Monday, 21 July 2014

The Complete Vivimancer: 25% Off Sale!

The Complete Vivimancer is on sale for "Christmas in July" at RPGNow / DriveThru RPG!

25% off starting now for a week.

The PDF is now $5.24.
The PDF + print bundle is down to $12.99.

Some reviews:
Ben L. of Mazirian's Garden.
Timothy Brannan of The Other Side.
Brendan S of Necropraxis.

Click here to get it (if you've not already)!

Friday, 11 July 2014

D&D 5e: The Workings of Magic

Like many other people in the RPG world, I've been reading through the new D&D Basic PDF. I might write some more detailed thoughts on it at some point, but broadly I'm discovering that there's really a lot to like about this new edition of everyone's favourite game. (Obscure as it may sound, I am totally in love with the "downtime activities" section, for example.) The only major gripe I've come across so far is, unfortunately, the wizard spellcasting system. Now, I've not played a game using these rules, so my concerns may be purely theoretical, but I find the rules of wizardly magic confusing and mishmashy -- an unholy mix of at-will, Vancian fire & forget, and spell points. Not immediately to my liking.

Chatting with some people on G+ about this, I realised that a major gripe-element for me is that I don't have a good in-game rationale for the new spellcasting system, unlike the trad Vancian approach, upon which one can read volumes, both in the D&D canon and in the _Dying Earth_ books. In comparison, the new system seems somehow groundless.

Until this morning, when the following slight twist on the Vancian approach came to me. I think this explains all of the intricacies of the 5e system:

Wizards are able to contact and control a particular type of vorpal known as dweomers (or, in common parlance, spells). These disembodied entities, which natively inhabit dimensions orthogonal to our own, exist in many forms, the most significant distinction between the types being their rank (or level). The lowliest dweomers are known as cantrips, while others are ranked from the first to the ninth level.

One peculiarity of dweomers, when compared against other vorpals, is their symbiotic relationship with the minds of mortals. A dweomer can take on a quasi physical form, manifesting as a byzantine complex of modulations in the neural structure of its host. This symbiosis comes about in one of two ways.

Firstly, a dweomer may take up permanent, cooperative residence in a magician's mind. Typically only dweomers of the lowest rank (cantrips) are open to this deep symbiosis, but very experienced magic users possess the force of mind to join with more powerful vorpals also. Once bound in this way, dweomer and magician are inseparable.

Secondly, and more commonly, a dweomer may be temporarily and forcibly bound, by the speaking of its true name. It thus remains in the magician's mind until he or she sees fit to release it. (The true names of myriad types of dweomer can be found recorded as intricate sequences of arcane characters which magicians store in their spell books.)

In both cases, the magician may arouse a resident dweomer by the performance of a series of gestures and vocalisations to which it is sympathetic. The arousal of a dweomer in this way causes the manifestation of a supernatural effect -- magic.

Two further facts bear mentioning.

The nature of the neural modulations caused by the presence of dweomers in a mortal mind is such that only a limited number of the entities may be resident at a time. The mind simply cannot handle more without permanent rupture. (Though note that, as a magician increases in power, his or her mind becomes accustomed to the presence of vorpals and is thus able to accommodate more of them.)

Dweomers which are bound by force exert a constant strain on the magician, as he or she battles to keep the vorpal in place. Every time such a dweomer is aroused, the magician's tether on it and all others which are confined lessens. If a magician were to lose complete control of a dweomer during the process of arousal, the consequences would be dire -- complete neural disintegration being the most typical fate. Thus each magician learns the delicate balance of the frequency with which he or she may arouse entrapped dweomers, using periods of rest to regain control over the volatile other-dimensional entities.

Take that, 5e magic system.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Wizardzine! #1: Ephenedrine the Sirene

Wizardzine! #1 is coming along very nicely! As I mentioned previously, the theme is oceanic and sub-aquatic magic.

I want each issue to be not just a collection of spells and magic items, though, but also to describe the magician who has created these wonders. For the first issue, the figure of "Ephenedrine the Sirene", oceanic sorceress, has crystallised. I'll be giving some more thought as to her character, history, and motives as writing for the issue continues.

As a teaser, I also wanted to share one of her spells, which I just wrote:

Sea Lust
Level: 2nd
Duration: Special
Range: 60’
Schools: Charms, Elemental water, Oceanic

The homes of men are founded on earth but their hearts are with the seas. Many a wanderer, upon his first glimpse of the ocean, is smitten with a lifelong yearning for the waves and the mysteries of the deeps.

This spell plays upon these deep-rooted instincts, awakening a lust for the ocean deeps in a person of the magic-user’s choice. Typically humans are the only race which may be affected with a sea lust but the referee may rule that other races in his campaign are susceptible to this charm. Two effects are possible, as follows.

Consort with Deep Ones: When cast at the sea’s shore at night, in the presence of denizens of the deep (merfolk, locathah, sahuagin, or other races of “deep ones”), the spell’s target enters into a state of delirious infatuation in which he or she will consort with the creatures, engaging in whatever rituals or rites of communion they may desire. This state lasts for a single night. Only vague memories of the events which transpired under the enchantment remain to the victim. Women who are victim of this magic sometimes give birth to children who bear odd marks hinting at their sea-blood heritage.

Lost Love: Alternatively, the magic-user may use this spell to abuse the heart of a lovestruck victim, inflicting them with a glamour of great potency. This usage of the spell requires the heart of the object of the victim’s love, removed from the body, whether living or dead. The heart must be thrown into the waves of the sea as the spell is cast. The victim is inflicted with the delusion that their love has gone across the seas and will do whatever is in their power to follow. The charm will thus drive the victim to a life of futile wandering and searching, forever yearning after their lost love.

In both cases, a successful saving throw versus spells negates the enchantment.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

From the Vats: Design a Monster Contest

The time has come. The vat-grown must be unleashed. Only YOU can decide the fate which awaits an unsuspecting world. With two dice, a pencil, and an eraser... no, wait, wrong blurb.

What I'm after:

  • The weirdest freaks of nature you can dream up in your vivimantic laboratory.
  • Statted up for Labyrinth Lord.
  • Ready and willing to meet the world in the form of an Open Game Content free publication to be entitled "From the Vats".
For your inspiration and reference:
I said this was a contest, what are the prizes?
  • A print copy of Theorems & Thaumaturgy. (Or negotiably something else if you already have that.)
  • A print copy of the first issue of my forthcoming zine, "Wizardzine!".
  • A special tome of spells, created by me on a topic of your choosing. (This could be fun!) It might be all funky and hand illustrated or something like that.
The winner to be decided by a means of my own choosing. Most likely purely aesthetic preference.

Get em in by the end of July and I shall compile and judge. (Contact details in the right-hand sidebar of the blog.)

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Wizardzine! #1: Progress

As recently announced, I've started work on the inaugural issue of my zine about magic and magicians in D&D.

The theme I've chosen for this issue is sub-aquatic and oceanic magic. So far I've been working on writing new spells but I also have a lot of ideas for magic items and monsters, so there should be a pretty nice mix of different stuff in this first issue!

Currently I have full write-ups of the following spells:
  1. Boiling sphere
  2. Call to the deeps
  3. Castaway
  4. Conjure land
  5. Control buoyancy
  6. Dive
  7. Ghost ship
  8. Ice sphere
  9. Locate land
  10. Raise island
  11. Raise wreck
  12. Shockwave
  13. Swarm transformation, aquatic
  14. Tidings
  15. Whale speech
I must have seeds for at least that number of spells again, so I guess we should be looking at over 30 new spells in this issue.

If you've ever thought of running a campaign based around sea travel or underwater adventuring, this will be the zine for you!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Tentatively Announcing: Wizardzine!

I mentioned very briefly on google+ the other day the fact that I had created a document entitled Wizardzine. The name was a joke / placeholder, but I've not thought of anything better and I kind of like the goofiness of it, so I get the feeling it's going to stick.

Anyway, my document has just exploded into a load of seeds of ideas, so I think it's time for a very tentative announcement of intention.

(perhaps the exclamation mark is officially part of the title?)

A periodically produced conglomeration of my musings on the subject of wizards and magic in D&D. Featuring stuff like:
  • New spells (naturally). Loads of them.
  • New magic items.
  • Wizardly companions, constructs, minions, and beings from beyond. (Monsters, to you and me.)
  • Magicians and their lairs. (That is, adventure locales.)
  • Esoteric tomes, procedures, formulae.
  • Miscellaneous articles on subjects arcane.
  • House rules for magic-users and spell-casting.
Heavily themed. Each issue will revolve around a very specific topic.

Illustrated? Somehow. I don't know yet. Maybe, maybe I'll bust out my felt tips and give it a go myself, in true zine style.

Who knows when this will come to fruition. I could foresee a first issue in the not too distant future, however, given the explosion of ideas that just happened in my little document. It might be a one-off if I run out of steam, it might be a multi-volume wonder in several years time. We'll have to wait and see.

I'll keep you posted.

ps. I also have news on the community-sourced vivimancer supplement From the Vats. An announcement about that will be coming soon...

Thursday, 19 June 2014

New Class: The Specialist Wizard

Of the wizards who walk the world there are many kinds, with as many titles, ranks, offices, and stations as there are lands. For the sake of simplicity, many of these workers of the arcane are lumped together under the term "magic-user". These are the boldest and least bookish of their kind -- those whose fascination lies in the mysteries of the wider world and the direct application of magickal workings in the diverse situations which it presents. (There are, in fact, those who would argue that the very title commonly afforded to adventuring wizards -- "magic-users" -- is indicative of their somewhat workmanlike and utilitarian attitude to magic, favouring that which may expediate the accumulation of coin in their pouch as opposed to that which may deepen their understanding of the arcane.)

Wizards of more narrow focus also gather into schools and colleges: necromancers, illusionists, vivimancers, elementalists, conjurers, and so forth. These wizards specialize in just one of the many "schools" or domains of magic, thus developing a deeper and broader repertoire within that domain.

There also exist those spell-casters of devoted and obsessive bent who focus their study on uncovering the arcane secrets of a single particular and very specific aspect of reality. Such spell-casters are so isolated in their research that they seldom have any direct peers. As their domains of interest are so idiosyncratic, it is most convenient to refer to such wizards collectively as "specialist wizards". (Of course, in reality, their specializations bear no relation to each other.)

The following game rules may be used for such characters. (Note that the player of a specialist wizard character will almost certainly be required to engage in the creation of new spells. This is a fun, creative, but rather involved process, and this class is thus only recommended for players who enjoy this activity.)

The Specialist Wizard

Requirements: INT 9
Prime Requisite: INT
Maximum Level: None

Focusing on the secrets of one specific and very limited area of magic, specialist wizards are the obsessives, iconoclasts, and trail-blazers of the arcane world. Their devotion to a single field of study makes them very narrowly focused, thus greatly reducing the breadth of available spells. On the other hand, such dedication allows them to delve more deeply and more quickly into the mysteries of magic, unlocking potent secrets which can be used to create unique new spells, magic items, and more.

When creating a specialist wizard character, the player must select his area of specialization. Once selected, this may never be changed. Some example areas of specialization: birds, fire, geometry, blades, rope, rainbows, bone, dreams, mirth.

Combat: Like other magic-users, specialist wizards may only use small weapons such as daggers and may not wear armour of any kind. Their hit points, saving throws, and chance to hit in combat advance at the same rate as other magic-users.

Experience: Similarly, a specialist wizard advances using the standard experience and spell memorization tables common to other magic-users. A specialist wizard memorizes and casts spells as if he were one level higher than his actual experience level.

Demi-humans: Most specialist wizards are humans. Elves may advance to 11th level in the class, and half-elves to 13th level. The referee may allow characters of other races (even those races which are not normally allowed to be magic-users) to become specialist wizards, so long as a suitable area of specialization is chosen. For example, a dwarf might choose to specialize in the magic of the forge.

Initial spells: At 1st level, a specialist wizard has three spells in his spell book: read magic and two other spells relating to his area of specialization. The latter may be drawn from any available reference materials or may be created by the player in collaboration with the referee.

Spell acquisition: Specialist wizards may transcribe any spells which they discover over the course of their adventures into their spell book, as usual. However, with their extremely narrow focus, the likelihood of locating suitable spells by pure happenstance is low. Of course, a specialist wizard may purposefully embark on adventures to seek out magic of interest, but their own personal research also bears fruit from time to time. Every time a specialist wizard advances in level, he has the option to research a brand new spell of his own devising. This process takes one month (during which time the character may not go adventuring) but entails no further costs. Otherwise, the usual rules for spell research apply.

Marks of magic: The specialist wizard, in the course of his studies, immerses himself continuously in the magical energies related to his area of specialization. At every even-numbered level (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc) this contact has a permanent effect on the wizard. The broad type of effect is determined by rolling 1d4 (see below). The specifics should be worked out by the referee and should always be connected to the wizard's area of specialization. Marks of magic are typically neither detrimental nor beneficial to the wizard -- they merely distinguish him as being touched by strange forces.

1. Personality quirk. These quirks often bring the wizard towards the verge of what normal folk would regard as insanity.
2. Alteration of physical form. This could include changes to posture, gait, skin, hair, eyes, bone structure, and so on.
3. Magical aura. The wizard is continually surrounded by a very minor but noticeable manifestation of magic.
4. An item of clothing or a possession which is often on the wizard's person takes on an unusual quality or appearance.

Establish dominion: Upon reaching 5th level, a specialist wizard may construct a tower or base. The lands around the base become the wizard's dominion. (Exactly what area is considered as the wizard's dominion must be determined by the referee, bearing in mind the political and geographical features of the area.)

Spell research: From 5th level, using the laboratories and libraries of their towers, specialist wizards may research new spells using the normal rules; entailing the expenditure of time and money. All spells researched must, it is clear, be related to the wizard's area of specialization.

Apprentices: When a specialist wizard reaches 6th level, 1d4 1st level wizards will arrive in his dominion seeking an apprenticeship. These will be standard magic-users, but if the wizard accepts them as his apprentices, they will become specialist wizards with the same area of specialization as their master.

Magic item creation: From 8th level, specialist wizards may put the facilities of their towers to work in processes of magic item creation, using the standard rules. Specialist wizards can only create items related to their area of specialization.

Dominion enchantments: At 11th level or greater, a specialist wizard is able to research large-scale dweomers which enchant his tower and the surrounding lands with aspects of his specialist area of magic. The process for magic item research should be used.