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Magic Heavy Fantasy Campaign


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Greetings! I'm working on a magic heavy fantasy campaign. I'm looking to throw around some ideas to help me craft this world, as I'm planning on making it quite large and very detailed. So, enough introduction, let's skip right to it!

First, the influence of gods. I will have a pantheon that will have lots of influence on the world. I'm going to shape it similar to Elric! in that I will have a pantheon of Law gods, Balance gods, and Chaos gods. Balance gods will be more neutral, focusing more on the god's desires (like a god of trickery that enjoys illusions and deceit) than influencing day to day life of humans. However, gods of Law will be strict, judgmental, and and hateful. They will have a very rigorous view of morality and condemn those who do not uphold this to destruction. Chaos gods are power hungry devourers with no morality at all. They focus their efforts on gaining power at any cost to self, others, or the world. God influence is important and will set the stage for conflict in the setting.

So what I'm looking to do is include several magical systems, each stemmed to a locale which is shaped by the magical tradition inherent to the area. Each tradition will have a different impact on the society it is in. I currently am using these magical traditions as PC accessable but a PC may only have access to one at a time:

Wizardry (BRB: Magic / Classic Fantasy): This system takes the form of classic Wizards. Magic is taught in the many Mage's colleges running under the umbrella of a University. Each college is dedicated to a seperate "school" of magic. Illusionists, Elementalists, Arcanists, etc. The heads of each college form a counsil that govern the general direction of the university. The society will probably be a dictatorship (with the head being called the Emperor) to which the University's high council will be the advisor (and aid in choosing new Emperors). This gives the well educated and highly intelligent Wizards the ability to directly influence (and sometimes manipulate) the ruling caste. Wizards will mostly be ignorant of gods or general spirituality as they aren't something their magical practices give them direct access to. However, I will have a few gods that would cater to Wizards as god influence will be rather heavy in my campaign. I'll mostly be running it as is from BRP magic and using Classic Fantasy for ideas on how to specialize the colleges. Wizardry will have both somatic and verbal components which will be enforced with penalties to casting when wearing little more than tunics, cloaks, or robes. One free hand will also be required for any casting done by Wizards. Wizards will have access to potion making.

Witchcraft (BRP Witchcraft, Magic / God based): Witches and Warlocks are the only tradition that doesn't have a full society to themselves however they do form their own cultures on the fringes of other societies. They cover the niche of hermetical magic and oral tradition. I'm pretty much going to be running them very similar to how the monograph describes them but how each society views them will be slightly different allowing different covens to have completely different outlooks and influences on society. Wizards view them with slight disgust but not outright hatred as they see themselves as far superior and Witches and Warlocks as simply a poor man's Wizard. Animist societies highly fear black Witches as they can have a terribly disruptive influence on the spirit world, but they welcome white Witches as naturalists and healers in their society. Mystics have little need for Warlocks and keep a completely neutral view towards them but generally do not encourage their participation in their society. Enchanters, likewise, have little need for Witches or Warlocks in their society, but as they are more isolated in their own culture the more common folk see witches as the more accessible form of magic in their society (see witches in high fantasy, pg 5). Theists loathe Witches and persecute them heavily due to not following their religious structure (see witches in dark ages, pg 4). In remote areas of the world, Witchcraft will be the dominant form of magic. Witchcraft will have both somatic and verbal components, again restricting their garb to light clothing and one open hand. Witches and Warlocks will have access to potion making and talismans.

Animism (RQ6 Animism): Animists will serve as spiritual leaders of a slightly less "civilized" society. They will have a more tribal structure with Animists taking the role of wise men and direct links to influential ancestors. I'm not sure if I quite want to make them mud hut living people or just have a more loose knit governing style like city states. I certainly want their religious structure be more naturalistic and ancestral. Animists will not have direct influence on their government, but their leaders will certainly come to them to seek advice from their ancestors and seek general guidance. Spirits will have a heavy role in my campaign as powerful sorcerers will be using Unknown East rules to hide their soul, and any other means of soul hiding and transportation to repeatedly come back to undermine the PC parties. To kill a powerful sorcerer PC's will need to seek the help of an Animist if they don't have one in their party, or will need to bind the spirit and find a way to destroy it (again, requiring the guidance of an Animist). I'll be using RQ6 Animism pretty much as is. Animism will not require anything but Verbal components (and of course physical access to your totems) in combat, but trances will require concentration generally unavailable in stressful combat.

Mysticism (RQ6 Mysticism): I'm thinking more of a combination of Greek, Buddhist, and Confucius societies for Mysticism that focuses heavily on self-actualization and philosophy. Their religion will be focused more on self improvisation rather than godly influence on the world. Monks and other types of secluded religious practitioners will be common but will probably not have individual gods they worship. This school of thought of course manifests itself in the Mysticism tradition the society will have. I'll absolutely have different schools of philosophy which will have access to different Mysticism spells. Whereas Wizards will often be haughty or proud about their magical school, Mystics will treat the other schools with respect and simply see them as different paths to self-actualization. I think I'm going to do a small council of a few individuals (maybe more) who are highly virtuous and wise (a Confucius type model of leadership) for their cultural leadership. Ideas on to what governing style this society would form are absolutely welcome as I'm not quite sure how to shape the government of these people. Mysticism will not require any verbal or somatic component (contrary to RQ6) but will require concentration so injury or disruption to concentration could lead to the inability to call forth a Mystic's talent.

Enchanting (RQ6 Sorcery): Enchanting is RQ6 sorcery, with a few tweaks. The spell "enchant" is just another form of shaping. All the limitations of the spell still apply (can only have shaping points equal to intensity, only allowed to enchant "concentration" based spells into objects, etc.). You can find the rest of my tweaks here: http://basicroleplaying.com/runequest/rq6-magic-adjustments-3142/ The idea is to encourage keeping enchantments up to your maximum magic point pool and force enchanters to rely on staffs and other magical point storage for more spontaneous casting. I am heavily considering running some of the additional shaping options and the extended duration option as well. As for society, I want enchantment to focus more on tinkering and experimentation due to the nature of shaping as a mechanic. As such, Enchanters will be more like mad scientists with their labs full of scribbled notes and formulae. Since that doesn't really lend itself to any particular government type I'll probably hand wave it off to a traditional medieval monarchy / feudal system. King influence on day to day life will probably be minimal and focus on taxing and forming a military. Day to day market operations will be free markets in town squares. Really traditional medieval stuff. The idea of quirky, self taught mages in a traditional medieval society is just too much fun and too classic to be without. Enchanting will have both a somatic and verbal component forcing them to stick to light garb and have at least one free hand. Enchanters will have access to potion making.

Theism (RQ6 Theism): Theists will be the most diverse of the traditions. The societies that Theism governs will be aligned with Law. Law is oppressive and strong willed, edging out the more neutral gods of Balance. However, the gods of Chaos have no moral code and encourage the destruction of others for self gain, so they are generally unpopular with the general populace. Also, gods of Chaos have their own magical tradition, to be explained later. Gods of Balance are better suited by using other magical traditions or none at all as they do not require worship, so only gods of Law will use the Theism magical tradition to reflect their desire to be worshiped and their direct influence on their constituents. The Theists will have a government similar to that of the biblical old testament. The temple is the epicenter of their society with the priests and ultimately the High Priest having the final say in matters of justice, law, taxation, and morality. I want to emphasize that the High Priests will be fairly corrupt and oppressive, much like how the bible often describes the religious leaders of their time. This stems from the oppressive nature of the Law based gods. Right now, I have 3 law based gods and 3 chaos based gods. Each Law based god will be represented pretty equally in Theist societies with each god giving their own set of spells to show their nature. Theism will have both a verbal and somatic component, but will not be hindered by armor. A Theist simply needs to enter a position of supplication (bowed head for example) and pray aloud to their god.

Folk Magic (RQ6 Folk Magic): Folk magic is presented pretty much exactly as RQ6. It's a tradition of the every day person, passed through community leaders, parents, etc. to help improve daily life. Think of it as the appliances of the high fantasy setting. It's not necessary to live, but makes life much easier and is fairly cheap or easy to come by so is fairly common throughout society. As far as PCs go, I can either tailor a class for them from existing systems (like a rogue that specializes in illusions or a bard that likes to charm or a barbarian that has a self-cast only version of fury) or they can just have a few Folk magic spells if they want a fairly power light character. I want almost every character to have some form of magic as that is the goal of this setting and Folk magic allows for cheap utilitarian magic without the need to be involved in magical societies. Folk magic will have only a verbal component, so it will not be hindered at all by armor. However, most folk magic manifests itself in touch form so a free hand is usually required to cast it.

That's it for learned traditions. I'll split Sorcery into its own post as it plays a fairly important (and complex) role in this setting.

Edited by Robsbot
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Sorcery is the magic of the Chaos gods. Elric! presented Sorcery in a way that was selfish, powerful, and evil. Sorcery generally buffs only the caster and often to great benefit. It also can achieve power levels other magical traditions can't even reach. It's evil with its inherent connection to demons, chaos creatures, undead, and mutation.

This presented several challenges when I was crafting the setting. I wanted Sorcery in for sure as it's my favorite system and offers some great potential for villains. However, I wanted it to be a neutral magic (not Law or Chaos aligned) and I could easily see how a PC with access to Sorcery could dominate many of the group dynamics inherent to role playing as the system really has no downsides. As an additional hinderance I either had to have demons / chaos creatures be generally accepted by the populace or all Sorcerers could easily be shunned due to general association with vile creatures. That's not something I wanted as I needed the juxtaposition of Law and Chaos to frame the conflict in the world. So I could lock off Demonology to its own system but I just didn't like that idea. Demon summoning is too core to Sorcery.

So what do I do to make Sorcery useful and thematic at the same time? Instead of making it a neutral magic system, make it inherently evil just like in Elric! It sounds pretty intuitive, but I was really fighting it while I was trying to make the setting.

I'm going to keep the POW 16 requirement for Sorcery but there will be no aptitude restrictions for other traditions. Why? I want it to be innate. All it requires to cast is a flex of will and the right words uttered to bring forth the effect. This means it can be used with armor and weapons since there are no somatic components. Sorcery is based from the same well of inner power other systems use however, and is not itself a demonic or Chaos gift. A high POW requirement enforces that it's something more innate. So for someone with low POW to learn this strong magic they may have to bargain with unsavory characters to be given the ability to gain Sorcery. This can quickly lead to an evil descent for some people, but what about those who are naturally gifted with high power?

It's not hard to imagine Sorcery fitting the evil bill in this setting. It's much more powerful and rare than normal magical traditions so if someone discovers a Sorcery spell they are more likely to keep it to themselves. This can quickly devolve into a desire to acquire more powerful Sorcery at any cost. Delving into ancient ruins and chasing myths to gain power would be how it starts. Then, if a Sorcerer encounters a more powerful Sorcerer the lust for power could easily consume them and drive them to murder to obtain that Sorcerer's grimoire. Eventually the morality line blurs to demonic pacts (like Corum), and then eventual demon summoning and binding (like Elric! and The Bronze Grimoire). Necromancy could be an alternative path to demonic influence, or may be a result of demonic influence but reluctant to make pacts.

So instead of separating Sorcery into Demonolgy, Necromancy, Pacts, and base Sorcery, I'm going to role play it like a descent. I'll repeatedly tempt my stronger PC's with Sorcery and if they choose to use it (with fair discussion and warning ahead of time) the player could role play their inner fight and eventual descent into power hungry madness and possibly even become a major villain of the PC party. I may have recurring villains appear to challenge PC's a different stages in their descent into Sorcery. Sorcery from the BRB and Elric will be more common (although still rare and shunned), while Demonology, Necromancy, and Pacts as presented by Elric!'s demon summoning rules, The Bronze Grimoire, and Corum will be much harder to come by due to their potential power and their general intolerance by the general populace. It's not exactly what I wanted Sorcery to be but I think the system plays to this role extremely well.

I'll have 3 chaos gods as of now. One will be the god of necromancy. Another will be the god of demons. The last will be the god chaos who grants mutations to his followers (as per the BRB mutation rules). These are the three major things that I think a high fantasy setting would frown upon and sorcery plays right into this trifecta of evil. Demons, Undead, and Mutation, things that diverge from the natural order. Although Sorcery just didn't fit into my setting like I initially envisioned it, I think in this capacity it has a greater potential to be role played and be extremely thematic.

Edited by Robsbot
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