Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Magic: Epiphanies, Dead Wizards, and Found Spellbooks


I got my copy of Vaginas Are Magic (moving and delayed mail-forwarding slowed me down, but it had mailed on schedule) Anyway, this is brilliant:
"about this “only women can cast these spells” thing. When creating new spells, It is perfectly fine to say that certain spells can only be cast by one sex, or people with brown hair, or people with no eyes. Or by those in certain moods, or who are wearing/not wearing jewelry or clothing made of certain materials, or who are covered in squirrel shit. It can be that arbitrary, that simple. If a caster wants to use these spells without the specific restriction, she can recover a spellbook with the spell in it and research her own version without the restriction. Spell research rules aren’t just there to fill out a page count."

Adding a restriction makes that whole "I found a spellbook!" situation much more interesting. Making up a restrictions on the spot when someone finds a spell has downsides; you might be too "random", too particular, or too predictable. Here's a table.

THIS SPELL CAN ONLY BE CAST BY (D20)
  1. Women. Someone or something able to be impregnated and carry a child to term.
  2. Men. Someone or something able to impregnate a female of its' species.
  3. The Infertile. Castration, Eunuchs, Old Age, the result of illness or curses. Whatever works.
  4. Those Who Reject Flesh. They must have eaten a fully vegetarian diet for a full lunar cycle, (unless you have an amazingly detailed calendar) count 30 days of commitment beginning in d30 days (when the next lunar cycle begins).
  5. The Bacchanalian: those who have drunk a bottle of wine of at least Decent quality each day, without pause, after an initial night of drunken excess.
  6. The Wearers of the Crown. The hair is not cut or washed, and is kept beneath a headpiece of some kind. If you get a haircut or a wash it'll be 1d4 weeks until the spell works again. If you take off the hat it'll be a full 24 hours of wearing it until you may cast again. This headpiece could be a conical "wizard hat", a relatively simple turban, a Crowley style pyramid, a sinister looking capirote, or a glorious dastar bunga kind of thing. Nothing normal. 1d4 x 10SP once you find a good hatter.
  7. Those Fasting. At least one full day without food must have already elapsed.
  8. Those Who Greet both Dawn and Dusk. The caster has gone at least one full day without sleep.
  9. The Mutilated. The caster must be missing a digit, or an ear, or have other visible scarring that impedes the functioning of the body or severely alters the appearance.
  10. Those with Hands Adorned. The caster must be wearing rings of precious metal, 1d4 for each hand, and each metal must be different from the others. (gold, silver, iron, copper, steel, brass, platinum, nickel)
  11. The Primitive. The caster must consume only foraged foods (including hunted game, if they hunt it). If they mistakenly consume a product of agriculture they will be unable to cast this spell until a day has been spent fasting and then a full day has been spent consuming only natural foods.
  12. Those Who Wear The Garb. Robes, cloaks, and so on of (1d6) ornamented linen, fur, velvet, satin, embroidered wool, or silk. Costs 20 x 1d4+1 SP, and a tailor who doesn't ask too many questions or tend to gossip.
  13. Those With Blood Upon Their Hands. The caster must have killed something using a Melee weapon within the past hour. Any life will do, some keep a goat or chicken handy.
  14. Anthropophagists. Cannibals. One mouthful is enough. It can't be the casters own flesh. It must come from someone else. It need not be cooked.
  15. The Decadent. The caster must consume 3 meals of at least Fancy quality, or one of Rich quality, before casting the Spell. If they continue to consume at least a Fancy meal each day they may continue to cast the spell.
  16. Bearers of the Symbol. The caster must be holding a (1d6) bell, ceremonial weapon, wand, amulet, goblet, censer. Costs as much as a Silver Holy Symbol. Is obviously an occult tool.
  17. The Bringers of Light. The caster must be holding a lit torch, candle, lantern, etc.
  18. Those In The Presence of The Dead. A corpse, a skeleton, even a long bone or skull. It must be human.
  19. Devourers of Flesh. The caster must have eaten only flesh for a full lunar cycle, timed as with #4.
  20. The Placid. The caster must have not Attacked anything with a physical weapon since the lunar cycle began, if you weren't tracking this already it was d30 days ago.


You could have a whole thing with magical restrictions and how Magic-Users might have to deal with them.
The big picture would be that Wizards invented magic, or discovered it. Perhaps they were magic. They are gone now, but they recorded their discoveries in coded texts, obscure journals of their esoteric research as usual.
Beyond the encoding the Wizards placed additional limitations on every spell.

A Magic-User is someone who has come into possession of one of these books, and has chosen and begun to translate its’ secrets, and make use of them. This has required both luck and sacrifice, as some of these criteria can only be met through circumstances of birth (or magical transformation). Others require deeds to be done, sometimes merely strange but often quite vile. On occasion it requires only an accessory, or other trinket. This is all quite expensive, and frowned upon by normal society.
This might have been done by the Wizards as a filter to attract only suitable acolytes. It might have also only been only perverse whimsy, or a way to mark whoever used Magic as an outsider to normal, moral life.

So as a Magic-User all the spells you would learn would come from this Spellbook, and gaining new Spells upon leveling up would mean you had deciphered a new one (or two). Perhaps Magical Research would be a process that allowed you “translate” a new spell (roll on the Spell Table for the campaign). Or perhaps you only have a tiny folio (with a mere 7 spells), and you want to find the great Thesis rumored to contain three-and-twenty in the lost etc.

It's just a half-sketched thing for now. The main notion is that every spell would requires something from the caster. Maybe components, maybe states of being, maybe having done something. Maybe all of that. It’d be more detailed than that stuff up above, probably some kind of nested chart with occasionally infuriating results. (“To Summon a Great Dragon you must cast the spell Nude, in the Moonlight, having the Requisite Tattoos, accompanied only by Goats and Wielding a Golden Spear.” etc.).

So, at level one you’d have your usual starting repertoire of Spells, but also with it the Tamed Snake Companion, Half-Shaved Hair, and Ceremonial Robes (or whatever) they’d require. As you increased in level you’d gradually become a freakish collection of accouterments and affectations, weighed down by the weird habits of long-dead Wizards. It might be fun.

When I was running Deep Carbon Observatory we tried something else. Magic was a way you were. Being a Magic-User meant you had learned a way. How to be magical. Casting a spell was an ineffable procedure only understandable through wordless epiphany. Realizing that if you had a certain image in your mind as you struck a particular pose and made a specific sound you could cause wondrous effect, but only in that instant. Spell books only described the various things a Magic-User could do, but never how. A Magic-User was someone who sought sublime and terrifying experience to inspire new revelations. This was just a way to have Magic-Users get new spells whenever they leveled up and have it make some sense without them needing to go sit around in a library, since they were all trudging through flood-lands I didn't want to have to think about spell book logistics too much. I could see this getting really interesting with a restricted casting situation the same way, gradually becoming ever-less-normal from what you've realized through Adventuring.

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