When the magic’s out: Overcast HOWTO

When all spells are spent, when all mana is gone, wizards are a bit in a meh situation. While it’s cool that you want to let the magic go out because of careful strategy, I think giving risky opportunities to players is also good.

So the idea is that casters and wizards can overcast. I’ve been using these rules for Mageblade! but you can adapt them easily. I swear the Game Police won’t come after you. I suggest you try this with a lot of limitations first, and then try to relax the limitations a bit and see what works.  If the player keeps on overcasting too much for your tastes, just require extra rolls, or add limitations.

This is what works for us: you need to find what works for you.

Overcast HOWTO

  1. The caster, first, must choose the spell to be overcast. You can limit the spell to only spells the caster has not cast today yet, or to spells the caster had memorized, or only for granted powers, or only for patron spells, or for devotions, or domain spells. Try to find out what you feel is right for your game.
  2. The caster must then roll to cast the spell right:
    • for knowledge-based casters, like MUs, wizards and MB Caster, find if they can control the spell rolling under intelligence. If the roll is failed, the caster botches: lets out a magic blast (3d6 damage in 10′, save for half), or a catastrophe from W&W, or use one of those GURPS magic critical failures tables.
    • for introspection-based casters, like mageblades, clerics, and even sorcerers (do not forget that sorcerers can’t read, or else they would be wizards), find if they can find clarity rolling a wisdom check. If the roll is failed, the spell simply does nothing, but the spell can’t be overcast for a while. Maybe until penance is done. Maybe until sleep. Maybe until drugs are taken. Or maybe one hour of meditation is enough.
  3. The caster must then roll to find the power to cast:
    • for casters that are fueled by their belief in gods or power-granting patrons (like the clerics, mageblades, paladins and casters devout to a god, DCC casters with patrons), roll under charisma. On a failure, the Power that Be is displeased with the lack of self-reliance of the requester, so not only does nothing, but you won’t be able to cast for a while. Cue sacrifices, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.
    • for casters that provide their own mana, like MUs, wizards, and MB casters or Mageblades that are not godbotherers, find if they manage to gather the power without consequences rolling under charisma. On a failure, the power is still harnessed but the caster is zonked out, collapsed for 1d6 turns. Healing spells do not really fix this much.

Option: Recovery with Surgery & Chemistry

While a zonked out character will be out cold for a while, you can have a surgeon do an emergency procedure involving a healing potion and some horrible surgery you you not want to know. It takes one round, one healing potion and one surgery/healing roll. If the roll is successful, the caster recovers the round after the surgery.


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.




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.


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.


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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.


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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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.



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.

Classic Greece and the D&D Cleric Problem


IIRC, celibacy was not the norm for the clergy back then unless they served the awesome badass up here

D&D clerics perform exorcisms and turn undead. That’s very D&D, as in it’s part of it’s implied setting. Other settings’ clerics should have different powers, or else what you’re really playing is your setting mixed with Blackmoor.

An easy way to do this is to replace Turn Undead with granted powers.

If you want a “Classic Greece/Swords & Sandals” approach, let clerics use spears and replace Turn Undead with the following powers, depending on the god. A priest of a given god can use their god’s granted power once a day, twice at level 3, thrice at level 6:

    • Zeus’s Lightning: lightning can be called from the sky, dealing 1d6 damage on an opponent.
    • Hera’s Revenge: if the cleric is wounded, the same amount of damage is dealt to the attacker. This power can be used instantly and during the opponent’s turn.
    • Aphrodite’s Looks: charm person.
    • Poseidon’s Spawn: a small horrible monster (2HD, ATK bite 1d6) appears and fights the enemies of the priest.
    • Athena’s Wit: the priest can spend a minute coming up with a plan that can either automatically win initiative or gain surprise.
    • Demeter’s Care: cure light wounds.
    • Apollo’s Scrying: augury.
    • Artemis’s Aim: the cleric can use a bow. One arrow shot hits automatically.
    • Hephaestus’s Forge: for the rest of the combat the party’s weapons become so sharp all opponents have ac 9 [10].
    • Ares’s Hand: after the cleric hits, the damage dealt can be doubled.
    • Hermes’s Speed: the priest can outrun a group of opponents.
    • Dionysus’s Wine: dance. If the subject is attacked they will stop dancing.
    • Hades’s Shroud: invisibility self for 6 rounds.
    • Hekate’s Keys: knock or animate dead (1 hd per caster level, maximum 2 hd per caster level controlled) or trivial knowledge (the cleric knows something useful about a topic) or find the direction (the character, in a crossroad or fork in the path or dungeon room or whatever can find what’s the right way toward a chosen destination) or poison use or light or look I have a dog (the cleric has a pet dog of 1 hd more than their level, if it dies the new pup will start at level 0 and grow appropriately at a rate of 1 level a month until it reaches cleric level +1).

Right, I cheated for Hekate. Just pick a power. Hekate’s portfolio seems to be pretty much more or less everything you ever wanted. Quoting the wikipedia:

She was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, dogs, light, the moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery

More in general, this was actually not an uncommon thing. Religion in ancient Greece was not homogeneous, and gods were worshipped in many different aspects and with different rites. Also, the split between Chthonic and Olympic was not as clear-cut as we imagine it, and many European intellectuals from the Renaissance to the 19th century and the Romantics spent a lot of effort to fit the square peg of Hellenic worship practice into the round hole of a Christian perspective, including a split of “Olympians good/Chthonic and Titans evil” and much other bullshit.