Tag Archives: god magic

Weird Cleric Magic: Oddities

Augustine of Hippo was kind of a douchebag

The Glory from God system as established before now stands perfectly well on its own. If the stuff that already exists is all you want to play with, that works great. But, if you’d like the magic to be a little more chaotic, you can play with these casting oddities, which add an element of risk and reward to players considering rolling more dice than they need to in order to cast a spell.

When dice are rolled to cast a spell, if any of those dice share the same face, the player must roll on the oddities table. Which number is showing doubles determines which of the tables below the player must roll on. Each set of doubles must be resolved, so if a player rolls 4 dice, and they roll two 3s and two 4s, then they must roll on both of those tables.

In the event that the player rolls triples, treat that as rolling two sets of doubles of the same number. So if a player rolls three 1s, they must roll on the 1s oddities table twice. They must likewise roll three times for quads, four times for a quintet, and so on.

There are essentially three types of oddities. Good things, bad things, and things which may be good, bad, or irrelevant depending on the specific situation in which they occur. The subtables for lower numbered doubles are weighted more in favor of bad things, and the subtables for higher numbered doubles are weighted in favor of good things.

It should be noted that the success or failure of a spell is determined before any dice are rolled on the oddities table. Nothing that happens on the oddities table can change the fact that the spell did or did not succeed. (Though it can lower or improve the spell’s efficacy if the spell did succeed).

Snake Eyes (Double 1s)

  1. You have made a deeply offensive error in your casting. Your god curses you. Roll a random curse.
  2. Your interference in this matter has come to the attention of a rival god. Your deity and this one are now struggling for influence over this place, and clerical magic from either one of them will be blocked until the contest is resolved. (1-in-6 chance each round. 50/50 chance whose god will win.)
  3. Though it may not be immediately apparent to the caster, their religious superior (currently deep in prayer) has been told by god that the cleric is a disappointment. In the coming weeks they will be called before this superior, and it will be demanded that some failing in their character be corrected.
  4. The caster briefly experiences a nirvana-like state in which they cease to exist. To others, it appears that they simply disappear. They reapper 1d4 rounds later, with no memory of what they experienced, save for a vague sense that they ultimately proved unworthy of some great gift.
  5. The caster’s appearance changes slightly, and permanently. Their nose gets a little wider, their hair changes color. They grow taller or shorter, thinner or fatter. In rare cases they may even change gender entirely. The specific alteration is decided on by the referee.
  6. A special zeal was noticed in your casting. The spell goes off as normal, and is 50% more effective than it ought to be.

Double 2s

  1. Your faith is shaken. Treat this spell as though it were one level higher for the purposes of determining which spell dice are lost.
  2. The caster realizes they have made an error, and must seek penance. (1. They must go without food for a week, suffering any penalties that entails. 2. They must self-flaggelate, dealing 1d3 damage, each morning for a week. 3. They must publicly announce their sin to their companions. All of their hirelings have their loyalty reduced by one. 4. They must spend one entire haven turn in prayer, undertaking no other activity. )
  3. The caster has been deceived! The prayer they just uttered was taught them by a demon, and is deeply offensive to god. They may not attempt to cast this spell again until they’ve spent a week in prayer learning the proper version of it.
  4. Everyone in a 30′ radius feels their hands twitch and spasm, and they drop anything they’re holding.
  5. All animals within 100′ of the caster stop whatever they’re doing and kneel down in reverence to the god whose presence they are in. They will accept no commands until a turn has passed.
  6. A nearby NPC who is neutrally or better disposed towards you is inspired by your faith. Your reaction with them increases by 1, and they want to learn about your god.

Double 3s

  1. The white hot fire of your god exceeds your own zeal. Your holy symbol becomes too hot to touch. You must either drop the holy symbol (and cannot cast until you recover it) or take 1d4 damage.
  2. The vulgar nature of your god has disgusted some NPC. Their reaction to you is lowered by one.
  3. A nearby source of water becomes holy water.
  4. Nearby plants flourish and grow into their most vibrant selves, or wither and die, whichever is more appropriate to indicate your god’s presence.
  5. Your god grants you a moment of foresight. You’re meant to step slightly to one side. Next round you have +2 AC, and if you are hit, the damage taken is halved.
  6. Guided by the wisdom of a saint, a random skill is raised to 6-in-6 until it is next used.

Double 4s

  1. You are struck blind for 1d6 turns.
  2. The caster begins speaking in tongues. They babble nonsense that occasionally brushes with religious themes at the top of their voice for the next hour, and cannot say anything else. This doesn’t prevent them from casting spells.
  3. Everything the caster says echoes loudly, as if they are speaking with a dozen voices at once. This lasts for 1d4 hours. During this time they are incapable of whispering.
  4. The cleric’s body appears to catch fire, but no harm is done to them. The fire is not hot and does not burn anything, but provides light equivalent to a large bonfire. The fire slowly dwindles to nothing over the course of 1 exploration turn.
  5. If the spell cast was beneficial, the wearer gains the mark of the god. Anyone who loves the cleric’s god will do that person favors for 1 month. Conversely, if the spell was harmful, the target gains the mark of the god inverted. Anyone who loves the god will shun this person, and pelt them with stones, for 1 month.
  6. A soft veil of light descends over the cleric’s allies. They all get a +1 benefit to whatever their next roll is.

Double 5s

  1. The power of the spell knocks you off of your feet and you land flat on your back.
  2. The target of a beneficial spell becomes notably more attractive. The target of a harmful spell becomes notably less attractive.
  3. The earth shakes with the casting of the spell, felt by people up to a mile away.
  4. Along with the spell, a bolt of lightning strikes down from the sky dealing 1d6 damage to whomever the caster wants. They are branded with some appropriate passage from the god’s holy words.
  5. The cleric is affected by the serenity of being so close to their god. Their next reaction roll gets a +1 bonus.
  6. Your faith is strengthened. Return a lost die to your pool, or add an extra one for the day if one has not yet been expended.

Boxcars (Double 6s)

  1. A lack of zeal has been noticed in your casting. The spell works as intended, but is only half as effective as it ought to be.
  2. All damage taken and dealt by anyone this round is halved.
  3. A flash of insight allows the cleric to ask the referee one yes-or-no question, and receive an honest answer. This must be done immediately, and cannot be saved for later.
  4. An angel of god comes down and participates in the combat for a single round. They’re astonishingly effective. No one sees it except the cleric, everyone else is just a little baffled as to why something completely unexpected just happened.
  5. The spell is considered one level lower for the purpose of determining which dice are removed from the dice pool.
  6. The spell goes off twice, affecting the intended target, as well as a second target indicated by the caster.

And that concludes my foray into tinkering with Clerical magic. At least until I’m able to test the system a bit, or have some new idea. I hope you enjoyed it! Next week, I’ll be presenting you with a piece I am immensely proud of: Better Magic Wands + d100 Magic Wands. This is easily one of the best things I’ve written in the last couple months, and I cannot wait to share it. If you’re interested, it’s already available on my advance feed for anyone who pledges $5/month to my Patreon campaign. Hint hint.

Trying out Glory from God: The Past Gods

Saxo GrammaticusNote:This post is presented to you by the generous people who support my Patreon campaign. Normally I only update once a week, but thanks to your pledges, I’ll now be able to throw in one extra update each month. If my pledges keep going higher, I’ll eventually be able to move to a full two-posts-per-week schedule! So if that’s something you’d like to see, check out my PatreonWe now return to your regularly scheduled bonus P&P article:

The goal is to make cleric magic weirder. To create a better counterpart to the Magic Words system used by Magic Users in my games.

So far we’ve established the broad stokes of how the system is going to work, and how spells will be created. We’ve also created a kind a template for how gods can be presented in a useful, gameable way, as well as a fun table of oddities to make casting a little less predictable. Now we need to work up some examples to turn all of that theory into a reality. I’ll probably write two or three of these so I can really start to get a sense of where the system’s strengths and weaknesses are.

I’m going to be playtesting this system in my ORWA campaign, where I have one cleric who is playing a techno priest.  (Unfortunately, this player had real life obligations, and had to leave the game after only three sessions. But I wrote all of this before that happened, sooo….) Given that, it only makes sense to write up The Past Gods, who are worshiped by that sect. They’re not a very traditional deity, given that they’re sort of a pantheon of nameless entities that are worshiped as a single deific force. But if the system can’t handle weird, then it’s not a very good system.

The Past Gods


Domains

  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Lost Knowledge

Mythology

The past gods were the normal men and women of an advanced age now past. They gave us all of the many technological wonders humanity once enjoyed, and which humanity lost when it descended into a sinful, ignorant subrace. The past gods still hope that we can return from our fall, and so they bless us with samples of the technological wonders that will await us if we follow them.

Laws / Taboos:

  • Technology should be acquired and preserved. Even broken technology is sacred. In other circumstances, property should be respected. However, all technology belongs to The Past Gods, and so taking it in their name is not theft.
  • Technology should be understood through The Technology Support Rituals. To try and understand technology on one’s own merit is to presume equality with the humans of old, and this is an insult to The Past Gods. (This is a stricture of the church, and not one imposed by the gods themselves.)

Spells (All 1st level)

For the purposes of all spells here, “Technology” refers only to devices which are now beyond common human understanding in the setting. So a flashlight, a gun, or a cellphone would be considered technology, but a spade or a crossbow would not.

Abjuration (1 round casting time)

“And the biting current was altered, and brought to rest in the right place.”

The next time the targeted character would suffer electrical damage, that damage is grounded and does them no harm. The effect lasts for 2 exploration turns per caster level, or until it has been expended.

“For mechanisms work only by the will of the Past Gods, and not against their servants.”

The target becomes completely incapable of activating mechanical devices, either intentionally or not. This includes tripwires and pressure plates which might cause a trap to be sprung on them. Similarly they cannot open a lock or fire a gun, as these are also mechanisms. The effect lasts for 2 combat rounds per caster level.

Command (1 round casting time)

“Cease your function, blessed tool. You are in the hands of the enemy.”

An indicated piece of technology within 30′ of the caster ceases to function. It cannot be repaired for 2 exploration turns per caster level.

“The hooting screech, guardian of the net’s bounty.”

To cast this spell the caster opens their mouth, and from their body comes an inhuman sound. A series of high pitched screeches, mixed simultaneously with beeps and white noise. The sound is so cacophonous that nothing requiring sound can function within a 30′ radius of the caster. No speech, nor any spell casting either. This effect also blocks any special effects that use sound to function, such as Hideous Laughter. The spell lasts for up to 1 round per caster level, though the caster must maintain the spell with their full attention if they wish for it to last longer than a single round, and thus cannot take further actions.

Blessing (1 exploration turn casting time)

“For the sinful man, answers remain always elusive.”

This curse prevents the target from discovering some specific piece of information by any means. Even if it is directly told to them, it will fall immediately out of their heads like the name of the 99th person you’re introduced to at a party. Even if they try to exert all of their effort to paying attention when they are told this information, they simply cannot learn it.

The spell is cast on some written example of the forbidden information. The first person to read the ensorcled text will become the spell’s target, and they will remain subject to it until Remove Curse is cast.

“She did rise, as though held aloft by a rotor of blades.”

With the cacophonous sound of helicopter blades, the target of the spell rises into the air. There are no physical rotors, merely the sound of them. The beneficiary of the spell can travel in any direction at a rate of 30′ per round, up to 100′ in the air. The effect lasts for 2 exploration turns per caster level.

Divination (1 exploration turn casting time)

“You will know them by their form and by their function, for they are blessed.”

So long as the caster does not move from their spot, they gain a sort of technology-detecting vision. They may turn round if they wish, but cannot take any steps away from where they are when the spell is cast. Any technology that falls within their field of view will glow a slight shade of red. The caster is also able to determine the function and condition of the technology from the shade and vibration of this red aura. This doesn’t aide so much in diagnosing what needs to be repaired about a broken piece, but does allow for quick determination of what is working and what is not.

“Of my companion I did ask: call my phone, so that its location shall be revealed unto me.”

When cast, the caster identifies a piece of technology. It must be a general type, rather than a specific item. “An xPhone Universe 6SS” is an acceptable identification. “My cell phone,” is not.

The caster then knows the precise location of the closest instance of the described device. So long as the caster does not move a muscle, they can track any movement of the device. Once the caster moves, the effect ends.

Prayer (1 watch casting time)

“Though beset by magnets, the machine did boot.”

The cleric can order any broken machine to work for 1 turn per caster level. The caster does not control the machine, nor does the machine necessarily have access to its full range of functions that might require additional working bits. (Guns may be forced to work, but they will not produce bullets. Computers may be forced to boot, but they will not necessarily be able to display the data you wanted.)

“That which transpires here must stay here for all time”

The cleric consecrates an area of a 30′ radius, which lasts for 1 day per caster level. Everything that transpires within this space will be forgotten by those within it when they leave. Even the caster will have no recollection of what they said or did while within the consecrated space.

Ritual (1 haven turn casting time)

“From the gods’ mind, creatures were given life who held no form.”

This ritual requires that the caster have access to a computational device, such as a computer, or cell phone. It also requires 300 credits of computational resources.

When the spell is complete, the caster will have created an artificial intelligence. This new AI is an NPC like any other, with its own will, personality, and traits. It is able to move throughout computer systems with greater flexibility and understanding than even the most adept human user could achieve.

In thanks for giving birth to it, the AI will perform any 3 tasks the cleric asks of it without question. After this, it considers its debt to be paid, and will not accept commands from the cleric any longer. However, unless it has been made to act contrary to its personality, the AI will remain friendly with the caster, and may be willing to provide favors or services like any other friendly NPC would.

“Man and machine became one when man first came to rely upon shelter and fire. We now take one further step on that most ancient of paths.”

This ritual requires the cleric to have access to a piece of technology that currently works, as well as a willing subject. The cleric can perform the ritual on themselves if they wish.

The working technology is merged into the character’s body in whatever way the caster describes. The device now draws energy directly from the person’s body, and no longer requires batteries or any other power source. Further, the subject is now able to use the technology via thought. Depending on where the technology is placed, its function may be limited as logic would dictate.

If the merged technology is a gun, ammunition is still required as normal.

 

Making Cleric Magic Weirder: Glory from God

Pope Julius II in Armor

This may be a controversial thing to say in the OSR right now, but I don’t hate clerics. I’ll happily grant that healing magic is bullshit, but I’d rather rehabilitate the class than remove it altogether.  Glory from God is an attempt to create a clerical counterpart to the Magic Words system, drawing on the Petitions of Brendan S., and the spell casting dice pools of Courtney Campbell.

The first step in accessing clerical magic is to choose a god to worship.  The god may be selected from the existing pantheon of the referee’s world, or may be created by the player.

To learn a new spell, a cleric must spend time in meditation, prayer, and study. They pour all of their energy into gaining a deeper understanding of god’s will. Only after time and sacrifice will a spell be revealed unto them. One month and 1000 money should be a sufficient amount of devotion to earn a new spell.

The player of the cleric has no role whatsoever in determining the nature of their spells. Divine spells are not created by the clerics who cast them. These spells are gifts from god, presented fully formed to the clergy which earned them. Even if the player was allowed to create their own god before play began, they cannot now exert any influence over the way that god functions. The player is like a meta-divine-watchmaker in this respect.

Clerics may attempt to cast any of the spells they know at any time. There is no need to memorize specific spells in the morning, nor is there any strict limit on how often a cleric may cast each day. Theoretically they could continue to cast indefinitely if the dice (by which I mean god) continue to favor them.

The cleric’s favor with their god is represented by a pool of six sided dice. The size of their pool is equal to 2d6, plus an additional d6 for each cleric level. So, 3d6 at first level, 4d6 at second level, and so on. Possessing powerful relics, or a richly appointed holy symbol may allow the cleric to expand their die pool slightly.

To cast a spell, the cleric rolls as many dice from their pool as they wish. The results are added together, and the total is compared to the chart below. Then, any individual dice which show a number that is less than or equal to the level of the spell being cast are removed from the die pool until the next day. Thus, casting higher level spells will exhaust a cleric’s favor more quickly. There is also a risk/reward element to choosing how many dice to roll for each spell. More dice means a greater likelihood of success, but it also creates more opportunities for dice to end up removed from the dice pool.

How God Responds to Your Petition:
1-2:
God is not listening. The spell fails.
3-5: God is disinterested. The spell goes off at the end of the next round, after all parties have acted.
6-11: God acknowledges your faithful service. The spell goes off immediately
12+: God is pleased with you. The spell goes off immediately, and any variable effects are maximized.

Optionally, the referee may allow clerics to purchase consumable items such as holy water or incense to assist in their spellcasting. A single use worth of these items is encumbering. When used as part of casting a spell, these consumables allow the cleric to “fudge” one of their dice by 1. Using this method, dice may even be raised above their maximum face value. So a 6 rolled on a d6 may become a 7, allowing the cleric to retain that die in their pool even if a 6th level spell was cast.

That covers everything that the player need worry about directly. While the system may seem daunting, it is worth pointing out that players will only need access to 3 pieces of information at the table:

  • Their spell list. Presumably they would already have this anyway.
  • The size of their dice pool, which would be a very simple thing to record on the character sheet, or to recalculate if it is forgotten.
  • The 4-entry table for interpreting the results of a spell casting check.

If this is all that interests you, then this is all you need. Referees can use any means they prefer to create their spells, giving clerics whatever flavor suits their campaign world the best. For my own purposes, though, I would like to see cleric magic relegated to a very specific niche, distinct from the magic user. A niche without any healing in it whatsoever.

I’ll detail more thoughts on clerical spell creation in my next post.

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