started treating the “maximum number of prepared spells” table as spells-per-day, greatly softened the difficulties of getting them cast successfully, and often entirely ignored the limitations on learning spells – all of which became standard rules in third edition. It was a good effort, but ultimately did not work – even if “can’t wear armor” and “low hit points” are still in play.

  • A very few games – Necromancer, some very early versions of D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and a few more – embraced the “cast from lifespan” idea in one way or another. Casting major spells had direct and terrible prices. Casting too many would kill you or drive you mad – and there were few or no ways to reset the total, which meant that major spells could be grand, and terrible, and very powerful indeed, and still be very rarely used. This works – but it means that you really can’t play a mage, or you will often have nothing to do until a spell MUST be used – and you come a little bit closer to retiring your character. Magic was for insane NPC’s and the occasional player-character dabbler.
  • In quite a lot of current games the only “cost” is an opportunity cost. If you want to be good at magic (or psionics, or your reality-tweaking option of choice), then you’re going to have to put a lot of your character-development resources (money, levels, time, whatever) into it – and thus won’t be able to put those resources into being good at other things. Now that’s a perfectly functional and realistic game mechanic. In fact it’s so functional that it’s near-universal; I’ve only seen a few games – such as Nobilis, Ars Magica, and Mage – where mystics simply get handed an additional resource pool to allot to magical benefits, and all of those games are firmly centered on supernatural characters (often to the point where nothing else is actually playable). Unfortunately, outside of those few games (where there is little or no reason NOT to be a “Noble” or a Mage) that approach puts “Magic!” on the exact same level as “Swordsmanship!” and only a little above “Blacksmith!”. You become a really good mage in exactly the same way that you become a really good maker of wine.

Some games make that work. As an example, TORG stresses the player-based cardplay so much that character abilities make little difference. Thus an elderly Shakespearean Actor found that his dramatic and oratorical skills were every bit as effective both in and out of battle as the talents of the werewolf-gunfighter, the mad-scientist robot and his built-in manufacturing systems, the ninja computer hacker, the archmage, or the psionic adept giant otter. In fact, they were better since he’d focused all his resources on them; it was his impossible oratory that got him hailed across a galaxy as the True Emperor and brought stability and prosperity to millions of worlds. The cyborg fox might have destroyed twelve futuristic grav-tanks with a pistol in a single action, but none of the rest of them ever did anything on a galactic scale – unless, perhaps, you count the Otter creating the unkillable Godzilla Virus Artificial Intelligence and unleashing it into the Cyberpapacy’s Matrix.

The thing is though, that most games make giving out pools of special bonuses to particular types of characters work by either giving out such pools to every kind of character or by – like TORG – making the character abilities mostly subordinate to the players skills.

There really isn’t an optimum solution to this one. You don’t really want to limit the players too much or tell them that their characters can’t start studying magic unless they take four years off to get the equivalent of an engineering degree in it. After all, in large part they’re playing to take a break from realities limitations. About all you can do is to complicate the character’s lives – and most of that sort of thing tends to be setting or system specific.

  • Perhaps mages need special foci to use their powers – something much more complex and difficult to replace than a “spell component pouch”. Chivalry and Sorcery did this. Such things are fairly readily replaceable given a little time, but you’ll need to keep track of them and make spares.
  • Perhaps magic is a limited resource, and you have to compete for it. Did you have to eliminate a few rival apprentices and take their sources of power to become an adventuring mage? Or do you have to maintain a cult-like array of followers who labor to build the pool of power you draw upon.
  • Perhaps powerful magic corrupts the environment, or allows monsters to enter the world, or drains the life from villagers.
  • Perhaps you need to give up your social life, practice monastic self-discipline, or renounce eating meat to maintain your powers.
  • Perhaps you need to perform strange rituals at specific times, offer your blood, know that your firstborn child will be a tool of some magical being, or be forever unable to sing or hear music or find true love.
  • Perhaps using magic leaves obvious and unnatural signs – horns, or strange eyes, or a “witches mark”, ruining your social life and making you a target of suspicion. Or perhaps it’s just extremely conspicuous in some fashion.
  • Perhaps using magic is alienating, drains your emotions, or demands the sacrifice of treasured memories, leaving the user increasingly distant from normal humanity – or perhaps it inherently drives people away from the user or even drives them to betray him or her.
  • Perhaps magic undermines the foundations of reality or is banned by the gods or simply attracts misfortune, or monsters, or hunters. NPC’s will only use it with great caution, player characters who use it will find themselves regularly attacked and obliged to go on various adventures because bizarre problems keep popping up around them.
  • Perhaps magic damages your health, leaving you with a cough, or a tendency to catch minor illnesses, or causes other inconvenient and annoying problems with little game effect. Are you deaf in one ear, farsighted or nearsighted, or prone to fits?
  • Perhaps using magic requires accepting various Taboos (things you must not do, however weird and pointless) or Oaths (things you must do) to maintain your powers.
  • Perhaps magic requires a careful balance of some sort. Perhaps each time you cast your mighty fireballs, you need to help out a village or some such.
  • Perhaps magical energy only builds up gradually; on the first round of combat you can only cast first level spells – and a battle must go on for nine rounds to allow the casting of a ninth level spell. Out of combat? Perhaps it takes a minute per spell level.
  • Perhaps accessing a new level of magic involves rituals or trials. Concluding a pact with some mighty entity – or perhaps a classic sequence of trials, such as recognizing the limits of your power, seeking out magical tutelage, going forth on a quest, exercising self-discipline, and sacrificing something precious to you.

The point, of course, is not to make things hard on the player. It’s to ensure that – in the setting – becoming a magic-user is not simply another choice like learning a martial art. It is something with deep and mysterious implications that will have a major impact on your characters life, not a decision to be made lightly.

Laws Of Magic Part II – Synchronicity, Sympathy, Contagion, and The Doctrine Of Signatures.

For Part I (Background and Correspondences) look HERE.

Synchronicity says that “there is no such thing as “coincidence”“. Did the questioner draw The Moon as the card that would stand for them in the Tarot Reading? That Meant Something.

Like most laws of magic… this is kind of problematic in the real world. I cooked a turkey not so long ago, and between the time I put it in the oven and the time I took it out literally thousands of people died. Does that mean that I killed them with the dark power of my cookery? Of course it doesn’t. Better than a hundred people die every minute these days and those thousands of deaths were pure coincidence. Humans just have a tendency to remember it better when two events of interest or importance turn up close together (the root of “where were you when famous event X happened questions) – so they commonly see causation and relationship where none exists.

In Classic Fantasy it is Synchronicity – often in the guise of “Fate” or “Destiny” or “The Will Of The Gods” – that drives the plot. It’s why people die at convenient times, why it is a kind traveler who stumbles across the infant heir rather than a pack of wolves, why adventurers always arrive in the nick of time, why seers and madmen utter true prophecies, and why consulting Tarot Cards or the I-Ching (or the flight of birds, or the shapes formed by hot wax dripping into water, or the shape of a sacrificial animals liver or some such) can actually reveal glimpses of the future. There isn’t really any good reason why a great comet passing should signal some equally great event, or why the ancient prophecy should be translated just as the characters need that information – but that’s how it almost always works in classic fantasy.

Of course, when it comes to the “reality” of a game setting… Synchronicity rules the universe for a very simple reason; game masters have strictly limited time and a lot to cover. That means that if they take the time to describe something it is almost certainly relevant. Better game masters will throw in some red herrings and items that are potential lead-ins to new adventures or optional side-quests from time to time, but only a very few of the most hard-core “sandbox” game masters will simply let characters go wherever they please instead of trying to keep them involved with the material they actually have ready. Like it or not, most game masters aren’t really that good at improvising and find it quite impossible to keep track of everything if they start having to answer off-the-wall questions about areas they haven’t prepared notes on yet. There’s a reason why Chekov’s Gun (and it’s Brick Joke and McGuffin variants) are major tropes.

And so the player characters are the ones to witness the murder, hear the victims final words (no matter how they try to stop him or her from dying), get accused of said murder when the guards arrive a few moments later, and stumble across all the necessary clues and plot coupons as they flee the guards to hunt down the actual murderer and prove their innocence. RPG plots always involve heaping helpings of coincidence, and a bit of railroading, because otherwise a group of player characters can be counted upon to start off investigating a mystery in Pennsylvania in 1929, set off for Chicago to talk to Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone, and somehow wind up helping defend Beijing against Genghis Khan in 1214 – insisting all the while that they are hot on the trail of the Jersey Devil and without ever actually reaching Chicago or explaining what they wanted with Capone in the first place.

In active play in most game systems, Synchronicity lies at the heart of divination and destiny – and it often lies at the heart of every act of magic. There isn’t any good reason why singing a particular song while keeping time with a rod of alder wood and wearing a vest with a particular set of symbols sewn on it should summon a charging rhinoceros to strike whatever the spell caster is pointing at. It just happens. And if it happens reliably, despite the lack of any apparent reason why it should… then you have a powerful spell.

In one setting…

The first “wizard” was a peasant farmer who was singing a nonsense-song while waving his arms to scare some birds away from his crops while wearing a cheap copper ring with hid zodiac symbol on it (and a few other details) – and the result was summoning am obedient swarm of ghostly troops for a time. He happened to be a keen observer, and he managed to recall just what he’d been doing – and after several tries… he did it again. After a few months of practice he could do it fairly reliably.

By the time he died many years later… he was rich, powerful, and influential – and he’d managed to unearth two more (if far lesser) spells (“cantrips”) from among the lands other practitioners of folk magic.

Today, almost a thousand years later… the light-haired Wizards of his line command seven of the twenty-two major spells that are rumored to exist, and perhaps half again that many of the forty-three known minor cantrips. (Sadly, two of the major spells will not work for people with dark hair and one only works for females). In other lands other families and traditions exist – each devoting long years of study to mastering the intricacies of those few spells they know and jealously guarding their arcane secrets.

This magic system has no theory, no consistency, and no logic to it whatsoever – but it’s very, VERY, classical. You can do anything at all if you can just find the secret spell that does it and it isn’t too hard to perform – but there’s really no way to “research” a new spell; it’s either out there to be found or it isn’t. You could spend multiple lifetimes doing random things, and even if something magical happened… there’s no guarantee that you will be able to figure out how to get it to happen again. The critical elements that made it work might note even have to have to anything to do with you at all. New spells are fabulous rarities.

Given that there is no underlying logic to synchronicity at all, it’s hard to work it into active play outside of purely arbitrary requirements for various acts of magic and divination – but it tends to rule the plot. Still, if you want to let the players get their hands on plot-based powers… the most classic way is to use one form or another of Whimsy Cards (or my own Runecards) to allow the players to twist the plot a bit. Alternatively, you can use Tarot Cards (although that will call for a lot of interpretation) or something like the free Scion Legend Cards. In Eclipse, you can use the Narrative Powers Template or just invest a few points in abilities like True Prophecy or Destiny Magic (scroll down).

Sympathy and Contagion do get some play in older games (and the occasional current “old school” game). They’re simpler, easier to explain, easy to portray, and far more immediate in application – if just about as arbitrary if you really start analyzing things. They’re covered in some detail in the Mystic Links and Sympathetic Magic Articles (Part I and Part II) and are used by the Võlur. Unfortunately – also as covered in those articles in detail – these rules of magic really aren’t that compatible with adventuring. Performing lengthy rituals that have subtle effects on targets a long ways away doesn’t make for exciting adventures.

Similarity or “Signatures” are another simple idea – that something’s appearance indicates its hidden powers. Gold shines like the Sun, so it must have solar powers. It endures for centuries untarnished, so putting gold in your food should let you live longer. A plant with fronds like fingers must be good medicine for your hands – or possibly useful for animating disembodied hands. Eating tiger penis soup (or several other similar dishes or – for that matter – phallus impudicus mushrooms) must enhance male potency (that notion – like anything that promises more or better sex – remains quite popular today, in part thanks to the placebo effect).

In reality, the doctrine of signatures is pretty easily disproven. There are a lot of very poisonous mushrooms that look a great deal like edible and nourishing ones. If “Signatures” really meant anything… then the results of eating both should be much the same – but surviving victims of the Amanita Ocreata mushroom would beg to differ.

Even games are often more sophisticated than this, and used less naive notions. For example, bat guano contains a lot of potassium nitrate, which is used to make gunpowder – so it was “reasonable” to infer that “explosions of fire” must be a part of it’s hidden properties given that neither sulfur nor charcoal were all that explosive by themselves. Ergo you could use a bit of guano as a component for your Fireball spell. You could substitute other things – but the results were unpredictable and varied from game to game, since no one wanted to compile a list of possible modifications for a thousand different components (a prospect which contributed to the general dropping of notes about how differing components might modify spells in later editions).

On the other hand, signatures – and the reputed properties of various substances, both real and mythic – are important in magical herbalism, in selecting components for spells, and are vital in alchemy and the brewing of various potions. Dragons blood may be pretty much like any other large animals blood biologically, but gamers are generally interested in it’s magical properties, not in its compatibility for transfusions.

Only a few games every really got into this kind of list though. Rolemaster – notorious for its exhaustive lists of everything – covered a lot of plants and herbs, as did the supplements from Bard Games; both their original Alchemists book and the combined “Arcanum” book covered long lists of plants, minerals, metals, alchemical preparations, and specialized spell lists, all of it more or less first edition AD&D compatible. Unfortunately, later editions of most games tended to just throw random oddities into various sourcebooks and adventures, leaving sorting out the resulting incoherent mess of special cases to the internet and to the rare players and game masters who actually cared. Bastion’s 95-page “Alchemy & Herbalists” book was about the last gasp of serious lists of the magical properties of herbs and materials. Sure, Pathfinder produced a 30 pages worth of material for their Alchemy Companion – but much of the space is devoted to fireworks, character feats, and minor magical items.

The modern gaming version of the Doctrine of Signatures no longer relies on physical sensory impressions that go right past most of the intended audience. After all, most of the current game masters and players alike have no idea of what various plants, fungi, and minerals look, smell, or feel like. Secondarily, the idea of allowing characters to acquire even very minor “treasures” by simply taking a walk in the woods and looking for plants with special properties is mostly out of fashion. Thus the current version relies instead on the descriptions in various books of monsters. Players may not be clear on what a basilisk looks like, but they know exactly what it does – and nobody will argue much with the idea that its blood is poisonous, its scales extremely tough, and its eyes capable of empowering magics related to petrification or transformation if that’s what the game master says. Thus a part of the “treasure” for defeating it may be harvested directly from it’s corpse. After all, in a world of magic, harvesting magical components from a monster is no more exotic than historical whalers hunting whales for their meat, fat, and bones.

While there’s a certain amount of squick involved in – say – chopping up that intelligent dragon that you just killed for it’s teeth, hide, and other useful bits I’m sure that some people will pay very high prices indeed for Dragon Penis Soup – and money tends to get most adventurers over ethical compunctions very quickly indeed.

Whether fortunately or unfortunately, however, you can’t just require parts from exotic monsters for basic magic. After all, if you did, that would mean that player-character spellcasters might well never get to cast any spells – and so the Doctrine of Signatures gets relegated to a ghetto of rarely-used “power components” and optional subsystems. After all, the player characters will rarely HAVE a Cockatrice Feather (or whatever) – and so there’s little or no point in spending a lot of space talking about just what one is good for. Personally, I usually let this sort of thing go on the fly. If someone wants to gather up parts of monsters and use them for magical purposes… why not? They can try things and see what happens.

Laws Of Magic Part I – Correspondences

Once upon a time in first edition AD&D a Fireball filled so many thousands of cubic feet. If you set it off in a space that was too small, or the middle of a nest of tunnels or some such… the blast would fill it’s allotted space, even if that made the “ball” into a long line or it it blew back into your face and killed you. Similarly, lightning bolts could bounce back on the caster if you weren’t careful about where you set them off. Summoned elementals could go out of control and attack the summoner. There were fairly elaborate descriptions of where the energy that powered magic came from, how it was gathered, the time spent to bind it into each individual spell (fifteen minutes times the spell level for each spell so prepared – normally to a maximum of 32 levels of spells per day if you weren’t adventuring), and how tricky it was to use it properly. If you got interrupted, or fouled things up, it didn’t work. You could only learn so many spells, and would often find yourself permanently unable to learn the ones you wanted.

It was a time when making potions and scrolls required fairly high level and exotic ingredients – and if you didn’t have those ingredients, you couldn’t make that potion or a scroll. Making more powerful magic items involved arbitrary quests, and creating permanent enchantments cost a constitution point as enchanters gave up a portion of their life force to empower them. When Gods only granted spells appropriate to their portfolios, chose what spells they granted their priests, and sometimes withheld spells or other clerical benefits if said priests weren’t doing a good job of serving their gods.

For example, making a scroll of Protection From Petrification required giant squid ink, a basilisk eye, three cockatrice feathers, medusa snake venom, (specific) powdered gems, holy water, and pumpkin seeds. Lesser scrolls were usually easier, but they certainly weren’t things that you just churned out.

And there was a reason for all that. It was because classical fantasy adhered to many classical notions about how magic worked.

Classical fantasy said that gods and other magical entities paid attention and demanded that their servants and priests offer sacrifices, adhere to rigid codes of behavior, and actually serve them in exchange for the power they were given – and that various entities only offered powers related to their various portfolios. The Winter King would not – and COULD NOT – help you throw fire.

Classical fantasy said that learning to use magic without a supernatural patron was a difficult and dangerous thing, requiring years of study. It involved strange arts and the classical laws of magic – correspondences, synchronicity, sympathy, contagion, similarity or “signatures”, karma, purification, personification, destiny, and naming, magical circles, runes and occult symbols, and more. Would-be mages had massive lists of stuff to memorize in character – while even the player had quite a lot to keep track of. The Dungeon Master’s Guide showed glyphs for various Glyphs Of Warding (and noted that experienced players might remember their names from prior play, and so bypass them!) and several forms of protective inscriptions, including magic circles, pentagrams, and thaumaturgic triangles – and noted that when you summoned something the game master might require you to show them that you were using the right one!

Having an actual magic-user in your party was a luxury that called for a fairly high level party, a very experienced player, and a good deal of actual study and preparation.

And the first law of magic to take a look at is Correspondence.

Correspondence is built on the belief that every time, place, object, and symbol has some amount of magical power – and that that power is attuned to various purposes.

For simplified example, Fire is active, hot, dry, and emits light.

  • It’s season is summer.
  • Its Day is Sunday.
  • Its Time is noon.
  • Its Incenses are cinnamon, frankincense, and dragon’s blood.
  • Its Signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.
  • Its Animals are bees, lions, dragons, serpents, foxes, scorpions, and squirrels.
  • Its Alchemical Symbol is a point-up triangle.
  • Its Celestial Objects are Mars and the Sun.
  • Its Colors are white, red, and orange.
  • Its Sense is sight.
  • Its Trees are Alder, Chestnut, Cinnamon, and Rowan.
  • It Manifests in the sun, stars, and volcanoes.
  • Its Gods are Agni, Brigit, Durga, Freya, Horus, Pele, Ra, and Vulcan.
  • Its Tools are wands, lamps, and blades.
  • Its Stones are bloodstone, carnelian, fire opal, red jasper, ruby, tiger’s eye, and anything from a volcano.
  • Its Metals are gold, steel, and brass.
  • Its Herbs include allspice, basil, coffee, juniper, onion, peppers, thistle, and tobacco.
  • Its Fragrances include clove, patchouli, and chamomile.
  • Its Direction is south.
  • Its Spirits are salamanders and firedrakes.
  • It is associated with youth, war, courage, animal life, and sex.
  • It is linked with stringed instruments.
  • Its magic is suited to spells involving light, energy, love, health, and transformation.

And that list is far from complete. Those categories should have more items and there are lots more categories.

Every correspondence you involved in your magical action – or, to some extent, in mundane activities – added a little bit of power. Thus a red-haired spellcaster who’d been born during the summer, on Sunday, at noon, had four built-in correspondences for fire magic – and so would show a natural talent for it (and a likely deficit in Water Magic). He or she could get another boost from using an Steel (Metal) Athame (Blade) forged with the aid of a Salamander (Spirit), blessed by a priest of Agni (God), with a Bloodstone pommel (Stone), hilted with wood from a chestnut tree (Tree) and engraved with the constellation of Aries (Sign) – adding seven additional correspondences from a rather powerful magical tool. It would also help if he or she was smoking or had recently had sex, either of which would make an even dozen correspondences (you might not want thirteen; that has some unhelpful correspondences).

A charmsmith might gift a fighter with an amulet incorporating as many correspondences to the arts of war as possible, knowing that carrying those influences with him would help to bring him or her victory. Making magical devices that aided the user in various ways… basically involved a lot of ritual purification to help keep unwanted correspondences from getting entangled in your creation and putting together as many ingredients from your list as possible. Admittedly, such items were fairly subtle – but an item with the proper correspondences was a lot easier to enchant with active powers as well.

A diviner might use tarot cards, or throw runesticks, or use any of hundreds of other methods, in the belief that – thanks to the innate correspondences of their tools – the results will reflect the forces currently at work in a situation, providing hints as to what the future will hold. Better tools – such as tarot cards – will be constructed to incorporate as many symbols and correspondences as possible, so they are as well attuned to the universe as possible – and usually can also serve as spellcasting tools (which is where card-based casting comes from).

While this sort of thing is still fairly popular – notions of astrology, birth-stones, spirit animals, tarot cards, rune-stones, the I-Ching, and such are all over the place – few people are really aware that giving someone a little birthstone pendant, made of the “appropriate” metal and bearing various traditional symbols (knots, zodiac symbols, animals, etc) is really an act of magic meant to strengthen the recipients personal talents and improve their lives.

Correspondences are simultaneously the least and most organized bit of magical thinking. The most because Correspondences tend to come in massive categorized and sorted lists (there are entire books devoted to such lists). The least because the magical associations of times, items, places,, and materials are completely arbitrary; each culture has developed it’s own ideas on the topic. Still, the theory says that the more correspondences you manage to tie into an appropriate magical working, the more potent it became – for each contributes power.

Honestly, correspondences are far too complicated for most game systems. Even first edition AD&D, which involved a LOT of classic fantasy elements, shied away from any attempt to make direct use of Correspondences – although you can see traces of the idea in the descriptions of the various magic items (especially the wands) and in the information on creating magical items.

Other early game systems also dabbled a bit. Chivalry and Sorcery used parts of the system in enchanting the tools a spellcaster required, Dragonquest used Birth Aspects that could modify attempts to do pretty much anything, but only when they applied. A system or two used “Star Signs” which could provide all kinds of modifiers – a notion which would work nicely in d20 since applying a “star sign template” to your character is flavorful and should be relatively quick and easy.

Only one game system that I’m aware of – Fantasy Wargaming – used a correspondence table as a central element of it’s magic system. Unfortunately, Fantasy Wargaming is generally regarded as unplayable. (It’s actually not all that bad, but the organization of the book is terrible, it takes a long time to design and cast a spell, and it – as expected for the era – uses a lot of wargame ideas that limit your control of your character rather than RPG ideas).

Continuum II uses correspondences as a central part of the Ceremonial Magic system – but that is a subsystem that occasional characters dabbled in during downtime, rather than something that was expected to be used while adventuring. A player who wanted to invest some time and effort researching correspondences and coming up with ceremonies could give their party some handy (if fairly minor) bonuses to use during adventures – but a party could get along just fine without such things. On the other hand… it gave things a nicely mystical feel, which was usually well worth the trouble. That system’s basically compatible with d20, so it could be used easily enough, In Eclipse it’s just a Specialized version of the Ritual Magic ability.

Thus correspondences – while a major and extremely thoroughly documented part of classical magic – only play a small role in classical fantasy and in the role-playing games based on it. They’re simply too arbitrary and too much trouble to include more than a few nods to in anything but an optional system. .

The sign of Aries is associated with March 21’st to April 19’th, Fire, Iron, Geranium, Gorse, Rosemary, Marjoram, Sage, Tiger Lily, Thistle and Wild Rose, Holly and Chestnut, Iron, Bloodstone, Ruby, Red Jasper, and Garnet, Scarlet or Pink, Mars, Tuesday, Four o’clock to Five o’clock, Spring, The Emperor Tarot Card, the Ram, Owl, or Bull, the Magpie, Owl, and Robin, the Head, she scent of Pine or Geraniums, Athena, Shiva, and Minerva – and it goes on.