Sunday, 7 January 2018

The Gift of Light & Vision—An Astrorotica Short Story


Its fur flashed, cycling through turquoise, lime-green, then a colour I can't quite describe; "magenta sunrise" comes to mind.

Captain Vuvaxath's suit flashed in turn—small lights embedded into the pressurised exoskeleton. It was quick, and I barely made them out. Two scarlet lines running the length of her body, and a single tan-beige pulsing from her ankles to her knees.

The creature looked at me with its large black eyes—like staring into the "empty" parts of space, which promise you'll see light if you just go far enough. It was utterly alien. On Earth, before everything, we had creatures called quokkas. It was like that, except upright, and in place of its hind legs was a thick tail that sprouted rows of caterpillar-like legs. Its fur—translucent over ash-grey skin—emitted colour and light in strange patterns. It lacked a mouth, and had only the suggestion of a nose.

It flashed at me, the same pattern it had flashed at the captain. I didn't flash in response—I didn't have anything to flash with. I switched my vocaliser on, but didn't say anything. I couldn't see any ears on the thing.

The captain looked at me, laughed silently—her suit cutting off the noise I'd grown to love—and turned back to the creature. Orange, like the part of a flame just after the clear, flashed along her stomach, moving up through to her arms, and ending as a brazen-brass colour at her wrists. This repeated twice, the second time much faster.

The creature flashed rose-pink three times. The captain laughed silently. I couldn't hold it, and I laughed as well, my vocaliser spilling it onto the silent planet.

That was the first time I shared a joke with someone who couldn't hope to speak my language, nor I theirs. I'm still not sure what we were laughing at.

~From the Log of Navigator Iwani M'Bala.

Astrorotica is a tabletop RPG I'm in the process of writing, about a far-flung future where humans have discovered a galaxy at peace, without the need or urge for violence, where the only hill left to climb is the tyranny of distance. This is a short story that will appear in the book.

The artwork that goes along with this post was made by Deven Rue (+Deven Rue) of RueInk.com. Please go and check out the site—Deven's work is fantastic.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

On the Nature of Religion in Warhammer

The following article was inspired by a thread on /r/WarhammerRPG, concerning Orcs and why there seemingly aren't Chaos Orcs in the world. I had been thinking about this a lot recently, due to a conversation with one of my players before my last On the Edge of Exile session, as well as just in general. Thinking about Warhammer Gods is my jam, alright?!


A lot of time is spent examining the Gods and their Cults in the various Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition books, from the Core to Tome of Salvation and Tome of Corruption. But, like with most roleplaying games, something has always rubbed me the wrong way: Why would different races have different Gods, especially when the Gods are very real. In WFRP this makes a bit of sense: Most of the Gods are clear aspects of each other, and, realistically, they're not as easy to define as the minds of mortals make them. In settings like Faerûn, it's baffling. We know who the creator God is. Everyone does. And yet, for some reason, my Fake-Egyptians still worship Fake-Egyptian Gods, just…because.

But let's get back on the subject of WFRP (and maybe save the D&D bashing for another day), shall we?

I realised that the reason the different races have different Gods (in setting—the IP and real-world reasons are less cool) is that the different Gods reflect the psychologies of the races that made them, both in how the Gods manifest, and how they interact with the world. This also means that, whilst all the Gods are "real", they are more or less interested in dealing with other races, because those other races may not want to deal in the way the Gods are set up to deal… Let's take a look, shall we?

(Please note that everything in here is my opinion. Some of it is based on sources, others just on thinking about it too much. Nothing is canon. If you want canon, I dunno, read some Black Library books?)

Humans & Gods

Humans in WFRP have a very transactional relationship to the Gods. Human worship tends to be based on either fear or desire: They fear retribution for not worshipping the Gods, or they desire some benefit from worshipping the Gods.


This is also active worship. A Human changes their normal behaviours to fit the edicts and designs of the God they worship so that they can avoid what they fear, and attract what the desire. A person may worship Sigmar because they fear what will happen to their soul as a good Imperial if they don't, and they desire to keep safe their people from the depredations of Orcs. A person may worship Rhya because they fear their pregnancy will turn badly, and they desire a healthy, strong, child.

But, as I say, this is very transactional. Humans believe that if you input the actions and beliefs the Gods want you to, that the Gods will output their benefits. Whilst this is sometimes true for Sigmar, Rhya, etc., it is definitely not always the case. This is also why so many Humans turn to the worship of the Chaos Gods, because the fears they prey on (violence, disease, hopelessness, and joylessness) are very pressing in the Old World, and the desires they can grant are immediate, measurable, and, sadly, all to often granted. Praying to Shallya might work to thwart the spread of plague, but you better believe that Nurgle would be all too willing to open His arms if you come calling. He won't heal you, but He'll make it OK

This makes Humans a prime target for Chaos: Force those in league with you to spread problems that grow fear, prey on the fears of the people, convert those people to becoming in league with you, repeat. Or, alternately, grant their ambitions and desires…

This is also the reason why Norscans and the Northern Tribes fall to Chaos: They're no more evil than folks in the Empire. But they get it. They get how difficult their lives are. How terrible the land is that they're forced to live in. Folks of the Empire couldn't comprehend how terrible life would be for the Northern Tribes if they didn't get assistance from the Chaos Gods. Life would be impossible

Dwarves & Gods

Dwarves have a whole other form of divinity, completely different from that of Humans. The Dwarves venerate the "Ancestor Gods"—real, physical, historical figures from their people's past. These Ancestor Gods were, and are, paragons of their chosen fields. Grungni was the greatest miner. Valaya was a fierce guardian of her people's well being. Grimnir was the greatest Dwarven warrior the world has ever seen.


But the Dwarves don't have priests. Why? Their Gods actually existed—no one contests that. The answer is, they don't need to. They know that the Ancestor Gods won't grant miracles, nor will they intervene when the going gets tough. Nor, I think, would most Dwarves want them to. It's too counter to their culture. Instead, the Ancestor Gods are held up as symbols to aspire to. They are figures who inspire by example.

The Dwarves dig deep because Grungni taught them how. But Grungni also taught them restraint in their mining, and the folly of their greed. Valaya taught them how to govern well, and to heal the sick. The two of them represent the ideal man and woman in Dwarven society.

To be pious is to be Grungni-like, Valaya-like, Grimnir-like.

This is why you don't see many Dwarves fall to Chaos—the idea of taking a short cut is foreign to them…except for the Chaos Dwarves, right?

Wrong. The Chaos Dwarves fell to Hashut not because it was convenient, but because the teachings of the Ancestors no longer applied. They were in a situation where emulating the Ancestor Gods didn't work. Their paragons were, apparently, wrong. So they went looking for something else to guide them—and they were preyed upon by Hashut. Yes, now the Chaos Dwarves are just as scheming and terrible as any corrupted by the Gods of Chaos—but the reason they fell is far from the reasons given by most Humans.

Elves & Gods

The Elves see the Gods as truths about the world, but as Teclis has explained, they're phenomena, not deities. The Gods are stories personified. A story doesn't like nor dislike you: But it does support and maintain an ideology.


Let's look at a common story (one many reading this will be familiar with): The Lord of the Rings. That is a story that relies on bravery, of overcoming darkness, and of defeating evil despite the fact that all hope, constantly, seems lost. This is a very fine story—but it supports some uncomfortable ideology. The West is always good in The Lord of the Rings, whilst the East is bad. Industry is inherently evil, under Sauruman and the Orcs, whilst knightly virtues, and country living, are aspirationl. Kings are destined to save their people, and they hold divine right… Whether you believe in the messages of The Lord of the Rings or not doesn't matter (for this discussion), but what does matter is that you understand that the story inherently carries this ideology. You don't need to subscribe to it to enjoy the story, or to learn from it, either.

That is what the Gods are to the Elves. The Gods represent stories of people and places, actions and events. They talk of ways to comport yourself, or things to avoid, or truths about the world. Most Elves don't dedicate themselves to these stories, but everyone takes parts of them and uses them to guide their lives. Some Elves do, however. They don't become priests, gaining miracles from their Gods, but they do become living embodiment of the stories (and ideologies) that they carry.

Let's look at Hoeth, Lord of Wisdom. He is said to be the embodiment of erudition, and patron of all who search for greater understanding. The Elves tell stories of how Hoeth gifted them with much of the knowledge and wisdom that their people take for granted, and that make them great. But many debate that the knowledge this brought also brought with it progress, and progress leads to the breaking of traditions and eventually ruin. It's said that Asuryan, chief of the Elven Gods, rebuked Hoeth when he did this, and torched much of his great library…and yet, there are Loremasters of Hoeth—Elves dedicated to his image—who seek to collect knowledge and share it with those who have the wisdom to use it. They use Hoeth as an example and a cautionary, inspirational, tale.

Khaine, Lord of Murder & War is another great example, because very few Elves dedicate their lives to his story, and yet there are a lot of Elves who employ his teachings when they fight. Khaine is as much a demon in their mythology as a God: He is who you channel when you need to fight, but if you embody him too much, you'll destroy yourself. This is exemplified in the stories of the Altar of Khaine, and Phoenix King Aenarion the Defender (look them up, they're super cool).

So why do some Elves turn to Chaos? Why are there Witch Elves among the ranks of the Druchii? Because Slaanesh whispered a better story: A story of supremacy, of desire, of experience. The Elves have been fading for a very long time, and Slaanesh offered a chance to be vital, to hold back the fading, and to experience life once more. Sure, it's tainted, and it comes with a lot of baggage, but to the repressed Elves, I can understand how they'd see this as a fair price to pay. After all, it's only Humans who you have to hurt, right?

Orcs & Gods

Lastly, I'll talk about the Orcs—the ones who started me on this journey.


Orcs are not Humans, Dwarves, or Elves. Orcs don't worship their Gods. They don't hold their Gods as examples, nor do they see them as stories and aspects of the world. No. Orcs know the truth of their Gods: That neither Gork nor Mork give the slightest of shits about anything other than being Cunningly Brutal and Brutally Cunning.

Just as the Orc Gods are impressive, they are easily impressed. Kill something in a brutally cunning way, and Gork will be impressed. Twist something in a cunningly brutal way, and Mork will be impressed. Maybe erect a totem in their honour as well, because that's just what you do when you have a pile of skulls and dung lying around that's not doing anything.

When the Gods are impressed, they may bless you, or not. Who knows. But it's always better to be impressive, instead of getting stomped, so you keep doing it. The more impressive you are, generally the better you do: You grow bigger, stronger, more deadly. You gain followers, massive Choppas, loot, ale, maybe a lair. It seems like the more you impress the Gods, the more impressive they make you…

But remember, the Gods don't like you, and as soon as you stop being impressive, things will go wrong. Or is it the other way around? Do you lose the battle because Gork is less impressed with you? Or is Gork less impressed with you because you lost the battle?

Who knows. Who cares. Stop arguing about it, and get back to FIGHTIN'!

Ruinous Reactions—Fear, Terror & Insanity in WFRP2e

I have a lot of issues with fear, terror, and insanity in…basically every roleplaying game. Some games, specifically in the storygame variety, do it much better, but on the whole roleplaying games have a lot of room for growth in this area.

This is my attempt to grow on this issue in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition. This is also my submission to the Three Page Fiction Contest over on /r/WarhammerFantasyRPG!

I hope you enjoy Ruinous Reactions!

Ruinous Reactions is an overhaul for Fear, Terror, and Insanity in WFRP2e, because a) being frozen isn't fun game play, and removes player agency, and b) RPGs tend to have a very ableist view of mental health. This new system intends to fix both of these issues, and turn Fear, Terror, and Insanity into interesting game play opportunities, rather than agency sucking moments!


Download Ruinous Reactions now!


Edit: As a side note, between this post and the last, versamus reached 100,000 views, and this post was actually our 200th! Lots of milestones for the new year!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Petty Magic for Petty Matters—Part #3: Hedge

We've spoken about Arcane magic, and then Divine… Now it's time for Hedge!


Petty Magic (Hedge)

Petty Magic (Hedge) is the weirdest of the three we're discussing because a) it's by far the most dangerous magic of the three, and the most touched by Chaos, and b) it's by far the most accepted and integrated into normal everyday life, already! Many Hedge spells are more along the lines of Old Wives' Tales (given form). They're little peasant superstitions, except they're real.

Many villages, especially further away from larger towns and cities, contain a Hedge Witch of some sort—whether they're just a local guardian of the Old Faith, or they're actually attuned to the Winds of Magic, and have gone untrained and unnoticed by the Colleges of Magic. Either way, they live in an uneasy halfway between civilisation and the wilds—hence "Hedge", for they live along the hedgerow between the worlds.

Where Hedge Witches are found, you'll also find excuses as to why they should be tolerated. The Hedge Witch is often a healer, or a puller of teeth, or a warder of bad spirits. Whether they're actually doing a good job at this, or not, is up to the individual…but it always seems like villages with Hedge Witches do better than those without (though what are they trading for their prosperity?)

How does this prosperity manifest? Let's have a look.

Protection from Rain

The Witch is protected from rain and other precipitation, regardless of how heavy. This one, at first, seems like a weird spell…until you consider that most folks wouldn't have parasols or umbrellas in this age, and that to catch a cold is to flirt with death!

It may be disconcerting to see an old bent-over woman emerge from the driving rain whilst being bone dry, but I'm sure you'll forget your unease when they reveal your child, safe and sound, and unmarred by the rain. You'll be thankful when the Witch is able to guide your sheep back in, safely, when a flash storm occurs during the rainy season, or when they're the only one able to find a lost trinket out in the storm.

Plus, it doesn't hurt when nasty things come calling, to have a weirdly serene being standing among you, who has even made the rain afraid to fall on them…

Magic Flame

The Witch creates a small blue flame in their hand. In a world without lighters or easy access to fuel, being able to conjure even small flames would be a massive time saver. Sure, the fire is blue, and the edges of it look like skulls, and the back of your teeth taste like last Marktag when you were sure you heard a whispering of grey and worms and shattering and SOMETHING IS GETTING CLOSER!

Ahem. Excuse me.

Yes—the flame is weird, but it's flame. No need to dry the kindling, to labour over the spinning sticks, or to spend all your time tinkering with the flint and tinder.

Gust

The Witch creates a light gust of wind through an area, strong enough to blow out candles and scatter paper, but not to knock over objects of any weight.

Field work is tiring and very exposed to the elements. If the day is particularly hot, and there is no breeze, it would make toiling all the more difficult. Further, days of low-wind would aid crows and other scavenging birds to pick at a farmer's fields, and maybe allow larger raptors to steal young animals!

Quick, sudden, and unexpected changes in the weather, would be disconcerting to any who are paying attention (which would definitely include farmers and birds in the area), which would cause them to scatter and go elsewhere… So, whilst this might seem like a great idea to do over a farm, make sure the farmer knows the Gods are protecting them (or some other convenient lie).

Ghost Step

The Witch leaves no visible tracks for an hour, no matter where they move through.

Whilst the potential benefits of getting behind attackers who are coming to raid a village are unmistakable, I'm more interested in animals, here. There are plenty of situations where tracking animals could come after villagers: a bear has wandered into the area, the wolves of Winter are starving in the forests and are hunting closer to the village, or the Lord has discovered a theft and has unleashed their hunting dogs!

Ghost Step would aid in circumventing these dangers, and could be used to lure them away from the village, and throw off their trails. Perhaps it wouldn't be enough to stop them altogether, but it would buy time for the village to prepare: to hide the stolen goods, to gather their bows and head to the keep, or to lock their doors and hold out the hunting bear!

Ghost Step is also one of the least uncanny spells on the list: it is a talent that is conceivable to be trained (or at least, to trick a peasant that it is trained). This might require some deception on the part of the Witch, but it would be a strange Witch that didn't have to lie from time to time.

Ill Fortune

The Witch enchants an item, so that its bearer is cursed with bad luck.

This one is a little more obscured, but just remember: bad luck for one person is good luck for another. Sort of. The life of a farmer is a competitive one, and one measured in individual days. A single day of missed opportunities may mean the difference between surplus to be sold at market, and just scraping by through the Winter. Thus, cursing someone with failure, even for a day, could disrupt their whole year!

Further to that, the price of grain (as with all things) is set by the supply versus the demand. If the supply drops, and the demand is bumped up (by a farmer not having surplus, and indeed being dependant on purchasing more grain), then the farmer with the surplus will command a higher price!

There are all sorts of other uses: curse the local Lord, so they're less likely to notice their peasants short changing them, or curse the travelling merchant so they're not as savvy with their hard bargaining.

Of course, these curses are very wide-reaching, and they could have massively disastrous effects! The cursed farmer might not just be unable to work the fields properly, but might break their neck! The cursed Lord might take issue with the bad luck, and assume it's the entire village being cursed for harbouring a Witch! The merchant might get robbed on the road, and now the village will never get them back again to trade!

Ill Fortune is perhaps my favourite spell on the list: it's the most Witchy, it's the most unspecific (which means it'll cause the most drama when used at the table), and it's got such versatility. It's also, due to it being the most Witchy, the one most likely to cause the Witch strife if discovered. This sort of thing is why Witches get burnt at the stake, so be careful with its use!

Shock

The Witch touches and stuns one person.

Shock is a relatively straight forward spell: whether you need someone to stop, it has its uses. And there are definitely those times in provincial life… A man gets too drunk and disorderly at the local pub: that's a Shock. A dog goes rabid and pounces towards a young child: that's a Shock. A cow starts acting flighty, and is at risk of setting off a stampede: oh you better believe that's a Shock!

Again, however, this is a spell that looks off. It's not calming them, it's not making them drowsy: it's stunning them via a shock! If someone sees you doing this, they'll be very wary of you, and will start to spread bewitching rumours. Beware!


That's the end of our series! Make sure you read through the first two parts, Arcane and Divine, as well. I hope you enjoyed this little look into how magic can be expanded into the mundane, to make it even more dramatic and exciting!

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Petty Magic for Petty Matters—Part #2: Divine

Last time we talked about how Petty Magic (Arcane) could be used by a Magister to improve the lives of the smallfolk—peasants, merchants, etc. This time, we're looking at Priests and Petty Magic (Divine)!


Petty Magic (Divine)

Petty Magic (Divine) falls into a weird grey area, for me. On the one hand, I tend to have Divine magic much rarer, in my WFRP, than Arcane magic. Divine magic is literal miracles, and rarely, if ever, is it exact or reliable. Petty Magic, on the other hand, is more along the lines of blessings, which I can forgive as being rare, but no more so than secular wizards (which are super rare, anyway).

Whilst everyone in the Warhammer world would have been blessed at some point, and most of them often and repeatedly, few would encounter true blessings in their lives (and very very few multiple times throughout their lives). But the big thing to note is: believers think that every blessing they receive is a true blessing. Every "spell" below represents what occurs when the blessings seem to have tangible effects. These would be welcomed, if misunderstood, by the people who receive them, and would give common folks a heightened sense of faith in their Gods.

Blessing of Courage

The Priest speak inspirational words, emboldening the audience to shake off fear and terror.

Whilst there are plenty of chances to use a prayer like this in combat, there might not seem to be as many chances outside of it. You'd be wrong. Consider the moments of your life which are scary or terrifying, in which people freeze up, or don't have the courage to act quickly…

A bully is harassing the children of a nearby school, and the kids don't have the courage to stand up for themselves. A fire is raging in a local tavern, and everyone is frozen with indecision about whether to rush in and save the folks inside or not. Someone needs to go down into the dark well and fish out the bucket that got cut loose.

These moments may seem inglorious, but then many instances of folk prayer are. They're not asking the priest to embolden them before battle, but to aid them in simple tasks which are made not-so-simple because of the circumstances. A priest whose words seem to miraculously lift the hearts of the people would soon find themselves beloved of the smallfolk.

Blessing of Speed

The Priest touches the beneficiary, who moves faster and with more agility.

Delivering a message just in time. Running for cover out of a terrible storm. Or just having the chance to get everything you need to get done in the few hours of the day you have to work (because peasants rarely have time to be idle).

The Blessing of Speed could be used near constantly by anyone in the Old World, and their lives would be better for it. Obviously, such flippant use of miracles would come with the ire of the Gods, but perhaps Taal would look kindly on a Priest who blessed the running of a hunter, or Rhya the busy work of a nurse maid, or Sigmar to speed of the blacksmith, to ready weapons for the coming Greenskin Waaagh!

Blessing of Fortitude

The Priest touches the beneficiary, who becomes tougher of body and mind.

This is the catch-all "please help guide me" prayer that the smallfolk ask of so many Priests. A blessing like this could aid them in choosing the wisest course of action—which grains to grow, or where to send their sheep. It could aid them in passing uncooked or spoiled food, or accepting the death of a loved one, or… You get the idea.

This would likely be the most requested blessing, and also the least understood. Because it's only a small boost to Toughness and Will Power characteristics, often the results might never be observed. Did the peasant do better because of the blessing? Or because they were more confident? Maybe both? To the simple mind, though, correlation is easy to draw, and a Priest who dispenses these blessings would be very popular.

Blessing of Healing

The Priest touches the beneficiary, who heals a single Wound.

I don't think I even need to go into why this would be useful. It's only a single Wound, so it's not a huge difference, but it is significant if tipping the balance between Heavily Wounded and Lightly Wounded (and that's a difference of getting better in a single day, rather than two).

Even speeding healing by one day is enough to separate a peasant who starves (and potentially dies) and one who doesn't. Not to mention if the healing comes during harvest season…the lack of healing could have follow-on effects for the rest of the year, or longer, if the peasant needs to sell themselves to a Lord in exchange for the extra food that is missing.

Blessing of Might

The Priest touches the beneficiary, who becomes stronger and more skilled with a blade.

Whilst clearly focused on battle, here, there are situations when being stronger would aid in the day-to-day work of a peasant. Carrying bundles of hay, back and forth, would be much easier with this little boost. Being able to thresh grain from wheat stalks more effectively. Being slightly less tired from hauling enough water back from the well…

This blessing is similar to the Blessing of Fortitude, in that when it works, it's not certain if it's thanks to the Priest or not. But most folks would be thankful for the blessing, regardless.

Blessing of Protection

The Priest bestows the protection of their deity upon the beneficiary.

Now, this one requires a bit of GM fiat. Whilst the prayer's description is entirely focused on combat, that doesn't make too much sense for most of the Gods. Why would Rhya care about a battle? Why would Ranald care about protecting from sword swings?

Instead, I would rule this prayer gives, essentially, narrative proof against the areas of influence of the chosen God. Either the GM should choose a new target for the foulness, or should roll at a -10% to see if it affects them, or the character gains a +10%, or… You get the idea.

Maybe Rhya gives a +10% bonus to gathering food, or against food spoilage, or makes sure a mother's child isn't targeted (but perhaps the mother is targeted instead?) Maybe Ranald makes it so a thief thinks twice before taking your purse (rolls a Will Power at -10%, or chooses another target). Maybe Ulric has less snow fall on your house and your fields, not destroying your crops quite as much as your neighbours.

As you can see, Petty Magic (Divine) sometimes needs a little more thinking through than Petty Magic (Arcane), but such consideration is good! You'll get more of an idea how priests fit into your game world, when you examine how their blessings would be received and even misinterpreted. Next time we'll touch on Petty Magic (Hedge)!

Monday, 25 December 2017

Petty Magic for Petty Matters—Part #1: Arcane

With On the Edge of Exile in full swing (I'm still trying to figure out how to write it up and present it, so watch this space!) I've been thinking not just about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition a lot, but also the lives of the common folk—much of the campaign revolves around the humble backwater of Dunkeldorf in the Border Princes, and the lives of the people there.

This ruminating has resulted in me figuring out what A Day in the Life of a Dunkeldorfer would look like. But more recently, I've been thinking about how magic could influence that life. Whilst magic is anything but mundane in WFRP, we do have a Magister in the party (Apprentice Astromancer Glory Bramblewish), and she is of the more humble sort, caring about the lives of the peasants…

Below, I've written up a short description of each spell from the Petty Magic Lores from the core rule book, as well as potentially unconventional and interesting ways how these spells could influence the lives of ordinary folk…for better or for worse.

I've broken it into 3 parts. For now, here's Part #1: Petty Magic (Arcane).


Petty Magic (Arcane)

Petty Magic (Arcane) is the one Glory has, as she's a Magister of Azyr, the Celestial Wind. These spells are your standard "Cantrips" from Dungeons & Dragons, though filled as well with the usual terror of WFRP magic…

Glowing Light

The Magister causes an item to glow with light for an hour, whilst held.

I don't think, in the modern day, we give as much credit to non-burning light sources as we should. Consider, truly, how dangerous it is to be carrying a fire in a thatched-roof house, or in a mine shaft, or on a sailing ship!

Whilst the item has to be in the hands of the Magister, I daresay there would be many in a village who would find this non-burning-torch-wielding person to be VERY useful, late at night…

Sounds

The Magister makes a phantom noise, from a whisper to a roar. Any type of noise, excepting speech.

This one is riddled with uses. From sound effects in a play put on for the local children, to calls used to lure out animals on a hunt, all the way to a rallying signal when no one has a bell to hand.

Sounds is an incredibly useful spell that, whilst likely disconcerting, could be used to liven up and aid in the day-to-day minutia of village life.

Drop

The Magister compels someone to instantly drop what they're holding.

A thief is taking off at a run with stolen goods? A young child has picked up something dangerous—a snake perhaps?!—and their parents are out of reach? A careless worker is about to imbibe a waterskin filled with befouled wine? Sounds like you could use the Drop spell!

This spell might seem like it's intended to cause all manner of nuisance, but there are plenty of times when people would rather not be holding onto something.

(A modern-world situation may be if the target is holding onto a live electric wire, and being electrocuted…but that's outside the scope of WFRP.)

Marsh Lights

The Magister summons a bunch of distant bobbing lights that follow their commands.

Usually lights like these are surrounded by superstition, with folks fearing to tread into a bog when they see them…and that's, honestly, a good use for them as well. Marsh Lights work as a simple deterrent—keeping the peasant's mind ignorant of the perhaps terrifying horrors outside the village, whilst also keeping them hemmed in and safe.

Marsh Lights may also be used to help search for a missing child in the woods—more ground is covered by the bobbing lights, so the child might see them better. Or they may look like torches in the forest, making the village seem better defended than it really is, acting as a deterrent for bandits and beastmen from coming closer…

Whilst Marsh Lights mightn't win the Magister any favours (or love) from the peasants, they are certainly useful in a multitude of circumstances.

Magic Dart

The Magister summons a small magic missile to attack.

This one is straight forward—whenever the villagers would need to shoot something, like on a hunt, or to kill vermin (because magic missiles rarely miss!), this would come in handy. Not much else to say, really.

Sleep

The Magister puts someone to sleep.

Now, this one might require a bit more GM fiat, but I'd rule it that, whilst the spell puts them to sleep for 1d10 minutes, it doesn't necessarily mean they wake up after that point. If the person is already prone to sleep (such as lying in bed), or tired, they may not wake up again afterwards…

Anyone with children will immediately see where this is going: a perfect spell to get a sick child to sleep, or just one that's having trouble getting down for the night. Whilst this is, perhaps, ethically questionable, I think most parents would agree that sometimes their kids just need to go to bed. Besides, imagine how much more you could do with your day if the kids went to bed when they were supposed to!

This would be a favourite spell among parents and healers, with the ability to control one's sleep being miraculous and celebrated.

Next up, I'll explore Petty Magic (Divine)! Until then, give some thought to how the spells use din your game could, and would, change the everyday lives of the people!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

D&D 5E: Legendary Resistance Revamped

I've discussed this before, but it's so pressing for me whenever I run D&D 5E battles, that I think about it often. I dislike Legendary Resistance. A lot. It is probably my least favourite thing about D&D at the moment, and I've never been a massive fan of the system. I like 5E more than most, and am now coming to the end of my 3rd year running it, but Legendary Resistance keeps me mad.

I won't labour the point, but the main reason I dislike Legendary Resistance is that it needlessly takes away a player's shiny thing. They get to use an ability, and the GM just gets to tell them that it doesn't work.

I tried, in my last article on the subject, to fix this with a few different methods. I've now scrapped all of those workarounds, and come up with a new alternative which I prefer a lot more.

Legendary Resistance (3/day). [Creature] gains advantage on a saving throw of their choice. This advantage may be in addition to advantage they already had, allowing them to roll up to three dice, and choose the highest result.

Simple.

Sorted.

And just in time for Strahd.