Posts Tagged ‘Magic’


Fantastic Location – the Third Celestial Armory (landed)

1 February, 2021

Third Celestial Armory

Armory of the HeavensBefore the Gods War, the gods maintained homes and more in the floating heavens above the world, the Gods of War maintained four armories for the storing of weapons for the hosts of the heavens.  They were among the first targets of the dragons, quickly overrun by the surprise assaults.

The First Armory was destroyed by the determined actions of its last defender, being consumed by divine fire and lightning.  The Second plunged into the Silver Sea, breaking apart and vanishing beneath the waves.  The Fourth was the site of the counterattack by the Red Banner flight and the Seven Sons of the Sword, Ba’ai’ai held the armory but it was almost entirely destroyed in the process.

The Third was seized by the General and deliberately brought down onto the lands where the Empress would establish her capital.  It landed at a slight angle and attempts to level it have never entirely succeeded, leaving the building canted at a slight angle (about 3 degrees).  In addition to what was captured in the armor when it was seized, various other weapon of divine origin acquire by the Empress and her servants have ended up there.  It is rare that such weapon are authorized for use by the Imperial forces but they remain as a potent symbol of Imperial authority.

The armory building itself is a massive pyramid of gleaming white stone with fitting of a bluish-white metal.  It is unadorned but imposing with its stark lines.  Only the most trusted of the Imperial military are assigned to duty guarding the armory while in buildings that have grown up outside, the military bureaucracy goes about its tasks.

Rarely, tours are offered of the armory usually for visitors from afar to impress them with the might of the Draconic Imperium, but, it is said, that a suitable bribe to the right member of the bureaucracy will allow one to join such a tour.

Why would one want to visit such a place?  To learn about the divine weaponry of the past, perhaps to compare to an item you have or have heard stories about.  To case the joint for a daring heist.   To understand the resource the Dragon Empress has.

Notes: My first contribution towards this month’s RPG Blog Carnival.

Photo Royal Armory at Leeds by Lofty found on Wikimedia Commons and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


Names and Nemesis (A to Z)

17 April, 2020

Names have power and true names have the most power over a being, power to shape and control the very nature of that being.  It is said the the Empress collected the true names of all the gods before she went to war with them.  So, naturally, dragons have become very protective of their true names but none more so then the Empress herself, even before she embarked on her planning to overthrow the gods, she was hiding evidence of who she was and would be.  Indeed once the dust had settled after the Sundering, she invoked a great ritual that erased any knowledge of her true name from anywhere in the Sea of Stars; Aa lesser version of that ritual hunted and obscured all references to the true names of her closest agents, the Seven Stars, who run the Imperial Government.  In is thought that the only one who knows them now is the Empress.

Just RetributionThis has not stopped people from hunting for those true names, after all, they are among the most valuable pieces of information in the Sea of Stars.  Lines of scholars have pursued esoteric lines of research across generations, to no avail, or if they have had any success . . . they have not revealed it.  Which would be sensible all things considered.

The Empress is careful about the security of her name, herself, the Imperial House, her treasures, all of it for she understands the concept of Nemesis, the due justice that falls to those that succumb to hubris.  The Empress considers herself the nemesis of the gods and has no intention of being the next turn of the wheel.  She watches for plots and conspiracies, gathers information, develops new techniques for defense and obsessively watches for the return of divine powers to the world.  Of course, she understands that someday she will fall, it is that knowledge that drives her to make it as difficult as she can for any who try to drag her down.  As she says, “I spent a millennium planning to overthrow the gods, if you intend to overthrow me, you should plan on putting in at least half that much effort before you make your move.”

Notes: The Empress is full of tricks and plans, she did not claw her way to the top of the world just to be pushed out by the first challenger that came along.

Photo (da) Nemesis. Nicolai Abildgaard. Statens Museum for Kunstnull. license CC0


Pondering Wild Magic in D&D 5E

9 August, 2019

Wild?In my current D&D (5th Edition) games, I have two wild sorcerers, one in the Down and Out in Taren Kost adventures and the other in my learn to play game on one Friday night a month at Tyche’s Games.  So, I have been looking at wild magic in D&D and finding it . . . dull.

You can find the current wild magic table here and the effects range from “you accidentally kill the party” (07-08, fireball centered on you or 13-14, confusion centered on you), to nice for you (71-72, resistance to all damage for the next minute), to “you don’t get to have fun for the next in-game hour” (save or be polymorphed into a sheep for an hour) to “what? why?” (95-96, you and everyone else in 30′ become vulnerable to piercing damage for the next minute).  But they are both weirdly specific and static and do not give a sense of wild and chaotic magic, at least, not to me.

So, I am going to just go more free form and flexible.  I will use a deck of cards whenever a wild magic effect is triggered and the roll to trigger will be the spell level or less on a D20 when casting a spell, more powerful effects should be more likely to trigger.

My basic idea is:

  • Black card, negative effect (Spade, affects wild mage, Club, affects someone/thing else)
  • Red card, positive (Heart, affects wild mage, Diamond, affects someone/thing else)
  • Joker, draw twice more.

The higher value of the card, the greater the effect. Designed to be very free form and flexible.  I will post how it works out but it will be at least a week before I get to use it.

Notes: Image from a search for “chaos magic” and is “Veuve Clicquot HQ, Reims, France” by Matt Hamm is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.



Everyday Magic in the Sea of Stars

27 February, 2019

Magic is everywhere in the Sea of Stars, it is a constant, like air and sunlight.  Almost everyone knows a worker of magic in some form, villagers would know a hedge wizard, priest or witch, townsfolk meet alchemists, priests and wizards, while those in the cities may know those who follow an even more exotic path.

Many, even most, people know one or two small magics to make their tasks easier, charms to keep milk from curdling, a cantrip to keep a needle sharp for a seamstress, and other such things.  These narrowly focused spells can be used once or twice a day are with in the realm of almost anyone with even a spark of mystical talent to learn.  Guilds keep their specialized magics, no matter how small, secret and are only taught as people move upward through the ranks.  Farmers pass their tricks and charms to their children.

Colorful imageOver the years and centuries, many magic items have been constructed and enchanted.  Many of those are for small or frivolous things, enchanted combs, magical serving sets and such.  The dragons value luxury and convenience, leading to a continuing expansion in the creation of helpful items that have filtered down to the wealthy and even to the middle class (and no small number have become Visse family heirlooms).  While expensive, the durability and usefulness of such items often make them worthwhile purchases for major occasions, such as marriages, so their number in circulation grows.

Those who live in the countryside and the wilds have their own traditions of folk magic to call upon, it is rarely as long lasting as the carefully constructed masterpieces of the wizards and guilds but they serve their purpose of helping the community in good times and ill.  Druids and others with understanding of natural lore guide magic into living things, growing magic items for later use ranging from as simply as unspoiling fruit to as complex as living buildings.

If you listen in the right places, there are rumors of divine items predating the Sundering hidden in lost temples or abandoned shrines, must of these have long since been looted (not least by the dragons) but a few unspoiled troves of such valuable magics must still exist.

So, for those seeking magic there are many places to go searching.  Occasionally wizards guilds (or other magical organization) will organize expeditions to investigate folk magic, which do not usually work as well as either side might hope.  Others seeking lost magical items among the heirlooms and artifacts of families, treasure hunters and confidence tricksters to profit from acquring such, legitimate researchers and historians to study them.

This also mean that people who consciously eschew or avoid magic are looked at as being a bit strange, who would abandon such useful everyday tools?  But they are usually just viewed and treated as being eccentric, not actively dangerous, unless they start trying to stop other people from using magic.

Notes: A late add to this month’s RPG Blog Carnival.

Picture is from the ‘Talbot Shrewsbury book’ held by the British Library and is in the Public Domain.



RPG Blog Carnival – Making Magic Wondrous

1 February, 2019

More magicIn February, 2019, the Sea of Stars once again hosts the RPG Blog Carnival!  We hope you will join in.

Magic is the defining characteristic of fantasy settings, it is even one of the primary way we use to define fantasy settings: the Low Magic (magic is rare and dangerous) to High Magic (magic is everywhere) spectrum.  But too often, magic just becomes another game mechanic and it loses the wonder and, well, magic of it all.

For this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, we will be looking at how to bring the wonder back into magic and the fantastical into fantasy games.  All ideas and contributions are welcome.

Some suggestions on themes to explore:

  • How magic works in your game world and ways to describe it.
  • The origin of magic in your world and how that shapes its form and function.
  • How the magic of gods and wizards differs or does not.
  • Do the different cultures in your world have different magical traditions?  If so, how does that express itself in play and description?
  • Is magic new or old?  Traditional or innovative?  Constrained or disruptive?
  • How do you make magic items more interesting than just their mechanics?

As to that last question, I devoted an article to it back when the journal was just starting up, Putting the Wonder Back into Wondrous Items. (And more recently, it has been discussed on RPGNet thread, Making Magic Items more Unique)  So it seems a topic of continued interest.

Expect more on other magical subjects here through out the month and please share links to your thoughts and posts in the comments section, let us get some ideas and discussion flowing!

Have a magical February!

Notes: The Sea of Stars previously hosted the RPG Blog Carnival in May, 2017 with the Theme of Occult Mysteries and Magic.

Photo “The Magic Flute @ BAM” by Global X is licensed under CC by 2.0


A to Z – Quests, unfinished

23 April, 2018

While the gods are, mostly dead, many of their magics remain even after a millennium.  Many quests set in place and in motion when the gods were slain remain active, just awaiting someone to take them up.  The problem is that many of them cannot be completed . . . at least not easily.

Perhaps these quests are waiting to be fulfilled:

Message to the Ruler (of the Gods) , an ornate sealed scroll tube, those who grasp it have a compulsion to deliver it to . . . they are not really sure.  Someone in authority, certainly, but who?  The compulsion is not strong, but it is always there as long as the scroll tube is near by and worse when it is in sight.  Trying to take it to a local authority seems correct up until the point of actually seeing that authority, then it is obviously wrong, and the next authority up the ladder seems correct.  Delivering one to the Empress might work to end the compulsion, maybe . . .

Quests of Love, sets of tasks guaranteed to bring lovers together, the lists of tasks can still be found but without the guarantor . . . would they still work?  Or is there enough residue magic to activate it?  Does your heart ache enough to give it a try?

Secret Paths to Otherworld Realms though twisting ways and collecting proper keys, though the Sundering may have changed the end points of this paths.

White RoseThe White Roses of the Moon, grown and scattered to secret places when the Moon was whole and sane.  Those who found them could bring them to her, undergoing a set of trials along the way, and ask for a single boon.  But one would have to be mad or desperate or both to try and redeem one now, would one not?

Weapons made and hidden for heroes to use to slay monsters that no longer exist or that have been radically changed from when the weapon was forged.  The weapons still drive their owner’s to seek out this monsters . . . or monsters similar to them.

Notes: All good adventure seeds I think.  What sorts of uncompleted quests can you think of?

Photo “I needed a white rose, tonight” by Madalena Pestana is licensed under CC BY 2.0.



A to Z – Dragon’s Blood

4 April, 2018

It only takes a dropThe very essence of dragons is magic, no where is this more apparent then in their blood which is a potent magical enhancer . . . and addictive to any magic user who partakes of it.

This is the real thing, the blood of a dragon, alchemically refined to keep its potency. (Though fresh dragon’s blood has the same effects, it must be drunk quite soon after it is spilled or the magic is lost.) The appearance of the dragon’s blood depends on the type of dragon it came from.  It also carries a ‘taste’ of sense impressions which give a sensorial clue to the personality, elemental alignment and soul of the dragon it was drawn from.

Consuming dragon’s blood fills one with power and confidence, heightening natural magic use and washing away cares.  However, the users is filled with a overwhelming sense of power and desire and the consumer may indulge in actions and activity they would normally consider unthinkable as it also washes away inhibitions.  Unfortunately, it also burns through the body’s energy reserves, leaving the user tired and weak when it wears off (though a good meal will help recovery).

Using actual dragon’s blood as a base, alchemists have developed a substance that is close to dragon’s blood, though not as potent. To those who have not tasted the real thing, the synthetic is sweet and potent, but to those who have tasted the true blood, it seems bitter and incomplete.

Those unfortunates who have tasted and become addicted to dragon’s blood often turn to the use of the synthetic to satisfy their cravings for power.  The synthetic requires a trace of dragon blood or a larger amount of blood from one of the dragonkine or false dragons as a base.

A small number of debased dragonkine sell their blood to alchemists for such uses.  Some true dragon consider the manufacture of synthetic dragon’s blood (or even the refining of true dragn’s blood) an insult and will destroy the laboratory and maker of such.

Notes: Dragon’s blood is an interesting lot device which I have only rarely used in my campaign.  Dangerous to use but some will pay any price for power.

Image “Blood Hibiscus” by Kryziz Bonny is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


May RPG Blog Carnival – Occult Mysteries and Magic, Part the Third

15 May, 2017

Occult Mysteries and Magic, Part the Third.

Answering some more of the questions posed in the introduction to the carnival for the Sea of Stars:

It is magic!Who controls magical knowledge and its dissemination?  The Wizard-Scholars of the City of Borusa would say it is them but they do not have a monopoly on such knowledge as much as they would like to.  Most of the draconic houses have vast libraries of magical knowledge, depending on the house it may be well used, or a museum of hoarded (and unused) knowledge.  Other group tend to specialize such as the Necrourgists of Laccini or the Court and Battle Wizard the serve in the Eosiant Kingdom  (with magic licensed and controlled by the Directorate).  But almost every major city has a magical tradition and society of some sort.

Can anyone learn magic?  Yes, but some people are more talented in the magical arts, or particular aspects of them, than others.  Because of the great effort needed to train people with minimal talent, it is rarely done and many folk think that only the right sort of people can become magic users.  A few cultures, however, place great store on everyone having at least a little bit of magic for one reason or another and train their people to express at least a spark of magic.

Or is it confined to particular people?  While almost anyone can learn magic, some are born to it.  Those with natural magic, often but not always from draconic blood, sometimes have it spontaneously emerge.  Emergences can be problematic in the some of the quieter places in the Sea of Stars where people are suspicious (if not hostile) to unexplained magical events but in major towns and cities, such spontaneous emergence often set off a race between various factions to recruit the -usually quite confused- young sorcerer.  Many draconic houses and states (like the Dark Star Dominion) maintain schools to train, and usually indoctrinate, these recruited sorcerers.  Those families that have a strong magical bloodline try to cultivate them and develop their own traditions and rituals to aid their childrens’ emergence and focus their talents once revealed.

In other words, in the Sea of Stars, magic and magic users can be found just about anywhere.  This is party to fulfill the setting’s design goal, allowing for wide player choice and options.

How would you answer these questions for your campaign word?

Notes: See Part the Second here.

Photo “Magic” by Steve Garner is licensed under CC BY 2.0.











May RPG Blog Carnival – Occult Mysteries and Magic, Part the Second

9 May, 2017

Occult Mysteries and Magic, Part the Second.

Esoteric SymmetryAnswering some more of the questions posed in the introduction to the carnival for the Sea of Stars:

How is magic used behind the scenes in a setting for good or ill?  In many ways, from simple weather forecasting to construction of starships, magic underlies much of day to day life in the Sea of Stars.  Mostly these are for positive things, household magic, crafting magic, travel magic, all ways to make life a little easier for the users of such.  Of course there are always those with a black heart who turn to curses and ill-starred magic to get what they want (or revenge on those who thwarted their ambitions) but they are in the minority.

Are there magical conspiracies afoot?  Throw a wand in any major city and you are likely to hit one.  Conspiracies among or against the dragons, secret cabals of wizards, hidden cults worshiping forbidden and esoteric powers, groups practicing folk magic away from prying eyes and so on.  Many of these are local conspiracies aim at protecting or improving the lot of a minority; the island or even multi-island wide conspiracies are the rare exception aiming to change the status but they are difficult to maintain, partly because even with magic they are hard to coordinate and maintain, but a few exist.  The most well known would be the Sen’Tek, the Moon Sect and the Redemptionists, all opposed to the dragons to one extent or another.

Does magical power imply other kind of power (political, criminal, economic)?  Yes, magical power can be converted into any other kind with the right application.  As magical power is usable to perform so many other action, those with magical power usual aligned (or are aligned) with a particular faction soon after revealing or mastering their magical talent so that they can use their magic to advance that faction’s goals.  Once enmeshed in a faction, a magic user’s magic tend to be bend toward that faction’s ends, guild wizard master guild spell, military wizards learn combat magics and so on.

How does your campaign world deal with this questions?

Notes: Photo “Esoteric symmetry” by fdecomite is licensed under CC BY 2.0










May RPG Blog Carnival – Occult Mysteries and Magic

1 May, 2017

While I have participated off and on in the RPG Blog Carnival, this is my first time hosting.  You can learn more about the RPG Blog Carnival and visit the archives at Johnn Four’s Roleplaying Tips page.

During May, the Sea of Stars journal will act as the central list for all the articles. If you write something as part of the Carnival, then please leave a comment with link below that it can be found by all interested.

This month’s theme is:

Occult Mysteries and Magic.

Deep OccultWhile we tend to use the word Occult is a general sense of magic and strange things, its original meaning was simply hidden or secret, so we will be looking at the secrets behind and intertwined with magic in the world and in campaign settings.  We can think about questions such as:

  • Is magic practiced openly or only in secret?  Are there legal or social punishment for magical practice?  Or are only some kinds of magic banned?
  • How is magic used behind the scenes in a setting for good or ill?  Are there magical conspiracies afoot?  Does magical power imply other kind of power (political, criminal, economic)?
  • Who controls magical knowledge and its dissemination?  Can anyone learn magic?  Or is it confined to particular people?

Obviously different types of campaigns will answer these questions very differently, the occult landscape of a modern supernatural game (say Unknown Armies) is literally worlds apart from the standard fantasy world (say D&D or Pathfinder).

I will try to answer all the three trios of questions for the Sea of Stars over the month, but I will start with the first triad today:

Is magic practiced openly or only in secret? Openly, the Sea of Stars only exists and thrives because of very visible magics, such as the captive Sun and the floating islands.  The use of magic is common but not omnipresent, though every settlement the size of a town or larger is almost guaranteed to have some sort of magic worker, and even villages often have a minor priest or practitioner of natural magic on hand.

Are there legal or social punishment for magical practice?  Some societies, and some dragons, actively oppose certain kinds of magic but societal ostracism is a more common punishment than legal methods.   Though some dragons have outlawed certain magics in their realms for reasons known only to themselves.

Or are only some kinds of magic banned?  Only the Moon Sect is banned outright, it exists only in secret societies and underground cells.  While the Empress disapproves of summoning and necrourgic magic, only the opening of permanent gates to other realms and the creation of self-replicating undead is expressly forbidden.

Other ideas that you might want to pursue:

  • Secret Societies.
  • Lost or hidden books or libraries of magical knowledge.
  • Mystery Cults.
  • Fallen civilizations, especially if magic caused their downfall.

At the end of May, I shall write a short compilation article gathering all the submissions. I look forward to reading your contributions.  Good luck and have fun!

Contributions so far:

Warlock Lodge: Masters of the Invisible College and Using witches, magic and occult practices in your games and the Psychic Witch from The Other Side.

Occlusion from Infinite Adventures.

D&D 5E: Rituals and the Occult from Harbinger of Doom.

Occult Mysteries (of Eberron) from the Codex Anathema.

Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe and Supah Seekrit from Inspiration Strikes!

Spiritualist Sorcerer and Exorcist Background from Daemons and Deathrays.

Cult Magic Failures from Tales of a GM.

A Secret Society Of Character-Hunters For Your Campaign from Roleplaying Tips.

Greater Rituals (for D&D 5E) from the Dragonsmith.

Notes: Photo “Warenology at the Warren’s occult museum” by 826 PARANORMAL is licensed under CC BY 2.0








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