2017/03/29

OSR: Light and Other Radiative Effusions

Illusionists are light-magicians. They are a recently revived school. Their theories on light and optics are considered radical by most and utter nonsense by the peasantry. Lacking an ancient and well-established tradition, Illusionists have invented many speculative and outright false theories to explain their magic. For every gaudy showman travelling between villages to earn a living, there is an obsessive wizard living in a mirror-lined tower, probing the secrets of Creation.
 

This is what novice Illusionists are taught:

 
There are elements: acid, stone, fire, water, air, ice, and lightning. Creation also contains living matter (trees, beasts) and dead matter (soil, dead people). It also contains "radiative effusions".

Light

Light is emitted from a source and travels in straight lines. It is reflected or absorbed by some substances. Some very clever experiments have proven that light is not emitted by the eye at all, as unlearned people claim. The light carries information about the things it has struck to the brain. For example, light from a torch that strikes a stone wall will investigate the stone, discover that it is grey and dark, and carry this information to the eye.

The sun, which is not made of fire but seems to be made of solid light, emits light. If you split this light (or, indeed, any other bright light) through a glass prism, you produce what is known as a spectrum of colours. Light from the sun is split into a range of colours, from red to violet. If you use an eight-sided prism, you also produce octarine.

However, this spectrum is merely the echo of true colours. True colours can only be produced through magic. They cannot be produced by matter for matter lends some of its nature to the light. True red is brighter and truer than any red dye, paint, or fabric. Each colour is unmistakable. Once seen, the colours of Creation are seen as tints, shades, and mixtures of the true colours. There are eight true colours, mixtures of which comprise all other colours observed in nature.

Red. Red contains heat as well, for it is known that the sun's light also heats Creation.
Orange
Yellow
Green
Blue 
Indigo
Violet. Also contains a kind of heat, although this heat is a harsh and blistering one, which blinds and scars.
Octarine. The colour of magic.

Octarine is instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen a spell cast. If you have not, close your eyes and rub them vigorously. The greenish-purple-pink-white colour produced is close to octarine. Alternatively, strike your head quite hard with a blunt object. The spots of dancing light produced are close to octarine as well.

The History of Illusion

 For centuries, illusion magic languished in obscurity. Records from antiquity told of magicians summoning "phantasmal armies" or entire cities, but until the reign of King Althalbert, the most learned magicians in the land could produce nothing more than a few illusory birds or some feeble smoke. It was understood that brightly coloured clothed assisted the illusionist.

With the discovery of the lens, the prism, and the nature of light, illusion magic experienced a great revival. It became clear that Illusion spells were creatures of Light. To store and use these spells, the wizard's mind must be nourished with all colours of light. The use of rainbow-coloured gloves, proper training in the theory of light, and the abomination of the colour purple enabled Illusionists to rise from mere conjurors to the highest courts in the land.


This is what more advanced Illusionists are taught:

Darkness is light's opposite. It is also radiative, but it seems to emerge naturally from all objects. The greatest Illusionist scholars work furiously to build a dark prism capable of spectrumating darkness. The task is made obscenely difficult by the nature of matter, no matter how carefully handled, to emit some trace amount of light, which inevitable spoils the experiment. Additionally, spellcasters naturally radiate faint rays of octarine.
 
Life seems to also emit some intrinsic effusion, as does Un-life. Life effusions that strike Unlife are returned to the eye (or some other sensory organ, possibly the mind directly), as feelings of cold, dread, and horror. Unlife effusions that strike Life return and induce feelings of hatred and hunger.

Strong emotions are radiative. While the untrained can effuse hatred, love, or fear into Creation without any effect whatsoever, a trained mind can focus these emotions and emit them in dangerous or beneficial ways. There are tales of monks capable of calming a storm by radiating tranquility. There are shamans in the ice wastes who will hate an enemy to death - or at least, to very near death - for a fee. Courtly love is another form that proves this principle. A knight, far from his lady, produces rays of love which pass through the air and, owing to sympathetic resonance, strike and affect only his beloved.
 
Wisdom is also radiative. This is how universities and guilds operate. Sound is also radiative, as are kingship and holiness.

Mirrors

Any fully reflective surface (that which allows differentiation of the shapes reflected, rather than just the reflection of light in general, which all objects possess) may not, in fact, be reflective. If the light received contains sufficient octarine, the mirror may reflect a parallel world instead of our own. These worlds have been studied very little due to the dangers they pose to our world. Most mirror-worlds are identical to ours in every respect. A wizard examining himself in the mirror might see a true reflection or an identical mirror-wizard, who is performing precisely the same actions and thinking precisely the same thoughts.

Some mirrors, especially those saturated with octarine light, show very different worlds. These worlds contain creatures unknown in Creation, air that corrodes metal, and other, stranger things.

Illusionists may use mirrors to assist their spells. For example, an illusionist can pull an illusory copy of a key from a parallel world. In truth, the key does not leave the mirror-world, but the spell allows the wizard to copy it precisely. Mirror copies, who are merely illusions assisted by the power of a mirror to reflect creation, can also be created. True mirror-passage is both rare and dangerous.
 

This is what Grand Illusionists ponder during sleepless nights:


Why do different effusions travel at different rates? Light and darkness both travel instantaneously. Sound travels considerably slower. Wisdom seems to travel very slowly indeed.

How can heat be transferred by contact as well as by light? How can heat be created by rubbing two objects of equal temperature together, if no light is produced?

What are Beholders, and what is their true purpose?

Illusions weigh next to nothing, but not quite nothing. Does light have a weight? Does darkness? Certainly, sound seems to have a weight, but what about hatred?

How intelligent are illusion spells? They seem to be able to imitate subtle details and even improvise.

If there are an infinity of mirror realms, are there also an infinity of Authorities and an infinity of Churches?

 

OSR: Illusionist Wizards

I've always thought "Illusionist" was a weird class. It's like "Ventriloquist" or "Pole-Vaulter". Sure, you can do a few tricks. Those tricks might even be useful in a dungeon. But when your signature move is tricking some orcs into falling off a cliff or running away... it's hard not to feel underwhelmed.

I'm still tweaking my ideas about how Illusionists work in my unnamed OSR setting. This post is mostly about their mechanics and spells. The class is stolen, more or less wholesale, from Goblin Punch. All credit goes to Arnold K for good ideas.


Illusionist Wizards

Perk: Your illusion spells have a duration of “Concentration + 1 minute”. You start with rainbow-coloured gloves 
The gloves are going to be important in a minute. The duration increase is very, very nice. Other people can cast illusions, but you are an Illusionist.
Drawback: You cannot cast spells unless you can see all 7 primary colours. Your magic supplies the 8th: octarine.
Ah. Right. Pitch darkness is out. Being blind is out. A thick fog is going to make things interesting. Losing your gloves or getting blood all over them is going to be a disaster. Octarine, the Colour of Magic, is stolen from the Discworld series.

Cantrips:
1. Create a shower of illusory sparks or a puff of illusory smoke from your hands.
2. Touch another caster’s illusion and make and Opposed Intelligence check. If you succeed, you gain control of the illusion.
3. You always know the position of the sun in the sky.
(1) is standard wizard theatrics. (3) means you will have trouble getting lost underground. But (2)... is very neat. See that neat illusory drawbridge? It's mine now. Your traps? My traps.
Mishaps:
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours
2. Take 1d6 damage
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Blind for 1d6 rounds
5. All sighted creatures are invisible to you for 24hrs.
6. Eruption of random illusions from your hands. Everyone in LOS must make a Wisdom check to do anything relying on sight for 1d6 rounds.
The first 3 mishaps are the same for every school. (4) means no spellcasting for 1d6 rounds. (5) is hilarious and extremely confusing. (6) is going to be entertaining to narrate, but it affects enemies as well as allies. It's line of sight based as well. If you mishap on top of a tower, everyone is going to stop to watch the fireworks.
Doom of the Illusionist:
1. A 10’ square mirror appears and you are compelled to enter. Your lose a random item, gain a random item of approximately equal value, and have 0 HP. You return the next morning, shivering.
2. You turn into an illusion for a day.
3. Turn into an illusion permanently.
As an illusion, you have no smell or taste. You cannot be felt. Solid impacts cause you to pop. Lose 1d6 Con that cannot be recovered while you are an illusion, and reform the next morning nearby. Illusions are real to you.
(1) is a neat idea. Mirror realms are always fun. 0 HP isn't the worst penalty either. You'll get some of it back at lunch. (2) and (3) are... really bad. Illusions being real to you does mean you can walk across an illusory bridge or ride an illusory dragon into battle, but you're going to pop a lot.
This doom can be avoided by journeying into the mirror-realm and eating one of the eyes of the beholders found there, or performing the Ritual of Prismax; a duel to the death against three of your mirror selves, fought in a neutral battlefield.
We'll talk about beholders and mirrors and the mirror realms in another post.


Spell List




2017/03/24

OSR: The Nature and Lives of Elementals

This is what novice Elementalists are taught:

 
The first element to be tamed was Acid. Life struck a bargain with Acid in the very first hour of Creation. Acid crawled inside some creatures and lives there still, in the mouth or in the stomach. It tears apart our food. Not all Life agreed to the terms of the bargain. Plants rejected Acid and its benefits.
 
The next element to be tamed was Stone. Stone is a reluctant ally, and must be prodded and hammered into shape. There are barbarian tribes that have never learned to forge iron and rely on the strength of stone for all their tools. The alliance with Stone separates Beasts from People.
 
Then, came Fire. To draw metal from stone, to cook food, to light the darkness, Fire demanded a place in every home and in every land. Before the bargain, think of how few fires existed in Creation. Now they are everywhere.
 
Next, Water, or perhaps Water and Wind allied together. Water would carry our ships and turn our mills. Wind would propel them, and turn any devices placed in its path. These are mild bargains compared to the compacts of Fire and Stone, but winning fickle Wind and changeable Water to the cause of People was not easy.
 
Ice has never been tamed. Ice refuses diplomacy and devours emissaries. Plant, Beast, and People are all loathed by Ice. It would destroy us if it could.
 
Lightning too has never been tamed. Its place in Creation seems uncertain. Stay away from Lightning.
 

This is what more advanced, post-graduate Elementalists are taught:

 
Everything we know about the bargains of Acid, Stone, and Fire, we learned from ancient Stones. They may lie to us. Fire acknowledges that there is a bargain, but is unable to describe its terms. Acid has no memory of any agreement. Stone tells different tales. Wind only agreed to the bargain because the Church agreed that Winds, or at least the Four Great Winds, are people, and may enter Heaven. Water agreed to help us but demands continual sacrifices.

Ice once ruled the entire world.
 
Lightning has a place in Creation, but we do not understand it, and it does not understand us. Stay away from Lightning.

This is what Arch-Elementalists ponder during sleepless nights:

 
The bargains may have been exchanges. Life gave some of its Nature to the Elements, and the Elements in return gave protection to Life. This explains why Acid is bestial, Wind is personable, and Lightning is incomprehensible. Yet why is Ice similar to People in many ways?

Some alchemists have discovered Lightning lives in the brains of some creatures, including People. We have had those alchemists silenced. Also, fur and amber are involved somehow. Just as how you can summon Fire by rubbing two dry objects together, so, it seems, can you summon Lightning. Acid may also play a role. And metal. How is metal involved with any of this? Why does Acid covet some metals and spurn others?

Where does Lightning go? Does it hide in Stone? Does it live in the Air, or beyond it?

Why is there so little Acid, Fire, and Lightning in Creation, when Stone, Water, and Air are present in such great abundance? Is there another part of Creation where the proportions are reversed?

Why does Fire need to eat? None of the other Elements eat.

 
Why does Air weigh nothing, Fire weigh next to nothing, Acid slightly more than Water, and Stone more than all the others? When Water becomes Ice it swells (from rage) but also floats on Water. Why is this?

Why are Stones produced by volcanoes all of one type, but Stones found in other places of other types entirely? The Stones say it is because the travel deep underground in vast, slow processions, and thereby change their forms and properties. Why is this?


If you asked a novice Elementalist to explain everything, they might draw you something like this:



Except with worse handwriting. They would use a slate and chalk.

Almost everything in this diagram is wrong.





 
 


 

2017/03/23

OSR: What does the Elemental Want?

Elementalist Wizards can meditate for one hour to gain Elemental Vision. This allows them to see elementals as anthropomorphized representations, and to get their attention more easily. A frogling wizard might see a campfire as a ravenous frogling head. Stones are dour froglings packed tightly together, mostly asleep and slow to react. Powerful elementals can appear in any shape they please. Almost everything is made of elementals. Most people are not aware of this, just as most elementals are not aware people are sentient. If you asked a thoughtful spirit to describe a properly attuned elementalist, they might say "a meat elemental". Life in general is strange and mysterious to them, just as the motives of a snowstorm or the grievances of a tornado are unknown to us.

You can make deals with them, if you can get their attention. This is not always a good idea. Elementalist Wizards are widely feared and hated for causing forest fires, earthquakes, and floods. Sometimes it's actually the wizard's fault.

Water Elementals

Ponyo, Studio Ghibli

Also known as river spirits or rain sprites. They often refuse to anthropomorphize neatly, and are instead interpreted by the wizard's brain as fat fish made of water. The ocean is like a drained lake; it's entirely made of fish, stacked one on top of the other and wriggling around. Rivers can have one spirit (often dragon-shaped, because rivers are vain and petty) or be packed with spirits. Just like a Biomancer can talk to your gallbladder directly, an Elementalist can talk to part of a river.

Rivers and lakes aren't very bright, as a rule, but they are lively. A rainstorm is extremely lethargic and moody, because it's melting away and changing form and it's vaguely depressed about the whole affair. The ocean is nearly impossible to talk to (too noisy). Water spirits share information easily but have terrible memories. A bucket of water might remember it was taken from a pond, but most of it's information will be bucket-related. Water spirits can change course on a whim, erode some stone, spit up sunken treasure, carry you and your boat, or drown your enemies. A rainstorm knows secrets about everything it's touched.

Water elementals like putting out fire because it tickles, and it lets them go become clouds for a bit, which is like going to heaven and reincarnating as rain later. Calm, fluffy clouds don't want anything to do with you. They have an extremely complicated and sexually charged relationship with lightning elementals. They are like one-night stands with amazing skills, but who also wreck your house and steal all the food from your cupboards. Like I said, it's complicated.

A Rain Spirit Wants:
1. Depressing Poetry. You have to read it at least an hour's worth of poetry (of any quality) or ten minutes of excellent poetry. If it doesn't like your poetry, it will call in a favour with a lightning elemental and give you a solid zap.

2. Nice Textures. Bring it beautiful naked people, extremely ugly people, rare treasures, carved objects, or other things the rain doesn't usually get a chance to examine.
3. A Bucket. And quickly! Catch as much of the rain as you can.
4. Hot Objects. The rain isn't done being a cloud. Get some fire together and start evaporating the rain. The fire elementals won't like you for this.

5. Insults. Validate it's feelings.
6. A Priest. Failing that, a religious ceremony of death and rebirth. You can make one up, but you'll need some costumes and at least 3 participants.

A River Spirit Wants:

1. Dredging. Something is stuck in the river, something large or magical enough that the river can't move it alone. An anchor, a sword, or an ex-husband/boulder (stone elemental).
2. Treats. Throw valuables or food into the river, or invite it to a feast in its honour.
3. Complements. Rivers are vain. The famous song "Oh, the Wonderful River Sbong" was written to save a village from a flood. The compliments must be elaborate and expensive.
4. Bridges. Build a bridge over the river in a specific location, or smash a bridge that already exists.

5. A Creature Removed. A really awful murder log (crocodile), wizard, or sludge monster is living in the river. Make it go away.
6. Renovations. The river wants to go around the other side of a hill. It wants some rapids improved or removed entirely. It wants a water mill to be moved to a new location.

The Ocean Wants:
1. Who knows? The bit of the ocean you're talking to can't make up its mind.
2. People. The ocean isn't sadistic but it does like to eat people. One sacrifice might do, or an entire city could be needed.
3. Treasure. Cast your shiny valuables into the sea.
4. Destruction. Destroy something that has offended the sea. This could be the fisherman next to you on the dock or a stone a thousand miles away. The ocean has no sense of scale.
5. A Temple. Depending on the request and the mood of the ocean, this could be as small as a roadside shrine or as large as the Grand Mausoleum of Thaubilger. It must be built within sight of the ocean.
6. Examination. The ocean wants to get a good look at you. You must jump in and survive. The ocean is extremely fickle. It might claim you as a lover, devour you, freeze you, or let you leave unharmed.



Ice Elementals

 
Icebergs, Frederic Edwin Church

Take away the playfulness of a water spirit and replace it with cold hard murderous rage. Ice elementals are hateful, bitter things. A light dusting of snow is still plotting to kill you. Ice elementals appear as tiny anthropomorphized figures with spiked hair and pointed teeth. They loathe fire elementals with all the bitterness of an atheist invited to a maudlin heaven. They loathe living creatures because they are warm. They are mercenary spirits who happily break deals.

Snowstorms are ice elemental armies on the march. Blizzards are their grand armadas. Snowbanks are fortresses. Glaciers are ancient mother-generals who send their iceberg children on scouting missions, or sulk in their mountain homes, remembering the days when they scoured the land clean. Snow has a short memory, but glaciers remember everything they have ever seen. In areas where the snow never melts you can learn almost anything or be lead almost anywhere.

Ice elementals that melt lose their cruel nature and remember their past hostility with a patient smile, like an adult remembering the strident assertions of his youth. Water elementals that freeze become bitter, like an old man cursing the weakness and follies of his past.

A Snow Spirit Wants:

1. Nothing. The snow, after leading you on, rejects you and scours your flesh with ice.
2. A Sacrifice. Bring it something helpless. You must sit and watch it freeze to death. Ice is familiar with all forms of suffering.
3. Cold. Extinguish all the fires in a village. Shed your furs and your boots.
4. Worship. Build a temple from it's body. Snow only packs when it's near to melting, so good luck. You may be able to stamp out a massive outline or runic figure to appease it instead.

5. Abasement. The snow wants to mock you for at least an hour.
6. Conquest. Kill or maim something for it. The snow will pick an arbitrary target.

A Glacier (or Snowpack) Wants:
1. Nothing. The glacier will try to convince you to walk across treacherous sections of ice or into a cave where it can crush you, very slowly, to death.
2. Maps. When the reconquest of the world begins, the glacier would like to know which areas should die first.
3. Sacrifices. Slaughter warm-blooded creatures at the foot of the glacier or on it's broad back.
4. Transport. You must carry a large piece of the glacier, without melting it, to a distant location and return it unharmed.
5. A Lover. Unlike air elementals, who are kind to their lovers, and the ocean, who is fickle but not hateful, the glacier only wants a thing to torment. Luckily, glaciers aren't too good at recognizing individuals. You could probably get away with a goat in a dress.

6.  An Offense Repaid. Some foolish travelers once built a camp on the glacier and lit a fire. Kill them, or their descendants, or people who look like them. The glacier will offer general details "A black-haired man with green boots and a silver sword." You must bring the bodies to the glacier.




Fire Elementals

Forest Fire, CBC
 
Most of them live for a few hours. They know very little beyond their immediate surroundings. They are joyful and manic and insatiably hungry. You don't need to convince a fire elemental to burn something. The real trick is getting them to stop, or do something selectively and carefully. They are like children and have a child's subtlety.

If you put a magic item into a fire, the fire can tell you things about it. They are great at identifying cursed or malicious items, but they might not tell you right away. You can usually figure it out when the elemental keeps chuckling and waiting to see if you'll put on the item.  


Fire spirits are terrified of water sprits, and can sometimes be coerced. They die peacefully if they run out of fuel, slowly falling asleep and fading to nothingness. Mighty forest fires slumber in an ancient ashen logs, ready to spring up once again when the forest is dry. The greatest fires can form lasting relationships with lightning elementals, but they live apart.

A Small Fire Spirit Wants:
1. More Fuel! Obviously. Keep bringing the logs. The spirit wants to grow fat and happy.

2. More Wind! While wind spirits can kill a fire elemental, they can also embolden it.
3. A Permanent Home. Maybe a local forge or a natural source of flammable gas, or someone to keep it fed all the time.
4. Something Delicious. Food, carved wood objects, soft metals, or glass.
5. A Lover. Fire spirits don't really understand love, but they try to imitate it. You can make a "bride" out of almost anything, provided you can convince the fire to accept it and perform a ceremony. The fire spirit will try not to burn their new lover but may fail miserably.

6. Smoke. Smelly smoke, coloured smoke, or just lots and lots of smoke. There's no reason for this. The fire just likes to make it.

A Large Fire Spirit Wants:

1. A Shrine. Honour the great forest fire, or build a tower to attract a lightning elemental lover.
2. A Place in the World. It's not enough to live in the local forge. The flame wants to help create a mighty sword, burn an irreplaceable treasure, destroy a library, or send a martyr to heaven.
3. Rare Salts. The fire wants to burn green, red, silver, and octarine. Dry and powder the lens of a manticore, the hard stones of Kvent, or the bones of an angel.
4. A Lover. A large fire has learned more about the world. They want someone to give themselves willingly to the flame and be consumed.
5. Adventure. The fire, or a piece of it, wants to be carried with you.
6. Heat. Just for a few moments, the fire wants to experience true heat. You will need bellows, strong fuel, and the advice of a wise blacksmith or alchemist.


Lightning Elementals

Grand Canyon Lightning Storm, Dan Ransom
  
Wizards are taught to never attract the attention of a lightning elemental if they can help it. Lightning elementals are rarely directly observed, but the afterimages appear to be lithe purple figures with crazed eyes. They can appear anywhere the sky is visible, not just from clouds. Thunderstorms are water elementals and lightning elementals making love or fighting or both. Massive storms are battlefield orgies.

They are transitory things. No one is certain if lightning is their true form, the wake from their passage through the air, or if they cast it off like smoke from a fire. They are incredibly promiscuous. They fall in love instantly and love almost everything. Most Wizards cannot survive their presence, let alone their love.

If you want to find a lighting elemental, find a storm, or build a great tower of glass and metal. Or just shout at the sky and hope. If you want to carry on a conversation, you'll need to build a resonator out of metal (so the lighting elemental can shake it to make sounds), build a body the spirit can inhabit, or spread some sand around so the elemental can blast
fulgurite patterns. Stuff cotton in your ears. Lightning spirits don't communicate very well. Some wizards claim that they can summon lightning elementals using acid and metal or giant wheels covered in cats and amber, but they are generally regarded as madmen.

Will-o'-the-wisps are lightning elementals as well, and are much easier to deal with. They are also much less powerful. Some wizards think they are like children or eggs. Some think they are the ghosts of people killed by lightning. They are silent, illiterate, and easily distracted, but they understand speech perfectly. For some reason, they often appear in bogs or at sea during storms.

A Lightning Spirit Wants:
1. To Touch You. This usually means death. The lightning elemental will be confused and saddened by this. It may possess your corpse to see if you're still there somewhere, or if you jumped out and are hiding.
2. To Taste Something. You will need to put a specific object or sacrifice in a very high place and let the lighting elemental examine it.

3. Music. Loud music, and lots of it.
4. Dancing. You will need at least 3 people, and possibly several hundred. Keep dancing. The motion is pleasing to lightning spirits.
5. Purest Metal. An ordinary forge won't do. You need to make an offering of purest gold, silver, platinum, or iron. You can keep the metal after the lightning elemental is done with it, provided you can find it.
6. Your Love. The lightning elemental desires you, and wants to be desired. It will follow you around for the rest of your life (no time at all to an elemental). It will wait outside the dungeon and vaporize a tree occasionally. If you return its love, it will want to touch you, and you will probably die.


A Will-o'-the-Wisp Wants:
1. To Touch You. It's painful, but not deadly. It just wants to see what you are made of.
2. To Lead You. The spirit wants you to look at something. It doesn't necessarily want you to do anything about it, but it's very important you see this frog or this stone and spend at least 10 minutes staring at it. The items are often underwater or in really strange places.

3. To Lead You Into Danger. The spirit is not really malicious, but it will lead you to a deep pit or a dangerous enemy to see what happens.
4. Dry Fur. For some reason, will-o'-the-wisps really love dry fur. It has to be bone dry and in dry air, but they will happily roll around in it, probably setting things on fire in the process.
5. An Item. It could be something you own or something the spirit has seen recently, but it wants you to take it and put it somewhere inconvenient, usually a bog or the ocean. The local water elementals have no idea why.
6. Something Moved. A stone, a town, a river, a stick; the spirit does not like it's current position and wants you to move it somewhere else. This is usually arbitrary, like moving an old broken cart wheel into the top of a tree.





Air Elementals

Lone Tree in the Wind, turst67

Also known as winds. Based on this post, which kind of inspired this article. Winds are capricious but helpful. They are always moving. A wind that is not moving dies. You can trap them in bottles or in rooms, and if they can't turn around, they slowly fade. They appear as anthropomorphized figures made of glass, visible only by their edges. Most of the time they are completely invisible.

Small winds can do very little, and can be offered very little in return. They might help you for a compliment, a kiss, or just because they want to. Alternatively they might fly off and vanish. Thousands of new winds are born every hour. Very few live to maturity. Winds are intelligent and curious. They are always looking at storms, poking fires, carving rocks, splashing water about, and looking in windows. They know many secrets. The greatest winds are as old as Creation.

A wind gone mad might become a tornado. It's the equivalent to a human going on a murder spree or being possessed. Hurricanes are ancient winds and are treated like lich-lords by lesser winds; a thing to be avoided or abominated. Winds are happy to help turn a windmill or sow seeds, but they are curious, and want to peel the roof off your house or creep in under the door to see what you're doing. You can ask a mighty wind to call up and army of lesser winds and create a fierce storm. They can also carry you for enormous distances (but not short ones), provided you have a sail of some kind and are prepared for a rough landing.

A Lesser Wind Wants (list blatantly stolen from
here):
1. An Object Punished. A stone elemental has offended the wind. A local statue has an unpleasant taste. A tree has been making a very strange whistling noise. Take it to the sea or deep underground and tell it the wind's grievances.
2. A Lover. The Church will bless the marriage, but you need to find a priest, a willing bride, and a suitable location. The wind is so well versed in human affairs that any cheats or deceptions will be turned on the party's heads. Winds aren't picky about gender, but they do understand beauty, kindness, and humour. They are kind and, to the astonishment of most, reasonably skillful lovers.
3. Less Smoke. Fire spirits love to make smoke, but the wind hates carrying it around. It's like having a pebble in their shoe. Something is making a lot of smoke and the wind wants it to stop.
4. Adventure. The wind wants to follow you. Expect to have a very difficult time lighting fires, entering buildings, or hitting anything with arrows. Winds can't go underground or into confined spaces, so they will wait outside a dungeon or try to find a way into a building.
5. A Creature Removed. A wizard using the capture wind spell, a roc, a rude person, or a foul-smelling beast. Make it go away.
6. A Vacation. You will have to do the work the wind normally does, like turning a few windmills or sowing grain or rattling chimes. Other winds might try and move in, so you have to scare them off. The wind will bring you a souvenir. They have good taste but no sense of scale. Expect a huge pile of annoyed snow spirits, rare silks, half a book, or a tent.

A Greater Wind Wants:

1. Something to Knock Over. Greater winds rarely get a chance to exercise their power without feeling guilty afterwards. Build a tall structure of sticks and canvas in an isolated place and let the wind scatter the pieces.
2. Music. Chimes are fine for lesser winds, but you will need to build a greater harp, an organ powered by a windmill, or a huge flute. Winds love music but have no sense of rhythm.
3. A Fugitive. Someone has offended the wind and, to escape punishment, hidden where it cannot reach. This could be a rival wizard hiding in a dungeon or a boulder carved into a flagstone in a castle's hall.
4. An Ally. The wind is going to war against another wind, the sea, some stones, or some clouds. You must help. The cause of the conflict is esoteric and the result is difficult to determine.
5. A Lover. The wind requires a prince or princess, or someone from a great dynasty. The wind might have someone in mind. You need to convince them and deal with the political fallout. The Church will be well-meaning but unhelpful.

6. Stories. You will probably need a team of people to tell the required number of stories. The wind will ask questions and try to flip the pages to read ahead. It may also correct historical details it actually observed or heard about through other winds.



Stone Elementals

 
Lava Flow, Chrissy's World


Also known as boulder folk or the bones of the earth. They appear as compressed anthropomorphized figures, like clay sculptures squished into cubes. Heads, faces, and limbs are distorted. They are always frowning, even while asleep. They sleep most of the time, and in their dreams, they mutter to each other. Even while awake they mutter, asking endless meaningless questions, debating circular problems, and telling lies. Stones will never admit ignorance. They form parliaments and conspiracies. They have vast networks of favours, debts, and loyalties. Rocks polished by the water or wind are less miserable than their deep-buried counterparts. Stones polished by ice or deposited by ancient glaciers are harsh and bitter. Stone spirits can and do fall in love with other spirits, though their relationships often fade.

They are reluctant to help anyone. A stone carved into a block will still have a dour nature, but statues of living things will have a strange, often insane spirit. It might believe it is a horse despite knowing nothing about horses. If you somehow earn the trust and respect of a stone spirit they will be a loyal but lethargic ally. You can call on the stones to collapse a city, build a tower, dam a river, or crush your enemies. Stones remember everything they have ever seen or touched. Some clearly remember Creation, and agree that it's been getting worse ever since.

Most people think stones cannot move on their own. This is a lie. Stones can move if they want to but they are proverbially lazy. Even threats of destruction can't get a stone to budge. If you ever see a boulder rolling uphill after a terrified Elementalist Wizard, give thought to the act that angered the stone so completely.


Lava, or molten stone, is joyful like fire but ignorant like an infant. Volcanoes are vast stone nurseries, where ancient stones slowly drift to forget their past and newborn stones emerge lively and excited, but rapidly harden into sullen contemplation. Sand is made of tiny stone elementals who can each mutter a single word: "why", "saw", "trust", "old", and so on, in an infinite murmuring chorus.

A Stone Spirit Wants:
1. To Be Left Alone. The stone rolls over (in your vision; the actual stone does not move) and refuses to speak to you any more. If you persist, it might eventually be annoyed enough to act.
2. To Be Touched. Stones are rarely handled. It's like a massage. You have to touch the stone everywhere, which might be very difficult if it's buried or embedded in something.
3. Gossip. The more vicious the better. Stories of fools losing everything, lovers killing each other by accident, buildings collapsing, or the misconduct of the virtuous might amuse a stone.
4. Respect. The stone wants to be carried to a place where everyone will have to look at it. Put it in the centre of town. Turn it into an altar. Make it the keystone of an arch.
5. Politics. The spirit has disagreed with its neighbor. Take the offending stone away, far away. The further you can take it from other stones the better.

6. Travel. The destination will be inconvenient. The stone will complain the entire way there, and may demand to be taken back after arriving.

A Lava Spirit Wants:
1. To Touch. Run. Run quickly.
2. To Taste. Give it food. Probably a cartload or two.
3. Shiny Things. Give it valuables. All you can carry and more.
4. Sacrifice. Nobody knows why molten stone wants to consume living beings, particularly the young, beautiful, and virtuous. Death is inevitable but the pain and fear can be dulled by drugs.
5. Water. The young stone spirits want to toss water elementals into the air. You'll need more than a bucket. You might need a lake.
6. A Shrine. The larger the request, the larger the shrine. Stones are not vain, as a rule, but they do like obedience and silence. Consider founding a monastery.

The Sand Spirits Want:
1. Who knows? The sand is busy arguing.
2. Sacrifice. Send out a creature the sand can consume or desiccate.
3. More Sand. The sand will designate a larger stone. Grind it into dust. The larger the request, the larger the stone.
4. Peace and Quiet. Something is bothering the sand. It might be an amorous water elemental, a noisy crab, a campfire, or a lost caravan. Make it go away.
5. To Become Glass. The invention of glass was how people earned the grudging respect of sand, and why caravans can sometimes cross deserts without being consumed. Previously, sand could only become glass by lightning, and lightning finds sand a boring and tedious lover. Coloured glass, or glass used for art, is most respected.
6. Change. Sand in the desert wants to be soaked in seawater. Sand on the beach wants to be dried far from the ocean.

Note: Metal is not stone. Metal is in stone, just like water is in people, but people are not water. Alchemists believe metal is fossilized magic left over from Creation. Astrologers believe metal is bits of other planets fallen to earth. Stone elementals can tell you where metal is, just like you could tell a stranger where the fattest man in the village lived, but they don't know why you'd want the stuff. Once they know you want it, they will obviously refuse to help you get it. Earth is not stone either. It's sand carrying organic matter around for some reason.



Acid Elementals

Acid Level, Doom. (the green stuff in the pits)


Also called pain sprites, caustic spirits, or vitriol. Acid elementals are rarely found in nature. They are the children of stone spirits and water spirits, but have a disposition all of their own. Many living creatures produce them. No one is entirely sure why. Acid elementals are phenomenally ignorant. The appear as tiny figures with swords, spears, and axes. A vast lake of acid will appear as an army of spirits chipping at the rocks.

The strongest acid elementals, produced by alchemists by methods that kill many and cripple the survivors, are like ravening beasts or berserkers. Acid spirits attack anything they can reach, chipping at flesh, stone, and glass with wild abandon until they fade.
Some Elementalists believe that there are two genders of acid elementals - caustic and vitriolic - and that when they meet they produce water elemental children and sometimes fire. Much like fire spirits, acid elementals will attack anything they can reach. The difficulty is getting them to attack selectively or stop attacking. They are like a horde of frenzied children playing at being warriors, but with very real swords.

The Acid Spirits Want:
1. War! They are not complicated creatures. They have chosen a target (a bird, a stone, a rock) that is just out of reach. Give it to them.
2. More Acid! You will need the right ingredients, an alchemist, and some water.
3. Strange Minerals! Even the alchemists aren't sure what use platinum, copper, limestone, sulphur, and potash are to an acid elemental swarm.
4. Water! They want to convert a water elemental to their cause. Put a bucket near to them and mediate the resulting argument, or just dump the water in and let them solve their problems with violence.
5. That Thing! The elementals will demand a pebble, your belt, your friend, your spellbook, or that castle. Acid elementals don't understand that things can be both small and far away, so a model of the object might work.
6. Adventure! The acid spirits want to go with you and fight in your battles. Depending on the request this may merely inconvenient or outright impossible. Do you really want to roll a barrel of acid with you everywhere you go? You may have to invent an "adventure" for them.

2017/03/21

OSR: 100 Orthodox Spells (condensed formats)

Here are the spells from this post, presented as a list of names, and as the spell descriptions without any notes.

OSR: 100 Orthodox Spells



Orthodox Wizards have a major advantage over other, more esoteric schools. The spell list given in their class template is fairly meager, but Orthodox Wizards invent/breed new spells with alarming regularity. Ancient Orthodox Wizards sometimes give up spellcasting entirely and devote their time to manufacturing true-breeding copies of useful spells. Archmage Karl Gustovaphanopolos III claimed he could scribe one magic missile spell every hour, on the hour, without tiring or suffering a fatal brain hemorrhage.

When you create an Orthodox Wizard, you may replace any spells on your School Spell list from 1 to 9 with a random spell from the list below. For example, you could roll to replace 2. knock and 5. levitate. You can only replace these spells at character creation.

These spells are not carefully balanced, but since you don't get to choose your spells, I don't think it's a big deal. The spells use the Goblin Punch spell format. You can convert these spells to other systems by replacing [dice] and [sum] with integers of your choice.

This list includes my comments on these spells, explaining what I think of them, why I wrote them, or some potential uses. You can find a comment-free version here, along with a list of just the names, if you want to write your own rules.

 

d100 Orthodox Spells


2017/03/19

OSR: Tomb of the Serpent Kings, Session 2

Continued from here. In which a toad loses a leg, everyone gets loot, and the party discovers secret passages do not always lead to treasure.

The Party:

A nameless human Paladin of the Voice. Not very bright, but unshakably faithful.
Thomas, a toadling elementalist wizard, formerly a shepherd. Accompanied by his last remaining sheep.
Franklin, the Iron Frog. A frogling, a knight, and a sensible man.
Antonia Barracuda, a fishling thief, and a sensible lady.
Tito. A toadling gambler and part-time assassin.


Art of the party.


Session 2:


2017/03/13

OSR: Session 1 Characters

A very kind friend drew the poor fools from my OSR game.

Hooray!
Carl's got a very meager tombstone as well. Poor Carl.

I'm sure some other characters will join him soon.

Star Wars: Imperial Prisons

Inevitably, brave rebels or notorious scum will be captured and taken to a proper Imperial prison with pill lights and hissing hydraulic doors. Because this is Space Opera, they're going to get out somehow. It's inevitable. But what will give them the chance?

 

1. Riot

Fed up with the lack of guardrails, the pointless torments, and the terrible food, the prisoners have rioted! The prison is in chaos. Doors are flung open, the lights flicker, fires break out, and smoke fills the air. The party has an excellent chance to escape, provided the legions of stormtroopers closing in don't catch them first, and provided they don't have enemies on the inside waiting to settle old scores. The Imperials aren't the only danger here.

2. Lecture

Before their (well deserved) execution, a ranking Imperial officer decides to lecture the party about their many faults and failures while pacing back and forth. The lecture is so long and so dull that even his stormtrooper guards begin to lose focus. Can the party goad the officer into making a tactical blunder, or will they simply bludgeon their way to freedom?

3. Malfunctioning Droid

The sleek black torture droid glides into the room, flanked by two stormtroopers. Its ominous flanges and needles glisten in the dim light of your cell. Suddenly it stops and begins to sputter quietly. A thin stream of smoke emerges from one of the panels. The Imperial officer stops gloating and stares at it, annoyed. "Not again. You," he says, pointing to one of the stormtroopers, "get a technician, now!" Can the party use this distraction to their advantage? The remaining stormtrooper and the officer will clearly be focused on the malfunctioning droid.

4. Rescue

Someone the PCs helped in the past, or a generic Rebel team, decides to break them out of prison. Their plan has a 50% chance of being laughably unworkable.

5. Unpleasant Rescue

Someone wants the PCs more than the Empire does. Maybe they can't work off their debts if they're dead. Maybe they want to execute the PCs in a convoluted and gruesome way. Maybe the Rebellion has a suicide mission planned that only the party could perform.

6. Crime You Didn't Commit

The party is brought before an Imperial military court (3 officers, a few stormtroopers, and a protocol droid) and informed that they are guilty of an extremely minor offense, such as littering. The names announced (at the end of the trial) don't match the PCs names at all, but nobody will realize this unless it's pointed out. While this means the party will go free after paying a hefty fine, some poor souls are probably going to be executed for the party's crimes.
 

7. Much Worse Crime You Didn't Commit

The party is brought before an Imperial military court and informed that they are guilty of a ludicrously severe offense, such as sabotaging a Star Destroyer, attempted assassination of the Emperor, or, if those crimes aren't severe enough, a string of unlikely and implausible events the PCs had no part in. The sentence is death - gruesome, convoluted death. Can the PCs prove their innocence? Can they prove that the lead Imperial prosecutor is blaming all the local Rebel crimes on them to make his numbers look good?
 

8. Completely Obsessed by a Trivial Crime

The party is brought before an Imperial military court. The lead prosecutor, who has clearly been waiting for this moment for a very long time, presents bombastic proof that the party committed some minor crime (vandalism, car theft, stealing rations) on his watch a long time ago. He has holograms and charts and everything. The other two Imperial officers gently take him into an adjacent room once he's done, presumably to inform him that "death by microlaser ablation from the feet up" is not an appropriate punishment, and that the party is also guilty of much more severe crimes. This, or baiting the obsessed officer into a tactical error, might give the party a chance to escape.

9. Mutual Backscratching

A ranking Imperial officer has a mission only the party could carry out. It's a major breach of protocol, but if they help her. 1. assassinate or frame a rival, 2. betray an unaffiliated Rebel cell, 3. infiltrate a secure facility or, 4. pay a truly enormous bribe, she might let them "escape" from Imperial custody. There is a 50% chance she won't alter the deal once the PCs succeed.

10. Shoddy Construction

The entire prison is under construction, in a state of terrible repair, or brand new but badly built. Sitting on anything or kicking the walls causes a panel to pop off. Escaping the cell is trivial, but can the PCs survive in the industrial bowels of an Imperial prison?

2017/03/11

OSR: Elementalist Wizards

I decided not to outline the details of the Wizard Schools in my campaign until they came up in play. I wanted to see what the players, completely new to the genre, would do with them. The only school that's been defined so far is the Elementalists. They're based on this post from Goblin Punch. Hopefully I've added some interesting aspects to a fairly stock concept.

Elementalist Wizards

Le Pater, Alphonse Mucha

Elementalist Wizards speak to and rely on elemental spirits. They are a wild bunch, disreputable and windblown. They are trained in the Great Tower of Elderstone at great expense. In rural areas, they are beloved as rain-bringers and flood-calmers, but they are also run out of town or hung following forest fires and earthquakes. This is not always ignorant superstition. Attracting the attention of powerful elemental spirits is very dangerous.

Thomas is currently paying off his debts to the Great Tower. He knows two spells: Dissolve and Anklecrusher. If you have the right kind of sight, you would see Dissolve as a tiny green acid elemental with a sword, and Anklecrusher as a flatfish-like stone elemental made of fingers.
Perk: +3 to Save or Defense vs Elemental damage. No bonus against non-damaging effects.

Would this apply to being struck by lightning? Certainly. But what about HP loss due to frostbite? Or acid sprayed by a slime? I'd say yes to both. Frostbite is caused by tiny elemental spirits nipping at your flesh. Slimes naturally generate acid elementals.

Drawback: Cannot cast fire spells if wet. Cannot cast water or ice spells if dehydrated. Cannot cast earth or acid spells if you are not touching the ground. Cannot cast air or lightning spells if you do not have line of sight to the sky. 

The school's drawback is quite intuitive. The lightning and air spell restrictions do mean that a wind-based mage isn't much use in the dungeon, but only exclusively Wind-based spell on the core list is Wind Scythe, which I'll cover later.


Cantrips:  1. You can sense the potency and disposition of any nearby elemental spirits by meditating for 1 hour.
2. Summon a flame the size of a candle's by snapping your fingers. Cannot be used to deal damage.
3. Meditate for 1 hour to gain a new Save against any poison or damaging effect.

I'm rewriting (1) to read "You gain Elemental Vision for 1 hour by meditating for 1 hour."

Elemental Vision: your training allows you to anthropomorphize elemental spirits. The ground appears to be made of interlinked stone bodies. A campfire is a jolly spirit devouring logs. Clouds appear as fat naked people rolling through the sky. You can speak to the spirits - you always could, anyone can - but when you are attuned like this, they are more inclined to listen. They won't obey you, and they may be hostile, but they may also offer advice, tell tales, demand offerings, or simply ignore you.


It seems more evocative. The old version just told the player what they could guess already: water spirits in the bog, storm spirits in the clouds, etc.

(2) is very, very, very useful. Relighting lamps or campfires is now less of a concern. I ruled that the flame only exists for a few moments, so it's not a continual light source, and it has to appear within 10' and line of sight, but it's still a cantrip that instantly makes the Elementalist a beloved addition to a party.


(3) Is a minor cantrip. Most poisons will kill you in under an hour, but the "damaging effect" line is deliberately vague. Mummy Rot, a broken heart, or roasting in an oven might be covered.
Mishaps:
1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24 hours
2. Take 1d6 damage
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then make a save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Soaked, or dehydrated, or flung upwards, or buried.
5. Deafened for 1d6 rounds
6. Wild elemental spirits flee your body for 1d6 rounds. Everyone within line of sight must Save each round or be stunned
The first 3 mishaps are the same for every school. (4) is entertaining and vague. I'd say that the effect should be the opposite of the elemental type of the spell. If you cast control water and got this mishap,  you should be dehydrated. If you cast wall of fire, expect to be soaked. (5) isn't terribly dangerous but will hinder tactical coordination. (6) is going to be entertaining to narrate, but it affects enemies as well as allies. It's line of sight based as well. If you mishap on top of a tower, everyone is going to stop to watch the fireworks.
Doom of the Elementalist:
1. Take sufficient elemental damage to reduce you to zero HP. 
2. Each time you cast an Elemental spell, Save or the spell flies out of control.  If it likes you, the effects might not be too bad. 3. The elements turn against you. Expect 1d4+4 powerful spirits to arrive shortly. In the meantime, fire chases you, stones seek to crush you, the earth trembles, and lightning bolts plunge from the sky.

(1) is not the worst Doom. It's very much a warning shot. (2) starts to bring in the "wild" aspects of the Elementalist. Your spells, more so than other schools, have minds and wills of their own. Cast ice breath, and the ice elemental might decide to go around freezing your potions and the local water supply. The longer you keep a spell in your spellbook (spell jail), the less likely it is to listen to  you. (3) is very dangerous. Powerful elemental spirits could include "the hills" "a major volcano" "ancient underground coal bed fires" "the local chain of lakes" etc. They have friends, and they'll call on them. You made a diplomatic blunder. You asked too much.
This doom can be avoided by journeying to a powerful elemental centre and pledging yourself to the spirit within, or by visiting pure vacuum or the deepest shadow.
If you want to avoid the wrath of a powerful elemental, find a more powerful elemental to protect you (and, by extension, your friends). Alternatively, visit a place beyond the elements. Shadow and vacuum can cut the ties that let elementals identify you.

Spell List: