Mageblade: a new class

The Mageblade is a magic slayer with a wicked blade, a mystic bridging the arts of steel and magic. Most are trained by one of the Ordo Mysterii for years and released on secret missions, or on an journey of interior growth, or they left or escaped from the order, or for some other imperscrutable reason, often many of these reasons at the same time. They are relentless and, when using their athame, a magically bond blade, can clad themselves in steel, use spells and strike true.

The Mageblade is a new class in my MAGEBLADE game. They are somewhat inspired by clerics, and are part Lone Wolf with Kai powers, part sword saints, part mystics fighters.

What’s important about them, to me, is that they replace a cleric class that was straddled between casting, healing and fighting but plagued with a very weak faith element, despite the name. The Mageblade needs no devotion to the divine, but the lack of devotion to their Ordo Mysterii might prove lethal, as retribution for defectors and betrayers strikes hard.

This is the version for your Old School game, the MAGEBLADE version has slightly different mechanics. 

Mageblade – Old School

HP, Saves, Hitrolls, XP: as Cleric

Ironclad: Mageblades can use any weapon, armour and shield.

Athame: Each Mageblade has an athame, a mageblade. The athame is a magic blade (dealing 1d6 damage in melee), wrought from cold iron by the Mageblade, and then enchanted and bound in a week-long process. The athame is magic, but it is powerless when not wielded by its creator. Mageblades can deliver touch spells making an attack with the athame. Furthermore, athames have an important power:

  • Empower: Mageblades can empower their athame. This takes just an instant (so it can be part of a melee attack or a spell) and charges the blade with magic and makes it glow like a torch for 10 minutes. While the charge lasts the athame gains a +1 hit bonus, +2 at level 5, +3 at level 9. The Mageblade can discharge this energy to power a Blademagic: doing so drains the charge. Mageblades can empower once a day; if they want to empower they blade more times they can do so by spending any unused spell.

Blademagic: The Mageblade can discharge their empowered athame to activate one blademagic. This can be done as part of a melee attack, or just before casting a spell or doing another action. The blademagic usually lasts until the next dawn, unless specified. If a Mageblade activates a second blademagic while one is still active, the first automatically terminates, but they still have to empower the second separately to activate it. So it’s possible to, in a round, charge the athame, hit in melee, and discharge the athame to power a blademagic. Mageblades start knowing 1 blademagic and learn a new one at level 6 and one at level 12, with their availability depending on their Ordo Mysterii. This is a list of some sample blademagic:

  • Rend: the athame becomes a conduit for delivering raw power into wounds. After a successful hit roll the Mageblade can discharge the blademagic into the wound, dealing 1d6+1/2 level extra damage. This terminates the blademagic.
  • Bane: the athame is ensorcelled with energies antithetical to the essence of a specific type of being. The Mageblade adds focus also when dealing damage in melee to a type of enemy. There are multiple banes, and they must be learnt and activated separately: Undead Bane, Demon Bane, Animal Bane, Spirit Bane. Tales mention other banes (including Cephalopod Bane and Human Bane), but do not mention where to learn them.
  • Arc: the athame forms wide circles of lethal steel. The Mageblade can attack 3 different enemies in melee each round. Duration: 1 turn.
  • Dance: the athame is let into the air as it starts to dance, bob and spin mid-air. The athame can be set to attack a given close enemy: it attacks with a hit bonus equal to the PC’s focus, and has AC 5 [14]. If hit, it’s not damaged but loses its next attack. If it is not set to attack anybody, it blocks attacks giving +2 to the AC of the Mageblade. Duration: 1 turn.

Devotion: Mageblades can learn a single devotion, a ritual specific to their order. Each Devotion can be used by discharging their athame. Some sample devotions are, depending on the Ordo Mysterii:

  • Conflict Praxis Orders: Turn/Control Undead/Animal/Spirits/Demons: pick any one combination depending on how the Conflict Praxis order is aligned.
  • Blood Dragon Order: one of the Maenad Powers
  • Thaumagram Orders: one of the Dodecathaumagrams

Magic: Mageblades have some limited spellcasting ability. Depending on their Ordo Mysterii they either cast spells like a Magic User or a cleric of 2 levels less. Mageblades can cast spells in armour but only if they wield their athame. Mageblades do not automatically gain a spellbook or new Magic-user spells. If they cast Cleric spells they gain all cleric spells normally and their athame doubles as holy symbol.

Some orders, like the Thaumagram Orders, often eschew teaching blademagic to focus more on spellcasting: the Mageblade will not learn any blademagic, but can cast spells as Cleric of the same level.

 

 

Magia Nova: new spells, old spells

Here’s some new spells and some old spells and some in-between spells from Magia Nova. Each spell has an Art (like Cambio/Change or Creo/Create) and a form (Foco/Fire /Magic or Aria/Air/Spirit), so there are spells for all combinations for each level. You can see all level 1 spells in Grimorio da Tasca.

Developmentwise, it’s been complicated. Inspired by Ars Magica, I started with more Ars and more Forms, but then narrowed them down to 4 Arts and 4 Elements as I wanted to use mostly OD&D spells analogues from S&W Whitebox.

So, old spells just stay normal, but sometimes their wording is changed a bit, either to fit the short-form, or to make them fit the short form, or to fit the art-element frame, like this level 1 Creo Foco spell, made to replace Light:

Flame

Range: 120′. Duration: 1 h. + 10 min./lvl

The caster creates a flame big as a fist and bright as a torch, coming off target object. It does not need fuel and spreads like normal fire. The burning object deals 1d6 damage if used in melee.

Then there’s the “well, your annoyingly narrow focus is now more entertaining” category, level 2 Sento Aria (Aria also covers spells about spirits and illusion and ethereal stuff in general):

Pierce the Veil of Deception

Range: self. Duration: 1 h.

This caster can see what otherwise would be magically invisible or hard to see, like secret doors, invisible or ethereal beings. In addition they will sense that there’s something wrong while exposed to other types of illusions and phantasms.

Pierce the Veil of Deception is here to replace and extend Detect Invisible, with a better name. Then, as the framing is for 108 spells there’s the”just new spells”, as the grids were gappy, so a level 2 for Creo Aqua (Create Water, which also covers life):

Life Ebullient

Range: touch. Duration: 1 h.

The subject creature becomes engorged with bristling energy and either recovers all temporary da­mage or gains 2d4+2 temporary hits.

Two spells did not fit in the grid, but:

  • you either won’t miss Magic Missile because you hate it, or you’ll use Maleficence rules that let you shoot noxious effects.
  • Move Earth got moved to level 5 and merged with Rock to Mud, into this new level 5 Cambio Terra (Change Earth) spell here, which fits into the “in-between”:

Bind the Hills

Range: touch. Duration: 1 h.

The spell alters orology, moving earth, hills, mountains at 6 feet/minute: when the spell ends the earth stops moving. The spell can also alter earth, stone and mud into each other, but this change changes to normal after 3d6 days.

There are also 2 more spells that don’t fit: Summon Elemental and Animate Dead. but those have some special rules themselves.

Spell Harder in Whitebox20: higher level spells and overcasting

Whitebox20 has many magic systems. The “Traditional System” is based on having:

  • a skill roll for the Tradition or School (Vivimancy or Healing or Illusion) to cast the spell correctly
  • and a Channel Power skill roll that is used to make anything magic happen at all.

I like this, playtesters liked it, the first roll makes it dangerous, the second roll makes it positively nail-biting. Usually the spell selection comes straight off Wonder & Wickedness, plus some extra spells that players want.

First thing to notice: any character can cast spells, if they know any. And until you botch you can cast as much as you want.

Second: if you fail the first roll, it’s a botch, and you might want to run away. If you fail the second roll, nothing happens, but you can retry. And if you have mana to spend and you have a Caster perk/class/career, you can just spend mana and the spell is cast correctly instead. Fate/mana is used by all characters for all kind of things in W20, and Casters use it to get an edge with magic.

The only problem is that there are no easier or harder spells, for the time being, and that the high variance of the d20 makes simple negative check modifiers not doing what I want them to do. Because what I really want high level spells to do is:

  • be better than simpler spells
  • be riskier than simpler spells
  • still be able to be cast by young, reckless and desperate wizards

Especially the last. So here’s the rule:

Difficult Spells

A character casting a spell of a higher level must spend an extra round casting the spell for each level of difference. During each of the extra rounds they must make an additional Tradition skill check. An equal number of Channel Power successful rolls are required: start rolling when the Tradition rolls are complete, and keep on rolling until a Channel Power roll is failed, and resume rolling the following round until the required amount of successes is achieved. The spell effects are

So, if a level 2 Caster wants to cast a level 4 Elementalism spell, they need to spend 3 rounds casting and roll 3 times on Elementalism, then roll 3 successes on Channel Power, taking as much time as they want.

Casters can spend one mana to fix a single Tradition roll plus a Channel Power roll per mana spent. If a Tradition roll is failed and not mitigated, the spell fails completely and all the failed Tradition rolls botches are independently resolved.

If the character stops or is forcibly interrupted, all the rolled Tradition tests are considered failures for botch purposes.

Since W20 characters grow over 3 or 6 levels (or not at all), if you’re using D&D spells use directly the spell level, not the minimum caster level: Fireball is level 3, so a level 3 character will not need to roll multiple Tradition checks.

Overcasting could be another option, but would require rigorous playtesting to avoid being too expoited: to cast a spell at a higher caster level (but the spell leve is not higher than the character level), specify a number of extra levels: the spell requires that many extra Channel Power successes in order to go off.

 

Grimorio da Tasca: preview of a new magic system and Lost Pages catalogue

Uk Games Expo required a Lost Pages Catalogue. Inside there’s some product blurb, a teaser spell from Wonder & Wickedness and, as a preview for Magia Nova, a whole new magic system and extra spells. This is what it looks like (dice, keyboard and 8-sided dreidel for scale).

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Grimorio da Tasca is a pocketmod. Which means that it’s a simple looseleaf folded and cut into a booklet, with can be unfolded to reveal a hidden, big inside centerfoldy spread.

Here’s the download: Grimorio da Tasca

 

DODECATHAUMAGRAMS OF THE MANIFOLD NEXUS

The Great Bureaucracy is busy writing a whole lot of thaumagrams writs, busy somewhere in the infinite tangle that is the Manifold Nexus. It does mostly bespoke jobs by hand for the Quaesitors and the Harassers, but a whole lot of work is done with blocks bearing the mirror image of a thaumagram in relief. The block is inked with inks made with a base of aged blessed wizard blood, sinner bile and spider venom, then silk is applied on the block and rubbed energetically, impressing the design on the fabric. These writs are then left to dry until ready to be rolled, stamped and numbered, cased (usually in long hollow bones or tubes of iron or jade) and eventually shuffled along the multiverse crawlspace toward their destination.

ONE STEP BACK

Back in the day I read Orion by Masamune Shirow. It has some special juju babble that is fantastic, and it left me very impressed. Seska’s sheer badassery and curves also left a teenager Paolo very impressed.

Anyway, a whole lot of magic in Orion is based about written form. So calligraphy and power words and sigils and whatnot. Here Seska is trying to… I’m not sure. That comic is incredibly obscure. I think she drew a massive ward to keep out Susanoo the god of Storms and at the same time… monitor the water element or somesuch.

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Also, Susanoo kicks so much ass in this comic. Probably because he’s a god.

A CATALOGUE OF THE DODECATHAUMAGRAMS

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The name says that the DODECATHAUMAGRAMS are twelve:

  1. VIOLENT DARKNESS VORTEX, which obfuscates the sight and the judgement but not the drive, leading the victim to inflict violence and dark sorcery on friends and foes alike. For one turn the victim decides whether to attack or cast an offensive spell, but the target is at random. Save negates.
  2. BLEAK GLOOM OCTAGON, leaving the victim listless, incapable of acting for 1 turn. Save every round.
  3. PURE CLEANSE CIRCLE, the victim is cleansed of all curses and negative spell effects for a day. No save.
  4. UTTER DISPEL CROSS, the victim is completely purged from magic effects, and won’t be able to work magic or use magic items for the next 1d6 rounds either. Save to avoid.
  5. RUBY FIRE BARBS, the victim catches fire and takes 1d6 damage every round for 1 turn. No save, but Stop, Drop & Roll grants a save to terminate the effect
  6. WHITE SANCTUARY CIRCLE, a person stepping inside its bounds has an additional 50% save against any attack or negative spell, effect or ability. The Circle stop working if the subject leaves or commits an aggressive act, or after a day.
  7. PURPLE DEMON TRIDENT, summons a 3 HD fire demon that every round deals 1d6 fire damage to everyone within 10′, save to halve. The demon is hellbent on arson, murder and jaywalking and totally not under the control of the caster. It burns off in 1 turn.
  8. GOLD CHARM HEART, makes the victim totally fall in love with the writ-giver for 1 turn. Save negates.
  9. GREEN LIFE SQUARE, heals 2d6 HP. Save negates, as this deals damage to undeads.
  10. SILVER BANISH ASTERISK, banishing the victim for a day to their plane of origin. Works only on those that are not on their plane of origin. Save negates.

The eleventh and twelfth DODECATHAUMAGRAM have not been leaked yet.

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There are a few ways of using the DODECATHAUMAGRAMS in your game. Mageblade will have another method, and it will be really important for one of the classes.

DODECATHAUMAGRAM WRITS

Writs are special scrolls that are used as melee weapons. Often the printed writs appear in the black market, or become available from bureaucrats in need of a quick penny, usually for at least 500-1000 coins each. They must be unrolled with two hands and then used to hit the opponent. This makes the awkward to use if you are busy with sword and shield already, unless you want to drop your weapon and shield, maybe?

Writs are single-use items. In melee, wield the writ and hit unarmored AC, save applies when specified above. In Into the Odd, they are weapons dealing 1d4-1 which, if they were to deal damage, instead do zero damage and affect the target if the save. As an alternative, they can be thrown up to 10′ away. Once the victim is hit, regardless of whether the victim saves, the scrip is ruined and usually dissipates entirely in thin blue smoke.

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THAUMAGRAM ORDERS

The origins of the DODECATHAUMAGRAMS are uncertain. What’s surprising is that some cults worship icons of Saints or complex drawings that are, thaumaturgically speaking, isometrical to the DODECATHAUMAGRAMS. This might hint at a deeper trilaeral symmetry between the Left-Right Hand Path Correspondence, the Manifold Fractal and the Nature of Godhood. Or it might be entirely dumb chance. Or utter poppycock. Further research is warranted. The Great Bureaucracy is not bothered at all by this.

Clerics can be of one of these cults. They lose the Turn Undead capacity, but each cult has an icon they worship and use as holy symbol: pick one of the following invocations. The cleric can use the icon once a day, plus convert not-yet-cast spell slots of any level to power the icon. The icon is not applied, but simply shown to a victim or pointed toward a target within 10′ as an invocation is made, no touch attack needed.

  1. ICON OF ST. SYT’S SUPPLICE BY LIEGE VASSAL is isometrical to VIOLENT DARKNESS VORTEX
  2. ICON OF ST. CIUCO’S CONTEMPLATION OF ALTERNATIVES is isometrical to BLEAK GLOOM OCTAGON
  3. ICON OF ST. HARALD’S BAPTISM IN THE RIVER is isometrical to PURE CLEANSE CIRCLE
  4. ICON OF ST. MORNA’S RESPITE AT LAST is isometrical to UTTER DISPEL CROSS
  5. ICON OF ST. BARNAS’S TANTRUM AT THE GATE is isometrical to RUBY FIRE BARBS
  6. ICON OF ST. SCIURA’S CHILLING IN HER GROTTO is isometrical to WHITE SANCTUARY CIRCLE
  7. FLAME OUROBOROS PATTERN is isometrical to PURPLE DEMON TRIDENT
  8. STATUETTE OF THE SAUCY HONEY GODDESS is isomatrical to GOLD CHARM HEART
  9. SNAKES TANGLE WEAVE is isometrical to GREEN LIFE SQUARE
  10. OSMIUM CROSS WITH HOOKS POINTING TOWARDS SUNRISE is isometrical to SILVER BANISH ASTERISK

DODECATHAUMAGRAMMATA SCHOOL

What’s more concerning for the bureaucracy is that some of its secrets have leaked and some savants learnt how to simply trace the DODECATHAUMAGRAMS by hand, in a few seconds. Quaesitors are always on the lookout for this kind of infraction and, when found, Harassers are dispatched urgently to curb it and give an example to everybody.

Do you even Wonder & Wickedness? The DODECATHAUMAGRAMS can be used as W&W spells. To cast them, use the usual W&W rules, but to cast them the sorcerer simply traces the glyph mid air and then concludes it by touching the victim or the target. A touch melee attack might be needed. If the attack fails the sorcerer can of course try to touch the victim again in the next rounds.

Sneak Peek: Magia Nova: Il Novissimo Metodo Didattico delle Arti Magiche

Oh, the joys of writing something purely for D&D. I’ve been working on a word/runic magic system for a while and while I was at it I though I could just spin off one of its subsystems. I also took the occasion to make a book with all the S&W Whitebox spells, but organized by level and not in alphabetical order.
Yeah, I know, de gustibus non disputandum but there is clearly a WRONG and a RIGHT way, and the alphabetical sort is a pain in the ass when you’re trying to allocate slots and need to check spell details across the level. Which is much a much more common scenario compared to, say, check spell details across the spells starting with the letter S. If you need to find a spell by name, an analytical index will do.
Hence Magia Nova! The principle of this new didactic method is a blah blah taxonomic approach blah blah system of mysticism blah blah correspondences blah blah great pedagogy blah blah left hand, right hand blah blah. Ok, enough babble. The whole point is that the Magic User will learn Arts and Elements instead of single spells.

Four are the Arts:

  • Creo for Creation
  • Disfo for Undoing
  • Sento for Perception
  • Cambio for Change and Control
Four are the Elements:
  • Foco for Fire and therefore Magic
  • Aria for Air and therefore Spirit and Perception
  • Aqua for Water and therefore Life
  • Terra for Earth and therefore Matter

The casters start by knowing an Art and an Element and will progressively get better at casting spells and gain more Arts and Elements. In due time they will fully master a specific type of magic, and summon elemental spirits.

This is the spell list as it is now:

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Stars and question marks are safely ignored (they are notes for me). Some of those gaps might be filled, and things rejigged, but that’s the gist of it.

You will find a resemblance to Ars Magica by Tweed and Rein-Hagen. The resemblance is indeed there, but.

First, I love Ars Magica. Gangs & Bullshit owe a lot to it. Also Chthonic Codex. But Magia Nova is a different beast. Merely identifying spell groups with 2 words (or two runes, which is exactly the same) is the extent of the copying. They picked Latin, I picked oldy Italian.

I could have picked English. I didn’t for two reasons: the first is that picking premodern Italian makes it peculiar even for Italians, the second is that it’s better to have domain-specific terms for game elements. If your GM says you’re stunned by someone’s display of wealth, they probably do not mean that your character can only move slowly this round. They just used a turn of phrase which happens to use a word that means something different from a metagame perspective: you’re outside of the game and you use words to describe it that do not mean the same to people in the game. For game terms choose words you would otherwise not use to avoid confusion (no, not the spell).

Second: this whole thing started though with a different approach: create a taxonomy, and see how to allocate existing D&D spells to its subdivisions in an interesting way, rather than coming up with a system and creating new spells fitting in it (which is I guess how the Ars Magica spellbook was developed).

There will be a new, alternate Magic User, the spellcasting rules, the spells sorted by level (with some new spells), a handful of new monsters and, possibly, a few magic items. I have no idea when this will be ready, but given most of the spells come straight from the book it won’t take long.

New Font: PG Trampier Runes

David Trampier wrote this comic called Wormy on Dragon Magazine. In one of the issues a wizard opens a portal tracing some runes in the air with a golden stylus.

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I made a font with those runes: PG Tramp Runes. You might want to use them with a runic magic system.

If you want to use it for anything commercial, don’t. I’m working on a better, saner version.

Here’s the mapping.

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Download link: PG Trampier Runes