Saturday, September 30, 2017

St Christopher was an evil giant who converted from some paganism and then won 40,000 converts before being martyred.

There's so much awesome stuff back in history and folklore. You think you have the best murderhobo backstory? I can guarantee some Catholic Church guy or a weird playwright or something wrote a better backstory for his guy than you have ever heard.

The tl;dr of this post is don't just use Game of Thrones or something for inspiration. Here's an example!

St. Christopher is a saint that is said to have lived during the 3rd century (or early 4th; there is some disagreement on the matter because nobody can decide which Roman Emperor was in charge at the time). The most famous legendary deed attributed to him was kidnapping a baby and trying to take him away by crossing a river. 

Of course the standards of "giants" were much lower in those days: he was only 5 cubits tall. Christopher would be at home at the 5 in the NBA. And probably a backup, because no one has written that he had any significant ups or a decent post-up move. Anyway.

Christopher's birth name was "Reprobus" because he was the world's first reprobate. A real bad dude. He would untuck all the hospital corners on the beds and he didn't brush his teeth after in-between meal snacks.

Anyway, Christopher's one goal in life was to be a henchman.  He wanted to hench for the best.  He visited the local king, but learned that king feared the Devil.  He tracked down the devil and saw something unbelievable: the Devil feared Jesus Christ, so he went to find Jesus. That's when he snatched up the kid. As he crossed the river, the kid got heaver and heavier.  

He put the kid down and he's like, "Damn! You heavy!" and the kid said, "You had the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you took on my burden as well.  I'm Jesus, and you can be my henchman." Then the baby disappeared!

Little did he know that the little tire-biter was Baby Jesus! Hence the name Christopher, which means "Christ-bearer." This fording is why he is the patron saint of both travelers and body surfers. He is also the patron saint of epileptics and fruit vendors, but nobody knows why.  

Lycia in modern-day Turkey, where they did the deed
So Christopher headed to Lycia where his new homeboys were getting martyred by the local king. This king heard Christopher was coming and he needed a center for the state college team, so he tried to get Christopher to come play for his school. He offered Christopher a ton of jack and even hired him two hookers. But Christopher wouldn't sign! Instead he went out and saved his teammates and even converted 40,000 people by himself. A Chamberlain-like feat.

This king was really mad so he ordered all his henchmen out to catch Christopher and kill him. Christopher had a good run. But live by the hench, die by the hench. He was eventually caught and beheaded by that old king of Lycia.

Earlier on I told you the moral of the story is that your backstories are pretty weak. That was not entirely true, and I apologize. The real moral of the story is this: Let your player-character die. Let something kill him! Hopefully it will be something dramatically appropriate. But your character story deserves to have a beginning, middle, and end like the tale of St. Christopher's life.

Even though Christopher died 1700 years ago, his story continues today as a patron saint. This is even more likely to happen in a fantasy game where people can go into the realm of the dead and come back to life and get resurrected and reincarnated and all manner of things like that.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Island of Hy-Brazil

Detail from 1570 map of Europe by Abraham Ortelius

We've all heard of Atlantis, an island of degenerate super-scientists who fought the Athenians sometime before the 3rd c. BC. It was used as a parable by Aristotle and he clearly identified it as a mythical place. But did you know that 1500 years later Europeans were certain that another mythical island existed off the Irish coast called Hy-Brazil?

The name probably derives from the Irish Gaelic word breas, meaning “noble” or “fortunate.”

Not a lot of people had been there because it was cloaked in heavy fog that lifted only once every seven years. A river ran through the middle of it.  There were Christian monks and priests living there, humongous black rabbits, a real sorcerer, and they have wealth and lots of good food to eat. There were lost civilizations that were possibly immortal and primitive gods to meet and fight with. There was even a UFO and alien technology by some accounts.  Expedition to Barrier Peaksanyone?

Detail from the Catalan map of 1350 showing the location of Hi-Brazil.
(Image from Donald Johnson's Phantom Islands of the Atlantic)

From the 1300s until the 18th century, European explorers and cartographers were certain that there was a perfectly round island somewhere off the coast of Ireland. Between 1350 and 1865, scores of European explorers set forth to find the fabled island.  In 1674, a Scottish sea captain claimed to have found it and spent a day on shore with the natives.

The name of the country Brazil probably has something to do with this island’s name as well. There is a circular “island” on the flag and a ribbon running through the middle, just as the island has been described. Could this be coincidence? (Answer: Yes, complete coincidence. Don’t be stupid.)

Flag of Brazil

In the real world during fairly recent times, the learned people of the day believed in fantastic islands. You don’t have to be playing an ancient Greek, Viking or Ray Harryhausen campaign to spit on your hands, hoist the black flag, and set out in search of wondrous islands of madcap monks.  PCs, especially in port towns, ought to hear rumors of places like Hy-Brazil all the time.  And at least sometimes, such places really ought to exist somewhere in the corners of the map in your Realm.

Have you got any places like Hy-Brazil in your Realm?  What are they? Where are they? What are they like?

File Photo

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Second Estate, Part II

Last time, we talked about what the specific ranks of nobility are in this new setting.  I do use a name when I think about it, but I have not shared it because I don't think it's good enough for this setting.

A Note on Money: The monetary values listed here and elsewhere in this setting are based on the Copper Standard (CuS), where 1 cp = 1 XP, and every price and prize is adjusted to conform to that standard.

Duties and Obligations: The Treasure Hunters Prolix domain system includes much on the duties and obligations of running a demesne.  Below are some specific ones.

The Noble Squander: To be a noble, you have to spend like a noble.  There are a thousand little expenses to empty your treasury; and if there are not, you still have to spend like crazy to maintain your status.  While modern people respect savers and investors, and sniff at conspicuous consumption as an end unto itself, the opposite is true about Medieval people.  Misers and skinflints are reviled, while generous and ostentatious nobles are revered and upheld as exemplars. At the very minimum, on top of normal expenses, nobles of the following ranks must Squander at the following rates each month:

Click to Enlarge

Revenue is untaxed (but is tithed and you must pass through revenue).
We will use the Treasure Hunters Prolix domain system but update the numbers.  I’ll post it in full here when I rejigger everything to my satisfaction.

A Lord has the right of dispensing justice within his “soke” or jurisdiction. This is usually his own land, except when his overlord intercedes.

The Right of Thelony: A thelony is a toll or fee. It might be just or unjust. A just thelony was a toll considered to be compensation for what would now be considered a public service. An unjust thelony was a fee exacted contrary to custom or where no service was rendered to the person made to pay it. Often peasants were kept upon their land by the levy of a thelony to leave in amounts greater than they could pay.

The Right of Corvée: Corvée is a form of unfree, unpaid labor.  The Lord can demand of his peasants work for a certain number of days per year, not exceeding one in 36, to build and maintain public works.  Corvée greater than 1 in 36 (or about 10 days a year) was considered unjust and could result in uprisings among the peasantry. Furthermore, Corvée performed for the Lord direct upon his estate with no direct benefit derived for the Realm was considered unjust, but almost always tolerated.

The Right of Infangthief: Infangthief is the right to dispense summary justice against thieves or vandals within the Lord’s lands. For the purposes of this game, it includes the right of Outfangthief, which is to chase the miscreant to other jurisdictions and bring him back for justice – unless the thief is owed justice by some other jurisdiction!

The Right of Satisfaction: Among peasants, insolence or perceived lack of deference to a noble could be met with a fine of up to 1 gp or corporal punishment such as time in the stocks or a good beating.

Nobles of Baronial rank and higher may serve “high justice,” which includes the death penalty. Permissible methods of execution are limited to drowning and hanging. Other executions are a breach of etiquette and/or law. All nobles may serve “low justice.” Permissible punishments include: dunking, the pillory, bounty hunting, thelony, other fines, corvée, and executing summary justice.

Nobles can raise to nobility anyone of the Third Estate.

Kings and Princes can create any rank or revoke any title.
Dukes and above can make Earls (but not Marcher Lords), although they will probably need to get their monarch's permission.
Viscounts and above can make Barons. 
Lord Knights and above can make Knights and Courtiers.

Nobles will generate a household full of trusted helpers as necessary to discharge their duties. These freeloaders accrue to themselves no expense but have meager salaries owed to them by the Lord.

Companion: 3-8 gp / month
           This is a catch-all for any of your lowborn friends who you want on staff, but haven’t got an aristocratic bone in their bodies.  Lady-in-waiting, Court Doctor, Court Jester, Lord High Rat-catcher, Inspector of Privies, Lord of the Coneygarth, or any other ridiculous title you can think of.

Butler or Castellan: 4 gp / month and all the wine you can drink
           This is the head of household.  He handles discipline, order, hiring and hanging within the household.  He often serves as the right-hand man and confidante of the Lord within the house.

Herald: 3-6 gp / month
          Heralds are tasked with keeping up on news from nearby settlements, tracking opinions and gossip at court, reading or dispersing to be read important decrees, announcing a retinue as it approaches some other castle, and arranging entertainment for the household.  But the real benefit of a Herald is that he may maintain a spy network and get secret information or knowledge and contraband from very far away. Only Barons and above need maintain a Herald, but any noble may employ one. Some higher ranks maintain several or even dozens. 

Shire Reeve: 3 gp / month, plus 3-6 GP skimmed off the top of court costs, plus 3-6 GP of bribes per month.
           The Sheriff handles the courts system for both commoners and nobles (ecclesiastical law falls outside his jurisdiction.)  He is responsible for dispensing the justice pronounced by the Lord, running the court of arbitration, running a jail if one exists, hiring bounty hunters to track down escaped criminals and peasants, and so forth.  He does not perform these duties himself but delegates them to underlings who may or may not be of the Second Estate.
          Sheriffs are theoretically appointed by the King for a set term renewable, but in practice are chosen by the Lord or his advisors at Court.

Steward or Regent: 3 gp 5 sp plus 1-2% of revenue per month.
      The Steward is an estate manager appointed by the Lord to oversee a pocket of noncontiguous or troublesome land, or to run the main estate if the Lord is out on adventure. Far-flung holdings may require several Stewards.  They exercise power in the Lord’s name and serve at his pleasure. Stewards are usually given wide latitude as long as things go reasonably well, but face severe judgement if they do not perform adequately as agents of the Lord.

Squire: No direct pay
          Squire is a catch-all for the Lord’s adventuring Retainers: those who take a share of treasure and XP in lieu of payment.  They have a rank of zero and are only considered part of the Second Estate in their capacity of serving their Lord. 

The Second Estate, Part I

As Skerples has written over on Coins and Scrolls one fact consuming Medieval culture is that God put upon the Firmament three Estates of Men.  The First Estate, the Church, are charged with prayer for all.  The Second Estate, the nobility, are charged with the Defense of All.  And the Third Estate, the peasantry and other common folk, are charged with toiling for all.  A lot of this is just background nonsense in your vanilla D&D world but in the setting I'm working up here, it's very front-and-center.  I'm going to start with describing the Second Estate because that's what I was reading up on last night. I'll eventually do the First and Third Estate and the Outlaws.

The first part of this post is about the noble ranks and their import in the setting.  Then in Part II we will talk about the pros and cons of holding any particular rank. 

Noble Ranks of Peerage: Peers of the Realm include all the ranks of nobles. Each one of Gentleman rank and above has his own coat of arms and titles. Usually titles are derived from the names of the lands they hold but sometimes they are last names or colorful sobriquets given at Court.


The King is legally such a complicated mess that I may write a whole post just for him.

His Royal Majesty is the embodiment of the will of the Realm. He is the head of state and the head of the military. His pure is the Treasury and the budget, his expenditure. He calls upon the Legislature at times to counsel him and he himself is not above all Law.

In theory and legally, only the sovereign may endow any rank of peerage. However in practice, higher ranks endow lower ranks and the Crown usually just signs off on the endowment.  The sovereign himself has no noble rank.  As the King is superior to all nobles, he cannot also be a noble and be subordinate to himself. He sits outside of and above the Three Estates. A particular King may also be recognized as the Duke of This and the Prince of Thus-and-Such but such titles are those given to him by a previous monarch.

Marquess Hugh Kevelioc (1147-1181)
Famous for his Really Bendy Arm
The ranks of Prince and Duke are just below the King and are essentially interchangeable. Prince in this setting refers to the King's heir and Dukes are other key leading nobles. The Prince and Duke may create any rank of Peerage. Marquesses (March Lords or Earl-Marche) may create Barons and below. 

Marquess: In the early 12th c., before pacifying all the lands of the Realm, the Norman kings of England set aside lands on the Welsh border for their most trusted allies.  These men were endowed with the title of Marquess or Marcher Lord. Marquesses were largely autonomous, and were charged with the defense of the Realm and further the pacification, rulership and incorporation of the Welsh tribes.  As you well know, Wales is still a cultural and semi-autonomous political entity today, so the real Marcher Lords were clearly not completely successful!

These Lords did owe tribute to the Crown but were otherwise a law unto themselves in their Realms. And while technically these lands were gifts (eg they reverted to the Crown at death) they became functionally hereditary over time.

EarlsViscounts and Barons may create Lord Knights and below.

Viscount is a non-hereditary title granted to the heir-apparent to any of the higher ranks via primogeniture. Lands associated with these titles are Viscounties and sit outside the normal feudal order as the "purse privy" of these types. Sometimes a very wealthy noble with extensive lands will have two or even more Viscounties beneath him, the balance given to his other sons or even other relatives like daughters or brothers. The drawback of creating a Viscounty is that the Viscount creates no wealth for his Lord, which can be a very expensive proposition. They are known as Viscount [X] where the X is their land holding, last name, or nickname.  Edward Chatterton, an imaginary first son of Duke of Lancaster would then be called Viscount Chatterton or Viscount Lancaster.  Or maybe Viscount Poopypants if he smelled bad all the time because he pooped himself.

Viscounts do not have vassals, but rather a Household (Knights, etc) and tenants, the peasantry of his lands.

Lord Knights and Knights are the elite soldiers of the Realm. Lord Knight is a hereditary title. Knight would sometimes be hereditary. Over time, the Lord Knight would pay someone else to serve in his stead, but the Knight would always do his own fighting. Each is given enough land for himself and pay for his equipment, staff, and war expenses. Lord Knights receive a grant (permanent demesne) but Knights only receive a gift (use for life), but that was transferable to the first son if he was to be a Knight as well. Up to 80 peasants would be sworn to each Knight or Lord Knight.  These ranks are called Sir.

Gentlemen are ostensibly small landowners who receive their income from tenant laborers. In reality, it is fairly easy to buy a fraudulent coat of arms and on that strength gain access to the bottom rung Second Estate. Coats of Arms cost about 100-200 GP (CuS), a very tidy sum indeed! Some Gentlemen also serve as cavalry* and they are charged with the defense of their lands and tenants. the Gentleman has no vassals, but his tenants are tied to him financially. Squires would also fit into this rank, and the title for Gentlemen is given as Esquire

L-R: Chick, Chick, Chick, Trap
Bastards are men who come from royalty but have been reduced to working for a living. The category includes illegitimate noble issue. It also includes ennobled household help such as an exemplary butler or stable man. A Duke who lost his estate but still lived would be a bastard as well. Bastardy is not hereditary. A man could be the grandson of a king and still be a peasant mud farmer!

*Not all elite soldiers fought from horseback; some knights and gentlemen preferred to fight on foot.  But the large majority did fight from horseback.

Glad To Have That Out Of My System

You ever get a bee in your bonnet about something and you just can't get on with things until you've done gone gotten it out? That's how I felt about Item magic!  It's not perfect. It could be better. Never playtested it; probably never will. But mathematically it works. It's tasty. It's got what this guy craves.

Have You Ever Wondered Why There Is A Prince of Wales?

13th c. Wales via Wikimedia
The reason I was working on it at all in the first place is that I want some magic power for a setting I'm developing based on 11th-13th c. Western England and Wales. No proper wizards. Clerics aren't a weird mishmash of Jesus and van Helsing. The Marcher Lords and the lands they squabbled over are a rich backdrop for politics, intrigue, adventure, and romance. (Read the link, it's really cool.)

I had initially thought that I would have "proper magic" in the form of alchemists and herbalists. Not so fast! Having worked out the details, these classes would be too complicated to justify their story value.

Here is my current plan for magic users in the Realm.

Druids as they appear in first and second edition, basically btb.  It's a good class. It's so tasty. The limits are strong (3.5e broke the Druid.) They're a great base anyway. I will have to figure out what changes they need.

Oh! And it's illegal to be a Druid in the setting, because they're heretics. The punishment is death, but if they confess and convert, they get a nice Christian burial. So the Druid will be the heavy hitter magic user. But also very risky to play. 

The other two Magic classes will be the Witch and the Hedge Wizard (or something, I don't know yet.) I'm going to see if Tim Brannon can help me with a reasonable and flavorful witch. A couple days ago he posted some awesome tea rituals for witches to perform that seem like a great base for the class abilities of a witch. 

I'm also going to nick the wise woman/clever man from Backswords and Bucklers to replace the base Cleric. Maybe with armor and weapon restrictions.

Anybody who is actually Lawful or is Neutral-but-devout can try to turn undead.

There will be a Thief guy class called the Rat-Catcher.
There will be a Bard class too but probably not as magical as normal D&D Bards. Bards from the First Estate are called Cantors. They're gonna be useful to big wigs as heralds and spies, not just buffbots in combat.  They will have a great opportunity to play politics all day and night.

I think there will be two kinds of fighting men - one the noble Knight, and one who can be either a commoner or an outlaw called the Footmen (Gosh, I don't know, it's accurate but lame) or Fighters.  I am envisioning "kits" like in 2e to differentiate one kind of fighter from another. 

Maybe there should be an option for an outlander fighting man too, but I'm not sure about that. 

Some goofy Catalan Infantrymen via Wikimedia
This is the Realm of Men

PCs are all Men. Elves are really alien, scary horror movie fey. They are individually immortal but dying off as a species, and taking magic with them. You would NOT get it on with a Elf.

If ever such a thing as a Dwarf came to be in the Realm, it would be a Norse dwarf. Evil magic users. Not gold grubbing klingons.

No hobbits. Hobbits is Tolkien and this isn't Tolkien. If you like hobbits, be a commoner.

He Runs Like a Welshman!

A lot of the time of the Marcher Lords was spent with Normans and their descendants, nominally subject to the English Crown, ruling over a local population of Welsh, English, German and French peasants. It may behoove me, as long as we're going the "kit" route, to write some kits for the other kinds of Men in the Realm.  Welshmen in particular as the proud majority ought to be quite different than the other kinds who have come as invaders.

I'm frankly surprised at how little "progress" I've made in two weeks of thinking this up. Progress in this case meaning change. It seems like the Big Idea sprong into my brain fully formed in the middle. It needs some specifics filled in and poof! new setting for a new campaign.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How Item Magic Works

Unknown by Cong Li

How Item Magic Works

Every type of Item Mage uses three categories of ingredients: scarabs, talismans and herbs.

Click to enlarge

Each recipe has a Complexity Level (CL) that is directly analogous to spell level.  There are six levels of recipes now known to Men.

Herbalists also use powdered gems
Alchemists also use alchemical liquids (reagents)
Priests also use tapers.
Druids also use entrails.

Click to enlarge

CL 1 and 2 have a scarab and two ingredients (a scarab, a talisman and an herb.)
CL 3 and 4 have a scarab and three ingredients.
CL 5 and 6 require a scarab and four ingredients.

Creating a Recipe

The Item Mage mixes ingredients.  Sometimes it makes nothing.  Sometimes it makes something with a side effect. Very rarely it makes something without a side effect.

If you keep it, you then roll to determine the delivery method and side effect.

Roll d100 + your Item Mage experience level for a particular (Scarab + Talisman + Specific Ingredient)
1-40 But naught
41-90 Something with a side effect
91-00 Something with no side effect

Then roll on Table 8: Delivery Method
Then roll on Table 9: Side Effects (if necessary)

Whether it’s any good or not, write down that combination in your recipe book. If it works, then that's a formula you pulled out of thin air and it makes something good.  It will work every time.  If it’s not something good, you can be sure not to try that combination again.

Sometimes when re-reading your recipe book, you will see connections between certain ingredients and results. For instance, perhaps you see that after two or three fire spells, the herb henbane always makes a fire spell (this is just an example.)  Show this to your Ref. Perhaps he agrees that you have discovered one of the underlying rules of order in Item Magic! Item Magic rules such as these at your table will look different from someone else’s rules. That’s OK. Pseudo-science doesn’t have to be consistent from world to world like science does in our Realm.

Delivery Methods

Every recipe has its own peculiar delivery method.  The easiest ones are potions, followed by herbal teas.  But there are many other ways to activate an Item Magic ensorcelment.

Changing Delivery Methods: By tinkering with the recipe, the Item Mage may change the delivery method to anything on this list or that the Referee will agree to.  This change takes one week and 1 GP (CuS) per CL in his laboratory.

Click to enlarge

Side Effects

Many recipes are imperfect and have side effects associated with them.  Some are beneficial but most are a nuisance - or worse.  When deducing a recipe, roll on Table 8.  When creating a recipe, the Item Mage may add his experience level to the roll.  Most side effects last for six Turns (one hour) while some are quite permanent!

Click to enlarge

Notes on Specific Side Effects

Cancel next side effect: This happens automatically.  The user knows a side effect has been cancelled.
Projectile vomiting: The user may only make half moves.  He may not attack. He is loud and stinky.
Addicted to potions: The user will attempt to drink all his potions immediately.  If he knows other PCs have potions, he will offer the most outlandish trades in order to procure them.
Incapacitating agony: The user may only make half moves.  He may not attack.
Lose a level/Gain a level: These effects can only happen one time and only to the first character who uses the recipe. Apply this effect and then immediately re-roll the side effect and mark the new side effect down on the recipe.

Removing Side Effects

Of course, the Item Mage will want to have as few side effects as possible.  This will require further experimentation.  If the Mage adds an additional ingredient, there is a chance that the recipe is perfected and the side effect is removed.  But there is also a chance of creating a deadly poison or a new recipe entirely.  With a recipe for a new magical effect, you will also have to determine the new delivery method and possibly a new side effect!

Perfecting a Recipe: Scarab + recipe + 1 Ingredient
Roll d100 + add your experience level
1-10 Poison
11-35 No Change
36-70 Old recipe, cleaned up
71-90 New recipe with side effect
91 or more New recipe, no side effect

Roll 2: new side effect (if necessary)
Roll 3: new delivery method

Then you write down that combination.  That's a formula you pulled out of thin air and it makes something good.  It will work every time.

If you stumble upon the recipe for a family of spells (for instance cure light wounds) then you know you just have to switch out the scarab and you have a base for the more complex spells in the same family - if you like the side effect and if you like the delivery method.


Your character has discovered a potion or other consumable magic item.  When the Ref places the item, he determines the effect including the Complexity Level (CL), but not the recipe. How does the Item Mage determine what the recipe is, so he can make it again?

1.        Use it.  By using it, he will know its CL and that determines the scarab it burns.  He will learn its effect and its side effect.  Item Mages also learn one ingredient (in addition to the scarab) when they use the item.  Other kinds of characters do not.  Knowing this partial recipe reduces the research cost by 60% but requires a week of lab time, instead of just a day.
2.       Test it in a lab.  By testing it the lab, Item Mage determines the ingredient list in full, the effect, any side effect (and delivery method if this is inobvious.) Upon test completion, the Item Mage makes a WIS check. If successful, the consumable may still be used. Otherwise, it has been used up in the test.  Tests require 1 GP (CuS) per CL, and one day.

In either case, you now have the recipe, the effect, the side effect, and the delivery method.  Roll on Tables 2, 3, 8 and 9.  Roll on the appropriate table from Table 4 to 7 for your subclass.  You write that recipe in your book and use it however you wish.

Item Magic Scrolls

Item Magic scrolls do not work the same way as spellcaster scrolls do.  They take one day and cost 5 GP (CuS) per CL to write.

A scroll contains the information for a single recipe.  Copying the scroll into your recipe book uses up the scroll.  Nothing can be spontaneously cast from such a scroll, it’s just a learning tool.  Many villages and towns have an Item Mage who will create for you and sell you a scroll of a recipe he knows.  Such scrolls sell for and average price of 20 GP (CuS) per CL.  Use the 2d6 Reaction Table to determine if you can get a good deal on a scroll or if the locals intend to chisel you.

New Class: Item Mage (WIP)

Item Mage

.doc here
.pdf here

The wise men and women who enpeople the Realm learn the ancient traditions of Item Magic.  They can prepare potions, lotions, balms and troches to grant supernatural healing, second sight, great sibilance with the creatures of the realm and other unheard-of powers.  The recipes for these items of magical power are discovered through trial and error and this process happens in the alchemist’s laboratory and herbalist’s apothecary.

Herbalists are the witches and wise men who live nearby the village.
Alchemists are natural philosophers who seek to understand the “why” of Nature.
Doctors are sanctioned by the Church to perform supernatural thaumaturgy.
And Druids are the uncivilized men who follow the old ways.

Together these disciplines are called Item Magic and their practitioners are called Item Mages.

The Prime Requisite for the Item Mage is Wisdom.  See Vol. I p. 9 for XP adjustments due to high or low Wisdom.  He uses the same Attack Matrix advancement as the Magic User and same Save progression as the Cleric.

Arms and Armor: Item Mages may wear Leather armor and use the following weapons: Backsword, Light Crossbow, Dagger, Flail, Mace or Hammer (not the Pick), Sling, Staff, Spear.

The Item Mage’s Class Abilities

Consumable Magic Item Recipes:

Item Mages have the powerful ability to create consumable magic items. They discover and create recipes from which they and other Item Mages can create potions, balms, and other such item containing a strong magical ability.

Recipe is the word for the formula for a particular concoction. Each recipe has ingredients, a spell-like effect, and possibly a side effect.  An Item Mage starts knowing four recipes, and learns a new one of his choice upon attaining each new experience level.

Each recipe has a Complexity Level or CL, which is a direct analog to a spell's Spell Level.  Recipes based on spells will have the same or similar levels.

Each recipe has several kinds of ingredients.  Each uses a specially-prepared metal figurine called a scarab that is carved like a beetle.  Each uses a talisman cut from the heartwood of several kinds of trees and marked with arcane sigils.  Each uses a medicinal herb, root or flower.  And then each of the disciplines uses its own unique reagent: tapers, liquids, powdered gemstones, or entrails.

Item Mages may learn recipes from experimentation in the lab and from examining consumable magic items they find.

The Item Mage may keep potent only a few magic consumables at a time.  As he rises in experience level, he can keep more items and more complex items potent simultaneously.  The total number of items is based on his Recipe Number or Rx Number.  Each magic consumable he carries has an Rx cost equal to its CL. CL 1 items have an Rx cost of 1. CL 2 items have an Rx cost of 2.  And so on.  At each experience level gained, the Item Mage sees an increase in his Rx number, and so therefore can carry more and more items with him (and hand them out to his friends.)

Item Mages may write a recipe he knows down upon a scroll.  When another Item Mage uses such a scroll, the scroll is used up and the Item Mage then knows the recipe.  He may put that recipe in his book for later use.  Unlike with Magic-User spell casting, the Item Mage does not forget how to make a consumable once he makes it, and then have to re-learn the recipe from the book.  He must use the book to concoct his recipes each time, except for those recipes he knows of Complexity Level 1.


Dowsing is the art of using the magic energies in a crystal or pendant to listen to the Earth for guidance toward a desired person, place, or thing.  The Item Mage uses his holy symbol or a crystal affixed to a length of chain.  The chain swings in sympathetic vibration, directing the Mage toward the object so named.  Dowsing might instead be done with crossed sticks of Rowanwood or any branch in the shape of the letter “Y.”

At first level and then at every even level, the Item Mage may name one object for which he wishes to be able to douse. These things must come from the following list: Specific Person, Specific Item, Specific Animal, Water, Kind of Mineral, Disease, Magic, Traps, Shelter, Evil. Some of these are generic terms and will lead the dowser to the nearest instance of that item.  Some are specific and will attempt to point the dowser in the direction of that specific person or thing.  No dowsing attempt will work at a range of over 12 miles.

To attempt to dowse, the Mage makes a Save vs. Magic Spell modified by his WIS modifier. If successful, the dowsing is accurate for six Turns (one Hour.)


These wise men and women know enough about the human body to perform rudimentary surgery. It can cut out a diseased body part or infection, remove a foreign object, amputate a gangrened limb, and so forth.  Surgery takes 1d12 hours and deals 1d6+1 Hit Points of damage. 

At the end of the surgery, the patient must Save vs. Death or die.  He must Save vs. Death at the end of each subsequent week or die from infections and complications due to surgery.  If under the supervision of the surgeon, he gains a +2 to each of these subsequent Saves.

Click image to humongify

Designer Notes:

This class with four flavors is designed for a realm with no proper Clerics or their subclasses nor any Magic-Users in their several varieties.  The differences between the classes as presented here are flavor only; however each should have its own recipe list.


My initial conception is to look over the spell lists for Magic-Users, Clerics and Druids, potion and other magic item effects that don’t map to a specific spell, as well as some favorite weird home brewed spells. Find a few spells from each list which are subtle and of general utility and compile a list of nine such spell effects for each spell level, one through six.  Then choose three spells per level which are specific, powerful, and flavorful for each of the subclasses: Herbalist, Alchemist, Doctor and Druid.  Then create effects from these (12 x 6 =) 72 spells that could conceivably come out of a physical delivery system like a potion or lotion.

So each class has a list of 12 recipes per CL; and from each of these lists, each class has three recipes nobody else has.

Additionally, I want there to be an emphasis on self-directed players experimenting and creating or perfecting their own recipes and sharing them with or selling them to the people in the Realm.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Magic Money Squares!

This is going to seem like an advertisement for ridiculous tchotchke and I suppose in some ways it is. But nb there are still a lot of people in the world with Medieval brains, running around doing Medieval things.

Here is a delightfully cheesy Spells and Amulets website  wherein you can find actual spells, amulets and lucky charms to get you money, love, and/or a larger butt (because if News of the Weird has taught me anything, a large butt is the intermediate step between money and love.)

Here is a Magic Square amulet, which gets you money. You can tell because it has random numbers on it, just like a lottery ticket. Only $19.99!

I feel richer already

If nothing else, there are a lot of nice pictures of Medieval-quality amulets that would fool most INT 6 peasants in the year 1100, and a little bit of stock line art to nick.