Saturday, March 8, 2014

On Answering a Ten Question Troll Poll

Slacking a bit this week and to get myself back on track while I work on finishing my three half done posts. I will answer Random Wizards Trolly Troll's Top Ten Troll Questions for Your Game.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?

No, heretical I know. I have too many sub-races and background based on Races not being classes.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?

Yes, but not human souls. Dwarves souls are hung amongst the stars and elves fade to the Feywild.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?

Ascending. Sue me.

(4). Demi-human level limits?


(5). Should thief be a class?

Yes, roguish is a character personality, thief is a character class.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?

No. Player skill. If you want to roll to do something roll 4d6 under your stats.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?

Yes, but only after 6th level.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?

Yes. Even Mordor had the black speech.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?

XP for gold, bonus XP for playing to flaws, player voted MVP and most damage by inventive means

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E DD, 4E DD, Next ?

They all have there place and niche they fill. If I picked the most creative and complete edition of any game it would be Hackmaster 5E. Right now I want rules light, fast combat, exploration and out of the box problem solving so we are playing Sword and Sorcery.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?

Individual XP and death that resets to 1st level unless a protege is in play.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

World Building in 30 Days – Magic – Source - Will Magic

The first two parts of this series on magic dealt with the History of the First Age(1A) and an overview of a basic magic system. These weren’t my favorite articles to write, nor for you to read. I had to get those out of the way to provide a background for this article. I still have two more cataclysms to discuss. These shaped magic further but I wanted to depart from that for a bit and talk about something else today, sources of magic.

Magic in Ea-Reth comes in a lot of different flavors, but in truth there is only one source the Weave. Everything came from this big ball of chaos in the beginning. The Weave, Immortals, Anrica’s Will etc all of it came from the same source. The rest is me limiting it by putting into the context of my world. My characters interact with the world thru filters of their own perception. My readers/players hear about magic via the same means. Seelian Coil’s book on magical theory describes seven types of magic; Will, Word, Inherent, Weave, Granted, Soul and Emotion magic. Nearly every magical organization draws its understanding of magic from this book and because of this the symbol for magic is a seven pointed star.

Will Magic

  • Creation - as in the universe
  • Belief
  • Mental Hedge Magic
  • Psionics

Anrica rising from the ether at the beginning of time is the first example of Will magic. Master Coil described a creature lifting its arm as the simplest form of Will Magic. Inside every living thing on Ea-reth is a spark of Will.

Here begins a bit of philosophy. The world around us does not exist. If a tree falls in the wood and no one senses it, it didn’t fall. The world is formless gray matter until the inhabitants of the world interact with it. At that point belief in the expected results change the gray. The form alters into what we believe should be there. We lay about unable to move as infants because our minds and senses have not yet been attuned to the subjective real. The subjective reality is formed by all gathered belief within a given area. As we develop we are able to move and impact out environment not because atoms or electrons move but because we are encouraged to do so. Our parents belief that we can imprints us and makes us able to meet those expectations. Those that come to realize this truth are able to act as parents to the creatures not of the gray and shape their belief with Will. The more Will one has the greater impact belief has on the shape that is made. Our perception is tied to this belief/gray matter interaction. The collective expectation of the world shapes the gray, provides the physical laws etc. So ends the philosophy. The Gawds Will impacts this further. Those beings with powerful Will can bend reality as if they were Neo.


Gawds and primordials use it. Extremely powerful Wizards known as True Wizards can harness it. Characters any time they make a saving throw this type of magic is in play. Psionics is a form of this magic. Mentalism and Hedge magic use it to convince a target that reality is different than what they believe it is. Psychosomatic effects from illusion spells also are driven by this.

How? Mechanics

A creatures Will must exceed the localized Belief. This is a bend don’t break scenario. The more complex, ludicrous or unbelievable something is the more likely the spell will fail or have unlikely even disastrous results.

Pros: This provides an explanation for creation and the power of the Umbla and Gawds. It also is a nice foundation for illusions being able to hurt.

Cons: Imagination, Will and Belief are things that are hard to quantify and adjudicate effectively. It is also tempting to hand wave a situation away.

Origins of the idea: Gutter Trash Vol 1, Schrödinger’s Cat, Objective vs. Subjective Reality

Examples in Gaming: White Wolf’s Mage: The Ascension

Example in Media: The Matrix


World Building in 30 Days – Magic – Source - Word Magic

Following up on the Will Magic article we talk about the second source, Word Magic.

Word Magic

  • Rune magic
  • Symbol Magic
  • Naming
  • Music

Words have power in the real world. It only makes sense that a world filled with magic would have words of magical power. The first reference to Word Magic, comes from the naming of the Umbla. Anrica gave True Names to all things, his children followed this practice, as did the Gawds and the Mortal Races. The Somatic components to spells are a form of Word Magic. Certain magical practices involve inscribing runic symbols during the ritual process. Protection from... spells I am looking at you here. <DM Glares> Explosive runes, Glyphs of Warding, Power Word Kill, and Magical Items etched with symbols are all examples. Music is a bridge between magics, both Word Magic and Emotion Magic.


High Level mages use True Name Magic. Witches and Warlocks use it to inscribe their cauldrons and magic circles. Artificers use it to imbue their creations with magic. Binders and Conjurers use it in summoning circles. Dwarves and crafters use it to activate their Magical Items. Every holy symbol in existence is Symbol Magic used to store Will Magic from a Gawds Believers. Bards use it to fuse their music and to syphon off the emotions during a performance or strengthen the emotions in their targets.

How? Mechanics

Symbols drawn correctly and using the proper medium; and syllables uttered in the correct intonation, cadence and pronunciation tap into the stored power of the Weave. As long as the requirements are met the symbol acts as a battery providing a conduit for the magic to flow. Different combinations yield different results. This same method can be used to alter the gray of the world.

Pros: This adds flavor and a reason for all that mystical writing and symbol drawing. One effect per symbol means a constrained system. The chance of failure due to the more potent symbols being more complex constrains characters.

Cons: You need a name, symbol or method for describing the differences between all these symbols/words.

Origins of the idea: Bible, Nordic Legend, Socrates, Rumplestilskin

Examples in Gaming: D&D Spell Lists

Example in Media: True Names and Artificing in the Kingkiller Chronicles, Westiel's bowl etc. in the Noble Dead Saga, Swords in Complete Book of Swords, Spell Forms in the Sword of Truth, True Names in Earthsea, Dragonslayer


World Building in 30 Days – Magic – Overview

The last post was too long. I have decided to post more often but in smaller digestible sections.

Magic in Fantasy comes in a wide variety of types, uses and configurations. If you boil it down to its most simplistic forms it looks something like this.

Unlock the source>Use/Trigger the Power>Shape the Results>Replenish/Recover the Power

I have wracked my brain reviewing every movie, book and game I have come into contact with and can’t find anything that doesn’t fit that process. Hopefully, someone can find an exception that proves my rule.

This seems easy enough so why do writers/DMs have such a hard time with Magic? It’s because step 3 is so rife with potential for misuse. Write yourself into a corner, poof the magic user fixes it. In order for you not to take the easy way out, you have to a solid idea of what you will allow to happen via magic. Future articles are going to lay out how I built up magic in my world, the Pros and Cons of those choices, and bore you with more detail then you probably want to know.

Based on my high level process flow, here is some examples and questions one might ask themselves during the process of creating a magic system.

1. Unlock/Gain Access to a source

a. What is the Source?

i. Internal?

ii. External?

iii. Limited Source? Power as fuell

iv. Can access be cut-off/reduced?

b. When or How do you gain access?

i. Inherent - Birth/Blood/Milestone in Life

ii. Pact – Granted/Borrowed/Stolen/Prayer/Meditation

iii. Knowledge - Study/Learning

iv. Experimentation/Tests/Accident

v. Initiation/Communing/Crafting

c. Who controls the source?

i. Other Mages

ii. Powerful Beings/Ancestors/Spirits/Divine/Nature/Force

iii. No one

d. Who or what polices the source?

i. Rules/Guidelines

ii. Nature/Inexperience

iii. Price/Consequences/Risks

2. Utilize the source

a. What triggers a source?

i. Ritual/Casting/Releasing

ii. Somatic/Verbal

iii. Items/Wands/Staves/Amulets

iv. Material Components

v. Belief/Imagination/Will/Thoughts/Emotions

vi. Spell Forms/Web/Symbols

vii. Music/Art

b. What blocks access to the source?

i. Armor/Metal/Weapons

ii. Devices/Collars

iii. Lack of Confidence/Illusion

iv. Others Disbelief

v. Anti-magic Fields

3. Results

a. What is possible?

i. Changing minds

ii. Effecting ones environment

iii. Creating/Summoning

iv. Destroying – Ie utter removal not breaking into smaller bits

v. Wish – changing the laws of the universe itself

vi. D&D school of magic

b. What is impossible?

c. What is risked during casting?

d. What traces are left after casting?

4. Replenishment of power

a. How does one recover after a spell?

i. Recover a spent spell

ii. Recover the fuel

iii. Recover from the damage/trauma/fatigue

b. What price must be paid for the casting?

i. Strength


World Building in 30 days - History 1A - Magic

In the seventh age an industrious young scientist will deduce that the Thaum is the smallest measureable amount of magic in the universe. It comprises all things due to the events of the Spell Plague and in his vanity he will build a machine to split the Thaum. The resultant sound will awaken Fenris the pet dire wolf of Gulohg. The ravenous hunger of the beast coupled with the knowledge that his master was slain will bring about the end times. Lo the great wolf swallowed the sun and the world became as night.

Fortunately, for Ea-Reth none of this has happened yet. The inhabitants of the fifth age and before are still a superstitious lot and magic hasn’t lost its wonder. Each of these five ages has its theories and beliefs about how magic works. By the fifth age a whole host of earlier theories have been unified under the edicts of the Grey Council and further indoctrinated by tyrannical rule of the Tor Siri. We will get to all that, but first we have to return to the beginning to understand the basic nature of magic as the learned know of it.

First Age

· Creation

· Rise of the Umbla

· Shaping of the Lands

· Building of the Towers

· Birth of the Gawds

· Birth of Tima

· Rise of the First Race

· Dawn War

· First Sundering

First Age - Creation

When Anrica arose from the swirling mists of chaos to form the world it did so from a seething mass of magic. The strength of its will alone created itself. The left over chaos was ordered and structured into a framework. All of creation was anchored to the central tower, Eglain. Mages call this framework the Weave, whilst Clerics call it the Divine Lattice. This Will and Weave are the first two forms of magic. Exhausted from his efforts Anrica slumbered.

First Age - Rise of the Umbla

In this era before time began arose the Umbla, the primordial beings that sprang from the resting creator. Each of the Umbla came from a different part of Anrica. Aeres came from its breath, master of Air and Wind. Yero came from its hands, master of Forge and Land. From its hair came Anu El, mistress of the Void and maker of the curtain of Night. The breath that became Aeres ruffled this hair and ever so the two were linked. Abyss arose from the drool that struck the Weave. He is master of Water in all its forms. Feydyakhan is the master of Fire, his origins are in the dreams of Anrica.

When Anrica awoke tears of joy and dismay flowed from its eyes and the last two Umbla were formed. Tyr and Gerand, the twin Umbla. Anrica was joyful to see its children, but dismayed for it saw the strife they would endure. Anrica named these beings1 and taught them some of what it knew. Anrica ordained the Umbla would use this knowledge to build on the framework. Thus the middle magics were discovered Emotion Magic, Word Magic, and Granted Magic.

First Age - Shaping of the Lands

The first years were pretty lame from a story telling aspect. The Umbla built on the framework, working together, having petty fights as young children are wont to do. It was a chaotic time of upheaval and accidents. Anu El spent much time with Tyr and Gerand in Eglain. She was very industrious and filled the further reaches of sky with darkness and light. Eventually the basic shape of the world would come into shape. Each of the Umbla carving out bits of Yathe for themselves. Furthest north a land of hard stone, and harsh deserts would form around Yero. To the west a great ocean of deep dark places would shelter Abyss from his brothers plans. In the east Feydyakhan would alight the mountain tops that Yero and he made during a wrestling match. Molten stone would run to the south in a great chasm ending in a lake of fire. Above this lake Aeres would ride the warm curtains of air. The nature of the world was simple, but the Umbla became lonely and one by one they returned to Eglain.

Second Version
Second Version

First Age - Building the Towers

Outsiders lurked beyond the ordered world. Anrica called to them and bid the outsiders to join them. Some did and became the Pey, others refused the call and remained outside. The Pey are mysterious figures in Ea-reth's history. I am not particularly fond of the concept that the Pey were made specifically to sooth the desires of the Umbla. I find it just a little too sexist. I prefer to believe they existed of their own right and the Umbla's feelings prompted them to court these beings. Each finding those that most complemented their nature. Eventually each Umbla raised a Tower in the area of their favored land. The fashioning of these towers are tales of struggle and magic in their own right but for this post I will stick to the basics.

Yero built Karnin shaping it from the tallest mountain. The Tower was built in the stone lands of Thak Tarkas and its base stretched to the root of the world. Its immovable nature makes it a symbol of order, stubbornness and law. Yero courted Threa, a Gawd of immeasurable beauty and daughter of Tyr. To win her hand he fashioned the Great Weapons. This tale will be a future post.

Aeres built Tal Aer shaping it from clouds and sunbeams. The Tower rides the winds above Taeltor. It's ever changing in shape and place making a symbol of change and chaos. Aeres was the longest Umbla to remain a bachelor. Ka the winged Pey was his companion until Anu El won his heart and quieted his wild nature. Aeres and Anu El are also the names of the binary stars in the system their erratic nature is attributed to this courtship.

Feydyakhan built his home from living fire and dark volcanic stone. Rûn Imar stands to the east on the Plains of Ash. It is a symbol of a destruction and rebirth. After the Dawn War it would become a place of dark magic and evil. Feydyakhan found a kindred soul in Salan, mistress of dreams.

Abyss built Romshar of crystallized ice and the shells of sea creatures. It was raised on the shores of Ille Torrasis, the isle gardens. Abyss was the first to wed, his bride, Queres, would create the minor creatures of land and sea in homage to the Ancient Ones or perhaps as spies and messengers during the dawn war.

First Age - Birth of the Gawds

The Pey merged with the Umbla and begat the Gawds. The Pey brought with them Inherent Magic. The granted magic of the Umbla and the Inherrent Magic of the Pey manifested in an odd culmination of Will Magic in their children. This would not become apparent until after the Dawn War.

Slowly children were born. Tyr and Hale begat, Threa Gawdess of beauty. Feydyakhan and Salan begat Tima and time began to flow.

Anrica/Regla (All Father/Mother)

  • Tyr (Joy, Duty) and Hale (Healing, Wisdom)
  • 3 Gawds Onarmo (Mercy), Osandi (Judgement), Drept (Justice)
  • Abyss (Water) and Queres (Animals)
  • 4 Gawds Ashar (Water Animals), Kinshar (tides), Asolan (Rain), Maesto (Fog/Clouds)
  • Aeres (Sky) and Anu El (Heavens)
  • 5 Gawds Cosna (Comet), Whoosh (Winds), Ka (Birds), twins Gaust(Thunder) and Imarnan (Lightning)
  • Feydyakhan (Fire) and Salan (Dreams)
  • 2 Gawds Arlak (Nightmares), Tima (Time)
  • Yero (Earth) and Threa (Beauty)
  • 1 Gawd Linul (Flora)
  • Gerand (Strife)
  • 3 Gawds Gosamar(Vengenance), Malia (Death), Laski (Pain)

Valka (War), Isprava (Betrayal)

First Age - First Race Rises

So for many years these six types were the known magic of the world. Anrica fashioned the Ancient Ones, the progenitors of life on Ea-reth and the Umbla and Gawds set about their tasks. It was not long before strife began. The Umbla had fashioned many beautiful and wonderful things, but each had tastes that suited them while angering others. The eldest four raised their own Towers each carving out a territory to suit themselves. The towers shaped Ea-Reth and the Ancient Ones that dwelt nearby. Tyr and Anu El remained in Eglain. Tyr wanted to be close to the creator he adored. Anu El because her heart belonged to Aeres and he had not yet noticed her, consumed by the wind and the sky.

The most restless was Gerand, the youngest Umbla. He ranged far and wide searching for something to quiet his ever seeking mind. The awakening of the Ancient Ones had driven a wedge between Gerand and Anrica. He spoke with the Pey, he spoke with the Outsiders, he spoke with the Umbla, but nowhere could he find what he sought. At last deep within the dark reaches he found the secret art he craved. In lands un-reached by the hand of Anrica a dark power lay untapped. Gerand infused himself with this art and returned to Ea-reth, his intent to confront Anrica with this new power. Tyr met his brother with joy at his return to the Tower of Eglain. Gerand moved to slay Anrica, but Tyr saw the darkness growing in him. Tyr chose his duty over his twin and moved forward to protect Anrica. Gerand's magic lashed out and struck Tyr. Tyr was split in twain, his form ripped asunder by the magic. Ea-reth shuddered. For the second time Anrica enforced its will to reshape the world. As Tyr was split so was Ea-reth. Tyr's magic was sent to create the Feywild. Tyr's spirit was sent to create the Shadowfell. In the mortal realm his body fell lifeless, the first death. Seeing what he had done Gerand fell to his knees and wept. Anrica left Eglain in that moment, never to be seen again. There are those that say Anrica watches over us still.

Gerand cried out his soul for what he had done. At last he gathered his wits and his soul tears. He gathered his secret art from within himself and poured its power into his tears. One by one they dripped from his fingers into Tyr's mouth. The body jerked and lifeless eyes awakened. Gerand felt hollow, all his anger, despair and rage had been poured into what once was Tyr. He discovered he could control the body with a minor effort. He called the corpse Gosamar. He gave it Necradur and claimed Tyr's weapon as his own. Gerand had discovered Vulgar Magic, the magic to split and splice souls, magic and bodies. Here lies the origin of death, undead, and dark corruption. So began the Dawn War2.

First Age - Dawn War

If one was reading yesterday they may have noticed that the First Sundering came later in the Outline of History then the tale above. It should be noted that the Sunderings, much like evolution, do not happen overnight but that their place is noted at the end of the cycle.

A few events during the Dawn War have a major impact on Magic. I will spare you too much detail. The main thrust is that Gerand having slain one brother and ran off the father/mother figure of the Umbla now tries to seize power for himself. He does this thru a few different tacks. The first is to manipulate and divide the Umbla from their children the Gawds. The second is to drag the Outsiders into the fight. The last is to betray the Umbla at a critical juncture via the Djinn.

Battle lines are formed and both Pey and Outsiders are used as shock troops. I haven't talked too much about what these are. Pey are the Immortals of DnD. Angels, Archons, Devils, Djinn, Efreet, Devas, Rhakshaasa, Gith, Genasi etc. in a state prior to their final forms. Likewise the outsiders are Demons but not yet corrupted.

The Gawds eventually win and drive the Umbla out into what will become the Elemental Chaos. Those that served the Umbla flee with them. The Pey that become the Efreet, Genasi and Archons. The Outsiders retreat with the Umbla but a rift exists there that will never be healed. Drug into a war they did not want, the grudge against both sides will last for many years.

The Pey that served the Gawds Angels/Devils, Deva/Rhakshaasa, Gith and Genasi are given a realm in Taeltor. This upsets the Torrians who were Aeres chosen people but that comes later. The Djinn were Efreet whom served the Umbla but betrayed them to the Gawds, under the guile of Gerand. The Gawds punish them by imprisoning them in magical objects.

Gerand has sided with the Gawds and expects to take over the Tower of Eglain, but is instead shunted to Feydyakhan's tower in Omarond. He is not happy about this at all, but bides his time as we will see shortly. Meanwhile, the races have reached a stable point and a few years of harmony settles in. Ending the First Age.

First Age - First Sundering

The First Sundering split the Ancient Ones into five races:

  • The Yae or northern tribe - hard, stubborn
The Yae developed thick skin. There eyes were like rock with no whites. They developed dark vision and tough stomachs.
  • The Mae or western tribe - sea faring, flexible
The Mae developed skin that adapted to the sun and salt. They had eyes that dilated based on the light conditions. They adapted to their changing environment easily. They learned to build simple ships and search the coast for fish and food.
  • The Drae or eastern tribe - destructive, predatory
The Drae developed hard scales to protect them from the heat. Small noses and nictitating eyelids to limit the fumes and ash. They fed on what they could find bugs, small lizards and even cannibalising in some cases.
  • The Fae those that stayed - balanced, magical
The Fae remained closest to how they were created until Tyr's death. The split of worlds affected them most. Some remained in Ea-reth, they could see into the other realms. Others were hurled in the Feywild. A small group found themselves in the Shadowfell. All were infused with Magic at Tyr's death.
  • The Tae the southern tribe - wild, free

The Tae grew feathers and learned to fly. They discovered Flora and Fauna and the northern edge of their lands. Some learned to hunt while others gathered. They made roosts in the pillared formations of Torroskar. Their mouths and feet developed to help them master their diets.

1. I can't help but be entranced by JRR Tolkien's idea that the world was sung into creation. In the back of my mind I toy with the idea that the true name of things may be song, tone, and rhythm as much as cognitive word structure. The scene of Meklor's discorded voice being taken in account to the structure of the music is an evocative idea, and has to have a place in any full creation myth.

2. The Dawn War mirrors some of the typical DnD settings standard fair but has been updated to fit with all of the mythology and other events of my world. I refer to it by this name for homage to its source.