A mysterious chaotic unstable force permeates the very air we breath, most are oblivious to its existence, but there are those learned and reckless enough to tap into its vastness, and at any cost untold power and vision will be theirs.
Every day the Magic-User will sit down with their spellbook to memorise a certain number of….
Fuck that. A Magic-User’s spell limit is how many spells they can SAFELY cast. Not how good their memory is (or how many spells the mind can contain if you prefer, if that was my problem I’d bring some goddamn notes with me), but how many times they can channel otherworldly energy through themselves before they become exhausted and things start to go awry.
In my setting, there is no memorising of spells, if a Maleficar (also known as Hagborn, Wormeater, Plague’d One, Harbinger, or just plain Witch) has their spellbook with them they may cast any spell they know. Unless they already found the spell in preparation, casting from a spellbook takes one round longer than usual while they turn through the pages to that cherished spot, so Maleficar often carry items bearing the formula for spells they may need quickly, their minds are too full and scattered to perfectly memorise spells.
Corfus Gnash the Bloodied, (Maleficar, obviously) wears a breastplate bearing an iron bookrest and candle holder, which secures his spellbook to his chest with leather straps attached to his shoulders. The notched axe he carries has his formula for Stinking Cloud carved into the haft, something he often finds useful in a tight spot. If you ever got close enough to see his inner arms you would also find the scarred formulas for Army of One and Gaseous Form, researched and carved into his flesh during his short imprisonment.
Osman Vermald (another Maleficar, imagine that) does not carry a spellbook, instead each spell has been lovingly inscribed into a rat skull and hung from his neck and arms. He raised each rat from birth and can find them at a moment’s notice.
The Further Adventures of Tearing Power from Beyond
I like my Magic-Users nasty and strange, and no matter how dirty they are as soon as they sit down to memorise spells for the day they look like the prissiest wussies at the garden party.
In that spirit, I’ve mentioned risky spellcasting several times in the play reports I’ve posted, which is an idea I first gleaned from False Machine.
When they can’t cast any more spells safely, Maleficar may attempt to cast further spells with a 3d6 Cast the Bones roll. A penalty is applied for every spell level above 1st, but bonuses may be applied by using appropriate spell components, requiring a further round per bonus to prepare. There can be consequences to this. For a minor consequence roll on the Chaos Reigns table. When you’ve done fucked up roll on That Which Should Not Be.
|3d6||Cast the Bones|
|5-7||Success/That Which Should Not Be|
|1-4||That Which Should Not Be|
Further to that, taking damage doesn’t stop you from casting, but it does mean you need to make a Cast the Bones roll with a penalty equal to the damage you took if you want to maintain your concentration.
Maleficar can also attempt to cast any spell they know without reading from their spellbook or an item, but since that’s an awful lot to remember it requires a Cast the Bones roll, with a penalty for every spell level above 1st.
Encumbrance doesn’t stop players from casting, that’s dumb, as long as they can move they cast spells. Besides, the more they’re carrying the more will turn into goo when they have a spell mishap.
I like the Dungeon Crawl Classics idea of spells having variable effects, however, I also think that having a table for every single spell is an enormous pain in everyone’s butt.
In my setting spells normally have the same effect every time, after all a lot of time and willpower is spent learning to harness that spell in a specific way. But if the Maleficar wishes, they can relax their hold on the spell, attempting to create a greater affect with a 3d6 Conduit of the Cosmos roll. The player announces what they want to happen, and the Referee applies penalties accordingly. An effect without penalties would be something like double duration/damage.
e.g. If a 1st level Maleficar wants their Magic Missile to throw out two missiles, that would be a normal roll. However if they want the missile to enter their enemy’s head and crackle and grow until it explodes, spraying his friends with skull shrapnel and brain lightning, that’s probably going to be a roll at -4.
Creativity should be encouraged, so if the Maleficar spontaneously conceives of a way to use the fundamentals of a spell they know for a different purpose, they can attempt it with a Conduit of the Cosmos roll, taking penalties as the Referee sees fit, and bonuses up to +4 if it is significantly less powerful than the true spell.
|3d6||Conduit of the Cosmos|
|5-7||Spell Collapse/Chaos Reigns|
|1-4||That Which Should Not Be|
On a result of Spell Collapse roll or just decide what makes most sense for the spell/situation.
|2||Half spell effect inflicted on caster|
|3-4||Spell works in unexpected way use your imaginaaaation)|
|5||Half spell effect inflicted on random target|
|6||Half spell effect inflicted on target|
|1||Roll on Abyssal Side-Effects. Not only does this effect happen now, but every time you cast this spell from now on.|
|2||That's new... Roll on Transmutation table.|
|3||A rotting golden idol melts out of thin air and hovers in the centre of the area. Everyone present rolls 3d6, including animals and inhuman monsters. Whoever rolled highest increases a random ability score by 1. Whoever rolled lowest loses 1 from the same ability score. Anyone that rolls:
18 may make a wish. Roll again. If you roll less than 13 it goes horribly wrong.
14 has golden maggots to the value of 500sp wriggle out of their tear ducts.
10 gains a random insanity.
6 permanently sheds their hair, nails and teeth.
3 collapses in agony as enormous blisters swell from their flesh and burst, releasing mud-fleshed olive green creatures somewhere between a lobster and a squid, as they writhe on the ground their flesh turns the same mud olive and the creatures consume them before the whole scene collapses in a reeking puddle.
|4||A screaming hairless hound manifests, it disembowels itself with fleshy pink hands, then offers you its entrails. Screaming all the while from its toothless maw.|
|5||You start violently weeping and you don't know why. Anyone looking at you while you weep can see a dripping halo of blood over your head.|
|6||Save vs. Magical Device every time you want to read something from your spellbook. If you fail all you can read is a shorthand account of all your personal shortcomings in the hand of whoever you have held most dear in life.|
|7||The caster's mind switches place with that of a random enemy, or if no enemies are present, that of a man-sized putrid pink anthropomorphic toadbeast that claws its way out of the ground. The caster retains their spellcasting abilities.|
|8||The scent of rotting cabbage wafts through the air within 30' of the caster. Save vs. Poison. Those who fail shake and sweat as if with a fever and become sexually uncontrollable for the next d4 turns (each rolls separately).|
|9||A pale green mist billows from the caster's mouth and they lose consciousness for d8 turns. During this time the player may control the mist. They cannot communicate, move at a Lightly Encumbered rate, can expand to fill a 30' radius, and are affected by things as a normal mist would be. Anyone who breathes in the mist must save vs. Poison or die as their lungs liquefy.|
|10||Everyone within 30' begins to feel an itching in their flesh, and if they look closely they will notice pores stretching and closing as if something was moving through them. Something is now moving beneath the skin and it burns. If anyone digs into their flesh they will discover shimmering turquoise things like jellyfish the size of fingernails, but with tentacles that harden like glass needles. After d6 rounds the itching stops and the jellyfish disappear.|
|11||You fall to your knees and regurgitate (roll d8):
1. Green algae filled with struggling black crabs.
2. Bubbling water, you hear whispers and childlike laughter as the bubbles expand and burst.
3. A golden eel with the face of a man.
4. A bloated, pregnant rat whose belly splits open when it hits the floor, spilling its young.
5. A pool of gritty tar. A multi-sided puzzle box is slowly revealed in the centre of the puddle, it doesn't appear to emerge from the floor, more like it remains still and the tar sinks down from its sides. You can't be sure of how many sides, you always seem to lose count. You have no idea how it fit through your mouth let alone your throat.
6. Blood. And eyes and teeth and hair. Like a burst tumor.
7. Writing. Not on paper, not in patterns, just writing. It doesn't make sense and nobody else can see anything but vomit but you regurgitate writing. It tells you how you die. But you can't read it, the words won't make sense, and they keep moving, and you try to hold them down but they slip through your fingers, but you know that the writing tells you everything. If only you could read it.
8. Eight gold coins. If these coins are used to buy something, that night the person who used the coin will dream of the one they gave it to.
The air is nothing but bushfire-black fog, and molten gold runs from their face. It might fill their mouth, their eye sockets, pour from their ears.. They desire to murder you with a psychotic rage, you wronged them, why did you wrong them? If you kill them in your dream you will wake up covered in blood and brain matter, standing on their bed in what used to be their head. And vice versa.
|12||A plant grows in the caster's stomach. One night per week d3 dry black tendrils emerge from the caster's orifices and bear glossy plump deep purple fruit. In the centre of the fruit is a small black multi-limbed figure in a foetal position, of the same consistency as the fruit.
If the caster has been acting immorally the fruit is sweet and grants increased Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence, with a 25% chance of addiction.
If the caster has been acting morally the fruit tastes of ash and salt and induces extreme paranoia and jealousy.
|13||Everything the caster is wearing* has a 50% chance of (roll d6):
1. Decomposing into a swarm of cooing lime green spiders which caress you with their tiny limbs.
2. Turning into rose-coloured glass that reflects things all wrong.
3. Becoming pliable and moist. It will fuse to your skin the next time you touch it.
4. Puffing into a foul smelling dust which swirls in place for a few minutes, then reforms, then puffs into dust, and so on.
5. Splashing to the ground like thick paint.
6. Turning into hair from some kind of beast you've never seen before, some parts still have bits of scalp attached and tiny lice swarm throughout.
*Packs count as one item but anything important inside gets its own roll.
|14||A dog runs into the area, if you were attacking someone it immediately latches onto them. He's just the cutest most loyal little dog ever yes he is. Anyone else that looks at it sees its fur shivering and shaking while its head splits open and the monkey skull within screams at them.|
|15||The caster vomits forth an enormous pink toad which croaks loudly and collapses into a puddle of slime. For the next 3 hours everyone who was within earshot must save vs. Poison when they wish to speak, otherwise they vomit up a small pink toad which stares and follows them. The bumps on its back constantly sweat beads of black fluid.
If you actively lick one there is a 3 in 6 chance it cures you, otherwise you hallucinate for a number of turns equal to your roll, with a 10% chance of gaining a random insanity.
|16||Black Blood. The caster's Strength increases to 18 and they fly into a murderous frenzy. Any wound they sustain immediately sprays acidic boiling black blood. Every round there is a 50% chance the caster sprays blood from their eyes as a 10' ranged attack in addition to their other actions. This lasts for d8 rounds, after which the caster blacks out for that many hours.|
|17||Everyone within view of the caster must save vs. Magic. Those who fail begin to give birth through their mouths, umbilical cord and placenta and all. The foetus is them. If they kill it there are no consequences, if they allow it to live it will leech a year of their life every day, growing visibly older.
If they eat the child, increase a random ability score by 1. Do this again for every day the child has lived.
|18||Your lips seal shut like they never existed and your tongue seems to double in size, it's moving around your mouth and feels like it's getting bigger, it's trying to choke you. If you bite your tongue in half you'll find that your mouth is full of black, legged maggots, and your lips were never sealed shut.
50% chance you really did bite your tongue in half.
|19||Beacon of Sin. Others find it hard to repress taboo desires around you. A trail of incest and lynchings is left in your wake for the next d6 weeks, with 6 being permanent.|
|20||Everything in a 5' radius around the caster is liquefied into a foul-smelling orange pus. Including the floor, their hair, and everything they are wearing. Researching spells the caster had already learned only takes half as long as usual. There's a 50% chance that living beings completely caught in the sphere will retain their sentience despite liquefying into pus.