Spirits

This world came to me from several sources.

  • Princess Mononoke, with a modernizing world pressing up against an ancient, magical world. I love the talking animals and the god of the forest. I love how magic isn't something intrinsic to any of the human characters. People with magical knowledge use it the same way that people in the real world use practical knowledge.
  • The Arthurian mythos (also seen in other places) with the King's ties to the Land. The King is the Land, and the Land is the King. While Arthur was strong and true, his power extended across the world. When he was laid low by sloth, treachery, and falsehood, the very land weakened, and eventually Camelot fell.
  • A desire of mine for a world where "Magician" doesn't mean "Superhero in robes." (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I like the idea that "Magic" is the manipulation of forces external to man. What this means in comparison to, say, a D&D Wizard or a Mage: the Awakening Mage is pretty subtle. On the surface of matters, there's not much difference between casting a fireball spell and summoning a fire spirit to tell it to burn someone, but there's a big difference in what the magician thinks about it, and a lot of little differences in how it all plays out.
  • A little bit of Hermetic lore I picked up in various places (including RPG.net, where all the cool kids hang out): One of the laws of Hermetic Magic (of which I'm ignoring many more) is that human magic can't affect anything beyond the Lower Air - which is to say the moon's orbit. Shadowrun had the same rule, as I recall. I wonder if the guys at FASA were inspired the same way I was. Another bit is "As above, so below," which points to a symmetrical world.

These tidbits floated around in my cluttered brain until they collided, and the shape they took was of a fantasy world with a different flavor than the bog-standard High Fantasy world I'm used to. I started thinking about how this world might fit together and what the people who lived there would act like.

So, without further ado, here's the world:

The World

In the center of creation is The Land, where men and beasts dwell. On the Land is fresh water and every manner of plant and animal. The Land shelters life, and is Alive. The Land is sometimes a lover to be cherished, a teacher to be respected, or a foe to be defeated for your survival.

The Spirits of the Land live upon it and within it. They take their shapes from the Land's nature and power. In the deep wilds, the Spirits of the Land are huge and fearsome. In the places of men, the Spirits of the Land are smaller and tamer, diminished and changed by the presence of Men.

The Wise might know the ways of the Spirits of the Land, but cannot compel them with words learned in the movements of the Stars. Men must contend with, or supplicate, the Spirits of the Land, for they can be deadly enemies or powerful allies. Every demesne within the Land is ruled by a powerful Spirit, a Genius Locus. A Man (or Woman, the spirits don't really care) who can bind this Spirit to himself through force of arms, cunning, or sacrifice, becomes the Lord of this demesne. Thereafter, the Land answers to the Lord, so long as he remains true to it.

Above and around the Land is the Lower Air, home to incorporeal spirits. The Spirits of the Lower Air are reflections of the primordial world. A Spirit of Fire is the essence of flame, and dances in every candle and sleeps in every ember. Spirits of Storms dwell in the heart of raging maelstroms, making the wind blow, spitting lightning, and crying out with voices of thunder. Ponderous and slow, the Spirits of Stone are hard and impenetrable when they are young, but over centuries are worn down to Spirits of Sand. Everything has its Spirit, its archetype and first cause. Those who follow the Wise ways can learn the language of the Stars, which allows them to speak to these spirits, and sometimes to command them.

Normally, Spirits of the Lower Air are incorporeal and only able to affect the Land in limited ways. Spirits of Storms do not cause storms, they are born in them, and they rarely take notice of specific places to savage or to avoid. They only interact with Men when they are called to do so, or in times and places of power.

Beyond the Lower Air is the Greater Air (or the Higher Air). Here, dwell the Spirits of the Greater Air. The Spirits of the Greater Air can never be summoned or compelled, only entreated. They cannot directly affect the Land, but they can inspire Men and Spirits to do their will.

The Spirits of the Greater Air wish to see Man ascend, but they are not united in the belief of how Man should ascend, or what ascension means. Thus, the Spirits of the Greater Air often contend with each other.

Every Star is a Spirit. Their movements through the heavens reveal secret knowledge to those who learn to read it. Every person is born under a specific Star, and some people are chosen by their Stars as special agents. Only through these Champions do the Spirits of the Greater Air directly act upon the Land. To follow one's Star is to follow one's Destiny, often into greatness, but just as often into death.

As above, so below. There are worlds of Spirit beneath the Land, as well as those above it. Beneath the Land, and in every dark place, there is the Underworld. Those human spirits that cannot ascend beyond the celestial sphere and are not dragged into the ever-darkness of the Deep dwell in the Underworld, as do fallen and corrupted Spirits of the Land and of the Lower Air. The Underworld is not evil itself, but much evil dwells there. It is a place of stagnation and rot, but also a place of ancient knowledge. Some who follow the path of the Wise learn to treat with the Spirits of the Underworld.

Like Spirits of the Lower Air, Spirits of the Underworld are generally incorporeal and unable to treat with Men. They can be called and bound, and they can touch the Land in times and places of power.

Beneath the Underworld, and beyond the Land, is the Deep.

The Deep touches all waters. The Sea is a barrier to the magics of the Land. No man can rule the Sea, even if he slays 1000 Krakens. Similarly, the magics of the Land often have difficulty passing over water. The magics of the Lower Air are generally unaffected, but the Spirits that dwell over the Deep are not the same as those who dwell over the Land, except for those of the wind, which blows everywhere.

People of the Land are always suspicious of those who choose to live their lives over the Deep, and those who live on the waves are rarely comfortable on the Land.

In the Deep, terrible spirits dwell. As the Spirits of the Greater Air wish to see Man ascend, the Spirits of the Deep seek to drag Men down and diminish Mankind. Men who fall to despair or hatred, or who were born under fallen Stars sometimes hear the voices of these Spirits. The Spirits of the Deep will offer knowledge and power and strength to those who hear them, but such power destroys the user as surely as it destroys all around him. The Stars will not shine upon such a one.

Spirits

Man and beast share their world with Spirits, born in the echoes of creation long ago. Spirits ruled the world before the rise of Men, and some say they will rule it again when the last Man dies. Sometimes allies, sometimes enemies, Spirits are at least as variable as humans, and wield fantastic powers.

Powers of Spirits

The ways of Spirits are not the ways of Men. Men are bound by flesh. Spirits are part of the eternal Land or the boundless Air. They are creatures of Will, rather than of Flesh. But they are also constrained in ways that men are not, enmeshed in their roles or lacking in substance.

Each Spirit is bound, to some degree, by its nature. A Hunting Beast must hunt. A spirit of flame must burn. A spirit of a lake cannot journey out to other lands. But within its purview, a spirit can be very powerful.


Gamespeak: My thoughts are that this needs to be a freeform system. A spirit will be defined by attributes that tell you how powerful it is, and what areas it can influence. Then there's a system for calculating how powerful a spirit needs to be to generate a given effect. On a scale of 1 to 5, a fire spirit with a 1 might just be able to light a candle, while a 5 STR fire spirit might be able to set a whole city afire. A Spirit's stat block would have whatever basic statistics are needed, plus its power level (possibly different for each of its areas of influence). Then some common/well-known specific effects would be a good idea, so you don't have to calculate them on the fly every time you need them.

The Buffy Magic system is a pretty good guideline, with its definitions of effect, duration, number of people, and so on. I'll probably end up with something like that.

The goal is to produce a system where the GM always knows what a given spirit can do, and the players can make informed guesses, but there's still room for surprises.


Spirits of the Land

The Spirits of the Land are manifestations of the Land's will and character. A land with no spirits withers and dies, becoming a blasted wasteland where nothing grows and nothing can survive for long. Far from the places of Man, the Spirits of the Land are vast and powerful. Primitive men in this primordial wild often worship them as fearsome and terrible gods. Wild Spirits of the Land generally have the form of great beasts. In places where the rule of Man dominates, the Spirits are diminished, but no less vital. They are shaped by men's wills into forms closer to human.

Wild Spirits

The Spirits that dwell in the wild are often savage and terrible, but also often hold ancient secrets and awesome powers. Only the bravest, or most foolish of men can face them. The risks are great, as are the rewards.

The Black Woods of Gothe are ruled by a black bear taller than a house, with burning embers for eyes, and with claws that can sunder tree trunks. Anyone who brings iron into the forest raises the black bear's rage. In his presence, fires will not burn, and shadows become visions of men's darkest fears. By day, the bear is never seen. Only the sharpest arrows will pierce the dark bear's hide, and any hurts he takes one night will be healed by the next.

Stories say that a warrior who kills the dark bear will gain his power - skin that turns blows, and strength beyond mortal ken; shadows that answer his call, and power over flame. No one has done so yet. Kenning Men say that one can, on the first new moon of spring, approach the bear carrying neither weapons nor flame, and the bear will judge the man's worthiness. For a worthy man, the bear will answer any one question, and give the man one of his teeth, which may be made into a spear tip or a dagger sharper than steel. But if the man is judged unworthy, the bear will kill him and devour him, such that no one remembers his name. Still other stories say that if the man is found worthy, the bear will still kill him, and he will rise three nights hence as a bear himself.

Each land has one totemic spirit, a Genius Locus. To defeat or treat with that spirit is to become a Lord. Thereafter, the Land recognizes its Lord and rewards him when he is strong. The Land makes demands of its Lords, though, and these demands must be met, else great doom befall the Lord.

Once, a mighty city stood on the mountain called Drakencrag. The city's first king slew the dragon of the mount with a sword forged from starmetal. As the dragon died, he granted the king and his descendants dominion over the mountain, the valley, and the fertile plains beneath, so long as the people never slew any of the lesser dragons that lived in the mountains, and each shepherd left his first ewe of the year as an offering to the dragons when it was a year old.

For many years, the people prospered. Their hunters brought back full sacks. Their fields produced more than sufficient grain. Their warriors brought back great plunder in raids against weaker neighbors. Until there came a king who grew tired of the wyrms that sometimes stole from his herds or burned his crops. With the sword of his fathers, he slew a wyrm. Thereafter, the city knew no peace. A plague of wyrms descended, burning the city and the surrounding villages, and killing those who lived there. The king and his warriors fought back, but they were defeated, and the starmetal blade was lost.

Now the Drakencrag is once again ruled by a great and powerful dragon, and legends speak of the wondrous treasure that might be found in the ruins of the city. The people who dwell in the valley and the fields beyond will slay such wyrms as descend from the hills to steal sheep, but they never pursue the wyrms into the mountains, for that is surely death. To appease the Dragon, they must now sacrifice to him a virgin girl who has just begun to have her moontime each year on the longest night.

Not all Spirits of the Land are gigantic or dangerous. Even in wild places, there are some spirits that can be helpful to men, although even these spirits are not to be crossed.

Many wild places are home to the Little People, who look like misshapen effigies of humans. They are attracted to human activity, but seldom do more than watch from a distance. Few travelers ever get more than a glimpse of them. When unobserved, the little men will steal small objects, often hanging them in the tree branches nearby, or work other small mischief. But other times, they will mark safe trails, or lead lost travelers from danger with their haunting voices, which warble like birds and click and croak like frogs and insects.

A man who touches a little man will have good luck all day, so some people think to capture one and keep it in a cage. This is a poor idea, since the others will take great offence and work their small mischiefs on the captor and everyone around him, and even if he releases the captive, they will never stop hounding him. Or so say the legends.

Spirits of Man

Spirits do not only dwell in the primordial wilds. They are part of the Land, and as such are found everywhere upon it. But in places dominated by Man, they are diminished in form and power. This does not mean they are powerless, by any means.

In the ancient city of Illyum, after the sun has set, fortunate men (or unfortunate ones) will sometimes see a trio of women, shapely in form, but clothed head to toe in red wrappings, with red cloaks hiding their heads and silver, eyeless masks hiding their features. These women sometimes walk, sometimes dance to inaudible music, but never speak. Everyone knows that the Red Ladies are harbingers. Anyone who actually hears their music will die in a fortnight. If he can actually hear them sing, he will die that very day.

Very rarely, a Red Lady will stop and lay hands upon a person, always a woman or a child. If she bestows her blessings upon a grown woman, that woman will conceive a child within the next year. If she chooses a child, that child will not fall ill until his beard begins to grow (if a boy) or her moontime begins (if a girl).

Once in a great while, only two Red Ladies will appear. They will dance through the city plaza in broad daylight, and everyone in the square will hear the haunting music. The pair will pick out a woman in the plaza, be she young or old, pretty or ugly, and dance around her, finally taking her hand and leading her from the plaza in a frenetic, spiraling dance. Anyone who tries to stop them will be compelled to dance as well, although not to follow. Those stricken will dance until the next sunrise, if they do not die first. The chosen woman will be led away and will never be seen again. The next time the Red Ladies appear, there will be three again.

Many peoples know of household spirits, like the Brown Men as small as mice, always dressed in clothes made from scraps of cloth and decorated with bits of stone and metal. The Brown Men live in the shadows beneath cupboards, in the gaps between stones, and in the void between roof and rafters. They prefer rough, somewhat shabby dwellings over the fine houses of the rich. Wise people will leave out a bit of food for them, and make sure the odd scrap of good fabric falls to the corner, because Brown Men will protect the house they live in. They chase away vermin, and do not foul what bits of food they steal for their own use as rats would do. Sometimes, they might also deign to do small chores like patching a leaking thatch roof or mending a small broken thing left laying out.

If they are well-treated, they will also protect the inhabitants from hostile magics. Whenever a malevolent entity or evil spell targets a member of the household or a guest, a Brown Man can choose to sacrifice his life in the stead of the original target. The next day, the lady of the house will find his corpse, blackened to a cinder, on the hearthstone. When this happens, it is important that the inhabitants of the house honor the little cinder with a proper funeral, scaled down to its size. Otherwise, the remaining Brown Men might give offence and leave the house.


Gamespeak: Spirits of the Land will have fairly esoteric power purviews like "Healing" or "Hearth" or "Hunting" (although they won't all have to begin with the letter "H.") I'll try to avoid the more elemental ones like "Fire" or "Storms" because those should be the realm of Spirits of the Lower Air. But fire or storms might be part of a Spirit of the Land's repertoire. A spirit of fear might only appear during storms. The Genius Locus of a volcano could well have a body made of burning lava. I'll have to think about how those work.

Spirits of the Lower Air

The Lower Air encircles the Land, marking out safe boundries beyond which the Land cannot exist. The purpose of the Air is to provide the Land with breath. Sound, light, warmth, shadow, cold, and flame all travel through the medium of Air. And these are not just nameless forces, they are living things, breathed out by the Land. They are the Spirits of the Lower Air.

Unlike the Spirits of the Land, Spirits of the Lower Air are almost always incorporeal. They live only in their earthly manifestations, and never step beyond them. In every shadow is a sprit of shadow, but only in exceptionally rare circumstances will the shadow spirit take any action beyond slowly moving across the wall as the sun passes in the sky.

The Spirits of the Lower Air can be categorized, but some defy easy classification. Almost every natural occurance or element has a spirit. The works of Man can sometimes give birth to spirits as well, or perhaps to transform the spirits already inside. A sword of legend that has slain dragons and kings and lovers might have its own spirit that embues the sword with great power and Will, but not all swords have spirits beyond the iron in their blades.

Some philosophers even doubt the individuality of the Spirits of the Lower Air. Does a storm spirit retire to his bed when the storm abates, only to return for a new storm? Or does each new storm have a spirit that lives and dies within the span of the storm? The Spirits themselves are little help in answering the question. Their perception of time is different than that of Men. While a spirit can understand such concepts as "wait until later" or "before this, that," it will be utterly baffled by such questions as "when were you born?" or "How long have you lived?" In fact, most Spirits of the Lower Air can only speak of concrete, immediate things, and seldom speak at all other than to acknowledge commands.


Gamespeak: Spirits of the Lower Air have pretty simple balliwiks. A Fire spirit can make things burn, keep things from burning, and control fire to a limited extent. A really powerful Fire spirit might be able to make water burn, but most couldn't.

I'm thinking that Spirits of the Lower Air will have limits to their duration. I'll probably get into this more in the magic section, but the basic idea is that if you summon a fire spirit and take it out of the fire, it can only last so long, and as it expends its energy, it gets weaker and will discorporate sooner.

Anchoring the spirit in some way could give it longer time duration.

Spirits can only be called up within their elements. To summon a fire spirit, you need a fire, and the bigger the fire, the bigger the spirit you could summon. Human manufacture changes what spirits are available. For instance, a lump of raw iron ore could be used to summon a rock spirit, but if that iron were smelted and refined and beaten into a sword, the spirit would then be a sword spirit. If the sword were broken, the sword spirit would die (only to live again if the sword were somehow re-forged) and those particular fragments of iron might not be useful to summon anything anymore.


Spirits of the Greater Air

Beyond the Land and Lower Air is the perfect Celestial realm. Men cannot go there, and nothing from the Celestial spheres can easily enter the land. The Lunar Sphere marks the barrier between the Lower and Greater Air. Naturally, this means that on nights when the moon is dark, the barrier is weaker. New Moons are times of portent. Lunar eclipses are major events.

The Spirits of the Greater Air are both most and least like men above all other spirits. They understand the passage of time as Men do, although as immortal beings they see more of it pass. Unlike spirits of the Lower Air, the Spirits of the Greater Air are visible to human eyes, hanging in the sky. The barrier of the Lunar Sphere separates Man from the Spirits of the Greater Air. Men can call upon them, but cannot summon them or bind them, and Spirits of the Greater Air never touch the Land. When a star falls, the spirit is consumed and destroyed, leaving only a shard of stone. This stone, when found by Men, is of great power, but is no longer a spirit.

Legends say this is not always true. Sometimes, a Spirit of the Greater Air longs so deeply for the Land that he might fall from the sky and survive, diminished in power and cast into the form of a man or beast.


Gamespeak: as an unabashed fan of Neil Gaiman's Stardust, I am very likely to include rules for fallen stars, but I'm not completely decided. At the moment, this is a very "human" setting. Adding any sort of demihuman should not be done lightly.


The Greater Air is marked by spheres encircling the Land like nested dolls. Each Sphere is the domain of one of the most powerful spirits of the Greater Air, the Spirits who shape the destiny of the Land. Men all recognize these Spirits in some form, although the details, and even the names, might differ.

First is the Lunar Sphere. The Moon is one of the two Spirits closest to the Land, and the one that gives it light in the darkness. She (although the Spirits are not bound by human sex, the Moon is almost always seen as a female spirit by the peoples of the Land) represents Life in its physical, changing aspects: fertility, birth, aging, and eventual death, plants, animals, and the like. The Spirit of the Moon seeks to elevate mankind by bringing Man into harmony with the Land.

Second is the Solar Sphere. The Sun is the second Spirit closest to Man, and brings life-giving light to the Land. Without Light, the Land would be cold, dead, and unseen. The Spirit of the Sun holding purvue over life, healing, purity, and inspiration. His are the spiritual domains of life, and he seeks to elevate Men's souls.

Next is the Mercurial Sphere. The Dawnstar treasures knowledge above all else. This includes philosophy, secrets, and languages. It is the Spirit of Mercury who orders the Stars to reveal the secrets of the universe.

(aside: Yes, I know that the morning star and the evening star were really both Venus. Work with me here)

Fourth is the Venusian Sphere. The Spirit of Venus is concerned with the "soft" or "gentle" emotions, and seeks to elevate Man through love, beauty, and art. She inspires poets and romantics.

Fifth is the Martian Sphere. The Red Star is the star of War. The Spirit of Mars finds elevation in conflict: constant striving, challenging, biting, scratching for advantage. The Red Star finds Men at their best in the midst of a struggle.

Sixth is the Jovian Sphere. The Spirit of Jove admires all forms of strength, and believes the best way for Man to ascend is through the wisdom and strength of kings. It is by Jove's will that a Lord may rule his Land.

The seventh, and final Sphere is the Saturnian Sphere. Beyond this, is the Abyss. The Spirit of Saturn sets limits. He separated the Land from the Air, and the Lower Air from the Greater Air. He separates life from death and day from night.

Within the Celestial Spheres, there are countless stars. Each is aligned with one of the Greater Lights, serving and supplimenting it. Some of these are part of the celestial chorus, singing the eternal music of the Spheres. Others take a direct interest in human affairs, watching life play out far below.

When Men send up prayers and sacrifices to the Celestial Spheres, the Spirits hear them. For reasons of their own, they sometimes deign to answer.


Gamespeak: Spirits of the Greater Air are essentially gods and angels. They don't often communicate with individuals. The greatest of them don't even really care about countries or dynasties. They're only interested in the ideals they represent, and exert constant subtle influence to promote those ideals. Mars' light shines down on men and makes them dream of war and blood and glory. Lesser spirits associated with Mars might communicate with specific men, but only rarely. Men can pray to the gods, and by doing so can forge a slightly stronger connection to them, which sometimes results in minor miracles.

Spirits of the Underworld

The souls of Men long for the Celestial Spheres, but are drawn by morbid gravity to the Depths. For those souls that have found neither fate, there is the Underworld, a place of cold and darkness. The Spirits of the Underworld were once human souls. Some might be again, purged of their past stains until they are light enough to ascend and be reborn. Others have been twisted into something else.

Souls are bound into the Underworld for several reasons. Those who die without proper funeral rites to clear their way to the heavens have nowhere else to go. Worse yet, there are rites that will bind a soul to the Underworld. Even with all spiritual care, some souls are so burdened that they cannot make the journey. An ill-chosen oath can leave a soul so bound, as can unfulfilled vengeance or desire. And finally, those slain by creatures of the Underworld are often transformed into creatures of the Underworld themselves. Thus does the curse spread.

The great majority of spirits of the Underworld are incorporeal and trapped within the cavernous depths. They can be called up by sorceries in the dark of the night. Such spirits might have greater or lesser power. The strongest can kill men, or drive them to madness. The weakest might be able to do no more than dim the light in a room or create a chill. But even the weakest of spirits might have knowledge. Those who practice the Dark Arts most often seek knowledge. Spirits do not willingly part with their secrets, however. There is always a motive or a price. Only the most powerful or clever of Necromancers escape such transactions unscathed.

This was the fall of Ahankara, that the people were prideful and haughty, and denied hospitality to a passing traveler. This man bore the dark mark, and saw the world through one dead eye. He spoke no ill of those who wronged him, but in the dark of night dropped a polished black stone into the town well.

Every night thereafter, the dead arose to howl through the city on dark, cold winds. They grew stronger with the waning of the moon, and weaker under Her light. Under the new moon, anyone caught outside was in risk of death, and of arising as a shade himself. At other times, the howling was enough to sunder sleep and to erode sanity.

The people of Ahnkara were wealthy, and promised gold to any wizard who could banish the ghosts, but the ghosts whispered to the necromancers of Ahankara's sin, and none would stay. To this day, no one knows what sin Ahankara committed against the wandering sorcerer. Her once proud people were reduced to being wanderers themselves, and if they settled anywhere, ghosts would come to hound them. In time, few people even remembered where the city was.

And at the center of a ruined city, at the bottom of a well, perhaps the stone still sits.

Some Spirits of the Underworld do not need to be summoned. They are bound to the Land, fettered to some place or thing or time. Most often, this is the result of a sorcerer's spell. The slaves of a mortal king might be bound to guard his grave and protect his grave-goods from robbers. Rarely, though, an object or place exerts such a strong pull that a soul might be bound to it naturally.

Spirits so bound are more resistant to the light of day than others. Their powers are often diminished, but they can still act or speak.

Kal the Bloodwulf took the land of Geth by force of arms and force of will. The symbol of his rule was Kallenfang, a sword crafted for him by the greatest swordsmith of his age. Fire and Blood were bound into the blade's metal, and the heart of the Dragon of Geth was set into the pommel. With the blade in his hand, Kal was unbeatable until slain by trechery. His son, Kel, took up Kallenfang, and with it, took up the might of his father. Kel died in the plague years, and the whole land mourned, for Kel was as dauntless as his father, but far kinder. The blade passed to his grandson, Dal, a child of Kel's daughter. Many thought that when Dal came to rule Geth, he would have to face the dragon, but the great wyrm recognized his claim, and he ruled with his grandsire's wisdom and his greatsire's courage.

The land of Geth fell many years ago, but the line of the Bloodwulf survives. They are slayers and reavers and men of great renown, with the courage of heroes and the wisdom of kings. And one day, one of them will destroy each of the petty kings who rule what once was Geth, and rebuild the Bloodwulf's domain.

Still other Spirits of the Underworld are able to leave its depths in corporeal bodies, grotesquely reanimating their own corpses or sometimes the corpses of others. Ghouls, Revenants, and Vampires are of the Underworld even though not in it. The Land rejects such beings, and the light burns them to some degree, although they might withstand it longer than fleshless shades. Animate Un-Dead are often very difficult to destroy. Magical rituals might serve, or weapons of Power. Fire is often efficacious. One fortune of Men is that many such creatures are vulnerable to some special thing, often silver, the Moon's metal. But in the night, when ghouls are shrieking for your blood, silver might be in short supply.


Gamespeak: Spirits of the Underworld will be handled in a similar manner to the Spirits of the Land. They'll have a list of capabilities the GM can "shop" from. I expect that there will be some kind of bestiary of sample monsters, but I want the setting to be mysterious, so I'm leaving a clear option for unique Spirits.

One power Spirits of the Underworld might have is the ability to possess humans. This could be good or bad, depending on the degree of control and the motives of the spirit. I'm particularly considering it in the case of fettered spirits. Someone wearing the torc of a bound ghost might be able to draw on his strength and skill. Alternately, the medallion of an ancient sorcerer might hold his soul and take control of whoever puts it on so that the sorcerer could live again.

Some basic rules that bind all Spirits of the Underworld:

  • Light is bad for them. To some degree, they're bound by darkness.
  • The Land rejects them. Spirits of the Underworld have some sort of taint they spread. It could just be a chill in the air, or it could be that plants die, milk sours, and so on. The worst ones might spread plague just by existing.
  • Spirits of the Underworld exact some price on creatures of the Land. Ghosts will share their secrets, for a price. Revenants need revenge. Vampires drink blood. A Spirit of the Underworld can't just exist, although the price doesn't have to be particularly terrible. In one of the above examples, it's just that the holder of Kellenfang has to uphold the Bloodwulf legacy, or the sword will reject him and the spirits won't advise him or lend him their strength.

Magic of the Land

The Lord is the Land. The Land is the Lord. This relationship is sacrosanct and unalterable. Once the Land recognizes a Lord, it takes its shape from his will and gives him power in proportion to his strength. The mechanisms of rulership vary, but they generally involve dealing with a powerful Spirit of the Land who dominates an area. If a Land doesn't have a powerful spirit, one will arise to challenge its new Lord soon enough. Then he must either defeat it or reach some kind of accommodation with it. The nature of this encounter will determine, to some degree, the Land's destiny under its Lord.
Qin-Zhang was a master of the sword and a poet and philosopher. He wandered the world, battling for causes he believed to be worthy and elegant, defeating bandits and kings alike. His legend was, if anything, a shadow of the truth of his deeds. But time flows like a river from the mountains of birth to the seas of death. Qin-Zhang knew that in time his blade would dull, as would his wits. He wished for a lasting testament to his life, and for a place to lay his head when he slept, and his bones when he died. The warrior and philosopher wanted a home and a wife. But what land could be equal to his brilliance, and what woman could be worthy of his seed?

Qin-Zhang took his parchments and inks, and his sword and armor, and went in search of his destiny. He followed the Jade River to its headwaters, and there he found a beautiful land nestled in the shelter of five mountains. He climbed the first mountain, and there he found un-men with arms like tree trunks and skin of bronze. He slew their leader and they bowed down before him. He left that place and climbed the second mountain. There, he found a serpent of fire, which he slew also, although it cost him the finest sword he'd ever forged. But the serpent's entrails were of ever burning flame, and its scales were of bright steel. He forged a new blade, better than the old, and journeyed to the third mountain. On the third mountain, he found nothing to battle, but voices howled on the winds and spoke riddles. In a shrine on the mountaintop, Qin-Zhang meditated for a year until he could answer every riddle, and when he'd answered the last one, it began to rain. Each raindrop became a silver coin. Qin-Zhang filled his pouch with silver, because even heroes benefit from good rice wine and a soft bed, and journeyed to the fourth mountain. There, he found water spirits, immune to his blade because their flesh was as water. He could not pass them nor defeat them, so he paused and wrote a poem of such sadness that it made the water spirits weep. As they cried out their tears, they dissolved into nothing, and joined the river of Jade. Qin-Zhang left that place and climbed the fifth mountain.

The fifth mountain was higher than any of the others, almost as high as the stars. Qin-Zhang's steps became heavy. He abandoned his pack, then his scribe's pouch, and finally his silvery sword, and ascended the peak in only his robe. Unarmed and nearly starved, Qin-Zhang looked up into sky more black than blue and fancied that he could reach out and touch the stars. As he reached up his hand, he saw a dragon descending from the sky. The sight so inspired him with awe that he was overcome with euphoria and fainted.

When he awoke, a woman stood over him wearing a robe of gold silk with a dragon's scales embroidered into it. The robe was open, and he saw her charms. She gave him rice and wine and told him that this land was hers, and that she had been waiting for one who could take it.

Qin-Zhang had no sword, but he had substantial charms. He opened his own robe and claimed the woman.

After she was sated, the woman, who was a dragon, told Qin-Zhang that he would have a place to lay his head when he slept, and to lay his bones when he died. He would have a land to rule, and his land would never forget his name. But he would never have a wife, and if he ever took one, she would take away all that she had given, for what mortal woman could be worthy of his seed? Qin-Zhang accepted this with equanimity, and descended the mountain. He retrieved his sword and his scribe's pouch and his pack, and when he descended, he found a great palace. There, he ruled for many years.

Each year, Qin-Zhang would ascend the mountain again. In time, his blade and his wits dulled. Age bent his back. And one year he did not return. But one claiming to be his son descended the mountain holding his sword and wearing his robe. The man had skin of gold and eyes of darkness, and ruled over the Empire of Qin for many years, stretching out his hand to conquer all of the nine kingdoms.

Powers of the Lord

Once a Lord has claimed a Demesne, he has power over it. This power can take many forms, depending on the character of the Lord and the care he takes over his lands. Strong Lords have strong Demesnes, and have greater power over them than weak Lords.

Broadly, these powers fall into three areas. There are powers of the Heart, powers of the Eye, and powers of the Hand.

Powers of the Heart

The most elemental of a Lord's powers, and among the most subtle. Powers of the Heart are those that describe a Lord's relationship to the land he rules. His heart pumps blood and life into his Demesne. If his heart is weak, his land is weak as well. Powers of the Heart affect the Demesne more than the Lord. They shape the character of its terrain, the fertility of its fields, and even the nature of its people. A cold, cruel Lord will rule over a harsh Demesne. It might be prosperous, but its prosperity will come only with struggle and pain. Its people will be either fearful or cruel. Its Spirits will be dangerous. A kindly Lord will rule over a kindly Demesne, with happy people and lush fields. But it is easier to be strong and cruel than strong and kind.


Gamespeak: Powers of the Heart are the stuff that determines what the land is like. I'm the kind of guy who would model this by hand waving. If I were going to define a system for it, it'd be something like the Organization rules for Angel. You'd have various attributes of your land that you could assign points to. You'd earn points by doing lordly stuff. I think they'd need to be a fluid resource, rather than something you pay character points for, because the whole point is that they can be gained and lost. In a balanced point-gen system, being a strong Lord would be difficult because you'd need to spend points on Lord stuff OR personal stuff, and the system I'm trying to create says that the more personal strength you have, the stronger your Demesne is.

Powers of the Heart will probably work as kind of a shopping list of attributes and ratings. You can customize your Demesne by choosing the ones that fit best. They'll cover a lot of things like the general weather, the terrain, what kind of natural resources there are (although this can't be changed radically), and even the people. People from a land where the Lord venerates physical strength might really just tend to be stronger than their neighbors, but they might also be quicker to anger or a little less intelligent.


Powers of the Eye

The connection between a Lord and his Demesne gives him supernatural knowledge over it. Not all Lords have the wisdom or insight to excel in this area. All Lords have at least a vague sense of the health of their Demesnes, and they receive some kind of warnings when their lands are in immediate danger. Depending on the character of the Lord and the Demesne, this could come in the form of prophetic dreams, whispers from Spirits of the Land, or supernatural intuition.

More perceptive Lords begin to develop means of scrying over their realms. They might be able to locate game, know the status of distant cities, or call into vision different parts of their land. Often, this knowledge comes from totem animals or Spirits of the Land who answer the Lord's call. Lords schooled in magic might employ scrying rituals instead.

The knowledge gained this way is of concern to the Land, not always to the Lord. He might be able to send ravens to track an invading warband, but not to follow his wife who he believes is unfaithful. Or perhaps he might. The Land can be fickle.

Still more perceptive Lords begin to know their Demesnes as well as they know their own bodies or minds. They know when to plant, when to harvest, and when to seek shelter from a coming storm. They can look upon a suspect in court and know his guilt or innocence, and what punishment is most appropriate. The wisest and strongest begin to become infallible, at least insofar as ruling their Demesnes is concerned. As with the other powers of the Eye, these powers often have an external focus, but just as often, they are purely intuitive. The Lord simply is his Land, and knows it as well as he knows himself. Of course, this also means that a Lord can deceive himself about his Land as easily as he does about anything else.


Gamespeak: These are fairly straightforward. A Lord will have some kind of perception level, and as it increases he gets access to deeper levels of information and insight. Players will probably be able to define their own "special effects," but the powers will be pretty constant. There's room for some customization, though. A Chinese Emperor might want to know which bureaucrats will be best for certain jobs, while a Plains Indian chief wants to be able to find buffalo. So some of the specific insights might vary.


Powers of the Hand

A Lord in his place of power is fearsome to behold. He rules his Demesne through magic as much as through will and action. The stronger a Lord is, the greater his power over his Demesne, and the greater power he can draw from his Demesne.

By keeping his Land healthy, a Lord keeps himself healthy to some extent. While he's defending his own Demesne, very little can harm him, and he will not fall ill or fall victim to misadventure. But if hostile spirits blight his lands, or treachery weakens his will, he becomes vulnerable.

The Demesne also begins to answer the Lord's will. Its' people's loyalty comes as much from the bond between Lord and Land as from his decisions. Thus do strong, but cruel, Lords hold their people in bondage. They might hate him, but fear him too much to rebel until some greater force inspires them. Some Lords also learn to master the beasts of their realms, or even the weather.

All Lords have some sway over the Spirits of their Demesnes, but this is not a sure or certain power. Often, there is a price for invoking it. At the minimum, any Spirit of a Demesne will recognize its Lord and not commit treason upon him. Lords who take time to court their Spirits' favor might be served by spectral knights, or ride upon steeds of fire.


Gamespeak: This will be another thing to spend points on and to advance at different rates. In fact, the whole thing will probably work that way, with a Lord player choosing what aspects he cares most about and getting more points to spend over time.

One way to balance this against other players would be to follow the example of King Arthur's legend. While Arthur was the king, his Knights were often more powerful in specific ways. Lancelot was the greatest of sinful knights, for instance. So a PC party might have a Lord with all kinds of cool Demesne powers, but his companions might be a powerful, mysterious wizard, a Starborn bard who can literally sing birds down from the trees, and a Starborn warrior who can't be defeated in battle. Having those people as friends is part of the Lord's strength.

There will have to be a way to gain and lose power in your Demesne, involving events like going to war, being betrayed, or losing your heart, and acts of atonement like questing for the Holy Grail or going out again to fight your Demesne's Spirit.


Banes of the Lord

A Lord has to stay strong to keep his Demesne strong, and he must periodically renew his ties to the Land.

While a Lord is supreme in his Demesne, he may fall victim to a greater Lord's invasion.

He might weaken either through age or lack of will. He might always know what is best for his Demesne, but he can deceive himself, and his judgment can be clouded in personal matters. A Lord who rests on his laurels and falls to drink loses his strength, and his land weakens around him.

Treachery is the greatest bane. Any treachery weakens the entire realm. A strong Lord's subjects might not be able to betray him directly, but powerful allies are not so bound, and even the least peasant is still a Man with the ability to influence his own destiny.


Gamespeak: This is the stuff that costs you "Lord Points." And generally, the GM gets to decide which of your advantages are degraded. The typical way will be for them to all be degraded more or less equally, but there could be exceptions depending on the kind of bane that hit you. It is, of course, especially nasty to lose your physical invulnerability in the face of a treacherous attack…


The Land wants to be strong. A weakening Lord will find his Demesne slipping away. A blind Lord might not notice. If he is wise or fortunate, he might have the chance to win his strength back through some kind of act of atonement. Such a feat is at least as difficult as winning the Demesne in the first place. Often, the best a weak ruler can do is to die to atone for his sins and leave a strong kingdom for his son.

Succession

The Lord of a Demesne is not immortal. If a Lord becomes so, the Land begins to twist, because immortality is not the province of men. When a Lord dies, a new Lord is chosen. A Lord's children share in his command of the Demesne, and very often his chosen successor takes his place. The heir will have to face the same renewal ritual his predecessor faced, but this is often easier than conquering the land the first time. Thus, in fact, begins the fall of many Demesnes. The first Lord had to be very strong to take the land. His son doesn't need to be as strong, and thus might not be. Wise Lords send their sons abroad to face hardships and win victories, but this has a risk because the son doesn't have the protection of his Demesne so far from home, and enemies might seek to slay him. That would, in turn, weaken the Demesne as the Lord grieves for his lost child.

The heirs of a Lord, and sometimes his feudal vassals, share in his ties to the Land to a lesser degree. They will never have as much sway as the Lord does, but are often still quite powerful. A deposed Lord's subordinates lose all their powers when he is deposed. Of course, sometimes one of these subordinates is the one who claims the land from his ailing Lord. In this case, he will, of course, retain his powers and might choose to share them with his brothers and sisters.


Gamespeak: This is pretty straightforward up until you get to the Feudal system, where the King rules a big land that's cut into small pieces ruled by Dukes and so on. In those cases, a Duke probably has a Demesne with its own Spirit, but that Spirit is subordinate to the greater Spirit of the King's Demesne. The King has power over all of the Spirits and all the Demesnes, but a Duke probably has equal control within his own Duchy. Lesser Lords only inherit power from their Masters, if they get any at all. Some people just have to get by with strength, cunning, and charm.

We'll get into this a little more down below.


Conquest

The Land is a living thing, and its Demesnes have life, breath, and will. A Demesne wishes to be strong, and has a natural urge to prey on the weak. Strong Lords are often moved by this will to conquer their neighbors. Just as much, a land with a weak Lord will slowly start to attract would-be conquerors as the Land searches for a worthy ruler.

A conqueror does not have to claim the Demesne as the original Lord did. By force of arms, he makes himself the new successor, and so only has to continue the rituals of connection. Matters are often not quite that simple, though. The Land will seek to test its new ruler, and might not immediately grant its powers. The new Lord will have to make some kind of accommodation with the Land before he rules it completely.

If the conqueror already holds a Demesne, the two lands are merged into one, dominated by the Spirit of whichever was larger. Spirits of the Land follow after the mortals in their realms, so the conquered people may find their land changing around them as once-familiar Spirits are displaced by new ones. The new Lord's character will start shaping the land within a year, as well.

Matters are more complicated yet if the old Lord and his heirs are not slain outright. If they escape or are exiled, there is always the chance they can return. The Land will accept a past ruler or his blood more easily than an entirely new conqueror. If the current Lord is weak, a Demesne might even start answering to the "lost heir." But sometimes a Lord of a Demesne bows his head to a greater Lord. In these cases, both lands retain their Spirits, but the conqueror’s Demesne becomes stronger, and the High Lord's power extends into the new realm.


Gamespeak: This isn't too complicated. It probably doesn't need a formal system. A deposed Lord who somehow escapes has the chance to come back and try to get his realm back. A callow orphan boy could turn out to be the True King. A King can grant power to his Dukes and Earls. The actual mechanics of the power work however I design the system to work.


Ways of Magic

The Land provides power to kings. The Stars provide destiny to Men. But there are other powers and principalities in Creation, and those who learn their secrets can become powerful, or go mad. Men call them wizards and witches, sorcerers and shamans, or sometimes darker names.

Wizards, by whatever name, are set apart from other men by knowledge. They know secrets, both arcane and mundane. They seek out knowledge known to no other. Their knowledge is their power and often their downfall, because there are things Man should not ken.

Not all wizards have the same secrets, and not all men who know any secrets would choose to call themselves wizards. The smith who sings the songs of fire and iron and blood as he hammers ore into a blade has found a secret, likely taught to him by his master long ago, but he may very well know no others and would never think to learn them.

Common Magic

The bow bends as your back must bend.
The string holds, as your will must hold.
The shaft is straight, as your sight must see.
The fletchings are of falcon's feather, better to hunt.
The falcon strikes not where the rabbit is, but where he will be.
You do also.
— A huntsman's rhyme.

The simplest magic, used by practically everyone, is the magic of harmony. The Spirits of Land and Lower Air follow patterns and forms. Even without knowing their languages, it is possible to interact with them in minor ways. In fact, it is impossible not to. The spirits are everywhere, suffusing everything. The magic of the common man is built upon harmony with the spirits. The Smith knows how to appeal to fire and iron. The farmer knows how to appease the spirits of the Land and those of his crops. The mother is familiar with the spirits of the hearth and asks them to keep her barins healthy.


Gamespeak: Common magic is just skills, at least at the beginning. There will be some sort of mechanism for really magical uses of skills. A normal smith can make a sword. A magical smith (or a wizard) can make a sword that can slay a dragon.

When we talk about the Starborn later on, we'll see something similar with them, I think.

The main thing for now is to get the idea that the way this world works is that spirits are part of everything. A fish really does participate in the category of "fish," as Socrates would have said. So when people manipulate their environment, they're doing "magic" in a small sense.


Hedge Magic

The bitter draught cures many ills
— Old proverb

Somewhere near every village is a hermit's hut or a witch's cottage. Here, the small folk may go to intercede for help with the spirit world. So-called "hedge wizards" are often not very powerful, as the mighty masters of magic reckon such things, but they can heal simple hurts and prepare minor charms and potions.

Hedge magic is often drawn from local Spirits of the Land rather than any spirits of the lower Air. It is sometimes drawn from no spirits at all. A wise old woman can dispense advice that seems supernatural, but is really nothing more than the benefit of years of experience. That same woman probably knows every plant in the nearby forest, and which will cure a fever or cause a pox.

Most often, hedge wizards have no power to compel spirits. They can bargain with those they can see, and they know what those spirits want and what they fear. Some of this knowledge is useful everywhere, but much of it is strictly local. As such, hedge wizards are often rooted to one spot, a locus of power where they have struck pacts with local powers and learned the simple secrets of the people around them.

The Hedge Wizard's tricks:

  • Healing craft and herb lore, and natural knowledge.
  • Gossip: Often, Hedge wizards have spirits of one sort or another to collect intelligence for them. This is generally passive watching, rather than active spying. Besides that, the hedge wizard is often someone respected for wisdom, so people tell him things.
  • Spiritual favors: Anyone can learn to bargain with the local Spirits of the Land, and most people at least learn to live with them. Hedge magicians learn their habits and manners, and can interact with them more easily than other people. This primarily involves learning what minor Spirits want, what they fear, and where they can be found. If the local mischievous sprites can't abide the presence of iron, then a Hedge magician who knows this fact can ward his home against the faeries for the price of a sack of old nails. If he knows they can be trapped in wicker baskets when they're drunk, and that they can't resist the lure of honey mead, then he has a way to force them to do his bidding. That could be dangerous, but useful. Bribery can also be efficacious.
  • Minor powers: In their truck with Spirits of the Land, some hedge wizards earn or buy supernatural abilities. These will vary widely depending on what the local Spirits of the Land have to offer.
  • Speech with the dead: Hedge wizards probably pick up a little about how to deal with Spirits of the Underworld, particularly those that manifest without being summoned.

Gamespeak: Hedge magic is minor magic that just about anyone might know a little bit of. In fact, the real keys are perfectly mundane skills with supernatural, or seemingly supernatural, applications. A hedge wizard is likely to use his Etiquette (Barrowmen) skill to do stuff like bargain with the Barrowmen to find lost sheep or to fight enemies. Anybody else in the village could do the same thing, but they're prevented because (a) they're afraid of the Barrowmen, or (b) they don't know what they can use to curry the Barrowmen's favor. Mechanically, this isn't stuff the hedge wizard has on his sheet, but to any superstitious peasant, it's plenty magic enough.

Hedge wizards are likely to have hit up any local spirits for supernatural abilities, if such things are available. For instance, if there were a Spirit of the Land who could convey the power of true seeing by kissing one's eyes, a hedge wizard is the person in the area who's likely to know that, and know how to ask the Spirit for the power without getting cursed or killed for his trouble.

Those powers will probably be some kind of Advantages/Disadvantages with pretty straight-forward rules, and would be available to anyone who took the correct actions. It's just that a hedge wizard is more likely than anyone else to know what the correct actions are.


High Wizardry

Jared Dun was the seventh of seven brothers. When each of his brothers had reached his naming day and asked the village god for a gift, they had asked for strength of arm; sharpness of eye; for swords that would not blunt; for courage that would not quit; for limbs that would not tire; for fortunes that would not fail. But Jared Dun asked "May I always know what I need to know." His brothers mocked him for his weak gift.

In the neighboring valley, there was a king who's daughter had come under a curse, and together with her the whole valley. Everyone slept in endless sleep, circled round by great thorn vines. Thus it had been for all of Jared's life. And practically every young man tried his luck to enter the enchanted wood to free the princess. But no matter how strong their arms or sharp their eyes or swords, no matter how tireless their limbs or their courage, they could not pass the thorns.

After Jared Dun was named, he took up his staff with a bundle of his meager possessions and assayed the dark wood. Although there was little movement, he could hear the songs of birds, and Jared Dun reasoned that if the birds could move through sleep and thorny vines, might he not as well? Whistling the song of the birds, he entered the wood, which parted before him.

There came he to the castle gates, which were locked. But Jared Dun reasoned that all locks opened with a key, and if he had one key, might it not be persuaded to open many locks? He took an old iron key from his pack and whispered to it "Open," and the key opened the ancient lock.

Onward, Jared Dun walked, whistling his birdsong, and the vines parted before him. Where they parted, they revealed rich hangings, piles of coin, and the possessions of a wealthy king. At last, Jared found the princess, who slept on in a bower, perfectly preserved except for a wound on her finger where she'd pricked it on a spindle. Jared reasoned that the wound was magical, and if it were treated, she might awaken, and with her all the others.

But then did Jared Dun reason further. He knew this magical wood must have been the work of a powerful Lord or Lady of the Fey, who would likely be offended to see his work undone. So Jared Dun left the princess to sleep, with naught but a kiss. He filled his pack with coins and jewels and returned from whence he came, and at the edge of the wood, he buried three coins as payment to the lord of the wood.

So-called "High Wizardry" is only a few short steps from simpler hedge wizardry. They are steps that few people take, though. Much that magic can accomplish can be accomplished more easily by strength or human cunning. The rewards of wizardry are long in coming. "Wizardry" itself is a difficult term to pin down. Wizards learn to deal with all manner of spirits, and thus no single wizard knows more than a fraction of all the possibilities.

Spirits of the Lower Air: Wizards who learn the secrets of the Lower Air master the powers of the physical world. They can call down fire, dissolve into clouds, heal wounds, and the like. This is accomplished through knowledge, rather than supernatural will. A wizard learns the ways of different spirits, and ultimately their special languages, which he may divine through meditation, study of ancient texts and natural philosophy, and the revelations of the stars. At the last, a wizard transcends mere mortal knowledge and can understand things as the spirits do. Then, he can call upon spirits, compel them, bind them, and use them for his own ends.

Such arts have limits. A spirit can not be summoned where none exist. Nor can one be commanded to do things beyond its personal ken. Thus, a wizard of fire might need a raging bonfire o're which to work his arts, and he could bend a spirit of flame to the task of burning something, but not to the task of knitting wool into cloth. If a true example of a Spirit's bailiwick cannot be produced, a symbolic representation will suffice, but the true thing is almost always to be preferred.

A wizard can command a spirit in almost any way inside these limits. Classically, the commands wizards give fall into these groups:

  • Banishment: forcing a spirit to leave an area. Banishing a spirit ends that spirit's influence. If the Spirit of a fire is banished, the fire will flicker and die, although it might catch again and have a new spirit. If the Spirit of a city is somehow banished (no easy feat), then the city would die. In time, no stone would be stacked upon another. Although it is far more likely that the banishment would end before the city fell. For a banishment to be permanent, the wizard would have to find some way to make his pronouncement permanent as well.
  • Binding: trapping a spirit in a place, person, or object. Spirits do not always object to this treatment. Binding by itself is a useful way to trap a spirit that has become hostile or dangerous, but it is more often used in the creation of magical tools. Spirits can be most easily bound into objects similar to their own natures. Thus, a fire spirit might be bound into a lamp easily, an iron sword with a bit more effort, but only into a milk pail with the greatest of difficulties.
  • Service: forcing a spirit to do something. A spirit can exert influence directly over its bailiwick. It can control, aid, change, or harm that bailiwick. Powerful spirits can create or destroy their bailiwicks. Spirits can also scry on things at a distance, after a fashion. They are only really aware of their environments in the most basic ways, though. A cloud spirit can see all the Land beneath its cloud, but it doesn't really /recognize/ that land in the way a human would, so asking a cloud spirit to describe what it sees is like to be an exercise in frustration.
  • Summoning: Calls a spirit to the fore. Normally, spirits of the Lower Air are content to follow their functions without notice of human activity. A spirit must be Summoned before it can be interacted with in any other way.
  • Warding: Warding prevents spirits of a given kind from entering an area, person, or object. Warding is a useful way to provide defense. However, Wards have limited strength. A wizard would have to expend great effort to ward the bottom of a lake against water, likely far more than any one wizard (or even a dozen) could muster.

The practice of the magic of the Lower Air always requires at least speaking, and sometimes a great deal more. The more complex or powerful a command, the more difficult it is to communicate. Thus, a wizard who wanted to create a castle out of empty air might need to appeal to spirits of stone through a lengthy ritual in which he invokes symbols, makes sacrifices, dances, and chants for days. The duration of a spirit's command depends on how permanently it is invoked. Spoken words will compel weak spirits for days and strong ones for only hours or minutes. Written runes last longer, and carving in stone or metal lasts longer yet. Wizards of different lands use different methods and trappings, but the end effects are generally the same.


Gamespeak: This is the bones of a freeform magic system. I am very fond of the one from Buffy, and if I end up building this, mine will be similar. A wizard can generate any effect he can think of, but he'll need three things.

  • He'll have to know the right language. In a system with a lot of skills, each kind of spirit could have a different language skill. In a lighter system, there will still have to be some kind of limit for that.
  • He'll have to have the time and resources to do the necessary spell. The bigger, more powerful, or more complex the effect, the more effort it will take to "explain" to the spirit.
  • He'll have to be able to scribe the spell in a way that will last long enough. There are some options here: carving in stone, repeating endlessly, etc… For simple, quick effects, just a few words and a gesture will be enough anyway.

A few classics:

  • Fireball: Pretty simple. Get a fire spirit and tell it to blow something up.
  • Flight: A wind spirit can make you fly on the winds.
  • Transmutation: A spirit of whatever you want to transform something into can, with great effort, transform it. The further removed the target state is from the original state, the harder it is. Turning a prince into a frog until a princess kisses him is a massive effort. The wizard who can do such a thing is not to be trifled with.
  • Scrying: essentially involves communication with a spirit who can go where you want to see. Sympathetic links help you scry on specific people.
  • Invisibility: Pretty hard for the magic of the Lower Air. Spirits of darkness or fog could conceal you under limited circumstances. Wizards who can do this might be using different magics. Spirits of the Land can turn invisible, and might grant that power in return for some sort of favor. Spirits of the Underworld can probably also turn invisible, or at least make people not want to notice them.
  • Cursing: A curse brought about by a Wizard probably involves placing some sort of spirit mark on the subject so that one or more classes of spirits are hostile to him. A sufficiently vexed Wizard could blight a town's crops, make it so that a warrior's sword writhed in his hands unless he fought for true love, or something similar. A really powerful one might level all sorts of difficulties, just making every Spirit in the area somewhat hostile to the target.

The system for Spirits of the Underworld will probably be somewhat similar. There are just different things Spirits of the Underworld can do.


Necromancy

The Underworld is the echo of the Lower Air. While the Lower Air contains what is, the Underworld contains what was. Those who learn its secrets are more often concerned with the past than the present. The Underworld is not inherently evil, but it is a place of darkness. Necromancers aren't evil by definition, either, but those who delve to the deeps of the Underworld are certainly drawn in that direction. After all, the Underworld is between the Land and the Deep.

In some ways, Spirits of the Underworld are easier to treat with than Spirits of the Lower Air. Human dead are still fundamentally human, and can be appealed to through human reason or human vanity. They often retain some of the goals they held in life, and can be induced to cooperate by one who will advance those goals. Besides, Necromancers have the most potent currency of all, the ability to bridge the gulf between the Underworld and the Land, however briefly.

That ability is the key to Necromancy. Every person who treats with the Underworld has touched its dark shores in some fashion. A child born with a dead twin, it is said, will be able to see ghosts all his life. A man who dies and returns from the dead will hear the whispers of the dead. The only survivor of a village wiped out by plague, or one who lived through a battle because a wound made him seem dead, might find that some part of himself was left in stygian realms. Some pursue this path deliberately, through self-mutilation or the drinking of poisons, or through mass sacrifices to attract the attention of the Underworld. There are, it is said, even less savory ways to draw up the voices of the dead.

Not all methods need to be so dire, however. Some Necromancers, particularly those who are satisfied with lesser power, began with a very weak thread tying them to the realms of the Dead and strengthened it through study and practice. Wizards who dabble in Necromancy are often so empowered, and might be better prepared than some to resist the call of deeper and deeper power.


Gamespeak: Necromancers aren't just Goth wizards. They're intimately connected to Death, and draw power through that connection. Necromancy is all about feeding energy into that connection and taking power out of it. Spirits of the Dead can't normally exist in the Land. When they do, it's unnatural, and probably bad. Necromancers are able to give Spirits of the Dead, even corporeal ones, access to the Land. That power can be used responsibly and well, but it can easily be abused.

An early thought is that a Necromancer's power will be largely measured in how strong his connection to the Underworld is and how deep he's willing to go into it. A simple medium who only talks to ghosts and never even channels them into herself doesn't need much of a connection and doesn't have to feed much energy into it - her own personal strength is probably enough. A terrible Dark Lord who wants to raise an army of rotting corpses to smite his enemies probably has a very strong connection to the Underworld - to the point that he might look like a corpse himself - and he's going to need a lot of energy. He might get it from ritually killing people, or from killing a powerful being like the local Genius Locus. Or he might have some kind of magical artifact that gives him the power. (A black cauldron, maybe…)


Liuz was born with a dead eye. That milky white orb saw things no one else could see, and her ears heard things no one else could hear. The people of the village feared the girl, but they feared more to kill her and be haunted by her shade, so instead they drove her from the village. Children would fling stones at her, and merchants would sell her only shoddy goods at too high prices. Everyone called her names behind her back. The cruel spoke them to her face. And the cruelest spat on her shadow when she passed in the street.

Her mother and father protected her as well as they could. They told her that even though the villagers were her cruel and ignorant, they were her kin and she should try to love them.

But in time, the old couple died, leaving Liuz alone. Of course the people of the village began to whisper that the girl with the dead eye was somehow responsible, even though both of them had been old when their daughter was born. Soon, Liuz found life in the village intolerable and she fled into the darkenvold, where none of the villagers would go at night, and few even in the daytime.

There were faeries in the darkenvold, but they avoided Liuz, all except Master Wolf. He told Liuz that he hated the villagers as much as she did, because they hunted his children and denied them their rightful food with fence and spear. He told Liuz she would be his bride, although she always refused him. She said she was of the human world, not of the Spirit world, and would not leave her kin even though they bore her no love.

One day, black ships sailed up to the village, and warriors with black armor and black swords spilled forth to raid and slay, to plunder and steal.

Liuz watched from the shadows of the darkenvold, and Master Wolf watched with her.

"All your kin are dead now," he said. "Come be my bride."

"I will come to your bed," she said.

When the Wolf was sated from their lovemaking, she took her father's gutting knife and gutted him as easily as she would a fish. Then, still naked and wet with the Wolf's blood, she took up her cloak and went back to the village. Through her living eye, she saw the black raiders as they took their pleasures from the few survivors. Through her dead eye, she saw the pitiful spirits of the villagers.

And with a voice long dead to human words, she bade them rise up and have their revenge.

The black-clad men were slain, and their dead rose up likewise until nothing but Liuz stood in the village, and only crows and flies lived there.

She still had her kin, but now she had shed her last connection to the world of men. She took her people into their fishing boats and the ships of the raiders, and now she sails the seas, looking for the land of the men in black ships. Her kin are hungry, and only the flesh of Men will feed them. They waylay such sailors as they find, and leave the ships stripped of life, but otherwise untouched, because Liuz is not a thief. Or so say the tales.

A Necromancer's power is proportional to his connection to the Underworld and the energies he can bring into play.

The least power is the ability to hear or see Spirits of the Underworld that have the power to reach the Land on their own, either by being bound to a fetter or having found some sort of fissure up from the Underworld. With this power, the Necromancer can interact with Spirits, but has no power but his charisma and wits with which to compel them. Even this is more than most can do, and some Spirits can be turned from harmful courses with the right words. Further, if a Necromancer of even this minimal power has the fortune to bend a few Spirits into allies, he can listen to their counsel and sometimes benefit from their powers.

With greater power, a Necromancer can call up Spirits from the Underworld. He still cannot command them, and more powerful spirits can refuse to answer. This is a dangerous power, since hostile spirits can answer a call if it is not sufficiently specific.

Many Necromancers develop the ability to command the dead in limited ways. One might have the ability to shroud himself from their senses. Another could make them flee his presence. Still another might learn to trace runes that will turn the dead away from a living dwelling.

Others learn to borrow power from the Dead if the Dead are willing. The spirits of the Underworld hold the sum of the past, and some have supernatural powers as well. Without some sort of external energy source, a Necromancer must allow the Spirit to enter his own body, or the body of another. This is a dangerous game, since the Spirit might not be willing to leave, and his presence exacts a toll that will eventually be fatal.

Beyond this level, a Necromancer's own personal energies are likely insufficient to bridge the gulf between worlds further. He needs sacrifices, gifts of power, or some other means of supplying his Spirits.

The greatest Necromancers can summon and command more powerful spirits. They can force Spirits into dead bodies to animate them, or fetter Spirits into specially prepared vessels. They can call forth armies of shadow creatures, and they can wield the powers of the Dead. A Necromancer of this puissance needs external sources of power, and by channeling so much of the darkness of the Underworld begins to become like a Spirit of the Underworld himself. In fact, the ultimate fate of all who pursue the powers of darkness for too long is to become indistinguishable from a dead thing.


Gamespeak: Necromancers have abilities similar to Wizards, but rather than needing a huge breadth of knowledge, they need a depth of power to pull off the most amazing feats. The powers a Necromancer can use fall into a hierarchy, with greater ones requiring both a higher "Necromancy Score" and more "Fuel."

It might seem that Wizards have a better deal, and indeed they do in some ways, but Necromancers make out well on the low end. At least some Spirits of the Underworld understand human language and desires, and can be appealed to on that basis. And some Necromantic powers are passive. Everything a Wizard can do requires conscious effort. He has to project his psychic senses "upwards" where a Necromancer's naturally draw "downward."

The energy requirement is the reverse, of course. Energy naturally cascades downward, so Wizards can call on massive power, whereas Necromancers have to find fuel for the more outrageous things they want to do.

Will it all be balanced in practice? Who knows. I'm still not making up real rules yet.


And that covers the two "middle realms" in the great club sandwich that is this setting. Next up is the Magic of the Greater Air, and possibly the Magic of the Deep, since I'm not really sure how much of that I want to go into. Given my attempts at symmetry so far, there should be ways that people can call on/be seduced by the Spirits of the Deep, and special people who are their personal champions. Which is a sort of scary thought. I'm reminded of Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke. He might have been touched by the Deep and is now a "champion" against his will, slowly being overcome by it even as he's forced to use it.

Cool.

More generally, I've been thinking about Magic and how one of the great complaints of many games is that it's not very "magical." When a guy in a robe and a pointed hat levels his staff at you and shoots out a ball of flame, you don't think "Amazing! That man can call flames from nothing! We're doomed!!!" You think "He's got at least 3rd level spells. Could be a problem."

Some games try to get around this by making magic really freeform, but that doesn't really solve the problem. In a system like Ars Magica, you can still narrow down what the wizard did, so the mystery is gone. In a really loose system, you just get a host of problems relating to exactly how much the wizard SHOULD be able to do.

You could try to conceal the inner workings from the players, but that presents another problem - the players need to know what their characters can do so they can properly play their characters. The guy in the funny hat isn't going to point his stick at a hostile force unless he's pretty damn sure a ball of fire is going to shoot out.

So I've been musing on the idea that what magic can do at any given moment may change, but the players can see how it changes. Castle Falkenstein's magic deck is like this in a way. You can see how much "juice" is available within 100 miles or so, and that's all there is.

I wonder if I can think of something similar. It might not be too hard. A Wizard's training would tell him what spirits are in the neighborhood, and he'd know generally what he can tell spirits to do. To add a layer of mystery, there might be some kind of arbitrary restrictions on spirits' behavior that are based on local conditions. The Wizard is trained to be able to figure out what these conditions are and how they affect his powers. To other people, they seem mysterious.

But that could just be a useless layer of rules and complications.

I DO want magic to be mysterious in this world. This is a world of mysteries where Men face things beyond their ken (and generally stab those things with swords). We'll have to see.

Magic of the Stars

Though cold winds assail me, I will not flinch
The sun warms me
Though I wander the night, I am not lost
The moon guides me
Though I am alone in the darkness, I will not fear
The stars shine above me.

Above the Land, above the Lesser Air, stand the spheres of the Greater Air, the abode of the gods. Similarly, the Spirits of the Greater Air stand above other Spirits. No wizard or king can command them. The most Men can do is call upon them and try to live as they would wish in hopes of their blessings.

Prayers of the Faithful

Only a few have the patience to learn the ways of spirits, but every man can call upon the gods through prayer and supplication. Men mark the turnings of the year through rituals, make sacrifices to atone for their sins, and pray for the favor of their gods when they feel the need. Wiser men also pray to thank the gods for their favors and make sacrifices to recognize their blessings. The gods truly have little need for such gestures, but they appreciate them.

Across the Land, there are many nations with many gods, and, in a way, they are all real. Most Men tie their gods to one of the Greater Lights, the Planets. They may have different names for these gods, but the similarities will outweigh the differences in the end. Men know also that the Stars are servants of the gods. The Spirits of the Planets are, in truth, too far beyond mankind to answer directly. Prayers are always heard by lesser Spirits within each god's Sphere. Various of the Stars have taken an interest in different nations of Men, and lend their own flavor to the religions that have grown up around them.

Prayers and sacrifices have a subtle effect in the world. The Spirits of the Greater Air rarely send down hosts of angels or part the seas. They gave Men the knowledge of magic for that sort of thing. But they provide inspiration, vision, and intuition that guide Men toward their will. They also grant minor boons. When the sea-swells fail to swamp a ship, a god might have been stilling the waves. When a soldier survives a battle, a god might have given him courage to fight and strengthened his shield against enemy blades. Those who discount the power of the Spirits of the Greater Air call such things nothing but fortune. Wiser men know that "fortune" is the desires of the Spirits of the Greater Air made manifest in the lives of men.


Gamespeak: Divine intervention is always tricky. Fortunately, if /everyone/ is calling on the gods, it mostly evens out. Seeking divine favor is probably worth a small bonus or a coincidental event every once in a while - when it will turn the tide. Divine displeasure can work the same way. A king who pisses off the gods might find his armies falling ill or his ships being becalmed until he does something to atone.

Cinematic Unisystem Drama Points map to divine favor pretty well. If a character has done something to earn divine favor, he might have some different options for spending his DP. If he's earned divine ire, he might end up sucking down a "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." If I end up using a system with no dramatic editing possibilities, then I'll probably add one in for divine favor/disfavor.


The Spirits of the Greater Air granted Man dominion over the Land, so there is a special class of rituals concerning the powers of Lords and Demesnes. In many lands, the Lords claim that their power descends from divine mandate, and they are not wrong. However, more than a few Lords have learned that the Mandate of Heaven can be withdrawn as easily as it was given.

Lords who lose their Demesnes, or who sicken them through weakness of character, must appeal to the Stars to regain the mandate of their Lands. Often, this involves a difficult quest imposed by the Spirits of the Greater Air, made more difficult because it is undertaken when the Lord is at his weakest personally and politically, while his people languor in pain and despair.

In the lands of the Val Aleen, there is said to be a castle guarded only by women. The Lady of these women is so beautiful that to behold her is to be blinded as by the sunrise. She holds a drinking horn carved from one of the Great Beasts, and the mead of her hall, when served from the Horn, is sovereign to all ills.

But the Lady and the castle are like unto clouds of mist, first appearing, then disappearing. The Lady will only consent to grant her horn to one pure of heart, unflinching of courage, and unwavering of will, if that one can even find her.

Prophets and Oracles

When Dragada Iron Hand threw down the Pillars of Flame and conquered the Land of Kaamar, he put to the sword all the sons of King Elor, and took his daughters as slaves, except for one, Shalamar. When her father was slain before her, Shalamar screamed and fell into convulsions. When at last the tremors stopped, she looked up at Dragada with sightless eyes and said "Despair thy throne, Iron hand, for only a child of my father may stay the Desert's Wraith." Then she fell, insensible.

Dragada was troubled, but he knew the Desert's Wraith had not been seen for many years, and his fortunetellers had promised him that he had the blessing of his gods to conquer Kaamar. Also, Dragada carried a sword of starmetal that could slay any beast.

That year, the Desert's Wraith arose and buried three camps beneath the sands. Dragada rode out to fight the Wraith, but his sword, proof against anything that bled, was useless against a creature made of sand and wind.

Dragada called on his wizards and sorcerers to protect his lands, and their spells held the Wraith at bay. But blind Shalamar said "Despair thy wizards, Iron Hand, for none shall stay the Wraith until a child of my father inherits his throne. Half your realm, you will never see again, and all will be lost to you."

For a fortnight, the wards of the wizards held the Wraith, but then they cracked, and burning sands ravaged half the kingdom. When the stinging grains finally stilled, an ancient temple stood revealed three days' ride from the throne of Kaamar.

Dragada took his warriors and his wizards, and took also Shalamar and a priest. Under the spires of the lost temple, Dragada took Shalamar as his wife, and claimed her as his own before all assembled. Even blind, she fought like hellcat, even scratching out one of Dragada's eyes. But in the end, she was his, and filled with his seed.

The wizards were able to limit the damage done by the Wraith for three seasons, and then in the winter a son was born from Shalamar. Dragada named the boy his heir, and ruled Kaamar as Regent for many years, and the Wraith was quiet, beneath the sands.

Most priests are just men and women with a particular dedication to the Spirits of the Greater Air, or a desire for the prestige of the office. Some are also magicians who use their power over lesser Spirits to serve the greater ones. But a few are truly touched by the power of the Spirits of the Greater Air. They are regarded as greatly blessed, but also accursed. No one the gods touch escapes unmarked.

Oracles can hear the Celestial Chorus, the Music of the Spheres. As such, they are attuned to the will of the Spirits. And the Spirits hear the voices of the Oracles. Oracles speak words of prophecy and can deliver the benedictions or warnings of the gods.

Oracles are very rare. One might not be found in one hundred Lands. For some reason, most are women. Some say this is because womankind has a closer connection to the Celestial than males. Others claim it is because it is the lot of woman to be accursed and benighted for Her sins. Whatever the case, Oracles are sought after and cherished. Even so, the life of an Oracle is not one many would envy. With senses enmeshed in the Celestial world, she is often only barely in touch with the Land around her. She sees visions of past, present, and future, and hears words no mortal mind should hear. As such, an Oracle needs constant care. They almost always find themselves in the care of priests, eventually, and it is hard to say how much of an Oracle's life she knows.

Men speak in hushed whispers about Moria Mane, she of the blood-red hair, who speaks the tongues of beasts and can see a man's future in the way his shadow falls across a rose-bush. In fact, in the Nine Hills, most men will try to avoid letting their shadow touch roses, just in case she is watching.

Moira Mane wears cast-off clothing, but she is always well-dressed. A harsh word from Moira Mane can wither crops or stay the rain. A kind one can save a woman's son from wolves or cure a sick child of the night-fever.

Moira Mane never lifts a weapon, and only carries a copper knife. But a black hound shadows her every step, and he'll kill any man or beast who crosses her.

Moria Mane has no husband, no brothers, no sons. But she is always heard at the Lord's Court, because no lord in the Nine Hills dares not hear what she has to say.

Moira Mane knows. She knows when the rains will come and when the tribe in the next valley is ready for war. She knows when the lambs will come, and who's bed you laid down in that was not your wife. She knows if you'll have a son or a daughter, and she knows the day you'll die.

Don't ask Moria Mane any question you don't want answered, or your hair might be as white as hers is red.

Not all who are touched by the gods are quite so blighted. Prophets and Sybils hear the music of the Spheres to a lesser degree, and are often the focus of only a few voices. They have the same gifts as Oracles, but are not so overwhelmed since their gifts of prophecy come upon them only occasionally. Prophecy can still be as much a curse as a blessing, since the gods always speak the truth, and not all men wish to hear it. There are at least as many Sybils as male Prophets, and their gift of Prophecy is often stronger. Male Prophets are perhaps a bit more likely to master other mystical powers, and tend to be more active and nomadic than their female counterparts, but then again, this is often the way between men and women.

Unlike Oracles, Prophets often find themselves outside established religious orders. The Truths they impart stir up discord, and they are led on paths that do not fit the regimented life of a priest. Most Prophets seek out some other kind of power, and have an easy time finding it. The Spirits of the Greater Air gave Man all the secrets he knows, save those of the Deeps, and those are not good things to know.


Gamespeak: Prophecy is a power that has brought many a game designer low. I'm pretty sure the way I'd handle it is to make it just a plot device, but if I was feeling frisky, I might make it so that a Prophecy creates a collection of metagame resources. When the PCs are trying to fulfill the prophecy, they have advantages, and can take advantage of dramatic editing. When they're fighting against fate, they're at a disadvantage, but will rack up Drama Points (or whatever) to help them later. And if they can find a way to fulfill the Prophecy and avoid the bad side, they get the best of both worlds.

In any case, "Prophet" or "Oracle" are probably not things you spend a lot of character-building resources on. They're value-neutral at best, or a disadvantage at worst.


The Starborn

Kemp MacKoor all his life bore the curse laid on his father's clan when they stole the Stone of Lyssee, but he was born under Fortune's Star. No thatch would shelter him, no hearth fires would burn for him, and he would never have two coins to rub together. But Kemp MacKoor was always lucky.

Lucky, he was, to meet each of his Red Band, who were peerless at the skills of war and guile and stealth and strategy. Lucky, he was, to find the gnome caves that moved through the forest so that each day they were in a different place, and lucky again to befriend the gnomes so they taught him the secret of finding them. Lucky he was to slay the dragon Kes in her den, and take her heart that burned as hot as fire. Lucky he was to win the love of Lady Eleane, at least until she betrayed him.

But that is another story.

Every person born is seen by a Star, and every Star picks out a special person to watch and guide all his life. Prophets and Oracles, they say, might have been chosen by too many Stars, or by no Stars at all. But everyone else has a single Star watching over him. To follow that Star is to follow your destiny.

Destiny is a frightening thing sometimes, and a subtle one others. Most people go their whole life without ever hearing their Star, but a few learn to listen, or chance to hear, and those few are legends. Their Stars will guide them to greatness and imbue their deeds with magic stronger than any wizard's spell. A child called by a Star of War will be a peerless warrior, valorous and terrible. He could stand against armies and slay dragons. A child called by a Star of Poetry may never lift a sword, but the words he scribes could fell kings and change the course of nations.

The gifts of the Starborn are not the magics of Wizards. The Stars do not give Men the power to throw fire or fly on invisible wings. Instead, the Starborn work magic through mundane efforts. A Starborn hunter can track a grey hawk through a cloudy sky. A Starborn swordsman can sharpen a blade enough to cut light, or reverse it so it heals who it cuts. A Starborn singer can sing souls.

There lived a woman in Dunnan Wood who prayed to the gods with great fervor that her child would be blessed by the gods of War. The barin would be all that was left of her husband, who died in the King's war with the Kurnish. She prayed and sacrificed, and wore the blood of her sacrifices on her growing belly. By day, she called for their blessings, and by night she prayed for revenge against the warriors who slew her man, and the king who led him to his death. She prayed that her child would slay the Kurnish, unseat the weak and unsteady king, and take his daughter to wife.

And the gods answered. And the child was delivered… a girl. Even the gods of War have a sense of humor. A Spirit spoke her name into the mother's ear: Bellatrix.

When other girls played with dolls, Bellatrix wanted to play at swords with the boys, and she often gave better than she got. By the time she began to bleed and her breasts grew, no boy in the village could best her. When one boy who should have known better thought he deserved her favors, she killed him with her bare hands, and was obliged to flee for her life, since he was the Shire Reeve's son.

In distant lands, she learned the ways of sword and spear and bow, and she came back with an army to grind the Kurnish into the rocks, then to take the King's tower. And she did take his youngest daughter to wife, because gods of War are often honorable, and they enjoy happy endings.


Gamespeak: This could end up somewhat "Exalted-like" but probably on a slightly lower scale and a bit looser. I like the idea of someone who really can talk her way out of a sunburn, or sing birds down from trees. A warrior who can fight an entire army is hell on game balance, but he's such a great literary archetype.

My rough thoughts are that a Starborn will have one special profession he was born to master. He'll pick it up as easily as he learned to walk and talk, and then he'll get even better. He'll be able to do flat-out magical things with his skill.

But there's a down-side to being Starborn. The Star you're born under has plans for you, and to really reach your full potential, you have to be willing to follow them, no matter what you'd really want to do. It's entirely possible to be the Starborn of a war god, but really want to be a florist. The gods don't really care. You're not going to be a legendary florist, and you probably ARE going to end up in a lot of fights where your only chance for survival is to master the ways of war.


So that sums it up for Celestial magic. I put in Oracles and Prophets and left out Fallen Stars. Perhaps I'll put them back in at some point, but really they're just powerful non-human beings. I've got Spirits of the Land for that, and Fallen Stars just complicate the issue.

But I'm a big Neil Gaiman fan, and have a totally inappropriate crush on Claire Danes, so don't hold me to that.

So anyway, next is Magic of the Deep, which I'm not quite sure how I want to approach. I'd like to do something unexpected - maybe take a riff from faerie-tale witches and wizards who are physically ugly as well as morally repugnant. The idea about Magic of the Deep is that it is WRONG. It's not necessarily "evil" because it could be beyond such concepts, but someone who practices it is almost certainly going to be evil by the time he's through, even if he started with the best of reasons.

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