Posts Tagged ‘Magic’

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Undertakers and the Umbra in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

24 April, 2021

Among the tombs . . . and ghosts?While knowledge of the heavens and the hells, really the entire afterlife, has been severed from the day to day life of the people of the Sea of Stars, people still die and their bodies must by put to rest, dealt with, disposed of.  Cultural traditions remain, is some cases unchanged from before the Sundering, in many places, so burials remain common across vast swaths of the lands.  Though cremations have become more common as time has gone on.  One of the easiest solutions, from a practical standpoint, of simply tossing the bodies over the edge of an island to plunge into the inky void of space has been adopted only by a very few of the cultures of the Sea of Stars, though many starship sailors ask for such an end for their mortal remains.

The profession of the undertaker remains important, though of varying status, throughout the various lands and states, while not always burying or entombing the dead, they also oversee cremations and other forms of setting corpses to rest.  In a world with necrourgic magics, the unliving and the unbound, proper care of the dead assumes a greater importance, no one wishes to unleash a plague of unhappy spirits or hungry dead.  So, undertakers are skilled on the method of releasing spirits trapped to bodies, warding fresh corpses from beings that may possess them and for the warning signs of necrourgic reanimation.  They seek to insure that the spirit, soul, or whatever their culture calls the animating spark of life, moves on to the Umbra, which is agreed upon term for place beyond life.

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Tailors and Textiles in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

23 April, 2021

The quest for fashion is universalFashion and clothing vary widely even radically from one culture in the Sea of Stars to the next, even before the Sundering split the world into islands, each culture tended to have it own ideas about proper and effective dress.  Afterwards, those splits became deep and more pronounced in many cases.  Fashions that once emulated that of the gods were abandoned (or at least hidden away) and new styles evolved, a few attempted to flatter the dragons by imitating their form in cloth, leather and metal, but most dragons just found the effect ridiculous so such fashions have been mostly abandoned except for masquerades.

Equally, the materials available to make into clothing especially textiles changed in availability and, often, in composition and quality.  Some materials were entirely wiped out in the aftermath of the Sundering, such as the silkworms of Giesa, were all killed in a frost that lasted a month.  However, new ones emerged such as the giant cotton plants of the Yile Valley which produce so much cotton that the valley has been the site of no less than three wars between Draconic House for control over it.

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Sailors and Ships in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

22 April, 2021

A fisherman in good timesWhen the Sundering happened, it hit sailors and the ships at sea particularly hard, some of the seas just poured away into the void, taking all of those upon them with it, others were wracked with storms and waves, as few as one in six of those ships unlucky enough to have been out when the Sundering happened ever made it back to port.  This was a terrible loss of skilled sailors and knowledge, not to mention ships and cargoes, several merchant houses were wiped out by these losses even before the other changes of the Sundering disrupted their business.  Many coastal fishing village lost the major portion of their adult fishermen in a single day, a handful were almost depopulated of adults, leaving only children and the elderly waiting for the fishing boats that would never return.

As if such devastation was not enough, the fracturing of the world disrupted -when they did not eliminate- maritime trades routes, fishing patterns and more.  It was some years after the Sundering before wood (such as Karrias wood) and other materials were discovered that would allow for the construction of starships which could travel the space between the islands as though it were water. The Empress poured no small amount of money in the search for materials to build starships with, freely sharing the knowledge, as she recognize that wealth is generated by trade and the Sundering had all but killed trade on anything other than the most local of scales.  The ability to travel between the island by starship caused a huge boom in trade and travel, leading to the construction of new ports, the revitalization of old ones and shipyards springing up to build the new starships.

Unfortunately, the availability of sailors was at an all time low as the starship boom began, leading to a huge influx of new people into careers about ship, old traditions -often half remembered- were reestablished, schools and academies were opened, but most of the training was actually aboard the new starships.  As one can imagine, it was an exciting and harrowing time for the new crop of sailors and lead to new traditions.

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Raiders and Robbers in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

21 April, 2021

Raid for plunder, profit and  . . . patriotism?There is an illusionary calm to the Sea of Stars, an impression that a Pax Dracona has ended war and conflict, nothing could be further from the truth.   While under dragonrule, open war between states has become vanishingly rare, as such invites war between the Draconic houses, so armed conflict is waged by other means: raid, skirmish, reconnaissance in force, chevauchée, backing of rebel factions, hiring bandits and pirates, and other such tactics.  Life can be very dangerous in the borderlands between two ambitious realms even if war is never declared, in fact, it may be worse than war if such raiding is left unchecked.

Those who raid often do so under some vague authority or authorization from the powers that be, though the legality of such things is questionable at best without a formal declaration of war.  Privateers operating under a Letter of Marque, soldier on an extended “scouting missions”, such actions tend to dissolve into raids, counter-raids and reprisals.  It is a messy business when soldiers act as raiders and looters, they can quickly become barely distinguishable from bandits and brigands without a strong commander who can maintain discipline.

Bandits, robbers and pirates are there to get money and goods, rarely they have some other purpose as well, but in general, they are are very focused on the money.  They usually operate in small groups or bands, it requires an exceptional leader to gather together multiple bands into a large group (or, for pirates, ships into a flotilla) as the bands tend to be very idiosyncratic in their organization and, especially, in their leadership.

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Poets and Performers in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

19 April, 2021

Poets come in all shapes and sizesPoetry is a popular pastime in the Sea of Stars no matter where one travels.  The varieties of poetry are almost limitless with many of the elven traditions extending back millennia, tough the main draconic traditions claim such antiquity they were only properly formalized after the Sundering, many cultures have poetical traditions of great lineage and many new ones have sprung up with the blending and bending of cultures under dragonrule.

The Dragon Empress herself is an accomplished poetess, and this is not just flattery, her epic piece on the final battle against the Giantish armies is taught to students of the Draconic language across the Empires and is a favorite piece to recite.  It remains a moving tribute to a mighty foe even across the years.  Many of her other poems have been collected as well but it is known that there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of poems that she has given as gifts that are only known to her and the recipient, each year a few of these come to light and are added to the official canon.  It is rumored,

Many courts, royal and noble, and even some Republics and citizen assemblies, maintain their own poets (Court, Royal, Official, or other such titles proliferate).  Competition for such spots is fierce, bribery, seduction and other dirty tricks are . . . not unknown when such a job is in play.  Even roles as assistants or apprentices to these official poets is sought after and occasionally demanded as a price for supporting someone for the post.

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Oneiromancy and Oneiromagi in the Sea of Stars (A to Z)

17 April, 2021

The power and influence of the realm of dreams in the Sea of Stars waxes and wanes, like all of the Other Realms is partly warded away by the magic of the Empress, but it is such a nebulous realm that it can often slip through the cracks of reality.

Seeing beyondOneiromancy is the practical of divination and prophecy through the study and analysis of dreams.  As it was for all other methods of divination and prophecy, it failed to predict the draconic assault on the gods.  There are rumors and fragmentary reports that the night before the dragons launched their attack, that the dream-seers were overwhelmed with dream images of dragons, destruction and blood but by the time there were awake and able to vocalize what they saw, the Gods War was already engaged.  What warning they were able to sent likely just added to the confusion and it is widely believed (among the oneriromancer community) that it was a deliberate ploy by the Empress to further unbalance her enemies.

Oneiromagi are wizards who specialize in the magic of dreams while some also are oneiromancers, others just weave dreams into reality and shape other peoples’ dreams.  Dream and illusion magic is closely intertwined as both mix magic with reality and play with perceptions and how to to shape them.  Their schools and traditions were heavily disrupted for a generation after the Sundering both from the general disruption of the realms and from the early period of the Empress’ wards.  But dreams are always with us, so the traditions survived and new schools emerged from the survivors of the old.

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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 armory 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.

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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 CC0http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

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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.

 

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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.

 

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