Magic & the Supernatural (Merika Supplement

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Some Notes on the Why

In 3rd and 3.5 I had added a quite a bit of fluff based errata to some of the spells that break portions of the game I enjoy. I took some of my cue from the very excellent Iron Kingdoms setting and added others from my own imagination and bits of fluff I like here and there.

Some of the things I hated were game breaking teleports and divinations, as well as death not feeling like a big deal. Rather than removing them entirely from the PC's toolbox I decided to tweak them a bit. Each of these things are available at a cost. This also enforces the "magic is dangerous and unpredictable" theme of the setting. Now, on with the show.


The Nature of the Unnatural[edit]

Magic in the world plays by its own sets of rules, but these rules are constantly changing. It is not a natural force, it came from another reality removed from the one men call home. It's like an addition, added after the fact. It shows in how it defies man's attempts to codify and apply rules to it. It is anathema to science not because it opposes technology, but because the laws that govern all other things and forces cannot be applied to it. It is inconsistent. Experiments fail because there can be no control group.

Despite all of these things man and the other thinking races have been able to harness it. They make use of magic, but they do not master it (anyone who claims to be a master of magic is a fool). How they go about doing this is different based on the traditions a caster chooses to follow.


Wizards

Of all the magical traditions, wizards approach the force most like scientists. They keep books of magical formulae and approach the craft with an ordered and disciplined mind. However, a wizard will be the first to tell you that his formula are imprecise at best, and total garbage at worst.

The purpose of a wizard's study is to focus his own mind and prepare him for what magic is likely to do, not predict the outcome. He studies to learn about himself and discipline his mind so that he is always ready to think on his feet and react to what the craft wills. His skill comes from sharp intellect and instinct. He weaves his spells in a methodical and predictable manner, but in the minutiae he is as much an artist as any other.

Many wizards argue that they are the only true practitioners of the craft, that others beg, borrow, and steal to posses what they have rightfully taken themselves through sheer brilliance and discipline.

If you are a wizard you are...

  • ...not a young man. Wizards begin play at 2d6+33 years of age. This number assumes you are the exception, a true prodigy. Most wizards do not learn the basics of their craft until they have a head full of grey hair. After you have learned the fundamentals, you may progress very quickly, but it takes years to master the first spell.
  • ...have received a formal education, and it wasn't cheap. There is no such thing as a self taught wizard. Most learn from a single master. A rare few are taught in one of the very prestigious schools of wizardry that exist in the Pale's underworld. This education was not cheap, after proving you were brilliant, you had to prove you had the coin to pay for the privilege of learning the craft or you became an indentured servant to your teacher, pledging years of service in return for tutelage. Maybe you still owe some coin (or years) for your education.
  • ...are generally respected and even feared for your dedication to learning and the wisdom you posses about the nature of the arcane. Commoners might be afraid to disturb you, but if your craft is known you will be the first they come to for help with the supernatural.


Sorcerers

Known as Witches and Warlocks to most, those that follow this tradition approach the craft much differently than wizards. Where a mage reacts to the unpredictable nature of magic with a keen mind and steady hand, weaving a spell neatly and with skill, a sorcerer begs, bargains, wheedles, and threatens magic into doing his will.

For a sorcerer it's all about the pact. They forge the pact and learn their power from beings who belong to magic, and they give a bit of themselves over to it in the process. A sorcerer's path to power is often much faster that that of a wizard (though it requires no less skill in its own way) but it comes at a cost. As their power grows they bargain away little bits of themselves, a fact that shows in their flesh as they perfect their art.

Many sorcerers argue that they are the only true practitioners of the craft because they give up bit of themselves in return for the power, they sacrifice to make the power a part of them - not an outside force.

All sorcerers have a bloodline. However in the Merika Campaign Setting these bloodlines are not indicative of an ancient ancestor, but instead represent the nature of your patron and the physical (and spiritual) changes you undergo as part of the pact.

If you are a sorcerer you...

  • ...have a patron. Some entity acts as a conduit through which you gain your power. As to how you gained this patron, there are as many ways as there are names of forgotten gods and spirits in the annals of mythology. This entity did not give you this power for free. You bargained for it, and are still bargaining for it. Whether you admit it to yourself or not, you are no longer your own master. This being owns a small bit of you just as you now posses your magical powers. There may come a time that your patron asks something of you. You may bargain with it when it does (it would expect nothing less) but you may not refuse.
  • ...are feared because of what you did to gain your power. Many normal folks may not understand the difference between wizards and sorcerers, but for those that do they recognize in you an individual that would do anything to achieve your goals. Some respect you for this, others realize that slitting their throat in bed is likely a far easier path than bargaining with devils if it would further your goals.


Clerics

Those that follow this tradition would argue that they do not even practice the craft, that tapping into the divine is far different that weaving the arcane. The fact remains, however, that the things they can do are fantastic, and in ways very similar to what a wizard or warlock is capable of.

In a way the Ecclesiarchs of the Divine split the difference between wizards and warlocks. They invoke the names of their patrons during their prayers, and something responds to them, but they must also spend time studying their religious texts before they are ready to call upon the Divine's might. Their magic is about belief. They hone the ability to believe in the truth of what they can do, and somehow they can do it. They believe in the power of their patron and in their own personal divinity and this belief grants them their power.

Many clerics would argue that they are the only true practitioners of the craft because they are the only ones who commune with the Divine. Warlocks make deals with lesser beings, and wizards ignore the Divine in favor of their own vanity.

If you are a cleric you...

  • ...are likely to be shown great respect by the faithful. You are the intermediary between the common man and the Divine's will. The Divine is unknowable, and you must interpret the signs and events they see in daily life so they can find meaning with their lives.
  • ...are part of a hierarchy. You have superiors and maybe even subordinates. The Church of Man is wide reaching and powerful organization that wields influence that does not stop at national borders. You may be given a wide degree of autonomy, but that does not mean that you can avoid your duty to the faithful or your superiors forever. If you are called you must answer it.


Druids

Those that follow this tradition practice their craft in a way that is similar to both wizards and sorcerers. They tap into a raw and primal magic that has taken root in the natural world, and bargain with spirits and entities that were never human and they do it through incantations and formula that have been passed down for centuries. Only the witches of the Brunwin practice this sort of magic with any frequency, and it is from that cold northern land that all of the true practitioners spring.

There is no religion based around these traditions as in other settings. There are no druidic gods to anger and no anthropomorphic version of nature to appease. One must simply attune one's self to the wild spirits of the world, make the proper offerings, follow the formulas, and speak the incantations.

Much like wizards there are no self taught druids. One must apprentice one's self to a master of the art and learn the ancient traditions and formulas to harness the magic of fire and rain and how to invite the spirits of wild things into your body to take their form. The act of shape-shifting is a form of controlled possession, and it is dangerous. Not all Druids survive their first change.

Few druids would bother to argue that their craft is the only true craft as they hold that to be self evident in their mastery of the wind and rain and their ability to walk in the skin of all the natural creatures of the world.

If you are a druid you...

  • ...are likely to be feared by those that do not know you or are not of your tribe.
  • ...at home in the wild places of the world because you magic is drawn from them. You are at your strongest in the wilderness and need no trappings of civilization to protect you.
  • ...are likely to be part of a circle or apprenticed to one greater than yourself.
  • ...held in much esteem amongst the wild men of the Brunwin (though still feared).


Others

It is likely that there are hundreds of different disciplines for making use of the magics that suffuse the world. Some of these disciplines are organized, others are self taught. I'll address the other disciplines as I see the treatments that WotC gives the various caster classes in 4E.

Death & Resurrection[edit]

Coming back from the dead is not as simple as finding a cleric and casting the spell. It's not a common practice. There is always a cost associated in toying with the natural order to the extent that is required to restore true life and animation back to the deceased, but there are always individuals willing to pay those costs.

When a sentient creature dies his soul separates it's self from the animus and the corporeal body and finds itself in the Shadowfell for a time. Usually the soul wanders here for a time until it gains its bearings and makes its way slowly towards the home of the gods, fades away, or is taken by those with a lien on it's soul depending upon their beliefs and actions in life. It is during this time in the shadowfell that the soul can potentially be called back to the body.

In Herregor there are three main ways to restore life to the dead, and both require the intervention of a skilled individual, one method requires a cleric, another a skilled conjurer, and the other a necromancer. Which method one chooses to explore depends much upon what they wish to see come from the deed as all have unique costs associated with them.

Resurrection and True Resurrection do not exist. Instead, these three following spells take their place:


The Risen Martyr

Conjuration (Healing)

Level: Clr 7

Components: V, S, M, DF

Casting Time: 1 minute

Range: Touch

Target: Dead creature touched

Duration: Instantaneous

Saving Throw: None; see text

Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

With the will of the Divine you restore life to a deceased creature who has left his destiny unfinished. You can raise a creature that has been dead for no longer than one day per caster or character level (whichever is higher). If the destiny of the slain creature, and their will to see it done, is great enough the subject may have been dead for nearly any length of time (DM discretion). In addition, the subject’s soul must be free and still lingering within the Shadowfell. If the subject’s soul is not willing to return he is entitled to a saving throw to resist. A subject that wants to return receives no saving throw.

A raised creature has a number of hit points equal to its current Hit Dice. Any ability scores damaged to 0 are raised to 1. Normal poison and normal disease are cured in the process of raising the subject, but magical diseases and curses are not undone. While the spell closes mortal wounds and repairs lethal damage of most kinds, the body of the creature to be raised must be whole. Otherwise, missing parts are still missing when the creature is brought back to life. None of the dead creature’s equipment or possessions are affected in any way by this spell.

This resurrection is typically of a temporary nature. The God of Man allows an individual to return to life to complete their destiny, then fate turns against them to call them home. No one escapes their fate forever.

Constructs, elementals, and outsiders can’t be raised. The spell cannot bring back a creature that has died of old age.

Material Component: An emerald, opal, and ruby doused in the blood of a dove slain for this purpose.


Bargaining For Life

Conjuration (Summoning)

Level: Wiz (Conjurer) 7

Components: V, S, M

Casting Time: 6 hours

Range: 10'

Target: 1 Dead creature

Duration: Instantaneous

Saving Throw: None; see text

Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

A skilled Warlock may defy death by calling upon one of the many entities that dwell within the Dim and sending it to retrieve the spirit of a slain creature and return it to the corporeal body.

The Conjurer begins by drawing a protective circle upon the ground and marking the body with runes of forbiddance and protection to prevent unwanted spirits from following the conduit opened and taking root in the prepared corpse. He then lights the incense and makes an offering of his own blood and life essence to secure the attention of one of the entities of the Shadowfell. The subject’s soul must be free and still lingering within the Shadowfell. If the subject’s soul is not willing to return he is entitled to a saving throw to resist. A subject that wants to return receives no saving throw.

After securing the spirit of the deceased, the entity begins the bargain. The caster may bargain on behalf of the deceased, or he may name another individual as the one who will do the bargaining. The entity who retrieves the spirit expects payment in some form. The nature of the entity is up to the DM but is typically an ancient deceased spirit of a once living being, though it can sometimes be an undead creature of some sort, or even an infernal creature drawn out of the Nether. Typically it will request:

  • A portion of living memory (represented by a character level lost by the either the deceased character or the one doing the bargaining).
  • A measure of prowess (represented by 2 points drained permanently and irrevocably from an important ability score of the deceased character or the one doing the bargaining).
  • A favor owed. This depends on the entity doing the bargaining. A spirit might ask for an unfinished task to be completed so it may find peace, an undead creature might want passage back into the world, and an infernal being could want all manner of things. Sometimes the entity may not even specify what it wants, instead asking for payment of a request in the future. In any case if the bargain is not upheld by the raised character then the arrangement becomes null and void, and the spirit of the formerly deceased character is drawn back into the Shadowfell.

A raised creature has a number of hit points equal to its current Hit Dice. Any ability scores damaged to 0 are raised to 1. Normal poison and normal disease are cured in the process of raising the subject, but magical diseases and curses are not undone. While the spell closes mortal wounds and repairs lethal damage of most kinds, the body of the creature to be raised must be whole. Otherwise, missing parts are still missing when the creature is brought back to life. None of the dead creature’s equipment or possessions are affected in any way by this spell.

Constructs, elementals, and outsiders can’t be raised. The spell cannot bring back a creature that has died of old age.

Material Component: Special inks, incense worth 2500g, and an offering of blood (deals 1d4 con damage to the caster).


Binding the Spirit Departed

Necromancy (Evil)

Level: Wiz (Necromancer) 7

Components: V, S, M

Casting Time: 1 Hour

Range: Touch

Target: Dead creature touched

Duration: Instantaneous

Saving Throw: None

Spell Resistance: Yes

A skilled Necromancer may bind the soul of a creature back to its body. First the body must be manually cleaned, repaired, and preserved. This process can take several hours. After the body is prepared the Necromancer then energizes the animus with negative energy to restore motion to the corpse. As this stage is completed the Necromancer binds the departed soul back into the body to restore the mind and soul of the departed. The subject’s soul must be free and still lingering within the Dim. The subject has no choice but to return and is not entitled to a saving throw.

A raised creature gains the Risen template. The creature awakens with full hit points and fully restored abilities (if they had been damaged) and gains 1 point of taint.

The body of the raised creature need not be whole. A Necromancer may substitute portions of other recently dead creatures of similar size and build to complete the corpse, but at least 51% of the body must belong to the creature raised. When complete the forms meld smoothly with the risen form, but retain their appearance, possibly lending a strange and monstrous appearance to the Risen.

Constructs, elementals, and outsiders can’t be raised. The spell cannot bring back a creature that has died of old age.

Material Component: Special herbs, thread, chemicals, and a shard of black onyx worth 3000g.

The Magic of Good & Evil[edit]

The Magic of Good

All Good spells are assumed to tap into some sort of beatific source that causes them to behave slightly differently than most magics. A caster must maintain a measure of spiritual purity and faith to successfully channel the magic.

  • To cast a good spell, an unaligned caster may not have any points of taint. If he is tainted the magic refuses to do his bidding.
  • A good aligned caster may attempt to channel a good spell while carrying taint, however the beatific energies react violently to the corruption. The caster must succeed on a will save with a DC of 10 + the spell level or take 1d6 damage per point of taint, +1 point per spell level. In addition, if damage is taken, the Good energies of the spell have a 1 in 10 chance to burn 1 point of taint out of the caster's system.


The Magic of Evil

Anyone may make use of Evil spells, but they carry a risk. Any spell with the Evil type cast forces the caster to make a will save with a DC of 10 + the spell level or gain one point of taint. Evil casters are immune to this risk (and are effectively assumed to be thoroughly tainted).

Divination, Transportation, & Summoning[edit]

Divination spells and transportation spells are both tied very strongly to the worlds beyond the Barrier, specifically the Nether. The majority of Divination magics work by tapping into knowledge of entities in the Nether, and all magics that transport casters and items from one place to another, actually pass through the Nether to arrive at their destination. Such things are never undertaken lightly.


Divinations

All but the simplest magics associated with the Divination school has a real risk associated with it. When casting a spell, the caster is actually contacting and communing with being native to the Nether. These creatures are usually dangerous, and often have their own agendas. The natures of the magic actually forge a form of contract between the caster and the contacted entity that negotiate an exchange of information, and the nature of the denizens of the Nether also inject a bit of unreliability into the transaction.

In game terms their are two risks to using certain Divination spells.

  • There is always a 1 in 20 chance that any information gleaned is simply wrong. The entity may be lying because it cannot answer the questions posed or simply does not know the answer. This check should be made secretly by the DM, and the results should not be communicated to the player.
  • Something many individuals do not know is that each act of Divination is a two way exchange of information. The entity learns something about the caster at the same time that the caster learns what it wishes to know. This happens without the caster's knowledge and the caster is not privy to what the entity learns. The exact game effects of this are up to the DM, but the effects are cumulative with too many Divinations cast too often.

A list of spells subject to this follows. Due to the numerous supplements available this is by no means comprehensive. The DM should evaluate other spells and determine if their is a risk associated with them. In general divination magics that expand the mundane senses or create limited ability to detect certain things do not carry the risk, but spells that are in a question and answer format, or that produce information wholly from nothing usually do.

1 - Comprehend Languages, Identify

2 - Augury, Locate Object

4 - Discern Lies, Divination, Locate Creature, Scrying

5 - Commune, Contact Other Plane

6 - Analyze Dweomer, Find the Path, Legend Lore

7 - Greater Scrying, Vision

8 - Discern Location


Transportation Magic

All transportation magic relies upon the use of the Outer Dark to get "from here to there" and carries a risk. Every time a caster uses magic to open gates, teleport, or otherwise transport something or someone "through the Nether" they have a 1 in 20 chance to "attract unwanted attention". Persistent effects (such as Ethereal Jaunt) make this check each round.

The DM should make this check in private and it may not be readily apparent that something bad has happened. The exact effects are up to the DM, but could include carrying something back through with the character, spiritual possession, or simply attracting the attention of an interested infernal entity.


Summoning Magic

All monster summoning spells likewise make use of the Outer Dark. Creatures summoned are always of the fiendish variety (you can replace the celestial templates with fiendish on those indicated as such) and their appearance is alien and terrible.

The magic of the binding forces the creatures to obey the caster for the duration of the spell but at the conclusion of the duration, if the creature is still alive, the caster must succeed on an opposed Will save versus the creature to force it back through the Nether. If the Creature wins the save the command is broken and it is free to remain in the World to do as it wishes.

If the caster or his companions turn on and attack the summoned creature before the duration of the spell ends the bargain is broken and the creature is free to act and remain in the world just as if it had won the opposed Will save.



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