Posts Tagged ‘Magic’


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









Quizzing Glass (A to Z Challenge, Q)

20 April, 2015

Quizzing Glass

The better to see you withThe quizzing glass is a monocle on a stick, popularized by the dandies in our world.  In the Sea of Stars, quizzing glasses (and monocles) are widely used for embedding vision-based magics into.  They were first popularized by the Empress in the second century of her rule when she undertook a tour of the entirety of her realm and used a variety quizzing glasses throughout.

While their popularity has waxed and waned over the years, the quizzing glass has never entirely vanished from the available fashion accessories for the wealthy and several have become heirlooms passed down through family lines.

One of the most common types is the:

Quizzing Glass of Aura Sight

Always made of the finest materials, the lens is of finely ground gemstone, usually with a gold frame, though the rod may be made of any of a variety of exotic and valuable materials.  The rod is decorated with finely engraved runes that can only be seen under close examination. Read the rest of this entry ?


Portals (A to Z Challenge, P)

18 April, 2015


Will you pass through?Following the Sundering, the dragons ruthlessly attempted to close any permanent link between this world and another seeing them, reasonable, as potential invasion routes.  Stone circles, holy windows, gates to hell, all were forcible sealed often destroying them in the process.  Though there were so many that some, inevitably, escaped, a few were hidden before the dragons could chase them down, and some that require specific alignments of circumstance to open were either missed or ignored.  Some of the more ambitious dragons hid gates with the intention of using them to their advantage, not all survived to do so.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Oracles (A to Z Challenge, O)

17 April, 2015


Looking to the stars, looking to the future(In a general sense, not directly referring to the Pathfinder class.)

It is widely believed in the Sea of Stars that the future can be predicted, perhaps not precisely, but the general flow of events can be learned.  The most popular and effective means is astrology, reading the future in the patterns of the stars.  Almost every settlement that is at least the size of a town has its own astrologer, trying to untangle the threads of the future.  The skill and accuracy of the astrologers vary widely, but very few courts choose to go without having at least one.  The Draconic Houses rarely have obvious astrologers, unless one of the family chooses such a path, but almost certainly has one in a tower hidden somewhere writing predictions for them.

Read the rest of this entry ?


Necrourgists (A to Z Challenge, N)

16 April, 2015


(For an explanation of the term, visit this post)

Raw material for an enterprising necrourgistThose who specialize in the magic and manipulation of death are not that rare in the Sea of Stars but they are rarely very popular, it strikes most people as something that is best left alone (though some states encourage its use such the Dark Star Dominion or the High Kingdom of Laccini).  The Empress does not favor it as a path of magic but nor does she condemn it, leaving it as just one of the many routes to magical power.

Necrourgy is a comparatively new field of open and accepted magical study, its study and use was suppressed  in the age of the gods leading to isolated practitioners and secretive organizations of necrourgists.  In the thousand years since the Sundering it has rose to be an accepted (if unpopular) part of the magical fields of study, the objections of the Sun Cult to such magic are tacitly ignored.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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