26 February 2024

The Many Schools of Magic

The Manse has recently published a very nice rant on categorisation of magic where they discuss several approaches to the classification of spells and derive their own schools of magic, a neat and clean system of seven traditions with a rigorous naming convention. But there's a fallacy in this approach, I venture. It's tempting to create a well-defined, all-encompassing set of categories and just use them for everything. I will freely admit to doing just that many a time. But real-world systems are rarely if ever neat. There's always something off, missing or superfluous. New findings undoing the symmetry of old theories, things that do not fit into known patterns, weird edge cases that could go either way, someone who made a mistake a century ago and now it would be too costly to fix it. Classification is a human invention and humans are imperfect.

If the classification of magic is to be used in-universe, I think a different approach is needed. Embrace this imperfection, build on it. Explain it, so that it stops being an irritant and becomes a piece of lore.

Also, why should there be only a single classification?

The Imperial Collegium recognises eight schools of magic:
  1. Abjuration
  2. Conjuration
  3. Divination
  4. Enchantment
  5. Evocation
  6. Illusion
  7. Restoration
  8. Transmutation

Restoration is a very recent addition, founded and still led by Archmage Hasenbach, whose groundbreaking research into positive energy allowed any mage to wield the healing arts that a generation ago would be the sole purview of the divine. Any naysayers who point out that white magic is quite common outside of the Imperium are usually booed out by Hasenbach's near-fanatical followers.

Necromancy used to be a recognised school for centuries, but also illegal for most of the time. After decades of academic misuse, where every spell deemed inappropriate would be labelled as necromantic, and after increasingly pointed inquiries from the Inquisition about why exactly does the Collegium keep a library wing dedicated to illegal magic, Necromancy was officially struck from the Rolls of Magic in the year 769 of the Three United.

One might also wonder about Enchantment and Illusion, the two odd schools out. There used to be a single school of Prestidigitation, but a falling-out between two archmages about three centuries ago led to a schism that created two new, closely related yet highly quarrelsome schools. It is a public secret that whether a spell is an enchantment or an illusion depends entirely on who publishes the paper first.

Foreigners are sometimes confused that the school of Enchantment works with mind-trickery rather than creation of enchanted items. Well, there used to be a school of Imbrication dedicated to crafting enchanted items, but it was officially disbanded in the wake of the Dwarven Trade War.

In Nymbia, magic is colour-coded:
  • White Wizards are the only sanctioned practitioners. They deal in healing, protection and exorcism. Some tower-cabals can get quite militant about their exorcisms, training squads of professional undead hunters, though this get rarer the further one gets away from the Dead Lands.
  • Grey Wizards are a wide assortment of hedge practitioners who hold very disparate secrets, from wood-singing and fate-reading to teleportation and unmaking. They are not allowed to own a tower, so a grey practice rarely has more than a single master and one or two apprentices.
  • Black Wizards are practitioners of the dark arts, which is a nebulous set of practices that include necromancers and biomancers, but also telepaths, mindcrafters and most alchemists. They are outlawed everywhere but in Alema.
  • "Red Wizards", or rather Pyromancers, as they actually call themselves, are foreign to Nymbia, coming from the Great Swamp. Their magic is very limited and narrow in scope, but all the more powerful for it. So powerful in fact, that the authorities have not yet found a response to their increasingly common depredations. Hence also the reason why Black Wizards are now allowed to settle and openly practice in Alema, whose countryside suffers the most from the flame-makers' raids.

An island nation of Sik has an alternate colour scheme to their practitioners:
  • White Mages are healers, just as in Nymbia, but much less belligerent. They are widely recognised as the best surgeons on the continent, capable of cutting away ills of the body and the mind alike.
  • Blue Mages study weather control and ship magic. They can be quite potent war-casters, but their primary focus is binding the powers of the ocean and its storms for use in transportation and agriculture.
  • Silver Mages are spellwrights who specialise in charms - a type of talisman - and wards. While charms against insects, snakebite or the cold, glamour-charms to allure and impress, or any kind of dowsing-charm are sought-after export goods, the much more powerful wardstones that can protect a whole village from locusts or pirates are never sold outside of Sik.

The Mage Guild of Thorlan considers every spell to be an aspect of the four Great Elemental Dragons:
  • Air also covers everything related to swiftness, movement and communication.
  • Earth also deals with the Dead, as the Old Stone Serpent holds dominion over the dearly departed in Thorlan. Earth sages traditionally handle matters of inheritance and murder investigations.
  • Fire also deals with destruction, counter-spells, curses and high emotions.
  • Water also deals with knowledge, illusions, cleansing and low emotions.

24 February 2024

Hexploration Adventure Quickstart

If you prefer fantasy wilderness to post-apocalyptic wasteland, here are some starting tables for you.

  • Start with d6-1 rations, a backpack, blanket and waterskin, plus normal clothes.
  • Roll for a Weapon, Armour and Money.
  • Roll for a Background and get its items.
  • Roll for d3 other starting Useful Items.
  • Choose or roll d6/2 languages. Do not round, languages can be half-known.
  • If you'd like to have a class, you can roll here.

2d2 Knives2-4Light
5Sword8Shield and roll again
6Shortbow & d6 ammod6Money
7Spear1Ring worth d100 silver coins
8Warhammer2d4 silver coins
9Battle-axe3d6 x 10 silver
10Flail42d6 x 10 silver
11Longbow & d6 ammo52d8 x 10 silver
12Zweihänder6d10 x 100 s in debt, roll again

11Acolyterandom scroll41Jailermanacles, club
12Astrologerstar chart, spyglass42Jugglerd4 torches and knives
13Barber-Surgeon razor, soap43Linkboylantern, oil for 8 hours
14Blacksmithhammer, tongs44Locksmithd4 lockpicks
15Butcherbig knife, big ham45Lumberjackaxe, firewood
16Carpenterhatchet, saw, drill46Masonhammer, 3 iron spikes
21Coachmanwarm cloak, hat51Minerpick-axe, lantern
22Con Artistfake jewellery52Minstrellute, perfume
23Cookbag of salt, wineskin53Prostitutedisguise kit
24Drunkardd6 bottles of booze54Sailorrope (15 yds), booze
25Farmerflail, donkey55Scribepaper, ink and quill
26Fishermanlarge net, d4 fish56Seamstressneedle and thread
31Fur Trappersnare, d4 pelts61Servantstolen horse
32Guardspear, helmet62Smugglerwaterproof sack
33Herder(d3) goat/sheep/swine63Thiefrandom useful item
34Houndsmanpuppy, whip64Tradernice clothes
35Huntershortbow, signal horn65Undertakershovel, gold teeth
36Cheesemakerwheel of cheese66Wet Nurseloyal urchin

d66Useful Items
11Unmarked package*41Tent & bedroll (3 Slots)
12Toolbelt with common tools42d2 Blankets
13(d3) Pick-axe, shovel, crowbar43Warm travelling clothes
14Metal file, d4 lockpicks44Musical instrument
15Chain (3 yds) & padlock45Silver hand mirror
16Grapnel & rope (15 yds)46Stolen signet ring
21Pouch of caltrops51Small but vicious dog (HD 1)
22Weighted net or Beartrap52(d4) Crow, falcon, owl, parrot
23Waterproof bag53Mule & cart (carry 30 Slots)
24Tinderbox, 2d4 torches54Random follower
25Lantern, oil for d12 hours55Helmet or Shield
26d4 Jars of black oil56d6 Javelins
31Random potion61Favour owed by local VIP
32d4 Healing salves or Bandages62Location of a secret hideout
33Red salt or Bezoar (d4 doses)63Membership of secret society
34Vials of glue, grease and acid64Extra background, no items
35Bomb, (d2) smoke/shrapnel65Random trinket
36Poisoner's ring with poison,
(d4) lethal, sleep, paralysis, charm
66Treasure map

*) Can contain any item you want that fits into 1 slot and is not too rare or expensive.

d66How Do You Know Each Other?
11From the same village41Idolise same famous figure
12From the church42Looking for same item
13From the tavern43Looking for same person
14Childhood friends44Woke up in the same bed
15Mutual friend45In a riot together
16Respected rivals46Met on a boat
21Saved people from a fire51Met on a funeral
22Served in the army52Met on a wedding
23Scammed by the same guy53Named in same inheritance
24Servants to the same lord54Both have a rare disease
25Stole a thing from the other55Both got mysterious letter
26Same horrible fashion sense56Shared embarrassing secret
31Defenders in a siege61Mentor/student
32Plague lockdown survivors62Prison cell mates
33Last members of a cult63Roommates
34Had the same lover64Pen pals
36Former coworkers66Will open a pub together

You wake up in the middle of an uncharted wilderness. Good luck.

22 February 2024

Critical Spells!

Warlocks in Encounter Critical can cast one spell per day per level. This is not the only magic they wield and it is a rather limited amount even on higher levels. That seem to point towards spells being the specialist tools and big guns, something that changes the situation rather than yet another magic blast - that's what the Magical Attack skill is for, after all. The booklet presents a few spells, but here is my expansion and reinterpretation of them into a set of game-changers.

If you're unsure about range, duration or effect, think "more, longer, fancier". Warriors of EC should be riding a tyrannosaurus while wielding a light sabre in one hand and a rocket launcher in the other, so Warlocks should be comparably awesome when casting their spells. At least in my Encounter Critical.
Encounter Critical fanart, I think.
d20 Warlock Spells
  1. Evil Eye: The warlock curses an enemy (such as making its weapon explode or its eyes rot away) if it fails a Psi Resist roll. One of the warlock's eyes is permanently strange-looking once he learns this spell.
  2. Battle Banner Imperative: The warlock's side will go first in every round of combat and retainers cannot fail morale or defy orders.
  3. Stop: Freeze one creature or object in place, even in mid-air. No saving throw is allowed. The spell lasts until the Warlock casts another spell, or until the victim is attacked – though that first attack always hits.
  4. Double: Create a copy of one creature or object, which will last until the next dawn. When the duration ends, a random one of the twin things disappears.
  5. Demon Master: Gain control of one demon, no save. Must be recast every day.
  6. Possess: The warlock dissolves into smoke and flows into another creature. They can control it completely until it takes damage.
  7. Mimic Special Ability: One special ability of a creature or object can be copied and used as a spell by the warlock. Only one ability can be copied at a time – if this spell is cast again, the warlock loses the older stolen ability.
  8. Phantasmic Projections: Creates completely realistic, albeit intangible, illusions. This includes sounds, smells and animated illusions.
  9. Tesseract: The warlock teleports somewhere they can see. This can be cast in an instant, even to dodge any danger.
  10. Transportal: Two magic circles prepared by the warlock in advance are linked by a portal. The portal lasts until dismissed or until the warlock casts this spell again.
  11. Transmogrify: The warlock can transform himself into any creature from which he owns a trophy.
  12. Walk on Water or Wind: Wears off when the warlock touches the ground.
  13. Ice Sculpt: Form any object or structure out of ice. It lasts until the warlock casts this spell again, even in heat.
  14. Matter to Mist: Dissolves one object into mist and then condenses it into a tiny crystal. When the crystal is broken, mist billows out and the object is reconstituted.
  15. Shape Earth, Wood or Flesh: Material can be slowly moulded into any shape desired.
  16. Phasic Sphere: The warlock activates a previously prepared magic circle, creating a softly glowing but transparent sphere of force. Nothing can pass through the sphere – not creatures, missiles, magic, psionics, phasics, teleportation nor air. It lasts until dismissed, or until the warlock casts this spell again.
  17. God Speech: The warlock can speak with anything.
  18. Darkstorm: Sudden thunderstorm brings bad visibility, strong winds and torrential rain.
  19. Rain of Fire and Brimstone: Flames start raining from the sky, dealing the warlock's magic damage to everyone not under a roof (and to the roof, too).
  20. Warlock Bomb: The warlock conjures an orb that will explode violently (3d20 damage in close range and half that in short range) when shattered. Can be cast with a delayed timer or a special trigger. The explosion can easily breach walls.

10 January 2024


This is the reaction table I'm currently using. It works reasonably well. The results should be interpreted liberally.

2Hostile. Attacks immediately, why? (d4) Desperate/rabid/hungry/ensorcelled.
3-5Aggressive. If the party is surprised, it's an Ambush. Otherwise (d4):
  1. Attacks to drive you away, giving a chance for retreat. Guards something?
  2. Demands bribe/food/items to let you leave. Will only attack if you seem weak, though.
  3. Retreats but stalks you until an opportunity presents itself to attack with advantage.
  4. Tries to capture you if at all possible.
6-8Animals try to avoid you, but intelligent creatures are (d6):
  1. Untrustworthy. Will try to cheat you. May behave friendly at first.
  2. Antagonistic. Mocks and hurls abuse, but will not attack first.
  3. Uninterested. Ignores you unless bothered, tries to get rid of you as quickly as possible.
  4. Unaware. (d4) Distracted/sleeping/in a hurry/just really oblivious.
  5. Afraid. Flees if possible, otherwise at first opportunity. Afraid of something else?
  6. Bored. Wants to chat. Not willing to do anything or go anywhere, though.
9-11Friendly (d4):
  1. Wants to trade items or gossip.
  2. Wants to join you as a mercenary or follower, or wants you to join them as a comrade or servant.
  3. Offers a challenge of (d4) martial might/magical prowess/riddling wits/drinking skills.
  4. Offers food and shelter. (d4) Tipsy/lonely/horny/just really generous.
Intelligent creatures are (d4) in danger/in need of something/lost/sick or injured.
Unintelligent are (d4) in danger/trapped/ensorcelled/sick or injured.

If you wish to only make a single roll, you can also use 3d6 instead, though this will make modifiers less relevant and the first and last few entries much less likely to occur.

Friendly, offers food and shelter.
by Bing Image Creator