Magik (Valshock Setting)
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The Magik of Valshock is very different from a normal setting. For example, where in normal D&D a 5th level mage can cast 3rd level spells, a Valshock Magi can cast 5th Circle spells as a 5th level Magi.
In Valshock, Magik is more of a scientific study than an all powerful ability granted to some or used after gaining vast amounts of knowledge, granted it still has those elements, but Valshock's Magik is indeed different. Instead of leveled spells for mages, the world of valshock classifies them as Circles spells. The reason for this is because spells are categorized into a circle and used by Magi within that circle of skill level. Also, Magik is a much more dangerous and powerful force in Valshock, as it can rip open rifts between the Prime Material plane and either the plane of Magik or the Plain of the Void. Either would be catastrophic. This is why a Magi would not use a spell in a higher leveled circle because if he did, he risks scaring the land and creating a cascade of catastrophic events.
New rules for Magik
Random Ideas for the moment:
Leveled spellcasting is different. Instead of a 1st level Mage, it would now be called a mage of the 1st circle. A Magi can study different circles (Thereby gaining higher level spells and effectively gaining character levels too.) The Circle level is always the same as the character level. A level 20 Magi would be a Magi of the 20th circle. Magik is also now more specific. Magi must choose a specialization and is restricted to that school of magic specifically and is allowed to deviate into 2 other schools of magik afterwards. This is to create a safe environment and to avoid a breach. (Some classes are not restricted to this rule such as Witches and Warlocks)Schools of magik can almost contain anything. Most schools of magik are classified as a "mancy" or mastery of a school of magic. For example; Necromancy is the mastery of death, where as pyromancy is the mastery over fire. The same can be said for just about everything.
Instead of spell slots, perhaps using a "Cast Magik" roll would be better when casting spells?
Introduction to the idea of Magik
Lets imagine a world in which magik is not an in-born talent but rather a law of the land. It is sort of their version of quantum physics. In our world we have the uncertainty principle which tells us that by merely observing a particle we are actively collapsing it’s wave function and catalyzing one of many possible outcomes. In the world of Valshcok the very fabric of space-time continuum is mutable. It can be bent, twisted and reshaped by a sentient observer by the sheer force of will. This shaping requires intense focus, and effort but it is a skill that can be learned by anyone.
There exist sacred patterns which when held in one's mind focus the will in a way that allows manipulating the reality. These are usually ovals, helixes, and various abstract symbols. Their configuration in 3D space and the way they intersect allows a magic user to cause specific effects. These abstract, three dimensional patterns are known as spells.
To cast a spell, one constructs the shape and symbols in one's mind and then wills it into existence. This causes the reality to wrap, but also sears the pattern into the fabric of time-space continuum leaving a temporary afterimage that can be “seen” (or rather felt) by those trained to detect it for hours and sometimes days afterwards.
Sometimes, it is possible for an over-eager magic user to use too much force and actually rip the fabric of reality creating a breach to the chaotic, unexplored and impossible to understand planes that lie beyond the physical plane. A breach created by a spell creates a gateway to the realm of magik and it is understood by most magik users that a breach is never a good thing. A rip in the fabric of reality will usually emanate strange energies that warp and corrupt everything around and can become a gateway for eldritch creatures of unspeakable horror.
The Orders and "classes" of the Magikal Arts.
Magic is accessible to anyone, but the Ruzari Orden of High Magik is considered the world-wide authority on the subject. Ruzari is the most ancient city of the world – founded at the dawn of time, it has survived and outlived throughout all the ages. The White Towers of Ruzari are the home to the Great Library which contains the biggest and most complete collection of writings on all things magikal.
Ruzarians have been studying magik for many ages, and developed what is considered to be the most elegant, safest and most efficient way of doing magik. Their spells are minimalistic, elegant, easy to remember, regular and guaranteed not to cause a breach. Through intense study and trial and error they have discovered that some magikal patterns are more potent than the others. For example, there many ways of producing energy that is to be used by the spell to cause a specific effect, but there are only about seven that Ruzarian Magi think are worth bothering with because of efficiency and stability.
The Ruzarian Orden is always at the forefront of the magical research. They always seek to innovate, optimize, stabilize and simplify ancient spells. While the bulk of the research is done at the Great Library in the heart of Ruzari. The orden has built a network of libraries and research outposts throughout the world. Most major cities in the world have their own White Towers district, complete with a library and magical portals leading back to Ruzari and their teaching facilities.
The Orden is open and anyone can join and learn the Ruzarian High Magic. However, before you join the orden you must swear “The Oath”. All members of the order are bound by it, and breaking it is punished by death. The full text of the oath is too long to include here, but the three most important rules by which each Mage must abide by are:
A Magi swears to never willingly cause a breach in order to exploit the eldritch powers from the planes beyond. If casting a spell causes a breach by accident, a Magi agrees to submit himself to a tribunal of his peers which will determine whether or not his life is worth sparing, and if punishment lesser than death can be levied upon him. A Magi swears not to extend anyone’s lifespan by the use of magic (especially one’s own). Ruzarianss believe that nothing good can come out of immortality. This rule has kept the Orden vital, and agile for many centuries now. Without immortal arch-magi at the helm, there is a high turnaround and lots of new ideas and new points of view which is great for research. It also makes the Orden appear humble, reasonable and responsible to outsiders which is very important for public relations. There is however unspoken agreement that Magi can keep themselves healthy and heal old age-related ailments. As long as a Magi ages outwardly at a normal pace and leaves the order at an acceptable age (so, around 90-100 years old for humans) they won’t be punished. Magi found “cheating” are usually given slap on the wrist, unless their infraction is very jarring and becomes a public controversy. Finally, all Magi must swear never to power their spells via life force of living things. While living things are marvelous power-plants of coiled potential energy that could be pumped into a spell at a moment's notice, the practice of tapping or siphoning this energy is forbidden. The orden is very strict about this, and this rule doesn’t just cover sentient beings but all living things – including plants. The orden is very academically oriented. Ruzarian Magi prefer not to involve themselves in wars or political struggles. Their aims are to study, improve and teach magik. The most prominent members of the order are not necessarily powerful and skilled spell casters but diligent researchers who have discovered new magikal paradigms or have proved old paradigms to be wrong or inefficient.
There however exists a militant branch within the orden known only as Breach. This secretive sub-order attracts the less academic and more martial oriented magi. The official purpose of Breach is to find magikal breaches, close them and banish anything that might have crossed over to the physical world. They also usually are tasked with capturing, and punishing those responsible for causing the breach and enforcing The Oath within the ranks of the order.
While on duty, Breach Magi wear deep purple robes, and carry black wooden magi staffs which are both considered symbols of their status and authority. They are rarely seen in public like that, since most revert to the traditional muted white, blue, gray or pastel robes for their day-to-day activities. When on a mission they are said to be efficient, ruthless and disciplined fighting force. Their favorite tactic is to teleport in as a group, surrounding their target, and teleport back out mere seconds later leaving no trace at the scene.
Ruzarian Magi are more academically interested in study and not actual practice, therefore they would prefer to create theories rather than actually practice magik
Not everyone has what it takes to become a Ruzarian Magi. Some regions of the world simply do not have access to their teachings. Some people are also not very keen on swearing an oath of allegiance to an ancient, world-wide society in order to learn a few spells. Ruzari is not the only place in the world where magik has been studied, and many of the ancient tomes in the Great Library were not written by members of the Ruzari Orden but rather by outsiders. There are many ways to learn to cast spells, and there have been many great spell casters who have published magical research outside of the Orden. Magic users who are not members of the Orden and have not been formally trained in High Magik are commonly called Wizards.
There are, actually, many different types of Wizards. The most stereotypical example is what Magi refer to is a Hedge Wizard: an individual who is either self taught, or studied as an apprentice under another practitioner of this craft. Hedge Wizards usually hail from small villages or rural regions and have limited grasp on magikal theory. They are proficient at casting the few spells they do know but their technique and form leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of them incorporate occult rituals into their spell casting, and practice live sacrifice to power their spells. Others use sloppy, unstable patterns that have been known to cause breaches or have warping effects on reality.
Battle wizards are Hedge Wizards who specialize in martial magic and warfare. They usually only know few reliable spells, but make up for their lack of power by considerable hand-to-hand fighting skills, and military experience. They are common sight at battlefields or in mercenary groups where they may specialize as healers, or offensive ranged damage dealers.
Of course there also exist more organized groups of Wizards. For example The Imperial School of Wizardry is the center of magikal research at the Danarium Imperium from which the Orden was banished two centuries ago. Danarium Wizards are just as organized and rigorous in their study as the Orden itself, and while they lack their resources and long history they are also not bound by the self-imposed limitations of the Oath. Imperial Wizards frequently experiment with things like and life-force tapping, siphoning, spirit binding and life extension. They forbid breaching on principle, but they do not consider it an offense punishable by death.
Because of this, a lot of their spells are much more powerful, but also much more unstable. Magi consider a lot of what they do unethical, but Danarium emperors fully endorse and fund their research. Especially since their magik have given the Danarium rulers the gift of near immortality (but not yet of eternal youth).
A lot of Danarium magik is built around a lot of the Ruzarian principles and paradigms, but characterized by certain sloppiness. Part of it is that the School has only been around for two centuries and while it accomplished a lot in such a short time, it has neither the resources nor the long view of The Orden. Since Ruzarian Magi keep the latest research to themselves, the Wizards often base their studies on ancient texts that have been recently debunked and phased out of use at the White Towers. Finally, while Ruzarian Magi always strive for perfect balance between power, stability, elegance and efficiency, Imperial Wizards tend to be focused on raw power and utility first and foremost. Their art is less academic and more down to earth, and grounded in needs and desires of the people. Some view it as a positive thing, while others as a terrible, built in flaw that will one day doom the Danarium empire.
Similarly to the Ruzarian Magi, the Imperial School has spread across the world, and their universities can be seen in many cities. Ironically, their admittance standards are usually much stricter than those of The Orden. They select only the candidates who show aptitude for magic or have existing experience, whereas Magi prefer complete novices who could be taught to cast magic “the right way”.
The Imperial School forbids destruction of sentient minds to power spells, and condone lethal use of magik only in self defense or during an armed conflict. They however do not police these rules internally, and rather defer to the local authorities when one of their members breaks them.
Danarium Wizards are famous for their pointy hats and very (some would say overly) ornate robes that are somewhat reminiscent of military uniforms. This is actually intentional and in Danaria it serves to reinforce and make obvious the School’s subservient relationship to the state.
There is one more prominent Wizard group worth mentioning. It is known only as The Council, and it functions as a loose, decentralized organization of independent magik practitioners. Despite the ominous sounding name and grandiose posturing by it’s members, the organization is very weak and unorganized compared to The Orden or The School. The Council has no central authority. Wizards who are members organize themselves into local cells or Conclaves, each having it’s own charter, membership rules and own libraries and teaching facilities. Neighboring Conclaves usually cooperate with each other, share resources and provide services for members, but it is not uncommon for them to have antagonistic rivalries as well.
There is a large group of magic users that believe that manipulating raw forces of magic is too dangerous. They are even more squeamish about causing breaches than Ruzarian Magi. Some call them The Zarzuun Wizards after the kingdom where they originated, but they themselves prefer to be known as The Enchanters.
Enchanters believe that the only correct way to manipulate the forces of magic is to bind it to physical objects. They view the long lasting spell-scars burned into time-space continuum after free casting as harmful. Their research indicates that each of those scars weakens the veil that separates this world from the hellish beyond, sometimes even creating micro-breaches that last fractions of a second releasing strange energies into this world. Because of this they eschew free-casting and instead they physically engrave the spell patterns on physical objects.
Instead of casting a spell instantly, an enchanter will spend hours, or even days slowly building it up on some object. This gives their spell unparalleled focus and lasting power that cannot be beat by free casting. What’s even better is that the bound items created by enchanters can be used by anyone. They require no special training and no skill to use. Their effects are immediate, long lasting and usually perfectly stable.
Because of this, their philosophy and teachings have spread from the sun swept valleys of Zarzuun and are currently conquering the entire known world.
Witches and Warlocks
Witches and Warlocks are almost always bad news. Why? Because unlike most other magik users, they don’t believe breaching should be avoided. Warlocks and Witches are very much interested in The Beyond – the realms that exists on the other side of what they call The Veil, which is the mystical boundary that separates the physical universe from the other realities. Most of them have at least basic understanding of these foreign realms and rules that govern them, and this understanding is frequently deeper than that of Magi or Wizards.
While witchcraft is neither as organized of a discipline as magik or wizardry, most practitioners agree that The Beyond is not a single realm but rather three other major realms and a gateway to different dimensions.
Witchcraft is an art of tunneling into these realms and using them as a tapping into the secrets of the Beyond. It gives the practitioners unmatched amount of power and potential, but also makes their spells volatile, unstable and unpredictable. There is a constant element of danger involved in threading this path as a slight mistake or lapse of focus can cause a spell to backfire, or open up a rift in the fabric of reality itself. Some magic users consider this a challenge worthy of pursuing, while others are just reckless.
A very common sight in their circles are animal familiars. Those are bound beasts whose life force they tap in order to kick-start their breaching spells. Since ripping the fabric of reality requires immense amounts of energy, conventional Ruzarian or Danarius methods are usually very inadequate. Witches love breaches so they use the coiled up potential energy produced by all living things to create short but powerful bursts of energy. This usually doesn’t kill the animal. A strong familiar can be used many times per day without harm.
The most common type of witchcraft is known as Channeling. It involves creating controlled breaches into the Maelstrom and using the strange energies and emanations of that realm to power ones spells or simply to use their reality wrapping properties as a weapon of destruction. Most Chanelers have little to no formal magical education and are almost completely ignorant of High Magic principles, or even the basic research done by Council Wizards. Most learn their craft via secret apprenticeship, much more rarely as member of a larger Coven.
There exist few places in the world where Witchcraft can be practiced openly. One of such places is the Great Kingdom of Ly'esh, where the art of channeling the powers of The Beyond is known as “invoking”. Ly'eshmian Invokers have a history almost as long as that of Ruzarian Magi. Their breadth an depth of experience in all things relating to the other realms is unparalleled. Even though they don’t see eye to eye with the Magi, they often work together with Breach to stitch up the rips in the fabric of reality.
Ly'eshmian Invokers mostly practice controlled breaching in order to tap into the reality altering power of another realm. They wield this power with incredible precision and grace. Watching them work an outside observer would never be able to tell their spells always hinge on a brink of total disaster. Their power is so immense, they are considered to be gifted divine powers and worshiped as holy people by the locals.
There are however some Witches and Warlocks some that are not content merely channeling the power the energy realm. Some are not as much after raw, transformative power but after the deepest secrets of the universe. Those witchcraft practitioners are known as Summoners and they specialize in luring eldritch monsters from the True Beyond into the physical realm, studying them and binding them to their will. These extra-dimensional beings are ageless, powerful and often all knowing but also very often turn out to be tricksters or deceivers. The path of summoner is therefore difficult, but some say it is worth the risk.
The most megalomaniac of the Summoners seek to attain god-like powers, immortality and omnipotence by wrestling the secrets of the universe from the demonic and divine inhabitants of The True Beyond. Sadly, most of them end up devoured or possessed by the abominations they themselves have summoned. Those who are careful and well prepared however can often bind unimaginable forces to their will. Many empires have risen or fallen because of a work of an single summoner.
As you can imagine, whenever a big summoning spell is being cast, purple robes of the Breach are almost always bound to show up. This is why summoners usually have large retinues of attendants (mostly lesser channels) and apprentices who can keep the Mages at bay until the spell is finished. These Covens are usually tightly knit brotherhoods/sisterhoods kept together by strong loyalties and familial ties.
There also exist Necromancers who are more interested in exploring the void rather than the True Beyond. Many of them simply seek to commune with the dead, or contact their ancestral spirits. Others use the unholy powers of the Spirit Realm to create armies of walking dead, by binding lesser animal spirits to bodies of cadavers.
Practicing necromancy is either illegal or frowned upon in most parts of the world, except in Orvasia in which it is sanctioned by the state. Orvasian Necrolite Priests are an ancient order that claims to have developed safe and practical life and youth extension magic that far extends the techniques used by Danarius Imperial Wizards. They also claim to bring the dead back to life, if they are brought to them within first few days since death, or return them to the world of the living in some form of undeath via spirit binding any time thereafter.
It is not uncommon sight in Orvasia to see an ancient warrior whose body deteriorated down to bare skeleton or a Necrolite Priest who is a walking husk. In fact Orvasia’s High King was born six hundred years ago, and since that time he died sixteen times, has been mummified and resurrected by the Priesthood after each incident.