Do You Believe in the Ways of Magic?

Tersian stepped through the grey, metal door. The old wizard was stooped over a lead pipe, pounding rivets with a small hammer. Pipes spurted steam from their seams at regular intervals, and coils bent and expanded under the pressure of slowly turning flywheels.

The wizard looked up, and squinted to see through the steam and gloom.

“The young fighter,” he said, and his voice creaked with age. “You have the price?”

Tersian pulled the pack from his shoulder. From it he took a large red ruby, the size of a fist, and placed it on the table in front of him. He reached in again, and pulled out a shiny silver globe.

“Oh, my,” the wizard said, shuffling forward and grabbing the ruby. He placed it within a great lens, held to an armature by iron straps. He then took the globe from Tersian, and put that into a small cabinet. It sat next to a cast iron mechanical spider.

“And the sword, wizard?” Tersian asked. “This will allow me to defeat the vampire?”

“Oh, yes, young man, no doubt.” He cackled. “If you can outfence the Count.”

He took a sword from a different cabinet, and placed it on an oaken table. The wizard grunted as he forced the lens and gem armature above the table. Gears whined as the armature moved.

A great hum filled the room, and many of the pipes bulged with excess pressure. The room grew hotter as steam spurted from metal seams. Gears and flywheels slowly turned. Light focussed through the lens and into the ruby, bathing the sword. The wizard twisted a metal wheel, opening one valve slightly, then closed another. Steam hissed, and overwrought metal creaked. The wizard worked in the steam and noise for an hour. Tersian watched, transfixed.

Suddenly, in a burst of light, the great red gem disappeared. The sword glew a dull red, and condensed steam glistened on its blade.

The spell was complete.

Excerpted from “Tersian and the Vampire” in “The Astrotech Cabal”

How many different ways of using magic have you seen in fantasy literature? How many times have your adventurers travelled to strange lands and far-out places, only to find the same magic permeating everywhere?

Using non-standard forms of magic can add zest and flavor to a campaign. And it is very easy to use the most magic systems in different ways. There are two things to remember: You must make sure that game balance remains in effect, and you should keep the modified system simple. This is especially true for the AD&D™ game system, which is mostly what I’ll be using examples from.