Esoteric examples of magic

These examples all come from the world of Highland, where most campaigns I run take place. The actual mechanics are based only loosely on historical fact. The first two are vaguely related to the standard magic of Earth, which for purposes of discussion I’m saying are standard AD&D magic, although they could just as well be DragonQuest magic, depending on who I’m gaming with. These spell systems are based on verbal components, somatic components, and material components, although the Celtic wizard combines material components with the runic style.

Gypsy Magic

In the western and northern regions of Great Bend, the Gypsies are a mysterious group, often feared and hated. Tales among the rural people of that area show the gypsy wizards to have great power. Gypsy wizards are nearly exclusively male.

When ‘memorized,’ spells are stored in rings of power. The components and incantations are used when the spells are stored. Any somatic components (body movement) must be performed upon casting the spell from the ring. The time required to store a spell in a ring is the time that would be required to memorize it, and the wizard must be rested. Spells take the normal amount of time to cast from the ring. The spells fade from the ring between 18 hours and 48 hours after they were stored, depending on the quality of the ring and the gem in the ring. If a ring is not worn by the wizard who controls it, the spells fade in one quarter normal time. Wizards can wear one ring per finger, for a maximum of 8.

Wizards attempting to use rings of other Gypsy wizards must first ‘control’ the ring. They must make a saving throw vs. spells, at a penalty equal to the level of spells in the ring. If the save fails, the wizard takes d6 points damage, plus the level of spells in the ring, is stunned for that many segments, and one of the spells in the ring looses itself strangely upon the wizard. The wizard can continue to attempt to gain control as often as desired.

The rings must be enchanted before they can hold spells. Rings hold gems. It is the gem that stores the spell. The purer the color, the more spells the gem can hold. Each gem can only hold spells of one level, and each level has it’s own color. Normally, a first level Gypsy mage will have a ring that can hold two first level spells. The purest gems can hold 7 spells.

The ring itself is made of iron, and costs 50 gold pieces. The enchantment requires spell Level times 100 Gold Pieces of material components, and is itself a 3rd level spell. The gem costs spell level times the number of spells it can hold, squared, times 100, gold pieces. You should adjust the above costs to reflect the availability of money in your world. One full treasure horde should provide just about enough money to buy the wizard a 2-4 spell ring for his highest level spells. Of course, it’s unlikely that the rest of the party will forego their part of the treasure, so it will take a while before the wizard can save enough to buy a ring and its enchantment.

The wizard learns new spells by studying with other Gypsy wizards, and by researching the notes of past Gypsy wizards. The cost of this is comparable to buying a new spell for a standard wizard’s spell book.

The Gypsy wizard can cast spells even when silenced —the verbal portion of the spell has already been performed. He doesn’t need to carry components around. However, if the Gypsy wizard loses his rings, he cannot cast spells until he gets them back, or gets and enchants other rings. The spell of enchantment is carefully guarded by a small group of Gypsies, and this group controls who among the Gypsies become wizards (by controlling who gets rings enchanted, and by controlling who can get replacements).

Celtic Wizards

Rather than the normal components required for a spell, the Celtic wizard uses carved runes as components. The runes must have been carved at a specific event, and the event is different for each spell. The higher the spell level, the rarer the event. Rune carvings for first level spells, for example, must be carved during a specific lunar phase. Rune carvings for some fourth level spells, in contrast, can only be carved during one of the equinoxes. Rune carvings for wish, a ninth level spell, must be carved while a comet is in the daytime sky.

Once a rune carving is used, it is used up, burnt. These carvings are intricate, and take quite a while to make. First level spell runes only take a couple of hours, while ninth level runes may well take a couple of days.

Celtic wizards do not need special components. They do not have to worry about procuring the eye of a Beholder, or even the dung of a bat. However, they do need to keep careful track of time, and when it comes time to carve a rune for one or more of their spells, they must take time off and do so. Even first level spell carvings can only be made once a month.

Neogi Wizards

Neogi wizardry is based on tatoos. All Neogi have special tatoos. Neogi wizards also have spell tatoos. Each spell has a special tatoo. Instead of memorizing spells, the Neogi wizard must re-invest its tatoos. The technique of doing so is very similar to memorization, as described in the Players’ Handbook. However, a tatoo can only be invested with one incarnation of a spell. If a Neogi wishes to cast a particular spell more than once (akin to a normal wizard memorizing a spell a number of times), that Neogi must have another tatoo to invest.

Neogi wizardry does use spell components, but these components are used in the re-investment process, replenishing the magic in the tatoo. When casting, the Neogi recites the words of power (verbal component), while tracing out the spell’s tatoo. Once a spell is cast, that tatoo remains, but has lost its magic. It must be re-invested before the Neogi can again cast a spell from that tatoo. Only the Neogi who invested a tatoo can use that tatoo’s spell, and Neogi can only invest tatoos on their own body.

When a Neogi gets tatooed, the Neogi must research both the tatoo (or kill/capture a Neogi who already has the spell, and study them) and the means of creating the tatoo. Special inks and dyes must be used for each spell. Spell tatoos have a tendency to fade over time, making it impossible to re-invest them with spell power. Ten years (minus spell level) after a spell tatoo has been created, it starts losing power. Each month thereafter, the Neogi must spend an extra ten minutes when the spell is re-invested, to re-invest that tatoo. This occurs until the Neogi manages to restore the tatoo to full power, which consists, basically, of redoing the tatoo with fresh inks.

Neogi wizards do not need to carry spell books, although they will want to record the means of inking their tatoos. They do require free ‘hands’ in order to trace the tatoo, and must be able to recite the specific power words. Also, other Neogi wizards (and sages familiar with Neogi magic) can tell which spells a Neogi knows by reading the tatoos on the Neogi. Of course, they don’t know which spells the Neogi has actually memorized, and a few Neogi pretend to have more powerful spells than they can cast (or invest), by simply putting that tatoo on their body. Detecting Magic, however, will show which tatoos are invested and which are merely for show.

Magic from the Astrotech Rim

At the very edge of the known spheres lie the worlds of the Astrotech Rim. Smoke Powder is known to be especially effective within these spheres.

The magic of the Rim worlds has taken a decidedly sharp evolutionary turn away from the styles of magic that have developed on most other worlds. The excerpt from Tersian and the Vampire , at the beginning of this article, is the tail end of an Enchant a Weapon spell, enchanting a weapon so that it can hit undead creatures. Lower level spells require less involved contraptions. A Sleep spell, for example, requires only a large bellows, which is blown towards the targets.

This is not a very portable magic. While most ‘components’ (such as the bellows) are not used up in casting, they are quite heavy. Carrying around enough devices for 4 or 5 first level spells is impossible without a small cart. Devices for spells of level 2 require a large cart, and spells of higher level are simply not portable. A Fireball spell, for example, requires about 500 pounds of pipe and a small, 2 by 2 furnace. A Lightning Bolt requires large coils, gears, and a spinning armature. The total device weighs about 300 pounds.

Obviously, players are not going to be falling all over each other trying to make player character wizards of this type. However, this magic is nothing if not impressive. Remember the Time Travelling Train in Back to the Future, III? That’s what spells look like in the Astrotech Rim.